My feet flew up the steps of the stairs before I finally reached the doorway at the end. I shoved the wooden door open and burst out into the deck of the ship. The clamoring of the pirates was nearly drowned out by the heavy fall of rain on the ship. There was a crack of thunder as the boat rocked, nearly knocking me off balance.
“You alright?” Gennady caught me, stopping me from falling and steadying me.
“I’m fine,” I said, grasping his arm with my right hand. “Come on, we’ve got to help them.”
My Dwarven companion nodded, and the two of us ran past the scurrying pirates in search of Ginah. I managed to pick out a few voices and yells as we waded our way through the storm and chaos.
“Man the cannons!”
“Where is it? I don’t see—”
“Just be prepared to fire you fools!”
“It was a Cephalo—”
We ran up to the captain’s deck of the ship, where Ginah was working the helm through the rough sea. She had one hand on her Energy Whip, with the other steering the ship. She turned as we approached.
“It’s a Monster attack,” she said, gripping her weapon ever-so-slightly harder. “A big one.”
“What do you think it is?” Gennady hurriedly asked, pulling out an array of his mana weapons. He held a ball shaped item up, paused and glanced around at the rain, then pocketed it quickly. “Don’t want to electrocute everyone here,” he muttered under his breath.
“I think it’s a Cephalonx,” Ginah replied, casting her gaze to the sea. Our ship rocked as a large wave struck its hull. “We have to be careful. If it decides to attach itself to the bottom of the boat, it could bring us all down.”
“Then we just have to take it down before it does.” Gennady held up a spear gun with a mana crystal attached just below the tip. He whirled around to leave but I stopped him.
“What’s a Cephalonx?” I asked, frowning.
“It’s a giant squid,” he said, spreading his arms out wide. “An A Ranked threat in my book—”
“I still don’t know what that is!”
“It’s strong. That’s all you need to know.” Genndy paused, as if remembering something. “And watch out for its tentacles. They’re barbed with poison. It’s not the most deadly one out there, but if you get cut by it too much, you probably won’t be able to help out.”
Hearing that, I nodded and followed after him as he rushed over to the bulwark of the ship. The rain came down at me like a veil, pushing me back as I held on tight to the wooden bannister. Gennady didn’t need to do that— he was far more sturdier than me. He simply leaned over and assessed the damage to the ship.
So far, it was only superficial damage. And looking at it, I thought that this Cephalonx must have dragged its tentacles across the hull, scratching the wooden surface. I saw a shadow move in parallel to the boat and pointed.
A spear made out of ice was conjured from the water vapor and raindrops in the air. It shot forwards at the shadow, leaving behind a trail of thin white mist where it went. Just as the Frost Javelin broke the water surface, the shadow disappeared and my spell hit nothing.
“Damned it!” Gennady lowered his weapon and whirled around. “It went under the ship. We need to draw it back up!”
“How do we do that?” I turned to face him.
“We need something that can hit it under the water— I can’t use my Shock Orb. The chain of lightning it creates is too risky in this weather. It could still hit one of us.”
I paused, mentally going through the spells I had. “Would a Lightning Strike work?” I asked, gesturing at the sky. “Think it’ll draw out the Cephalonx?”
The entire boat shook as it sounded like something impacted it from down below. I heard more yells and screams— Jack was here now too, and he had his short swords drawn. But he couldn’t help either. I looked at Gennady as his brows creased.
“I… I’m not sure. Maybe if it’s close enough to the surface—”
“We’ll just have to try then,” I interrupted him and raised my staff up to the sky. I felt the mana pulsing through the air; magic was the manipulation of reality, but if the conditions of reality were just right, it could make my spells more powerful.
Lightning crashed down from the sky, breaking into the water surface. Electricity spread through the sea around the boat, and it zapped every living thing within it. I waited for the boat to shake once again as the Cephalonx detached itself from the ship— or at least, recoiled in pain. But nothing happened.
Gennady put a hand out. “It must have pushed away from the ship just now. Just before you did that. You need to time it right. The next time it tries to attack the ship from below, summon another Lightning Strike.”
“Got it.” I lightly brushed at the mana in the sky and the air, holding onto it like it was a holstered revolver, but not drawing it just yet. I waited, and when I felt the ship shake once again—
“Now!” he exclaimed.
I drew the mana. I cast the spell. And bang.
A flash filled the air and ringing filled my ears. The water sizzled with lightning for just a moment, with wisps of smoke rising from the sea surface. When suddenly a shadowed figure quickly approached and broke out of the ocean.
The Cephalonx came rushing at the ship, its ink black eyes filled with rage as its long green tentacles ripped at the wooden hull. It was about the size of our ship, and it nearly toppled the ship over with the attack. My butt found the floor as the ship rocked back. I glanced up as I heard more shouts. Elda was screaming for the cannons to be aimed and fired at it.
Somehow, for whatever reason, the eyes of the Monster focused on me; it apparently knew that I was the one who cast the spell. All of its tentacles flared up behind it— all twelve of the tentacles. Twelvetecles?
Whatever they were, they were dangerous, and they lashed out in my direction. I tensed, preparing a barrier to protect me. But before any of them could read me, Gennady shot his spear gun straight at the Cephalonx’s triangular head.
The tip of the spear barely pierced the giant twelve limbed Monster. Normally, such an attack would have done nothing. And it did do nothing— by itself.
The mana crystal on the spear flashed. A brilliant red glow filled my vision for a moment, before a combustion of flames engulfed half of the Celphalonx’s face as the spear came flying back into Gennady’s weapon by the rope it was attached to. The flames burned at its skin, slowly making its way down the rest of its body.
It reeled back, trying to extinguish the flames with its tentacles. But all that did was burn its long spiked limbs as well. It emitted a high pitched screech in pain, forcing me to cover my ears as it ducked back into the water.
I sent spells after it. Two Frost Javelins and a few Magic Missiles managed to strike it before it fully submerged itself, but it was still alive. I ran up to see where it went— to see if it was fleeing— but Gennady pulled me back.
“Be careful, lass,” he said, grasping my arm. “It’ll probably come back any moment. Cephalonx’s are vindictive. They won’t stop until they catch their prey. And this one was only trying to put out the flames. Too bad it won’t work.”
“What do you mean it won’t work? Isn’t it underwater right now?”
“It is, but that won’t help. That fire will burn you even if you jump into the ocean. It’s my sea Monster specialty weapon.” The Dwarf proudly gestured at the spear gun. The glow in its mana crystals was out though, and he quickly dug into his pocket. “Just have to change these—”
Before he could finish, the water next to the boat shot up as the Cephalonxreturned with a vengeance. It was still on fire; in fact, more of its body was lit ablaze now. And that only made it burn with more anger. It brought one of its tentacles down at us, and we both barely jumped out of the way.
It was not done with just that. The tentacle did not recede back into its body. Instead, it swept at us as we were getting up.Gennady reached for another gadget at his side, but I was faster. I pointed at the incoming tentacle and the air rippled. A Wind Blade shot out at the giant tentacle just as it was about to hit us, severing it and leaving a part of it on the deck of the ship.
I was just about to sigh in relief when I noticed a shadow come over me. I glanced back up and saw a tentacle looming over me. I readied another Wind Blade and—
The ship rocked and my stomach lurched. And that was just enough to make me lose concentration for just a moment. A moment that let the Centalonx strike me. I braced myself for the inevitable strike and poisoning, but blinked as the tentacle was sliced in two.
Jack stood in front of me, his dual short swords gleaming as lightning flashed in the distance. The former smuggler brandished his blades, before jumping on to the bulwark of the ship and leaping at more tentacles as they came for the ship. He swung his blade, and more bits of tentacle rained down.
That was enough to attract the Cephalonx’s attention. It cast its gaze at him, and as it did, a voice resounded behind me
There was a series of loud explosions as the mana cannons loosed large blue bolts of energy at the Monster. The blasts made it stagger and splash in the water, flailing its tentacles in a frenzy as it was struck by more explosions.
Gennady’s fire continued to burn at it, but at this point that was more of a nuisance than anything. The Cephalonx turned its head in the direction of Elda and the other pirates standing by the cannons. A hole in the side of its face opened up— the siphon aimed in their direction— and an orb of noxious liquid shot out at them.
I sent a Fireball to intercept the liquid— whatever it was— and it exploded midair. But before I could even prepare another spell, the Cephalonx shot out another orb. And another. And another.
Elda and the pirates scrambled out of the way of the attack as it spattered on the wooden deck of the ship. Immediately, the floorboards began to sizzle, slowly being eaten away by whatever acid that was it had produced. If that had hit them— it probably wouldn’t have killed them right away. Probably horrifically scarred if they didn’t get a healing potion on them soon. Which was still a terrible thing, but otherwise they would survive.
Either way, the Cephalonx missed its attacks as Elda continued dodging and jumping around the ship. It opened its siphon once again, but this time she was faster. She instantly produced three throwing daggers on her hand and snapped it into the hole on the side of its face.
Again it screeched, and in that moment I unleashed a Burst Cyclone onto its burning face. The wind exploded and cut at it, tearing into its skin and spreading the flames even further around its body. But it was still alive.
“What is that thing made out of?” I asked in disbelief.
It struck at the ship once again, further angered by all the damage it had taken. But it wasn’t even slowing. Jack sliced up all the tentacles that came close to the ship while Elda flung more daggers to keep the rest back. I turned to Gennady.
“You’re the expert— how do we take that thing down?”
The Dwarf and veteran Hunter hesitated. He chewed at his beard as he spoke slowly. “I told you lass, it’s an A Ranked threat. If we keep at it, it’ll eventually die. But the damage it’ll do to the ship…”
I had been practicing my Thaumaturgy, but none of the spells I had been learning were ready yet. I could try to use them but… it was too risky. Right now, the only thing keeping it distracted was me. I grit my teeth in frustration as I sent more Frost Javelins at the Cephalonx. “Don’t you have anything in that bag of yours that can take it out?”
“My Annihilation cannon still hasn’t gotten a replacement Greater mana crystal for it after the last time you used it— other than that, there’s the Draught Sword which isn’t useful unless we get up close to it, and the Shock Orb is too dangerous…” The Dwarf’s eyes widened. “Actually, I have an idea.”
“Just distract it for me. I’ll take care of it, trust me.”
“Are you sure?” I narrowed my eyes.
“‘Course.” He snorted, pointing a thumb at himself. “I’m a Hunter. I’m used to taking down Monsters in dangerous situations.”
I hesitated, glancing between my friend and the Cephalonx. Then I nodded. “I trust you. I’ll distract it.”
“Alright— and try to draw it to use its acid!”
I made a noise in affirmation, then I ran away from Gennady, towards the center of the ship as glowing balls of light came into existence above me. The Explosive Orbs hovered in circles around my head, before they flew in the direction of the squid-like Monster. They flashed, detonating on impact and turning its attention to me.
I paused, and with a hand tightly on my hat, I aimed my staff at it. The mana in the air coalesced around my staff, as the spell circle came to form. The Cephalonx’s eyes flickered, noticing the spell. Lightning Strike. It was wary of it, and it somehow knew I was casting it.
Its tentacles bounded at me, but Jack intercepted them. He stopped them from reaching me, and I nodded to him. Electricity crackled in the heavens, and a lightning bolt came crashing down at it.
The Cephalonx’s entire body jolted from the attack, stopping it momentarily. But as I prepared to cast the spell again— slower this time, as I felt exhaustion slowly set it alongside the nausea from fighting in a shaking ship— it broke free from its paralysis.
It drew its limbs back, facing me with its hate-filled face. Its siphon opened up, preparing to launch its globule of acid at me—
Gennady ran forward and tossed three palm sized glowing balls into the opening. Distance was never an issue in my mind; I knew the Dwarf was physically strong— it was a given with the size of his arms. But accuracy? I never expected him to throw them as precisely as Elda was with her daggers.
The Shock Orbs entered the siphon without an issue, and for a moment, nothing happened. Then the Cephalonx drew its head back as if it was choking on something, before there was a flash of light from within.
The Monster tossed and turned with its body, before it was seized up by an invisible grip. Then it began to vibrate violently as smoke poured out from its siphon, until eventually, it stopped.
It did not move. It didn’t even react to the flames on its body anymore. The mana cannons that hadn’t stopped firing at it finally stopped, the pirates manning it realizing that the Cephalonx was dead. Its insides burned and electrocuted by Gennady’s Shock Orbs. And we watched as the Monster’s body sunk to the bottom of the ocean, still burning, as we sailed away from it.
I wanted to sigh in relief; my shoulders sagged as the immediate danger was finally gone. Then Gennady called out to me as he approached me from behind.
“Did ya see that lass? I have a pretty good arm eh?”
He brought a hand up and my eyes widened. I brought a hand up and tried to take a step back.
But it was too late. Gennady smacked me in the back.
And my lunch came hurling out.
“…that’s the second time you’ve puked in front of me. Maybe you should stop eating so much.”
“As a Hunter, you’ve got to think outside of the box. Use your tools in unconventional ways. That’s the only way you can succeed as well as one. Monsters— those as dangerous as the Cephalonx— typically are built so you can’t just brute force them. Not unless you have some high grade mana tools… or a Tier 5 or 6 spell in your case.”
I took a sip of water and sighed. I was still slightly sick even after emptying my stomach, and the storm wasn’t letting up just yet, so I didn’t want to make myself feel worse. I turned to the Dwarf, biting back my usual quip about how the Tiers system wasn’t really used by most experts in magic, and shook my head.
“I don’t know any of these ‘Tier 5’ spells. I’m trying to learn one right now, which I think might be equal to a traditional Tier 5 spell. However, creating a spell from scratch— well, not really from scratch, I know roughly the feeling of what I want thanks to using your Annihilation cannon. But I can’t exactly just copy it, so I’m trying to create a weaker version of that Annihilation spell, and it’s just hard.”
I closed my eyes, thinking of the amount of time I had spent up above deck and pointing a finger at the sky with both no results, or bad results. I continued.
“But the strongest spells I know aren’t at that level yet. So that was all I could use at the moment.”
Gennady scratched his bearded chin. “Certainly, the spells you can currently cast are indeed powerful. A Fireball is kind of murky in what it is— some people believe it’s a high Tier 3 spell, while others argue it’s a low Tier 4 spell. But the others? Lightning Strike, Frost Javelin, and Burst Cyclone— even if it’s a spell you made yourself— are all Tier 4. Unfortunately, none of them were able to fully pierce through the Cephalonx’s thick skin.”
“I realized,” I said, leaning my elbow on the table and resting my chin on my palm. “What was I supposed to do?”
“Use your head more, Melas.” He tapped at his temple. “Think of creative ways to combat Monsters. That’s what Hunters do. It’s not like fighting people— they are unpredictable. But Monsters? They’re Monsters for a reason. Sure, some of them are smart and actually capable of thought. But most of them will always fall into some pattern you can exploit.”
I tried to work my head; my mind thought of the various other things I could have done differently in the fight. But perhaps it was because I was still sea sick, my brain produced nothing of value. “Why do I have to learn this, anyway? Do you think I’ll still be a Hunter once I’m in Jahar’taw?”
The Dwarf raised his burly shoulders in a shrug. “Dunno,” he said. “But like you would say— better to be safe than sorry.”
“Right, right.” I rolled my eyes, and relaxed my posture even further. I wanted to just lie down and sleep; I was tired from the fight. However, just as I was about to do just that, someone else entered the cafeteria.
Lisa walked in as I stood up. The young woman was wearing clean, white clothing. She wasn’t like me, who was now dressed in my ragged leather armor since my purple robes and cape were drenched in rain. She hadn’t taken part in the fight, since she was a noncombatant. However, her blonde hair was slightly ruffled from being thrown around as the boat was rocked from the battle.
“There you are— are you two busy?” she asked, cocking her head.
“Gennady was just trying to go over the battle we had earlier. To help me improve. But we’re done now, and I was just about to head to bed.” I waved my arm in the general direction of my room, too tired to even gesticulate properly.
“Well, you might want to put that off for just a moment,” she said. She looked over at Gennady and winked at him. The Dwarf blinked.
“Oh, are we already— and the storm has passed?”
“It just did.” Lisa turned around to leave. “Come on, Melas.”
I glanced between the two of them, confused. But Gennady just ushered me forwards. “It’ll be your first time. You don’t want to miss it.”
“Hey!” Lisa said, walking just ahead of us. “It’s my first time too!”
He snorted. “But you’ve probably seen pictures. Melas hasn’t.”
“What are you two talking about?” I asked, holding in a yawn from coming out. I weakly tugged my arm back from the Dwarf’s light grip. “Can’t this wait till later?”
“Probably. But we’ll have to wait until we’re passing by another port. And that’ll require more waiting.”
I just looked at him in confusion, before giving up. My brain wasn’t fully working at the moment, and I couldn’t be bothered trying to parse whatever Gennady and Lisa were skirting around.
“Fine,” I sighed.
The two led me up the stairway, back above deck. However, when the door was flung open, I was not met with the dark, cloudy skies of before. Instead, it was a clear, blue dome that hung overhead.
I covered my eyes for a moment, as my vision accustomed itself to the brightness. It was still afternoon— I had known that, since I was just eating my lunch a few hours ago. But to see the difference between what was essentially night, and what was now very obviously day, was still slightly jarring.
I was still blinking and staring up to the sky when I heard Lisa gasp from my side.
“Amazing,” she breathed.
She was staring in awe at something in the distance. I looked around the deck of the ship and realized she wasn’t the only one.
Elda, Ginah, Sevin, and even Jack had stopped what they were doing, and turned their attention at something off to the side. Their gaze remained locked at whatever it was they were staring at. And I was just about to ask if everyone had been hit with some sort of petrification spell when I felt a hand rest lightly on my shoulder.
“Look,” Gennady said, pointing over at the horizon.
Slowly, I turned my gaze in that direction and froze as well. In the distance, I saw objects. Large rectangular objects that filled the distance, coming in different colors. They came in shades of orange, red, gray, brown— they were bricks?
That was right, they weren’t just objects. They were objects made out of brick. Brick… buildings? No, that was not the right word. They were large. They protruded out of the ground at over a hundred feet each, reaching for the sky.
They were skyscrapers.
And among these skyscrapers, there were smaller buildings of course. And there was some smoke coming out of a few factories, but they were barely even noticeable. I only saw them when I actively looked for it. But it was a city.
A city on land.
It took me a moment to realize this, and for a moment, I didn’t register anything wrong with the sight. It was a city made out of tall skyscrapers that rose up over ten floors. What was wrong with it?
Then it slowly began to sink in— the understanding of where I was. Of what I was actually seeing.
“Capture this sight with your mind. Ingrain it in your memories. For you will never see such cities anywhere else in the world.” Gennady slowly started forward, going in between me and the city. Then he turned around and he spread his arms out wide. “For it is the Taw Kingdom! The land of Dwarves! The country of innovation!”
Then he paused, and a nostalgic smile spread across his face.
“And my home.”
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