Translated by Tianic, edited by MadSnail.
Note 1: Please click on the character name for their illustrations.
Note 2: Recommended reading music of this chapter ‘Shipwrecked’, from Illumina by Two Steps from Hell. The video will auto-continue.
Characters in this chapter:
- Cohen Kheda: The main character.
- Sander: Leader of the Aqua Clan.
- Amart: The big boss of Winper City’s underworld.
Amart was good. Not only did he prepare the first batch of much-needed food within a day, also all businessmen in Winper City had no idea who this food were sold to.
Looking upon the ships full of food, Sander who went on board at half way could not even believe his eyes. He had to touch each and every bag of them to make sure that I was not making this up.
“What do you wanna do? You’ve fostered such enormous manpower and financial system…” He stood on my side and said in a soft voice, “And now you are offering this much food, are you planning a rebellion?”
“Rebellion?” I watched as the ships marched rapidly as well as the surf that messed around, then “We’ll talk about that after I meet the Elder.”
The aqua men were excellent sailors by nature because of their origin. They guided excellent as my food-loaded ships advanced rapidly.
By the third morning, we sighted a giant island hid behind the thin mist.
Several smaller battleships emerged out from the island then drew closer and circled around my fleet. After contact, the ships formed to queue on both sides and escorted us sailing toward the islands.
“Aren’t you being too cautious!” I said to Sander, “You don’t need to do that.”
“You know well clear that food will save countless lives, as well as my people, are anxiously looking forward to it. Why bother asking me?” Sander replied, “To be honest, it’s the first time I bring this much food back since I assumed the role of chief leader. Besides, I’m bringing back a stranger. Even I have no idea if I’m doing the right thing.”
“You know you don’t,” I said with a hint of a smile, “Then why to bother telling me this?”
“I… I have no idea.”
“Unwittingly, you said so! Your eyes have betrayed you.” I looked at him, “I’ve got to admit that I am a huge trouble for many times. However, it was you who found me. In this case, congratulations.”
“You…” Sander was speechless, “Congrats me for what?”
“For robbing my ships…” I said, “Or where’s the fun in that?”
“What I said about fun,” I gazed upon the smaller ships afar and said, “is not about the food or your people. Are you clear?”
“Thank you for making that clear.” Sander said seriously, “Or I’ll have to challenge you one more time giving that I can’t beat you.”
“Hehe, you are funny indeed.” I laughed, “But… do you believe that? I’m able to control and fool you around as I want. And you will do whatever I said, willingly.”
“The key to this question is, whether you want to do it without knowing the purpose, or not.”
“What difference does that make?”
“Huge difference.” I faced the constantly changing ocean surface and slowly revealed, “In the first condition, I will create environments that force you on the job I want, and you will be deeply devoted to fulfilling my wish without even getting tired. Only by the last moment will I tell you that you were merely my tool.”
“As for the latter condition, I will cut you in the program. You’ll know who and why you are working for, and, as well as the grand result of the project. To address it in another way, this time, you are a mentally prepared man, instead of a tool.
“You! There’s no way you can do that! I’m not a fool.”
“Oh, really?” I said coldly, “If things turned out like you said, then why the hell thousands of aqua people are squashing on an isolated island, starving?”
“You are too young to be a chief.” I tapped his shoulder, “In face, on this continent, not only the Aqua Clan is fooled, aren’t we all? The question is whether we wanna be a tool or humans that can think.”
“I’m getting it, you are not trouble.” Sander said quietly around me, “You are a devil that lures. I’m already hooked…”
“Am I? I’m flattered.” I said, “You can try to make friends with me…”
“I wish there’s a second option.”
We laughed into each other’s face.
The wharf was crowded with people. Countless aqua people stood in alignment waiting to unload the food. We, on the other hand, led by Sander, traveled through the crowd and got on carriages and went to the island center.
“Our Chief Elder is not so agreeable like me.” Sander rode in the same carriage as I, “You can’t be careless when speaking with him.”
“I don’t intend to say anything.” I replied, “You have my offer. He’s your job to convince.”
“You… said what?” Sander widened his eyes, “Me?”
“You wanna be a man that can think, right?” I watched him and said, “Convincing the Elder is the first step of you and me cooperating together. It’s your obligation.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, but, however, nevertheless…” I said, “Just talk him in then I’ll tell you more. If he won’t listen to you, the leader, then my words won’t even worth mentioning.”
“Sigh, alright!” Sander said, “I feel like you sold me.”
“Yeah, I forgot to mention.” I laughed, “To me a man of thoughts, the middle process is is extremely painful and difficult!”
Our carriage halted in front of a building with giant round light blue top. My guards came to open the door for us as I got off. Sander led us in before I could survey the building’s style.
Only after entering the building I noticed that entire place was made out of seashells. From the wall around us to its ceiling, millions of shells glowed rainbow-like reflections by several enchanted lights.
The shells composed to make a giant picture above our head. Like nature itself and a giant illusion, this extraordinary image will flow to alter as anyone moved under it.
Sander hinted to let me wait here. I smiled back to inform to do his job.
In the center of the build located a pond. There, scattered people were standing by it, worshiping. The pond was rather large with several groups of fountains inside. I had nothing to do at the moment and decided to have a seat there.
As my vision traveled through the moving fountains and finally landed on a thick light blue water pillar, to my surprise, a woman figure that illustrated from the pillar was the one Sander summoned by the spell the other night when he fought me.
I was very convinced. Gazing at this almost perfect body, I utterly speechless.
“Who are you?” A pleasing voice caught my attention, “Why are you looking at our Arethusa like that?”
I turned away and found a girl wearing long robe asking me the question. Luckily she was not sounding that she was angry.
“I’m the Elder’s guest.” I said, “That… is really your worshipping god?”
“Man!” She frowned, “What’s ‘that’? She’s an avatar of Arethusa. And she’s not only ours but also yours. She belongs to all living beings, try to remember it.”
“Mine? No way!” I said, “She stabbed me the other day…”
“Lie! Arethusa’s avatar has never left this place.” The aqua girl chuckled, “And Arethusa herself is the most gentle god there is. You must’ve done something bad. Truthfully, if you could feel by heart, you’ll sense her existence.”
I was lectured.
“No need to feel.” I said, “She’s right there.”
My impulse drove me to move the right leg and crossed into the pond.
“Ah…” The girl behind me exhaled and gasped, “You get out now! You’ll be hurt! It’s enchanted!”
I ignored her warning and went in toward the statue shaped by water. My instinct told me that this thing was somehow connected to myself. I was so deeply attracted to this woman that made me going close and close.
As I approached, the statue itself went alive. She put her vision onto my body as if I have disturbed her The water around me were rose and altered into human shapes. Some shaped as warriors, some looked like mages. I was surrounded.
I continued ignoring the girl’s anxious yelling and the fact that I was surrounded. Finally, I reached a distance where I could reach out my hand and touch the Arethusa statue itself. Now I was able to catch every detail of her. As I gazed at her eyes, she looked confused.
“You…” I said lowly to it, “Can you speak?”
The statue looked even more confused whereas the water pillars that were supporting her body shivered.
“Or, you felt that we’ve met somewhere like I do?” I said, “And the feeling is strong…”
She remained the same. However, the water-shaped men around did not initiate any attacks on me.
Seemed that we were unable to communicate verbally. I looked at her while raised my right hand to my chest level and reached out.
She paused for a moment, also lifted her right hand. Though it did not take long, I felt like ten thousand years had passed.
Our palms reached and became one. I had an odd sense of coldness that came in.
Before I met Marsh, I had been wondering in the universe as a group of energy. In that environment, my sole engagement and communication with the outside world was through spiritual power.
Currently, as other ways to talk failed, my mind power became the only option.
I shut my eyes, but still the feel of her physical body shivering passed inward. She was reacting!
Both of us had kept palm to palm and communicated like so regardless of the passage of time until I became too tired and opened my eyes.
I exhaled then sighted firstly some tiny alterations of the statue. She was no longer looking stiff, cold, as well as a hint of a smile was there on her face.
As her smile became clearer, a sense of peace and warmth spread centered by the statue. Everyone felt it.
“Arethusa smiled… Arethusa smiled!” The aqua people who were surrounding the pond torn and started yet again knelt and praised their God. Only then did I noticed that the pondside was crowded with people.
An old man wearing blue robe walked through the others with Sander’s help. Time had left long and deep wrinkles on his face, a huge horde of white beard drooped, and the cane in his hand, which I presumed was to hold up his no longer robust body.
He made signs to dismiss the crowd, thus the people one by one saluted to the Arethusa as well as the old man then left. I guessed this must be the Chief Elder of the Aqua Clan.
He took efforts to move near the pond and hinted me to come by.
I made a smile then moved my right hand onto my chest and returned my courtesy as a younger. However, after my deeds, I pointed to the statue and made a ‘please’ gesture.
He shook his head exceedingly.
I made the gestures once again with my ever so sincere eyes to add up my goodwill. As I assumed that it’s not shameful to talk business in front of their Arethusa statue.
The Chief Elder sighed then finally walked by with Sander.
“Sir Chief Elder, may I ask?” I dropped my body slightly.
“The young generation nowadays are getting ever so rough. You have to drag me down in the water to talk.” The Elder paid me no attention, rather he saluted the Arethusa statue and said, “How rare! It’s been the first time she smiles since we found her avatar hundreds of years ago.
“What’s odd will be she keeps smiling daily, right?” I talked back because he ignored me earlier.
“You thought so ‘cuz you don’t know.” The Elder had finally paid me attention, “You know, son. In all of our Arethusa portraits, she was always smiling!
“Yeah? Then am I the luckiest one?” I turned away to looked at the Arethusa statue one more time, “So is Arethusa one of the Protoss in the Light Temple?
“Hahaha!” Unexpectedly, the Elder laughed aloud full of scorn, “The Light Temple? If we worship the Light Temple, all of the aqua people wouldn’t wind up hiding here.”
“You are right! You seem surprised.” The Elder gazed at me and said, “Arethusa, which we have been worshiping for generations, does not belong to the Light, nor the Dark Temple.”
I looked back at the Elder. His words had undoubtedly shocked my view of the world.
“Are you saying…” I said, “There are other forms of Gods except for the Protoss and Asmodian?
“Before we jump into that, aren’t you gonna show us who you really are?” The Elder changed the subject, “Rest assured, we are alone here.”
“Hehe, worthy of your name, Chief Elder!” I shook my head and said, “Was my disguise giving me away? What exactly cracked me out?”
“As a smuggler, you acted much too curious and enthusiastic.” He said with a hint of a smile, “But I’m pretty sure that a man who made Arethusa smile will not be tough to my clan people, am I right?”
The speechless I had to take off the light blue lens in my eyes, then uncast the spell that changed my hair color. After these, I looked at the two young and old quietly.
“Third child of… Darkmoon?” Sander gasped, “You are Cohen Kheda!”
“Curiouser and curiouser.” The Grand Elder said with a smile, “We never had nobles on our island, never! And now there is a famous one…”
“As the viceroy of Dark City, it’s not too much to ask by going around on my territory!” I said lightly, “So, is it all you do when meeting your Viceroy, fooling around?”
“You, what do you want?” Sander was after all still young. He lost his calm.
“It’s not hard to show your least courtesy to your governor, right?” I said, “Plus the fact that it’s you who acted so eagerly to know my real identity.”
“You have to know, young man, your identity is not the kind to be welcomed here.” The Chief Elder said, “Due to your connection to Arethusa, I can let you go in peace.”
“Don’t you two understand?” I said, “I’m speaking to both of you as your Viceroy. If my memory is correct, your island is under the jurisdiction of Dark City.”
“So that’s why you insisted on meeting our Elder. You want to make us slaves!” Sander said with clenched teeth, “Don’t you ever think about it! You’ll not get what you want!”
Sander, who lost his calm had put an aqua style narrowed short dagger in his hand.
I chuckled, but instead, the Elder used a hand and stopped the fight-driven Sander.
“Sander, have you forgotten what I told you on that ship?” I said, “I assumed you two have heard more or less about me, Cohen Kheda. Why bother too much about my identity?”
“Only because we’ve heard too much…” The Elder said, “Aren’t you gonna explain anything?”
“I’m standing right in front of you. If you still choose to believe street talks…” I humphed, “Then I guess you are just too stupid.”
“Fine, Sander… just show some respect to His Excellency. He DID show his younger courtesy earlier.” The Elder turned to me and said, “I assume you are not asking me to bow as well!”
“I don’t have any habit of asking old timers to salute me.” I said, “Let alone a Chief Elder.”
Sander unwillingly bowed.
“So, Viceroy Cohen Kheda,” The Chief Elder said, “Are we ready to talk?”
“Sure, you wanna go first, or should I?”
The Chief Elder said, “I have to ask you to fill in an old man’s curiosity first.”
“Good, this way, please!” The Chief Elder turned away and started walking, he talked to himself “I’m too old to walk any longer…”
I followed him in obedience and arrived in a much smaller room compared to the hall earlier.
There stood an ellipse shaped giant table, a few armchairs were placed around. Undoubtedly, these furniture were made out of seashells, which was probably the aqua people’s preference.
The girl who has warned me by the pond earlier showed up again. I gazed her with a faint smile, however, she served us with a kind of greenish drinks and left in caution.
“Have a try!” The Elder said, “This is a drink specially made for VIPs.”
I pondered and sipped while sealing my nose.
“Let’s start!” The Elder let go of his cup, “What do you want from us, Viceroy Cohen Kheda?”
“En, what I want from you is just an illusion as of now.” I said, “You are to me is merely a giant liability.”
“I believed you’ve already known. We have nearly a hundred thousand people live on this tiny island. Food and goods are scarce, nor do we have time or energy to produce extra stuff for you.”
“That’s nothing I expect from you now.”
“Then what do you want?” The Elder said blankly.
“I told you.” I shook my glass, “I’m just wandering on my land, that’s all.”
So much for the talking, Sander bounced up and roared, “This is our land!”
Looked like the Elder had no intention to stop Sander. What a small clan, from its leader to Elder were all short-sighted without exception.
I stood and approached to Sander with a sincere smile.