Author’s notes: This chapter came out relatively quick! Well, it is more like the last chapter came out a little late. You can most likely expect this to happen again if one chapter comes out a little later than usual. (The following chapter to be released a little quicker). Also, Volume 1 will be getting a professional edit in December which will be good! Hopefully more people will read on after chapter 1 when the grammar gets updated! ^.^
As another full chapter release. It is greatly appreciated if you can show your support to take a minute of your time to follow the link and vote for End Online at TopWebFiction.com! Votes are reset weekly so even if you have voted before, please do so again! ^.^
There is no new chapter plan on my Patreon page for this chapter. That is because this chapter and the next is included in the same plan. Therefore, it will be released with chapter 31.
I stare up at CaptainGordon’s ship, the ‘Bastion’, and struggle to find any kind words to describe the vessel. The weight of the metal hanging on the ship causes it to sit incredibly low in the water, so much so that I feel like the ship will sink at any moment. While modern day ships are made out of metal, they are all specially engineered. The metals used to construct them they are made from are special alloys as well, not simply cast iron and the like.
Despite the iron panels randomly attached to the side of the hull, I have to admit that the black cast iron railing and other architectural décor does have visual appeal. I look over at CaptainGordon, and he is looking back at the rest of us with shining eyes. He appears to be waiting for us to sing praises about his ship. A quick glance at the others reveals they have all pursed their lips in dissatisfaction.
Unsure what to say, I speak neutrally.
“It’s definitely… unique.”
CaptainGordon seems to take my comment as a positive one, and repeatedly nods his head while saying, “That it be!”
The pirate operates his menu, invisible to the rest of us, and soon enough a plank extends out from a narrow slit just below the deck. As soon as it reaches the full length, it drops on an invisible hinge and creates a bridge from deck to shore.
The captain steps up on it first, walking toward the ship. We all hastily follow suit and walk up the plank.
Once on the deck of the ship, I can see the layout and the decorative cast iron clearly. The deck is separated into three different sections: the main deck which takes up most of the ship, a small raised quarterdeck at the bow of the ship which would be used to lookout over the ocean, and the helm at the stern, sitting on a platform raised over the other two levels in order to provide a good vantage of the ship’s course. I can vaguely see the polished mahogany wheel, but another cast iron railing is in the way.
Below the stern are two symmetrical doors leading to the ship’s internals. Like the metalwork adorning the rest of the ship, the door frames and doors are also made out of cast iron, with intricate patterns and artwork carved into them. I feel an urge to see what is behind those doors, but restrain myself.
CaptainGordon is busy running around the deck, lifting up the anchor before pulling on various ropes and pulleys to operate the sails. One sail suddenly drops and fully opens and the vessel begins to move through the water. Once the second sail is unfurled, the speed increases. By now, the pirate is at the helm, steering the ship through the water.
‘What a slow ship!’ I think, stunned and incredulous.
All of the comments I’ve heard about this pirate suddenly make sense. His infamy stems from both personal quirkiness and the ineffectiveness of this ship.
I walk up to the captain and voice my concerns. “CaptainGordon, how long do you think it will take to reach the island?”
“Aye, I can’t be too sure. Don’t know how far the distance be.”
“Uh huh. Also, why is it that not a single person from the docks would take us south yet you are more than happy to?” I have a suspicion that there may be more at work than meets the eye. This guy is technically a pirate after all.
“Ye searched for a capt’n down at the docks? Ye be searchin’ in the wrong location. There be nothin’ but merchants there; cowards who never set sail beyond the coast.”
“But you’re different?”
“Ships be meant for battle. That be why I took the life of a pirate. The merchants fear the sea monsters, but not I.”
“I think I get it now. There are two types of sailors; merchants and pirates?”
“Aye, that be correct. Merchants be those who make money by carryin’ cargo and tradin’. Pirates be those who raid those merchants, or sometimes act as mercenary guards. It all be involvin’ gold though!”
“Are there any other types of sailors?”
“There be a few odd ones. People who like to fish, or dive in the deep ocean. They be rare, though.”
Looking around the deck of the ship which only contains our party and Mikhail’s, I can’t help but let curiosity get the better of me, “CaptainGordon, why is it that you don’t have any crew?”
“Hmph, what do you think I be doin’ in that town?” He replies stubbornly.
I can tell that the lack of crew is a touchy subject for CaptainGordon and stop pestering him, letting him focus on navigating the vessel through the river.
The waterway is wide enough to fit three decent-sized vessels side by side. The banks of the river are lined with rows of trees, preventing any of us from seeing further than fifty meters to either side.
On our way out, a ship twice the size of the ‘Bastion’ is swiftly sailing back to the wide section of the river to return to the other pirates. I note several holes on the side of the hull, a broken railing around the deck and a splintered mast. Despite all the damage, the crew on the deck are shouting loudly in celebration and drinking alcohol with abandon.
We finally reach the ocean by mid afternoon, and all the players are already lying in the shadows of the sails panting from the hot weather. I find myself joining them as my cloak seems to be getting less effective as the day gets hotter.
Looking through the gaps in the handrails, I see a medium-sized vessel not much larger than this one. From the lack of a black pirate sail, I can assume that it is most likely a merchant ship. They continue on their way without paying us any attention and we do likewise.
By the time the sun sets, the main continent gradually begins to vanish on the horizon. CaptainGordon enters one of the two doors leading to the bow of the ship, returning a few minutes later with a large quantity of mechanical lanterns on large hooks.
Mason, Matrix, and I help him hang the lanterns around the ship; we hang them off the railings, hanging ropes, masts, and anywhere else needed to provide enough light to see by. As we set each lantern, we light it by turning a copper valve and pressing a button to spark the gas.
The pirate then moves up to the small deck on the front of the ship and slides open a wooden trapdoor which I never even noticed was there. A cast iron crank swings up on a well oiled hinge, making not the slightest squeak. Furiously turning the crank, which is absolutely not silent, a strange cone-shaped contraption slowly starts to rise up from beneath the floor.
The entirety of both parties walk up to the captain out of curiosity. We end up crowding the front quarterdeck, causing CaptainGordon to shout at us in irritation. Before leaving, however, we each get a good view of the device.
The creation is rather simply designed. It consists of a copper pipe running to a gas outlet, fitting at the narrow section of a cone-shaped piece of highly polished steel. On the gas outlet I notice some kind of strange muzzle, vaguely similar to the flash suppressor on a modern-day gun, only more extravagant.
Lighting it with a similar method to the lanterns, a bright yellow flame soon gives birth inside the cone which acts as a mirror to focus the light from the flame forward and into the ocean. The concept is the same as the old lighthouses, just on a smaller scale.
He then turns a second crank several times before releasing it. At first it appears to have done nothing, but then the sound of gears grinding can vaguely be heard below the deck. The spot light gradually begins to turn left, before turning back to the right. The light moves across the water, clearly operating on some form of spring loaded system.
“CaptainGordon, is that…?” Unable to hold back my curiosity, I pry for more information.
“Aye, my own creation.”
“Wait, what? You created this?!”
“That I did.”
“But how?! And how could…?”
“Metal craft,” He starts avoiding eye contact, seemingly nervous about something.
I am too enthralled by the spotlight to notice his disposition. “Surely there must be more than that. And what about the source of the gas?”
Suddenly the boat rocks violently and all the flames in the lanterns flicker dangerously. We all lose our footing and fall down onto the deck as well.
“W-what?!” I cry in confusion.
Everyone else is clamoring and trying to stand back up. I am not the only one looking back and forth, trying to find the cause of the collision.
“It be a sea monster!” CaptainGordon shouts for everyone to hear.
I look over the railing at the ocean with Fen next to me. The night is pitch black, but the lanterns we lit allow me to see the water within a few meters of the boat.
There are small waves lapping against the edge of the ship, but the vessel doesn’t budge an inch. A vague shadow passes under the surface, followed by several smaller shadows enlarging from pinpoint centers.
The surface of the ocean explodes as a dozen long, slithering tentacles erupt upward. They reach a height of fifteen meters, and are about two meters thick at the water line. The undersides of the tentacles are covered with dark purple suction cups. In the lanterns’ flickering lights, each tentacle appears doubly menacing.
The captain shouts out. “Everyone! We need to fight the tentacles off until none be left! Each one be an individual enemy with its own health! Lockon, SomaHealer, Fen, we be the weakest in defense, so we go below deck an’ man the cannons.”
Mikhail the Stalwart nods toward his two party members, Lockon and SomaHealer, to follow the pirate’s orders and operate the ship’s cannons. Fen looks at CaptainGordon disdainfully for a moment before grasping my arm and ignoring him.
I don’t dislike her grabbing on to me and refusing to leave my side, but I do worry that one day it may lead to her being in danger. At least I don’t feel like this situation is life threatening.
“CaptainGordon, Fen will be best off staying up here with me. She is not defenseless, and I will protect her.”
“Okay, you know ‘er best. It be your judgement.” He looks curiously at Fen, but doesn’t pry further.
“I will, err, answer yer question after,” the captain says before rushing off to one of the doors leading below deck with the two players from Mikhail’s party.
Fen and I move back to the main deck just as several tentacles begin to attack. Three of them slam down toward the players on the deck. They don’t move fast but they hit with the weight of a mountain.
Sir Laurence protects Verde, raising his shield up and using a sacred art that creates a box of shield sigils around them. The tentacle hits the shield and multiple fractures spread from the centre of impact, but it holds and they remain safe.
Everyone else moves to dodge the other two tentacles which hit the ship and break several sections of the deck. Mikhail is the most skillful, dodging with minimal movement and instantly launching a counter attack, a golden aura emanates from his sword as he conducts a five-strike sacred art. A health bar appears next to that tentacle, with about ten percent of its health removed. His party members don’t fight with any synergy, frantically attacking any tentacle within their reach.
Fen and I aren’t targeted by the first attack, so we are able to immediately launch an attack. Our party has worked together for long enough that no words are needed in times like this. We all make eye contact, then focus on the tentacle which attacked the prince and Verde.
Sir Laurence’s shield dissipates into fading lights and he slashes the tentacle from a defensive posture. His attack does minimal damage that can barely be measured on the health bar that appears. Verde attacks with a strange sacred art which consists of a single stab, but the damage she does is comparable to a single scratch. Verde’s speciality lies in attacks which hamstring, disable, or otherwise produce negative statuses on her target. These tentacles are a big problem for her.
“Verde, could you go down below deck and help with the cannons?” I ask after flashing by and slashing the tentacle, my speed allowing me to cut through its defense and doing damage similar to Mikhail’s sacred art.
“Yes, do you know the way?” She understands my concern and agrees immediately.
“Only that it is the door on the right. There should be a staircase down or something.”
She nods her head and retreats from the deck. The tentacle our party is attacking lifts up and away from the deck, retreating out of the range of our melee attacks. Fen and Mason take this opportunity to demonstrate their value by turning the tentacle into a pincushion of arrows and ice spears.
The tentacle quickly reaches fifty percent health, but two of the previously inactive tentacles join the fray. Suddenly, a massive explosion sounds from below that causes me to jump in fright. Sir Laurence chuckles lightly at me.
One of the tentacles buckles and nearly falls back into the window as a cannon ball hits it in the center of its flesh. It rises back up, frantically waving back and forth, with only sixty percent health remaining.
‘Forty percent of it’s health taken off by a single cannonball!’ I think, shocked at how formidable this vessel’s cannons are.
Multiple explosions take place as more cannonballs find their targets, and one of the tentacles is killed and falls back beneath the surface of the water. The new assault seems to cause all the tentacles to enter a berserker state. The eleven remaining tentacles writhe ferociously and lash at us and the ship with a whip-like, frenzied attack.
We no longer have the option of attacking, so we focus our attention on evading and defending. Fen and I get off the easiest as our speed completely outclasses the speed of the attacks but still are buffeted by the shockwaves and splintered wood flying everywhere. Sir Laurence dodges one and then raises his shield and deploys his sacred art to defend against another two. The shield barrier barely withstands the collision of the first tentacle, and the second shatters it and flattens Prince Charming onto the deck.
The damage is quite severe, taking off a third of his health and inflicting him with a sinister poison status, but I struggle not to laugh at the pitiful sight of him going face first into the deck. I will always remember the moment when the most prideful person I know fell flat on his face.
Mikhail the Stalwart’s group is having a harder time of it with one of the members dying. Moonkite is at low health, struggling to consume an antidote to remove the tentacles’ poison before death claims her. I know how the player’s body becomes weary and eventually unable to move the lower that player’s health falls. Seeing Moonkite successfully consume the antidote at five percent health remaining, I can only sigh in admiration at how much willpower it must have taken.
Pulling Fen close to me with one arm around her waist, I take a defensive position next to Sir Laurence with Mason and Matrix joining. The ship’s deck is in tatters with holes everywhere the eye looks, leaving me a little worried about the floor collapsing. One of the cast iron railings is also warped and bent inwards from the tentacles pushing in on it as it attacks.
Sir Laurence summons his sacred art to shield us while Fen follows my commands and erects a multi-layer ice barrier to cover and reinforce the prince’s shield. The ice shields block off all light from the outside lanterns, but Sir Laurence’s sacred art emanates a soft light that prevents our surroundings from becoming pitch black. We all take out our healing items and restore as much health as we can in the short time frame we have.
I bring out a few ‘Orange Medicinal Herbs’, consuming half immediately to begin my health regeneration. According to some off-the-cuff calculations, my class skill will enhance the effects of the herbs enough that I should recover up to about eighty percent health. I try to disentangle from Fen to feed her the rest, but her hand grabs my wrist to stop me.
‘I haven’t had to do this in a long time. Ugh, it is so embarrassing! Who made the game require the person with the skill to feed the other in order for the effects to work?’
I pull Fen closer against me and tighten my hold with the arm she has entrapped. She yelps in surprise at my actions, which I use as an opportunity to shove herbs into her open mouth and close her jaw with my now free hand on her chin.
She grins slyly at my forcefulness and happily swallows the herbs. It isn’t that I’m surprised by her behavior, but I’m still irritated by it in the heat of the moment.
The others in the shield formation look everywhere but at us. The only exception is Mason, who is staring inquisitively with a single raised eyebrow.
‘Stop staring! This is embarrassing enough that it happened. I don’t need you judging me too!’My shame magnifies while I imagine Mason slyly whispering about this to the other team members.
“Oh, will you look at that. My class skill just levelled up to 26,” I say in an obvious attempt to change the subject but Mason’s expression doesn’t even twitch.
A violent tremor assaults us and I hear several layers of our ice shield shatter. Bare moments pass before another quake strikes and the remaining ice shields are crushed to dust. The tentacle hits the floating sigil barrier with it’s remaining force, but not hard enough to do any damage.
The ship vibrates beneath my feet and the sound of cannon fire booms again. Most of the tentacles are already at low health and immediately die from the assault, while the remaining few reel back from the attack.
“Sir Laurence, drop the shield now!” I shout, and as soon as the protective sacred art dissipates into fading stars of light, I launch two ‘Dire Flame’ fireballs, one at each tentacle.
Just like with the cannon balls or any other attacks, the tentacles do not make any attempt to dodge the attacks since they are blind. The whistling wind brushes past my ears as the fireballs find their targets and explode with frightening ferocity. Crimson flames attach to the tentacles like glue and slowly drain their already depleted health. Based on the current rate of damage, both tentacles should die in a few minutes.
The tentacles wriggle and squirm under the blaze and even fall back under the water to extinguish the flames. Unfortunately for them, suffocating the flames in water will make no difference. The tentacles soon emerge from the water with the flames still blazing as strongly as before.
The enemy attacks with its dying breath; one final, desperate attempt to crush us along with the boat. Mason shoots the tentacles with a wide area blast of wind, drastically slowing them down and allowing Sir Laurence to successfully block them. This is truly their final attack, as my dire flames finally drain the remainder of their health and they sink back into the ocean.
I turn around and see Mikhail the Stalwart, Moonkite, and JohnSmite finish off the final enemy, the guild leader dealing the final strike which actually severs then tentacle in two. A seven meter section of tentacle falls down and flops onto the deck of the ship.
CaptainGordon emerges from the bowels of the vessel with the other three and a huge grin on his face, “Now that be a battle! Ye guys be better than the last weak-kneed bunch I recruited! Only one of ye died too! Wish I could o’ been ‘ere to see the action!”
The captain pulls out a rope and excitedly starts hoisting the severed tentacle out of everyone’s way while maneuvering around the holes in the deck. He then recruits Mikhail’s help in dissecting the tentacle into smaller, more manageable pieces. I take this opportunity to approach the pirate.
“CaptainGordon,” I ask as I help carry the tentacle segments down into the food cargo hold below deck, “would you mind continuing on with the answer to the earlier question? I cannot seem to get it off my mind.”
We descend along a wooden staircase that creaks with every step. There is no safety rail, so I have to be extra careful not to fall off as the ship rides the ocean swells. The interior of the ship has a lot of the black cast iron as well, with nearly every single major structural support or beam being made out of the iron. There are numerous doors leading off into the unknown, but I do not have the time to investigate them all.
“Ah, that.” He suddenly seems nervous, almost unsure as to whether he wants to say it or not, and that only makes me want to know more. “It be a class skill.”
“A class skill?”
“Yeah, to be precise. It be called ‘Class Skill: Combustion Engineer’. Strangely, it require an item to be gotten for this ‘ere class skill. Follow me down further ‘nd you get it. Also, nobody else can be knowin’ ’bout this ‘ere, so don’t go blabbin’.”
I follow the captain down to the end of the corridor and descend a second staircase very similar to the first. I feel that we have now entered the true heart of the vessel. There are only three rooms down here, and CaptainGordon takes the right hand one seemingly at random.
Inside the room are innumerable copper pipes extending from a single furnace and into the walls and ceiling. The vessel ‘Bastion’ is clearly hosting countless mysteries and secrets.
The pirate opens the grate to the furnace and black, billowing smoke comes pouring out like an overflowing cauldron. Inside the near-darkness, I see a black lump in the center of the cauldron, but cannot make out what it is.
“This ‘ere be the item I mentioned. A fist-sized god stone of combustanite. It be excreting an endless supply o’ flammable gas. I harness this ‘ere with me class skill to make these items. I still be an engineer, after all!”
I spend a few moments staring at the vague rock in the center of the furnace before finally moving on. The class skill seems to align with everything the captain has said, so I have no desire to doubt him, but I still get the impression that there is a vital piece of information I am missing. I briefly consider pushing for more information, but decide it isn’t worth upsetting our host and soon forget about it as we continue on with our voyage atop the ocean waves.
Our food for the next three days, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, is roast squid. It tastes good at first, but everyone quickly tires of eating it constantly. CaptainGordon is the only one that seems to have no aversion to the same single-ingredient dish every meal.
The captain brings up a large amount of wood from below deck and starts to work on replacing the flooring of the deck. There is no shortage of damage to other sections of the vessel, but CaptainGordon is the only one with the game skills to repair any of it. He starts whistling an incredibly irritating tune while working that makes everyone apart from Fen frown. At first I think she is impervious to it, but then I see the small ear plugs, made of ice, in her ears.
Three days gradually turn into a week, or two and a half days in real life, before we finally encounter our second sea monster. By this time, the ship is already half repaired, but won’t be able to take the same beating again.
Two hundred meters in front of the ‘Bastion’, a large shadow appears under the surface. It gets closer and larger every second, filling me with deep dread.
“It be a big one this time!!” CaptainGordon shouts out in a thunderous voice. “Verde, Lockon, SomaHealer, do ye three recall what I showed ye last time?”
“Of course,” SomaHealer is the first to reply. “Is it time for that?”
“It be time!”
Verde turns to the rest of our party and nervously nods her head, “I don’t really understand this very well, but I will help the others.”
The three of them rush below deck at top speed. This time, CaptainGordon doesn’t follow them down. Instead, he stands at the helm while whistling that appalling tune.
I don’t really understand what is going on, but I stand at the bow of the ship and wait for the sea monster to emerge from the water. From somewhere below the deck, the grinding of gears sounds and the entire vessel vibrates gently. I also hear the scraping of metal and lean over the railing to investigate the noise.
A large iron plate around the bow of the ship is sliding down, creating small sparks against another iron plate from the friction. A large cavity is suddenly revealed in the front of the ship. The movement of heavy wheels echoes from within the cavity, and a strange cannon emerges.
The cannon has three large barrels in the shape of a triangle, similar to the artwork on the pirate flag above us. The barrels are extra long compared to a standard cannon, but I can’t see the rest of the weapon to figure out exactly how it works. I assume it fires three cannonballs at once.
I can also now hear the sound of ropes tightening and clips clicking into place. Just as I am wondering what comes next, the sound of gunpowder lighting and the first cannonball being fired cracks the air and makes my ears ring.
The first cannonball falls short and off to the right, an explosion of water indicating where it hits.
“LEFT FOUR! ASCEND TWO! KEEP FIRING!!” The captain screams so loud his voice starts to crack. I sarcastically wonder whether I should be more concerned of hearing the cannon or his voice.
The barrels on the tri-cannon start rotating at a measured pace, neither slowly nor quickly. Each time one of the barrels reaches the apex of its rotation, a single cannonball is fired with a slight vibration through the boat and the sounds of ropes tensing under the counterforce. The speed is about one cannonball every one and a half seconds.
The eruptions of water gradually get closer to the shadow under the water, until one finally hits it. A small health bar in the distance shows up, a small section already removed.
“THAT BE IT!! HOLD STEADY! DESCEND ONE EVERY THREE!” The second order sounds out, full of joy.
The cannonballs start to track the shadow as it gets closer, only a few missing the target by a fraction to either side. When the shadow is fifty meters away and down to half health, it emerges from the water.
The sea monster is a giant, whiskered fish twice the size of the ‘Bastion’. It’s a deep red color and has three vicious sets of teeth extending out from its mouth. The cannonballs have a much easier time hitting the target above the water, not a single one missing. Perhaps it is due to the water not diminishing the strength behind each hit, but the cannonballs do twice the damage to the sea monster now that it has emerged.
The sea monster reaches within twenty meters of the ship, it’s size looming over us in an incredibly menacing way, when it finally runs out of health from the assault of the ship’s cannon. Its teeth suddenly crumble away and its movement stops. The fish creates a large ripple effect with four meter waves in its death throes before silently bobbing up and down in the water.
‘Too frightening! That cannon must be breaking the rules!’ I feel that this tri-cannon would be an utter disaster against other ships, given the chance they fight head on.
“IT BE DONE!! HOLD YER FIRE!!” CaptainGordon jumps down from the helm onto the main deck with booming laughter that doesn’t match his scrawny build.
I am still standing in position to attack the sea monster at any moment, with Fen right by my side. A small part of me disbelieves that the battle is that simple, considering how difficult the last one was.
“Surely that can’t be it?!” I cry out as the ship approaches the dead sea king, ignoring the oncoming waves like they are nothing.
“Har Har! That be it!” CaptainGordon shouts back at me. “It be foolish enough to fight head on. This be the result! People usually be runnin’ when they see me, so I finally got to use it!”
“What, so you’ve never actually used that thing?!” Lockon shouts out in disbelief as he emerges from the ship’s bowels.
“Never got me chance.”
A small argument follows between Lockon and CaptainGordon, but I don’t bother to pay attention to it. I instead move a little closer to Mikhail the Stalwart, curious to hear what he is mumbling about as his voice tickles my ears.
“This is ridiculous. Since when did this game have cannons and inventions like that? Sir, are you listening out there?… I know… one of you out there must be monitoring… Go get Henry… speak with him…”
I find it hard to hide the shock and surprise on my face. His words make it sound like he isn’t here to play the game. Suspicious. Mikhail the Stalwart must have noticed me inching closer, as he glances at me and starts to wander off. As a result, I can only make out some of what he says before he is too far away to hear anything.
I am all the more curious about what he is discussing, but moving closer again would no longer be passed off as coincidental, making it blatantly obvious that I am eavesdropping.
“Can you hear what he is saying, Fen?” I ask the wolf girl who is currently staring off at the horizon on the ocean.
She looks toward Mikhail with a look of concentration. “No… I can’t…”
“That is fine. It was worth asking,” I lean back against the cast iron hand rail, finding a comfortable spot on one of the warped sections.
Tilting my head back, I look up at the vast sky to let my mind clear and relieve the tension that anticipating another boss fight caused. A few grey clouds are spoiling the morning sky, drifting about in no particular pattern. My thoughts shift toward earning money. Due to studies and exams, my bank account has started to dwindle and only has enough funds to last me another four or five months. That is still plenty of time, but I am not a person to leave something so important to the last minute.
I think about my two little sisters, and wonder how they are doing at my aunt’s place. My biggest concern is my aunt and how she thinks. I know she cares deeply for her nieces, but she has always been one to sacrifice anything that would raise the family standing in the social ladder. She is a prideful person who cannot find happiness when there are people higher than her. If only she could stop looking up for a moment, and have a look at her surroundings.
A sigh escapes my lips, and Fen leans into me. My armor stops me from feeling anything other than her weight, but a few strands of hair from the back of her head tickle my throat.
The rest of the day is peaceful, Mason and Matrix doing some sparring on the main deck while the rest of us line the stern and quarter deck at the front of the ship, treating it as entertainment. Both our party and Mikhail’s party wager small amounts of gold between us against who will be the victor of each bout. Considering both the contestants are from our party, we know them much better and end up earning a total of fifty gold coins off the other party by the afternoon.
A low rumbling descends from the sky and the weather begins to look grim. The dark clouds thicken and cover the evening sun. The ocean begins to swirl, and the waves increase in size as the breeze transforms into a howling gale.
My hair begins to blow back and forth, tugging at my head. Everyone without a helmet has the same problem, especially the girls as their hair completely blocks off their sight. Fen turns her head away from the wind to try and protect herself and I help brush her hair back and out of her face. I glance toward where the clouds are thickest and see the first sliver of lightning erupt from the sky and come crashing down into the ocean. Thin electric-blue tendrils race through the water from the point of impact.
‘Wait, isn’t this boat made of mostly metal?!’
“This not be good!” CaptainGordon shouts out over the storm. “Ye all better brace for impact!”
“CaptainGordon, isn’t this boat full of metal?!” Lockon cries out in horror after seeing the lightning.
“That it be! Hopefully she will make it through!”
“Ships cost a lot of money. How can you be so reckless?!”
“I smelted, sawed, and crafted this ‘ere beauty me self. Didn’t cost a copper! Ships be meant for this! I can always make it anew again regardless, har har har!”
“We will die!”
“Ye also be meant for battle! There always be another chance.”
“I can’t fight lightning! And this ship is practically begging to be struck!”
Turning away from Lockon’s frantic cries, I look back into the storm. The lightning bolts are steadily getting closer to the ship and I can feel the hairs rising on the back of my neck. Given the circumstances, I begin to worry about Fen.
“Fen,” I whisper to the girl cuddling up close to me to hide from the weather, “can you please log off for a while?”
“What do you mean?”
I open up to my menu, and see that the log off button is dimmed out. I try press it a few times frantically in a panic, remembering the time Fen prevented me from logging out of the V-Link and returning to reality. Sir Laurence sees my strange actions and walks over to me.
“You can’t log out yet. Being in a storm is the same as being in combat. Don’t forget that the ship must also be stationary.”
“Ah, of course,” I feel a little silly for worrying about it.
I did know that the boat had to be stationary to log out, but as it is so slow I had forgotten that it was moving. Sir Laurence nods his head toward me once, before moving on and standing next to Verde, coincidentally placing his large body in between Verde and the wind. She looks at him with a slight admiration and surprise, not disapproving in the slightest as he refers to her as “my lady” again as usual.
A bolt of lightning finally strikes the mast with a crackling sound as it passes down and into the ship. The effect creates a small shockwave from the mast, catching me unaware and blowing me backward. I am not the only one hit by it. Fen is flung back with me, as is SomaHealer and Moonkite. We are all thrown back far enough that we tumble over the railing and down into the dim, stormy sea.
A rush of cold assaults me as I break the surface of the water, plummeting several meters into the ocean. Fen is still here with me, desperately clinging onto me as if her life depends on it. Perhaps it does. I catch a glimpse of her hair floating about in the water, giving her a doll-like appearance, before attempting to propel us both back up to the surface.
The lightning shockwave only did minimal direct damage, but a paralysis icon appears in the corner of my vision along with a numbness in my left leg. As I try to swim up, I find that only one of my legs is useful.
With the wolf girl frantically gripping my neck, I have both hands free to paddle upward and ascend to the surface.
My head emerges from the water as I hear CaptainGordon shouting from atop the ship, “Lower the rope! We can’t let ’em drown out there!”
Three ropes fall down the from the railing of the ship on the side that I am on. Thankfully the ‘Bastion’ truly does move very slowly, and is still quite close. After swimming thirty meters with Fen clinging to me in pure terror, I reach the ropes hanging down from the ship.
I grab onto one and signal Fen to grab onto another. She adamantly refuses and grabs onto me instead.
“Pull us up!” I resignedly shout to the people above.
The rope tugs at my hand and slowly raises us out of the water. Once we are back on the deck, I can’t stop shivering from a chill that seeps down to my bones. This isn’t a result of the rain, but rather from falling into the ocean. A notification appears in front of me that causes me to curse.
You have caught a severe cold from falling into the ocean. All stats are reduced by 40% for the next three days. If you fall into the ocean again, the penalty will become 60%. A third time will be fatal.
Next to me Fen doesn’t appear to be in any better condition, her whole body quivering. A ‘Sick’ status icon joins the end of my buffs in the corner of my vision, and as a part of being my companion, I can see Fen has one too.
SomaHealer and Moonkite stand up on the other side of the ship, their knees buckling and struggling to move at all. They unequip their armor and replace it with casual clothes all of a sudden and start to move more freely. I conclude that the stat penalty must have brought their stats below the minimum requirements for their armor. If I was wearing heavy armor, I would most likely be forced to do the same.
I turn to Fen to help her up, but am held back by a startling sight. Fen’s body emits a blinding icy white light that causes me to turn my eyes away. I feel the boat listing hard to one side and my heart clenches at the thought of capsizing.
As the light fades from my eyes, I make out a few strands of red floating down in the air and a large white object. The strands of red are fabric; what used to be Fen’s dress to be precise. The great white body is Fen, reverted back to her wolf form.