THE AGE OF FLEETS (A Take on an Isekai with Twists)
A burly and heavily accented yell cut off Jihye’s train of thought yet again. It seems like she won’t die.. yet. With her heart calmed, the girl turned around to face two men, both white but one obviously younger than the other, the former with a lowered bolt-action rifle and the latter the one who may have yelled. Both were wearing green bandannas on their arms.
“Oi girl! You been running around the battlefield?” The older man asked, in which Jihye hesitantly nodded at. “You live here?” She didn’t know how to reply to that. Even if she replied negatively, how was she supposed to answer? That she was actually from the capital of South Korea just a few moments ago? Those kinds of things can only happen in fantasy books, especially Japanese media aimed for teens!
“I don’t think she can speak Danelandian...” The younger man pointed. “She looks so… yellow. I remember stories from my nan about the Aoudans, how they had good magic, yellow skin and-”
“Enough history lessons, boyo!” The older man yelled as the victim bent down in response to the assault in the form of a kick to the shin.
“I… I can understand you…” Jihye finally found the courage to speak, despite the confusion over what was happening in front of her.
“Well there you have it, fuckhead! She can speak Danelandian!” The older man laughed after a short pause. “You’ve been here for the entire fight?” Jihye nodded. “You live in this shithole of a town?” A small pause followed before Jihye responded by shaking her head, albeit hesitantly. “Well then, where you from?”
“Uh… uh-” Jihye stuttered. That was the question that she currently feared that she wouldn’t be able to answer without being considered insane. There was one reply that she could use, though.
“I- I don’t remember…”
“What the fuck do you mean you don’t remember?” The man grunted. “You hit your head or something?”
“She could have been knocked down by rubble, mist-”
“Nobody asked you, boyo!” The elder cut the young man’s words with another kick to his shin. The former looked back at Jihye again. “Oi girl, you’re coming with us.”
“Wh-what? Why?” A sudden jolt of fear struck Jihye. Was she about to be taken prisoner? She didn’t know how civilians of any form are treated by soldiers, but she knew that cases of degenerate soldiers violating helpless women existing. Was she their targets of lust?
“What do you mean, why? We’re told to get civilians out of this damned island! You wanna stay in this shithole?”
Oh, that’s what he meant. But the chance of being assaulted still remained.
“Th-then where are we going?” Jihye gathered the courage to ask.
“The Los Perdidos Islands. Don’t know why we’re ordered to take you lots with us, but orders are orders.” The elder soldier grumbled and spat on the ground beside him. “Seeing that you’re holding that rucksack behind ya, you must have been preparing to get out of here, eh?”
“Y-yeah…” Jihye replied. She was beyond confused. Everything used to make sense just before she was thrown in front of a subway train by her bullies. She was supposed to die, for God’s sake, not wake up in the middle of a warzone of people using early 20th century weaponry and magic! What was she supposed to do in this situation anyway?
Jihye looked around her, taking note of the dilapidated ruins of the house she was taking cover in and then looked behind the two soldiers to see a portion of the ruined town of Victorian architecture and people, be it soldiers with the green bandanas and unarmed civilians being escorted by the former. If this town was to be abandoned, she would be alone, without a single clue of her surroundings. She would have to scavenge food, which would most likely be extremely scarce. She wouldn’t last long. Her smartphone was out of the question because it was destroyed by her bullies.
The only option was to follow these men.
“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go, girl!” That was all Jihye needed to hear to move her feet.
Nothing so far was making any sense for the short-formed, long dark haired and eyed Jihye ‘Jane’ Choi, a fifteen-year old South Korean girl. Jihye was educated away from her home nation, her six years of Elementary School performed in Bangladesh, then four years of her Middle school life in the United States. During this time, Jihye built up some impressive amounts of trivial knowledge of automatic machinery thanks to an overseas relative that owned a auto-repair garage. Thanks to this, the first thing Jihye used to do everyday after school was immediately drop her school bag and get her hands covered in black grease, ratchet in hand and notebooks filled with mechanical knowledge. By the time she would depart the United States, the girl could build herself a go-kart with just a pile of metallic scrap and an old engine.
Living overseas may have granted Jihye knowledge and understanding of multicultural ranges, but it granted consequences of living in her home South Korea. The cultural difference became painfully obvious when Jihye entered a Korean high school for the first time in her life, where she couldn’t keep up with the events that would be trending among her peers. Language barriers prevented the unfortunate teenager from making advanced conversations and that made her a laughing stock among her class. Without proper means of communications, relationship bonding was practically nonexistent. To add to the injury, delinquents began to frequently target the poor girl for anything they desired be it monetary and physical abuse. The most recent abuse she had received was the taking of her wallet, smartphone and eventually being thrown in front of a subway train.
Now here she sat, as a refugee aboard a steamship inside a cramped compartment filled with people for the past few hours.
Just how the hell did she end up in this hellhole after everything that happened before waking up in the middle of a warzone?
After the fiasco of being convinced by green bandana militia soldiers to evacuate an island town called Shingleton. Civilians of all genders and ages, now refugees, were told to board a passenger steamship, which would have made sense if they were made in the late 19th century to the early 20th century. Jihye herself followed the mass of refugees into the lower decks which became dank, dark and congested by the time the ship began to set sail.
The Korean girl started to think that she along with the refugees resembled chicken in an industrial coop as seen in controversial documentaries.
When the last refugee, a mother holding a baby, entered the lower deck, a soldier informed in a warning tone to the refugees to never climb to the main deck, for there may be dragons that could attack the ship. They lastly requested to stay in the lower decks until morning, when the ship would reach its destination.
Jihye could only scoff in her heart at such warning. Dragons? Just what drug did these people take to be afraid of this?
Upon analyzing the people she came across, Jihye noticed a few traits that almost everybody in this ship shared. Firstly, most of these people lacked color in their clothes. Unlike the people she would have stumbled across in the streets of Seoul, whose attires would have been filled with various colors during the summer, the clothes of the people aboard this ship were mostly monotone. Most of them were white, but the ones with a sense of color were dulled out, and the garments covered more skin than what Jihye wore.
Secondly, around ninety-seven percent of them were white, while the rest were either Hispanic or Black. Judging by the European architecture of the ruined town she had woken up into, it was pretty obvious in her mind at least. However, Jihye noticed one thing that gave her a glimmer of confusion: There were no Asians.
So that was why the Korean seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. Not only she was the only yellow-skinned person on board, her short jeans were quite revealing and even though her white shirt was filthy, it was still more vibrant than everyone else.
Even as she sat at the corner of the deck next to the rusty bulkhead door, arms hugging her knees and head planted down, Jihye didn’t hesitate to eavesdrop whatever conversation these people shared with each other, attempting to make sense of this confusing scenario.
“Those fucking Danelandians, I tell youl! Why can’t they just leave us alone?!”
“I came to Shingleton with my family to give them a better life! Those Redcoats shot Ben without thinkin’ twice! They think they rule the islands! Isn’t that damn water tax not enough for them?!”
“Everything went to fucking hell ever since their Prince was exiled and the new Emperor came to Yorvick!”
“Well, at least the Free Islands League’s actually treating us like people…”
“How do you think the League would stand against the might of the Empires?!
“Das Heilige Valkyrische Reich erachtet uns alle als Ketzer, weil wir keinem König treu ergeben sind. Ich musste aus meiner eigenen Stadt fliehen, um den Säuberungen zu entkommen (The Holy Valkyrian Empire deems us all as heretics for not being loyal to a king. I had to run away from my city to get away from those purges)...”
“He says that we’re heretics to the Valkyrians. Ha! Those assholes.”
“I heard they’re still building those Battlesubs! Dreadnoughts that can go underwater! Fucking hell!”
So that’s where the redcoat soldiers came from: Somewhere called Daneland. It would seem that these Green Bandana militia were called the Free Islands League, and were pretty fragile. However, there was one problem that Jihye faced.
What on Earth is Daneland and Valkyria? Were these people lunatics, or is it the other way around?
That non-English speaker was definitely speaking in German, but what seemed to be the man’s translator mentioned ‘Valkyrians’. This was making things more confusing! Wasn’t she supposed to be staying in this stinking ship with war refugees, not Tabletop Role-Playing Game Addicts?
“뭐야, 시발 (What the fuck)?” Was all the Korean could say.
“I didn’t recognize that.”
That sounded like as if those words were directed towards her. Not daring to completely raise her head, she let her eyes lock onto the source of the voice, a man with dirty long blonde hair wearing a brown leather coat directly looking at her.
She just wanted to be left alone, but her desire was declined just like that.
“Hey, look at the color of her skin!” Another man spoke.
“It’s so… yellow. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
“Could she be one of those Aoudan that history books always talked about? Come on, they had yellow skin, wore strange clothes, spoke strange… I thought they were all dead.”
“Yeah, do you see what she’s wearing? Has she no decency?”
“...닥쳐 (Shut up)…” Jihye mumbled, the prickly words of the refugees impaling her mind.
“See? I used to work as a noble’s translator, and yet I can’t understand what she just-”
“I SAID SHUT UP!!” Finally, explosion. With rage filled in her worn out eyes and an anger-induced adrenaline surge, Jihye had just screamed for silence. Silence washed over the refugees near her and what seemed like an eternal pause followed. When the adrenaline dropped down, the girl’s heart sank once again, and her head fell back to her knees. Her once furious eyes were now replaced with tear-soaked ones. “...I just don’t know what the fuck’s going on…” She sobbed. Now that attention was focused on her, she started to understand how the fishes of an aquarium and the animals in a zoo must have felt like whenever humans would observe them for their pleasure.
Safe to say, she felt disgusted.
Slowly, Jihye started to feel less eyes on her as one by one, she started to hear mumbles unrelated to her. Finally, some silence. When she would calm down, she would try to comprehend what these people had just said and shut her eyes for slumber.
“We’re disembarking on Los Perdidos in ten minutes! Prepare to disembark!”
The announcement following an ear-aching screech of door wheel turning. broke Jihye from her deep yet troubled slumber. Groggily pulling herself to her feet, the Korean girl followed a group of refugees exiting the dank and dark compartment they’ve been allocated to last evening. Finally, no more need to suffer from the combined body odor of unwashed masses of strangers. Her mood seemed to have become faintly raised with the slowly brightening sight with each stairs climbed to the top deck.
Fresh, salty and cool breeze was the first to greet Jihye upon setting foot outside to the steamship’s wooden deck. Taking a deep inhale, she couldn’t help but give the smallest of smile. The light and fresh air maybe a great change from dark and dank from last night, but the grand question of her own whereabouts. Walking towards the bow of the ships, Jihye took in the sight that would have made sense in perhaps role-playing videogames or movies with awe.
Across the watery desert was a cluster of six islands, four of the flatter islands were large towns with buildings of Victorian architecture, their chimneys exhaling smoke that waft up to the sky. The islands housed ports with small factories dotting the inner sides of the facilities and the waters around these facilities riddled with steamships small and large tied up or wandering around. Jihye noticed from the larger ships that some of them seemed to house cannons on their decks. However, what captivated Jihye the most was that two of them filled with cliffs and rocky pillars like parasites on a tree. What caught Jihye’s awe was that small buildings dotted the said cliffs and pillars, all of them connected by bridges.
She remembered seeing pictures of cities built on cliffs on Europe and ruins of ancient cliff cities, but seeing these in person was something she couldn’t explain in words.
“Welcome to Los Perdidos.” A voice with a British accent brought Jihye back to reality. The girl turned around to find a soldier with short light brown hair with a built but wrinkleless face, showing little age. “We heard someone scream in Compartment B. People said that an Aoudan is at fault.”
Jihye froze upon hearing that. Despite how the soldier asked so calmly, she couldn’t help but feel intimidated for some reason. She did indeed scream when the refugees started to feel like children upon seeing a zoo animal. She expected news of her to spread around, but having an armed soldier approach her on that matter? That was something she had no idea on how to react.
“A-are you here to arrest me?” Jihye took all of her courage to ask.
“For you screaming? Girl, there were two mobs fighting in Compartment C last night. Handcuffing a lass just for screaming is the last of our concern.” The brunet soldier laughed. Jihye sighed in relief. At least she’s not being taken away to some dungeon or some sort. Once the ship lands, she could start asking about-
“Anyways, I’m sent to take you in.”
The warmth of Jihye’s body left her as her hope to peacefully settle things shattered into pieces.
“Wh-why? What did I do?”
“Nothing. I was ordered from our commander to take you to him once the captain orders disembarking, so I’ll be following you until then. We’ll be the first to get on port.”
Upon listening the soldier, Jihye’s eyes glanced at the armaments the man had with him: A bolt-action rifle slung on his back and a revolver strapped on his right hip. Those firearms were more than enough to stop her brain from formulating any plans to run away.
As told by the brunet soldier, him and Jihye was the first to disembark the ship as soon as the ramp was lowered to solid ground of port of one of the pillar-like islands. Tailed by the soldier, the Korean girl was taken to what looked like a horse carriage, but what surprised her was that there was a funnel rising from the back with black smoke billowing out of it.
A steam powered car. Interesting.
Once asked to ride the vehicle, Jihye found herself in the middle of the back seat surrounded by more soldiers with green bandanas. On her right was the brunet soldier from before and on the left and front of her were two males and one female. Nevertheless, the car lurched forward, the industrial contraption of steam chugging behind her.
Upon leaving the port, Jihye took in the sight of the passing environment. As the car made its way through the sea of people moving away from the port and towards the town of towering rocks. The rocky street became narrower and narrower and the car lost speed as the sea of people became as dense as ever. As the rocky pillars blocked the warm embrace of the sun, the town was instead brightened with lamps, placed on tall metal poles or embedded on the walls of houses and pillars. Jihye saw more crude bridges entwining the space between houses and people walking around on these like spiders on a web. On the streets, masses of people moved about their day. Most of them wore mundane clothes and peasant caps, but the Korean’s eyes picked up some black suited men with stovepipe hats and soldiers with green bandanas.
During the trip, not a single word was uttered in the car.
Upon leaving the congested town, the steam car chugged across a bridge that linked the previous island with a flatter one, with the latter having larger structures. The streets here were wider and more signs of industry showed in the form of more buildings housing machinery and steam-propelled carriages. There was a higher concentration of suited men and women with more fancier dresses, making Jihye speculate that this town must be more commercial than the previous one.
The carriage stopped in front of a bank, or at least a building that Jihye thought it was due to the letters “Banco de Los Perdidos”. Fitting name, as the islands sounded Spanish anyway. A soldier opened the carriage door, removing himself from the vehicle and signalled the Korean to follow suit. Upon entering, Jihye groaned at the sight of a large mass of people gathered around what seemed like the reception counters, most likely handling their finances and discussing means of generating capital. Without machinery she was so familiar with like ATMs and TV Monitors, it took her a short while to remember that this was how banks may had functioned before the age of advanced electronics.
Nevertheless, the group pressed on, walking towards a corridor guarded by two guards dressed in yellow uniform. One of them raised his right hand on the group in an attempt to stop them, but the brunet green soldier simply leaned towards him and whispered something into the guard’s ear. Followed by a small nod, the guard stood aside, making the other one do the same.
“The Comandante is waiting in the grand office. He is expecting you.” The guard said in a heavy Hispanic accent. However, his glance turned to Jihye, and his formal and strict look turned to doubt. “Is this chica amarilla the guest?”
“Yes, she is. Just let us through, will you?” The brunet sighed as Jihye winced at the mention of ‘yellow’ despite languages.
Jihye nervously walked along with the soldiers until they stopped in front of a large iron double door. However, before she could ask what was going to happen, one of the soldiers grabbed the shoulder strap of her backpack and yanked it off before she could react.
“H-hey! What the hell are you doing?!” Jihye orally retaliated, staring at the culprit with shock.
“Our commander waits behind those doors.” The soldier simply replied, inspecting the backpack.
“Wh-what does that have to do with my bag?! And don’t rummage into it!”
“Can’t risk putting our cause in danger, girl.” The soldier had now placed the bag onto a table next to him and unzipped it.
“I don’t have any bombs in there!” Before Jihye could retaliate any further, the brunet soldier sighed before banging the iron doors. Shortly enough, one side creaked open and he lightly grabbed the girl to take her in.
“...This is madness!”
“We’ve managed to drive the Danelandian fleet away from the Vasco Sea! How can that be madness?!”
“You may be right, Commodore Landiger, but how long do you think it will be before those Redcoats gather a larger fleet and retaliate?!”
“Not to mention we nearly lost TWO farmships to draw artillery fire away from Shingleton, with both of them damaged! Commander, Commodore LeFancel should be hanged for even thinking of using such valuable assets!”
“We would have lost supporters if it weren’t for them!”
“Shingleton Island has lost its usefulness nevertheless! All of its factories are now in ruins! The entire island evacuated!”
A tactical squabble between high ranking officers in green uniforms with silver lines was what greeted Jihye when she had entered the large room. What would have seemed to be the main office of the chairman of this bank was being used as a war council. A large desk at the center of the room was littered with maps and small models of ships. At the very back of the room behind a large throne-like wooden chair was a green flag with a white dove holding an anchor painted in the center as the insignia. The inhabitants of this room were seven men, where the six of them that surrounded the table squabbling with each other were all what Jihye considered as cliche images of officers wearing black, grey and white mustaches and even wigs that French Nobility would wear.
However, the center of all attention was the figure sitting on the chair in front of the flag. Unlike the other officers, this figure was a very young man possessing golden blonde hair that reached the middle of the back of his neck and eyes of aquamarine blue. He wore the same green officer uniform like his comrades, but seeing that his uniform was adorned with gold rather than silver. Adding the fact that he was sitting at the center of Jihye’s view, it was obvious that this young man, who looked nearly the same age as her, was the Commander of this place.
Right now, this teenager was calm between the squabbles, a frown on his face covered by his fasted hands as his aquamarine orbs swayed to and fro around the table. Finally, he planted his hands on the table with an audible tap, silencing the room immediately.
“While I agree with Commodore Landiger with the fact that the Danelandians have been pushed back from the Vasco Sea and the people of Shingleton Island have successfully evacuated to Los Perdidos, the loss of the foundries there is something the League cannot take lightly.” The teen calmly remarked with a British accent combined with a neutral yet authoritative face, which soon turned into a deep frown as he continued. “However, the fact that two of our Farmships have been damaged is something I absolutely cannot forgive. Factories may be rebuilt, but grain from Farmships cannot be restored. Hence, Commodore Gerard LeFancel will face trials for his tactical madness this evening.” Nods of approval from the elders followed shortly.
Then the focus turned towards Jihye. At the sudden spike of attention, she could do nothing but swallow a lump.
“Gentlemen, this meeting is adjourned. May the gods guide us to freedom.” The teen declared. “I believe my… guest has finally arrived.”
One by one, the commodores packed up their maps from the table and filed out of the office until all that remained in the room was the teen commander, Jihye and the brunet soldier.
“You are dismissed, Ranbert.” The teen ordered. “I would like to talk with this lady alone.”
“I can manage.” Was all the teen said to sever the words of the brunet. The latter gave a salute in the form of a right hand clenched into a fist raised to his ear and walk out of the office. The door shut behind him.
Jihye stood in the office absolutely frozen with a mixture of awkwardness, fear and anxiety in her heart. She had no idea on what was going to happen. What was this young man in front of her going to do to her? Would she be violated? Would-
“I understand why you would be so awkward and tense in front of me.” The teen broke the ice as he stood from his chair. “I'm not going to touch you unjustly. There’s no need to be afraid.”
“I… I see…” Jihye stuttered.
“Judging by how you look so confused, perhaps we should play a little game.”
“Oh, it’s nothing hard. Simply put, I ask you something, I’ll answer your questions. Now, let me start. Who are you?”
“J-Jihye Choi.” The Korean replied, but was shot a confused stare.
“Say that again? Ji… Ji-Hey…?”
“I-I also go by the ‘Jane’.”
“I see. What do you have in your mind… Jane?”
“I-I wanna ask you the same question…?”
“Of course.” The teen smiled. “I am Nathan Locksley, Commander of the Free Islands League. The people here call me ‘The Kingbreaker’, my foes call me ‘The Bastard Child’... both of which I hate.” he muttered bitterly.
“O-okay…?” Jihye remarked at the teen, now identified as Nathan sighed.
“Back to the topic, a few reports from my soldiers say that a girl with warm, yellowish skin had mysteriously appeared in the middle of the battle for Shingleton Island wearing… quite revealing clothes. Said woman was taken aboard the SS Messenger to here.” Nathan spoke as he walked to the front of the table, where nothing stood between the two teens.
“...So you brought me here just because I’m Asian?” Jihye didn’t try to hide the disbelief in her words.
“...Asian? Don’t you mean Aoudan?” Nathan asked, confused. That caught the Korean off guard. That word again.
“What do you mean? D-don’t you know the largest continent on Earth?”
“Earth? Largest continent? That’s Aouda, and it was gone along with Caravonia ever since the Great Catastrophe two centuries ago.”
Jihye froze. Before, she had thought that the people aboard the ship were insulting her knowledge with absurd words she had never heard before such as ‘Daneland’, ‘Valkyria’, and ‘Aouda’. Now that she had heard some of these words blatantly spoken in an official meeting, it started to feel like the wrong was on her.
There had got to be a way to get rid of this confusion. There was a single map laid on the table that wasn’t taken away after the meeting before. That may be the answer.
“M-may I see your map?” Jihye asked.
“Hmm… Go ahead.” Nathan stood aside.
Jihye didn’t hesitate to act and walked towards the table. With whatever common knowledge of the map of Earth in her mind, she stood prepared to correct the…
...Something was wrong.
The map she was now reading was odd. It lacked ocean color other than the beige of paper and the coloring of islands, and the top right of the map read the words:
‘The World of Mundus, Husk of Caravonia’.
The map showed what looked like a massive cluster of islands big and small, all inside what looked like a large landmass that looked like a continent. The landmass, however, had a brighter shade compared to the islands, and judging by the scale meter drawn on the bottom right of the map, the continent seemed to have the width of around 4,300 kilometers. That was massive!
However, what struck the nail in her coffin were the different colors that shaded five groups of islands, Blue belonging to what’s called ‘The Gaulian Republic’, Purple for ‘Holy Valkyrian Empire’, Yellow for ‘The Union of Svarogian Islands’ and Red for ‘The Empire of Daneland’.
The ones in the ship was right.
“Are you… alright?” Nathan asked beside her as Jihye’s body began to tremble. Swarms of negative emotions began to overrun her mind and heart.
The strength of her arms failed as the Korean girl fell to the ground, drawing to one conclusion that made absolutely no sense, but yet it did:
She was not in Earth anymore.
Jihye, or Jane, finally realizes that she is not in Earth anymore! We now meet another protagonist of the story: Nathan Locksley, the commander of a group of militia called 'Free Islands League'.
The next chapter will be focused in the perspective of Nathan, where he would interact with the shocked Jane.
I'll start adding Information of the Husk of Caravonia starting from the next chapter.