15 Paradise What About Us?
(From the point of view of Damian Carmichael)
Just as I thought, I really can't sleep now that I had woken up from what seemed like a deep slumber. When I opened my eyes, what I saw is the image of Madame Belladonna peacefully heaving a quiet snore as she laid her head beside my chest. The sunlight purring down the window makes her glowing skin gleam, even more, making the dazzle of the sky seem highly irrelevant compared to the soft texture of the jewel that is her skin.
I shook my head to rid myself of these thoughts before it turned into something more than what is appropriate for a knight to think. I must uphold my values, especially to a noblewoman like Madame Belladonna. I do not care if her nobility is sparse compared to the likes of my family. Still, as a knight, I pledged a vow to treat every citizen of Izrecael with respect, noble or otherwise—even if society deems them lower than me solely because of my name. Such prejudice does not at all exist in my mind. The empire might have fallen off to a devastating blow. However, the values of Izrecael's citizen still live on till the very end, and history will remember this day as yet another hurdle that the empire will very likely conquer.
I took a step away from the bed and noticed that the princes were gone beside Madame Belladonna. I frowned in thought that perhaps someone took them away while we were in our most defenseless when I suddenly heard the voice of an old man seemingly speaking with indistinguishable baby-speak. I heaved a sigh as I stepped out of the room to find Uncle Bert on the deck, playing with the princes. I noticed that he laid them on top of layers upon layers of blankets while playing with them by... tickling them? He does realize that the princes are just a few days old, right?
"Is it okay for you to be moving like that, uncle?" I said as I approached Uncle Bert with a gentle smile as the breeze of the surrounding traveled through my skin. I then covered my face with my palm as the morning sun blinded my vision.
Uncle Roberto then immediately stopped whatever tomfoolery he's doing with the young princes and looked up at me with a playful chuckle. "Ohoo! Damian, my boy, I could say the same thing to you, ya know?"
I then heaved a weak sigh with a chuckle. "Yeah, but I'm not the one with a severed leg!"
He then raised his severed feet, but instead of seeing his usual bandaged and burnt wound, all I could see is what seemed like a mechanical prosthetic leg, shaped like a long chicken leg—thin and with claw-like feet at the end. I could see from the golden texture of the metal that it's the same one used in this cog we're riding. There's also some polyester wires all over his new mechanical leg that seemed to contain some sort of red liquid, which I presumed is blood. As he raised it, I realized that there's some kind of white smoke coming out of the three triangular-shaped toes on his metallic chicken feet.
"Steam-powered? How does that even work?" I said as I raised an eyebrow after looking at his seemingly perfectly functioning leg.
"Well, since my bleeding won't stop, I wagered that I should just use that wasted blood to let it flow into this bad boy and convert it into steam energy!" Uncle Bert laughed while slapping the surface of this hissing metallic modification that he placed on his severed feet.
"That doesn't make sense," I said with a chuckle with a raised eyebrow.
"Oh, shut it, Damian!" He said as he leaned his body on the golden metallic railings of the deck!" Look, you're the knights, so I allow you to do the clank-clank sword thing; I'm the alchemist, so just leave me alone with the details of my boom-boom steam shit, okay?" Uncle Bert uttered as he slurred the end of each syllable while waving his hands.
"Whatever you say, old man." I chuckled as I carried the princes on my hands. "Where did you even find that?" I said, referring to his metallic chicken leg.
"I made it, duh! Who do you think you're talking to here? I'm the best god damn alchemist in the damn universe, son!" He said while stomping his other leg, the one still made out of flesh.
"That's not even alchemy anymore; that's already metallurgy, I..." I then shook my head with a defeated sigh. "You know what, never mind. What I'm asking is where you took the MATERIALS to make that damn thing! Don't tell me you can make materials out of thin air now, Uncle Bert."
"Oh, but I can!" Uncle Bert said with a proud look as he pounded his fist on his puffed chest. "But that's not how I got all of these! Look around you, son; there's plenty of bounties all around here."
I then did as he said and looked around the calm blue-green sea all around me. I was about to ask him where exactly is this bounty he's talking about when I saw that, amid the beautiful scenery of this paradise before us, something else lurked below the transparent waters. A careful look around made me realize that some metallic fragments were even bulging out of the calm stillness of the surroundings.
"Are those... shipwrecks?" I said with a pair of squinting eyes as I leaned my body forward while grabbing the deck's metal railings. "And what is that... red 'thing'? It looks like somebody went ham with the paintbrush."
"Oh, that?" Uncle Bert said before yawning loudly. "It's just my blood, no biggie."
"... your what?"
"Ugh!" Uncle Bert scoffed, clearly not wanting to talk about it, which is rare for a loud ass person like him. "Look, I did what I had to do! I flew around and looked for any metal salvage I can find, but my wound started bleeding, so I had to make a bit of mess! Big deal!"
"What--" I was about to tell him how concerned I was about what he had just done before he looked at me with a grim gaze that showed a fit of growing anger within him. I then pulled my body away from him since I think continuing this topic might make him punch the wound on my face. "Ooo... kay... So these are all shipwrecks then?"
"They are; indeed, they are. Some of the wrecks looked quite new, but most of them have been sleeping here for a long, long time—they're collecting moss all over, some of them even have skeletons in it! OOOH!" Uncle Bert said before letting out a hearty laugh that made me jump back in fright upon hearing the raspy burst of his voice. I don't even know what's funny about what he had just said.
I then cleared my throat while Uncle Roberto continued to laugh heartily. I seriously don't get it. Is it some kind of old people's humor to laugh at skeletons? I then forgot precisely why I even brought up this topic and just wanted to get out of the laughing spree that Uncle Bert is doing.
"So why exactly are there so many of these shipwrecks here anyway?" I said to divert his attention to another different crap he can babble about for an eternity.
"Remember that storm we experienced earlier?" Uncle Roberto said as he waved his head around to simulate the crazy environment we had just escaped from earlier.
"What about it?" I said with a furrow of my eyebrows as I realized that, indeed, we have just narrowly escaped what seemed like an impossible environment.
"Look around there." Uncle Roberto as he pointed at a far off distance from behind me. I then looked at where he's pointing at. There, somewhere far behind the speech at a distant horizon, I saw a sight that made my jaws drop with my eyes far outstretched.
I then moved my gaze back to Uncle Bert as I pointed at the chaos in the distance, "Is that..."
"The same storm, yes." Uncle Bert said as he placed his hands on his waist while heaving a sigh. He then directed his gaze to the raging storm on the horizon, which is a stark difference from the peaceful paradise of our surroundings. "I don't know much since I haven't heard of information about storms that rage for an eternity, but I do know that the area where that storm is currently residing seemed to be placed exactly where the entrance of the kingdom of the Moonchildren should be in." He said as he waved his hand before him as if forming a map before his very eyes.
"Moonchildren?" I said with furrowing eyebrows as I tried to remember what that is. "You mean the fish-like people who live at the bottom of Cresca Sea?"
"Yep." Uncle Roberto as he leaned on the metal railing of the ship's deck again, ignoring the storm that's still happening on the horizon. "I've seen them before when I fell into the water when we were about to leave Izrecael's bay. It seems that their number has started to increase more than I had expected, and they've become wary of whatever is happening in Izrecael. I'm sure I don't need to explain why I think they're the ones who put an endless storm on their front door, but whatever that is, it has been around for a very, very long time. They even made it stronger and bigger now that a war started to erupt in Izrecael," OH MY FUCKING GOD, HE'S STILL TALKING!? "so I'm not surprised if the entirety of the Cresca sea will be covered in a never-ending storm as long as that war in our empire continues." Uncle Bert then sighed, which made me think he's finally done talking until he started yapping again! When I said that he could babble about it for an eternity, I was only saying it as some kind of figure of speech! "All I know for sure is that this storm directs everyone and everything that passes it towards this paradise-like place that we're parked in right now." I then waited for a few seconds to see if he would start blabbing more and more of his extensive knowledge again. He then started talking again—of course, he would—with a sullen face. "Yeah, I'm done talking now. At least, say something! That was such a big reveal, ya know? Some of these ships might have been relief soldiers sent by other empires to aid us, ya know!? SOME OF THEM MIGHT EVEN BE OUR ALLIES BACK THEN IN THE PSYCHIC WARS!" Oh, fucking hell, now he started talking about the Psychic Wars. I have to stop him now.
"I get, I get it, Uncle Bert, damn," I said as I waved my hands towards him with a defeated sigh. I then remembered how our conversation turned into this direction. "So, you decided to scavenge these ships all around us to make your... feet?"
"Yep." Uncle Bert said as he took a vial of orange-colored potion that he placed beside the princes' heads. He then drank all of the liquid in the spherical shaped bottle in one straight gulp after looking at me again with a stupid look on his face. "I salvaged some of them and did this while you're being a baby on your bed!" Uncle Bert said as he raised his metallic chicken feet and placed it on the metal railings of the deck. He then chuckled along with the continued hissing of his steam-powered prosthetic leg.
"Wow, how long have I been sleeping anyway?" I said as I scratched the back of my head in embarrassment.
"Uhh... I say about, hmm... 2 days?" He said with a shrug as if he didn't even mind knowing I have been incapacitated for such a long time.
"Goodness, and you've managed to scavenge all of the needed materials to make such a fine-looking prosthetic leg in just two days?"
"WRONG!" He said as he threw the spherical potion bottle on the ocean, making me watch it plunge into the deepest darkness within the blue-green water along with the blurry image of countless shipwrecks below. "I've only made this for a day! The rest of it, I spent making that!" He said as he extended his hand upwards, seemingly pointing at something he had made above.
I then looked at the direction where he's pointing at and saw what looked like a newly made mast with sails that have been perfectly sewn together with different patches of other sails that I imagined to have come from the other ships around us.
"Imagine still using wood in this day and age? BAH! WHO THE HELL USES WOOD ANYWAY!?" Uncle Bert then took another bottle of his orange potion inside of his breast pocket and downed it again in one go. "Apparently, the answer is whoever made this junk of a ship!"
"Well, it is junk, but it is also the same junk that got us out of that raging storm," I said as I approached the now perfectly repaired golden metallic mast.
"Psh! Yeah, but we don't get to thank the maker of this piece of shit ship for that!" I then heard the sound of his potion bottle being thrown into the ocean again. "Madame Belladonna is the real MVP here, son!" Uncle Bert then let out a massive gas into his mouth, and the sound of it made me think he was some kind of sea monster. "She even saved you, you know?"
"She... she did?" I then remembered how I was about to die, which sent a panicked expression on my face. I could faintly remember that the old wooden mast of the ship was about to fall towards me, and nothing I could do to stop my certain death as it occurs.
Seemingly understanding what my expression meant, Uncle Roberto suddenly heaved a sigh of defeat before saying, "She saved your life. I believe she said she used her psychic magic to lift the mast away from you, but the darn thing was too heavy for her to carry. I think she said that she only managed to slightly move it away from you before it falls into your face. Madame Belladonna even said that if you weren't looking at her side at that time, your face would probably be ripped off—you know, walking all over the place without a nose." Uncle Bert then flicked his nose, making it bounce like a jelly. "BOOP!" He exclaimed before laughing heartily while pointing at me.
"So... she saved my life again, huh?" I said as I looked at our room with a refreshed smile as I allowed the warm embrace of the sun to touch the surface of my face. "... she's really such an extraordinary woman..."
"Oh, gods, that's disgusting! I'm getting out of here!" Uncle Bert said as he waved his hands while looking at my face with a scowl on his face. He then took the two sleeping princes and went straight into the captain's cabin.
"But... that doesn't answer the question..." I then looked at the raging storm on the horizon. Thick clouds gather above what seemed like an angry sea along with the visibly cruel slaps of breeze. Thunder also accompanied the heavy darkened skies as it continued to burst from all over the place like some kind of child, doing a never-ending tantrum above the equally childish-looking sea. "If the storm destroyed this many ships, why didn't it kill us? Why were we permitted to leave?" I then gulped the saliva on my mouth as I could feel my heart clench in fear. "What about us?"