As quickly as the weather had turned for the worse, just as quickly did the weather clear up again, and by midday the day after the storm the clouds had all but vanished and the sun was slowly evaporating the rainfall from the previous day.
Cobal had finally convinced Mana to come and walk through the town with him.
Before they left she’d changed from her simple gray robes that she wore most of the time to a more presentable blue shirt and skirt that came to just below her knees. It was a simple look but since the clothes were taken from the palace the fabric was of high quality and she definitely stood out a little bit. Her black hair was tied up in a ponytail and she had brought a linen bag with her that had one of her notebooks and some writing utensils in it.
Cobal only brought his coin pouch in case they needed it. He was wearing the same nice blue clothes that he’d been wearing on most days. With blue being the royal color he had gotten used to wearing blue clothes and whenever he wore something else it just seemed off.
The sun was high in the sky as they reached the town itself, which was only a short walk from the beachside houses.
Mana walked at a slower pace than Cobal was used to, so he had to slow down and adjust his speed a bit. For a short walk like that it wasn’t a problem though. The first place they visited was the fruit stand that Cobal had been visiting from time to time.
“Ah, I see there’s two of you today,” the jovial vendor exclaimed.
“We’re just out for a bit of a walk today, that’s all. After being cooped up in the terrible weather yesterday, that felt like the right thing to do.” Cobal smiled politely at the man, Mana nodded.
“Ah yes, I stayed inside as well. No point in trying to sell pineapples to the wind now.” He let out a chuckle. “I reckon most vendors stayed inside yesterday, they usually do.”
“Does this happen often?” Mana asked.
The fruit vendor thought to himself for a little while. “Somewhat regularly. It has been happening a lot lately, but the weather is unpredictable, so who knows what’s happening when. It never tends to get particularly bad for a long time, so it’s not an issue.”
They bought some fruit and walked through the village. Most of the houses in the village were made from wood as well, just like the house they were staying in. The houses closer to the store were on poles, but the houses further inland were built on solid ground. Some of them even had small gardens attached to them. Cobal had walked through here before, Ravadier wasn’t a large village by any means. He guessed no more than a few hundred people lived here. They were very unique in their architecture though, which showed by the houses above the water. At times of bad weather and high water levels they would close the houses, so they couldn’t serve as permanent homes for the people actually living here, but for visitors they were perfect. There was a bar in town that served food where they went to sit down and talk for a while.
“What can I get you?” The waitress asked. They were the only patrons at this late morning hour, and the young woman with the blonde ponytail had approached them with a bright smile.
“Some bread with melted cheese for the both of us.” He looked at Mana. “Is that okay with you?”
She nodded. “And some tea please,” she added.
“Any specific flavor of tea I can interest you in?”
“Whatever you recommend is fine, thank you.”
The waitress went off behind the bar to process the order and the two sat in silence for a little while before Mana spoke up again. “I know I’ve been here a little while and several people have told me that I’m the summoned new hero and that I’m here to make the kingdom prosper or something. And I understand why the previous hero would be a good fit for that. Everything I’ve read about him makes him sound like an outstanding and powerful person.”
She took a deep breath. “But what do you expect a high school teacher to do to save a kingdom?” She let out an offended sigh. “I’m sure you wanted me to take a walk with you to show the hero to the people or something like that, get me used to being in the limelight, but I never asked for any of this.”
Cobal leaned back in his chair and thought for a second as the waitress put their food and tea in front of them. He paid her a couple silver coins for the food and she walked off again. “Just call for me if you need any refills.” As she waved her small dish cloth behind her.
They both started eating in silence for a little while before Cobal finally responded. “I am no expert on the ritual that was used to summon you. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t know much about magic, nor do I have any aptitude for it. On top of that, and I feel a bit awkward even admitting this, I don’t have a ton of knowledge about the decisions being made in the palace. A prince I may be, most of my duties end with holding polite conversations at dinner parties and delivering important messages to nobles around the country. So I don’t know what they want from you. What I do know is that the last time this ritual was used, it was very successful, so I’m sure there’s something you can do for us, we just don’t know it yet. That’s why I’m very much open to any suggestions you might have.”
Mana thought about it for a while, absentmindedly chewing on some bread. “I read that there’s a village of people who lived just off the shore of this place and then vanished. I would like to take a boat out into the water and have a look at the sea floor.”
Cobal thought about this for a moment. He knew there were stories about a sunken island, but he never thought much of it. Stories of strange places and places disappearing are everywhere if you’re willing to look hard enough. But it’s not like he had a better idea. He wondered if this was why Mana had shown interest in the Ravadier Peninsula in the first place. But he brushed the idea away since she had no way of knowing about it before they came here.
“Very well, I’ll see what I can do.”
“You talking about the underwater folk?” A voice piped up.
Contrary to what Cobal and Mana had thought, there was another person in the inn. A middle aged gentleman sleeping off last night’s booze had roused from his sleep and overheard their conversation. He had some dried bits in his unkempt beard and looked just miserable.
“Underwater folk?” Mana asked, her interest seemingly immediately piqued.
“Yes, the island off the coast turned into an underwater place with fish folk.”
Cobal laughed. “That sounds like a tall tale my friend.”
The man eyed them both up and down. “Well if you don’t want to hear about it, then I won’t tell you about it.” He put his head back on his arms and pretended to go back to sleep.
“I’m very much interested in what you have to say. Please continue.”
The man looked a little bit annoyed at Cobal, but continued regardless.
“About thirty years ago when I was still young I almost drowned just off the coast. When I woke up, I was in an underwater temple, and people with webbed hands and feet had helped me. They then sent me back up and I didn’t drown. It was a miracle.”
“And how far away from shore was this?” Mana asked.
Cobal looked at Mana. She seemed very adamant about learning more.
“Not that far, but the tides change throughout the years. It was close enough to swim back then, but I don’t know where it is now. You’d have to find it yourself.”
Mana looked at Cobal, who let out a deep sigh. “We’ll go look for the underwater people tomorrow, although I still struggle to believe this isn’t a made up story.”
The man smiled at them, revealing a row of rough looking teeth, before leaving the restaurant.
Mana and Cobal stayed a little while and finished their meal and tea in silence. Eventually they walked a little bit more away from the village and then back along the shoreline. The slowly setting sun made for a nice background to a walk and the ocean waves made a calming sound as they collided with the sandy shoreline.
“How much do you know about the previous hero?” Mana asked while they were walking back towards the house. “And I don’t mean about their exploits here, but I mean about who they were back in their old world.”
Cobal paused for a second. “I don’t think I know anything about that, actually. I’ve never thought about it.”
“So the hero who saved your kingdom after you summoned them from another world. You have no idea who they were before they appeared in front of you all? That seems like they were taking a risk. What if the ritual backfired and you summoned a criminal, or someone who is no hero but a coward.” She seemed to linger on the last word for a moment.
Cobal thought about it for a bit. He wasn’t a thinker like some of the people teaching at the palace. He hadn’t considered any of this. The mages who completed the ritual probably considered things like this.
“Well,” Mana continued, “I suppose there was no reason for you to think about these things. I’m sorry if I don’t come across as empathetic. I do that sometimes.” She had an almost wry smile on her face.
Cobal smiled. “No problem, I owe you at least the right to ask questions. But I would appreciate it if you’d allow me some questions of my own.”
Mana nodded. “Ask ahead.”
“First and foremost, because it seems like we’re headed towards exploring the ocean. Why are you so adamant on finding this place? You asked me if we could go here not that long after you were summoned and I thought it was just to relax, but now you are believing some local drunk’s story about an underwater town with fish people in it. It all seems a bit crazy to me.”
Mana paused for about a minute, as if she was trying to carefully construct an answer. This didn’t go unnoticed by Cobal.
“When I was just summoned here, and I was holed up in my room those first few days, I didn’t know what to do. Then one night, shortly after I arrived I had a dream about an underwater city. I don’t know if this means something, or it was just a dream, but with no real direction besides this I figured it would be a good place to start. Worst case scenario I’d find nothing here but at least I got to see the ocean.” She looked out at the blue green water that was still creating large waves because of the ocean winds. “Isn’t it magnificent?” The remaining sunlight made the waves sparkle like gemstones.
Cobal nodded. “No man shall ever hold the power of the oceans and the mountains. That’s something my teacher used to say.”
“That sounds like a wise man,” Mana said.
“She was very wise,” Cobal replied.
“My apologies, I shouldn’t have assumed your teacher was a man.”
“That’s quite alright, you wouldn’t be the first.”
“I suppose that’s kind of the problem isn’t it?”
“What do you mean?” Cobal asked.
“Cultural similarities between our worlds, don’t pay it too much mind.” They’d just arrived back at the house and made their way inside. The sun was slowly setting off in the west and they were starting to get hungry again.