Chapter 44: City
Waking up, Nisha found her body aching once again.

However this time the pain was not related to her injury, but rather to the mass of hunger balled in her stomach.

Following her nose, the starving dragon spotted almost instantly the stone tablet filled with bowls of cold meat and vegetables.

Wolfing down the food, Nisha cleaned up the tray in record speed in her attempt to sate her hunger.

That sumptuous meal alone proved to be insufficient, as even after licking clean the plates, she still had a gaping hole in place of her stomach.

Taking the carcass of a [Ironfur Boar] out of her soul space, Nisha took large bites from the dead animal, her sharp teeth - much more pointed and sharper than she remembered - helping her complete this task faster.

Done with eating, the consumed amount of food representing a volume larger than a small elf girl, the girl in question probed her fangs, wondering how she had been able to penetrate a fur that was literally as hard as iron, but only discovering the neat pearly rows characteristic of elves.

For a moment I thought I had my dragon fangs back.

The most pressing issue -hunger- out of the way, Nisha could freely inspect herself: most of the pain had receded, but moving was still straining her wound; standing up sent pain waves throughout her body.

One change was easy to notice, there was barely any blood flowing from beneath the bandages, although the linen itself was still soaked with the sanguine liquid.

Secondly, since she had been able to take out a second helping from her space, her body was obviously capable of gathering mana again, a functionality the young dragon had dearly missed.

Being deprived of a power she had been taking for granted had showed her how vulnerable she was, forcing her to consider her powers otherwise.

I really have to put more effort in my training. Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten injured in the first place if I had had a higher aura rank, Eldrin was always stressing that a mage couldn’t neglect his physical training, speed and strength are as important as powerful spells. I need to become stronger.

Donning one of the dresses stored in the [Soul Space], the little elf picked up the tablet that had been used to deliver the food, curiously tracing her fingers along the lines that were etched into the stone slab.

She suspected the ineligible carvings to be words, the letters were reminding her of the adventurer’s tongue’s, but overall there were certain variations that rendered the text incomprehensible.

Clad in one of her favourite dresses, one that her grandfather had sewn for her, and armed with the stone slab, Nisha left the room to search for either her sisters or the lance corporal. Waking up alone had made her feel lonely, she had missed the company of her friends; yet she was very excited, looking forward to the arrival in the city.

Placing her hand on the doorknob, she almost laughed; compared to the previous day’s ordeal, when she had to literally fight to cross the ten feet from the bed to the door the efforts it had taken her were simply realms apart.

Pushing open the gate to the outside world, Nisha emerged from the room, taking in a breath full of fresh morning air, the gentle sunlight of a new day playing in front of her eyes.

She had woken up earlier than she expected, considering how exhausted she had been, it was definitely a pleasant surprise.

Walking enthusiastically, the nosy elf recalled Annabelle’s passionate words about the ship and paid more attention to her surroundings.

She said it was a wonder of magic, I can see why. Almost every plank on this ship is coated in mana… Is that an energy canal flowing under the floor? It’s filled with all kinds of mana, I have never seen anything like that before.

The [Spirit Sight] proved to be useful as it revealed to Nisha one secret most likely related to how the so called [Navis Terram] was kept floating in the air.

However her exploration was cut short when someone called her out.

“Nisha! There you are, I was about to go and check up your condition.

Please give me that tray, you shouldn’t be transporting something so heavy, you are still injured. I’m surprised you can lift it anyway, it’s meant for the legionares’ use.”

Hale was still acting as professionally as the dragon remembered her, scolding her and greeting her with a smile at the same time.

Taking the stone slab out of her hands, the lance corporal motioned the dragon to follow her, carrying the tablet as easily as Nisha did, the former dragon coming along wordlessly, a little smile on her lips, just happy to see someone.

The examination was completed in a harmless diagnostic. A few curious soldiers wearing the same plate armor as Hale had gathered in the infirmary, luckily Nisha was clothed when they entered.

Inside her [Soul Space] the dragon had quite a few armors of similar design, she had acquired them in the Dragon’s Den, nonetheless she was throwing interested glances at the men and women from time to time while talking to her medicus, the two of them were waiting for the legionar the lance corporal had instructed to fetch Annabelle, Lydia and Luthais.

The soldiers were also peeking at her, although they were keeping a respectful distance and didn’t interrupt her conversation.

“Am I looking funny? Anna will get angry if I don’t look like a lady, so tell me please.”

Imploring the older woman to help her escape her impending punishment, the distressed elf was desperately examining her body up and down, but Hale simply laughed.

“Calm down, you’re very lady-like. I think they are just surprised to see that we have guests on the ship. That doesn’t happen very often, it was possible to welcome you aboard since you are related to Marshall Luthais, a high-ranked officer of another kingdom.

You are also in need of a temple healing, at least you were last time I checked; now the wound has mended to the point where I’d say you’d be fine in a few weeks, but visiting a temple’s holy priest wouldn’t hurt.

But don’t tell I said that to Luthais’ stupid priestess, I can’t stand her!”

The last words were hushed by the door’s opening. Nisha’s sisters and the half-elf entered, taking a seat at the table around which the two women were chatting.

“Miss Hale, can I take Nisha out to show her the ship?”

Wasting no time, Annabelle had immediately started to impatiently stomp on the ground, as she casted a hopeful look at the lance corporal, asking for her permission.

The lance corporal gave her a benevolent smile.

Please say yes. I don’t want to be stuck in that room again, I’m sick of it.

“Sure, provided that Sir Dharnas is alright with it, you can abduct my patient, Nisha is healing perfectly.

Just don’t overdo it, I’ll keep company to Sir Dharnas until you return.

And don’t bother the legionares, they have work to do!”

The half-elf couldn’t bear to deny the request of the three girls looking at him imploringly, and allowed the sisters to skip out of the room, which they did happily, taking pleasure in the possibility of doing something together for the first time since Nisha had been wounded.

The trip around the ship was quite peaceful as the injured dragon was aching at each step, getting run through by a spear was an experience she had no wish to reiterate.

By meeting some of the soldiers, smiling at the guests, walking from place to place, Nisha came to have a good understanding of how big the ship was.

She had no reference with which to compare, but with three giant masts and several floors, divided in various rooms and large chambers - such as the mess hall -, it definitely deserved to be called  ‘flying fortress’, rather than ‘fishing boat’.

Standing beneath one of the masts reminded the elvish girl hunter’s soul of the forest’s giant trees, ancient and massive.

On the deck, the trio tried to enter the control room to see how the ship was steered, but a legionar was barring them the way, it was forbidden for unauthorized persons to come in As an apology, he offered to take them to the control room’s roof, the highest point of the ship apart from the masts, where they could behold the surrounding scenery in all its glory.

The early midday was spent in discovering interesting spots, sneaking past soldiers as a sort of game, playing around. When the three of them came accross the front of the ship, they spent a long while admiring the figurehead, carved in the form of a fiery bird, the same bird that was painted on the armors all soldiers seemed to wear.

Compared to the previous day, the sky was clearer, presenting the gods’ creations in all their majesty, emerald and golden fields passing in a flash under the flying boat as it was sailing through the air along the road leading to the capital.

Lydia suddenly exclaimed.

“Look! I can see [Thurgau], there.”

In the direction Lydia’s finger was pointing, Nisha discovered a growing spot, right where they were headed.

“That’s [Thurgau]! I can’t wait to be there, it’s been so long …”

A dreamy look in her eyes, Annabelle had apparently spotted their destination’s location as well, and commented on the end of their trip.

“But you didn’t like it in there, right? When you told me about what you did before, you always seemed sad, talking about the city.”

With anyone else, the young girl might have shown more reservations, but they were her sisters, and she felt as close to them as she was close to Little Breeze, Little Terra and Little Stream who had shared her life since her birth; there were no longer any secrets between the improvised siblings, the two blood-related sisters had often explained episodes of their past while cooking, or during another activity with the former dragon.

The impression Nisha had had of the Leandar capital from these talks was that both of the former maids had lived nothing but painful experiences there.

“Hm, thinking back on it, it wasn’t all bad. The late mistress was always addressing us a kind smile, covering for us when we had done something wrong; the other servants tried their best to shield us and sometimes our parents were taking us to the market with them, buying a candy or a small snack and telling us to share it. They were not perfect, however mom and dad had problems of their own and at least they tried to be good parents. I don’t think I want to see them again, but at the end of the day they are still our parents.

It’s a complex emotion, really.”

Brushing her hair to the side absentmindedly, Lydia shared her point of view with her younger sister, a distracted look in her eyes.

Nisha was aware of the inner struggle that had ended up in that reflection, she herself had never met her parents but was often thinking about them, pondering on who they could be and why they had abandoned their egg in the middle of nowhere.

“Whatever happens, I will still be your sister. I’ll never let anyone bully you, so cheer up.”

Taking Lydia’s hand, the dragon spent the rest of the journey watching the city growing on the horizon with her beloved family.

A river appeared at the left of the road, flowing towards the ever growing mix of colours that was [Thurgau], the blue line drew closer to the paved lane, heading to the same direction.

Behind the city, blue was stretching endlessly, making Nisha curious.

“Are there two rivers around the capital? I can see the one on our side of the city clearly, but what is the big one behind [Thurgau]?”

Her question met confusion, the two former city residents looking at each other, perplex, until Annabelle seemed to realize something.

“That’s the ocean! Has no one ever told you about it?”

“Ocean? What’s that?”

Having lived on a mountain, and in a forest before, the dragon had no way to know about what the seemingly infinite lake could be; she stared at her sister with interest, waiting for an explanation on the new term.

“How could I explain it… imagine a lake, but several times larger! The river flows into the ocean, along with all continental water. That’s what an ocean is; and the capital is a big port city.”

In spite of the detailed explanation, Nisha still firmly believed that the two women were pulling a prank on her, surely there couldn’t be such a thing as an ocean.

It just can’t be. If all the water was ending up there, wouldn’t it overflow and drown us all?

She decided to remain silent on the topic for the time being. The last stretch of the trip passed in a flash, the bright weather justifying the forest girl’s wish to stay out for as long as she pleased.

Dozing for a second, the dragon awoke when Lydia poked her, a soldier standing next to her, his armor shining under the sun.

“Come on, get up sleepy head, we are here.”

An unconcealable glint of excitement lighted up Annabelle’s eyes, as Nisha groggily opened her eyes and tried to remember where they were going. When she recalled their talk about the city, she casted an inquisitive glance at the place where there had been a dot on the horizon a few hours before, and a massive collection of smoke, buildings, smells, people and sounds assaulted her suddenly.

The small dot had grown to an unbelievable size, a city far larger than [Blackquarry].

All the bustling and buzzing was threatening to overwhelm the poor dragon’s senses when Lydia grabbed her hand and dragged her inside the [Navis Terram], following the soldier.

They met up with Luthais and Lance Corporal Hale at the exit, a large gate in the hull of the boat.

A stern looking man, resembling in that feature the half-elf, was waiting, and to Nisha’s great joy their carriage was there as well, the [Strider Deer] bridled in front of it.

“It has been my pleasure to have you aboard, Marshall Dharnas, you are quite the conversationalist. Maybe we will meet again.

Please do deliver this envelope to the palace, it is our request for a formal audience. The Second Legion will remain here for the time being.

Lance Corporal Hale, I take it you insist on accompanying the marshall’s family to the temple?”

Turning around and laying his hawk-like gaze on the girls, Hale stepped forward and saluted.

“Yes, sir! It is my duty as a medicus to accompany my patient and protect his or her life. Miss Dharnas here is not healed yet, she might need further assistance.

I would like to request the authorization to escort her until complete recovery, sir!”

Not backing down in the slightest, Hale neither retreated nor lowered her head.

In the end the stern man nodded once, before stepping aside.

“Granted. Keep in mind that you represent the Second Legion, you are not allowed to do anything that might tarnish our honor. You are excused Lance Corporal Hale, keep Miss Dharnas safe.”

He walked away and the gates opened to revealed the road they had followed from the air; the ship had safely landed on a patch of grass outside of the city and wasn’t moving anymore.

Climbing in the carriage, the party headed towards the gate.