Chapter 232 Shadow Islands
"The Fjord possess countless islands. Until now, no one had ever passed the beyond the border of all these islands," a man with a tall stature and a rough and vigorous appearance told them, "The further east you sail, the more unpredictable the climate will become, and the same also applies to the islands. I really do not know, what degree of strangeness they eventually reach.”
"Even you have never reached the end of the islands?" Tilly asked curiously. "They say you are the most outstanding explorer of the Fjord, apart from you, there are only a few who dare cross the Searing Flame Island and continue sailing eastwards."
"Ha ha ha," the man began to laugh heartily. "Your praise is too much. In fact, every year there are brave people of the Fjord who sail eastwards in search for new land, but it's hard for them to find anything new. With the raging hurricanes and the suddenly appearing fog, it eventually becomes impossible for the ships to move even a single step further.
He is Thunder, Ashes remembered, the first explorer to discover the Shadow Islands. But two years ago, within the perils of the sea his whereabouts suddenly became unknown, and by now many people think that he has already died.She had never thought that he would be on Sleeping Island, and even less that the 5th Princess would come to him with an agreement that he would help to open up new sea routes for Sleeping Island, draw a sea map and search for new ruins, while Tilly would send witches to support his explorations. As for the reason for his disappearance during the last two years, she had never heard him mentioning it, and Tilly had also never spoken about it. But she had the feeling that Her Majesty knew the inside story. Otherwise, they would never have reached such a mutual understanding. This point caused Ashes to feel slightly unhappy within her heart.
"Just like yesterday’s hurricane?"
"That’s right. They appear within the blink an eye and disappear just as quickly," Thunder shook his pipe, and threw the ashes into the sea then refilled it with some grass leaves before igniting his pipe once more, "If it weren’t for the magical ability of your witch"
"Her name is Molly," Ashes remind him stiffly.
"Ah, that’s right, look at my memory," Thunder didn’t seem to mind her, he just scratched the back of his head and began to laugh, "If it hadn’t been for Molly, I am afraid the ship would have been overturned, her ability is simply fantastic. I had already often thought, that perhaps the witches were most suitable to be explorers.
"Isn’t that already the case," Tilly smiled, "... a witch who had already inherited the name of the most outstanding Explorer?"
"Well..." Thunder took a deep breath through the pipe, and afterward send out a long string of smoke, "I wish for it to be so."
There it was again; Ashes frowned, they once more said something I cannot understand. She bluntly left the bow, instead going to the stern trying to calm her emotions. Her Majesty seemed to be very urgent to explore the ruins, after cleaning the Fjord of the Church, she had immediately made all arrangements to go out to sea. And to her surprise, Her Majesty unexpectedly also said that she wanted to go in person, regardless of how Ashes tried to discourage her, it was all useless.
Arriving in the stern, she saw Molly sitting there controlling her magic servant who in turn was holding a fishing rod, learning how to fish from the sailors. Even though the sailors seemed to oppose it when the witches first got on board, but since yesterday’s hurricane, everyone’s attitude had turned completely upside down. Molly had summoned her servant and ordered it to rapidly expand, swallowing the middle part of the ship, making it impossible for anything to reach them, whether it was the rain or the wind. Although the ship was hit by one surging wave after another, making it move up and down, the hull still remained as stable as always. Nowadays, each of the sailors treated the witches as their good luck charm, even going so far as saying that in the future they would be too afraid to go to sea if a witch didn't accompany them.
"Elder Sister Ashes, look at the big fish I caught!" Molly pointed to the barrel behind her, inside there laid a scaleless sea fish with long, sharp, and pointed mouth, looking completely different than the river fishes she had seen in Graycastle.
"What is this?"
"Swordfish, they like to follow and travel together with the ships, but sometimes they will attack the hull with their mouth, and break it apart," a sailor replied, "But they are also very delicious to eat, especially the belly meat, after you put it in your mouth, it melts like ice on your tongue." He smacked his lips, "This evening everyone can enjoy the freshly cooked swordfish for themselves.”
"It seems as if I've got another fish," Molly shouted.
Ashes merely saw a dark shadow moving under the dark blue water surfaces, but along with the magical servant's movement of the rod, the shadow became bigger and bigger, breaking through the water surface soon.
"Th-this is," the sailor stared blankly, "No, quickly throw away the fishing rod!"
His voice hadn’t fallen yet, as already a monstrous creature jumped out of the water, its broad mouth wide open, directly flowing to Molly wanting to swallow her.
In a moment it would have consumed the whole target, but Ashes was even faster than this monster. She picked Molly up with her left hand while drawing her huge sword with her other hand, directly striking it on the head.
The Monster issued a pained scream as it was sent from the air onto the planks. Then quickly began to move its six-foot-long body, trying to flee back into the water, however, Ashes never let it have the opportunity. She put Molly down, grabbed her sword with the reverse grip and nailed the monster directly onto the deck.
For a moment it continued to twitch, then it spat out a string of white bubble from its mouth soon stopping all movement.
"What is this?" At this moment Ashes finally had the opportunity to take a careful look at the monster before her eyes. It somewhat resembled a fish, yet it also had short crab-like legs. The wide open mouth was almost as big as she herself was and was filled with dense rows of sharp teeth. But the most disgusting thing was the pair of hairy arms growing from the side of its mouths, which was even split up into five fingers, just looking like a human hand in general.
"A variation of the sea ghosts!" the still shocked sailor answered, patting his chest, "They often disguise themselves as fish and take the angler’s bite and drag them back into the water. Furthermore, I have also heard, that only after eating a human, will they be able to grow their hands! "
"Your last part is just an unfounded rumor," someone said from behind. Turning around, Ashes discovered that Thunder and Tilly had both come over.
"Captain!" the sailor shouted, abashedly stuck out his tongue and quickly stepped aside.
"The more sensational a rumor is, the more inaccurate it is," Thunder came over and kicked against one of the monster’s legs, "In fact, it also has another name with which you are perhaps more familiar with.”
"Which one?" Ashes asked.
"Demonic Beast," he stated slowly.
"Sir Thunder, fog ahead!" The lookout suddenly shouted.
"Everyone cheer up!" Then Thunder loudly ordered, "Put the sail down; we are now entering the Shadow Sea!"
Ashes noted, that just moments ago the sunny and cloudless sky had suddenly become all gloomy, turning the blue sea into a dark shade, as if a mass of ink was spreading under the water surface. The entire ship was soon enclosed by a dense fog, standing at the stern of the ship she couldn’t even see the figurehead that was at the bow.
"What's going on?" Tilly could not help but grab Ashes’ arm.
"It’s the proof that we aren’t sailing in the wrong direction," Thunder jokingly stated. "When the Shadow Islands emerge from the sea, the sea will create a thick mist. Of course, the correct way to say it would be that the seawater is just at low tide, around ten feet (3.3m) lower than it is normally. The massive decline will produce a large amount of mist and reefs that will appear everywhere. So, if we are even a little careless, we will sink ourselves. Now, I will need your help to ensure that the ship doesn’t smash against something.
After his words, all the people came to the bow, and just like they had done during the hurricane, Molly’s servant expanded as far as it could. Swallowing the bow and even reached into the water, so even if the bow hit against a reef, her magic servant would be the first to feel it.
"In case you didn't have us witches, what did you do then?" Ashes asked.
"Then we would only be able to rely on our patience and luck," Thunder sighed, "The fleet would send out a small boat in front of it as a pathfinder, and after receiving confirmation that the path is safe, we would follow after it. But this area of the sea is not peaceful. As you have seen before, the closer you come to the Shadow Islands; the greater the danger becomes. There is the fog, the reefs, and the sea monsters... That is also why, even so though many explorers had already reached this place, only a few of them were able to find the entrance to the ruins.
After sailing like this for about two hours, the fog gradually vanished, allowing Ashes to see more and more from the surrounding islands. But only a scarce bits of vegetation was to be seen, besides some green moss or algae, there were only many crustaceans that were climbing over the rocks. "Will all these islands sink into the water?"
"That’s right, just like on Sleeping Island, but here the tide and low tide interval are much faster, changing around every half-moon cycle." Thunder replied, "Moreover its rise and fall speed is incredibly quickly, as if there is a huge hole at the bottom of the sea which swallows all of the surrounding water. I even think that the reason why the sea level in the Fjord change, is related to this place. If you are lucky, we can even see how the main island will raises out of the sea.
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