"Supreme Magus Verhen. Lady Verhen." Everyone but the Royals and the Empress greeted them first in respect. "It's an honor to have you here."
"The honor is mine." Lith replied. "To what do I owe this summon?"
"We need you for the maiden voyage of your masterpiece." Meron spoke first. "Allow me to present you the Wayfinder."
At a snap of his fingers, the arrays of the room conjured the hologram of a long train at one end of the table. The projection moved through simulated plains and marshes before stopping in front of Lith.
"That's amazing!" Kamila clapped her hands in excitement.
The hologram was too detailed to be just a promo based on the drawings of an engineer.
It was the actual footage of a test run of the artifact. It meant that the Wayfinder had already been completed and that it was stored in some secret warehouse of the Kingdom.
"Wait a second." Her enthusiasm faded when the doors of the various cars opened and people came out of the train.
With nothing around the Wayfinder, it was impossible to estimate its size so Kamila had assumed it was a train similar to the ones she had seen in Lith's memories from his life on Earth. Now, however, she realized her assumption was wrong.
Four people at a time could come out of every door at the same time or two carrying a huge crate, or one Emperor Beast. And those were the passenger coaches. The wagons storing supplies could flip open their entire side, and each one of them hosted dozens of crates the size of a car.
"This isn't one of the Trains supposed to connect the smaller cities of the Kingdom to the main trade routes." Kamila said and the King nodded. "This thing is massive and holds way too much cargo.
"Warp Gates aren't that distant from each other and most merchants use dimensional amulets to move their goods. What's the point of bringing so many crates?"
"Excellent observation skills." Sylpha said. "If you believed that we wanted Magus Verhen to participate in a promotional tour of the first Train, I'm sorry to disappoint you. Public transportation will have to wait.
"The Wayfinder has a different purpose. It represents the first step necessary for the Kingdom to colonize Jiera." The Queen took what was supposed to be a long, meaningful pause to underline the importance of the historical event.
"The Kingdom *and* the Empire." The Empress said with an iron tone as she pointed at several figures coming in and out of the train who wore foreign clothes. "This is a joint venture and the Wayfinder belongs to my people as well."
"Indeed." Meron tried to sound casual, dismissing the accident as a mistake instead of an intentional omission. "The Kingdom alone would have lacked the resources to build something this big without exposing our side to our enemies.
"The War of the Griffons took a heavy toll on us but luckily, we had the help of our cousins from the Empire."
"This is an amazing success for diplomacy, but what do you need me for, exactly?" Lith chimed in before the measurement contest could escalate further.
"To take part in the founding expedition." Milea replied, looking him in the eyes and ignoring the Royals. "Trains are your creation and this is going to be their first transoceanic voyage.n(/O1n
"As you can see from the holograms, we have performed tests in shallow waters and over the sea, yet they lasted a few hours, and reaching Jiera will take days. Also, the open ocean is much more dangerous and there's no telling what might happen.
"Sea Emperor and Divine Beasts might attack the Train, either considering it a can filled with tasty snacks or a chest full of treasures.
"Don't forget that to build our bases of operations and Forgemaster Warp Gates powerful enough to connect Garlen with Jiera, we are going to need lots of precious metals and magical crystals.
"In the middle of the ocean, there are no witnesses. If the Train gets sunk, there will be no way to know if its disappearance would be due to a freak accident or a robbery. Also, we have to take into account storms and possible malfunctions due to the strain of non-stop travel.
"As the inventor, your presence would help to fix any damage quickly and to adjust the blueprints of future trains with the knowledge acquired during the journey so that they can allow for safer travels."
"Days?" Kamila's eyes went wide in surprise. "Also, if sea beasts are so dangerous, how were precious materials and people transported by sea in the past?"
"When traveling from one continent to another, Awakened had no such problem." Raagu said with a sigh. "We contacted our counterpart on the other side of the ocean and opened a Warp Gate with their help.
"The problem is that despite its limited means and precarious standing, Jiera's Council hasn't changed its stance on the colonization. They continue to regard our deployment as an act of aggression. They are not going to help us."
"As for mere humans…" Lotho the Treant said, drawing the glares of non-Awakened. "While short sea trips were relatively safe, carrying precious cargo required a fleet.
"Only by splitting the goods between several ships and each one of them being protected by mages kept the Sea Beasts away. Most of the time. Unless the Sea Beasts allied with a foreign nation or between them and then split the loot."
"Those were good times." Inxialot, the Lich King dazed off, lost in memories of the past when sinking ships and pinning the blame on Sea Beasts solved most of his supply problems.
The other people furrowed a brow at the nonsensical words of the undead and dismissed them as one of his many off-topic ramblings.
"Is my presence really necessary?" Lith asked. "If anything happens, you can always contact me with the amulet and I can work on the issue from my lab."
"Yes, it is." Meron stepped in front of Milea to not let her run the show. "You see, even with the recent abundant harvest, the previous famines have heavily affected peace in the Kingdom and the Empire.
"We need most of the food to keep our people happy and smooth over the tensions between Thrud's past territories and our own that the prolonged rationing of food exacerbated.
"The Kingdom cannot afford to commit the supplies required to feed a force strong enough to protect the Wayfinder for the duration of the journey and the colonists until the Warp Gate is established."
"And neither can the Empire." Milea chimed in after pushing Meron to a side. "Your presence alone solves all of these issues. As a Divine Beast, you have the strength of an army but thanks to your Abomination side, your food consumption is limited.
"On top of that, you can conjure Demons. Those creatures don't eat, don't take space, and weigh nothing until you conjure them. They can help with security, maintenance, and any issue that might arise during the journey without burdening our limited resources.
"It's like having double the crew for half the price."
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