Sailing is quite taxing, Evelyn thought with a visible frown. There was nothing but the hum of water and darkness in the surroundings. Nothing urged a sense of awe or excitement. It was just as it is, sailing in the dark of the night without much to do but wait.
Still, this is a tight spot. Throwing the connections I built along the way just for a better opportunity… Evelyn grimaced. It’s kind of hard to accept. I just hope this waste won’t be too heavy of a burden.
Evelyn roamed Issenheim and spoke with several Nobles. Of course, it was nary an ordinary exchange of greetings and praises. An endorsement was promised. Contracts were signed. Supplies were given. Information was offered. All of it for the sake of gaining a step ahead of the others and to build a solid base for the future.
Evelyn took her time, but it seemed she had to start all over again. This time, in a different place and with different people.
It’s not final yet.
What happens next relies on Amelia’s decision—whether she refuses or not.
Evelyn fixed her eyes on what should have been their hostage. Come on. It’s easy to wipe out the evidence while were here out on the sea.
Evelyn crossed her legs as she heaved a sigh. “If only this place is safe…”
Just the thought of waiting for Amelia to decide, or for the boat to arrive at the port, bored Evelyn. It would have been easier to log out and wait it out by eating some snacks on reality. But the situation calls for her attention no matter how boorish it was. After all, logging out was the same as knocking herself unconscious in the game.
“I wish there was somethi—!?”
Without warning, Evelyn was thrown out of balance. In the next second, she found herself lifted along with half of the boat, hurtling towards the water.
“Wha—?!” Her voice was soon drowned by seawater. In a panic, she flailed her arms, struggling to reach the surface with excessive movements. “Pah! Haah! Haah!”
After regaining her senses, Evelyn scanned the surroundings, only to find bits and pieces of splintered wood.
“Anyone the—!” For the third time, Evelyn was interrupted. However, this time around, it was due to a cold shock running along her spine.
Flustered, Evelyn tried to look beneath the water. “Oh God, I hate this.”
There was something underneath the water. Adding the fact that there was no source of light other than the moon’s, it was close to invisible.
Calm down. Breath in… and out…
Evelyn’s actions did little to ease her wariness, however, To the left, and a little bit to the right.
About three meters away to her left, particles converged and formed limbs, then a body. And about a meter to her right, another manifested. Both bodies splashed into the water, for they were simply corpses. Corpses which bore the crest of Laurel’s Royal Guards.
Taking the chance, Evelyn swam away from the corpses and waited.
I must take it out. There’s no out-running this.
Evelyn held her arm into the air and swung it to catch a scroll made from sheepskin. After pouring a bit of mana into the scroll, the powdered Crystalline Manatite drawn on the scroll glowed and burned the sheepskin. Subsequently, a flood of light burst underneath the water. The light centered underneath Evelyn’s feet, revealing the two sinking corpses from a few meters away along with the approaching beast.
Just as Evelyn hoped. The beast was blinded and turned away from Evelyn’s direction, ending up directing its sight towards the sinking corpses. A neat line of prey waiting for the beast to consume.
Halvsoth. A beast that dwells deep around the eastern portion of Formos. Flitting its thick, large fins, the Halvsoth drew closer to the sinking corpses. Its maw wide open, three rows of small serrated teeth emerged from its gums. Seemingly lunging through the water, the Halvosth bit through the first corpse and crunched once more for the second. Or so Evelyn predicted.
Like how Evelyn directed the Halvsoth’s attention, light burst in line with the two corpses. For a moment, the Halvsoth withdrew and took a turn and swam in a circle, wary for another unexpected event.
“Just why?!” An opportunity wasted. It did not take long before the light Evelyn summoned to fade, dragging her back to square one. “Is anyone there?! Answer me!”
None of her party members would do such a thing in a dire situation. That was the impression Evelyn had on her party members. But doubt seeped inside her person. Maybe someone managed to listen to her conversation with the princess and planned to get back at her.
No! It’s not possible!
The possibility was present but unlikely. None of her party members were skilled in the art of magic. Besides, Wind Whisper was widely known as a means of private conversation. So far, she had never heard of means on how to interfere with Wind Whisper. Therefore, there were two likely suspects.
Someone who wants to get rid of me… or the princess…
Evelyn had to admit. Though she had not played all her cards during their previous clash, it was a hard fight. The few techniques that she developed in a short span of time were easily countered by the princess. A discouraging sight for Evelyn.
But all her devices… were taken…
Everything she wore was taken from her, except the necklace that prevented anyone from removing it.
Ah… Of course… Why hadn’t it crossed my mind?
The burst of light protected the corpses from being consumed. What were those corpses again? Right, corpses of Laurel’s Royals Guards.
To think you’d even save their corpses…
Perhaps she wanted to take back a memento for the dead Guards, or perhaps she wanted to retrieve the body themselves and give it a proper burial. Whichever it was, Evelyn’s quick decision has dumped herself in a boiling pot of water.
Not one… but two…
Amelia sank faster than anyone did. Her shackles made her do so. It did not take long for her to reach the bottom.
Bubbles rose from Amelia’s lips, exhaling her final breath.
It’s… full of sand.
Small fishes were present, but there were few. There were a few weeds and skittering crabs. However, most were plain sand.
I thought there’s something else down here. Amelia stood up, languidly. Her feet caressed the fine sand and prompted the fishes to flee. There’s something further down.
Much like how Amelia could see in the dark, she could see underwater as well. And from what she could see, there was a trench that lead further down the sea.
There’s no Nereids around.
Amelia never expected that she’d be standing at the bottom of the sea. However, not foreign to the disputes with Nereids in Formos, Amelia expected a glimpse of their home. Perhaps she was simply unlucky to not sink directly or near their habitat.
But how I’ve changed…
Amelia’s eyes did not hurt, despite them wide open in the depths of the sea. There was a weight pressing down on her body, but it was not too unbearable. Most of all, she was fine without the need to breathe air.
I can’t… drown? Amelia squinted her brows, unfamiliar of her own body. Though she had expected it to change over time, she did not know how much of a change it could bring. But my horn… it’s out. But then… it manifested by itself?
The horn glowed as it always had, but a bit stronger than usual. Perhaps the difference between a race’s and a divine’s form of sustenance came into play. But Amelia could not confirm it. She herself did not know her body.
Amelia shook her head, driving unnecessary thoughts. Anyway, I never thought I’d be using the advice I gave Meiko.
Was it a stroke of luck that Evelyn did not try to activate the Slave Collar? No matter what it was, it worked into Amelia’s favor. The collar had malfunctioned a few hours after it was forced around Amelia’s neck. In the end, she had put up a front of a weak, battered girl.
Done. The shackles around her limbs broke off one after another and buried itself in the sand. Next was her collar, which she simply had to pull apart. I haven’t used it for a time. I’m glad I still have a touch for it.
Water Lance. Simply because all the other elements were unavailable, or doubtful in destroying her shackles, Amelia resorted in using Water Lance. However, it was famous for being slow and its rate of consumption since it needed to manifest water before molding it into a lance.
But how much do I have left?
Day in, day out, Amelia had been walking around Tercel with her horn out. She simply shrouded it with illusion as a practice, and to challenge herself. However, it was not enough to drain her mana reserves. She had been afraid of losing track of her reserve as it could prove fatal future. After all, her mana was simply large, not infinite.
With her reserves in mind, Amelia swam. She swam directly upward, trusting that her unknown body could take the rapid change in the environment. And as she swam upwards, she took notice of a body sinking towards her. Unconsciously, she caught it and immediately recognized the face.
He’s a goner. It was Oswald Dwight. His eyes were dilated, and his mouth wide open in visible despair. It was easy to conclude that too much water had entered his system, prompting him to sink without fail.
Amelia manifested a barrier and stood on it. There she removed Dwight’s sword and cuffed around his body. In the end, after she had successfully obtained the crest of the House of Dwight, she released his body and watched it sink.
You sought merits, yet you ended up dying in a pitiful way. Amelia resumed her plight. You chose this option. May your soul dwell upon this mistaken choice.
It did not take long before Amelia found the fast approaching beast turned her way. A Halvsoth?
Amelia manifested a barrier to the side and used it as a platform to dodge, much like pushing your feet against the walls of a pool. After the eight-meter-long Halvsoth passed beside Amelia, she covered herself with an illusion, effectively shrouding her from sight. Now the Halvosth, having lost its target, noticed Evelyn floating around.
However, the burst of light redirected its sight towards the sinking corpses. Amelia had noticed this as well.
Those are... Amelia could not remember those clothes among Evelyn’s party members, but never would she forget what it was. The Guards.
Amelia frowned. She hated how she was treated like a princess in a house arrest, but she knew the guards were only doing their job as ordered by Auguste. She could also remember how they tried to defend her with their life, but only to end up vanishing.
Now that they reappeared once more, an urge was born within Amelia’s chest.
They’re still my people. Guards. They deserve better.
Amelia was never a Hero, but a Royal. Although it was originally part of her duty to honor the services of the Knights and Nobles, the routine had become a part of her person. She was no longer just a person with a title tagged on her name.
And so, she swam and reached towards the corpses. Imitating Evelyn’s technique, she diverted the Halvsoth and bought enough time to catch the two sinking Guards.
It’s not over. Yet.
Now with a newfound burden, she had to take down the beast. With that in mind, she spoke to Evelyn through Wind Whisper.
[I’m still around. Let’s take down the beast.]
Would disposing of Evelyn return the dead Guards? Would it scatter around here in the sea or simply vanish eternally?
Unanswerable questions surged through Amelia’s mind. She had to take the situation into account. As well as the benefits of her possible choices.
[That is if you’re willing to lend me a hand.]
There was no response from Evelyn, but Amelia could see from underwater how flustered she was. A voice from nowhere while surrounded by darkness. Amelia could quite see how startling it was.
After a while of sudden panic, Evelyn responded, [Fine, let’s get out of this.]
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