Shrouded Seascape

Chapter 494: Islanders



"Enough with the melancholy. What exactly did you come here for? The surface world is right before us but yet, you don't even appear the least eager about it."

Anna's words snapped Charles back to the present. He had indeed come to the Relic Research Institute because of an important matter, and he had no time to dwell on other stuff.

Charles turned his attention toward Gordon and asked, "It seems like you are doing well here, aren't you?"

With a trace of humility in his voice, Gordon replied, "Oh, you have given me too much credit for this. I'm merely contributing to your grand plan within my humble capabilities."

"I can leave you in charge of this place," Charles began. He then made an offer Gordon couldn't refuse, "However, I need those airships that the Divine Light Order is using. Utilize all resources in the research institute and your people to make it happen. Once you fulfill this task, you'll officially be in charge here."

If he were going to ascend to the surface world, there was no way he was going alone. He had to mobilize all the resources at his disposal.

Now that Linda and Dipp had gone mad, he needed to find a new person to oversee the Relic Research Institute. Given the dire circumstances outside of Hope Island, Gordon had no other place to go anyway.

A hint of ecstatic joy flickered across Gordon's face, but it soon rapidly diminished when Anna spoke.

"Aren't you being a bit hasty in handing over such responsibility to him?"

Charles turned his gaze onto her, "You are here, aren't you? If there are any gaps or flaws in the plan, your abilities will surely come in handy, right?"

An understanding smile appeared on Anna's visage. She gently wrapped her arms around Charles' neck and leaned closer toward his ear.

Charles caught a whiff of Anna's delicate fragrance as she said, "Let's make things clear first. If you let me take charge, you have to let me do so till the end. No second thoughts or taking back your decision midway."

With that, Anna planted a soft kiss on Charles' cheek before turning to face Gordon.

"I am his wife and also the next Governor. From now on, your loyalty should only lie with me."

A hint of confusion surfaced in Gordon's gaze, but his eyes quickly cleared up as the gemstone ring on his thumb shone with a red glow.

Gordon's expression changed at the glow. He had bought the ring from the Eastern Seas at an expensive price, and he knew all too well of its effects.

Gordon stealthily stole a glance at Anna, who remained standing behind Charles with a faint smile and made a decision. Feigning a look of compliance, he swiftly removed the ring and placed it on the table beside him.

With a respectful bow that exposed the slightly balding crown of his head, Gordon declared, "Understood, Madam Governor. Gordon is at your service."

Anna covered a hand over her mouth to stifle a chuckle. "Smart choice. What a wise man. Don't worry. I won't shortchange someone working under me."

After leaving his final instructions, Charles then boarded the car and headed toward the naval headquarters. Having the airships alone wasn't enough; he needed a matching military force.

It wasn't that he was dying to enter a conflict with those above, but who knew what awaited outside the door? It was always better to be prepared than sorry.

By the time Charles was done, night had fallen, and the holes in the canopies were once again sealed. As he exited the naval headquarters, he finally realized how famished he was. His recent diet had been entirely alcohol, and he had barely touched any solid food.

Charles soon returned to his Governor's Mansion and sat alone in the grand dining hall to feast on the array of sumptuous dishes before him. Anna had chosen to stay behind at the research institute, dedicating herself to her work with an enthusiasm that took Charles by surprise.

Just as Charles was about to pop a half-ripe cherry tomato into his mouth, Sparkle suddenly appeared before him with a swoosh.

Charles' eyes widened in surprise as he watched his daughter proceed to clear the table of its food before him.

It seemed that she was about to teleport away, so Charles hurriedly stopped her and asked, "Wait, where are you going?"

Sparkle blinked her large eyes at him and answered, "I'm bringing this food to Nene. She's hungry because someone ransacked all the food from her house."

Charles quickly wiped his mouth with a napkin and rose to his feet. His daughter's words had reminded him that there was one other crucial task he had yet to deal with.

"Is Nene the friend you have on the World's Crown? She's still alive? How many others are still alive there?"

"Yes. She and her mom are alive. However, the big mushroom has collapsed. Everyone on top died, but those below are still alive. They're fighting over food. They have food, but they still steal and hoard more food."

There are still survivors on other islands! I have to find a way to ensure their survival! The thought crossed Charles' mind immediately. Whether it was compassion for his own species or making amends for past actions, Charles felt the sudden urge to act.

He left the dining table, grabbed Sparkle, and made a beeline for the agricultural department.

"Sparkle, do Daddy a favor. Take seeds to the people on the other islands. They are seeds that can grow in sunlight. Also, try to convince them to maintain the operation of the telegraph towers!"

Charles knew that even if he sent the seeds now, it would take the other islanders time before they could yield any food. Moreover, they could eat the food that was available from before. More than food, however, what the people on the other islands needed was hope.

Desperation could drive mankind into committing atrocious deeds, but yet with hope, humans' resilience was incredibly strong. They could always find ways to survive.

He was sending hope in the form of seeds that could grow in sunlight and also timely communication with fellow humans.

Sparkle agreed to help her father. She decided that the World's Crown would be her first stop as soon as she collected the seeds. At least in doing so, she could accomplish two tasks at once.

***

With her eyes red and swollen from crying, Nene locked herself in the house and stared at the ruined main door and the patches of warm sunlight scattered across the ground.

The adults referred to it as "death light." Be it black ryegrass or mushrooms, they withered away swiftly under its rays. Even humans were not spared.

Nene's stomach growled again. She squatted beside her bed and carefully retrieved a black ceramic jar from underneath the bed. The jar was previously filled with flour for baking bread, but now, it had been reduced to mere traces at the bottom. Most of it had been looted by other islanders.

She tilted the jar and poured what was left into her palm. Yet at the thought of her mother who was outside scavenging for food, she carefully poured half a portion back into the jar.

Holding the small amount of flour in both hands, Nene licked at it earnestly with her tongue. This was the last of their food.

Bang!

A loud sound echoed as the door, nailed shut from the outside, was forcefully kicked open.

The intruder was a man with a large beard. He carried a wooden plank on his head and a sickle at his waist—a sickle once used for weeding crops.

Nene was certain that she had never seen him before; he was from another village.

"Where's all the food in the house? Hand it all over!" the bearded man demanded as he drove Nene into a corner with a menacing look.

Frightened, Nene stumbled backward. Her voice trembled as she frantically waved her hands and said, "There's nothing left. Really. The others have taken everything."

The man clearly didn't believe Nene's words. He started ransacking the cabinets and boxes, turning their once cozy abode into a chaotic mess in an instant.

Soon, he found the black ceramic jar in the deepest corner underneath the bed. His eyes lit up upon discovering the small handful of flour inside. He eagerly scooped it up and carefully wrapped it in cloth.

"That… I saved that for my mom…" Nene's tears broke free and trickled down her cheeks.

The bearded man's expression contorted slightly in response, but he continued with his search.

"Don't blame me. My own home was plundered, and I can only take from others now. All the black ryegrass has withered away, and crops can no longer be grown in the fields. There's only so much food left on the island. Only those with food can survive!"


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