“What’s worse than an entire fleet of warships? - A Mirai Ghost Cruiser.”
We decided to allow the bugs to live for another day. Yesterday, it was already late, so we decided to have a good night’s sleep. Right now, I have to retrieve a few things from my room. The workshop's furniture is sturdy, so it isn’t a problem when Brian leans with his full weight onto the workbench. My friends are waiting eagerly for my solution to the bug problem.
I kneel down and extend my fingernails, then I use them pull out one of the floor's cobblestones. And another one. This continues until I have freed the secret trapdoor.
“You know that such a hideout is really childish?” Fae complains.
Kiara shudders and points at my hands. “Those fingernails are creepy!”
I try to look hurt and regard my fingernails. “That's not true! They are beautiful and they never break. I bet that you are just envious!” I open the trapdoor and reveal several crates. I pick up one of them and hand it to Brian. “Be careful not to drop it.” I load him with another one. Then it's Tristen's turn to play the pack animal.
“What's inside the crates?” Tristen asks.
“Fireworks! When I flew to Abasin Valley, the island crashed with a sceada. The animal wasn't a problem, but it made me think of what I would do against enemies on the ground and in the air. This is my short term solution to enemies on the ground,” I explain and close the hidden compartment. “Oh, and never try to retrieve something from here without me. I have made sure that all sorts of nasty things happen to thieves.”
When everything is closed up, I gesture for them to get going. “Move on. We don't have all day. First, we have to get rid of the pests and then we have to retrieve the ore. And that's when the real work starts. I bet that we’ll have to stay here for a few months. Otherwise we’ll look like a flying building site.”
We leave the house and head over to the balustrade at the front of the island. Brian and Tristen put the crates down and Brian shows me where he found the ore. I manoeuvre the island closer to the remains of the mountain until he points out a group of buildings. There are no large trees nearby, but the thick blanket of bushes in the area is an inconvenience.
I open the first crate and retrieve a sphere of compressed matter. The whole crate is packed with them. “I made these with force magic. The idea is to apply as much force as possible to an object. Works best if the material has a certain porosity, so that some air is compressed together with the material. Then you apply a barrier to seal everything in this state. Once the barrier fails, it goes boom.”
I toss the grey sphere over the balustrade and watch it land near one of the buildings. There is a flash of light and a loud 'Crack!', together with a lot of debris and dirt flying through the air. A part of the old building crumbles because of the shock wave. I squeal in delight, feeling like a little child who gets to test a new toy. I spent a lot of time making these while I was waiting for Fae's contract with the scholars to end.
Several huge crawly-things pour out of the remains of the building to search for the source of the attack. “Ah! They will get away!” I quickly bend down and take several of the egg-sized spheres. There is no point in nitpicking, so I throw all of them at once, generously spreading them out. More loud cracks and flashes of light. Bug parts fly through the air and green goo sprays around.
I notice that the bugs look like a cross between an oversized millipede and a caterpillar. This is the best fun I had in ages, so I quickly get another set of my improvised grenades. Contrary to before, I don't throw all of them at once, but aim for bugs who are trying to escape. I stop mid-throw, when I realize that the others aren't joining the fun. They are standing at the balustrade, watching the scene. “What's wrong? Get yourself some grenades and end those creepy crawlies! There are a lot of buildings to take care of.”
Finally, they unfreeze and get their own grenades. From then on it's a one-sided slugfest. The explosions have the added benefit of clearing away the bushes.
“You know that some people in the military would have a heart attack if they learned about these... grenades?” Kiara points out.
“Oh, you think that they might sell well?” I ask and throw a sphere. It hits one of the bigger bugs dead centre. The stupid thing was trying to jump up towards us. Kiara was right when she said that they aren't exactly an enlightened species. Though I have to admit that the thing jumped almost five metres into the air. Impressive, but futile. The island hovers fifty metres above the ground.
“Are you kidding? Those grenades are equal to a level three attack spell and it seems like you can give them to anyone! If you can produce them fast enough and outfit an entire army with grenades it will boost their strength immensely,” Fae says.
We continue to clear the area of anything which the zubis, as Kiara calls them, can use a cover. After an hour, we run out of grenades, having emptied all four crates. After seeing the size and speed of the things I happily gave the command to bombard them until nothing remains twitching.
Seeing them in action also convinced me that they would've been a real problem had we met them on the ground. “Do you think that those things were planted here deliberately?” I ask, observing the shredded area for any survivors. Many of the smaller zubis got away, but I am not concerned with them as long as they don't get in our way. We just want to retrieve the ore.
Tristen purses his lips. “Doubtful, but it's possible. I don't think that the government actually wants anybody snooping around in a place like this. Properly enchanted power stones increase a mage's abilities greatly. The Consortium and the Mirai are small compared to other nations, but they have huge reserves of manufactured power stones. That's why they can stand up to the nations of the main continent.”
I furrow my forehead, intrigued by his comment. “I thought that the Consortium is so feared because they have many skilled mages, and aren't the Mirai just pirates?”
They look at each other as if I am some kind of curiosity.
I cross my arms in front of my chest and stretch out my chin. “Sorry for not knowing everything about the current military situation. You shouldn't forget my circumstances. All I know, I know from history books which I read in the library.”
And quite a few things from Nemus, but he never mentioned the Consortium or the Mirai in my presence.
“I am sorry. I guess that it isn't something most people know about, so you can't be blamed. It’s because all four of us were in the military,” Tristen apologizes. “You are right about the Consortium. They could always rely on their powerful magicians and their magic is legendary. Their reserves of power stone only add to that. The Mirai are another matter. Calling them simple pirates is far from accurate, though I guess that most of the alliance's history books make them look like nothing more than scum.”
Fae takes over. “Before the Sociocrathy existed, the north was a political chaos. The orks controlled a large part of the northern coast. They allied themselves with all kinds of beings. Beastmen, dwarfs, humans. The northern human clans were led by two large families. The Murian and the Mirai. The Murian controlled the area at the mountains, closer to the Empire. The Mirai shared large parts of the northern coast with the orks. They were allies and coexisted for a long time.”
Kiara raises a finger. “The orkish clan of the Allflame was strong, but the Mirai were also feared. They did a lot of trade with the Consortium and many say that they have access to their own supply of power stones. The whole family line consists of skilled necromancers. Some say that, on top of that, they have a unique form of magic. Even the Consortium avoids open confrontation with them.”
I raise an eyebrow, doubtful. “Why did they have to flee if they are so strong?”
Fae slaps Kiara. “Stick to the facts and don't share rumours!” She returns her attention to me. “The Mirai aren’t numerous enough to retake their homelands. The important point is this; the Mirai aren't mere pirates. Before the civil war which created the Sociocrathy, they were a powerful group of magicians who ruled a large part of the coast with their army. The civil war forced them into exile.”
Tristen nods. “Yep. It's all history, but when they realized that everyone was ganging up on them and their allies, they packed their things and fled over the ocean, taking their fleet with them. In less than a month, they conquered what we know today as the Mirai Pirate State.
“The previous pirates were nothing more than a nuisance before that. When the Mirai took over, it became dangerous to travel the seas. The Mirai see their acts of piracy against Sociocrathy ships as a form of continuing the war.”
Brian clears his throat. “You guys are talking too much. Joyce, what they want to say is simple. Don’t think of a Mirai pirate ship as a stinking vessel which is filled with cut-throats, but as a proper warship with trained staff and mages. And don’t think of their island as a rural place, they are a proper country. Though, it’s true that they regard everything they encounter as theirs to take.”
I nod. “Well, thanks for the lesson in history, I guess? It still sounds strange. You explained that the Mirai’s development of magic was influenced by the Consortium, but is that really the only reason why you are so adamant to take the Mirai seriously?”
They look at each other. It’s Fae who decides to share the secret. “It’s a military secret, but a really old one. I guess it doesn’t matter by now, though you still shouldn’t tell anyone that you know of it. It’s also the reason why the Mirai started preying on everyone, and not just the Sociocrathy. A few decades ago, the Sociocrathy joined forces with the Empire and the Alliance to stop the piracy by the Mirai.
She raises a hand to stop me. “I know what you want to say, and that’s exactly why this operation is held under lock. To make the story short, the joined fleet failed horribly because the Mirai had flying ships. Their entire fleet lifted off into the air and laid waste to their enemies. Nobody knew that they are capable of doing that. That’s why we are telling you not to take the Mirai lightly.” She looks around. “After all, if we go on like this we may encounter them sooner or later.”
I purse my lips. “Thanks for the heads-up.”
I guess that I have to rethink some of my plans. The Mirai, flying-pirate-necromancers. What comes next? The flying Dutchman?