"Divines above, it's even hotter up here than I thought…", I heard Ender let out to my far left was we ascended the mountain. I have to agree with her, I'm used to heat due to where I come from, but this is a whole different kind of heat entirely. It's suffocating, sucking the air out of you as you attempt to steady your breath while walking. I imagine it's like one of those sauna things I read about in an Old World magazine. Christ, why would anyone find those things enjoyable?
Now that everything has been settled in terms of the war, all that's left for the people of Dragonia is to begin rebuilding. I don't plan on staying to see that through to completion, but at the very least, the vast majority of them have now left to live back in the city proper, leaving the mountain silent and mostly empty. This means that I can finally get in contact with Igni, the First Fire Elemental, and get one of the four contracts I need for Void Magic. After that, I plan on heading to the Mist Continent to do the same with the Wind Elemental, Sylph. However, before I can even begin thinking about that…
"I don't really see the problem, Ender. This is nothing compared the Demonic Cold we dealt with before.", Anastasia responded walking in between me and Ender, but as she said that, Ender began to pout at her under her scarf. "Oh, I'm just teasing, Ender. I'll make sure you're taken care of when we get back."
"Thank you, My Lord.", Ender thanked politely with a nod before asking, "However...Are you absolutely sure you want to hold onto that...thing?" At that, Anastasia's hand went to pat a part of her coat, the faint outline of a pistol showing through the fabric. After we had woken up and gotten ready, I asked her if she was still considering her request from last night. In response, she answered that she was determined to make sure she was no longer a burden on Ender and I. After that, much to Ender's disapproval, I gave her back Maria.
"Yes, I believe this is for the best, Ender.", Anastasia answered before adding, "I love you and Six so much, and I'll make sure, as long as I still live, that nothing will happen to either of you." In response, Ender blushed and went to hold Anastasia's hand as we walked. I probably would have chimed in myself at this heartwarming scene were it not for a certain tag-a-long.
"My, you all seem so happy together.", I heard another voice speak to my right. I knew exactly who it was, I've just been nervous around her ever since...yesterday. Turning to face the voice, I saw Queen Deonora herself smiling as she walked beside us.
"Thank you, Your Majesty, but…", Anastasia thanked, but trailed off before asking, "I mean you no disrespect, but...why are you bothering to come with us?"
"Why, I'm here to make sure everything goes smoothly for you.", she answered kindly before explaining, "The Primordial Ones don't just contract with anyone, you know. Fortunately, Igni and I go way back, I'm sure she'll give you a chance if it's coming from me."
"Thank you, Your Majesty.", Ender thanked before adding, "I know Six is thankful, as well. He's just a bit...shy. I'm sure you understand."
"Aww, I know, and as cute as it is, you don't have to be so nervous around me, Six.", Deonora cooed before adding, "I won't hurt you...Well, unless you want me to." Geez, I kind of expected this teasing, but for it to still actually happen is rather jarring.
After the events of yesterday, my reputation has only improved among the people of Dragonia, including the girls I've been helping this whole time. Leia likes me, but obviously is already married, so she understandably has no real interest outside of friendship, but everyone else? I don't think I've ever been eyed up so much in my life, and the Queen herself is no exception. Given her diary entries, I'm not at all surprised. Hell, even Dracolinde has spared me a few hidden glances in between glares. Honestly, under normal circumstances, I'd be riding a high like this for years, but given that it's coming from dangerous dragons who could very easily take me whenever they so wished? Yeah, I want out of here, especially after Deonora's little display of terror.
"I'll...try to remember that, Your Majesty.", I responded curtly, wanting to end the conversation and focus back on the task at hand. That being, how am I gonna convince Igni to contract with me? Obviously, I've got Queen Deonora backing me up, but what arguments could I use? Maybe I should start with honesty, tell her why I need her power and how I plan on using it? Yeah, but what else?
"You're so funny, Six.", Deonora giggled, before adding, "Am I really that scary? I imagine you weren't scared when you were fixing me up." As she asked that, she held her arms out in an open gesture, as if seeking an embrace, and for all I know, she might actually want me to do that.
"Actually, that reminds me.", I began, trying to change to subject. "Normally, when someone is in a coma for as long as you were, they experience various side effects: things like chronic headaches, memory loss, dulled vision, and all sorts of stuff. Have you experienced anything like that?"
"Ah yes, Malinda did mention something about that.", Deonora said to herself before contemplating for a moment. "I don't feel any different, if that's what you mean. Just a little bit...hungry, if you catch my meaning." As she said that, another lewd smile adorned her face. Of course, these girls need Spirit Energy, how could I forget?
Before I could say anything in response, Deonora must have seen Ender and Anastasia slightly pouting in jealousy behind me because she erupted into another fit of giggles shortly after.
"Oh, don't worry, girls.", Deonora said as her laughter died down. "I don't plan on stealing him away from you, though you must know what a contract with any sort of elemental entails, right?" At that, both of their cheeks began to blush red as their eyes widened in realization. Wait, what?
"What do you mean by that? Is there something I should know?", I asked quickly, but before Anastasia could speak to presumably explain, Deonora spoke up again instead.
"Oh, you don't know?", Deonora asked with a smug grin on her face. "Well, I guess you'll just have to find out, won't you? Let's keep it a secret. Shall we, girls?" Immediately, the girls also developed smug grins and dropped their plans to inform me of what the contract would entail.
"Oh, that's not a bad idea, Your Majesty." Anastasia responded.
"Indeed, my lips are sealed.", Ender chimed in as well.
Great something else to worry about. God, are we almost there yet?
"Here we are.", Deonora announced as we reached the summit of the Volcano. Looking down, it wasn't as...steep as the comic books made it out to be. It really looked like just a massive crater not unlike the Big Empty, only much smaller in diameter and without any buildings or mutants wandering about. We'd see a monster every so often, especially Hellhounds for some reason, but they all steered clear once they saw just who was with us. The ground itself was black with soot and cooled magma, solid to walk on and just flat enough for us to stand on without the possibility of slipping. Down below was a calm, bulbous mass of lava that was raging hot. Even from all the way up here, the heat was enough that if I took maybe fourteen or fifteen more steps forward, I would combust. Christ, let's get this over with.
"Yeah, but where's Igni?", I asked, my displeasure from the heat palpable to everyone present, which Ender seemed to relate to.
"Ah, right. She did say she was going to go back to sleep.", Deonora said to herself before adding, "I'll just wake her up again. One moment, please." As she said that, her eyes closed and her brows furrowed, as if she was deep in thought.
"Won't she be upset?", Anastasia asked before adding, "I seem to recall she was very adamant on getting some peace and quiet." Deonora seemed to scoff at that before opening her eyes again with a sly grin.
"Oh, that's the neat part. She's ALWAYS upset.", Deonora responded, before the lava below began to churn more adamantly, splashes of molten rock reaching higher than before. "Anyway, she should be her any second now."
She was right. Not five seconds later, the lava began to bubble more and more until a large, bulge began to form in the center of the lava, as if something was pushing it up from below. This was proven to be the case as the bulge exploded outwards, throwing lava all over the inside of the volcano as a figure emerged from below and began to float upwards. The figure seemed to be that of a woman, almost completely naked and with a light orange skin tone, fire raging from her arms, legs, chest and hair. The only "clothes" on her body were ornate bracelets and anklets from which much of the fire originated. Her eyes were closed as she floated to a stop above the lava at the same altitude as us. After a slow stretch, she opened her mouth to yawn and speak.
"I swear...What the fuck...Do I have to do...To get some GODDAMN PEACE AND FUCKING QUIET AROUND HERE!?", the elemental screamed as her face morphed into that of pure anger. This must be her, the First Fire Elemental. Jesus, Leia wasn't kidding about her disposition.
"Hello, Igni! Good to see you again.", Deonora greeted cheerfully, as if she didn't just get yelled at.
"YOU! What the FUCK could it be THIS TIME!?", the elemental yelled at Deonora specifically this time, causing all of us to wince. Does this girl have a death wish!? "I THOUGHT I told you're SCALY ASS to let me sleep for AT LEAST ANOTHER SEVEN MONTHS! WHY ARE YOU HERE!?" Whelp, this girl's dead.
"Aww, you wound me, Igni. I thought we had something special…", Deonora responded playfully, again ignoring the fact that she's getting verbally grilled by this sentient inferno in front of us. "Don't worry, friend, this will be quick."
"IT BETTER BE! I had to sit here awake for OVER A WHOLE MONTH because your INSIPID LIEUTENANTS WOULDN'T SHUT THE FUCK UP, SO...so…", Igni continued to scream before trailing off as she laid eyes on the three of us. "Who the FUCK are these MILK-DRINKERS!?"
"Igni, I would like to introduce you to Red Eyes Six and his companions!", Deonora introduced us with a bit of dramatic flair, much to my chagrin. Igni kind of looked at us for a few seconds before speaking again.
"Am I supposed to know who that is?", Igni asked, still very upset.
"Just Six is fine actually, ma'am.", I added quickly. I was about to introduce myself further before she interrupted me.
"I don't give a fuck what number you are, YOU WILL SPEAK WHEN SPOKEN TO, HUMAN!", Igni cut me off as her flames burned even brighter. "What is the meaning of this, lizard!?" Does Deonora seriously not care? I guess she did say they go way back.
"Six and his companions here are good friends of mine, and were instrumental in assisting my lieutenants and saving my life.", Deonora began before adding, "However, he is here because he would like to make a contract with you as well."
"SO!? You know that I FUCKING HATE humans!", Igni responded with vitriol before continuing, "Just because you two are good pals doesn't mean I have to contract with him! I OWE HIM NOTHING!" I wanted to jump in and try to gain her trust, but Deonora beat me to the punch again.
"Ah, but you do.", Deonora corrected, causing the elemental to squint her eyes in a questioning gaze. "He helped end the war, thereby getting my cute subordinates out of your mountain AND keeping the Lich, as well as her forces, away from it. So, in a way, he was key to getting you back your precious peace and quiet."
"A-...I...B-But...GRRR!", Igni stuttered before growling and turning towards me. "You, human! Why the FUCK do you want to contract with me!? Why not just go fuck around with one of my underlings!?"
"I need to contract with the Four Great Elementals to-", I began, but got interrupted yet again. Christ, if they keep doing that, I might just lose it.
"Void magic, got it! WHY!?", she continued to question, clearly eager to get this over with. Trust me, the feeling's mutual. "What could you POSSIBLY need that much magical power for!?"
"I need to go home.", I answered before explaining quickly before I could be interrupted again. "I come from a world completely separated from this one on a consistent, yet separate track of time. Thus, I need-"
"Time Manipulation, huh?", Igni interrupted again before adding, "You DO realize your body is NO WHERE NEAR powerful enough to process the energy for a spell of that magnitude!?"
"I'm aware, which is why I am also seeking a powerful magic stone that Her Majesty has told me about.", I answered, and as soon as I finished that explanation, she objected again.
"Okay, but even IF you somehow got your hands on one of those, Time Manipulation ALONE won't get you home. You need the EXACT spacial awareness and location, and GOOD FUCKING LUCK getting your hands on that! The chances of you finding your ONE world in an infinite sea of parallel worlds is COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE, SO I'D SAY YOU-!" Before she could finish, I interrupted her this time around by materializing the Big Mountain TransportalPonder!, set the teleport coordinates ten paces to my left, and pulled the trigger. In an instant, I was teleported away from our group and Igni immediately stopped talking.
"Don't worry, I got that part already covered.", I responded, to which I began to walk back to the group as she objected yet again.
"W-Well, yeah, B-BUT you'd also need to know the proper chant, and I am under NO OBLIGATION to tell you-!", she tried to finish, but I interrupted her again by digitizing the Big Mountain TransportalPonder! and waving around the spell book I...appropriated. Anastasia looked like she wanted to mention that, but I gave her a stern glare to stop her. Last thing I need is Deonora going on another tirade about...thieves.
"Come on, Igni. Give him a chance.", Deonora spoke up again as Igni struggled to find something else to bitch about. "He doesn't want to use your power for selfish reasons. Trust me, we had a VERY interesting talk about greed."
"YOU DON'T GET IT, LIZARD!", Igni began yelling again before explaining, "I've contracted with SEVERAL humans in the past, and they ALL ended in mad power fantasies that I couldn't do SHIT ABOUT! I REFUSE to let some human abuse MY MAGIC!"
"He won't, ma'am." Anastasia spoke up to defend me. "We will make sure to watch him, and ensure he doesn't go down the wrong path. I promise you." Before Igni could snap at her, Deonora jumped in again as well.
"And besides, think about it like this.", Deonora began before adding, "He only needs your power to get home. Once he leaves our immediate realms, the contract can no longer be supported, and you'll never have to deal with him again." Igni was silent at that, clearly contemplating our arguments and trying to find some way to get us to leave, but could find nothing. After what felt like an eternity, she finally relented.
"UGH, FINE! If it'll make you fucks shut up and let me sleep, I'LL DO IT!", Igni relented before turning to me. "You...What was your name again? Seven?"
"Six.", I corrected.
"Close enough!", Igni responded before continuing, "I need you to understand just what you're getting into. In return for being granted my power, you need to listen to EVERYTHING I SAY, GOT IT!? NO BITCHING, NO BACK TALKING, EXACTLY AS I SAY! UNDERSTAND!?"
"...Yes.", I answered resolutely. Under normal circumstances, I would say absolutely fucking not, but I don't have a choice here. I need her power, and given how much of a cunt she seems to be, I'm lucky I even got this far. I'll need to seriously thank Deonora after this.
"...Alright, let's get this over with…", she sighed in exasperation before beginning to focus. "Take off your stupid helmet." Stupid? Lady, you got no idea what you're talking about. I did as she said regardless, checking around us before I did so out of habit, as the air around Igni began to shimmer and glow with a red, fire-like aura, different from the fire flaking off of her body.
"Come powers of fire, let us make covenant, and let it be witness between Six and I.", Igni began to chant, floating toward me as she did so. "Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts. By taking this vow, swearing an oath to bind thyself by pledge, thou shalt not break thy word. Thou shalt do according to all that proceeds from thy mouth. For thou shalt swear by something greater then thyself, and in all thine disputes, an oath is final for our confirmation. All this, thou shalt promise and entrust to me." That...sounds biblical. Joshua would have a field day with this lady. By the time she finished, she was right in front of me, her nose nearly touching mine.
"Now stand still.", she commanded. Isn't she a bit too close?
"Wait, why are yo-!", I tried to ask her, but before I could, I was interrupted yet again…with a kiss. The kiss was hot, yet not painfully so, as her tongue shot into my mouth and began to twirl around mine. I tried to...wait…
Why is everything so cold?
Where am I?
I'm no longer on the mountain. I'm no longer surrounded by my companions. I'm no longer kissing Igni. I'm...alone. There's nothing here. Nothing but darkness, I'm floating in a sea of emptiness. Nothing but me in this endless expanse. What the Hell?
Am I...I can't be, right? This can't be what death is like, right? Just pitch black void? How did I even die? Did I get thrown in the volcano? Was Igni's kiss THAT good? That doesn't make any sense. Besides, Gods of Death exist here, right? I'd imagine that one Gretel was talking about would at the very least be here to retrieve me. It'd be pretty depressing if this was all that existed after death. Maybe I shouldn't tell Joshua about this girl. He's already been burned alive once, anyway. I doubt he'd be down to do it again, no matter how brightly the fire inside of him burns.
...I should be panicking, but I'm not. Is it because I know this isn't real? I mean, it feels real, but there's no logical way for me to be here...wherever here is. The void? Is this what it's like to acquire magic? Maybe I should have asked Anastasia more about this. Regardless, I need to find a way out of here. Let's see…
Look to the left and right...nothing.
Look above...nothin- wait...What is that?
There's something floating. Some kind of small, orange ball. Looks like the size of a marble, but it's so bright…
What am I witnessing? What am I beholding? Upon what plane could this exist? This one? Perhaps, maybe this is a consequence of my meddling of time and sp-!
All of a sudden, the small orange marble exploded into a mass of bright fire...No, not fire, energy. Pure, chaotic energy encompassing all in the blink of an eye, including me...and it hurts!
It's hot! FUCK, IT'S REALLY FUCKING HOT! I want to scream, but I can't! I open my mouth, but no sound comes out! I don't understand! I have a mouth, so why can't I scream!? Fuck, I'm melting in nothing, or would it be everything? Everything that is? Right now? I don't know, I can't think straight. My flesh is melting, dripping off of my very bones as my blood boils and pops the arteries in my neck.
My mind is going blank...I can't keep my eyes open much longer.
Wait, I'm back. I have a functioning body. I have physical surroundings. I have a mouth. I can scream.
"AAAAHHHHHHHHH!", I screamed as loud as I fucking could. My body was no longer burning, but fuck, I could still feel it. The pain from feeling my skin and muscle melt off my bones still fresh in my psyche. My arms immediately wrapping around my body as I sunk to the ground and tried to cope with the phantom pain.
"FUCKING DIVINES ABOVE!", I heard Igni yell in a similar, pained manner.
"Woah, Six!", Anastasia yelped in surprise before immediately rushing to my side.
"Calm down, what's wrong!?", Ender did the same as she put her hand on my back. I almost reacted violently before the pain finally began to subside as my body realized it was no longer melting.
"What happened? Are you two alright?", Deonora asked, no longer in a cheerful mood. "You were kissing, and then just started screaming in pain. What happened!?" As the pain began to subside, I began to uncurl my shaking body, staring at my still intact limbs as reason began to return to my brain. What was that? What did I just experience?
"Six, please calm down. You're hyperventilating!", Anastasia pleaded, sounding like she is on the verge of tears. She's right, I am hyperventilating. Think, Six. Breath in...Breath out…
W-What the fuck...What just happened?
"You tell me!", I heard Igni respond to my thought. What? Did I ask that out loud?
"No, you IDIOT! I can hear your damn thoughts!", Igni responded yet again, causing me to look up at her from the ground. She was angrier than before, clearly recovering from a similar pain I am as Deonora helped support her while standing. "Now answer my question! How the FUCK are you still alive!?" What?
"You mean to t-tell me…", I began to ask as I stood up. "All that s-shit...Burning alive in a raging inferno...Feeling my body melt into n-nothing...You made me go through that!?" I couldn't contain my anger. That was just too much, I didn't have the forethought to watch what I was saying anymore, and I didn't care.
"What the FUCK are you...Oh, right…", she began to yell, but trailed off again before explaining, "I added a silent clause to our contract. I don't like working with humans, so I wanted to know just who you are and what you've done."
"How the fuck does that explain what just happened to me!?", I asked, still clearly angry causing Ender and Anastasia to back away slowly in case I got vaporized.
"Don't you get it!? You're smart, you should be able to figure it out yourself!", she responded before explaining further. "I saw your short life, and in return, you saw a small portion of mine. Most likely the beginning…"
"The beginning of your life? I thought you were Primordial, what could I have possibly seen from your...life…", I began to question before trailing off in realization. Holy Shit, there's no way. Did I just...Was that…?
"There, I thought you'd figure it out.", Igni responded to my unasked question before elaborating, "What you saw was the beginning of time, where all worlds originate."
"The Big Bang…", I spoke in realization, causing Igni to nod her head in confirmation.
"You mentioned that before, The Big what?", Ender asked in curiosity.
"The Big Bang.", I reiterated before briefly explaining, "The beginning of the universe as we know it, where the gravitational singularity began expanding rapidly outwards, resulting in vast quantum fluctuations and...very extreme temperatures."
"I...don't understand a lick of what you just said, Six.", Anastasia responded with a confused look that Ender shared.
"What the brainiac means is that he got to experience heat the likes of which would normally vaporize him in an instant, but since he was reliving my memories, he was forced to deal with it for a little bit.", Igni rephrased angrily, causing Ender and Anastasia to adopt serious looks of concern.
"And what about you, Igni?", Deonora asked before elaborating, "Why did you scream out in pain?"
"Oh, gee, maybe it's because this crazy jackass has been nearly killed HUNDREDS OF TIMES!", Igni began to yell again, though I suppose I don't blame her she really did see my entire life. Getting shot a multitude of times never feels good, especially not in the head. "I thought I'd heard about a guy like you from other contracts. NO FUCKING WONDER Hel has such a hard on for this guy. Not only does he deliver so many souls to her, but he's also death's ultimate cocktease."
"All the more reason to NOT take him back to the Undead Kingdom, right Ender?", Anastasia added, to which Ender nodded curtly, slightly upset still at what just happened.
"Whatever, just please tell me the contract is sealed.", I asked, not wanting to go through that pain again.
"Yeah, yeah, it's sealed.", she waved me off, clearly done with us. "Now if you fuckers would be so kind as to GET THE FUCK OFF MY MOUNTAIN...That would be just fucking swell." Don't need to tell me twice, I'm out. As I thought that, I immediately turned around and began to make my way down to mountain without so much as a goodbye. As I did, my Pipboy beeped in order to signify that I had completed an objective for "The Great Journey".
"Thank you again, Igni. Have a nice nap.", Deonora bid her adieu in our stead as they began to follow behind me. Not like I need her to. Igni can read my mind now, apparently, she'll hear it eventually...or maybe not.
"Oh, I'll hear you alright, even while sleeping."
What? How the fuck does that work?
"Our connection is deeper now, dipshit. Far deeper than the physical boundaries that sleep imposes. Like it or not, you're stuck with me now, as you will be with the other Elementals."
Huh. Will you guys be able to talk to each other in my head?
"Normally, no. We can tell when you are communicating with another elemental, but we only communicate when we work together for a spell. Now hurry you ass up, and GO THE FUCK AWAY!"
Christ, guess I'll have to watch what I think from now on.
"Thanks again for everything you've done for us, Your Majesty!", Anastasia thanked as we stood at a small, recently revitalized shipping port just south of Dragonia. Five days have passed since I contracted with Igni, and my time in between then and now was spent mainly by getting a handle on my new contract with Igni and helping to rebuild where I can while a boat was prepared for us heading to the Mist Continent. I tried to leave much sooner with the Big Mountain TransportalPonder!, but…
"Although, are you sure this is okay?", Ender asked the group of powerful dragons in front of us before continuing, "Six has the ability to teleport without the use of a Spirit Tunnel, so would it not be more prudent to save this ship and its crew for someone who needs it?"
"Ah, but you DO need it.", Leia responded curtly, to which Ender tilted her head in confusion.
"From what Six explained to us about his teleportation ability, he can teleport anywhere he wants, but has no idea what the destination would be like unless he has been there before.", Udephilis began explaining, "This would work anywhere on this continent or Zipangu, but the Mist Continent, even with how vast it is, is very easy to get lost in due to the titular Mist engulfing the land."
"Precisely.", Alto-Eris chimed in before adding, "It'd be easy for you to get there, but once you are there, you'd have no idea where you are or where to go. You would likely wander until you either run out of supplies or...something comes to get you."
"Besides, Court Alf wouldn't be an easy place to teleport to, either.", Lyra added as well. "Your teleports seem precise, but not THAT precise, and given how densely packed everything is there, it'd be best to just travel there by boat and save yourself the headache."
"Which is why we will be providing you with a boat and crew skilled in navigating these waters, as they claim to have done so many times.", Deonora finished as we all beheld the ship docked at port. The ship itself looked to be more of a Brig-style vessel than anything else. It was painted a black and orange coloration, striped along the cannon lines across the ship's hull. Two rigged sail masts stood upon the deck and flew the flag of Dragonia, the Dragon's Tearstone adorning the center of a red canvas while an orange fire raged behind it. The ship seemed to support around 22 cannons in total, allowing for devastating broadside assaults. The name of the ship was clearly emblazoned on the starboard hull: Ghidorah.
The crew seemed to be made up of a diverse set of humans and monsters. What monsters were there were actually a wide range of non-dragonic species, mostly interspersed with humans that seemed to all be refugees from The Guild. I guess that makes sense; The Guild capital also borders the Kolei Ocean, so it makes sense for these refugees to be well versed with these waters.
"Gotta say, its pretty damn generous to give us this ship.", I remarked as I took in the vessel almost as a piece of history.
"Make no mistake, I'm not giving this to you, Six. You are merely borrowing it.", Deonora corrected, causing me to turn back to address them. "I don't think I need to remind you what will happen if you steal from me."
"Nope, no need for a reminder.", I quickly began to excuse myself as I realized my slip up. "I swear it won't happen again."
"Hmm, see to it that it doesn't.", Deonora replied with a grin on her face.
"Hey, look at the bright side.", Lyra began before adding, "If you do piss off Her Majesty again, you'll get to hang out with us for the rest of your life." Oh boy, stuck in a castle with powerful dragons that almost all want to jump my bones. Fucking yay.
"You say that like it'd be a good thing, hmph!", Dracolinde puffed in a pout as she turned away from me with her arms crossed.
"Aww, don't be like that, Lindy.", Deonora chuckled before adding, "We all know you'll miss them, too."
"Wha- Sister!", Dracolinde whined as her cheeks became bright red.
"Regardless of what happens, please remember that you three will always be welcome here in Dragonia.", Alto-Eris assured us with a smile on her face. "And if, for whatever reason, your plan does not come to fruition, know that there will always be an open room in the castle waiting for you." As she said that, the crew began to call to us signaling that they were ready to depart.
"Thank you, I guess this is goodbye.", I remarked to them as they all nodded.
"Indeed, it was nice meeting you three, and I wish you luck on your future adventures.", Deonora responded as she held out her hand. I obliged her, and we shook hands. "So long, Six."
With that, we broke the handshake and the three of us turned to board the ship. As we each stepped onto the ship, the deckhands rushing past us every which way to begin to sail out of port, we each went to the stern of the ship as we began to raise anchor. We looked upon the city of Dragonia not too far in the distance still under reconstruction as the sun finally crested over the horizon, marking the end of dawn. Looking over to Anastasia and Ender, they seemed to be waving to the dragons we were just conversing with, and they seemed to be waving back.
I hesitated for a moment, but I eventually joined them. Strange, I'm not sure I would normally have done that under any other circumstances. Maybe because I normally don't have anyone worth waving goodbye to as I leave, or at least I don't anymore. Maybe it's because of Anastasia and her infectious personality. Perhaps she really is having an effect on me...though, out of all the effects she could have on me, this one isn't at all unwelcome.
"Six...I'm bored.", Anastasia whined to my left as we sat below deck. Sorry, did I say infectious? I meant insufferable. Anastasia was lying on a hammock that swayed lazily to and fro, completely bored out of her skull while Ender lounged in a storage compartment a bit higher up fiddling with her kunai.
I guess I can't blame Anastasia. We've been sailing for around five days now, and nothing of note has really happened. I guess the first time I saw a deckhand fall on their ass was pretty funny, but now even I'm starting to get impatient. I'm not stupid, I know sea travel takes quite a while, but still…
"Oh yeah? Welcome to the club.", I deadpanned as I sat down flexing my right hand continuously in an attempt to harness basic spells. I understand how it works a little bit thanks to the book I stole and advice from Anastasia, but so far, all I've been able to manage is a small candlelight flame with one hand. I can make a ball of fire about the size of a golf ball with both hands, but I need to focus intensely and can't do much with it.
"Hmm, maybe if you took us up on our offer to make love, we wouldn't be so bored.", Ender suggested while looking at me out of the corner of her eye.
"Indeed, Six, I've been wanting to share love with both you and Ender at the same time for a while.", Anastasia began pleading immediately after hearing Ender's mention. "We'll be quiet, I promise!"
"Oh yeah? Quiet like the deckhands are almost every night?", I asked in slight annoyance. I'm not annoyed by the girls, no. I understand why it is they are asking me so much, and honestly, I kind of agree with them. Rather, I'm annoyed that I've been essentially forced to rest during the day rather than at night. Deckhands cycle between sailing and resting, but most of them rest at night, and by rest, I mean get their brains fucked out by the monsters on board. I'm not worried they'll try anything with me, but it makes trying to get some actual sleep at night damn near impossible.
"I mean…", Anastasia started trailing off, her cheeks flushed red.
"Look, believe me, if I had doses to spare, I would take you girls up on your offer." I explained with a sigh. I managed to get all the ingredients in order before we left, but just didn't have enough time to actually make more doses. I was honestly more interested in the fact that I can make fire in my hands now, even if they are pathetic. I mean, come on. It's fucking FIRE IN MY HANDS. That's fucking awesome! Speaking of which, Igni, can you hear me?
"What is it, jackass?"
You've been awfully quiet. You ever gonna give me guidance on how to use your power?
"No, I thought YOU had all that shit covered. Besides, I'm sleeping, so unless it's REALLY FUCKING URGENT, I won't be contacting you."
Fuck, guess I'm on my own. Thanks for nothing.
"Whatever, just quit your bitching and LEAVE ME ALONE."
"See to it that you get more doses, then. For My Lord's sake, as well as my own.", Ender responded before adding. "You may be able to beat us in combat, but you don't stand a chance at beating us under the bedshee-"
"PIRATES!", a deckhand screamed above deck, interrupting Ender. Not a second later, several deckhands began rushing below deck to man the broadside cannons as cannonfire erupted in the distance. It sounded like it came from our port side, and before we knew it, a few cannonballs could be heard ripping into the side of our hull.
"ALL HANDS ON DECK!", the captain screamed. In response, all three of us immediately jumped to our feet and rushed to climb back above deck. We shared a look, but no words as we moved as fast as we could. Once we got above deck, I materialized binoculars and zeroed in on the offending ship in the distance, or I guess I should say offending ships. There were three, all larger than average looking gunboats flying color-striked flags I hadn't seen before. It looked like the Demon Realm flag, but it had a major difference: there were four crossed out emblems, one in each corner, and they looked to be the different suits of...playing cards? They were a black spade, a black club, a red diamond, and a large red heart. The pirates looked to be mostly monsters of various kinds, so the they're most likely not looking for the normal kind of pirate booty.
"Looks to be a mixed group of monsters, probably on the run from Demon Realm authorities if I had to guess.", I said as I brought down the binoculars.
"But what do they want with us?", Anastasia asked frantically. I gave her another deadpan look. The answer was obvious.
"KEEP THEM AWAY!", the captain screamed yet again. "THEY LIKELY SEEK TO BOARD THE SHIP!" He's right. These boats don't have the armaments to seriously hinder a ship of this size. Best they can do is ram us, but given their size, it'd likely be a suicide run.
"Look out, they're headed this way.", Ender called out while pointing. Looking where she was pointing, we could all see several winged monsters of all kinds flying towards us. They looked to be mostly comprised of Harpies, Werebats and Succubi.
Normally, in this situation, I would whip out my K9000 Cyberdog Gun and become a human CWIS, but I burned through too much of my .357 ammo during the Battle of Fort Havenrock, so I need to use something else. Whipping out my fixed up LAER, I began firing laser blasts at anything I could. I hit most of them, but with the strange way in which the ship moved against the waves, along with the explosive force of cannonfire, several of my shots went wide.
"WE SUNK ONE OF THEIR BOATS!", I heard the Quartermaster shout as the remaining flying monsters made it to our ship. Immediately, I dove to the side in order to avoid a grab from the sky, just narrowly avoiding the talons of a drooling harpy.
"THEY'RE ON THE SHIP!", a deckhand shouted behind me before getting grabbed himself. As the rest of the monsters landed on the deck, Ender and I readied for combat as the rest of the deckhands got their distance, focusing on taking out the remaining gunboats.
Switching to my Ranger Sequoia, I began dodging between the monsters attempting to nab me as Ender watched my back and Anastasia watched from a safe distance with nervousness. Thankfully, it seems that flight was all these monsters had going for them as their combat prowess was very sloppy. Ender and I were cleaning house. You know, this is actually pretty fucking cool. It's like I'm in one of those Old World pirate holotapes, killing dirty landlubbers and sailing the seven seas looking for treasure. If I didn't know any better, I thought I was gonna break out into one of those old sea shanties for a seco-!
"SIX, LOOK OUT!", Ender called to me as I felt something smash into my back and knocking me to the ground. Embarrassingly, I also dropped my Ranger Sequoia, which slid a few feet away from me. Looking at my assailant, it seemed to be a Succubi that couldn't exactly latch onto me very well. However, the unmistakable way she eyed me like a piece of meat told me she had me right where she wanted me. Ender tried to make it to me, but was stopped by a Werebat attempting to avenge her knocked out friend.
Shit, this is bad. Should I go for the revolver? No, she's too fast, she would stop me in time. I could materialize a new gun. Yeah, that's my only chance! I quickly went to materialize A Light Shining in Darkness, but before I could level it at her stupid head, she was on me. She wrestled with my dominant arm, trying to hold it back while she began pumping Demonic Energy into my stomach. Fuck, I was starting to feel it's affects. It isn't as bad as when Druella did it, but I can still feel my willpower slipping away. I need to overpower her befo-!
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
Five gunshots rang out to my left as the Succubus I was struggling with was suddenly riddled with lead. Two shots missed, but three of them hit: one in the shoulder, one in her side, and one just above her collarbone. She fell off of me quickly as I got clear. Looking at her bleeding form, barely clinging to life, I looked to the source of the gunshots to find a...familiar sight.
Anastasia was slowly walking up to us, shaking uncontrollably. She was holding Maria, whose barrel was still smoking, aimed at the bleeding Succubus who began to cough up blood. Ender finally finished with her opponents and rushed to her Lord's side, ready to console her after her inevitable breakdown.
"My Lord, she's no longer a threat. You can put the gun down now, okay?", Ender began pleading before adding, "Everything is okay, you're gonna be okay." I quickly stood up and took stock of our surroundings. The boarding parties had been completely taken care of, and another gunboat was about to sink, leaving only one left.
"Thank you for the save, Anastasia.", I thanked as I digitized A Light Shining in Darkness and picked up my Ranger Sequoia. "Are you okay?" Anastasia was still shaking, but after feeling Ender place her hand on her shoulder, she looked to us and nodded her head.
"Y-Yeah, I-I'm okay.", Anastasia said, her breathing fast as she tried to keep herself under control. "I got her. I-I saved you. I'm o-okay." I'll admit, she's taking this better than I thought she would. Better than last time, at least. Still, she looks like she's gonna start hyperventilating, so we should probably wrap this up as quickly as possible.
"My Lord, you…", Ender began, but trailed off as we began to hear sobbing over the sounds of deckhands rushing back to their posts. Looking down, the succubus that was trying to corrupt me was still alive, bleeding out of a hole in her lower neck. Clearly a fatal wound, but she will most likely suffer in her final moments...unless I do something about it. Without immediate protest, I aimed my Ranger Sequoia at her and shot her in the head, ending her misery.
"Six, did you really need to do that in front of My Lord?", Ender said, clearly upset at the trauma Anastasia is most likely going through. I digitized my Ranger Sequoia as I turned back to face her.
"And let her suffer? No, it's better this way.", I retorted before looking at Anastasia. She had that look again, the same one when she told me her story in the Whitehorn Station. A thousand-yard stare at the now dead body of the monster she shot. "Anastasia, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have giv-"
"No, I w-wanted this, Six.", Anastasia interrupted me as she began to calm and steady her breathing. "I u-understand. We didn't want h-her to suffer. I get it." Ender and I both looked at her before sharing a glance. It'd probably be best if we got her back below deck.
"Come, My Lord. Let's get you dow-!"
"THEY'RE GOING TO RAM US!", the Quartermaster yelled as all three of us turned towards the remaining ship...which was just about to hit us!
We had practically no time to react as the last gunboat, which was very badly damaged, rammed into the portside of the ship, sending people flying every which way. Given that the deckhands were used to stormy waves, pretty much all of them were able to grab onto something. Anastasia was fine as she simply floated, and Ender deftly caught herself on a dangling rope. I was unlucky.
My sudden flight was angled in a way that would've sent me just over the edge of the ship. I managed to catch myself on the wooden railing, but was not prepared for a few unsecured cannonballs to come flying at me from the force of the ramming. None of them hit me, thankfully, but they did rip through several parts of the wooden railing I was holding onto, and before I could pull myself up, I quickly found myself falling into the water below while holding onto the now detached, broken piece of the ship.
"SIX!", I heard both Anastasia and Ender yell in shock as I went overboard. As I fell beneath the waves, I could hear muffled shouts likely yelling that I had fallen. As quick as I could, I threw my Rebreather onto my Gas Mask and began to fight against the waves keeping me under. Swimming in an Ocean like this is a lot harder than people make it out to be, so I need to make sure that I don't-!
Before I could break through the surface of the water, I felt something wrap around my body! Something sharp! Looking down, it was hard to make out, but it looked to be a vine of some kind, but instead of thorns poking into me, it was a series of...playing card suits? Again? What the- No, I don't have time to contemplate this. I can't see where it's coming from, but I know it's deep underwater.
I immediately began fighting to get the vine off of me. However, it was tangled all around me tight. It wrapped around my left leg before spiraling up to tie my right arm and chest together. Not only that, but the suits digging into my clothing made it hard to get off. I may need to ditch the duster, because if I don't get this thing off, then I'm...I'm gonna...Why am I getting so sleepy?
Am I drowning? No, I have my Rebreather, so why do I...Why is this...I can't...think...straight…
That was my last thought as I drifted into unconsciousness. My body being pulled deeper and deeper underwater as my vision blanked...and I passed out.