After the failed ambush by the gantha, I wasn’t all the worried about the potential dangers that this island’s animals could present. If a level sixty creature could function as a predator on the island, then that meant that it would serve as a good judge of what the rest of the island would be like in terms of power. After all, a level sixty can’t hunt level two hundred creatures, and if some of those were on the island, there wouldn’t be any food left for the little gantha.
Sure enough, we did come across a few other creatures, but they were all below level one hundred. By the time we returned to the shore a few hours later when we were done ‘pillaging’, most of the other groups were there already. As I looked around at the various groups, I saw that none of them had really encountered any trouble. Though, some of them had their clothes torn a bit, likely by thorny bushes or attacks from sudden predators.
Once the last group came back a few minutes later, our attention was turned towards our voyage leader. “Alright, lads and lasses!” Emona grinned from a chair that she had apparently brought over from the ship while we were gone. “Bring out yer spoils, and let’s have at it! I trust everyone remembered where they got their goods, so we won’t have to search blindly later!”
After she spoke, an aged felyn woman stepped up from next to her, someone that I hadn’t seen before. No doubt, she was a member of one of the other crews, and a noncombat crew member at that going by her level. “This here is Dalia, one of the best herbalists that we could find. It’ll be her job to determine what is edible, what is useful, and what gets thrown away.”
Those of us that had gone gathering nodded towards Dalia respectfully. “No need for any formalities.” She chuckled dryly, moving over to the group at the far end to begin. “Now, let’s see what you brought out for me.” Her smile was gentle, like an old grandmother, her squinted eyes making it seem as if the smile spread across her entire face naturally.
The group that she had chosen, the Elementalist twins from another ship, began pulling out their scrolls and calling out both the beasts and plants that had been stored inside. Dalia didn’t even glance towards the dead animals, someone else coming over to take away, and instead began to examine the plants one by one.
First, she skillfully disassembled each plant into the various pieces, the outer and inner shells, the roots and stems, and so forth. Then, she carefully took each piece and smelled it. At this stage, she simply tossed away several items, such as the roots of a black weed or a small yellow fruit the size of a grape.
With the pieces that were left, she took them one at a time, and placed them gently against her wrist, holding them there for a few moments as she focused. Each time after she was done, she gently wiped off her wrist before deciding whether or not to throw that component away, causing the pile to dwindle further. At this point, about a third of the original potential ingredients from the twins had been discarded.
Finally, the pieces that were left seemed to be ready for the last ‘round’ of testing. One by one she collected them again, and held them in her palm. I could feel the natural energy warp above her hand, showing that she had some skill as a druid as well. Water quickly gathered into a bubble surrounding the ingredient, and slowly began to boil.
When she was done with this step, she placed each ingredient to her lips, giving them a small taste. Once again, many pieces had been thrown away, leaving less than half of the original pile. However, she seemed satisfied with those that were left. Looking towards the sisters, she gave a small nod. “These are all edible.” She explained, pointing at the pile that remained.
However, she wasn’t done yet. Moving to the discarded pile, she once again began picking ingredients. This time, she ground them to a pulp before boiling each into its own paste. Then, she took just a small amount of paste from each, and took turns applying it gently to her arm. Her eyes seemed to light up, and I could faintly sense fluctuations of mana coming from her as she tested each item.
Some, she shook her head with a sigh, discarding the copies of an ingredient after the first test. Other times, she would smile happily, putting them into their own pile. Twice even, her health bar appeared over her head, showing that the paste she had applied had caused a small amount of actual damage to her. Rather than being alarmed, she simply moved those into another pile as well.
The entire process to examine the different plants provided by the twins took nearly two full hours. Given that there were around fifty ‘teams’, there was no possible way that we could get through them all by the end of the day. However, she simply moved on to the next and repeated the process again.
For any items that she had previously judged, she either discarded them or placed them into their respective pile of ‘edible’, ‘useful’, ‘useful for poison’, or ‘trash’. This already greatly diminished the pile from the second team, until there were only about five plants that needed tested. To my surprise, one of those plants happened to be the reset fruit that Kelly and I had previously gathered.
Dalia went about her routine, slowly analyzing each item to determine what to keep or throw away. This went without any real differences from before, until she got to the reset fruit. With this one, she had already broken apart the outer shell, revealing a gooey pink gel interior.
When she had boiled the reset fruit and tested it on her lips, she gave her first real surprised expression. It was enough that even Emona’s attention had been drawn to her in concern, though Dalia’s health bar was nowhere to be seen. “Is everything alright?”
Dalia slowly pulled the fruit back, staring off into the space in front of her. “The world’s voice has told me that I lost a rank as Pirate.” She spoke softly, but her face showed some confusion. “However, I still have the same rank as before. Curious…”
As if this required further investigation immediately, she ate the rest of the fruit and waited a moment, shaking her head. “Captain Emona, please remember the number nine.”
Emona still seemed confused at this, but nodded her head while Dalia gathered another of the reset fruits from the pile, and boiled it as well. When she ate it, her eyes flashed in surprise once again. “Captain… the number was nine, correct?”
“That’s correct, Dalia. Is somethin’ the matter?”
“It was Scout this time. But the number seems wrong now that I look at it.” She explained, realization dawning on her face. “This fruit seems to have a special property that removes the power of the world from those that eat it.”
“I see…” Emona nodded her head gently. “Lady Dalia, pray tell. How long ’ave we been on our voyage?” She crossed her arms beneath her chest and stared intently at Dalia, who put on a perplexed face of her own.
“It must have been… five months by my count, captain?” She answered, though it was clear that she seemed unsure of her own response.
Emona’s voice suddenly turned gentle, not carrying her normal pirate accent. “Dalia, perhaps you should rest for the day, see if you can recover from the effects of the fruit. We can resume tomorrow.”
“Captain… how long has our journey been?” Dalia asked, and for the first time her voice began to shake, as if she was afraid that she had lost something important.
“Almost seven months now.” Emona shook her head in response, causing Dalia to freeze up. The elderly woman slumped down, knowing that a piece of her mind had been chipped away with her levels. “Just rest for now. Maybe it will come back with a good night’s sleep.”
Dalia nodded her head weakly, moving the rest of the reset fruits into the pile for alchemy, before walking towards the shore. “Then… captain, I’ll take my leave for now.” Her voice was still shaking as she stepped onto the water, forming a patch of ice that slowly carried her to the nearest boat.
Emona simply gave a nod to that, before turning towards the rest of us. She took a deep breath, and her stoic face returned to normal. “Alright, lads. Fun’s over for tonight.” She pointed at the plants that had either been marked as edible or useful for alchemy. “Anyone who found the locations of any of those, head off to where ye found them to collect as many as ye can carry. Anyone who didn’t… join up with someone that did. Be back on the ships by sundown.”
Unsurprisingly, almost all of the parties immediately turned to head into the jungle again, having gathered at least one of those ingredients themselves. Those who didn’t paired up with the nearest team. As for myself and Kelly, it was obvious that we at least knew where the reset fruits were, but there were also a few other fruits and roots that we knew about as well.
Another hour later, the sun was just starting to come up as we climbed back onto the ship, mine and Kelly’s bags filled with the quest scrolls. Each scroll had a picture of what was contained inside on it to serve for easy identification, so we sorted through them and placed them into the appropriate crates below deck upon our return. This was actually my first time heading below deck myself, so I was finally able to see what it looked like down there.
The first lower deck was almost entirely taken by large crates, most of which were empty. In those that weren’t, there were stacked scrolls that appeared to carry objects such as planks of wood, copper nails, tools, fabric, and potions. Each crate could easily hold thousands of scrolls, so the sheer number of spare supplies was mind boggling. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that half of a kingdom’s wealth likely went into the trade goods to place in these ships.
I also noticed that each crate was labeled, either with a claw or a curled tail. Following Kelly, I learned that those marked with the claw were for the main quest scrolls, and those with the tail were for the paired scroll. While this essentially dropped the number of supplies down by half, it was still a ridiculous amount.
The two of us went through and found where the scrolls containing the fruits that we had gathered were stored, and deposited them in the proper places. From there, we returned above deck to have our meal and relax for the evening…
The next day, the identification process started again, bright and early with everyone on the shore. Dalia was once again there, though her trademark smile seemed lessened. Obviously, neither her levels nor her memory had been returned to her after resting. Yet she had a job to do, and was likely one of only maybe two herbalists in the entire fleet qualified to do it.
With each team that she went through, cataloguing their plants, they began to bring out less and less. Nobody bothered to retrieve an item that she had already appraised, so each team was handled more swiftly than the last. After the tenth team, only five hours had passed from the start of the process, and several teams started stepping back from the line. Likely they had nothing new to show her.
Kelly and I were near the end of her line, so it was no surprise that we had long since stepped back before she had gotten to us on the seventh hour. After she had apparently appraised the last item that was brought for her, she gave a satisfied nod. “It seems that everything is in order. Captain, if you don’t mind… I’d like to return to my ship to rest.”
Emona didn’t even say anything in response, only giving a gentle nod to dismiss Dalia. Once she was gone, we were all again sent out to find any of the items that had been deemed appropriate, spending the next three days to fill all of the crates in all of the ships. While the work was long and rather tedious, it was still a welcome respite from the constant sitting about that took place on the ship itself.
By the time that we left the island, there was little doubt in my mind that we had made a serious dent in its ecosystem, though at the same time I knew that it would be able to recover before anyone else appeared there.