Within an hour, Katalina and I made our way to the Port of Gibraltar – a trip that should have taken an entire day. If someone had asked us how that was possible, my automatic response would have been, “The Queen possesses some pretty ridiculous magic.”
In truth, the two of us had merely ridden the levi-board, but the distance that it traversed was shortened significantly by rapid chaining of portals. Since Katalina could create portals faster than any magic spell, one was shot hundreds of meters away before the board had moved a fraction of that. In fact, she could project the mana forward quite far, making the trip a breeze.
As soon as we glided into one, she would extinguish and create the next set of portals, thereby cutting the actual distance traveled to less than a tenth of the actual. Still, she had created over a hundred sets of portals by the time we arrived, a considerable feat of mental endurance.
There was a visible sign of exhaustion from the mana usage, despite how much Katalina had leveled up over the previous months. Not to mention, she had downed several of my cinnamon-flavored pastries, washing them down with a potion, both aiding her mana recovery. I almost wondered if this was an excuse to eat her fill of them, seeing as they were currently a popular item, both for its flavor and healing properties. The mana spent from using the levi-board was minor in comparison; a single pastry stayed in effect for a third of the trip time with sips of potion topping it off as needed.
“Master, shall Ludmila go ahead?” Her voice interrupted the slightly labored breathing of a worn out Katalina clutching me on the levi-board. She had come with us, running through the portals at the same pace. Far from being tired, her calm expression had a touch of pep to it, indicating that she had enjoyed the run. To her, the distance traveled was a swift jog through the woods. Frankly, her speed had become so amazing that she could probably give the magic pigeons a run for their money.
I nodded to her, thanking her for giving us a little bit of travel recovery time. She was Katalina’s bodyguard normally, but that was our cue to switch roles for the moment. As I watched her form blur into the distance, I pulled out a glass bottle of liquid from my Item Box. Creating the slightest bit of ice magic where my hand touched, a cold permeated throughout the bottle, chilling the dark liquid within. This was the most effective magic I could muster with my low stats.
“Cola, your Majesty?” I extended it to her, which she opened with a fizz and drank from. There was nothing like the chill of a carbonated drink after a workout. Some would say good booze would match that, but I always had more of a sweet tooth. Still, I wouldn’t turn down a frothy ale if offered to me.
“Thank you, Claude. I’m okay now. I’ll recover as we glide our way there. Rather, I’m curious as to what business the King of Macali has here and why the sudden visit. That is, if it is him.” Katalina handed the empty bottle back to me, which I tossed into the storage void.
“What I heard from Eryn was that the trade negotiations had pretty much stopped once Oswald took command. Apparently, they saw our connection with the Southern Isles as problematic. Guess they didn’t want a foreign power potentially getting involved in the politics.”
With the port essentially locked down by the royal family, there was no way to continue the arrangements with Macali. The members of the trading company that were over there were stranded and didn’t know what to do. During those many months, they just continued with the original plan, setting up the foundations for new products, in case the tide turned. Once Katalina became queen, all of the barriers were suddenly lifted. Finally, we started seeing the fruits of the trade agreement. Having sampled some of the creations by a joint effort from Sistina and Macali, potential buyers from each nation were licking their lips for those goods to flood into the market. And now, we could add Sanshiro’s goods into circulation as well. Lady Kaguya gave us permission to be the middleman for trading, seeing as a long, direct sea travel to Macali would be more disadvantageous.
As we started moving forward again, Ludmila came sprinting back towards us. With a skid, her fluttering magical girl-like dress swayed from the abrupt stop.
“Master, report from officials say man is out drinking,” Ludmila flatly conveyed the information to us.
“Drinking? You mean, he wasn’t detained?” Katalina eyed her skeptically.
In response, the young girl shook her head. “Could not keep in one place. Too powerful.”
There were few people in this world with the ability to just shrug off all the guards in town with ease. And even less that would simply ‘go drinking’ in public without a care in the world. I sighed at the realization that it very well could be Koujiro.
“Fine, where is he at?” I resigned myself to meeting the flagrantly self-indulgent man. With that, Ludmila led the way.
The Ruff N’ Rumble Tavern was one location that was highly trafficked by both locals and travelers. When asked where to get a drink, most people tended to point to there, situated right between the port area and the rest of town.
However, today was not like most days, for a different kind of visitor had decided to make a stop.
“Saké BOMB!” A slam of the hand against the tabletop echoed in the tavern.
The clink of a small glass could be heard as it tumbled into a larger glass of ale. Moments before, the small glass had been propped up with two sticks, and its contents were filled with a rice wine personally transported from Macali.
Swiftly bringing the entire glass to his lips, a man in the gaudiest shining armor ever possible gulped the mixture down with gusto. Around him, several men were drunkenly cheering at his antics, the first time that they had seen such a drink.
“Man, it was worth it to bring a flask!” Koujiro sloshed the container of rice wine that he had his countrymen create for him.
When he first appeared, the entire tavern went silent, unsure of what to make of him. But when Koujiro went straight to the counter and asked for some booze, letting his wallet do the talking, the way he downed the drinks and reveled in the alcohol told them that he was just the everyday customer.
That was, until the next moment when several guards came racing into the tavern to arrest him. Koujiro simply set his glass down lightly and slurred out, “Can’t a guy getta few drinks in peace?”
He made his way over to the guards and glared at them, daring them to make a move. Unfortunately, one of them took the bait and moved in to strike with a club. In response, Koujiro drew his sword in one swift motion, severing the club in half and giving the man a slight trim of the right side of his hair. Before the locks could float to the ground, the guard had already backpedaled and escaped in fear. The other guards followed suit, knowing that they didn’t have the skill to stop a level 100 fighter.
“Well, back to drowning my sorrows.…” Koujiro casually turned back to the counter to grab his glass.
At this point, the other customers were quite interested in the powerful fighter and what could have made him depressed. The men approached and threw out several guesses. Not until someone commented, “trouble with the wife?” did they invoke a shiver from Koujiro.
“Something like that… I escaped for a spell cause I couldn’t deal with it anymore. Last thing I knew, I ended up on a boat and in this kingdom. But well, a man’s got to have an adventure!”
Several of the men had wives of their own, and ones with an independent streak as well. They could sympathize with a fellow man who had likely escaped from the ticking time bomb at home to stretch his wings. All men with relationships eventually faced this.
“A bit of the hard stuff and a spot of fun amongst the guys is all you need to lift your spirits!” And thus, they gathered in a circle to rant about the love of their lives nagging about the silliest things and how their days could have gone better.
“During the day, I’m bogged down by diapers and feeding! My fingers aren’t meant to delicately handle wiggly blobs that incessantly cry out for attention. I’d rather be facing the leviathan than deal with another crying babe!”
The men nodded in unison, some having experienced those sleepless nights and endless worries of raising a child.
“And good God! Marrying the fighter type was such a bad idea in hindsight. Their stamina is insatiable. Especially, when their mood goes into overdrive!”
The men nodded, innocently thinking that he was talking about generalities. Since they had no knowledge of Koujiro’s seven wives, their assumption had been that he had found a wife that was even stronger than himself. Some of them questioned how that could be, given how easily he overwhelmed the guards earlier.
“Must be some buff gal!”
“Oof. Can’t imagine one strong-arming me. I like to be the one in control.”
“I personally wouldn’t mind having one ride on top, crushing me with them thighs.”
The men commented after hearing about Koujiro’s love troubles. However, they all gave that one man in the group a strange look. “What? I’m a connoisseur of meaty figures,” he quickly defended himself.
They continued their boisterous talk, resulting in drinking challenges being tossed between them. Amongst these happenings, Koujiro showed them how he enjoyed his drink back home. Pretty soon, he started sharing his brew. The other men were grinning as they pounded their palms to knock their own small glasses into their drinks. By this time, they no longer cared how plastered they were becoming. Their new friend was a blast!
The men jumped as the door suddenly opened again. Normally, they would ignore such things because there were many a person who liked to announce their arrival in such a manner. However, a brief glimpse of long blue hair and regal attire made them nearly drop their drink.
When the person at the door fully came into focus, the men simply degenerated into babbling newborns. Their first thought was that, ‘The Queen would never show herself in such a place.’ But then, they recalled how different this ruler was. Many years of established perceptions of royalty clashed with the sight before them.
When a chef displaying the pin of the Chancellor and a stoic girl in a frilly dress accompanied her, they knew for certain that their eyes weren’t deceiving them. The stories of the ‘Star Shooting Demon Cleaver’ and the ‘Heaven Piercer’ traveled quickly across the world, having been spread by travelers that passed by. Many of those stories were backed up by Sistina’s countrymen who could verify their abilities.
Slowly, the men all backed away, noticing that the new guests continued to focus their gaze upon their new friend. Koujiro himself seemed unaffected by this, smiling lightly at some familiar faces.
“Yo, care to have a glass with me?” Koujiro jiggled his glass, letting the ice clink against the sides. “We have much to catch up on.”
All of a sudden, the men realized that Koujiro was likely someone of great standing wherever he came from, for the Queen to seemingly make a deliberate visit for his sake.
“First of all, mind telling me what the King of Macali is doing causing trouble within the borders of my kingdom? Depending on your answer, you might not have a very nice day…”
Apparently, Katalina still had not forgiven Koujiro for the antics that he pulled a year ago, when she was ‘invited’ to join his harem for the sake of promoting good relations.
Needless to say, the men’s relationship troubles were the last thing to worry about as a chilly atmosphere developed between the rulers of two different nations.