We crossed the Khagan Sea and arrived on the western coast of Mu Continent.
The first thing we saw in the early morning fog was the flickering light of a lighthouse, or firetower as people called it.
My knowledge of this area was spotty at best. None of the important scenes in the anime happened here and none of the required campaign missions in the game forced you to travel to this area. It was just another large swath of background filler wilderness where you could spend time grinding random encounters, hunting and farming.
The populated spots were mostly small fishing villages trying to survive by trawling the large schools of tiny fish still in existence or gillnetting the intertidal zones. It was like northern coast of Norway in the 1800s, but without booming fishing industry and ice trade.
In the north, there were some strangely named places like Te Csji Henne and Yilgarn Manifold, which were merely mentioned as trade route destinations in the anime. These towns and cities existed as dots on the overworld map, but that was basically it. Pseudorandomly seeded content, mostly.
Cleaner-Goby was the strongest potential ally NPC living in the northern coast, but he would probably appear in Loönois on his own in the future when Sorry Man is free and Revolution Movement starts gaining reputation. Contacting him at this point might be disadvantageous because he worked for the northern crime lords before the duel with Sorry Man forced him to swap sides. Having Sorry Man in the party is probably a hard requirement for Cleaner to join.
Straight to east, towards the middle of the continent, there were large farming areas full of wheat fields and cotton fields, then the area of Drunken Forests after the fields, then butte hills, and then large sand desert called Halaxy Desert.
There was some interesting stuff in the forests and hills, like rebel bandit gang called Shadow Gods, but contacting them wasn't important at this point. Despite their grandiose name, they were small fries – roughly hundred Shadow Gods joined the final attack to the City of the Sun with the Revolution Movement during the final season, but they just got mowed down by Caliph's knights in the background.
The only notable character from the Shadow Gods was a girl named Charm. She was secretly the lost younger sister of princess Spell of Kenorland, who in turn was kept as a slave concubine in Caliph's Golden Cage. But those dramatic side stories didn't have anything to do with our main mission.
Hm, I could at least send a letter about the princesses whereabouts to Kenorland at some point... well, Kenorland had itinerant court like Germany had in the early middle ages, so royal family just traveled all the time from dukedom to dukedom, and at this point they were vassal lords under overlord Caliph. Chisaray was the biggest port city of Kenorland, so maybe sending the letter there would reach the traveling king? Nah, they can wait, they will survive.
By the way, Caliph Tze had a capital, so he wasn't a proper itinerant king. Was there ever a real world king with a palace that moved with him and around him? Maybe in ancient Africa or Middle East?
Anyway, southeast was our planned heading in Mu Continent. When traveling south, the continental shoreline quickly curved to east and a major caravan route continued all the way to east coast. There wasn't any major cities on the way, and since Caliph's palace was traveling in the opposite direction, most military forces were concentrated on east coast.
South coast was the safest and fastest route to the border of Reignland. And then northeast to Bone Dune Station to release the Kraken – I mean, Rainwoman and Sorry Man. And then straigth east, to Sharp Mountains and Hidden Valley.
The merchant ship docked on the pier of a small trade town called Tonganah.
When we stepped out of the ship, I saw the captain unexpectedly shaking hands with Crys with a wide grin on his face. They had arrived into some kind of agreement.
It's a good thing everyone kept their cool at open sea and nothing bad happened.
The first things I noticed after we left the docks was that the main streets were paved with cobblestones and market stalls were selling grilled lizards on sticks. The general atmosphere of Tonga Town had a certain romantic pirate haven quality to it, with rope bridges hanging over streets and large stacks of wooden barrels in the alleys.
I decided to skip the local lizard delicacies and simply enjoy the sated feeling provided by solid, unmoving ground after sickening amount of swaying.
“So, anyone up for checking local attractions or shopping souvenirs before we continue our journey? We'll probably get good deals for eye patches and hook hands.”
“We want to remain unnoticed until we get a Letter of Trade.” (Crys)
“Right, we need passports first.”
“In the future, Letter of Trade is called passport. To passe da portes, yohoho.”
Ours faces were not known here, but we were still outsiders from Ur Continent where formalized system to restrict movement between territories didn't exist like in Mu.
In Caliph's territories, movement of subjects was heavily restricted. You needed local High Hat's permission just to leave your home area and visit neighboring town. We needed an official document to show to the gate guards and knights on the road; a document that says we are allowed to travel around Mu as merchants. Cutting unnecessary trouble with a passport is an obvious timesave.
Thus, we needed a Letter of Trade, or the lesser version called Letter of Gates, from a local high noble. But since contacting a High Hat had a high probability of triggering RNG hell, we had to take a shortcut.
In other words: fake passports.
Luckily, we had an expert in black market deals in our party. It's like I planned this route or something.
“The captain gave me a name of a local forger. We'll visit him immediately.” (Crys)
“Oh, you already got an address? Sasuga Crys-sama.”
We rented a coach and went to meet the forger before even booking a room from an inn.
The forger was an old ship painter named Jan Henki. He lived in a scavenger shack built under a large beached trimaran, in an abandoned pier area that looked like a miniature version of some Asian shanty town.
Crys knocked on the door three times, waited a second, and then knocked four times more.
“Who's there?!” (Jan)
“The captain of Leocadio sent us. We need a letter.” (Crys)
Old man Jan opened the door, looked surprised for a moment and then waved us in. He was around forty or fifty years old, wrinkled and frail senior citizen.
“Dear guests, it has become dangerous to write letters nowadays, please tell the captain to refrain from sending people here...” (Jan)
The inside of the shack was more orderly than I expected. The slanted walls and raised floors were full of elegantly carved and colored wooden sculptures. Jan seemed like a fellow arts aficionado.
“These sculptures are wonderful, mister Henki. Very szukalskian. I like the expressive hard lines, and the colors are surprisingly vibrant. Oh, you even make pigments from dried insects. Do you coat the wood panels with bone glue and chalk? Or hot wax? Oil paints would be the way to go in long term, I recommend using flax oil as a binder.”
“...A humble painter such as myself don't know about such noble techniques, dear guest...” (Jan)
After I gave more lavish praise to his artisanal items, showed the colors of my electronic artist T-shirt and offered ideas about modern woodworking techniques all the way up to vriz marquetry, Jan's humble eyes finally lighted up. What sealed the deal was the chance to use my calligraphy set.
He agreed to create a Letter of Trade for a very reasonable price. Art studies for the win!
“Make it so that we are merchants from the northern Mu, traveling along the south coast to Reignland.” (Crys)
“Naturally. What names would you like to be known by, dear guests?” (Jan)
“Speed, provide names.” (Crys)
“I can choose our names?!”
“Brother, no–“ (Kimono)
“No takebacksies, Kim-chan! I'm already thinking!”
Oh boy, new fake names for everyone. We only need them until Reignland, so whatever is fine. Let's see, even normal merchants in Mu can have surnames, so it's fine to go with something modern like –
“My name is Garish Oeuvre, Kimono is Mary Sue and Crys is Phileas Fogg.”
“...We shouldn't use absurd names like that, brother.” (Kimono)
“It doesn't matter. They are acceptable.” (Crys)
“Thank you, monsieur Fogg.”
“What about me?” (Dancer)
“John Doe... no... Default. You're John Default.”
“John De Fault? A noble's name, I like it.” (Dancer)
“Interesting. Write down that John De Fault is a fallen noble from northeastern Mu and we are his retinue.” (Crys)
“Oh, I understand what you mean, dear guest. I take it that fallen noble John De Fault and his companions came through the harsh northern route with a merchant ship, but were forced stop at Tonganah and take a land route?” (Jan)
“That is fine.” (Crys)
“Jan, on a second thought, make it Gary, Mary, Phil and John. Easier to remember.”
We ended up sounding like an European surf band from the sixties, and somehow Dancer was our lead singer now. Oh well...
“Gary Oeuvre, Mary Sue, Phileas Fogg, John De Fault... Wait a moment, I have to concentrate on the signatures... There you go, dear guests. You are now traveling merchants with lord Nacthegaal's blessing.” (Jan)
It was just a piece of good quality paper with flowery handwriting, with our fake names and fake occupations, and a shiny seal of a high noble Nacthegaal from Te Csji Henne.
I checked the letter first, then gave it to Crys.
“Fine work.” (Crys)
“Oh, your words flatter me, dear guest.” (Jan)
Crys folded the letter in his coat's inside pocket, checked his pocket watch and gave a nod to Kimono.
Kimono immediately strangled the old forger with a wire and dragged the body to the corner of the shack, pushing some of the wood sculptures on top of it.
I felt sick, but kept quiet and looked away.
This is how Crys and Kimono have always survived in this world. Killing a gentle old man is just a routine precaution. He might sell our info forward, or our info might be tortured out of him.
If you think about it too deeply, you lose.
But I couldn't help but think about it.
There was a block of dialogue from a cheesy fantasy war movie I had often repeated in my mind after glitching into this world: “Taking a hard black-and-white stance is intellectually satisfying, but impractical in a real world of gradients. If you always use the wisdom of the good guys against the bad guys, you fail at using the wisdom of the bad guys against bad guys. After all, it is not probable that only one side holds all the practical wisdom. Take their dark wisdom and use it to make your sword shine brighter, boy.”
I didn't feel bad when monsters, slavers or rapists died, but this guy was just a common forger and a talented artisan at that. But I didn't know this character from the anime or game, so I had no idea how trustworthy or good person he was. He might have raped and killed in his youth, who knows?
His name was Jan Henki.
“Ah, what a waste, what a waste...”
“What do you mean, Gary?” (Dancer)
“Just talking to myself, Johnny. Adopt, adapt and improve – motto of the round table.”
Dancer wasn't disturbed. He was an emotional guy, but this murder here was business as normal.
We had no plans to stay in this area for long, so there was no point in forming any lasting relationships with locals –
– no, I don't want to become that type of person; the kind of person who gets into bad company, starts accepting more and more bad stuff, and eventually ends up going bad himself. I don't want to become a citizen of this world. I'm the only one here that can hold on to modern values.
I wasn't born into this grimdark world or molded by it. I don't want to accept grimdark as normal or adopt it.
But it's not like we have some kind of wordless agreement to not kill innocent people or anything. I probably think too highly of everyone here because of my cultural biases – false consensus effect, was it called? I think the main characters are more like me than they actually are and interpret their actions as better than they actually are.
“You look like you have something to say.” (Crys)
“Well, I just don't like killing neutral NPCs suddenly like that...”
“I've been meaning to ask this: what exactly are enpicis?” (Dancer)
“Just regular people. People who die when they are killed.”
“His continued existence is not useful to us.” (Crys)
“Yeah, but still... Haa, I understand. Leave behind the largest pile of corpses and you are an emperor, right?”
I nervously added that last line of dark wisdom from the anime. Crys spoke that line in the Frozen Pyramid episode after he and Rainwoman murdered a large group of unarmed civilians.
“You would have mentioned it earlier if he were more useful alive, as it was in case of the carpenter, no?” (Crys)
“Yeah, but could you at least tell me beforehand when you're about to kill a neutral bystander?”
Why am I even asking? Crys is not going to ask my permission if he thinks something needs to be done. He listens my advice, but in the end he calls the shots.
Bad guys versus baddest guys, griefers versus NPCs, desperate soldiers killing desperate civilians... That's how people roll here. Our main murderhobo Rainwoman will eventually turn this RPG adventure into a shooter anyway.
Can't make an omelet without breaking the eggs, can't have a revolution without civilian deaths and toppled statues.
When we returned to the city streets and our coach passed by a harbor tavern, I recognized the sailors from the crew of the merchant ship Leocadio gathering in front of a tavern named Crux Gate.
Kimono stopped the coach suddenly.
“Why did we stop?”
“A brief respite.” (Crys)
The captain was lying dead on the steps of the tavern. There were also two town guards in light armor standing around and looking bored. They didn't seem very interested in investigating this mysterious death of a filthy foreigner.
Crys stepped out of the coach and I followed him.
Apparently the captain had been happily drinking in the tavern, but suddenly started saying that it was difficult to breathe, walked outside to catch some fresh air, sat down on the steps and keeled over – that's what the onlookers were telling to the town guards.
Kimono had chosen this route back because Crys wanted to check that his poisonous handshake had worked.
“Monsieur Fogg, should we, you know... leave the crime scene?”
“I will let the crew know that this unfortunate accident might happen again, if certain conditions I set to them previously are not obeyed.” (Crys)
The crew members noticed us watching the scene from the other side of the street. I saw their faces turn pale out of fear.
Crys showed the crew members a common gangslang sign combo known as “Moriarty” in the game – right index finger pointing in right eye, other fingers pointing diagonally up, left hand over left eye, palm forward. The meaning: “I know you like the palm of my hand and I can kill your families whenever I want.”
I was afraid the crew would immediately point us out to the guards, but that didn't happen.
“You're taking some risky strats here.”
“It was necessary to settle this issue.” (Crys)
Crys didn't elaborate further. We returned to the coach and continued our journey.
I guess Crys had decided to cut the loose ends and establish his standing in the social hierarchy of the new continent from the start – like a new convict walking into a prison and beating the living daylights out of the first inmate who comes forward to collect gang tax.
Go and tell your friends, small fries: Revolution Movement has arrived.
We're not locked up in here with you, you're locked up in here with us.
...But don't tell the guards, please.
I don't really understand how Crys decides these things. Sometimes he takes serious risks like a hypomaniac with a superiority complex.
In his character intro, Crys was said to be “cold-blooded murderer” and “Machiavellian sociopath”, but it's not like the flavor text was written by a mental health professional. He wants to gain reputation in the underworld, but avoid reputation in the overworld – a contradictory ambition, since the worlds overlap and swap places with each other all the time.
You want your name on the Most Wanted list? That's how you get your name on the most Wanted list.
Well, it doesn't matter in the long run. If everything goes as planned, Caliph Tze and Suleiman will die before Revolution Movement becomes a household name and the founding members end up in the List of Top Ten Most Wanted Terrorists.
Then again, I've never seen the main characters in a state where they have achieved their major goals in life. I don't know where they will channel their energies after Caliph and Suleiman are dead. I need to think ways to guide and motivate them further after their revenge fantasies have been fulfilled.
We decided to stay in a small inn near the east gate of Tonganah. We took one room for one night.
“May I have your names?” (innkeeper)
“I'm John De Fault from the north and these people are my troupe.” (Dancer)
“These people are my retinue.” (Dancer)
“...De Fault from the north, is it? I do not know that family name.” (innkeeper)
“Yes, I'm a fallen noble.” (Dancer)
You don't have to say it like you're proud of it, Dancer.