"Right?" Paedeus said. "This kind of gem is awfully familiar. I wonder what this gem is imbued with."
"Any other evidence, Paedeus?" asked Thomas.
"That is the most essential evidence we could find, milord."
"Thank you, Paedeus." Arethusa responded, with a nod.
"By the way, the other evidences will be presented at the council meeting later. We must connect these clues to know the suspects!" said Paedeus, quite determined.
"Agreed." Arethusa replied.
At the council meeting...
"Interesting," Merakiel commented on the blue-violet crystal. "This color may signify its ties with the Ventilus Queen. But how are they related to...?"
"We could inquire King Joshua through telepathy," Daedal suggested. "This aside, how about revealing the other evidences?"
A curved piece of dense gray metal and an empty vial was seen on the table.
Arethusa was eyeing the vial, seeing if there was even a droplet left of anything that might have been in it.
There was a tiny droplet, indeed. It was colored clear red. It was not fully red as it would depict blood.
Arethusa saw this, and looked at it suspiciously. At this point, the meeting was just background noise, she had to find out what was in there. She was thinking a potion of some sort...?
"Lady Arethusa, you seem to be very observant," Piscius noted. "I presume you have something to say."
"Yes, indeed." Arethusa replied, gathering her thoughts for a moment. "This vial... a drop of its former contents is left. Perhaps we could identify it somehow?" Arethusa suggested.
Piscius took the vial and checked its content. "Indeed, a small blot of... Looks like a reagent."
Merakiel looked at the vial. The shape of the bottle was that of a round bottom flask. His eyes opened wide. "T-That's...!"
"What is it?" Arethusa asked, startled.
Yoshiya Fukami: "An alchemy flask," Merakiel quickly noticed. "But why is it here? You can only find alchemists on Geomus..."
I see. Well, it's fortunate we found this. Now we know that one of the attackers has ties to Geomus." Arethusa summed up.
"I suppose, Lady Arethusa," Merakiel said.
Arethusa was contemplating how she was going to investigate this. Could she take this to Geomus herself? Should she send someone else? She had no idea.
"Hmm, their location is vaguely known by their footsteps," spoke Piscius.
"Oh?" Arethusa pondered this as well.
"They set sail...?" Thomas said, reading the scroll. "They went to the southeastern shores but their whereabouts are unknown. What could this be?"
"Sire, they might be closely linked to... the island of the same direction," Merakiel stated. "This hypothesis may be proven if we set a royal expedition to the island immediately."
"Hold your steed, Merakiel," Daedal said. "We must not be too hasty with such a matter. Let His Excellence decide first. We never know what lies ahead."
"The lives of our people are in danger," Thomas said. "Why not? We must settle this strife without further ado."
"Agreed." Arethusa chimed in.
"When shall we make our voyage?" Thomas asked.
"I think after two days, sire," Merakiel answered. "Our construction time is cut short because we already have a built frame for a royal ship. We only have to wait for the sails to be installed."
"All right," Thomas said. "Bring in some tridentmen and a few archers on deck. I will lead them myself."
"Sire..." Merakiel mouthed. He was slightly worried for his liege although he has full trust in his capabilities.
"Areth, you shall be coming with me. We wouldn't want a shred of evidence escape your hazel eyes, I tell thee."
Arethusa nodded. "Alright, sire, I shall come with thee."
"Lady Arethusa shall guide you when you are acting rashly, milord," Daedal advised.
"I know, I know.... I will take care of her too, should we are assailed," replied Thomas.
Arethusa tried to hide the fact that she was blushing slightly.
"All settled, I see," Thomas proclaimed. "Now, does anyone have anything to add?"
The council members remained silent.
"Council adjourned, then. You may attend to your work."
Arethusa nodded, getting back up. She started prioritizing in her head, figuring out what she was going to do first.
As the other council members walked out, Thomas was staring at Arethusa while she was preoccupied with her thoughts. He started to wonder what is in her mind but he did not speak anything to let her think in peace. He was merely waiting for her.
Since he was sitting on a chair facing Arethusa, she would likely notice his presence before her.
After a brief moment, Arethusa's eyes met his. "Hm?"
"Oh, sorry. Did I break your focus?"
"Nonono, it's fine. Is there anything you need me to do?" She asked, kindly.
"Well, I have to take some time for recreation with you," Thomas said. "I know we have been busy at times as ones who are sworn to our motherland but this short time will be graceful."
Arethusa blushed slightly, once again. "Oh, okay...." She nodded.
"We will be going around the outskirts of Hydropolis." Thomas stood up and noticed her blushing slightly. "Are you all right?"
Lunari64: "Yes, I'm fine. Thank you, sire...." Arethusa answered.
Yoshiya Fukami: "Very well. Let's go!"
Arethusa showed a beaming smile. "Okay!" She happily followed alongside Thomas.
Outside the castle, the sun shone northwest from Hydropolis. It was mid-afternoon. The two were walking along the cobblestone road to a private sector. Usually, there are only a few people around the place because only rich folk can afford using the services of the merchants in the area.
There was a fountain in the middle. Therefore, it was a plaza of some sort. Surrounding it was a circular array of restaurants, jewelry shops, and others.
Arethusa took a deep breath, enjoying the fresh air. She was also looking around at the shops nearby, out of curiosity.
One of those readily visible buildings was a jewelry shop. A set of decorative amulets was displayed at the facade.
Arethusa looked at the amulets, smiling. She didn't seem to want one, but they still did look quite beautiful.
Another shop beside it was a sophisticated pub. Unlike the pubs from the common sector, it has a tranquil atmosphere at any point of day. "Areth, do you feel like eating right now?" asked Thomas.
Arethusa nodded, happily.
Inside the pub, Thomas moved a seat from the center table for Arethusa to sit first.
Arethusa took a seat, looking around the pub. She relaxed in her chair, quite comfortably.
Thomas sat on the chair facing her.
"Milord and milady," greeted a pubsman. "What would you like?"
In the list was a variety of exotic meals. There were noodle-based dishes from Pyronian cuisine. Seafood dishes are prominently from Benthos. Sweets and pastries were Geomus' specialty while the Ventilusian cuisine involved cooling spices such as mint.
Arethusa looked at the menu for a moment, having a hard time deciding what she wanted.
"I'll be taking some pesto pasta for a change. Oh, and its Ventilusian!" He glanced at Arethusa, noticing that she was torn with many delectable choices. "Areth, have you chosen?"
"I'll have what he's having, thank you..." Arethusa replied.
"Gladly," the pubsman replied as he wrote down the orders on a parchmnt scroll. He headed to the kitchen to place the orders for the chef to cook. Minutes later, two dishes of minted pesto pasta were placed on their table. "Enjoy, my lieges!" chanted the pubsman.
"Ohh, smells fresh..!" Thomas complimented.
"It looks delicious!" Arethusa said, with a beaming smile.
"Well then, let us dig- rather, dine." He took one of the stainless steel forks from the table. Only the rich could afford to have many of these. He twirled the fettucine noodles with the fork and began to place the serving in his mouth gently.
Arethusa did the same, chuckling slightly when Thomas almost said "dig in".
"Subtly cool and sour, but the savor is still prominent in this one!" commented Thomas.
Arethusa smiled, slowing down a little bit.
When they continued dining, Thomas turned to her. "Anyway, I worry for Joshua... Even though he married Lady Caitlineia after Astreia passed away, I think he was not completely settled inside. I just know it as his friend and I could feel it from his presence itself."
Arethusa nodded in agreement.
"That accursed Bryyan... His thirst for erebokinetic power was used by the Dark Deific King to return his powers." Thomas continued eating. "Tragic things aside, how are your relatives, Areth?"
"Quite well, actually." Arethusa answered, happily.
"Do you ever get in touch with them around these times?"
"Indeed, I do." Arethusa smiled.
"Well then," Thomas said. "By the way, you were so endearing when you reacted to Paedeus' jest," he teased.
Arethusa chuckled, somewhat nervously. "Really?"
"H-Honestly, you are, indeed..." he spoke. "Oh. She got over it."
Arethusa blushed. "Thank you...."
"U-uh, anyways..." he stuttered. It seemed that he is getting tense because of Arethusa's natural display of thanksgiving, and no less with a captivating expression.
"This maiden... She is so serene regardless of the situation."
Arethusa simply went back to eating.
Thomas did so as well while dipped in small thoughts.
Thomas stretched while sitting on an intricate bench with Arethusa beside him. "I am quite relaxed."
"I am too." Arethusa answered, with a somewhat content sigh.
"Well, did you enjoy it?"
"Yes, of course! The food was lovely. Thank you."
"No problem, Areth," he replied. "As long as it is for your sake..."
Arethusa blushed again. "Awww..."
Thomas gulped. "What am I saying...? It's unsightly."
Arethusa chuckled, trying to get over herself.
Thomas stared at her hazel eyes. She might not notice if she was thinking deeply.
Arethusa didn't notice, as she was simply enjoying the scenery.
Thomas sighed in relief. "Areth, are you tired?"
Arethusa nodded, with a small yawn.
Thomas was seated on the left while Arethusa was on the right. The former used his left hand to direct Arethusa's head gently on his left shoulder.
Arethusa did so, relaxing. She seemed to be taking somewhat of a liking to him...
"Is it all right to you, Areth? You just need some rest, I know it."
Arethusa nodded, slightly. "Thank you."
Thomas was looking at her while she was lying on his shoulder. Her short, slightly wavy turquoise hair flowed down. He was wondering why she was all right with him being slightly intimate with her. "I thought she would be startled by that gesture... Honestly, I am concerned with my senses lately." As they were lazing on the bench, he looked at the sunset.
Arethusa did the same, at least for a moment. She started to doze off just a bit, since she was rather tired.
All of a sudden, an arrow lunged from a bush towards Thomas' head. Sensing apparent danger, he tilted his head to the left. The projectile struck the cobblestone floor which deflected it away in a strange direction.
"Areth, we have company," Thomas said.
"Huh?" Arethusa jumped slightly, startled. "Who's there?!?" She asked, grabbing her trident. Her eyes darted around, with a menacing glare.
"Show yourself before my patience gets loose!" proclaimed Thomas.
Two arrows were launched toward them but they were deflected by Thomas' Geh'amm as soon as he reacted to the attack.
The assailant revealed its presence but its visage was concealed. Some hooded figures appeared in tandem.
Arethusa gripped her trident in both hands. "Who are you?!? What do you want from us?"
The figures charged toward them in close combat. Thomas fared well against mere assassins so he was capable of handling them all at once. He evaded forehand swings from multiple enemies and forced two of them in submission through a wrestling move.
Arethusa was rather startled, and used her powers of liquefaction in a bit of a panic. She slipped effortlessly between the legs of the attackers, and then tried to distract one of the ones still standing by clinging to his feet. She was trying to distract one so that Thomas could focus on the others.
Some of the assassins were distracted indeed, allowing Thomas to subdue them with his hand-to-hand combat skill. They started to back away not before one fired an arrow at them. Thomas was startled, causing him to sidestep. The arrow went through Arethusa's liquefied body and struck the ground as if he missed. Thomas took chase but to no avail as they were faster.
Arethusa wasn't fast enough to chase them either, so she merely caught up to Thomas.
He sighed in relief. "What was that all about?"
Arethusa slowly started to reform. "I don't know..." She answered, clueless and worried.
Thomas picked up an arrow. "Let us show this to the enforcers so that we will increase the security of the citizens."
Arethusa nodded, as she finished reforming from her liquefied state. "Indeed. Let's get going."
In the council...
"Assaulting the royalty is something severe," Daedal spoke to them. "Let us be wary of assassins as they might assail us in His Majesty's exploration to the southeast island."
"Milord, what have you got to testify their offense?" Merakiel asked.
Thomas brought out three crossbow arrows.
"I see. The investigatory section shall examine those, then."
Arethusa was still trying to calm down after the attack. She didn't show it much, but the attack had really scared her.
"Milady, you seem to be subtly anxious. Are you all right?" Piscius asked.
Arethusa nodded. "I'm fine, Piscius, don't worry..." Arethusa answered, trying to play down her nervousness.
"Please, Lady Arethusa," Piscius requested. "Consult us if you have problems. We shall assist you with all our might."
Arethusa calmed down a little bit, at least. "Thank you, Piscius, but I am alright." She smiled.
"I am assured."
"Sire, should we accompany another section of soldiers for your cause?" asked Merakiel.
"No, we can handle it together with Arethusa. I do not deal well with being downplayed for such..." said Thomas.
"I did not mean to, Your Majesty. I apologize."
"Nah, it's all right. Joshua kept being downplayed by his peers when he was young. It won't hurt for me to take offense even if you did not mean to."
"... I see your point somehow."
"Let us keep the amount of soldiers streamlined for the journey," Daedal explained. "His Highness and our Lady shall dispatch any entity who shall get in their way."
Arethusa nodded in agreement.
After two days of business- examinations, discussions and others, the scene was set on the southeast shoreline wherein the ship was loading soldiers and supplies at early morning. Thomas was overseeing the operation alone.
"I wonder what happened to Areth to make her late today."
As if on cue, Arethusa arrived, carrying what she needed an a large bag.
Oh, there you are, Areth," Thomas noticed.
"Hello, sire." Arethusa waved, somewhat awkwardly.
"Always prepared for anything, I see," Thomas complimented. "Impressive."
Arethusa chuckled. "Sorry I'm late. There were some holdups on the way here."
"I understand. You are just in time for the departure, to be honest."
"Oh, thank goodness." Arethusa sighed in relief.
Thomas was slightly worried somehow. "Areth, let me carry that bag for you."
"Oh? Okay, thank you." Arethusa answered. Had she not seen the worried look, Arethusa would have insisted on carrying it herself so she wasn't a burden. But, she figured that arguing with Thomas when he was worried was a bad idea.
Thomas carried it without problems. "So shall we go? We are about to depart."
Arethusa nodded, following Thomas.
"Aye! Aye!" Some of the crewmen called as they set sail.
Arehusa took a deep breath, enjoying the breeze.
Thomas stood by her. "The northeast breeze!"
"Splendid, isn't it?" Arethusa asked.
"Yes, I assure you."
From the horizon where they have departed from, there came a shadow of a flying horse chasing them.
"Huh? Sire, look!" Arethusa pointed towards the winged horse.
"What is it?" Thomas asked. He noticed the wingless horse gliding toward them. "Oh, that most likely is Paedeus' steed."
The horse arrived on the deck and stopped gently. Riding it was a navy-armored man.
Arethusa waved, smiling softly.
"Lady, I have come," Paedeus greeted.
"Paedeus, why did you give chase?" Thomas questioned, seeing no necessity for him to tag along since the main forces back in the city might be assailed without his leadership.
"The council told me to, milord," he replied. "They will spearhead the main force should trouble stir up in the city."
"Very well. It's good to have you join us. We will be exploring the southeast island- also known as the Isle of Hydrargalwood."
Arethusa nodded in agreement.
After a while, the wind grew stronger, whipping the ship in slight disorder.
"Is a storm inbound?" Paedeus asked.
"I think not," Thomas stated. "This is a strange one."