298. Ocean Travel
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The ocean wasn’t the destination; it was only the means to reach the other side. Initially Dallion felt some slight regret—he wanted to go on an exciting sea voyage, something this world hadn’t offered so far. After spending half a day zipping through the water on a firebird propelled vessel, he changed his mind.

Seasickness, as it turned out, was alleviated by the reaction attribute—the one that he had neglected for some time. The worst thing was that he didn’t even see how he could catch up. Even if he spent all his points on it from now on, it would take at least five levels, ten to be certain, for him to become adequate. The only solution, according to Nil, was to do the thing that Dallion had been warned against—go achievement hunting. For that, though, he needed more information. Despite its vast selection, the ring library didn’t have what he was looking for.

“Sure you don’t want a bite?” Ezra asked.

Dallion waved his hand in an attempt to keep what little was left in his stomach from exploding outside. He could tell that the question was deliberate. Over half a dozen people had taken turns offering him food since he had returned to the pier. Also, he could see the amusement blossom within them each time they spoke.

“Suit yourself.” Ezra shrugged with a smile, then went back to the section of the docks where the group had made their campfire.

Eyes closed, Dallion took a deep breath. The ocean air seemed to have a slightly calming effect. At present, this was the only thing that helped. Even reciting the names of Moons did nothing to calm seasickness. Either there were some things beyond their power, or they just had a wicked sense of humor.

Unfortunately, seasickness wasn’t the only concern. The series of test boosts had shown that the sea was a horrifying place. Among the calm waters were patches of decay in which a new type of cracklings had formed. Nox had felt them, of course, but that hadn’t prepared Dallion for the sight of monstrous piranha squids attempting to devour the ship whole.

In his mind, Dallion knew that the size was nothing but the result of hundreds—or more—of smaller cracklings merging together. However, seeing it made him think of something that came out of the Cthulhu mythos. Agnii, in contrast, had kept her full composure, summoned a crossbow, then fired everything at the crackling squid while Lux pushed the ship on to another spot.

Morning came and went. By the time Dallion woke up, it was already noon. There was no shouting, no yelling. The only thing Dallion saw upon opening his eyes was Vend.

“Time to go,” the elite said.

“Yeah.” Dallion yawned and stretched. “Been waiting on me long?”

“Not exactly. The advantage of splitting.” Vend offered a hand. “Come on. Everyone’s waiting.”

There was alarm in his voice. Possibly Vend was also afraid of the ocean trip, or maybe just from the unknown that they would find on the other shore.

“Where’s Eury?” Dallion asked as he stood up. He had slept for over ten hours by the looks of it, and despite that, his head felt as heavy as lead.

“Getting a quick course in ships. It’ll be her job to get this coffin to the other side of the ocean.”

The description sounded ominous. There were a lot better ways to describe the ship, even if according to the plan, everyone except Eury were supposed to remain below deck until the end of the trip.

Never knew Vend had a dark sense of humor, Dallion thought.

Usually, he doesn’t, Nil said. Must be the pressure of the expedition. Frequent expeditions have a bad effect on people.

I thought people get used to reality shifts.

That is true… to an extent, Nil said. While people get used to it, that still isn’t good for most. Why do you think we have the job limits? Someone like Vend is supposed to know that, but he couldn’t help himself. Working for the guild, doing tasks for March, for the nobles, for others…

The conversation shift wasn’t particularly subtle, making Dallion uncertain if Nil was talking to him or giving more information about Vend than he should. Something was definitely going on. Either that, or Dallion was still suffering the effects of seasickness.

Dallion yawned again, then followed Vend onto the ship. March was already there, as was Eury at the ship’s wheel. Given the speed at which the boat was about to go, using the wheel wasn’t recommended. Dallion suspected that wasn’t the point, though. The wheel was the only point that provided a perfect view of the entire sea and relatively good stability.

“I think I should be fine,” the gorgon said. “Will be a bumpy ride.”

“The main point is to never stop,” March said. Making note of Dallion, she paused, then made a sign for him to approach. Vend did so as well, but a second sign indicated he wasn’t to join. “Feeling in shape?”

“Yep.” Dallion said, looking at the horizon in the hopes that would make him seem more knowledgeable about sea matters.

“Let’s hope so. The point is to cross the sea fast. The less we stay on water, the greater the chance of success.”

“Got you.” Dallion nodded. “I’ve seen what the crackling patches can do to it.”

“No, you haven’t.”

The captain’s tone was such that even half of Eury’s snakes moved March’s direction.

“What you saw were the small ones,” March continued. “We’ve done a lot to try to clean the sea of nasties. All that we managed was to push them further in. I spent two expeditions trying to cross. The creatures hid beneath the surface until I failed past. A few days in, there aren’t just patches of cracklings. The patches are spots that have clean water.”

Dallion swallowed. That explained why no one had come from the other side of the ocean. Potentially, it also explained why March was so interested in the minotaurs—she was hoping that some of them sailed through.

“There’s no point in cleaning the entire ocean just to get a glimpse of what is out there. I expect that the next temple will be somewhere on the coast. We’ll take it, then start cleaning the other side. With both sides of the ocean clear, we’ll know better how things stand.”

The plan was reckless even for Dallion; it was also largely a lie. If everyone was to be believed, March had her eye on Dallion ever since he had joined the guild, which meant there was no way she could rely on a firebird-propelled ship. The party would have had to sail and fight their way across—slowly and methodically advancing, as was the way. The sudden rush suggested that there was something more to it.

“When you say ocean, how big are we talking about exactly?” Dallion asked. “The distance between the second and third temple?”

“More likely ten times that. The first time we tried to get to the other side, we thought like you. As it turned out, we were mistaken. We didn’t even see the shores in the distance.”

That suggested that the realm was curved. Quite unexpected, to be honest, since there was no reason for that. A flat plane would have been much easier to create and much more practical… unless the creators wanted to be as close as possible to the real world. Or better yet, maybe that was one of the Moons’ rules.

Dallion regretted not paying more attention in math class, or he could have potentially calculated the size of the ocean or at least come up with an estimate. In turn, that would have let him know how much travel time it would take Lux to push them across.

“You’ll sit there.” March pointed at a rather uncomfortable block of wood nailed securely to the deck. “Eury will tell you where to go and you’ll tell the firebird.”

“Will that be safe?”

Being one of two people on deck while Lux was pushing didn’t seem like the best idea. During the practice course, Dallion had nearly fallen off several times, and that was at much lesser speeds. In order for this to work, he was going to have a long talk with Lux about gradual acceleration. Given the situation, though, that didn’t seem like a valid option.

“That’s why you’ll be tied to the deck,” March said without batting an eye. “Euryale has enough strength to hold on to the wheel.”

This was going too far. If Dallion didn’t know better, he’d think he was in some kind of comedic parallel dimension.

Music, Dallion thought, and looked at the waters outside the boat. There didn’t seem to be anything particular—no beacons of emotions, no creatures, just water.

“Sorry about this, Dal, but it’s the fastest way.”

Nothing to worry about, Nil said. She’s just a bit eager. This is a big day for her as well. Now that you’ve made it possible, she wants to achieve more than her original plan. Possibly even go as far as clear, the fourth temple, possibly the fifth.

Wasn’t that the plan all along?

Dear boy, the promise March gave was to reach the other side of the ocean. The entire expedition was supposed to be about cleaning a path, or more if possible.

I accelerated the timetable, Dallion thought.

That you did. And March is not the sort of person who’d settle for the minimum. Show her the impossible, and already she starts thinking how to use it on a constant basis. When you set off this morning, her goal was to defeat the fifth guardian by the end of the festival. Thanks to what you’ve given her, she wants to do it on this expedition. If possible, of course.

So, I’m the victim of my own success…

In a way. Dealing with the vine-whale made her rethink her plans. Getting the guardian to reveal the creature was already good, but seeing Lux move the minion to the starting temple gave her an idea—something crazy enough to work.

In that case… Dallion smiled. If she wants reckless, I’ll give her reckless.

“Alright.” Dallion made his way to the block of wood and sat down. “I’m ready.”

March nodded.

“I’m counting on you.” She gave Dallion and Eury a final glance, then went below deck.

Soon after, Dallion was all set. As it turned out, the point never was for him to sit on the block of wood. Rather he was to the floor, and the heavy rope was more like a safety belt, allowing him to stand up whenever he chose; it was much better than being tied to the mast, as he had imagined he would be.

“All set,” Vend said from the door to the lower decks. “It’s all you, now.”

The door slammed shut. Dallion could hear that it was also barred as well.

“Nervous?” Euryale asked once only the two of them remained above deck.

“Me? Nah. We’re only sitting on a firebird powered wooden coffin. And let’s not forget we have no idea what’s on the other side.”

There’s no chance the rest of the world has sunk to the bottom of the ocean, right? Dallion asked.

Not with the sword intact, Nil replied.

Right, right. “Ready?” he asked the gorgon.

“Do you really want me to answer that with everyone listening?” Euryale looked in his direction. Her expression made it clear that she was about to say something best kept private.

“Maybe later.”

“I’ll be telling you which way to turn in case we need to, but keep your eyes open just in case.”


“Well, let’s go.”