Chapter 1005: The Soul of the Journey

After I finished creating my new Beasts of the End, I remained in the training room to receive the basic knowledge for each of the different martial arts that I wasn’t familiar with. Although the summons could train themselves, I would need to know enough about the art to give them the aptitude for it. For instance, in order for my Beast of Strength to practice the Twelve Shattering Hands, I needed to give it enough ki, and shape that ki into the proper pathways.

Only once I had given each of them the fundamental requirements to practice their assigned arts did I increase their intelligence and willpower enough to allow them to train independently. At this point, they still consumed my mana to be summoned, but with my reserves I was not worried that they would bleed me dry.

When I was done getting everything set, I left the training room with most of the summons, leaving only the Beast of Strength behind. When I exited the room, I saw Tsubaki waiting for me, hands folded neatly in front of herself. She had a knowing smile on my face, and I assumed that she had watched me from the Admin Room before deciding to descend when she saw that I was almost done.

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I smiled at her, offering a small nod before directing the rest of the summons to their own training rooms. “I’ll be staying down here for a while, until they have all become proficient in their different techniques.”

“I had assumed as much, my Keeper.” Tsubaki spoke in a soft tone, following me as I deposited each summon into their own training room. For the time being, I wasn’t focusing on giving them any overwhelming stats, because if I did they might break the training rooms. It was easier to let them master the various styles, and then start increasing their power.

As I thought about that, I glanced over to Tsubaki. “By the way. When you were training with your avatars, did you learn the other styles yourself?” I asked curiously. She had spent quite a while alone, and with all of her avatars training individually, I would not have put it past her.

Surprisingly, though, she shook her head. “Only so much as to learn how to fight against them. In terms of mastery, I have reached the ‘Avatar of War’ stage in Heart of Combat, and ‘Layered Deception’ for the Way of Many Truths.”

I… was not familiar enough with those styles to know what those titles represented. I simply nodded, leading Tsubaki back to the living room. For the time being, it seemed like I would need to stay descended.

“Boss!” Dana’s voice suddenly called out when we had just sat down, startling me and causing me to glance back. The small, black-haired elf was staring at me from the doorway.

“Yeah, Dana?”

“I want to train your summons!” She shouted out, causing me to blink in confusion.

“Okay… but why?”

“Because I started as an aeon, and now I finally get to train other intelligent aeons!” Dana nodded her head, as if it should have been obvious. I had the feeling that there was more to it, but I wasn’t going to press for an answer. If she really wanted to train them, then I didn’t really have a reason to stop her.

“You’re proficient with the Absurdity of Fate style, so you can start with that one, he’s in my third training room. I’ll have the rest go over to you when they’re good enough with their own techniques.”

Dana grinned wide, nodding her head and turning to run out of the living room. Okay, now I’m even more curious. I thought to myself. I’d have to figure out what she was up to later.

Lifre sat within a  wooden office, leaning over her chair with a golden pen in one hand, writing away on a stack of papers. Every now and then, she paused, thinking aloud to herself. “What type of beast should the pirate queen tame to rule the endless sea?” She asked, one finger tapping against the wooden desk.

She closed her eyes, immersing herself in the role of her character. In a world where pirates roamed the endless seas, what beast would truly be the most terrifying to encounter? The old trope of a giant squid or octopus was… somewhat overdone. The pirate queen wanted something new. Something that would send a chill down the spines of her enemies.

Her legs swung beneath her desk, happily thinking over the scenario to try to come up with a powerful monster to serve as the pirate queen’s fierce beast. Soon, the door of the office swung open, a heroc woman standing in the doorway. “Captain! We’ve got land to starboard!” The heroc announced, Lifre’s eyes going wide.

She reached over, grabbing a black hat and throwing it on her head before she marched out of the room. When she emerged, she stood on the deck of a great, wooden ship, over a thousand meters long. The sails of the ship were woven from a silvery metal with a hexagonal pattern, while golden ripples spread like gentle waves on either side of the ship.

Lifre walked to the right side of the ship, the starboard, and gazed out into the darkness. This was a ship flying the true ‘endless sea’, the sea of stars. Off in the distance, Lifre could make out a green planet, resting in the emptiness like a priceless gem. “Send out a search party!” Lifre shouted back to her crew, more than a dozen people heading for a small ship at the side of this larger vessel.

When they dropped from the main ship, runic patterns lit up along their hull, and golden ripples began to spread for them as well. Their speed was considerable, sailing into the distance and becoming little more than a golden trail leading to the planet.

“Captain!” The heroc from earlier shouted. “We’ve got trouble at the stern!”

Lifre blinked in surprise, turning and running along the deck of her ship, rushing towards the rear. As she ran, she caught sight of an elongated mass stretching towards her from the darkness. Her tongue clicked, jumping onto the railing at the very back of the ship to get a better look. “Aye, it seems we’ve found our mark!”

Stretching towards her was a black mass that resembled a massive hand, attached to an arm that seemed to extend to nowhere. Lifre could make out glowing spots like starlight on the hand, and knew immediately what she was looking at. “Soraya!” She called out, a hand extended to her side.

The heroc nodded her head, walking over and placing a hand in Lifre’s. The moment she did, her entire figure distorted and shrank, turning into a black pistol in Lifre’s hand. “I told you we should have prepared cannons, Captain.” A voice spoke up from the pistol, but Lifre simply laughed.

“What do I need a cannon for?!” She shouted, pointing the pistol towards the hand. Its fingers had almost reached the ship, and the invisible barrier around them shuddered.

Lifre’s eyes slowly began to shine, piercing the darkness of space. She looked out beyond the starry sky, as if she could see the source of the hand beyond. “This is my story. You’re not welcome in it.” She said, pulling the trigger.

Immediately, a golden line stretched out from the pistol, piercing into the hand like a spear. Although the mark left by this pistol was miniscule compared to the overall size of the hand itself, it froze the moment the golden light touched it. Lifre’s gaze remained focused on the entity she saw beyond the sky, smiling to herself as she saw it scream in pain, recoiling back. It wasn’t dead, but its cry had triggered the alarm within the void barrier. Lifre could already see three Fallen Gods rushing over to investigate.

Nodding in satisfaction, she tossed the pistol behind her, and it warped once again to become the heroc she had been speaking with until now. “Take a breather, Soraya. I’ll call you again if I need you.”

“I’m sure you will, Captain.” The heroc rolled her eyes, her body melting down into the frame of the ship. Lifre knew that she would be able to call her at a moment’s notice, but simply took her time to walk back to the bow. Behind her, the massive hand melted into the emptiness of space, its main body having more important things to focus on.

By the time that she arrived at the bow, she could see the dinghy she sent out making its return trip. Her brow furrowed, lips pursed. She changed her course to greet them as they returned, already sure that she knew what they had to report.

“Captain!” A halfling girl shouted, jumping up to the deck of the ship. “It’s the same as the others. Though there are signs of a low-level civilization, it has been eradicated by the beasts.”

Lifre let out  a faint sigh, nodding her head. “Any new recruits?”

The halfling dismissed the hopeful thought immediately, however. “Any poor soul that remained through the collapse of civilization has long been sent to Irena’s grasp.”

“As it should be. They’ve earned their retirement. In that case, Lena, set a course for where the stars may take us. There are many a beast hidden among the endless sea of stars. We’ve yet more to tell for this adventure.”

“Yes, Captain!” Lena nodded, and the sail of the ship turned, catching the light of the nearest star. “All crew, brace for stormy weather! We sail by the light of the stars!”

Several crew members reached out for the nearest wall or railing to brace themselves as the surroundings became a dark blur, the ship flying out of the solar system. Every now and then, a white streak passed by, gone in a single blink.

“Have you decided on a combat form yet, Lena?” Lifre asked, looking over at the halfling, who simply shook her head.

“Not yet, Captain. You know I’m not one for fighting. I’ll serve as your eyes for as long as you’ll have me.” She responded with a smile, causing Lifre to smack the back of her head.

“I’ve got eyes of my own!” She scolded, though she had a small grin on her face. “If you want to focus on being the navigator, I’ll support you. But every soul aboard this vessel must be able to play a part if danger comes. If you don’t want to attack, then don’t. Become a shield for your friends.”

Lena blinked at that, thinking while rubbing the back of her head. “I… think I get it. Alright, I’ve got an idea for my combat form. Can you have Sasha take over while I work on it?”

Lifre nodded her head with a faint smile. “Go. Let me see what our star navigator can come up with.”

Lena quickly ran below the deck, and Lifre walked back to her cabin with her hands behind her back. “Sasha, the helm is yours. Steady the course, and keep your eyes peeled for traces of the beasts.” She called out, a pale human rising from the deck.

Only allowed on

“Yes, Captain.” She said, walking towards the ship’s wheel, which seemed to be turning on its own. Lifre hummed a merry tune to herself as she entered her cabin, looking at the nameplate of the ship in her office. The Last Gasp was a ship that she had spent more than a year writing, consulting various shipwrights and veteran explorers.

Once she had finished writing the tale of the ship, she used her divinity to bring it into reality. The Last Gasp had no need for a living crew, being the very epitome of a ‘ghost ship’. Only souls were allowed to crew the vessel, with the exception of the ship’s captain. Though, Lifre herself was only a temporary captain, until she finished writing the story of the one who would take over for her.

As for why those on the ship could turn into weapons… Lifre had taken a look at an old technique in the Keeper’s library, and adapted it to fit her ship. Originally, Aki Seppo was a technique which required unwavering trust between two individuals. After studying the technique, Lifre adapted it so that the crew need only have such trust in the ship to which they were bound, and the captain acted as the living avatar of the ship.

Closing her eyes with a sigh, Lifre sat down at her desk again, reaching for her pen. Suddenly, her eyes opened wide, a bright smile coming across her face. “A demigod dragon of order!” She called out as inspiration struck her, quickly putting pen to paper. “When it’s not active, it can serve as the figurehead of the ship, coming to life at the queen’s call. Those who disobey the queen’s order will face the wrath of her dragon.”

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