Only Mira’s expedition team was unable to explore Atlantis; the other two groups traveled all over the island and came back with incredible data. Their information covered mostly the geological and botanical changes on Atlantis, with some recordings of mostly seemingly harmless animals. No other rocs were sighted. Not one to let a single setback get her down, Mira compiled all of the information in one night so that the next three teams were ready to head onto Atlantis the following morning.
Kakane and Serena had officially been laid off from the expedition, which Kakane didn’t object to. He was feeling sore all over and had his own wounds to tend to. Besides, with Serena recovering from a near-death experience, he didn’t feel like leaving her bedside. He wanted to stay with her until she opened her eyes.
The healing process was going along nicely. The huge gashes in Serena’s chest were bound to leave scars, but they were slowly closing up as time passed. The healers on Poseidos used slightly different methods than Kakane was used to, such as strange salves and huge leaves as bandages. Most importantly, though, it worked, so Kakane didn’t object. He could visibly see the color coming back to Serena’s face and as the nurses dosed her medicine, he could see how the tissue was slowly healing. It had turned a soft baby pink that would soon become a bright, healthy skin tone.
Mira came in every day to see how Serena was doing, while also giving Kakane daily reports on how the Atlantean expedition was going. Even Megrez dropped in once every few days. Mira’s appearance was getting more and more disheveled as the days passed by and it got to the point where Kai himself had to step in and order Mira to take a break. Despite that, the expeditions continued as planned even without Mira’s leadership, thanks to Kai taking over in her stead. Kakane was glad the rocs weren’t of any trouble now that the soldiers were equipped to deal with them. He would kill himself if another person got hurt, or gods forbid, someone died because of those stupid birds.
The expeditions concluded within a week, but the ruins of the lost city were yet to be found. Mira was deeply stressed about this, but there was nothing Kai or Kakane could do but offer words of encouragement. Sitting around Serena’s bed in the medical wing, they discussed how it was possible that none of the teams managed to locate the ruins.
“Atlantis is the third-largest island, right? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe that they haven’t mapped out the entirety of the place,” Kakane voiced.
“It’s been a week, though, and we had three teams!” Mira said, rubbing her temples. “Maybe I’m thinking about this too much. It’s been a long week.”
“Could it be possible that the city is hidden under a spell?” Kai suggested. “Considering how much we don’t know about Atlantis, it certainly is within the realm of possibility.”
“What good would hiding their city do? It would be pointless and utterly stupid. It was a center of trade and innovation, right? The king during Atlantis’s golden age had an entire army of puppets, for gods’ sake! That doesn’t make any sense to me,” Kakane said.
“That’s a fair point,” Mira agreed. “From what we know, Atlantis was definitely a major city of commerce 15,000 years ago. Hiding their city with a magic barrier would do nothing but inconvenience everyone.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Kai nodded. “If I were king during that era and found out that a main trading city had suddenly put up a barrier around their walls, I would order them to take it down.”
“Is it possible they found the ruins but merely overlooked them? It has been 15,000 years, after all. The city might have already crumbled into dust,” Kakane pointed out. Mira shook her head.
“Our recent discoveries have shown that Atlantis has been in a period of stagnation for 15,000 years. Nothing has evolved or changed. That’s why we encountered the roc even though it’s such an ancient creature. Its environment hasn’t been altered and thus it didn’t go extinct.”
“You did mention that,” Kakane mused. “Seems monsters were a lot more dangerous back then. Damned bird nearly cost me an arm and a leg.”
“I am glad you and Serena safe, and I apologize for sending the two of you on such a dangerous mission,” Kai said, nodding at the white-haired girl, who was asleep. “Because of that, I don’t want this expedition to turn out fruitless for you. You said you were searching for records to make a puppet, yes?”
“Yes. I’m not leaving Poseidos until REAN is fixed, for Serena’s sake,” Kakane declared. “I don’t care how long it takes.”
“If only we could find the city,” Mira groaned.
“You keep on mentioning the ruins of the city, but do you know its name?” Kai asked. “It should have some sort of title. Perhaps you have data on it that you never looked through.”
“The name of the ruined city of Atlantis… Should be the capital of Atlantis, but…” Mira frowned, scrunching her eyebrows together. “Name? A name… Have I read anything on the subject? A city in Atlantis…”
Muttering to herself, Mira walked out of the infirmary. Kai watched her go, seemingly amused with a lopsided smile on his face. It did seem odd that the main city of Atlantis was without a name. Perhaps Mira would dig something up?
“Could it be possible that there aren’t any actual ruins in the first place?” Kakane wondered out loud.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, see, when I was working on REAN back in Serena’s hometown, her workshop was actually pretty far from her village. She would trek through the forest to get there, and sometimes she’d stay there for days on end. I was wondering if the craftsmen from Atlantis did something similar, like, you know, work on Atlantis but then go home to one of the other islands at the end of the day. The descendants of Atlantean craftsmen live on Ali’i, right? If that were the case, then what would the purpose of building an entire city be?”
“True… You make a fair point.” Kai nodded. “But doesn’t that seem a little inconvenient? Wouldn’t it be better to work from home?”
“Can fishermen fish from their cottages? Can farmers grow grain from their floorboards? No, I think not.” Kai laughed.
“You bring up a very good point there, Kakane.”
“Of course I do,” the black-haired boy said smugly. “What else could be expected of the great me?”
Kai nodded, but Kakane didn’t miss the slight roll of the king’s eyes, which mildly infuriated him.
“I’ll go bring this up to Mira,” Kai said. “Perhaps this will help her get the insight she needs to unravel this mystery.”
“Alright. I’ll be seeing you.”
Kai left, leaving Kakane alone with Serena. He took her hand in his and began stroking it, pressing his forehead to hers. He felt strangely lonely and sad. Serena’s lips were slightly parted, and her chest fell up and down with each breath. At least she wasn’t on the verge of dying.
“…It’s too quiet when you’re not smiling,” Kakane muttered, taking a seat at the end of her cot.
He suddenly realized how much he missed the sound of Serena’s laughter and the kind, gentle warmth he felt when she smiled. The times they argued, the times when she chastised him for doing something stupid, or even the times when she was just trying to help. They couldn’t come back sooner. Kakane was impatient by nature, and he was expecting Serena to open her eyes any day now. He was expecting her to scold and chastise him for always being so reckless, for worrying her so much. He absentmindedly began rubbing his scar, reminiscing.
He had to apologize for his behavior, which caused her condition in the first place. To think he actually convinced himself to leave Serena’s side forever… What a selfish, horrible notion for a king. A king never abandoned his subjects, least of all the one whom they held dearest. The least Kakane could do now was aid in Serena’s goals and hope she would forgive him.