Chapter 149 - Coasting
I stand behind the ship's wheel, breathing in the salty air while looking over the choppy waves. The Capital’s rowdy harbour is growing smaller behind me as I glance towards the rising sun to my right. I make a slight course correction to starboard in order to catch the wind in the mainsail. The bow slices through the water and the entire vessel tilts as I start cutting against the wind.
Now and then, some peace and quiet really hits the spot. And I’ll not start thinking stupid loneliness induced thoughts because Re-Haan is sleeping inside the newly built cabin. Fifteen meters in length is big enough for a sailboat to be a floating apartment. I can stand upright without bashing my head against the ceiling, and the rooms are full size. It really is a nice boat.
There are still some rough edges here and there. There is no antifouling paint on the hull, a lot of the ship’s interior surfaces are unfinished wood, and all the metalwork is of rough quality and unpainted. Still, it’s extremely impressive for a boat that's built in under an hour.
I think Rhea had to test the limits of her path. The mission she oversaw went absolutely horrible with all things that could go wrong going terribly wrong. There was a lack of coordination, no prior discussion of some form of communication protocol, and all kinds of material failures.
The reversed stealth field incident was really interesting, for example. The formation spelt something like ‘do not look at me’, but a tear in the fabric broke the negator. This caused it to spell 'look at me', and thus forced everyone previously ignoring the wearer to be fully aware of the person. That must have tipped off the king, as he is not powerful enough to have sensed the mission location from his castle.
I refuse to believe that the ruler of a kingdom was stalking the streets like some sort of superhero wannabe.
Her overseeing the creation of this ship must have been her way of testing the opposite management style. She micromanaged nearly every single step that her subordinates did, ordering them around on a tight schedule. She used her full mind and a lot of processes to orchestrate the construction, leaving just enough mental prowess for herself to walk around.
I roll my shoulders a bit, shifting the wrapped sword on my back in a more comfortable position. Lola scratches my cheek with a dull claw out of annoyance and goes back to dozing. I take another deep breath and enjoy the combined smell of salty brine and freshly cut timber.
Feeling the wind around me, I confirm that the direction will hold steady for a while. I pull on a lever on the steering column, engaging the self-steering gear. This nifty little piece of tech is a combination of a wind vane, and a qi powered steering servo. It’ll keep the boat at a preset angle to the wind.
Now I can lounge around too. I walk into the cabin and spot Re-Haan sleeping, splayed out on the bed like a starfish. I poke her cheek a few times, but she just slaps my hand away and rolls over. Her qi was totally empty, all of it used up as she swirled it through her mind, and she has been recovering her powers at a rather rapid pace while snoozing.
The bed takes up the most stable place of the ship, the middle. It covers a good quarter of the entire interior, leaving only a narrow path to the side to walk past it.
Behind me - under the cockpit - is the kitchen. A small flight of stairs going down is followed by a rather nice kitchen island with all kinds of kitchen apparatus. The front is made up of sitting benches and a wet cell - a shower cabin.
Underneath the bed and sitting area is a low storage space. Although I appreciate the effort put into the design of this boat, I really wonder what the target demographic of this product is. All proper cultivators have storage rings, and don’t need storage space. Washing is also not something that a cultivator needs to do with water. We also don’t need to eat that much, but I ignore those kind of questions for now.
I examine the storage for a bit, crawling around in the low space, and notice some fishing poles. I pull them free with a grin on my face, and walk to the front of the ship. I proposed some design changes here and there, and this one is the best one, as far as I’m concerned. I unlock some latches and fold the wooden front cabin walls away, allowing me to sit on the nose of the ship in full comfort while casting out a line or two.
I sit there, fishing up an oddly large variety of fish for a good few hours as the boat cuts through the waves. The majority of the animals I catch are normal looking saltwater fish. A small percentage contain way too much mana for their frames and have all kinds of exciting mutations.
I think some of Tess' and Selis’ experiments might have survived somehow? I stare at a particularly gruesome looking deep sea angler type fish. This one has its fishbones sticking through its sides. They are wiggling as it tries to bite me. I toss the poor abomination overboard while suppressing a shiver.
“Hmmm, Drew?” I hear a lazy female drawl coming from behind me.
And she’s sleeping again. I continue fishing while thinking of ways to occupy my mind. I’ve gone through the entire process Rhea used to produce this sailboat in record time a few times over, and can't find any new learning points.
So I decided to start watching some television. I pull some raw materials from my ring and form a production process. I give it access to a strand of augur and a tightly controlled amount of unactivated qi, and set it to work. Slowly but surely a black rectangle forms, hovering in the air beside me.
I pull some more iron from my ring and start moulding it with flames dancing around my fingers. Lola looks down at me from the small crows nest and squeaks a bit. She was shooting small fireballs from her horn at the birds circling around the boat, and now has a piece of ice stuck to her forehead.
I shake my head at the unscientific nature of the bond between me, Lola, and my sword. She must have been about to launch another fireball when I took control of the fire element, causing her own power to switch to ice. I continue ignoring her indignant noises and resume working,
I catch another two fish in the time it takes me to finish the metal contraption. Three dampened hinges connect two mounting panels through two metal rods. I screw it into the middle table and mount the half finished television screen.
Five fish and two roasted birds later, the screen is done and attached to the stand. A simple Tree rune on its back makes a connection, and I order Database to pipe the drone footage it’s receiving through. I see a faintly grainy sea of trees. I check the data feed and notice that this footage comes from a drone I sent westwards. I check the map and see that it’s flying above a rather big stretch of forest to the south-west of the grasslands I drew a massive penis on. I mean, kidnapped a lot of ground from…
I switch the channel to a different drone, and see a nice top-down view of Tower City, the long white spire of the Tower taking up a good quarter of the screen. Another channel is an endless sea. I tap into the data feed and send the drone a command to shift its camera upward. The image on the screen blurs as the camera rotates, showing me a blue and watery horizon. I make note that the drone carrying the portal stone I sent towards the chaos continent still hasn't arrived there.
This is how Rhea finds me when she stumbles out of bed, sipping on some drink, watching television while I cast another line towards portside. I look at her and keep my face straight.
“Drew, why am I wearing white fluffy pyjamas with bunny ears?”
“Because you're supposed to wear pyjamas in bed.” I deadpan my reply.
She sighs. “Fine, but you change to that muscular form you did earlier.” She drops the garment to the floor and starts shining brightly. I pull in the fishing lines and place the rods to the side. I barely manage to change my heartcore into the shining example of masculinity that is Conan before a bunny-eared beastkin Rhea pulls me to bed. She grins with furry lips. “Let's see how sturdy this thing is.”
I close the front panels and the hatch, locking Lola outside. No need for her to get any more jealous. “I’m happy to help. But first, I need to teach you a lesson,” I say while laying her fuzzy butt across my now muscular legs. That’s the second squealing rabbit today...
“Drick, how do I look? Tell me honestly?” Green twirls around as her black dress swishes around in a circle.
“Okay Vox, now what?” The big guy ignores her entirely while addressing the redhead.
“Portal. Thanks, Ragni, and good luck with your plan to beat up Angeta! Last I saw her, she was emotionally vulnerable, Teach did some stuff to her. Might be a good time to take revenge after doing some psychological damage. Just don't fight her in a forest or near any greenery whatsoever.” Vox waves at the fabric-clad beastkin and walks off.
“Have fun, you guys!” Vox can hear an undertone in her shout but prevents himself from glancing towards the muscular beastkin that's walking next to him. Instead, he keeps on walking, heading towards the moon’s horizon.
Vox is dressed in a white suit made from smooth shining cloth, fitting for his noble heritage. Rodrick is clad in a darker suit, fine cloth stretching tightly across his bulging muscles. Green is ignored by the duo as she fusses over her black dress, it's perfect light absorbing qualities contrasting strikingly with her vibrant green skin.
“Portal, okay, but where are we going?” she asks.
“I… My parents.”
Rodrick and Green stop walking, staring at the guy with open mouths. Vox keeps walking, ignoring the gazes boring into his back. “Look, this is a very well-paid mission. Just follow my lead.”
Green and Rodrick look at each other. They simultaneously shrug and hurry after the boy.
A gardener is busily doing very little as he prods and pokes the ground with tools. Every few seconds he casts a glance toward the small copse of trees and bushes with nervous eyes. He drops his shovel as snapping noises come from the abandoned section of the garden.
The emerging meticulously dressed person making his way through the bushes does not ease his worried heart at all. He nearly has a heart attack as he spots an uncollared, massive beastkin trouncing out of the bushes, followed by a savage colour-skin from the eastern wilds in an admittedly shapely dress.
“Peace, man, is this Selis’s place?” asks the young man with red hair.
“Ooh my dungeon, yes, this is the house of the Bluesee family.”
Vox staggers back. “Tree-damned bitch… She’s a fucking Bluesee. And she was shocked I’m a Brighntin? Explains the blue hair...” he mumbles to himself while trying to regain control of his racing heart.
The old man can't quite make out his rambling, and continues talking. “Not for long though. The mister and misses are released, but they’re still destitute.”
Rodrick steps closer and sniffs the old geezer. “You don't smell bad for a human and you’ve got a ring. Why not enter before you die of old age?” His rumbling voice only confuses the old man.
“I think Selis gave him a ring because of his aura. Is that how you sense it, through smell?” Vox asks.
The duo starts chatting about their ability to cold-read people using qi as they start walking towards the wall surrounding the estate. The green skinned woman approached the old man and lays a hand on his shoulder. “Ignore those two. You should go inside, you know - kind of stupid that you didn't do so already. You don't have more than a year of life left in you. Okay, bye now! Wait up, guys!”
“Maybe it’s time to retire, yes. The misses always said I’d work myself to death. Might be my one chance to prove her wrong for once.” Doubt written across his wrinkled and dirt stained face, the man starts shuffling towards the bushes.
Vox and Rodrick land on the street, completely ignoring the startled gasps and screams as the nobles and servants react to seeing two people jump over a four-meter-high wall. Then Green faceplants behind them and it sinks in that two of the three should be slaves. Some screaming and crying later the trio is enjoying a stroll through empty streets.
“This is the human capital, hmm. A bit fancier than I expected.”
“What’s the beastkin one like?”
“More themes. Here it’s all high walls and higher estates. There every caste has their own way of building structures. A lot more colourful than all of these copied buildings.”
“They are not the same at all! That one is obviously a Romuinac influenced classical fluted design. Kind of pompous, but still fairly modest.” Vox points to a white and black mess of pillars, overhanging terraces and balconies. “That one is a modern piece, very daring. I didn't know they updated their gardens to match the octagonal style yet,” Vox elaborates, pointing to a modern looking slab of straight lines at diagonal angles and an equally diagonal garden.
“Drick, what were those words?”
“Too much gold. It goes to their heads and pushes their brains out.” Rodrick and Green nod sagely at each other in a rare moment of synchronicity.
“Tsk, my classical training is wasted on you savages. Anyway, we're here.” Vox halts their small procession in front of the largest mansion yet. Entirely white and surrounded by a garden that has equal parts white flowers, green grass and hedges.
“Nice digs,” Green says.
“I’ve seen better,” Rodrick mentions.
“Never mind, let's go in.” Vox shakes his head as he leads them towards the gate. Guards in white livery and armour start running around as they spot the odd trio approaching. Vox flips his hand and makes a small bottle appear out of nowhere. The cork pops out with a white flash, and small droplets lift themselves out of the flask. He flicks his fingers, and each guard is hit in the head by a streak of white light.
“Allow me,” says Rodrick as he kicks the elaborate white gate open with glowing leg bones. The guards fail to react as they all fall down, a small wet spot on their forehead.
“Are they dead?” asks Green while going through a guards’ pockets.
“No, asleep. And please don’t… you know what? Rob them all you want.” Vox replies as he marches past the snoring bodies. He sees several guards and servants rush away from the nearest windows as they run off. Vox speeds up, jumps, and smashes with both feet against a wall. His empowered move launches him through a hidden servants entrance amidst a shower of plaster and paint, ignoring the large majestic white door in the centre of the massive estate.
“Follow and keep up. It’s a maze in here.” Rodrick and Green are slightly startled at the sudden shift in demeanour. Vox has his game-face on. THe same one he sported when Teach forced him and the other original students through the dungeons. The two bone cultivators make their leg bones glow as they sprint after Vox.
What follows is a rapid dash through narrow corridors as they smash through hidden doors, secret tunnels, and fly through wide hallways. Rodrick barely manages to admire the intricate wooden floor of a ballroom as Green stuffs her ring full of pieces of art and ornamental gold.
Just when Rodrick and Green start reaching the limit of their bone-enhanced physical fitness, they smash into Vox who has suddenly halted. The redhead is staring at a cowering couple, a thick steel door lays to the side, its hinges smoking as a liquid dissolves the metal at a visible pace. Vox puts a stopper back in a flask with utmost care and puts it back in his ring. He then takes a deep breath and pulls Rodrick and Green to his side.
“Mom, dad, I understand why you abandoned me in the first place. I think you’re dicks, and that you’re horrible people, but I understand why. Anyway, I’m bisexual, and these are my boy- and girlfriends. We are going to run away and become happy together. Ares is doing fine, but she’s just as big a wimp as ever. Also, my teacher is a world travelling maniac who'se chaos personified but has the power to fight the Flight and even has fucked a dragon. The king is also a student of his. That should be all I guess? Not much you can do with the information, but I’d thought you should know.”
Vox then smiles the smile of an angel.
The man continues pissing himself as the woman keels over in a dead faint.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter