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Clear Glass Upon a Sea of Clouds

By: Zhaohua Chen

The sun rose slowly in Nyuyoku, bathing the entire district in its warm glow. Surrounded by a lush coral forest and settled on a jutting cliff face, the area never ceased to be a sight to behold– and overlooking almost all of Nazumi, Nyuyoku provided residents with splendid views day and night.

Sagomi yawned, trudging along the marble walkways that lined a courtyard full of small anemone sprouts, pushing their way up through the seabed garden.

Time to go take the catamaran detour again, I guess. Mother won’t be happy. Maybe she won’t notice? .Forget it, she’ll be too busy, probably. Queen duties.

Glancing up at the palace looming in the distance, surrounded by early morning fog that perfectly matched her mood, she decided Queen Shio wouldn’t notice.

Making her way quickly to one of the coral catamarans that was about to leave and handing a few coins in a tip wasn’t the hard part. The challenge came when she had to make it past the palace without anybody recognizing her. That was hard enough, especially being the up-and-coming princess everyone glorified.

The waves were calmer this morning, she noted. Typically, residents in the elite district took pride in the tumultuous yet clear and fresh waves that crashed down from the waterfalls of Nyuyoku. It wasn’t anything of immediate concern, yet, she still decided to take a note of it for a later date.

The catamaran gently bumped against the marble deck of the palace, where Sagomi glanced around for a minute and hopped onto another one of the boats close by.

“Is this one headed for Tsukanoma’s upper shores?” She asked, tapping one of the sea spirits who was perched on the sail.

“You mean the Heart of Knowledge?”

Sagomi nodded.

“Yep! Also, might I ask if you’re from the elite districts?” The guide asked. “You look slightly familiar.”

“Oh- N-no,” Sagomi forced a smile. “I just happen to have dressed lavishly enough today, it seems.”

“Understandable, have a great day!” The sea spirit floated back to her perch.

Phew. That was way too close.

The boat sped along the waters, yet still offered a comfortable and smooth ride for everyone aboard. They soon arrived.

Speedily making an escape from the catamaran, she rushed to the main plaza of Tsukanoma, the knowledge archive of Nazumi.

Oh gosh, it’s so crowded. This could practically be the capital of Nazumi, but I don’t think Mother would be happy if Getsukoyoku Palace wasn’t the capital. She likes an overly grandiose position, I guess.

The Heart of Knowledge, an expansive glass and obsidian pavilion located in the center of Tsukanoma, served as the nation’s source of all common knowledge. Despite it being around her 100th visit there, Sagomi was still intrigued by how the glass appeared clouded from the outside yet perfectly clear when looking from the inside.

Tsukanoma’s “Pavilion of Knowledge”, as it was named, was split into two areas. The Heart of Knowledge was more of a general library area where basically any information about Nazumi, its specialties, or history could be found– the main purpose was to spread common knowledge about the nation’s culture. The submerged area was known as the Undersea Glass Dome, where forbidden documents and ancient relics were kept. Sagomi’s mother, Queen Shio, had told her to stay away from the underwater area at all costs.

Poking her head through one of the library pavilions, she noticed a friend. “Swati!”

The cerulean-eyed sea spirit lifted her gaze from the heavy book she was reading to Sagomi.

“Oh, you’re back!” She hugged Sagomi. “Took you a while, huh?”

“I- Hey- I’ve been busy.”

“Terrible excuse, if I might add-”

Sagomi glared at her.

“D-Did I mention it was a joke?” Swati nervously sat back down.

“It better be.”

“Sooo, are you coming back to Tsukanoma Preparatory Academy? They’ve all missed you, I’m sure.” Swati asked her.

“Not sure,” Sagomi slid one of the books off the shelf. “I came here to escape Nyuyoku’s rambling.”

“Well, why don’t we have some fun? Do you want to explore the Undersea.. Er, area? Whatever it’s called.” Swati eagerly slammed the book shut.

“Free pass to Mother getting all angry again? Definitely. Yes. Let’s do it.”

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