The Golden Bonito had crossed the Pamtam Straits with blazing speed after catching a favorable wind. The ship then entered a small inlet that led to Elshimo Island.
"Originally, I was gonna leave you here for dead, but I've changed my mind."
The captain of the Golden Bonito chuckled playfully as she deftly prepared her ship for docking.
After receiving a rather large burlap bag to carry, I followed the captain as we made our way down the game trail that went through the Yuhtunga Jungle.
The dense foliage blocked the strong sunlight from the west. Jewellike butterflies fluttered around fragrant flowers of scintillating color.
After we had traveled a good distance from the inlet, the captain, who had been walking ahead of me, suddenly stopped in her tracks. She pulled my sleeve and directed my view to a clearing beyond the trees, where I saw what appeared to be the outer walls of a village.
"We're here. This is the entrance to Kazham."
I followed the captain down a slope and passed through a wooden gate leading into a cave. After we cleared the cave, I was finally allowed to unload the burlap bag from my shoulders.
After wiping the sweat off my brow, I marveled at the sight of the remote village that I had entered.
Wooden huts built upon stilts, fishwives humming old sailor songs while drying fish in the sun. The young women let out huge yawns as they strung their bows. In one house, a mother and daughter were napping peacefully next to each other. The Mithra of this village lived freely and boldly, exuding a radiant vivacity rarely seen in the outside world.
I suddenly heard playful, energetic sounds as a group of children approached us.
"Yay! The Boat Lady's back!"
"Did you bring us any gifts, Captain?"
A number of young Mithra girls ran towards the Hume captain and quickly barricaded her in a ring of skittish excitement.
"Hello again, everyone! Were you all good girls while I was gone?"
The captain then opened the burlap bag I had set down. When I saw the items she took out, I could not help but smile.
Ginger cookies, apple pies, even bottles of juice. The contents of the heavy bag I had carried across the jungle turned out to be gifts for the children. From the girls' wondrous expressions and gleeful shouts, I could tell that all of the items were quite rare in Kazham.
At the center of the ruckus, the captain of the Golden Bonito was patting the children's heads with a warm, motherly smile on her face.
I suddenly remembered my own mother, who had passed away when I was very young. I decided to quietly leave this happy scene.
From there, I strolled through the village alone, asking several Mithra about the events of ten years past.
"Ten years? That's a long time ago. Back then, we barely ever got visitors from the mainland. If a young Hume man had come to the village, then everyone would have been talking about it. I'm sorry, but I have no such memory."
After hearing this reply from a woman by the well, I gave up on my search for clues, and headed towards the docks.
The sun had already set, but an orange-colored trail remained in the western sky. The gentle sea breeze that had been blowing all day had suddenly ceased.
I sat down at one end of a small bridge, and began to think about my plans for the next day. It was then that a familiar voice rang out from behind.
"Judging by your demeanor, I'm guessing you still haven't delivered that package from Windurst."
The Golden Bonito's captain had apparently concluded her business for the day, as she proceeded to sit next to me by the bridge. The Kubira-Umbira captain must have told her the details of my quest.
"...Yes, I couldn't even find a single clue about the recipient. I guess that's understandable after ten years."
"If he's not here, maybe he's in Norg, or maybe..."
...Or maybe the young Hume who I believe to be my brother never made it to this island at all. Just as such somber thoughts began to spread in my mind, the captain spoke again, as if she knew what I was thinking.
"Hey, maybe tomorrow I can take you to Norg. You probably don't even have a map, right?"
This was an unexpected offer. When I asked the captain the reason for her sudden generosity, she gazed out at the horizon and said,
"I have a little business of my own to take care of."
The woman then took off her hat, lay down on her back, and did not utter another word. In her eyes, I could see the sad twinkling of the stars in the sky.