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跳島 (Island Hopping)
#1
Quote:Near Komoto Village, Aɂmaniɂma County, Niɂma Division, Hoenn
19 Shimoɂki 763


Shiro cupped his hands and dunked them into the Kamigawa, washing his face with its pristine water. He was one of the eleven crown princes of the Ralgon nation, but that really didn't matter much. Like his compatriots, he was expendable and very replacable with some random relative. The young man had journeyed out this far in search of, well, himself. Compared to the snakes and other types of politicians back home, this place was very peaceful. He seriously thought of just settling down in this exotic land and using his skills in politics and battle to help these people out, but he worried that they just weren't the sort to welcome a foreign warrior into their midst. For the umpteenth time that hour, he checked himself to make sure he still had his sword and sidearm handy. He wasn't used to peace, and it was ironically making him paranoid.

Shiro bent down to wash his face again, only to be greeted by a calm, beige-snouted pink face, crowned with a very large, bleached-white shellfish hat, poking out of the water to stare at him from point-blank range. Shiro kept staring straight forward, almost believing it was a mirage, before he snapped himself back into reality. Continuing to stare intently forward (while likely looking like an idiot), he blinked incredulously, rubbing his eyes to try and make sense of the not-quite-a-hippopotamus smiling vacantly back at him. Seeing the creature pull itself out of the water and stand on two legs next to him only cemented his belief that he was hallucinating, especially as it stood eye-to-eye with him sans shellfish hat, upper arms — hands? — folded behind its back thoughtfully. Shiro knew upon landing on these shores that the creatures on this island were strange, but this one easily took the cake and ran off with it, too. He came to one of two solid conclusions: either those fruit he ate earlier were hallucenogenic and had him tripping like crazy, or this entire island was whack. Not wanting to jump to either conclusion because of how messed up he'd look if he was wrong, he decided to shut up and wait for the creature to either make a friendly or hostile move. What the creature did next lent credence to both conclusions: it turned to face the prince, smiled brightly, opened its mouth, and said boisterously,

“Wazze anne gowasutashi!”¹

Shiro resisted the urge to blurt out a curse word at his sheer surprise. I'm fucking tripping, alright, he thought.

‘...Greetings.” Shiro took his hand off his weapons, sensing that, whatever it was, this creature wasn't hostile. He pointed to himself, signalling to the other creature (which was obviously intelligent) that he was greeting it. “I am Shiro.”

The creature bowed, holding onto its shellfish hat to prevent it falling from his head. “Greetings, Shiro-san”, it said in a thick Hoennese accent. “I am Nomi-dono², head man³ of Kamigawa river.” It took a deep breath and let out a great yawn, revealing its entire mouth to Shiro. “I — we — wish to ask what brought you to our river?”̄

"I am an explorer, from a far-off island my people call Dragos." Shiro paused only briefly to contemplate how this creature suddenly changed languages. "My travels brought me to this land, and I encountered this river just now. I only stopped to quench my thirst. If I am unwelcome here, then I shall swiftly move on."

He decided to say nothing else for the moment. After all, the fact that he was a prince most likely meant absolutely nothing in this strange land, and back home such a declaration would just paint a target on his back if he didn't bring ample security or a good kill back home.

The jewel on the hippopotamus' shellfish hat seemed to glimmer for a second, and then its wearer spoke up. “If you are peaceful, then you are most welcome!” It beamed a toothy grin at Shiro. “We may not have much to offer, but you may certainly stay here as long as you like.” It turned to look at the river, and a number of other pink hippos — some wearing shellfish on their tails and the others unadorned & much slower — emerging from the river. The shell-tailed ones gathered around Nomi-dono, while the slow ones chilled on the riverbank, staring blankly in various directions.

Shiro took a long, careful look around. "There's one thing that you have that I've certainly not seen back home, and that's a peaceful environment. If you wouldn't mind, I would like to take up your offer to stay here a while. I can teach you skills I learned back home in exchange, if you are open to learning."

“A fair bargain!”, Nomi-dono said, its shell-tailed brethren clamoring in agreement. “I must warn you, though, that the no-tails…” He turns to look at the shell-less creatures on the riverbank. “…they do not learn well. But do not let that stop you from teaching us!”

After a moment, Nomi-dono turned away from Shiro towards the riverbank full of derps and closed its eyes, the gem on its shellfish hat beginning to glow brightly. Simultaneously, the shell-less ones all turned in its direction and lifted their heads to gaze at their leader. The scent of ozone filled the air, and Shiro felt the hairs on his arms & the back of his neck rise, along with a faint feeling like a change in pressure. After about a minute, a decently-sized village of log cabins & mud huts faded into view, and Nomi-dono slouched, feeling considerably more relaxed.

Considering all that he had seen in the space of just a few short minutes, Shiro wasn't even surprised anymore. Even so, for all their abilities, the natives (as strange as they seemed) only possessed primitive technology. Beyond hiding themselves, he worried about their ability to defend against potential attack from others. He looked around at the simple lifestyle the natives seemed to enjoy. Shiro knew that such tranquility simply did not exist in his own land. If it could not be defended properly from aggressors, the world would be the worse for it. I know what I must do, he thought, wearing a determined expression.



Footnotes and translations

① 「わっぜ安寧ごわすたし!」 “May you be very peaceful/tranquil!” A polite informal greeting or valediction, but more commonly the former. Compare Korean annyeonghaseyo.
② 「鑿殿」 Lord Chisel, effectively.
③ In Hoenn, villages are administered by a headman (名主 nanushi) chosen by and from amongst the villagers at the annual town meeting.
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