"Ha ha. Very funny. Is this what you called me here for? To talk about the shower prank? Because I certainly remember that one time with ducks and…"

"One more word and I will cut off your tongue!" Henry yells at me in anger, all humor now gone. I smirk at him at having bested him yet again with that ace. I strongly suspect that this will have consequences though.

"So what makes my presence so urgent?" I ask him. My stomach growls before he can answer. "Even my stomach isn't happy about this call." He grimaces at my poor attempt at a joke.

"Leave the jokes to the jokers, Elisan. And your stomach can be a pretty good substitute for a monster's growl." Henry comments before getting to the point. "I have been keeping an eye on the island's conditions for this last month, Elisan. Things are starting to change. It's time you finally moved."

It is as if the words are like a bucket of cold water. "What's changed? You know I can't just leave now. There are several meetings and issues I need to deal with before even thinking about it. The kingdom is still suffering and is barely stabilized."

"And you think I don't know that?" Henry irritably asks. "But the weather patterns are changing rapidly, Elisan. I have been able to dispel the minor storms but I don't think I can stop the upcoming hurricanes."

"Hurricanes?!" I shout out loud. There is no doubt left in my mind now. I need to get moving and start dealing with this. But seriously, hurricanes? "What about the counter-spells and alternates you were working for?"

"I don't think there's enough time to finish them in time. This spell we are facing isn't an ordinary spell, Elisan, but a fallback spell. Mandarin weaved it too well to be easily breakable. I will not stop my research and attempts but you don't have the luxury of letting them be the only route of approach to deal with this issue. The plan we made at the beginning of this month needs to be executed now."

"What about the things that still needs to be done, then? I'll resolve at least the pact with the surface governments before leaving. Can you inform the others of this latest development? And you're sure there's absolutely nothing we can do to delay this anymore."

"Positive. We've borrowed all the time we could to be in our isolated little bubble. It's time to burst the lie of safety. But do you have any volunteers selected?" He questions about the one task that still remained incomplete.

"Nah. The people are still debating over who would go. To them, it still is all a game that I have already won and they want to have the first-hand experience for the sake of bragging rights." I explain. "And don't you dare say 'I told you so!'" I add when I see him open his mouth. It had been my idea to ask for volunteers to help give the people something to do while I prepared to leave.  All it did was increase the number of people who sought audience with the king, all for the sake of clarifying how some other citizen was not suitable for the journey because of even the ridiculous of reasons.

"Upsides and downsides, Elisan. You need to consider every possible consequence of your thoughts before you act on them." Henry simply comments and I can't help but fume at how easily he still got to say those words without uttering them. "As far the still-waiting status on the choice of volunteers is concerned, I suggest that you just pick two from the Skills Registry."

"Thanks. I wish I had that idea earlier." I respond and turn to leave. Just when I get to the door, Henry calls out.

"Even if you had, you would have just ignored it in order to delay. But we don't have any more time to delay."

"Understood!" I shout back at him as I shut the door behind me and walk into the narrow corridor containing the stairs to the upper levels and the door to the throne room. I plan to move to the study for starting today's boring work when my stomach growls again. "People would really think I have kept a monster in my stomach if this keeps on happening." Heading on to the kitchen on the opposite side of the throne room, I stare at the throne again.

When we regained control of the kingdom, we debated how to deal with the throne issue.  Yes, we were all of the descent of the previous rulers. No, none of us knew anything about being a ruler. Yes, we wanted to bring change and peace in the lives of the people. No, we wouldn't just pretend to return to times when things were simpler.

In the end, it was John who came up with the best suggestion to deal with this: Let the chair decide its appearance. And with a five-wizard spell, we animated the chair long enough to let it make the changes. The results were pretty weird but amazing. The chair's spine was charred black while small plants grew near its base. How they penetrated the concrete base is a mystery I don't intend to lose sleep over. Its arms were blood red and its legs were textured as if water bubbles had joined together to form it. The transition between the different designs were absolutely smooth, as if having anything else would be just ridiculous.

The study was a mini-version of the library, enchanted by the skill to auto-replenish any needed supplies. The desk it had was very old and had taken a lot of time to repair without magic (which was then being used to repair the entire palace). And on it lay the present source of my grumbling: letters.

Every government of the surface had to be contacted about the change in the ruler of Damian so as to not have a potential attack risk from them. By the time Henry discovered the ill-fated prophecy of Mandarin's failsafe spell, some of the letters had already been received and it was too late to pull back. And now every country that existed on the surface was frantically contacting us for more information. On what was happening to us now, what we were planning on doing, how the kingdom was going to be run and what would their roles now be. Everyone wanted their own desires fulfilled and navigating this messy business of diplomacy was driving me insane. And then somehow the surface governments found out about the prophecy and now wanted us to abandon the island and settle in their country instead of reviving the Evil Lord.

I would have agreed but Henry held me from just picking one of the countries. "This place is more than just a home for us, Elisan. It is our lives now. Besides, those letters are full of lies. All that these countries want is our people and life forms. Damian is blessed with stronger and more efficient humans than those on the surface and if we do take shelter, the people would be abused. We can't let that happen."

And that was how I found myself still trying to word my refusal to every country's plea as diplomatically as possible. Taking occasional breaks as thoughts of just killing these leaders turned into full-blown fantasies helped me release some of the tension as well. A yawn escaped before I could control it and I was glad that no one else was there to see it. I didn't need anyone worried for me right now. I was just about done when I picked up a letter from one of the countries. It held no plea or demand. Instead, it asked just a single question: "How far have you progressed in saving your homeland?"

There wasn't anything else written on it. Is this a prank?I wondered. Is this piece of paper added by one of my friends to remind me of my biggest pending work? But there was no reason to do so before today. Why should a country on the surface bother with us? To brace themselves or to prepare to stop us?

It was too late to try to chase away the thoughts of the past though and as I rotated a coin, representing one cjehp - the new currency of the island, I couldn't help but think of all that has happened in this last month.

There was only one reason why I hadn't left as intended and that was the fact that the kingdom was too unstable for the king to just leave. We were running out of time with every second of inactivity but we didn't have the luxury of having only the issue of reviving Mandarin as the prime concern. The people's morale was shattered, there was a huge economy gap and there were no sources of earning or education left in the kingdom. The riots that had begun in the kingdom over the last month had made sure that no one felt safe. Then D'nimo's warning had arrived and nothing was left the same. I put down the letter and rubbed my forehead, wondering how I got buried under this much stress. Maybe closing eyes for a few seconds would help me regain focus, I reasoned.

And without even realizing, I fell asleep on the desk. For the next thing I knew was that I back at what was supposed to be the beginning of this new journey.

*********

A/N: I feel so disappointed at being able to present only this filler chapter right now. But I have finally realized that things need to be slow, even if I want them to be very fast, and I will have to adjust accordingly. But that doesn't mean things will remain slow for long... especially if the things do work out well.

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