The Danger in Berneze
When I reached the room, I realized that I was alone.
The person we had been searching for, Sakamoto Ryoma, was not there. And neither was my guide, Fuma Kotaro.
Not even Eve, Jeanne or Ryoma.
It was just me in the chamber.
Thinking this strange, I began to search the room. But not only did I find no one, but the door behind me was now shut.
Was it a trap?
As I looked around anxiously, a voice rang from the direction of the altar.
“Who are you?”
A man’s voice. Imposing, and with a Tosa accent.
I knew at once that it must be Sakamoto Ryoma. But I could not see anyone.
It was as I wondered about this, that a blue, faded image of a man appeared.
He was just as I had seen in history books.
There was no room for doubt now.
Sakamoto Ryoma was standing right in front of me.
However, I also noticed something else.
“…This feeling. It’s familiar.”
Someone I was very close with.
I was reminded of an old friend.
The chief of the earth dwarves. Gottlieb.
He was dead, but his spirit remained. Was this man also a ghost?
I couldn’t help but ask. He replied,
“I don’t rightly know. But the truth is, the person you see now is the person who came here a year ago.”
“A year ago. That far back…”
“Indeed. I came all the way here, just because they said I’d find a mirror that would allow me to talk with my dead wife.”
“And were you able to?”
“Aye, I was. See, the mirror is right over there. In fact, I talked to her for three whole days and nights. But that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted her back, I did. And then I heard that there was a mirror that would allow me to do this. On a far away continent. I decided to go.”
“You’re truly a man of action.”
“Well, I’ve always been. One gets bored of being in the same place for long.”
“In that case, you must love being in this world. You can explore endlessly.”
“You’ve got that right. It’s a wonderful world. I just need to hurry up and get her back. Then we can travel together.”
“I hope your dream comes true. However, I want you to meet your daughter first.”
“My daughter? Ah, you mean Ryoma.”
“Aye. She came all the way down to this underground labyrinth just to meet you. I guess she’s weak to loneliness.”
“What? Is she still unable to let her old man go?”
“Perhaps. However, she also brought up the matter of the city that she is doing business in. Berneze. It’s apparently in danger. And she wants your help.”
He said without much concern in his voice. Then he shook his head.
“I do wish that I could help. But it’s beyond me now.”
“I just told you. This is just a thought form. The person I was a year ago. I may in fact be already dead. Did you see any bones on the way here?”
“Perhaps those are my bones. And even if I was lucky enough to survive, I wouldn’t be on this continent. I would be far away from here. And I would not return easily.”
This man, Sakamoto Ryoma, had been a merchant in the Bakumatsu era. And he had succeeded in forcing the last of the Tokugawa clan, Yoshinobu, to return political power.
A man who had been dedicated to ending the world of Tokugawa which had lasted for two hundred and fifty years. However, he himself did not join the new government after the end of the Bakufu. Instead, he chose to travel around the world by ship.
He was a free man through and through. A man like the wind.
It would be impossible to chain him town.
And so I decided to give up on trying to bring him in.
And so I faced the thought form and said,
“Very well. I won’t ask for your help. However, lend me your knowledge. I will soon head to this city called Berneze. Tell me what is happening there.”
Ryoma noted a little derisively that I was quick to give up. However, he also applauded my perceptiveness, and said I had an eye for seeing the truth in people. Then he told me about Berneze.
“It’s been years since I left it, but my guess would be that the legendary ghost ship has returned.”
“Aye, a legendary ghost ship that is said to appear in the route between Berneze and the islands to the south. It’s likely causing chaos and affecting trade.”
“So, defeating this ship would solve the entire problem then.”
“That is the case, but Berneze is filled with monsters as well. I don’t know if it will be so easy?”
“Monsters? Are there wandering undead then?”
“If only it were that easy. Well, you’ll find out when you arrive. You should meet my master there. That’s your best bet.”
Sakamoto Ryoma said.
“Your master? Do you mean Katsu Kaishu?”
“That’s my master in Japan. No. Here, it is Marco.”
“Yes. Take this with you. It should earn you his trust.”
He said as he handed me his short sword.
His daughter hadn’t worn one, but he did.
He had fully mastered the Hokushin Ittou style, after all.
I praised him about it, and he said it was useful in this world, which was filled with so much danger.
And now, my business with Sakamoto Ryoma was…not yet finished.
In fact, what I wanted to ask him now was most important.
And so I decided to be frank.
“Your daughter is very strong. She can freely use her pistol and shoot down enemies. However, she is still young. She misses her father. Could you not give her something to ease her mind?”
“Did she ask for something?”
“No. But I can tell. It’s the way she looks at me. She wants someone who can be like a father. She misses you.”
“Then you should marry her. She’s a good daughter.”
“I don’t have any intention of getting married.”
I said, and he laughed.
Then he took out a paper from his pocket.
“What is that?”
“A lock of my wife’s hair is folded in here. It’s my treasure. I want you to give it to her. You see, her mother died when she was born. But I want her to know that her mother loved her. And one day, we will both return so that we can see her. So she mustn’t have children until then. I don’t think her mother would want to hear that she’s a grandmother as soon as she returns.”
He said jokingly. His voice was filled with affection for his family.
‘Very well,’ I said as I accepted it.
And then his image started to blur. Perhaps he was not able to maintain his presence for long.
Finally, he said,
“Well, this looks like the end. I don’t even know if I’m alive or dead. But if we do meet again, we should drink together, Demon King Ashtaroth.”
Those were his last words.
Just as he disappeared, the room seemed to grow brighter, and I could sense people nearby.
Eve, Jeanne, and Ryoma were suddenly in the room. They had been searching for the mirror near the altar.
However, the mirror had been shattered to pieces. They were now gathering the fragments.
“My father must have reunited with my mother here.”
Ryoma muttered. And so I took her hand and pulled her into a room behind the altar. And there, I told her about my meeting with Sakamoto Ryoma.