After about 30 minutes, Katalina decided that Koujiro’s punishment was enough. She redirected the portal high in the sky toward the open sea. The next time that Koujiro fell into the bottom portal, he was launched horizontally, skipping a few times on the water’s surface like a stone before going ‘kerplunk’. Fortunately for him, swimming had become a natural skill from living on an island nation.
Minutes later, a water-logged warrior trodded heavily along the water’s edge. His eyes looked dead to the world. A fish comically wiggled out from between his armor and flapped back into the water. Approaching me, he hung his head down wearily.
“Claude, why are women scary, no matter where you go?”
“Trouble with your harem, I take it?”
Koujiro’s face bolted upright with bloodshot eyes. “The girls, I thought I could handle after a certain point. What I didn’t anticipate was all the kids raising hell!”
‘Oh, right. After I returned from Macali, Katsys and Eryn told me that his harem girls were all pregnant. Had it really been almost a year since that time? Guess it was.’
“The crying and screaming, the wretched diapers, the general craziness of not being able to do anything I want – I got so sick of it!”
“So… you just ran away?” Katalina asked in a menacing voice. I turned around to see her brandishing her guns with a dark expression.
I mean, I couldn’t blame her since it seemed particularly scum-like to just leave your wife – or in this case, wives – to your kids and run. ‘Sorry, Koujiro. I can’t defend you on this one,’ I thought.
“No, no.” He shook his head and defended himself with his arms, anticipating another bolt of magic shot at him again. “I plan to go back! I just needed a break of some sort. An excuse to be away from it all!”
“So, you decided to randomly drop by here? I find it hard to believe that they’d let you do that without a good reason,” I poked at his fragile mentality.
Just then, something buzzed in Koujiro’s armor. He paused and took it out, his face shifting to a look of panic. A voice echoed from the device in his hand.
“My King, have you arranged for an audience with the new Queen yet? I’m eager to find out if you can really be trusted to conduct yourself properly as one that represents the Isles of Macali. You’re not slacking off instead, now are you?”
Koujiro’s motions grew stiff and jittery at the accusation.
“No! No! J-Just fine! Everything is great, Liruru! I’m actually here with the Queen of Sistina and Sir Claude as of this very moment!”
He looked over to us, almost begging us to play along.
With a sigh, Katalina raised her voice.
“Yes, Queen Katalina of Sistina here. How wonderful it is to hear from you once again, Liruru. Everything here with your King is under control. We’ll take ‘good care’ of him.”
Koujiro and I couldn’t help but laugh nervously at how her intonation shifted near the end of her statement.
“Oh good. I’ll leave things to you. Do keep my dear husband in check. Fushi, Riza, Zeni, and Pika are taking their naps, so I had time to contact him for a status report. Have to grab Myucel because it’s her turn to watch over Chiko, Baku, and Wani, but they are all doing good without their daddy. I’ll check in again later.”
As the communication was cut off, I stared at Koujiro blankly.
“Those names for your kids. They kind of ring a bell… Aren’t they-“
“Um, no, nope! I totally didn’t name them after the starters of a popular monster-catching game!”
‘Uh-huh.’ Koujiro’s denial was all that I needed to convince myself that I was right.
“Anyway, rather than ducking out on your fatherly duties, couldn’t you have hired some maids or something? You are King, after all.”
Koujiro waved that suggestion off with a sigh. “Macali’s traditions. The man is required to impart their guidance to the young ones in order for them to grow up strong or something. If I had known about that, I wouldn’t have been so gung-ho with my own flow!”
I clapped him on the shoulder. If I hadn’t been thrown into so many difficult situations myself, I wondered if the same carelessness would have stung me. Actually, I was told that my lack of observation was often covered by the others. It was good to have people watching my back.
“Anyway, now that you are here, I suppose that you have an agenda of sorts for meeting with the Queen of Sistina.” I shifted topics before Koujiro felt the need for more alcohol.
Koujiro explained that he was trying to re-establish the friendly pact between the two nations, now that his ‘acquaintances’ were in charge. However, not knowing the proper procedure for it, he simply hopped onto a trading ship, rather than arranging for a formal visit.
Although the merchants of Sistina were fine with taking him across the seas since they were paid, he failed to mention that he was Macali’s king. Few people aside from us even knew his identity, which had been kept a secret outside of their borders. The ship crew dismissed him as some entitled noble that was best left ignored. As a result, the port guards were in for quite a shock when they approached him asking for his travel papers.
“Travel documents? I’ve never heard of such a thing. Am I not free to roam like the adventurer I am? I am a king after all!”
Koujiro’s statements didn’t help his case, as the guards immediately labelled him as a madman. They were even more surprised when apprehending him resulted in an overwhelming counterattack.
“You’ll not touch me! I go where I please!” Koujiro yelled before he marched towards town. The guards could do nothing but call for backup, continuing to keep an eye on the dangerous person. Even a large regiment of guards had ended up failing to do much against the mysterious man’s battle prowess.
Thinking about it now, I found it rather silly that a small slip of paper could get one out of so much trouble. When we ended up in Sanshiro, my companions and I had tried to blend in with the locals, so no one approached us about our origins until the incident with Chrys. On the other hand, we didn’t stick out like a shining crown among a sea of pebbles. Koujiro only had himself to blame for the self-insistent gaudiness of his armor.
“And thus, I am here, hoping to extend an offer of peace and support between Macali and Sistina.” Koujiro bowed at the end of his explanation, a rather striking difference from the tirade that he went on against the same person not less than an hour ago. Despite the fact that we weren’t in any royal chamber, but a quiet stretch along the coast, Koujiro tried his best to be regal in his audience with a foreign leader.
“The girls made you practice that, didn’t they?” Katalina started chuckling at his flagrantly forced theatrics to win back some favor from her. “If only you had done that from the start.”
“I apologize. Stress and alcohol bring out the worst in me.”
“As long as you behave like your wives wish you to, you are more than welcome to visit here. Just notify the right people ahead of time. Unlike my brother, the previous king, I hold no hesitation in letting the trading companies in each nation work out the details.”
It appeared that Katalina had ‘mostly’ forgiven Koujiro. Also, it seemed like getting some ‘air’ sobered him from his drunken aggression. With the official work taken care of, it would be nice to hang out with him for a bit.
“Oh, wait. Before you go, I have one question.” Katalina stopped the two of us as we started walking off. “How does that communicator work? For it to operate at such a long distance…”
Koujiro took out the voice communicator that he used to talk to Liruru, who was all the way in Macali. I recalled that Katalina and I were just discussing methods for long-range mana activation.
“Not sure. It has a type of special stone, I believe. Something that I helped gather from the Divine Isles.” Koujiro scratched his head as he tried to remember the important details. Since that wasn’t enough, he let Katalina examine the device with her magic.
Within moments, the inventor girl’s eyes lit up. “I see! A Resonance Stone! I’ve heard about them in stories, but this is the first time I’ve handled one. You obtained this at those Divine Isles?”
Many questions came up in my head, since I felt out of the loop. Interrupting them, I asked them what it was all about.
According to Koujiro, there were a set of islands to the northwest of Macali where these Resonance Stones could be found. However, much of the island was a rather treacherous place, filled with powerful golems that guarded the area. The Divine Isles were heavy with mana, which supplied them with endless energy. However, no one knew how they were created or for what purpose. Hardly anyone was able to set foot upon it, much less have the time to harvest any Resonance Stones.
“However, I – the champion hero of this world – found it to be a promising challenge! How strong could they even be for one such as myself?” Koujiro struck a pose of bravado.
“I take it that you managed to beat them since you got ahold of this stone?” I chuckled at his confidence.
However, Koujiro suddenly deflated and rubbed his head nervously. “Ah, I managed to smack back some of them and snatch a few small ones in a cave near the sea, but there was hardly anything I could do when they called for backup. I mean, a single blow nearly shattered my best armor, and their defense was so high that I could barely dent their bodies.”
‘Ack, that didn’t sound promising.’ If it was a place that not even Koujiro could handle, then the golems were certainly more fearsome than anything I had ever faced. On the other hand, their defense may not matter quite so much with my abilities. There was no way to know unless I faced one. Looking over to Katalina, who was still studying the device, it became apparent that finding one of these Resonance Stones would be necessary to take her own inventions to the next step.
“Resonance Stones of this size only have a small mana output. While they can effectively serve as mana relay points, there is a ceiling to it.”
Koujiro and I gave a mutual wave of ignorance at her explanation, which we, uneducated in the same spectrum of her intelligence, couldn’t interpret.
“Resonance Stones serve as locations in which a resonant signal jumps between each one. The texts say that symbols were magically infused to connect those bearing the same mark. Mana sent through a resonance stone is converted into a signal. As a result, information imbedded in the mana is not lost, like in the case of normal magic stones. The mana is reconverted upon arriving at another Resonance Stone.”
Trying to understand what it meant, it made me think of cell phone service and reception towers. When I tried to explain that otherworld technology to her, Katalina noted that it seemed pretty similar to how the Resonance Stones worked. Thankfully, my dumbed-down explanation made sense to Koujiro, who was also an otherworlder.
“In any case, a stone of this size wouldn’t be enough to sustain the portal spell. I would need… something of about this size.” Katalina made a motion with her hands, palming an imaginary object the size of a cinder block.
“Ehhh? Why did you need one so big? Isn’t your portal gun powered by a small magic stone?” I replied.
“In that case, a magic stone only acts as a medium between a magician and the tool. It doesn’t need to be particularly large. However, a standalone set of portals is a two-way connection, unlike Koujiro’s device which sends a signal one way. This requires self-sufficiency in magic – the capacity to operate without a user on the other side. There is no way to control a portal that is completely out of sight, so it requires self-activation. The standard magic stones for the portals in Macali are the same way too. However, they were daisy-chained in between the islands, rather than relying on a Resonance Stone to bridge the connection. A long-distance leap won’t work the same.”
Well, she likely knew what she was talking about despite the rest of us being lost, so there was no choice but to find ones to her specifications. There was only one problem.
“I never saw any stones of that size at the island’s edge. Supposedly, we detected much larger ones deeper in, but the resistance was too much…”
Right. The golems were going to be a major hurdle. However, Koujiro had been alone at the time.
“Is it possible with 2- no, 3 Electi?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“Maybe… you have others as strong as us on hand?” Koujiro asked, a spark of adventure seeming to light up in his eyes.
“Someone comes to mind.”