1155 Chapter 1266 - Anthony On Tour pt 7

A bubble generator, as it turns out, is pretty much what it sounds like. Each creates a thick layer of protection over the open topside of the ship, which all of a sudden is now fully submersible. The brathian are absolute masters of their craft, I have to say.

Marzban explains the process to me as it happens. First the ships take on a bit of water, making them heavier, and we start sinking. Normally, this would be terrible, the ships are literally sinking, except these ships are designed to do it. As we get lower to the water level, I watch as the shimmering 'bubble' forms, shortly before we sink far enough that the water begins to foam up the sides of the ship.

[When it's just us aboard, we don't even need the bubble, so long as we keep enough air below decks to prevent us from dropping too fast,] Marzban says.

Indeed, not every ship is deploying a bubble, only the ones with the Colony and our allies on board. 

It's a wondrous thing to see as the fleet slips beneath the waves, although it's immediately overtaken by something else I spot.

An underwater mountain, its peak terminating just a few metres under the water's surface. Obviously, this is the 'spire' part of the 'Lakespire'. It's a pointy ol' thing too, resembling a spear more than a mountain. The further we descend, the more of it is revealed, and the more impressive the view becomes.

The brathian seem to have a way with coral. They use it for their buildings, some of them anyway, growing and shaping it into whatever dimensions they want. The spire is absolutely covered in the stuff, all of it glowing bright beneath the waves, and teaming with brathians. There are glowing docks extending out from the mountain, and I see hundreds and hundreds of ships, some with bubbles, some without, all tethered and hawking their wares.

Extending my senses, I try to get a sense of the mana in the area, and sure enough, I feel like I detect several of the reclusive Shulk, extending their protection over a wide area, encompassing all of this enormous market.

[Welcome to Lakespire,] Marzban says formally. [Other communities like to think of it as the brathian capital city, but it isn't. It's much more important than that.]

Makes sense. These people pretty much worship the art of commerce, and this is the largest market their people have created on Pangera. It's less like a capital and more like a temple city.

[You see that area there, with the majority pinkish, purple coral?] He points off the side of the ship and I swivel a little to get a better look.

I've been warned not to move much, balance issues.


[That's the area rented by our Conglomerate. We'll be docking there and inviting traders in to meet you and see your wares.]

I sigh.

[Kind of feels like I'm going to be ogled like a prime piece of meat.]

[There's a reason it feels that way,] he tells me bluntly. [That's exactly what's going to happen. They'll want to see you, talk to you even, though you can expect more of those protocols you seem to hate. Traders are risk averse, but they also know the greatest profit comes from taking the right risks. If they're going to buy into your goods, they need to know that you are stable, a cooperative species of monsters. If the Colony decides to go wild and attack everyone, then you'll be wiped out and nobody will touch the products these merchants have sitting in their warehouses.]

Well… I can't really argue with that. Except for the wiping out part. Give us a little time, and we'll be invincible.

[Fair enough, I'll be good.]

It's a shame I won't get a chance to visit and explore the markets myself. At least, I'm assuming I won't get the chance. For some reason, I doubt they have the room to accommodate me underwater here. There's no chance Smithant, Cobalt and the others don't go absolutely crazy out there, though. I know for a fact the Colony sent them with a significant amount of wealth in the form of cores. It's their job to purchase samples for us to break down and study. Hopefully they do well negotiating with the brathian merchants….

Our descent slows the closer we come to the vast underwater mountain until we are sliding gracefully forward and down, slowing further and further as we draw closer to the docks. Well before we are tied down, I can tell our large fleet has gathered a significant amount of attention. It's probably not every day a few dozen ships slide into port at the same time. It'd be more if the Colony hadn't been so willing to cram into the holds. Some of the larger ships have hundreds of ants crammed inside, perfectly content to be squished on top of each other.

When we finally dock, Marzban and the other bearers of brathian authority descend from the ship and there is much pointing, bowing and discreet bribing. Why do they have to bribe their own port authorities? I put it down to 'brathian customs' and shrug it off. The Colony really won't do well here, they would refuse to pay a bribe, not out of ethics, but because they wouldn't understand the idea of someone not doing their job without being paid on the side.

In only a few minutes, the fleet is crawling with activity. Literally, crawling. From below decks, thousands of ants emerge, carrying crates, laying out the cargo and setting up what will be our trading area for the next day or so. In short order, the largest ships tied closest to the dock have been transformed from graceful-looking tubs to sparkling bazaars, with the complete range of the Colony's finest put on display. Everything from our rugs to our sweetened jams has its own stall. 

All we have to do is wait for the customers to arrive.

And they do, shockingly quickly. Brathians emerge from the city in such numbers I fear we are under attack for a minute. Rank upon rank of them, each more elaborately outfitted than the last arrive, stopping several hundred metres away and filling up the narrow paths and passages around the coral buildings, staring us down.

They look… hungry. They smell sweet, sweet deals! Suddenly, it's like a switch is flicked, and the gathered merchants charge the fleet with a roar. From my position, I can only clack my mandibles in disbelief. What is this? Black Friday? Chill out a little!


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