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Capital Under the Sea
Journeying over Basil Tundra was long and cold. They traveled at high noon. At dusk, tents were set up to avoid the night chill that threatened any tree or animal that dared to thrive. Snow khees roamed freely grazing on hidden roots and springs below the salty frozen land.
On the 33rd day of their trek, they reached the sea where the salty tundra melted into the water. They walked along the coastline for two more days before reaching an outpost called Mermaid Bridge. A tavern stood along with a few spittle of cottages.
At the tavern, locals told them the Mermaid Bridge had been destroyed long ago and a ship comes twice a year, before and after the frozen season. It was mid-season so there were no ships. Upon inspection of the bridge, they saw only two wooden posts crookedly stuck in the muddy coast. Alba’s heart sank for a few seconds before Kai pulled out the mermaid coin and treaded down towards the posts. He knocked the right post three times, two times, and then three more times. The post magically revealed a secret glass panel where he placed the gold coin against it.
A loud waterfall noise boomed, bringing the out locals. To their amazement, a large box rose from the water. It stopped at the coastline and a door opened up with a staircase leading down into the darkness of the sea. Kai turned around and called for them. Alba excited tumbled towards him to peer down.
Kai advised them leave the snow khees and wagons so they unloaded only the necessary items and tied the snow khees to the farm fence where the locals watched in awe.
With hands held together, all four descended into the depths of the sea. The door closed behind them but the stairwell remained lit up. Because the stair appeared to be made of glass, they could see fish and algae swimming and watching them as perplexed as the locals on land. Alba could see towards towards the ocean floor, clusters of light, which grew brighter and bigger, turning into an underwater city! They finally reached the end of the strait and a door blocked their entrance. Kai once again knocked three times, two times, and then three times. The door became a glass panel that lit up with words and buttons. Alba jumped back in surprise.
“Don’t be scared,” Kai said, “This is only a computer. It won’t harm you.” He took out the mermaid coin again and laid it up against the panel where it appeared to float in the air. Lights pulsed and grew from the center of the coin and outwards around the door until the entire door glowed brightly. In a flash, the light disappeared. The door disappeared. And they were inside the underwater city. The city of the mermaids.
“Welcome to the Capital,” Kai announced as mer-people came up to them. First, shyly and curiously. Kai greeted them and they seemed to recognize him.
Alba and Nonno exchanged looks, aware of the secrets Kai had been hiding. Daryn, on the other hand, was more excited about being in the city, explaining that the Capital was thought to have been lost after the Great Science War, sinking into the sea. And he could see electricity and technology also thought to be lost. Kai explained that every so often, a few of his people would ascend to land to study cultural changes. If and when the land people have learned to accept technology and advanced themselves out of their rural way, the world would once again have a Capital. For now, they were content to hide in the Sea of Mermaids as a myth
“And they allow you to bring outsiders like us?” Alba asked.
Kai sheepishly smiled before responded, “Because the president of the Capital is my uncle.”
Just then, a loud fanfare sounded and the crowd split aside to allow an ominous looking man to walk towards them. Tall and thin like bamboo reed, pale like fresh snow, and flattened dark hair speckled with white strands, his almond eyes wrinkled at the edges, he wore a simple grey slim pants and top, no button or strings. Alba wondered how he got into his clothes. Did technology invent new types of clothes?
Kai saluted the man before hugging him. Alba could see the older man warmly smiling. When Kai introduced his uncle to them, those warm eyes turned cold and black. A wagon without a horse appeared in front of them. He told them to all get on. They obediently did as he commanded, hoping that Kai didn’t lead them to danger.
While Alba, Nonno and Daryn were in one wagon, Kai and his uncle were in another, trailing behind them. Alba looked back and could see Kai and his uncle deep in conversation. When they came to a stop, they all descended the wagon. Kai rushed up towards them.
“My uncle is granting you access to the glass elevator instead of a staircase to get to the Dragonback Mountain. It will be faster. It’s like a mechanical staircase of sorts but you don’t have to move.” Kai explained.
“Will you come with us?” Alba asked, knowing the answer already.
Kai tried to smile but couldn’t and instead took both her hands. “I’ve never had a friend like you, Alba. Your compassion, wit, curiosity, and liveliness for the world. Everything you see sparkles and shines. It made me hope that the world could be more of you. It made me want to believe…but my first responsibility is to the Capital. I am needed here now. One day, I promise we will meet again. Even if the sky tumbles and the mountain crumbles. I promise.”
Tears rolled down Alba’s cheeks without her knowing. “Find me in Fiammetta. By the light house.” She wiped her tears and hugged Kai one last time.
“I’ll never stop waiting until you come back,” she quietly added, only for the two of them to hear.