The Southern Isles was what the people of Sistina typically referred to as the collective body of islands that dotted the southern seas. Centered around a now dormant volcano, there were seven main islands that dotted around it that formed the entire nation of Macali.
Not much was known about this nation as it had isolated themselves from the rest of the world. Those that ventured around the perimeter noticed a richer extent of mana in the air emanating from the surroundings. Efforts to send magical surveillance tools had been for naught as the area surrounding the country had been covered with a magical shield that blocked out spies trying to look in on their country.
As a gesture of outreach, a small port island had been designated for travelers to stay at and do trade. Outsiders were only allowed on this island, leaving the rest of the country locked behind a giant, red gate that towered high, easily visible by ships that approached.
However, stories from merchants and sailors suggested that this was a prosperous and happy nation, ruled by a king who they were proud of. Natives that worked on the island merrily catered to the visitors, providing them with sights that they could hardly find elsewhere.
The sight of scantily clad dancers providing entertainment, the peculiar taste of strong alcoholic drinks, the people cheerfully moving in sync with the rhythm of a flute-like instrument – these were the exciting tales the sailors brought back to embellish a nation in which they dreamed of living in.
However, the doors remained closed to those outside of Macali, so who knew what was the true face of this nation? It seemed that we would be the first ones to find out.
On the other hand, at this very moment, I was bonding with the sea, my body braced against the ship’s railing as the history lesson on the rolling waters didn’t sit well with the contents of my stomach.
Having not ever been on a ship before, I had initially felt fine after only an hour of rocking. However, my body suddenly decided to flip the ‘nope’ switch about six hours later and assaulted my senses with a large wave of nausea. The summer heat that got more unbearable as we traveled South didn’t help either.
Eryn cast a mild recovery spell on me to alleviate the immediate discomfort, but it only returned to its full force minutes later. I wasn’t sure how I would last another three days on this boat.
Thankfully, the waters were relatively calm, and the weather was good. I had feared that there would be storms or kraken sightings that would disrupt our journey, but the captain of this chartered ship reassured us that we wouldn’t be running into that. The fact that he didn’t look confused had me a bit worried though. Did that mean that a kraken did exist?
When I felt the boat suddenly shake once, I feared the worst, only to find out that there were some sharks who felt a bit frisky in the water and decided to ram the ship. The captain signaled one man to take care of it.
With a quick chant, the man threw down a bolt of lightning and zapped the sharks in the water. This seemed like it was a normal occurrence since they already had countermeasures. The other sailors proceeded to fetch the electrocuted sharks to take to the kitchen. I guess shark fin soup will be on the menu for the next few days.
Eryn walked over to me and sighed.
“I didn’t think you’d be so affected by this. You never made any mention of it.”
“I didn’t know either. Boat travel isn’t exactly a standard means in my world.”
“Oh right, you mentioned flying hunks of metal in the sky. Hard to believe for a world without magic.”
Of course, Katalina had perked up during that conversation. She had developed methods to make small objects fly in the air before. This couldn’t be applied to large aircraft due to the excessive amount of magic needed to keep it aloft. However, it did become a neat toy for the town children. I was hesitant to introduce the basics of aerodynamics to her. It would probably give her too many ideas.
Eryn cast a bit of wind magic that started swirling around me. I instantly noticed a cooling effect envelop me, which did seem to make me feel a bit better for the few minutes that it lasted.
“Wait, don’t tell me you can make your own air conditioning as well?” I came to the realization as to why Eryn was still comfortable in her knight uniform.
“Air-what? I just used magic to fan you off.” Eryn’s hair was slightly moving in the breeze, but not in the same direction as the wind gliding across the ship. “Come to think of it, you should be able to do something like this also.”
I gave her a look of doubt. The last time that I tried magic, I could only generate a candle flame. It was something that I pretty much abandoned all hope for.
Guessing what I was thinking, Eryn shook her head.
“No, your abysmal Mag stat doesn’t have anything to do with it. That’s just output. You should have plenty of mana to power it, which is indicated by your MP.”
It was true that I had the normal amount of MP as anybody around my level, which was currently just above 50. That was the main reason I could use the magic tools around me without ever getting exhausted. Somehow, I had overlooked the fact that my mana supply had been powering these objects since they were designed for usage by the general population, who had far less MP.
Eryn asked me to imagine a small hole in which mana flowed out. The Mag stat determined how wide that hole could become. In my case, I was literally pushing out mana through a pinhole, but that would be enough to cast some very simple magic.
Imagining a breeze around me, I tried to focus on that concept until I felt a few wisps of air tickle my skin. It was a bit challenging to keep it continuous. Though I kept trying, it seemed like I got nothing more than puffs of air blowing past me. Well, it’s not like I had much else to do during this ship ride. Strangely, focusing on magic seemed to also calm my stomach.
Eryn sat beside me as I practiced, giving me words of encouragement and guidance.
Elsewhere on the ship.
Princess Katalina laid on the bed, not because she was sick, but rather due to a lack of anything happening during the trip. She had none of her normal gadgets to play with as that was all back at the workshop. She had an Item Box of her own in which she did stash some of her tools, but she didn’t feel like doing her normal tinkering. At the capital, she would take every opportunity to escape from her attendants and the castle, where such things were thought unnecessary and a waste of time for a princess. Her bodyguard, Gerard, was the only one who seemed to look on in quiet support, but he had been purposefully left behind on this trip. No one wanted to give the impression that an assassin was accompanying the princess for a marriage meeting. However, this had been a marriage meeting in name only.
She sighed at the fact that her normal days were already at its end. Knowing that she would be married off one day, Katalina had chosen to throw herself into her hobbies and do as much as she could with the time she had. However, her time as ‘Katsys the inventor’ was up.
From how this arrangement was set up, there was little doubt that her father had basically given her away in order to promote relationships with another country. In all likelihood, she wouldn’t be returning. It was the fate of a girl born to the royal family, and she didn’t personally fault her father for such an action. However, that didn’t mean that she had to give up everything either.
She earnestly hoped that her suitor would let her continue her hobbies in his country, but she had heard hardly anything about who it would be. Her father had been the only one to make contact with the King of Macali, and he had not passed down that information to anyone. She inwardly dreaded being placed in a situation like the one that had just occurred for Viscountess Faulkner, but she had no way of knowing until they arrived.
Rather than that, she would have greatly preferred another man.
The image of a chef floated in her mind, though this caused her to bite her lip in disappointment.
Having come from a different world, his way of thinking was completely new and fresh. Simply by talking with him, she felt more alive than she had ever been, like she could see a glimpse of the outside world. The way he took interest in her creations, the way he gave a smile as he listened to her quirks as if they were normal, the way he trudged forward regardless of what other people thought – she wondered how such a person could make her feel so comfortable.
For his sake, she crafted tools for him. For his sake, she mustered up her courage and spoke before a crowd to defend him. For his sake, she went against her royal obligations and lent him a hand.
When her father had offered her to him in an attempt to acquire his services, her heart jumped, and her body reacted on its own. However, his clear refusal and the hand that tightly grasped his master’s drove a wedge into her heart.
Knowing that she didn’t hold that kind of place in his heart had been painful, but she could settle for seeing him occasionally. For that reason, she had secretly made trips to the Faulkner territory when she could sneak away. Due to this carelessness, she was eventually found out, and her father had been furious about her blatant disregard for her position.
It was not long after that she received notice about the marriage meeting. Her hopes were dashed.
Thinking that she would no longer see him again, she made one selfish request to her father – to let her choose her own escorts. That was one point she was adamant about. She would request for Miss Faulkner and Sir Evers to accompany her as her guards for the meeting.
Luckily, her father had no qualms about these arrangements, so it was quickly set into motion.
As she sat up from the bed, she thought of how she would proceed now that they were on their way to the country of Macali.
Or rather, Katalina was thinking of how she could set up a moment to be alone with Claude. It couldn’t be too soon, as she didn’t know what fate was in store for her yet. It had to be after they arrived at their destination. Surely, she could arrange for something away from the prying eyes that would criticize her for falling for a person of such standing.
Katalina mustered her courage for that moment – the moment when she would be able to express her feelings to him. The scene played out vividly in her head.
The embarrassment as she said those candid words.
The raging hotness of her cheeks.
The look of surprise on Claude’s unsuspecting face.
The look of contemplation, and ultimately, the rejection that Claude would carefully return.
The tears of sadness that would spill from her eyes afterwards.
And after all that was conveyed and settled, she would wipe away her tears and turn away, muttering one last line before running away.
“Thank you, Claude. For everything. This is goodbye.”