Whenever the morning sky greeted the world without hassle, the shores an isolated beach would be occupied by the worn voice of an old woman and the enthusiastic chatter of a child.
Even though it was obvious on how much the child's steps was eager to greet the day, she never tried to leave the old woman in the dust choosing instead to pace around her as her cane took her fragile body one step forward at a time.
Sometimes the walk would end early with the two arriving home just in time for breakfast to be given away. Sometimes the two would end up stopping for anything that interested either of them and end up not getting any ration for breakfast. It would end up with the child sneaking into the Chief's house to get leftovers for the old woman's "late breakfast".
The kids around her thought that it was lame for her to spend an entire morning with someone as old as most of the corpses that were streamed down the sea, but they also enjoyed the idea of competing for positions that were held as "prestigious" in the island.
Positions that held experiences that were nothing compared to the stories the old woman had for her.
Today had been a day where the old woman found the island just at the end of the beach's horizon more interesting than the seashells the child had been collecting for her gear to play as the monster with the other kids.
The child decided that it might be okay to end the day with a bit more bruises than usual if it meant she could hear what the old woman had to say about that island. Storing her newly found items into her small saddle, she approached the old woman.
"Gramma! Do you have any more stories about the island with the hole?" She asked, her loud voice rivalling the roaring waves that clashed beneath their feet.
The old woman chuckled, "Oh dear. I think I've told you so much about what I've heard and seen that I might need to sail back for more stories."
"No, you haven't told me about the time you saw a white whistle take out a baby from a box." The girl pouted when the old woman's continued to smile, "You promised me last night..."
In response, she let out a sigh from her chapped lips. For a second, the girl thought that the old woman was angry at her but the way her eye crinkled afterwards told a different story.
"You've certainly become really interested in The Abyss as of lately. Haven't you?"
Hearing the name of the hole that she recently learned, her eyes lit up and her body was holding itself back from jumping up and down.
"I can't help it, it's like The Abyss is calling me to its deepest layers. I bet it has a lot of things that we don't see in here!"
The old woman turned her head towards the young girl, lifting a hand to fix the hair that stuck out of her ponytail to no avail. When she looked up, the child saw the the old woman's brows were knitted even if the smile stayed the same.
"You would be a great white whistle, Mitty." The old woman said, a solemn tone in her voice.
Ever since she heard those words, days and weeks flew by quickly. That statement echoed in her head as the hours flew by whenever she spent her solitary moments silently staring into the island just at the end of the horizon.
For some reason, it started to sound like an echo that called her into the pit of the island.
She wasn't going to tell anyone about it, her excitement for adventure tended to stand out from the other kids' attitudes. There was no need to trouble Gramma into taking care of her bruises for the umpteenth time in the week.
It's just that when she saw a ship headed towards the island, heavy with smoke and darker than the night, a part of her believed that this was the blessing those echoed voices gave to start her adventure.
"I am Bondrewd. A white whistle, a delver of The Abyss. Children who do not falter, even at the prospect of setting foot inside The Abyss, please step forward."
Sure, that old man had a pretty weird way of talking that she has never heard in her lifetime. If it had been any other elder in the village, she would've just stayed back and play with the rocks. But the second she hears "White Whistle" and "Abyss" in the same sentence, her feet had already taken her to the front of the crowd.
It was surprising to see a few of her friends step forward a few seconds after, though some of them did it because of the whispered dares between each other.
Mitty also knew that there were other kids who were as enthusiastic as her to see what The Abyss had in store for her and the number of those kids were definitely not small, based on the limited space Bondrewd's shuttle had to offer.
Shuffled and squeezed in between kids of varying appearances and personality, she thought about how this was the first step that she needed to take for her adventure to start.
Orth was everything the old woman had told her, yet it held so much more. Cramped houses and stoned pavements was one of the few things that she was still trying to wrap her head around, but the ever-present breeze followed by distinct white flower petals dancing around the town constantly she welcomed immediately to play around with.
Every single thing she looked at held more things that she wanted to ask the White Whistle about, but he and his people had left the kids to look around to take care of business that Mitty guesses people that held whistles took care of. Talking to strangers had been prohibited and she couldn't exactly wander around away from the perimeter that was set up.
It didn't stop her body from needing a break from the onslaught of visual information and her knees almost gave out when she turned to sit facing the giant crater that a few nights ago she would only dream of seeing. The old woman was right, she was literally dwarfed in comparison to how wide the hole was.
She wanted to go near and look down but an excited part of her wanted to keep that surprise for herself... or maybe it was fear?
"This is The Abyss…"
When she heard a scoff from beside her, she saw a boy that came from the same island as her. He and his friends were staring down like he had seen the hole as much as they'd seen the hurricanes that their fathers had told them about. Some of the kids were obviously trying to hide their amazement, but some were already gaping and chattering excitedly to the person beside them about the crater.
When Mitty and the boy locked eyes, he immediately bared his fangs against her. It was soon followed by the stares of the other kids around him.
"What are you looking at, stupid? Go away!"
Even amidst the new things that Mitty was to see more of, the disappointment that were inevitably brought by her own people never failed to hurt her.
Maybe when she's a white whistle, like what Gramma had said, maybe then the hurt she feels will be squashed by the adventures she had.
The bulky and heavily packed underlings of Bondrewd escorted them to a small room and left all of the kids with a single bar that tasted like the food that her Gramma would eat. After a few bites that were hard to swallow, Mitty decided to keep the bar as a souvenir for the old woman when she comes back as a white whistle.
Maybe she could bring a whole pack of those for the island, maybe that will solve the ration issues the leader always talked about.
But that wasn't what was important to her now. It was the distinct mix of snow and a metallic smell that sat beside her in the form of a person. Not just any person, but the future partner of Mitty when she becomes a white whistle.
The two sat together and the engines surrounding them outside the steel walls were enough heat that their blankets were bundled around their feet. Nanachi, as the person introduced, was silent after the exciting establishment of their partnership. She felt their body move around restlessly as their hands kept reaching for the book in their lap.
Back home, there wasn't a need to read - at least for the kids around Mitty's age - and the worn coverings and the small texts at the cover of the book kept drawing her eyes to understand it, even if she couldn't.
Well, the owner should understand about the things they owned. At least that's what the Gramma had told her.
"Hey, Nanachi. What's this book about?" She asked, mindful to keep her voice softer after being shushed by her partner.
A noticeable flinch went through Nanachi's body as their hands automatically went to the book while glancing at Mitty like seeing doll suddenly talk. Which she thought was strange because they spoke to each other just a few moments before the comfortable silence they were in.
"It's a book about…" After a moment's hesitation, Nanachi looked to Mitty's eyes with uncertainty and continued, "The Abyss. This book is about the Abyss."
The gasp was something she couldn't contain after hearing it and for a second, she wondered if this was what it was like when delvers found a Relic or treasure. Her hand immediately shot up to touch the book until she realized that if she couldn't recognize the language in the title, would she even be able to read it?
She felt a little guilty at the startled look Nanachi gave her, especially when she noticed her hands hugged the book a little bit tighter than before. After taking a small breath, she lowered her hands and asked the new question she had in mind, "Could you read it to me?"
Her sheepish smile turned into a grin when she saw her new partner visibly relax into the idea and nodded as their hands opened the first page of the book. Mitty leaned closer to them to see what the book's contents held for her and saw that Nanachi's focus was majorly on the book for her to be able to initiate it.
"So you see, the Abyss has seven layers…"
If she could choose a moment in her life that she could repeat over and over, it would be the hours she spent talking with Nanachi as they talked about anything ranging from the Abyss to the place where they came from. Under the warmth of the blankets, it felt like they were the only two people in the world and that nothing from outside can harm them.
Not even the flying birds that had been smashing their body into container and shook the whole room with. For the two of them, it had been a minor inconvenience in the reading process that Nanachi could easily adapt with and a source of excitement on what the Abyss has to offer for Mitty.
She decided that hearing her lack of reading knowledge was a good trade off on hearing whatever Nanachi had to say about the information they just read. When Mitty pointed it out, they said that it was just their cynicism getting in the way but the off-handed, snarky comments were a welcome response to her own excitement.
"...and that's why Relics and Treasures of the Abyss are considered a precious commodity around the world. Personally, I've never seen it but I'm pretty sure that's why half of the kids from my place chose to go here." The last part of the sentence was whispered quietly and she almost laughed at how Nanachi's eyes shifted left and right in case anyone heard them talking.
Regardless, she nodded along with their explanation with a question hinged in her mind, "If you could make one thing into a treasure, would it be your book?"
It made sense for her after Nanachi explained how the book accompanied them by their lonesome back at their place. Her own place didn't really have anything that she would consider precious enough to be a precious, but her Gramma might have come close into someone she could consider as one.
Though that has changed after she met her partner, but the way Nanachi's book seemed like an extension of their body - it didn't seem like they shared the same thought as Mitty.
That was why she was couldn't hide her surprise and confusion when Nanachi shook their head meekly, "Nnaa… not really." They said as their eyes adverted to an interesting corner of their blanket fort.
Strange was the only thing Mitty thought as she tried to process that information in her head, even though this was the same book that gave Nanachi the gateway to the Abyss just like how her Gramma's stories had been for her.
Glancing back, the way the light reflected Nanachi's eyes made her realize that they had been staring at her for a while with a small smile as if the answer to Mitty's question had been in front of them the whole time. At least, that was what she hoped as she couldn't hide a matching smile on her face.
"Then let's find a good one down there, yeah?"