Chapter Six: The White Country
After making sure Saito and company were running, Kirche commanded Guiche, “Now then, it’s time to begin. Guiche, there’s a pot filled with oil in the kitchen somewhere, right?”
“You mean those frying pots?”
“Yep. Bring them over with your golems.”
“No sweat.” Guiche hid behind a table, waving his rose, which was his wand. The petals fell slowly and female bronze warriors sprouted from the ground. The golems headed towards the kitchen, even though arrows were aimed at them.
The steel arrowheads burrowed into soft copper, causing the statues to wobble. Guiche laughed, as the statues finally reached the kitchen behind the counter, and picked up the frying pot.
“Can you throw that at the entrance?” Kirche put on make up looking at a mirror while talking.
“You’re putting on make up now, of all times?” Guiche said, a shocked look on his face, but still commanded his statue to throw the pot at the entrance as he was told.
Kirche brandished her wand and stood up.
“Because the play is about to begin, and if the female lead has no make up on...”
She waved her wand at the oil, now sprinkled in the air.
“...wouldn’t that be embarrassing?”
Kirche’s magic lit up the oil, spreading flames all over the Goddess’s Temple, making a loud noise. In an instant, a group of mercenaries, once bent on advancing, retreated from the sudden fire.
Kirche seductively sang a spell, waving her wand again. The flames burned even fiercer, spreading towards the mercenaries at the entrance, enveloping them and causing them to roll around in pain. Kirche stood and elegantly flicked her hair before raising her wand. Although all the arrows flew towards her, Tabitha’s wind magic parried them all.
“Dear unnamed mercenaries, although I have no idea why you’re attacking us,” Kirche smiled and bowed in the rain of arrows, “please let me, Kirche the Ardent, graciously be your opponent!”
Sitting on her enormous earth golem’s shoulder, Fouquet bit her lip in annoyance. The group she just ordered to attack instantly came back in confusion after being surrounded with fire. She turned to the hooded masked noble sitting beside her. “Geez, making a fuss just because of this level of fire... hired hands just aren’t dependable.”
“That’s enough anyway.”
“But you can’t beat them like this!”
“It’s alright even if they can’t. All they have to do is separate them.”
“Even if you say so, I won’t let this go on. I took so much humiliation because of them.”
The hooded man did not answer, instead standing up as if he heard nothing, and talking to Fouquet, “Alright, I’m going after the Vallière girl.”
“Then what am I going to do?” Fouquet answered in shock.
“Whatever you like. Burn or cook the rest, whatever. We’ll meet up at the usual restaurant.” He casually jumped off the golem’s shoulder, disappearing into the darkness like the midnight wind, soft and chilling.
“Geez...what a laidback guy. Can’t tell me anything he’s thinking about.” Fouquet spoke silently in disgust.
Moans came from the men below. Strong winds came from inside the temple, spreading and strengthening the violent flames. Even the archers hiding in the darkness felt the burn.
Fouquet yelled below her, “Dammit, that’s enough! You’re all useless! Get out of my way!”
The golem rose with a thundering noise, and moved towards the entrance, raising its fists over its head as it advanced.
Kirche and Tabitha controlled the flames in the hall, forcefully tormenting the mercenaries outside. The group of archers outside also fled from the fire spread by Tabitha’s wind, leaving their bows behind.
“Ohhhhohohohoho! Oho! Ohohoho!” Kirche laughed victoriously. “You see it? You get it now? The power of my flames! If you don’t want to get burned, you better run home now! Ahahaha!”
“Alright, my turn!” after making an untimely appearance, just as Guiche aimed at the retreating enemies in between the gaps of the flames for his “Valkyrie” spell...
With a loud, thunderous noise, the entrance and beyond disappeared.
A huge golem emerged from the flying dust, and easily kicked away Guiche’s statues.
“Oh, I forgot. That tough missy’s still here.” Kirche said silently, sticking out her tongue.
“Don’t be too arrogant, kids! I’ll finish you off!” Fouquet yelled in anger, standing on her golem’s shoulder.
“What do we do now?” Kirche turned to Tabitha’s direction. Her friend laid out both hands and shook her head.
Guiche took one look at the enormous golem, and sank into a fervent panic, yelling, “Everyone! Attack! I say, ATTACK! Now is the time for them to see the spirit of all Tristainian nobility! Watch me, father! Guiche will become a man!”
Tabitha tripped him with her staff, sending him crashing on the ground.
“What are you doing?! Let me be a man! In the name of Her Royal Highness, let my rose wither here!”
“Alright, we got to go.”
“No! I will not run!”
“...you know, you’re exactly the type that would die in any battle first.”
Tabitha looked at the approaching golem, and suddenly seemed to reach an idea. She then pulled on Guiche’s sleeve.
“Rose.” Tabitha pointed at Guiche’s fake rose, making a waving motion in the process. “A lot. Of petals.”
“What do you want with those petals?!” Guiche yelled, only to have his ear pulled by Kirche.
“Just do what Tabitha says!”
Guiche waved his rose wand in annoyance, sending large amounts of petals flying in the air. Tabitha sang a spell. Under her wind’s direction, the petals stuck onto the golem.
“And what does sticking petals all over the golem do?! Sure it’s pretty!” Guiche yelled back.
Tabitha concisely ordered Guiche. “Alchemy.”
On the golem’s shoulder, Fouquet, seeing her creation stuck all over with petals, annoyingly complained, “What’s this? A present? I’m not letting up even if you decorate my golem with petals!”
The golem raised a fist, and smashed the table that shielded Kirche, Tabitha, and Guiche in one blow.
At that moment, the tangled petals all turned into liquid. The smell of oil crept up to her. As a master of the “earth” element, Fouquet instantly realized the reason. A spell known as “Alchemy.”
They just used “Alchemy” to turn the petals on the golem into oil.
She was too late to realize that something was wrong. Kirche’s fireball was already flying towards her golem.
In an instant, the huge golem was covered in fire. Unable to withstand the heat and flames, the golem fell on its knees.
Seeing their employer in a losing position, the mercenaries fled like spiders. Kirche, Tabitha, and Guiche held their hands in joy.
“We did it! We won!”
“I... I won with alchemy! Father! Your Majesty! Guiche has triumphed!”
“That’s all because of Tabitha’s plan!” Kirche poked on Guiche’s head.
A hideous Fouquet stood up in front of her burned golem. “H... how dare you... beat me, Fouquet, twice, with earth magic...” She looked pitiful. With her long, beautiful hair burned away, her robes singed with holes everywhere, and her face charred a dark black, the beauty had left her.
“Aha, that’s some nice make up you have on. You know, lady, this heavy make up kinda suits you! I mean... you’re pretty old already!” As Kirche finished, she waved her wand at Fouquet. However, she seemed to have depleted her energy with all the spells she used in battle. Suddenly, a small, weak flame flew out, and disappeared in an instant.
“Eh? That’s it?” Kirche scratched her head.
Tabitha and Guiche seemed to have the same effect. But not Fouquet. She didn’t try any spells, and simply moved straight at them.
“Call me old?! Girl, I’m only 23!” Fouquet tightened her fists, and punched at Kirche, who retaliated much the same way without hesitation. And so the two fought completely unlike themselves.
Tabitha sat down, and, with absolutely no interest in the fight in front of her, started reading.
Guiche watched the two beautiful women fighting, a mild blush on his face. He seemed indifferent to his clothes being a total mess.
Watching from far away, the mercenaries began betting on the match.
As Kirche and Fouquet beat up each other, Saito and company ran towards the harbor, their road illuminated by the bright moon. Wardes ran towards a certain building’s long stairs, and began walking up them.
“Aren’t we heading towards some ‘harbor’? Why are we climbing a hill?” Asked Saito. Wardes did not answer.
After climbing a long flight of stairs, they arrived on top of a small hill. Seeing everything in front of him, Saito gasped.
It was a huge tree, branching out in every direction. It had the size of a mountain. How tall was it? The night covered its top, but it had considerable height. Saito looked at the tree as if it were Tokyo Tower.
And then... taking a closer look between the branches, the tree seemed to be holding something even larger. A huge fruit? He was wrong. It was a ship. It looked like a zeppelin, stuck between the trees.
“This is the ‘harbor’? And... that’s the ‘ship’?” Saito asked in shock.
Louise replied in surprise. “Yeah... isn’t your world like that?”
“Harbors and ships all stay on water in my world.”
“If there are ships that sail on water, there are ships that sail in the air.” Louise said matter-of-factly.
Wardes ran to the tree’s roots, which were as big and spacious as a skyscraper’s lobby. They probably dug the middle out of a dead tree to make this.
It was night, so they couldn’t see anyone. Between each flight of stairs were metal panels, with writing of some sort on them. Maybe station signs or something, Saito thought.
Wardes began climbing the stairs in front of him.
One flight of wooden stairs was connected to another. There were scaffolding and supports on them, but they still looked worryingly dangerous. One could see La Rochelle’s lights in the spaces between each flight of stairs.
In a rest stop midway, Saito heard footsteps behind them. He turned around, and a shadow jumped, flying over him and landed behind Louise.
It was the white-masked man on Fouquet’s golem.
Saito pulled out his sword and cried, “LOUISE!”
Louise turned around. The man picked her up the next instant.
“Ahhhh-----!” Louise screamed. Saito raised his sword. But if I just slash it like that, I’ll hit Louise. The man carried Louise and jumped much like a acrobat would, his body moving wherever he wished.
Saito stood still. Beside him, Wardes waved his staff. The masked man, like Saito a while ago, was blown away, hit by Wardes’ air hammer, and let Louise go. He held on to a support, but Louise fell towards the ground.
In an instant, Wardes jumped off from the platform, and dove towards Louise like a grebe. He caught up with her and floated in the air while carrying her.
The masked man bent around, jumped on the platform, and faced Saito. His build was not too different from Wardes’. He pulled out a staff from his waist. It was a black staff.
After making sure Louise was safe, Saito went on guard, remembering his battle against Wardes. Swinging the sword around is outright dangerous, but he couldn’t foresee what magic his opponent would use against him.
The man waved his staff. The air above him began to cool. Freezing air irritated Saito’s skin. What is he doing?
He continued to chant a spell. Saito raised his sword, but Derflinger yelled, “Get on guard, partner!”
As Saito got on guard, the air shook. There was a crack. Lightning emanated from the man and hit Saito directly.
“‘Lightning Cloud’!” Derflinger cried, recognising the spell. A strong current went through Saito’s body and he fell from the platform.
“Gaaaahhh---!” Saito cried in pain. His left wrist felt like it was scorched and burned as if he had touched a red-hot branding iron. The current left a trail, burning his clothes. He fainted from the pain and fright.
Wardes, holding Louise, chanted the “Fly” spell, safely landing Saito on the ground.
“SAITO!” Louise cried, watching her familiar fall. Wardes bit his lip, turned to the masked man, and waved his staff. It was the air hammer. The air around him solidified into invisible blocks, striking the masked man. He fell off the platform and towards the ground.
Louise struggled out of Wardes' grip and ran to Saito. A gash from the current continued to burn Saito’s left hand, where he held his sword, from the sleeve straight up to his elbow. She frantically put her ear at his chest. His heart was beating, and she breathed a sigh of relief. He took a very heavy current, but seems to have survived, moaning in pain.
Saito opened his eyes, and painfully stood up. “W-what... that guy... but, it hurts... gah!”
Derflinger spoke in concern, “That was ‘Lightning Cloud’. Very strong wind magic. That guy looks like an expert to me.”
“Ah! Ugh!” Saito’s face twisted in pain.
Wardes looked to Saito’s condition. “But he was lucky to survive with just his wrist injured. This spell usually kills. Hmm... looks like your sword neutralized some of the current, but I’m not sure why. Isn’t the sword made of metal?”
“No idea. I forgot.” Derflinger replied.
“An intelligent sword, huh. Rare stuff.”
Saito bit his lip hard. His injured wrist hurt, but the fact that he could do nothing to save Louise hurt more. Plus, he let Wardes steal the whole show. He couldn’t let Louise look at him like this anymore. He barely stood up, and sheathed Derflinger.
“Let's go. I-it doesn’t matter now.”
Behind the last flight of stairs was a branch. On that branch, a ship... just docked there. It was shaped more like a yacht, perhaps to let it fly. There were wings on the sides. From the ship dangled who-knows-how-many ropes, all tied onto the branches. The branch they were standing on extended all the way to the ship’s deck.
They stepped on board, and a sailor sleeping on the deck climbed up. “Hey you! What are you doing?!”
“Where’s the captain?”
“He’s sleeping. Come back in the morning.” The man replied frostily and drunkenly, and drank from his rum bottle.
Wardes did not answer, and pulled his staff out. “You want a noble to repeat what he just said? I said get the captain!”
“A n-noble!!” The sailor stood up immediately and ran for the captain’s quarters.
After a while, he brought back a sleepy, fifty-something old man with a hat on. He seemed to be the captain. “What do you want?” He looked at Wardes suspiciously.
“Leader of Her Majesty’s Mage Guard, Captain Wardes.”
The captain’s eyes bulged, and he switched to more formal words after learning Wardes' identity as a noble of high caliber. “Oh, uh... then, what services may this ship perform for you...”
“Take us to Albion. Depart now.”
“This is upon Her Majesty’s orders. Are you going against the Royal Court?”
“I don’t know what you’re going to Albion for, but we can’t depart until morning!”
“Albion’s the closest to Tristainia in the morning! We don’t have enough wind stones to get there from here right now.”
“Wind stones?” asked Saito.
The captain gave him a 'you-don’t-know-what-a-wind-stone-is?' look and answered, “Stones that store wind magic. This ship can’t fly without them.” He then turned to Wardes. “Your Excellency, this ship only has enough wind stones in store to travel the shortest distance to Albion. If we had more, we could have gone earlier. But for now, we cannot depart. We’ll drop out of the sky while halfway there.”
“I’ll make up for however much you lack in wind stones. I’m a square wind mage.”
The captain and his sailors looked at each other. The captain then turned to Wardes and nodded. “Then that’s fine. You will have to pay, though.”
“What’s the cargo?”
“Sulfur. Right now, it’s worth its weight in gold. The nobles have increased the price in desperation for security. To have that, gunpowder and fire elements are a must.”
“Sell all of that to me at that price.”
The captain nodded, perhaps with a devious smile. With the deal done, the captain made one order after another. “Leave port! Untie anchors! Set sail!”
The sailors followed orders, all the while complaining under their breath. They expertly removed the ropes from the branches, climbed to the securing ropes on both sides, and released the sails.
Without the ties, the ship suddenly sank, and then floated again with the power of the wind stones.
“When can we reach Albion?” Wardes asked.
“We’ll arrive at Scarborough Port tomorrow at noon.” The captain replied.
Saito looked at the ground from the port side. The “harbor” could be seen between the huge tree’s branches. La Rochelle’s lights soon faded into darkness. They seemed to be traveling rather fast.
Louise approached Saito, and put a hand on his shoulder. “Saito, are you okay?” She worriedly looked at him.
“Don’t touch me.” He pushed her hand away. Louise’s face reddened.
“What?! And I was worried about you!” Louise went mad, seeing as Saito wouldn’t even look at her. "And I got all worried about you... what’s with that attitude?" She thought.
Saito was depressed. He couldn’t do a thing when Louise was about to be taken away by that white-masked man. He couldn’t face her. He remembered what Wardes told him a few days ago, “In other words, you are unable to protect Louise.”
Is that so? He sank.
Wardes approached them. “From what I heard from the captain, the Albion Royal Army near Newcastle was completely surrounded and is fighting an uphill battle.”
Louise, clearly scared, asked, “What about Prince Wales?”
Wardes shook his head. “I’m not sure. He seems to be alive.....”
“Wait... isn’t the harbor completely taken over by the rebels?”
“Then how can we contact the Royal Family?”
“We’ll just have to fight our way out. It takes only a day on horseback from Scarborough to Newcastle.”
“Fighting out of the rebels?”
“Right. That’s the only choice we have. They can’t really openly attack the Tristainian nobility, I think. We’ll have to find a chance to break out of their circle and run straight for Newcastle. All we have to think about then is riding in the dark.”
Louise anxiously nodded, and asked, “Speaking of which, Wardes, where’s your griffin?”
Wardes smiled. He leaned out portside, and whistled. From right under the ship came the sound of the griffin’s wings. It landed onto the deck, scaring some of the sailors.
“Can’t we just get to Albion on the griffin instead of the ship?” asked Saito.
“It’s not a dragon. It can’t fly that far.” Louise answered.
Saito sat near the mast and closed his eyes. Looks like we’ll be in danger again soon. Oh well... I’ll just go to sleep. he thought. With the talk between Louise and Wardes like a lullaby, he fell asleep.
Saito woke up to the sailors’ noises and blinding light, and a bright, blue sky in front of him. Looking down the ship, he could see floating clouds. The ship sailed right above them.
“Albion in sight!” the lookout bellowed.
Saito rubbed his sleepy eyes, and looked down again. All there was were clouds. Ground was nowhere to be seen.
Louise, who seemed to have been sleeping beside him, stood up.
“I can’t see ground anywhere.” Saito complained.
“There!” She pointed up towards the sky.
“Huh?” He followed where she pointed, and gasped in shock. A huge... well, nothing but a huge sight greeted his eyes.
From between the clouds he could see dark land. It continued to expand under them. Mountains carved the landscape, and rivers flowed down them.
“Did that frighten you?” Louise asked him.
“Ah... I’ve... never seen anything like this before.” Saito’s jaw dropped as he stood gaping.
“Albion, the floating island. It floats in the air, just like that, usually over oceans. However, it passes by over the Halkeginian continent a few times every month. It’s about the size of Tristainia, and it’s nicknamed ‘The White Country’.”
“Why ‘The White Country’?”
Louise pointed towards the island. “The water from the rivers flows off the island into the air, and while doing so becomes white fog, covering the bottom part of the island. The fog turns into clouds, which give Halkeginia its rainfall,” Louise explained.
The lookout yelled again, “Ship approaching starboard side!”
Saito looked towards that direction. A ship was, as he said, approaching, and it was many measures larger than the one they’re on. Cannons jutted out of holes on its portside.
“Ah... they even have cannons.” Saito spoke his thoughts.
“Not good. A rebel... or is that a noble vessel?” Behind deck, Wardes and the captain looked at where the lookout was pointing.
Black paint signaled that the ship was made for war. Twenty or so cannons aimed at them.
“Albionian nobility? Tell us if they ship cargo like we do.”
The lookout hoisted the signal flags as the captain told. The black ship did not respond.
The co-captain entered running, his face pale, and reported to the captain, “That ship doesn’t have any nationality flags!”
“Then... are they pirates?”
“Can’t be wrong! I heard they got really active after the rebellion began...”
“Run! Full speed!” The captain wanted to run from them as quickly as possible, but they were too late. The black ship began to sail parallel to them, and fired a shot directly ahead of them.
BANG! The cannonball disappeared into the clouds. The black ship’s mast then hoisted a four-color signal.
“They’re ordering us to stop, captain.”
The captain winced in his decision. It’s not like his ship was completely unarmed, but all they had were three movable cannons on deck, which were no more useful than decorations when up against a full broadside of over twenty pointed at them. The captain looked at Wardes for help.
“All my magic’s used on the ship. We can only do what they say.” Wardes answered calmly.
The captain mouthed, “There goes my fortune,” and gave the order.
“Wrap sails. Stop the ship.”
Louise, seeing the black ship fire a shot, closing in on them, and their ship stopping, held close to Saito, who only uneasily watched the black ship.
“We are pirates! Do not resist!” a man onboard the black ship yelled with a horn.
“Pirates?” Louise was shocked.
On the black ship’s port, men lined up with bows and rifles. They aimed and shot hooked lines, grabbing onto their ship’s starboard. More strong men, about ten of them wielding axes and curved sabers, slid over the ropes and onto the ship.
Saito held his sword, but his wrist still hurt from the previous night’s battle, and he couldn’t use his strength.
“Saito...” Louise said silently. He heard her, and tried to hold onto his sword harder. The marks on the back of his left hand glowed. However, Wardes, who somehow appeared behind him, put his hand on his shoulder.
“They’re not just armed barbarians, Saito. They have a lot of cannons pointed at us. If you want to live on the battlefield, you’ve got to accurately measure their strength and yours. They might even have mages on their side.”
Wardes’ griffin, which was sitting on front of the deck, was also frightened of the pirates and growled. Its head was then covered with blue-white smoke, and it fell onto the deck, fast asleep.
“A sleeping spell... so they do have mages.”
At an order, the pirates landed on their ship. One of them was dressed quite exquisitely. He wore a shirt that looked like it used to be white, but was dirtied black from sweat and lubricant. One could see his strong and well-tanned chest muscles in the shirt’s openings. A patch covered his left eye. This man seemed to be the pirates’ leader.
“Where’s the captain?” He commanded in a rough tone, looking around him.
“Me.” The captain, shaking but still trying to keep composure, raised his hand.
The leader walked to him in large steps, took out his saber and rapped it at the captain’s face. “What’s the ship’s name and what does it carry?”
“Tristainia’s Marie Galante. The cargo is sulfur.”
A gasp came from the pirates. The leader sniggered, picking up the captain’s hat and putting it on his head.
“I’m buying everything on this ship then... the price being your lives!”
The captain shook in shame. Then, the leader noticed Louise and Wardes standing on deck.
“Oho, we have noble guests!” The leader approached Louise and raised her chin with his hand. “We have a beauty here. Would you like to be our dishwasher?”
The men made rough, low laughs. Louise slapped his hand, and glared at him like she was about to explode into flames. “Get off me, you low-life!”
“Oh, she called us low-lives! I’m so scared now!” The men laughed loudly.
Saito wanted to take out his sword, but Wardes stopped him, whispering, “Hey, familiar. You look like you just can’t quiet down.”
“What’s the use in raising a racket now? Their cannons and arrows would just rip Louise, you, and all of us apart.”
Saito was shocked.
“Don’t you care about Louise’s safety one bit?”
Saito sank in despair and remorse. I’m useless. I can’t ever match up with this guy. Louise... will be better off marrying with this guy. He thought.
“Alright, boys, take them all away. We can get a hell lot of ransom for this!”
Translator's Notes and References
- A grebe is a species of freshwater diving bird. They dive their beaks into the water to snatch fish as prey.