The easiest way to summarize the rest of the journey would be to compare it to the first few months, but in reverse. The monsters and creatures that we began encountering were gradually starting to get weaker again as the weeks moved by, though we were seeing new varieties that we had not encountered on the first leg of our trip.
Roughly two weeks after we left the island, Emona sent a bit of good news our way. It seemed like Dalia had regained her lost memories from the reset fruit after she gained another level as a scout and a pirate. The fact that there was a way to restore the memories, and that it wasn’t all that difficult was a good sign.
Another important thing to note was that the crew morale had gone the highest it had been since we were cut off from the mainland. Apparently, the introduction of new food, and the ability to eat a more balanced meal really set everyone straight. Though, this wasn’t without complications of its own.
I let out a low groan as I put a hand over my stomach, feeling it unsettled from the recent meal. While all of the ingredients we had used were certainly edible… it couldn’t be helped that the chefs had never worked with them before. What made matters worse were that some species had aversive reactions to certain ingredients, like a minor allergy.
That’s what I was currently struggling with, having to deal with my body trying to reject the food I had just eaten. Part of me wanted to just give in and head back to the Admin Room, allowing my host to complete the voyage until we reached the elven lands. However, I couldn’t let myself do that. From everything I had been told, I just knew that I’d be able to get a pretty good achievement for going through this journey myself.
So I held firm. I didn’t let myself give into the temptations to retreat, and simply kept up with my task of guiding the ship. Through storms or battles, I kept the wind at our backs. My role was not to fight, so I didn’t. Thankfully, I still wasn’t alone on this journey.
“You okay, Tebor?” Dis’ni asked curiously, having been sitting next to me when I grabbed my stomach. As a felyn, she wasn’t affected by the same roots that my body sought to reject. Yet, seeing my face she knew what was going on, grimacing. “You had the stew, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t expect them to put wolfsbane in it.” I muttered softly, nodding my head. Wolfsbane was the name that had been given to the root which lycans had a difficult time digesting. Likewise, there was lionsbane and foxbane for the felyn and kitsune. Oddly enough, none of the ingredients posed any problems for the ursa, though maybe they just had a stronger natural constitution.
“Well, they’re still trying to figure out the recipes.” Dis’ni sighed, leaning back against the bench. Ever since we left the island, she had been coming to sit and chat with me at least once a day. Whether it was out of boredom, or just seeing that I appeared lonely I wasn’t sure. But it was a welcome respite from the monotony that was simply guiding the Jolly Dodger. “You know, I probably shouldn’t say this, but you could take some of the cursed fruit when we get to the shore. That way you can get the rest of the reward that was promised.”
The cursed fruit was the name that had been given to the reset fruit, because it appeared to have been cursed by the gods to reject the world’s power. I simply chuckled, however, and shook my head. “I might… But losing my memories is really not something I’d be fond of.”
The princess nodded her head in understanding. “I can see that.” In truth, from what she said she had hated the ‘dirty trick’ that the nobles pulled with the quest contracts, promising the pinnacle classes nobility that they couldn’t truly gain if they completed the quest. “I wouldn’t want to lose any of my memories either. Even if it was just a few days or weeks of this journey. As long as it’s been, it’s actually been kinda fun, you know?”
As she continued, she looked upwards, at the billowing sails overhead, caught in the controlled wind. “Here I get to sing and dance with everyone, and just talk to the crew. But once we land, I’ll have to be the ‘queen apparent’, and act as the leader until others get here.”
I couldn’t help but smile bitterly at that. “Do you think that they’d be able to follow us, and land on the same shore? The sea is vast, Dis’ni, with many a port to call home.”
The felyn princess giggled slightly as she nodded to that, smiling in my direction. “I know that. That’s one of the reasons that we have so many people here. Two hundred and forty-five people, with around sixty of each race. Even if it takes decades, or even two hundred years, the royal scholars believe that we have enough people to build a colony that will last until they find us. If they can’t find our children’s children by then… then we just weren’t destined to be found in the first place.”
I couldn’t help but nod at that. There were indeed quite a lot of people here, maybe even enough to build a stable, thriving population. As long as the ‘reinforcements’ arrived within a few generations, the beastkin might really create a solid footing within the elven continent. “Tell me the truth. Do you have a way to contact the mainland once we find a shore to call home?”
Dis’ni glanced at me in surprise, but then seemed to grow conflicted on whether or not to answer. “Well, there is one way. But we really have no idea if it’ll even work. Before we left, the Third Queen created a guild called New World Hope with several members of her court, myself included. When we arrive, it’s my job to create a branch of the guild in the city we create.”
Saying that, she let out a long sigh, smiling bitterly as she looked out to the raging waves in the distance. It seemed that another storm was going to head our way before long. “But we don’t know if the world will allow the guild messages to reach from one land to another. And even if it does, the messenger could be attacked long before it actually makes it back.”
It took me a moment to realize what she meant. Guild branches were able to communicate from one to another, like the Tower of Communication in the elven lands. However, it did so through the process of creating an artificial creature to carry the message, like a bird. Such creatures could still be brought down by wild monsters or even people wanting to intercept the messages.
“I see… The fact that it probably won’t work is why you haven’t told the rest of the crew yet.” I muttered, closing my eyes while my stomach felt like it was flipping over once again. “You’d rather wait until we get there, and ‘come up’ with the idea to give them hope. Even if it was a long shot, it’ll be the only thing that they could cling onto.”
There was a dry laugh from Dis’ni as she nodded her head. “And according to my mother, it’ll help the people recognize me as the queen of the new land, putting me in a position of power until the others arrive. If I’m still alive and on the throne when the rest get there, I might be asked to step down to make way for ‘other candidates’. But, if they take long enough that I have given the throne to a new generation, then that generation will be recognized as the rightful ruler of the new kingdom.”
I couldn’t help but glance over incredulously at her. “So they have, what, forty years to find us if they want to have any right to a throne? And if they take longer than that, they lose the rights to it?”
“Well, that’s what I said.” Dis’ni grinned slightly as she confirmed my thoughts. “This was something my mother set up. If the journey is so easy that they can arrive quickly, without all of the extra power we invested in this voyage, then there is simply no reason to leave me with the crown. But, if I go through peril after peril, fighting against all odds to establish myself where none can easily follow, then I will have earned my place as the official first queen of the new kingdom.”
Little did they know that there was already a kingdom where we were going, and that we were heading straight for their port. I felt a knowing smirk on my face as I thought about all of that. “So part of you is hoping that they aren’t able to make it in time. And part of you is hoping to be able to see your family again.”
This time, it was her turn to look shocked, but she soon gave a brief nod. “I can still see them, sometimes.” She let out a sigh, and I felt a mana fluctuation from her body. “When I focus, I can use the teachings of the forest to cast my vision far away and see my mother. But it grows harder each day as we get further apart.”
“Hmm… this is a technique that I never learned.” I told her, not worrying about blowing my cover or anything. As far as anyone was concerned, I was specialized as a druid, though some had figured out what my second class was. It wouldn’t surprise anyone that I was missing a few mage tricks.
And as I guessed, Dis’ni gave a small smile as she looked at me. “It’s mostly taught to royalty and nobility, but there’s no law against teaching others. The captains here use a similar trick to project their voices to one another, though doing so is a bit harder. To start… close your eyes and imagine the face of someone you know. The clearer the image the better.”
She waited until I had closed my eyes, and felt the mana fluctuating from my body before she continued. “Now, imagine that they were standing right in front of you. That if you just opened your eyes, you could see them. Then, and this is the tricky part… you need to open your eyes without opening your eyes. Focus on it with your mana, but don’t let your real eyes open.”
Although the explanation was lacking, I could understand what she meant. My blackened vision immediately seemed to clear, turning into a fog of red. Amidst the fog were five figures, all looking to be just shy of their teenage years and wearing blood-colored clothes.
Naturally, most everyone I actually knew was either a goddess, or part of this voyage. But there were two exceptions. The World Spirits, and the Martial Spirits. Since the World Spirits keep fluttering in and out of the world, I chose to focus on the latter. And to my surprise, I saw that they had acquired a fifth member, this one a boy.
As I watched them walking through the red fog, they suddenly stopped. The girl leading in the front, Scarlet, turned her head to look in my direction. Immediately, the red fog vanished from around the five of them, and they were standing at the edge of a wide canyon. Seeing this, the others looked surprise, and one of them turned to say something to Scarlet, though their voices couldn’t be heard.
Scarlet didn’t answer, simply staring at where my sight was coming from for a long moment. I thought I saw a brief smile on her face before she shook her head. When she lifted her hand, a blood-red energy surged up from her surroundings, and my sight was instantly cut off.
I let out a gasp of pain as I felt the recoil of the connection being broken. Dis’ni, still sitting beside me, looked to me in worry. “That can happen sometimes, don’t worry. A lot of people accidentally break the connection like that on their first try.”
It seemed that she was misunderstanding, thinking that I had done something wrong when I practiced the technique. In reality, it seemed like Scarlet noticed that she was being spied on, and thought it could have been an enemy. Given my current mana limits, it was no wonder she could sever the connection with a simple wave of her hand.
“I… I see. So that’s what you’ve been seeing when you looked at your mother?” I glanced towards Dis’ni as I asked that, and she gave a sad nod.
“Yeah… I see her sitting at her desk every night, two scrolls in front of her. I see her waiting, waiting to see which one breaks first. Sometimes, she can’t take it and starts crying, and I think she might be afraid that something happened to me and I lost the scrolls before dying. I can never hear her voice, but I can see her calling out to me.”
I blinked in surprise as I heard that, glancing towards Dis’ni. “Why doesn’t your mother just use the same technique to watch over you? Or have someone else do the same?”
Dis’ni let out a low laugh, reaching down to grab her own stomach. “Wouldn’t you know it, the trick doesn’t work on bards who know how to harness the voice of the goddesses. Clerics, either. We think that the goddesses simply refused to be observed by mortals, so any who use their power can’t be seen through the eyes of the forest. Even if she were to watch you right now, she wouldn’t be able to see me sitting here. That’s why we had to use the scrolls.”
“But for all she knows, we might have just taken them from you and thrown you overboard.” Dis’ni smiled bitterly at my comment, silently agreeing. “This is a really messed up situation you’ve gotten yourself in.”
“Oh, I know it.” She laughed, this time more genuinely, before standing up. “I’ve gotta go cheer up the crew, and you need to get ready for the storm, so this is where we’ll end it here today.”
As she walked off, I gave a small nod, before thinking inwardly. How much longer till we get to Cau Buhnga? I’m about ready for this journey to be over already.
To my surprise, it was actually Irena that spoke up into my mind, her voice soft and comforting. Two more months, they said. Everything should just get easier from here, Dale. Given how long she waited in the Underworld, it felt kind of bad to be homesick after a mere few months, when I thought about it.
Alright. I thought back to her, leaning back against the bench. Just two more months, then...