Fran and I navigated our way through the ship’s interior, only to eventually stop ourselves in front of an average-looking wall. Nothing about it seemed out of the ordinary, but we were confident that it served as the entrance to the room that contained the device bolstering the water dragon’s defenses. Suarez had given us a fairly thorough description when we asked him where we needed to go find it.
We investigated the wall by knocking on it a few times and confirmed that the space behind it did indeed seem hollowed out. The prince had told us exactly what we needed to do to access the room, and I’d memorized all the necessary steps, but we decided to circumvent the prince’s ritual through the use of brute force. The method described to us had been far too complex; we simply didn’t want to bother with it.
Fran swung me several times and filled the wall with incisions before giving it a light kick. The cuts themselves had been so clean that they’d allowed the wooden surface to retain its form, but the force she’d applied with her foot had caused its now-unstable structure to collapse. The first thing we did as we stepped into the room was gaze upon the device within. I couldn’t help but immediately think of the thing we saw as the product of eccentricity. I’d only ever seen one other device like it. It was a technological oddity, one made from the union of magic and machinery, a pair of clashing concepts.
The magical part, the device’s core, was comprised of two smaller pieces: a giant crystal, and the sculpture that supported it. Though the crystal shone like a jewel, my eyes were more drawn to its base, a delicately crafted carving seemingly made out of bone.
The mechanical part, the device’s shell, was installed to enclose both the crystalline core and the support that held it in place. Its shape almost seemed to resemble that of a sports car’s engine; metallic pipes protruded from it in the same way as would a muffler.
All in all, the strange device looked like it’d come out of a game that mixed steampunk elements with more fantastical ones. In other words, it appeared to be the type of device one would discover in F*inal F*ntasy, as opposed to something one would stumble across while playing Dr*gon Qu*st. Like the Algieba’s propulsion device, it reminded me very much of heavy machinery even though I knew its functions were derived from a set of magical principles as opposed to the laws of physics.
“Mmph.” Fran grunted as she felt a sudden wave of magical energy pulse through her body.
“Holy crap that thing’s using up a ton of mana,” I thought.
The room had been constructed in such a way that magical energy wouldn’t escape it. We weren’t able to feel the sheer amount of magical energy whirling around within it until we entered. The device was clearly very powerful; it would’ve been easy to detect had the room not been manaproofed.
Wait. What if we just took it instead? Destroying it seems like it’d be a waste of a perfectly good item. The water dragon would lose its buff even if I just shove it into my dimensional storage. There really isn’t any reason not to take it, is there?
I settled on the idea of stealing the device, but decided to save working out the details for later.
“I’m going to want to take this thing for ourselves a bit later, but let’s just drop a beacon and head back up to the deck for now.”
“Nn.” Fran acknowledged my suggestion, turned around, and got ready to leave.
She’d originally planned on walking her way back up to the deck, but her plans were thrown off the moment I finished setting up a beacon. The boat suddenly began violently shaking from left to right and back and forth at random.
“Earthquake…?” Fran muttered.
“Probably just feels that way because we’re inside the ship. Something probably happened. Let’s hurry back up to the deck.”
“Nn!” She nodded.
Fran rushed to the deck, darting through the ship’s swaying corridors and dashing up the stairs on her way. The sheer force with which the vessel continued to wobble throughout her journey seemed to indicate a major change in the status quo.
Upon arrival, we expected to see the water dragon flailing about, but we were instead greeted by a sight completely outside our expectations.
“T-The fuck is that!?”
“Big octopus legs?” Fran tilted her head in confusion.
“Wait! Fuck! Those are kraken tentacles!”
The catkin nodded as she observed the long, thick, wriggling tendrils. Several of the kraken’s feelers had already wrapped themselves around the dragon, binding it and forcing it to be subject it to the oversized octopuses’ attacks.
“What!?” I groaned as I caught sight of our ship out of the corner of my eye. “Something totally busted up one of the Algieba’s masts!”
“There you are!” Seeing that she’d emerged from the warship’s interior, Mordred rushed over and filled Fran in on the status quo.
“What happened?” Again, she tilted her head in a questioning manner.
“Well, you see…”
He elaborated on the present state of affairs by describing what had between when we left and when we returned.
Mordred brought Suarez over to the dragon so he could order it to stand down—exactly as we’d discussed ahead of time. Unfortunately, the prince had other ideas. Though we hadn’t the intention, Suarez had been concerned that we would execute him once he issued the order, so he’d told the water dragon that he wanted it to go on a rampage. Mordred immediately attempted to threaten him into rescinding the command, but he refused. No amount of pain or punishment was enough to force the over-dignified royal into submission.
Freed from its fetters, the water dragon loosed a breath attack towards the Algieba. It tore down one of the galleon’s masts and damaged its deck in the process. Our ship was sturdy enough to withstand the hit, but it wouldn’t last for long if the assault continued. Fortunately, and unfortunately, the dragon was attacked by a group of kraken right before it could launch a second projectile.
“Those, kraken?” Fran pointed at the mollusks, her tone filled with curiosity.
“A whole three of them.” Mordred frowned. “I guess you could say they technically saved our skins, but it looks like executing our old plan is out of the question. Let’s hold off on destroying the dragon’s augmentation device for now.”
As always, Mordred’s judgement failed to disappoint. Water dragons were stronger than kraken—they would almost undoubtedly come out on top given a one versus one scenario—but the difference in strength was not nearly significant enough for the dragons to take on two kraken, let alone three. Our water dragon was currently faring quite well in combat, but only because its defenses had been bolstered. It seemed rather prone to perishing the moment the device supporting it was deactivated, especially given that it was already in the process of being attacked on all sides.
And if the water dragon died, the kraken would likely set their sights on the Algieba. Preserving it was undoubtedly in our best interest.
“Can’t just kill all?” Fran asked as she stared down all four monsters present
“I do think we can, but it’s probably not a good idea.” I muttered.
Both types of monsters were highly specialized hunters. The water dragon was highly offensive, and quite dextrous. The kraken had outstanding defenses, and they were known to regenerate. I was confident that we could defeat all four monsters regardless of their specialities so long as we used both Kanna Kamui and Black Lightning Advent, but doing so would leave us exhausted—and that was incredibly short sighted.
The area we were currently in was called the Kraken’s Nest. It was not only possible, but rather likely that kraken would continue attacking us even after we left the water dragon’s immediate vicinity, Draining ourselves was unwise.
“I’d say we should probably try to escape while the water dragon and kraken go at each other,” Mordred suggested.
“Got it. Return to Algieba?”
“Yeah. Could I get you move us over again? All our men are already standing by on deck and waiting for you.”
Mordred had clearly already considered our options and come to a conclusion before even prior to our return. Both the sailors and adventurers had already been organised so that they would be ready to depart at a moment’s notice.
All the adventurers were present and accounted for, but we had lost a few sailors in the exchange.
It’s kind of unfortunate, but that’s just how these things go. I contemplated. A melee was a type of messy skirmish. It just wasn’t possible for everyone that participated in it to come out alive.
Putting the relatively depressing thought aside, I opened a Dimension Gate so the survivors could make their way back to the Algieba.
To be honest, I was disappointed. I really wanted to kill the water dragon. I wanted both its core and the materials we could loot off its corpse. I’d also really wanted to steal the device that bolstered its defenses, but it looked like I would have to give it all up. Fran’s safety was much more important than any amount of material gain.
All the sailors and adventurers, Mordred aside, left through the portal, leaving Fran and the B ranker as the last two individuals remaining on the enemy’s ship.
“Give me a second.” He commanded. “I’ll cast a spell to make it harder for them to chase us down.”
“I can’t do too much against monsters this strong, but I should at least be able to lock them down a bit.”
Mordred pulled an elixir out from one of its pockets and swallowed its contents in a single gulp. Appraising the strange liquid allowed me to identify it as an item that drastically increased both one’s proficiency in lava magic and overall magical prowess for several minutes.
“There goes a whole years worth of income,” the B ranker grumbled.
“Yeah, but it’s worth it. It’s extremely effective and doesn’t have any side effects.”
Wait, just how much does a B ranker make in a year anyways? Hmm… Probably somewhere around three million a year, I guess? Wait, that potion costs three whole million? Shit! Though I guess it does kind of seem like it’d be worth it…
Consuming the potion had boosted Mordred’s magical powers by a factor of five. He promptly took advantage of his strengthened abilities and cast a spell.
Both the ship’s anchors floated from their respective positions over to Mordred. He manipulated the two 10 meter wide lumps of metal, melted them down and merged them to form a single, massive, steel serpent—a feat that would have been impossible had he not consumed an expensive potion.
The massive metallic snake abided his commands. It wrapped itself around both the oversized octopuses and the dragon they were assaulting and bound them as it hardened. Despite their size, the monsters were unable to escape. His spell locked them in place.
“Whew…” Hhe relaxed his shoulders and heaved a sigh. “I’ve strengthened it as much as I could, but it won’t last too long against monsters that powerful. Let’s get out of here.”
“Okay.” Fran grabbed Suarez—who’d been rendered unconscious after refusing to listen to Mordred one too many times—and followed the more experienced adventurer through the portal and back onto the Algieba.
After passing through the gate, she turned around and gave us a bigger picture view of the whole kraken-dragon engagement. Frankly, it looked like a fight between several of the giant monsters you’d often see in P*wer R*ngers.
“Wow.” Fran stared at them as they struggled against one another and their newfound metal bindings.
“Any ship that gets caught up in that is bound to sink.” I mused.
Mordred’s spell had denied the water dragon the opportunity to chase us. We would, without a doubt, be able to open up some distance between it and us so we could escape.
“Oh god, there’s even more!?” Fran’s statement caused me to panic.
Another Kraken appeared on the water dragon ship’s stern, seemingly attracted by the commotion.
“Man the sails! Full speed ahead, get us the ‘ell out of here immediately!” Jerome yelled.
“Master. There, look.”
“Wher—Oh shit. You have got to be kidding me.”
Only then did I realize that, by “more,” Fran hadn’t been referring to the kraken, but rather, the arrival of another sort of creature, one that looked like it’d come straight out of the realm of nightmares.
“Fran! Get the crew’s attention! Make sure it gets noticed!”
“Nn. Big enemy!” She quietly nodded and voiced her agreement before yelling in a voice loud enough for all the sailors to hear.
“Big…? Ohhhh fuck!”
“The hell is that thing!?”
“You’ve gotta be kidding me!”
“Oh come on!”
Their eyes widened as they caught sight of the creature she’d directed their attention towards.
“Well, no rest for the weary, I guess.” I grumbled as I examined the monster’s features.
The grotesque critter was one that I recognized on sight, one I highly doubted I’d ever be able to forget.
Its body was covered in a thick layer skin made up of red mixed with a yellowish brown. Its head looked very much like that of a sea anemone’s, but, with massive fangs lining the inside of its mouth.
A creature known as a parasite that plagued the ocean and leeched off of its life.
A midgard wyrm.