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I go down to the deck and walk to the starboard railing. I see the exposed dark green crystal just a few meters away from me, slowly pulsating with light and mana.
The girls discuss lunch. Lina wants a veggie soup with toast, which would be perfect in this cold and rainy weather. Yunia doesn't seem thrilled at the suggestion, but she doesn't complain, so the girls go with it.
I slowly take off my wooden armor and focus on the mana of the crystal. I take my ten points out of [Piloting] and put them into [Sense Mana] instead. There's always some kind of "flavor" to mana, so I'm hoping that'll help with my [Redirect Mana] research.
Aoi stops beside me and [Clean]s the floor of rainwater, then curls up into a ball. I sit down and lay against her body. She's quite warm, but unfortunately, she isn't fluffy like fox-Alissa is.
"What do you know about [Wind Magic]?" I ask her.
"Hmm~…" She thinks deeply, and I hear her grumbles inside my soul s.p.a.ce.
She lays her tail on my lap, so I start playing with it.
"Wind is unpredictable. Like water, you can't control all of it, so you have to find a way to 'flow' along with it. You have to 'become' the wind," she answers.
She spreads her long blue wings, and I feel mana escape her body. Without even flapping them, she causes a strong gust of wind to hit me in the face.
She chuckles, then says, "My wings aren't actually good at 'swimming' through the air. Actually, my whole body is bad at doing that… Anyway, I'm bad at 'swimming,' but I don't need to do that to fly, I simply control the air around me and force it to push me up."
"Right, that's 'lift.' Your body isn't that aerodynamic, so you have trouble 'cutting' through the air. To fix that, you make a 'bubble' or a 's.h.i.+eld' of air around you, which is aerodynamic."
"Oh, yeah, I think that it's like that."
"Air is a fluid, like water, and the faster that you move it, the harder it is to 'push' this air away and 'swim' through it. So, by making a certain shape with the wind, you improve your aerodynamics. You also control how the wind hits your bubble, so you have some resistance to undesirable weather, like strong winds, or rogue gusts."
She nods and shows me a toothy smile. "Mhm, that's why we rule the skies. Birds just fly 'through' the air, but dragons 'become' the air and control it."
She lays her left wing over me like a leathery blanket.
"Are you talking about [Wind Magic]?" Ciel asks and stops beside us to stare at the pulsating crystal.
The golems are preparing the ingredients for the soup, so there's little work left for the girls.
"Yep. I'm trying to understand what it's all about so that I can control it better," I answer.
"What did you tell him?" Ciel asks Aoi.
She retells our short conversation and Ciel starts thinking.
She sits beside us and starts petting Aoi's scaly head as she says, "It's important to understand that at smaller scales, the wind is completely chaotic, but the more you increase the scale, like when you start to talk about the weather, the more certain it becomes. It's even possible to predict when it'll rain and the temperature of a certain day."
"Oh, right. We have that on Earth, too," I say.
Ciel nods. "It's the duality of Wind. On one hand, it's slow and predictable, on the other, it's fast and chaotic."
"To fly, you become the wind, adding yourself to the chaos, but always using it with purpose," Aoi says.
We go silent and continue admiring the crystal.
Yunia goes down into the hold and starts repairing the s.h.i.+p. I pull out some spare planks the s.h.i.+p had in its cargo and summon an orc to bring them down to her.
If these planks didn't disappear when I put them in my "Items," does that mean that the whole s.h.i.+p is real and not a dungeon mana solidification? I figured that it was part of the dungeon's challenge to take care of it and not let it get destroyed, but if I store it in my "Items" and it disappears, then we'll be in trouble.
I pull out a cus.h.i.+on for Ciel and Aoi, then I use [Telekinesis] on all three of us to lift us onto them without having to get up.
"Thank you," Aoi says, and Ciel raises a questioning eyebrow at me.
"I'm not going to comment on how much mana I just spent," I say and grin.
I return to my study of the crystal and extend a very thin "soul-tentacle" towards it so that I can feel the mana better.
Since my mana isn't full, this piece of my soul becomes a "mouth" through which I can absorb the mana. If I "flex" my soul to be more similar to the signature of the mana that I'm trying to absorb, it gets "attracted" to my soul, making the absorption easier. This "flexing" used to strain me, but now that I have [Soul Manipulation], it's rather trivial to do in practice. But just altering the properties of the soul isn't enough; having a deeper knowledge of how things work will always be beneficial to magic.
Since I can't see the wind, sight won't help me, so I close my eyes and meditate.
To become the wind I have to… feel it.
I open my eyes again and push Aoi's blanket away, then I stand up and regretfully part with her warmth. I walk to the railing and open my scale jacket so that I can feel more of the wind against my skin.
I close my eyes again and meditate.
I remember the Reynolds Number, the coefficient that represents the turbulence in the flow of fluids. This number is proof that even chaos can be quantified.
I spread my soul through the air so that I can feel its flow. Everything is going through constant, chaotic movement, but I can see how it flows around the archway in a predictable manner.
I activate [Redirect Mana] near the crystal and observe how the mana particles slowly come to me, almost like a breeze. I pull a bit too much, so I stop and let it flow freely.
I start playing around with the mana, pulling it only for second in one direction, then in another, as if I'm making brushstrokes with it, then creating swirls in the air.
Aoi chuckles, and Ciel asks, "What are you doing? I'm feeling the mana moving in an odd way."
"I'm 'painting' with mana," I answer and give her a gentle smile. "If only I could make the particles visible…"
The mana swishes and swooshes within my extended soul, creating a little turbulence as the particles start to interact with one another.
It seems that it's much easier to control mana when I have the right mindset.
I start to chant [Wind Blade], and I move the point where I gather mana from my heart to the air in front of me, in the middle of all the Wind mana. As expected, the wild mana converges around my gathering point, boosting my spell. This is also why Roxanne uses a staff and casts her spells from its tip, the crystal on her staff helps gather the ambient mana to boost her spells.
I release the spell, and it makes a scratch in the stone, but I'm sure that Roxanne can make a much deeper one.
Mana from a crystal seems easy to "steal" with [Redirect Mana] because it has no "will." The problem is when two wills clash when they try to take control of the same mana particles. The two conflicting wills can't force the mana to be two things at the same time, so this bends the laws of reality, and some bad s.h.i.+t happens.
Perhaps I could stop enchantments with it, though it would require me to move my soul close to the gem, which would make me extremely vulnerable to a Spirit mage.
But what about completed spells? No… you can still control most spells after they've been completed or launched. I don't think that I could've stopped [Meteor] with [Redirect Mana].
Ah! But maybe I could recreate the effects of Yunia's [Disruption Field] by using [Redirect Mana]!
I spread my soul in two directions, then I start flickering [Redirect Mana] on and off on each of the ends.
The mana quickly whips up into a small storm, but it's nowhere near the amount of chaos that I saw with Yunia's [Disruption Field], and it's also moving a s.h.i.+t ton of mana.
Of course, Yunia's spell is a perfected tool, while I'm trying to do the same thing with only a makes.h.i.+ft replacement.
"Ciel, help me a little, try to chant and cast [Conjure Water]," I ask, then I turn the mana storm to her.
"This is really uncomfortable," she says as the mana particles wrack through her body, then she starts chanting, but she succeeds without much extra effort.
"Hm… a failure…" I mumble.
She smiles wryly and says, "You need a lot more disruption to prevent me from casting. Also, with this amount of mana you might actually damage my HP before you manage to interrupt my spell."
I start chanting [Wind Blade], building the spell outside of my heart again, but this time I pull in a lot of Wind mana from the crystal.
"Careful not to pull too much. You could make the whole island fall on us," Ciel warns me.
I won't go that far.
I start spinning the mana around the spell, but that only disrupts it. Maybe if I had a Wind-attuned gem, I could bring the mana to it, and it would help boost the spell.
But just "boosting" it isn't enough. I want to absorb this Wind mana and directly feed it into the spell. Now that would be novel, though [Ritualism] supposedly links multiple mages' mana together to cast bigger spells, so it's not completely novel.
I stop the storm and hold it in place, then I continue chanting. When I'm almost finished, I turn my soul into a "mouth," allowing it to absorb all the Wind mana gathered around it, then I release the spell.
"[Wind Blade]!" The nearly invisible green blade sinks into the rock beside the first scratch.
"Did that one cut deeper?" Ciel asks.
I jump and use [Telekinesis] to glide to the rock, then I run my fingers through each scratch.
"A little," I answer.
"I think I understand what you just tried to do," Ciel says.
"I'm trying to use [Redirect Mana] to feed my spell directly, not just 'boost' it by proximity," I say.
"Yep, I knew it."
I smile wryly and return to the s.h.i.+p.
Recharging my mana organ with [Redirect Mana] is straining, so I want to find alternative uses for the skill. If I can get this idea to work, I can carry a gem large enough to cast a huge defensive spell that could stop four [Meteor]s.
I continue my practice of using [Redirect Mana] to fuel my spells, but the problem is that it also refills my mana, so there's still some strain happening.
Maybe I could make a spell that didn't gather mana first, then I could fill it with mana from a crystal instead of using my own, but that would take a lot of effort to come to fruition.
I don't want to tire myself out with this simple practice, so I stop and go down into the hold to inspect the s.h.i.+p's crystal. I identify the area in the gem where the mana is being stored, then I bring the island's Wind mana to the crystal, refilling it.
"Oh, hey, at least this idea worked perfectly," I say with a smile.
Yunia comes to inspect what I'm doing and comments, "That's… actually a really good thing. It might make s.h.i.+ps more viable in the future if your skill spreads."
"How are the gems normally recharged?" I ask.
"Mages would use their own mana to refill it, but I heard that the Chimeras collect Light magic, then transform it into what they need, just like in the Looping Winds Station that we just came from. It's rather ironic since they aren't very pious and don't use [Light Magic] for much besides that."
"Can't they use Wind mana directly, instead?"
"There's not enough Wind mana in the Sky Lands. You have to fly to the outer circle around the continent to reach higher mana concentrations, but then you also have to deal with the Drifting Lands and the strong winds, so it's not worth it."
"You know a lot about the Chimeras."
She smiles proudly. "We have trade relations with them, so it pays off to know what they need."
"If you can predict the weather, can't you predict the path of a Drifting Land? If you have them all predicted, there would be little danger of cras.h.i.+ng into them."
"Every once in a while, the Everlasting Storm creates a new Drifting Land. You can predict the existing ones, but you'd need constant vigilance; otherwise, one day, a Drifting Land could crash into a new Land and ruin all your calculations."
"Ah, I see."
She nods gently. "You certainly don't think like a commoner. You're more of a scholar, but you'll do well as a True n.o.ble."
"Well, thank you," I awkwardly accept her compliment.
We finish our repairs of the hull, then we go up and have our lunch.
We eat hot soup in the warmth of our tent while looking to the outside and admiring the storm off in the distance.
After everything is done, we pack up, armor up, and return to our positions. We bring the s.h.i.+p back to the Looping Winds and continue on our journey.
We soon pa.s.s through the first anchor, and we notice how still the air has become. Even our sail loses power since there isn't a single gust of wind coming from anywhere. Fortunately, we already have a lot of momentum, so we spend a short time crossing it.
The storm clouds are left behind us, but we're now entering a thick sea of white clouds. Every once in a while, we see islets peeking out of the clouds. This is the danger of this area. If we drift off course, we might crash into something. Not that there's any reason for us to leave the Looping Winds for now.
Over the course of half an hour, it slowly gets darker until we can barely see, forcing us to keep the crystal lights on, then the number of clouds reduces a little, and we see the sky again. Night has fallen, and we see a beautiful starry sky full of colorful nebulae. Then the clouds start to glow and gain muted colors, giving it a truly fantastical atmosphere. This area's mostly dark blue, but it's slowly changing to purple.
"Wow…" Alissa mutters, impressed at the beautiful sight. "We really are in the Broken Skies."
Lina's Trivia: Above the Sky Lands are the ruins of an ancient Chimeric empire, now a nearly untraversable region, full of Drifting Lands colliding with one another and wild, unpredictable Looping Winds everywhere. This place is called the Broken Skies.
A few colorful birds take flight from a hidden islet and fly near our s.h.i.+p.
"Are these monsters?" I ask Alissa.
"No, they're animals," she answers and admires them.
Their tails are nearly four times longer than their bodies. They seem rather sleek, and I'd bet that they attack by diving.
Three birds land on the railings of our s.h.i.+p, and we notice that they're actually slightly chameleonic as their color changes in just a few seconds from purplish-blue to light brown to match the wood. They're also rather big, around 60cm tall, excluding the ridiculously long tail, and they have long, thin beaks.
The golems come up to the bridge again, and Ted says, "Excuse us, masters, but this stretch of the journey is supposedly safe."
Suzy continues, "So this is the perfect opportunity to let us learn to pilot the s.h.i.+p while you enjoy the scenery."
Jarn finishes, "We wish to learn and earn independence so that you may come to rely on us."
I share a look with Alissa. "Sounds fine to me," I say.
"Yes, that sounds nice," Alissa agrees and smiles.
We untie ourselves from the ropes on the bridge, then I sweep Alissa off her feet and pick her up into a princess carry.
"Kyah!" She yelps in surprise and hugs my neck.
Without wasting a breath, I jump off the bridge and use [Telekinesis] to graciously land on the deck.
"I give your landing a solid eight out of ten," Roxanne says with a grin.
I let Alissa get her feet back under her, and she pinches my cheek, then I turn to Roxanne and ask, "What do I need to get a ten out of ten?"
"You have [Acrobatics], use it," she responds.
Ciel tries to slowly approach the birds while holding some grains in her hand, but the birds seem uninterested in them.
"I'd guess that they prefer meat," I say and pull out some of the raw Dragolite meat that we have.
"Can't you give them some of the dried meat?" Hana asks.
"Too salty, it would probably be bad for them," I answer.
Ciel takes a slab of meat and starts slicing it into small strips. The birds notice the meat and start to intently stare at her.
I smile and say, "See?"
Alissa gets two ropes on the deck and ties one around my waist and the other around hers.
Ciel smiles like a little girl and throws a strip towards a bird. They all open their long beaks and snap at the meat, but the one in the middle is the victor.
She throws more meat, making sure that each of the birds gets an equal share. She slowly steps forward with each throw, observing the birds for any aggressive movement.
Once all the meat is gone, Yunia walks up beside Ciel and says, "It's fine, they like you. You can touch them now."
"Really?" Ciel happily asks.
Gify pops onto the head of the middle bird. "Gih!"
Ciel skips forward and stops in front of the left bird. Its amber, hawk-like eyes stare curiously at her.
She shyly reaches out towards it, then the bird lowers its head and rubs it against her hand.
"Ah… so fluffy," she moans.
It lets out a soft, melodic cry in happiness.
Yunia goes to pet the second bird, then Lina comes to pet the third, but it has to first hop down to the deck before she can reach it.
The birds send worried glances at Aoi, but eventually accept her presence. They also seem slightly wary of Hana, and they avoid looking me, specifically, in the eye.
The now muted purple clouds slowly s.h.i.+ft into a muted red. Their glow seems to have a subtle pulse to it, giving us the impression that they're constantly moving.
The golems quickly adapt to working together to pilot the s.h.i.+p. Jarn seemingly has the most stable hands, so she takes charge of the roll and yaw, which require the finest control to counter any turbulence.
Some vegetation starts to appear, all odd-looking plants and trees. If they're truly native to the Broken Skies, then it's natural to think that they'd look different from normal vegetation after being isolated from the rest of the world for so long.
We drink the usual not-earl gray tea and some simple cookies while taking turns petting and playing with the birds.
More birds appear on the islets, but they aren't as majestic, or intelligent, as the ones currently enjoying our hospitality.
A few Dragolites appear, wanting to either attack us, or eat the now named Long-Tailed Chamebirb, but they're barely stronger than a goblin, so we can easily dispatch them, even with our eyes closed.
The birds eventually leave, not wanting to get too far from their usual hunting territory, so we end our little break, but we don't stop admiring the environment.
The muted reds of the clouds are replaced by muted greens, and the islets suddenly become lush with vegetation.
Then we see a huge flat bird the size of a car that looks more like a manta ray than a bird. It flies so slowly that it must be using mana to float. It has a long, seagull-like beak, and eyes at the sides of its flat head. Its dark gray plumage absorbs some of the colors from the environment, giving it a measure of camouflage.
The now named Manta Gull seemingly has a flock of small birds nesting on its back. When a Dragolite appears to attack them, they band together to defend their nest and fight alongside the Manta, who uses its thin, long tail like a whip.
No fantasy world is complete without a peaceful, slow, and large flying creature.
Alissa suddenly draws her bow and fires it at a small cloud. The mana arrow gets stuck in the cloud, which hisses and s.h.i.+vers, then fades into nothing.
"Oh, a Cloud Snake," I say, then I remember that I dreamed about it in that nightmare about the Hands chasing us. I shudder and push that horrible memory out of my mind.
Just as we're about to relax from our vigilance, the wind starts to pick up speed again, becoming too strong for the golems to pilot the s.h.i.+p smoothly anymore.
I look at Alissa and smile wryly. "Break time's over."
Lina scurries up to us and says, "The next dangerous area is approaching, it's the rapids," Lina says.
Hall of Fame of Patrons
The patrons who support Rupegia shall have their names sung by the bards for they deserve the glory and honor. Their names are:
Oracle Maximillian Hübner.
Lord Andrew Meyers.
Lord Samuel Lim.
Lord Michale Erwin.
Lord Enrique Peña Gomez.
Lord Yeeteris Dedmeem.
Lord D4rk Sheep.
Lord Nathan Vanbrunt.
Lord Andrew Heffelbower.
Lord Thiago Ferreira.
n.o.ble Salty Panda.
n.o.ble Mild Fracas.
n.o.ble Tiler Mills.
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