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I didn’t know how much getting {Fast Healing} to level six-accelerated the process, but after another single day, I decided I was ready to try to make it back to the surface. I was definitely anxious about it. I had run about every scenario in my head that I could.

I imagined getting on the surface to be greeted by everyone wondering where I had gone. I hoped my mother and the rest managed to successfully escape or were rescued by the response of the citadel in this intervening time. I imagined coming back on the island to find pirates waiting for me, ready to cut me down. I imagined a situation where some people died, everyone died, or no one died. The last one was an impossibility because I had already seen several dead in the estate. A best-case scenario still put nearly half the population into the grave.

While on the surface, I had many goals. First, I wanted to find out the situation topside. Then, I wanted to get in touch with any survivors. I would then scavenge for supplies, such as clothing, food, money and weapons. Finally, I’d look for a ship. Even a damaged ship might be able to be repaired. I wouldn’t be able to do it, so I was hoping someone who could have survived the destruction of the island. If not, Zoe was good at tinkering with stuff. If I could ever get her out of this relic, perhaps she could help me patch the holes in a boat.

I had a few things I wanted to grab for Zoe too. Clothing that didn’t have a hole in it, for starters. Both of our outfits had become grungy with time. Although, As a slime, Zoe could just absorb the outfits, consume all of the dirt, and then expel them, I hadn’t bothered to ask her to do it to my own clothing, and she didn’t seem to notice it on her own. My shirt, in particular, was still covered in blood and dirt. If I was seen on the surface, they would be able to see I had been through an ordeal.

I wanted them to see that. If I went to the surface without looking distressed, then assuredly my townspeople would grow angry at me convinced that I had just been hiding the last few days happily while they suffered. It couldn’t be farther from the truth!

“I’ll be going then. I’ll see you later.” I called out to Zoe.

She didn’t even look up from her panel, continuing to tinker with wires that seemed to have no meaning to me. I shook my head and left, being reminded of how weak our alliance actually was. At any point, Zoe could decide I wasn’t necessary, and then my chances at vengeance were obliterated. I had never found myself anxious around a girl before, but Zoe truly made me nervous. I supposed if I could at least understand why she had left me alive and why she had wanted to serve me, I could come to terms with it. However, without understanding what makes her tick, Zoe had become my greatest worry.

I eased my way to my stomach and then began the process of squeezing my way through the rocky crevice. The previous times I had done this, it had felt only too easy, yet this time I moved slowly and methodically. Having eaten only acid-washed crabs from Zoe for the last few days, I had lost a bit of weight, and it was actually less pressing, but my ribs still ached, and I was missing a hand. As for the wound on my shoulder, it was all but healed now, with a scar that was scabbed over and starting to show pink skin. I had also cleaned up the wound around my eye-socket, but I would never recover my sight in that eye.

After making it through, I came down the rock hill and came up to the hole, which led back to the cove. There were currently only two slimes in the hole. Zoe’s nearby presence and her recent devouring of a large portion of their population had spread them out a bit, so this area wasn’t too concentrated.

I raised up my good hand and cast wind. A gust blew down the tunnel. Unlike the Governess, who had sent all of the slimes flying with a single spell, the best I could do was give a concentrated breeze. It seemed to work, as the slimes started moving in the direction of the wind. That’s what I thought, but it was also possible that they were smelling Zoe on me, and they were fleeing from the scent that I just blew in their direction.

Either way, after five minutes, the path had cleared again, and I managed to return to the cove. Looking out into this familiar place I had been to countless times, I found that nothing had changed at all. Yet, everything had changed for me. It was an eerie and surreal experience looking out over the ocean. Everything had changed, and yet it was still the same ocean, the same cove, and the same island.

I walked over the planks, found the ledge and worked my way around it until I came back out on the cliff. As soon as I made the corner, I nearly tripped. My mouth fell open as I gazed out over the island. This was because there was no island. Rather, there were smoldering cinders, black and ashey, with smoke still rising up in countless places.

The entire forest had been burned to the ground. This was not something I had ever expected to see. With the forest gone, the true size of this island was on display. I could actually see the port from where I was standing, although only just. I couldn’t make our any details over there. It was such a small place. I had spent my entire life here, but in the end, it only amounted to this.

I got down low and began to head forward, trying to keep myself as low to the ground as possible. If I didn’t, I would have stood out amongst the blackened earth. Moving swiftly but carefully, I took what I approximated was the path that used to cut through the forest. With no forest, it wasn’t a path anymore, but it still had some signs of wear. When I reached the town, I found its fate wasn’t much better.

Most of the houses were burned to the ground. The dock and ships had been destroyed. There was countless debris floating in the bay. An entire building had fallen into it, and every ship it seemed was torn in half. As I got closer, more details came out. The fires were all out, but it would be safe to say that at least 70% of the town had either burned or been destroyed.

What I didn’t see were people. There was absolutely no movement amongst the houses. Perhaps, people were still in hiding? I could see the mansion near the top of the village was half burned to the ground, but I wasn’t ready to face the destruction of my own home yet. Instead, I decided to check the town for survivors.

Moving carefully and hiding behind anything that still stood, I made my way to the first house that was still mostly standing. I pushed my way inside, and a rank scent of decomposition instantly caused me to stumble back. Forcing myself to check first, I peeked back into the building. I could hear the sounds bugs buzzing. Pinching my nose, I stepped into the building while holding up a lantern I had found lying around outside which I managed to light with an attached striker.

My eyes fell on two men who were dead. I couldn’t recognize them based on their current level of decomposition. It’d be more accurate to say that I didn’t try to recognize them. Perhaps I could figure it out with enough examination, but I had no intention of doing so. I knew who they were anyway. I knew this because I knew the building. It was the baker and his son. He had a wife who wasn’t present. They must have taken her. She was quite beautiful, although she was too old for me to have chased.

I checked the other standing homes one after another. In three of the homes, I had found a similar scene of a decaying body or two. The pirates hadn’t spared every woman, as I found at least one who was dead. She was an elderly woman in her sixties. Perhaps she was too old to enslave. These people had no problem murdering elderly or children for that matter. It was children in particular. The young men were all killed.

I saw Jackson’s body. Meyer as well. Then there was Thompson. He was close to my age. We used to talk about our conquests, although I always thought most of his were made up.

The houses without people I scavenged a bit longer, looking for food, blankets, and the like. I was quickly able to pack a bag and fill it with necessities I had been lacking. This did not include much in the way of food, care products, and money, as the pirates seemed to have cleared those items out thoroughly. I managed to find just enough to care for myself, but most importantly, I’d be able to sleep on bedding tonight. That alone was enough to make my smile.

It was a bitter and lonely smile, but it was something. I could be warm when I went to sleep. As for Zoe, after that first night, she never slept with me. I didn’t think she slept at all. Instead, she just worked on the ship all night, tinkering away.

After finishing creating my pack of supplies, I glanced up at the mansion and then gave a sigh as I began heading in that direction. I knew places where food was hidden that I didn’t think a pirate could find. Presuming it wasn’t burned down, I’d be able to find not just food, but changes of clothing for myself and Zoe. As to where Zoe’s clothing would be, the best place to look is the governess’s chambers.

Upon reaching the mansion, I was able to walk in through a hole in the wall without even opening the doorway. Glancing around the scaffolding of the place that was once my childhood home, I couldn’t help feel even more sadness. The stairway moving up to the second floor looked dangerous, so I decided to start by heading for the Governess’s room, which was on the first floor.

I entered her room to find it mostly untouched by fire. I started a second pack, and then went around filling it with various things that I thought Zoe would like. I had a feeling Zoe wouldn’t like dresses, so I picked things similar to what she was wearing now. Boots, tight pants, and a baggy blouse. I also grabbed underwear, trying not to blush as I fingered through her drawer.

Lastly, I found a diary as I picked up a pile of underwear. I pulled the diary out with my one good hand and then walked slowly over to the vanity. I sat down and opened it up to the final entry. It had the same date the pair of us went to the cove together on the top of the page. Had that really only been two days ago? There was an entry too.

The new Citadel candidate claims to know the location of ancient technology. I suspect that this is a ruse he is using to try to sleep with me. He is foolish, naïve, and far too aware that he is charming. However, that doesn’t necessarily make him completely disagreeable. While I have no plans to sleep with him, I will enjoy watching him attempt to woo me.

I feel like he has great potential to do well in his training. However, he is arrogant, lazy, and narcissistic. It will do him good being taken from this backwater island. Given its small size, I wonder why Heaven’s Sky Archipelago is even called the Four Islands at all. Even the second smallest island, the West, is ten times the size of this one.

Perhaps the only thing more amazing than the size of this island is the ignorance of its people. Most of them, including Miles, believe that Heaven’s Sky Archipelago is all there is. They are so isolated that they don’t even know commerce is regular in the South and Eastern islands between neighboring colonies and us. They aren’t even aware that there are species the life among us besides humans. Miles will be in for a rude awakening when he reaches the citadel and discovers how small his world is.

Well, if he has located some kind of ancient technology, I will take every risk to obtain it. In the case of a class four, I may be required to remove Miles. This would get messy, as it is his birthday tomorrow. If I were forced to permanently silence him so that he couldn’t spread knowledge of an ancient artifact, I’m not sure if I’d be able to leave the island safely. His father loves him dearly. I would need to contact the citadel and have them send reinforcements. The Governor would probably need to be removed from office.

I’m overthinking this. A class four technology has never been found on an island. I’m sure Miles is just putting me on a wild goose chase. I have the flintlock in my closet if I need it for protection. No, I don’t think I’ll bring it. I’m just worrying about unnecessary things. He’ll likely show me a natural feature that he mistook for ancient technology. He’ll have his birthday, and then we’ll be back in the Citadel where I can continue my research. Just two more days in this backwater town, and then I can return to a place where people understand words like Nuclear Fission and Interstellar Space.

That was the end of her entry right there. It was a difficult thing to hear what someone actually thinks about you. The Governess had looked down on all of us. Actually, I kind of expected that was true, but I always thought I had exaggerated the severity in my mind. The part that caught my interest the most was the class four technology. My guess was that the Dreadnaught fit the classification of a class four. That meant that she was prepared to kill me, and maybe even remove my father, just to keep its discovery secret.

Had she not died; would she have been the one killing me? Had the pirates not attacked, would I have never seen the light of my birthday? There were too many questions and variables to think about. Instead, I decided to just put the diary in the backpack and maybe read it later. At worst, it might have some useful information on ancient technology in it. I also went into the closet to look for the thing called a flintlock. I had no clue what that was. However, I approached it with a, ‘I’ll know when I see it’ kind of thing.

When I did find it, I was genuinely surprised because I recognized it. It looked like the same device the pirates had been holding when they took my eye. I carefully picked the item up and looked at it. It had two barrels, a hammer, and a handle with a trigger. It was made with some parts wood, and other parts metal. It was an exquisitely crafted item. I reckoned that it was triggered by pulling back the hammer until it clicks and then pulling the trigger. The barrel must need to be pointing at whatever the target was.

There was a box the flintlock was found in, and there were round metal pellets and some black-colored powder. There was a sheet with instructions on how to load it. I decided to give it a try, but remembering the loud popping sound it made, I was too nervous to try it here. I was afraid the weapon would suddenly pop out of my hands or cause as much damage to my hand as it did to my eye. I only had one left. I couldn’t afford to lose it.

I finished up in the bedroom and then I recalled another nearby room I could check. This was the room of my cousin. Rather, it was the room of the pirate who had pretended to be my cousin for nearly a month. My true cousin, her name was Rosaline, might be in the same place as my sister and mother. I didn’t think they had killed her. She would have been at the age that they would have enslaved her with the rest.

I found myself wondering what the pirates thought about the fact that their spy went missing. You’d think they would have looked for her. I turned out to be right, because a moment later, when I opened the door to her room, I came face to face with a woman. It wasn’t just any woman, but one of the pirates. I had grown lax after not seeing anyone in the village, but it turns out they had left someone behind after all!

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