The islands known collectively as the country of Macali were situated in a location that was plentiful with mana. As the mana veins that ran through the earth converged here, the surrounding environment thrived from this seemingly endless power source fertilizing the plant and wildlife.
A once-active volcano tapped into these mana veins, ejecting a rich assortment of high-quality magic stones whenever it erupted and scattering them throughout the vicinity. The inhabitants quickly found ways to salvage them from the waters and islands, using them as power sources for magic tools.
Since mana was so thick in the surrounding area, these islanders found it easy to develop magical powers due to the ability to sense its flow. As a result, the general population seemed to have a basic aptitude for magic. This was a stark difference from other parts of the world, where magic learning was reserved for only the educated, a small portion of the populace.
For the residents of Macali, magic was a way of life that could be seen in the lifestyle and common items littered about, like electricity was for many otherworlders. One could even say that their society would no longer operate if their mana supply were to disappear. Fortunately, there were no signs of this apocalyptic scenario, so the residents lived happily in this environment filled with conveniences.
However, that did not mean they were careless with its usage. Knowing that other countries would seek to exploit them if they found out, the rulers of the seven main islands decided collectively to isolate themselves from the world. Thus, began a large-scale project to create an enormous barrier to hide themselves and their technological advances that had been developed.
At the same time, the seven representatives of each island formed a governing body to manage the entire country. Deciding among the representatives, another person would be chosen as king, which would hold just under one-third of the ruling power. Together, these eight people ruled from the central volcanic island in which a capital was created specifically for them.
Over time, the progression of technology accelerated inside this isolated country, while the outside world continued to develop at a slower pace, hindered by bureaucracy. This acceleration could be attributed to competition among the seven islands, each ruled by an island head. Every year, chosen representatives came together to demonstrate their island’s prowess in combat, aided by gear forged from magical refinement.
As long as it could be supplied by one’s own mana, it did not matter what the representative could bring – be it weapons or armor or even vehicles. The tournament sought to evaluate the creations that one could bring for the advancement of the entire country. It was a chance for anyone to shine. It was a sporting event where an island could boast temporary superiority. This was something that the inhabitants held great pride in.
However, at the tournament roughly five years ago, everything changed. A single man, who scrounged up items from wherever he could find, had overpowered every one of the island’s representatives.
“And that man is sitting here before you. You may clap.” Koujiro took a bow while still in his chair, as if he was expecting praise from us.
We had made a stop for some lunch right after crossing the entry gate. While we waited for the food to be served, Koujiro started giving us the whole backstory of how Macali came to be. While the history behind the country’s amazing development was certainly worth hearing, I could’ve done without the gloating at the end.
“Eh… so I guess that means you are the country’s champion…,” Eryn said somewhat disinterestedly. She was lightly sipping her fruit drink, which was very refreshing.
“But of course! I have been champion five years in a row! No one has yet figured out a way to defeat me!” Koujiro exclaimed, feeling very proud of himself. “I would like to ask then, what of the rest of the world? I have questioned whether it is time for me to demonstrate my prowess for all to see!”
More and more, Koujiro felt like the type of character in an RPG, where the player was dead set on doing 100% of the available options in a video game. With his apparent endgame-like stats, it seemed like he very well could destroy all the demons that this world could throw at him with ease.
Maybe I should ask him to seek the God that casually tossed me here and give him a bludgeoning on my behalf? Well, I guess my annoyance had mostly subsided since that time. My life had been pretty enjoyable as of late.
“Honestly, I don’t think you’d have much competition out in the world,” I said with a laugh.
“Even among other Electi?” Koujiro replied inquisitively.
“I mean there are some that are strong. And then there are hopeless ones like me.” I raised my hand in jest.
Interested in my quip, he opened a status window to view my stats. Immediately, he started to laugh.
“I thought it was strange for a servant-looking person to be here, but you’re an Electi? I guess one of these maidens must be your master then?”
Eryn, looking visibly annoyed, was about to take a stand, but Katalina shot her a quick glare and cut her off.
“Sir Evers has performed rather admirably despite his shortcomings. It would not be wise to judge him solely by the numbers.”
“I see. Whatever you say, princess. But it seems that you drew the short stick, my good sir.”
After his dig at me, the server came by with a tray of food. Interestingly, Koujiro had brought us to a simple restaurant, where it served his favorite food. When the waitress came to take his order, he simply said, “the usual.”
However, when the bowls were set down, I immediately knew what they were.
“Ramen? And Oyakodon?”
“Oh! You know your stuff, mister!” Koujiro confirmed my guess with a smile.
It seemed like he too had originated from a country like Japan. I wondered if he’d get along with Saki? Maybe, if he toned down on the flirting. What happened to the last guy that tried to do so still echoed in my mind.
As I eagerly took a bite of the mixture of sauce and rice, my expectations fell flat. Though the dish looked very much like the dish I remembered, the taste was not quite right.
“Heh, so you notice something odd too? As expected of another fellow otherworlder.” Koujiro ate his food with a conflicted expression. “Though it is my favorite food, I still haven’t figured out how to explain its re-creation properly to the people of this world.”
I took a bite of ramen. The balance of the broth wasn’t rich enough and lacked depth. Though it was still tasty by the standards of this world, a sense of incompleteness was prevalent to those that had tasted the real dish before.
During my college days, there was a small restaurant owned by a Japanese immigrant close to campus. Bringing the authentic taste of Japanese staples to the local inhabitants, it was one of the places that I frequented with my classmates. Because of that, I could sympathize with Koujiro’s homesickness.
“Man, if it could only be richer. But what can you do?” Koujiro downed the rest of his food.
The rest of us finished our meal and continued on our way.
Though we were supposed to head straight to the capital for an audience, our pace had been slowed down due to the interest of the surroundings by our group, particularly a certain inventor.
“That’s amazing! How do you move such a large object so freely?” Katalina circled around a vehicle that looked similar to a car without the roof.
The creations here made her own inventions appear subpar comparatively. Placing her hands all over the object, it looked a bit out of place for someone dressed as a princess to show such blatant obsession. As if she finally remembered her manners, Katalina panicked and apologized.
“No, no. Take your time.” Koujiro looked at her amusingly.
“Oh really? If that’s the case…” Katalina placed her hand back on the vehicle and cast some magic. Her hand slightly glowed as she traced it across the frame of the body. Though I hadn’t seen it before, my guess was that she was casting magic that analyzed objects. It would explain why she was able to create things without much difficulty.
That was not our only distraction as Katalina moved from object to object, regardless of how banal its purpose was, to get a good grasp of the structure and mechanisms used in this country. Was it really okay for her to dissect all the trade secrets of their tools? I looked over at Koujiro repeatedly, expecting him to stop her, but he just stood there analyzing the situation.
“Reminds me of how I was when I first came here, and everything was new to me.” Koujiro smiled at the scene.
Convincing myself that his sympathy was giving her a free pass, we eventually found ourselves in front of a large gate guarded by several men. Behind the gate, there was only the sight of seawater and islands, an abrupt end to the island we were on. I had expected a port where we would catch a boat to the central island or some kind of connecting landform. Apparently, my other two companions were looking around with a similar thought.
“Where to, sir?” One of the guards spoke up.
Immediately, the guard went over to the gate and touched it. As mana flared around it, the solid structure of the gate became see-through, displaying a building resting upon a mountainous backdrop.
The first thought that came to mind was that a portal had been formed before my eyes, but before I could ask to confirm, a blue-haired blur had already whizzed by the guards and was studying it. Though the guards started to move in reaction to this, Koujiro lifted up a hand to stop them.
“Leave her be.”
Seeming to have completely ignored this entire exchange, Katalina was looking intensely at the gate.
“Teleportation magic of this magnitude! How? A magic stone of unfathomable size would have been needed to achieve this! But I don’t see such a thing! The core looks normal, but-“
“Um, Princess Katalina. We really should move along…,” Eryn urged the whimsical girl.
“But if I could just understand this part- Ah!”
By this time, Eryn and I had each taken an arm and lifted her away from the gate. Seeing that we had contained her, Koujiro walked through the portal. The three of us followed suit, with Katalina longingly staring at the device she had to leave behind.
“She’s certainly quite the character!” Koujiro shouted back at us with a laugh.
Guiding us towards a fancy building, Koujiro led us past the entrance and straight through the main hallway. Strangely, it seemed like none of the guards stopped us or even asked us where we were heading, giving us only cursory looks before looking forward again.
Koujiro continued to walk forward, opening the doors himself and appearing to almost barge into the place. Something about this gnawed at the back of my mind.
Finally, he opened one final door, leading to the audience chamber of the castle. The sight before us was nothing that we expected. Weapons and armor, of all sorts, decorated the entire area.
As if the King had been a collector of rare equipment, each were carefully arranged so that they could be appreciated. Swords, axes, and lances of intricate design, and possibly magical in nature, lined the walls. Armor of all designs and materials were placed on racks situated around the room. This place looked more like the end-game store of an RPG than an audience chamber.
“I see you fancy the nice loot here. Quite some time and effort were expended to gather this, a collection of the finest weaponry that this country has to offer.”
Koujiro walked up to a sword on the wall and picked it up. As he unsheathed it, a flame raged around its blade, giving it an imposing aura.
“Huh? Isn’t it bad to just grab something from here? Won’t the King get mad?” I gave him a strange look at how casually he touched the prized objects.
“It’s fine. I have permission to use these.” Koujiro sheathed the sword again and placed it back on the wall.
He walked right over to the throne and sat on top of it.
“The reason being – that I’m the King of Macali.”