Chapter 98 - Ministration
“Dragon,” I say.
“Flight member,” she replies.
“You're a dragon.”
“...you are a member of the Flight.”
Rhea now narrows her eyes at me. “Are you messing with me? You said:’Flight-ish’. That isn’t a real word.”
I nod at Rhea. “Thanks. I sometimes forget that I have this translation process running.”
She looks at me weirdly, shrugs her shoulders a bit and continues to relax on deck. I am standing behind the wheel of the Ascent while my students and guests are asleep. Only Ket is awake, but he is studying in his room.
“Do you have a word for your species instead of the name of your group?”
“What is this sudden obsession with language?”
“Where did the name Flight come from?”
“Are you going to steal them all? We left all three islands in absolute chaos.”
“Why do you suddenly care?”
I stare at her again but decide to break eye contact quickly. I ignore her smirk. Instead, I sink my senses into my ring. Four skulls are hovering frozen in the void of its storage space. A black, a white, a metallic and a purple skull are glittering in a neat row. Halfway done.
Rhea is lying on a couch, staring up towards the stars. We sail for at least an hour before she breaks the silence. “Do they seem closer to you?”
“The stars?” I cast my sight upwards. A dense carpet of twinkling lights split in half by a band of denser starlight. It’s not called the milky-way, so how do you call the visible galaxy in a different world? “I guess they don’t look so far away now.”
I look down at the dragon lady chilling on the couch. How would her life have gone had I not pestered her? What if I didn’t start making massive mana waves every few days? Would she have slept through my entire existence on this planet? I have no desire to spend a thousand years here and there are no terrors in between the stars and planets keeping me down.
Light plays across her sharp cheekbones, her white lashes bouncing the starlight back at me. That light travelled for aeons only to end up in my eyes. How many years did I spend travelling through that interdimensional space just before I arrived here? Is anyone I knew back then still alive? Why did I suddenly change my modus operandi, where did this need for company come from?
A warm finger touches my face. Grey eyes stare at the wetness on her fingertips. Was I crying?
“Don’t think those things. They don’t suit you at all.”
“How would you know?”
I look upwards again. So infinitely big. A speck inside a speck inside a speck. The warm hand is back again. Why do I feel so shit all of a sudden? I ignore the processes telling me about hormone levels in my brain and just try to feel nothing for a bit.
“Stop, I told you it doesn’t suit you.” I sense her weaving a small construct of qi around the steering wheel as she takes my hands. She puts me down on the couch, and I feel another warm presence jump on top of us. Lola, Rhea and I spend the rest of the night snuggled up warmly on the couch.
“What’s the plan, Teach?” Selis looks at me with hopeful eyes.
“There is no plan.”
Water Island is weird. The Ascent is sitting at a slight angle inside a truly enormous, slow-motion maelstrom. You know those whirlpools you get in the bathtub when the last bit of water drains? We are sailing on top of one right now, it’s a few kilometres in diameter and rotating incredibly slowly. The ship is somehow not sliding down it. I even see a wide variety of other boats going nearly ninety degrees at the bottom.
Capillary Island is a steep cliff sticking up out of the centre of this twister. Do I really need this skull? This looks rather impressive. Would the structural integrity hold if the water level evens out after the formation keeping this thing in place is gone?
I grin, only one way to find out. I turn and look at my students. “First, I got one formality to handle. Ares!”
The redhead stiffens as I glare at her. “Do you accept me as your teacher?”
Before I can react, she is on her knees and has kowtowed three times. I feel the small contract forming the first time her head touches the deck, the following two times only reinforce it. I place it next to the others and link it to my student progression monitoring process. I throw her a small spatial ring similar to the others, which she receives with glittering eyes.
I felt bad about giving the two mages preferential treatment, so Danarius and my new gardener are now frozen inside Tree, next to the few old metal mages that wanted to tag along. Less messy that way. I'll unfreeze them by the time I'm ready to expand my little school.
“Great, all the official stuff is handled now. Let’s check out this island!” I dramatically point towards the large cliff sticking up out of the whirlpool.
“You mind if I go ahead?”
“Good idea Angy, I’ll come along.”
“Plant Island seems more interesting than this.”
What in the… “Let me get this straight. There is an enormous whirlpool of water with a thin island sticking out from the centre, and you want to walk across water for hundreds of kilometres because an island filled with massive plants seems more interesting?”
Angeta smiles with too many teeth. “You got it Teach.”
Tess nods. “Couldn't have said it better myself.”
“I don’t like this place.” Bord looks around uncomfortably as he admits this.
“No triangles?” I make a wild guess. He nods in return. “Okay, I understand. You can all use the miniature Tree in your rings to find your way to the real one if you get lost. Have fun!”
With that, I jump overboard and start strolling towards the centre of the maelstrom.
“I felt uncomfortable there because that thing looked like a massive cock, why did you two tag along?” Angeta looks at the two humans following her with narrowed eyes.
“Ket is acting weird lately. I just wanted some girl time.” Tess stares as Bord as her feet glide across the waves, leaving trails of dissipating darkness where she touches the surface.
“It’s not triangles, but...” Bord is now looking away from the two girls he is running alongside. Running is a stretch to describe the way Bord is moving though, jiggling like an obese bouncing ball would be a more apt description. “...that island smelled too much of fish.”
“BWAHAHAAAA-WOOW FU-” *SPLASH*
Angeta burst out laughing with such explosive power that she loses her balance and crashes into the water surface. Tess and Bord both stop, looking at the spluttering beastkin with - respectively - a frown and an embarrassed pout.
“Hehee, fuck, heeheee.” Still panting from laughing, Angeta clambers back to her feet. “Too much fish, right? Don’t you also mean fear?”
Bord looks at the waves like the secrets of the universe are hidden in them. Tess looks confused. “What's so funny?”
“Nothing important. Let’s keep going.” Angeta starts running across the waves, patting Bord on the cheek as she jogs by. “Is our Bord growing up into a big boy? I have something for you to study then.”
“What are you talking about!?” Tess nearly shouts as she too starts running over the waves again. Angeta just chuckles and speeds up, leaving the two humans to catch up.
I glare at Ares. “Why did none of you bother telling me about this? Why is this such a well-hidden secret that is obviously in plain sight?”
“You didn’t know?” Her meek voice comes out from her long red hair, hiding her face as she looks down. She mumbles under her breath, “everybody knows that water mages are the best at keeping clean. And that they are the best actors.”
“So the water mages keep the food cold and the beds warm. What is done to male water mages?”
“They barely exist. And the ones that get found do the administrative duties on Capillary Island.”
I say nothing in return and keep walking. I was wondering why this island seems to be a massive motel carved into the side of an elongated cliff. I guess I have my answer now. I walk by another well-pillowed room and ignore the smell. Not all the people working here are water mages, I figure.
“Stop being so agitated Dre-”
“TEACH, my name is Teach.” I interrupt Rhea with a glare. “And I'm not agitated!”
“Is that why all the humans here are cowering as we walk by?”
“We're covered in a stealth field. They should not...” My voice trails off as I look around. The maids, butlers, water mage courtesans and other personnel are all looking around wide-eyed as they crouch down in the corners. Maybe I am a bit agitated, yes. I have been ignoring the systems I set up to prevent these types of things too, not a good development.
“Stupid water magic is focused on fear and courage, right? I'm just giving them some fucking training.” I grumble some more while stepping past the cowering figures. The hallway has large windows and balconies looking out over the sea, why don’t they cower over there, out of my way?
“So that’s why you keep your goals vague, hmm.” Rhea looks at me with a contemplative look on her face.
“Teach, please come back to us!” Selis cries out dramatically as she pulls my sleeve.
“Yes, Dr… Teach! Please become your old useless self again. This tension is exhausting me.” I look at Ket and see that the rings under his eyes are darker than usual.
I sigh and look around. We are halfway up the massive stone tower, just above the natural sea level. The twisting mass of slow-motion froth swirling under that blue horizon looks majestic, but it fails to catch my eye.
I thought that relaxedly touring the mage islands would be fun, but I just can’t calm down now that I have set a few achievable goals. I rub my face a bit, thinking.
“Okay. Here is what we’ll do. You guys tour around a bit and then move on with the ship, I will go and visit the other islands. Go north-west once you are done here, I will catch up. Agreed?”
“Good idea Teach, Capillary Island is also known as the best place to get massages.” Vox rubs his hands as his eyes start to sparkle. Ares gets a smile on her face as she follows her brother up the stairs.
“Wait for me. I’ll come with!” Ket runs after the duo, ignoring the shocked gasps as the people around us see three people appear from thin air as my students walk through my stealth field.
“Re, you wanna go see what there is to loot? Maybe food and spell theories?” Selis looks at Re-Haan with an innocent smile on her face. A transparent fish swims through the air as it pops out of her clothes. I should check what happened to the rest of the mana experiments later.
“I have heard worse ideas, little one.” The two females walk up a set of stairs going towards the centre of the rock tower. Selis darts back and plucks Lola from my shoulder before she strolls away again.
I wipe away an imaginary tear. I can remember the day when my students were too scared to ask anything of me. That was a few weeks ago? Look at them making plans and decisions all on their own. They grow up so fast.
My mood lifted, I look out at the sea again. I start whistling a tune as I jump out of the window and start moving towards the south-west.
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