After leaving the dungeon, our journey continued with little real change. Naturally, we weren’t going to come across another dungeon or anything like that. In fact, we went a full three months without even seeing another island, which is when things started to turn sour aboard the ship.
By now, we had been at sea for half of a year. The warmth of spring had faded, and a chill was starting to seep into our bones. It wasn’t as bad for us near the equator, but it was easy to tell that winter was approaching. A cold winter at sea, where nothing could come to our aid.
It was also here that I was able to observe a rather peculiar characteristic of the ursa. Once the cold began to set in, the lower level ursa began to show signs of tiredness throughout the day. It wasn’t an issue for Kelly, as her fire ki kept her constantly warm, but others weren’t so lucky.
Another key problem was that we were slowly running out of the preserved food that we had packed. This seemed to be a disadvantage to being higher level, as it meant that people with more powerful bodies also needed to eat more. To the previous example… Kelly often ate at least thirty pounds of food a day. Even I had to eat a considerable amount more than I was used to, though not to the same degree.
Naturally, we fished for extra food, and harvested what we could from monsters, but the scarcity of monsters on the open seas made it hard to find something large enough to properly feed the crews. Every day, there would be people rushing over from the other ships to get food, as their own stores had run out. As the center ship, the Jolly Dodger had the most supplies, so it was one of our duties to share it with them.
Yet, our food stores likewise had a limit, a limit that was fast approaching. As I sat on the bench, using natural energy to keep myself warm, I could hear the conversations of the crew behind me.
“I don’t know that we’ll have enough food to last out the week…”
“We can’t turn back, we’d never make it to land.”
“What do you suggest? Without food, we won’t make it anywhere.”
“What… what if we kept what we have left? Better one ship survives than none, right?”
No sooner had those words left the mouth of an aged lycan man than a low growl spread throughout the ship. Glancing back, I saw Emona, her hair standing on edge as she stared daggers at the one who had spoken. “I’ll not be having any talk of treachery on my ship. If I hear another word of it come out of your mouth, we’ll be seeing if you make better bait. Am I clear?”
The lycan knew that he could probably overpower Emona in a fight, but as he glanced around he realized that there were more people against him than there were who agreed. Albeit reluctantly, he chose to back down. Just as I was beginning to call the heavens above for aid, a certain princess happily hummed as she hopped her way out from below deck. “Captain~!” She turned to look at Emona with a bright smile. “I know where we can find food!”
As soon as the words left her mouth, all eyes immediately turned to focus on her. Emona had an amused smile on her face as she leaned forward against the wheel of the ship. “Aye? Well, don’t keep us in suspense, lass. Do be telling us where we can eat our fill.”
“There are islands nearby.” Dis’ni said calmly, her posture relaxed. “Three days directly west of here. Two if we hurry. I’ve been praying, and Goddess Terra assured me that there is enough food for everyone on the island. Not enough for us to settle there, but enough to fill our stomachs for the rest of the voyage.”
“Did she now…?” Emona raised a curious brow. “Ye know I won’t tolerate any falsehoods with something like this, so are ye sure that’s what she said?”
Dis’ni nodded her head strongly. “I’m sure! On my pride as her princess, I would not falsify the words of Terra.”
“Good enough for me.” Emona tilted her head back and laughed. “All ships, we make west. Our dear princess received word from Terra herself! Three days to land, and enough food to fill our hulls to bursting!”
There was an immediate shift in the wind after her words, turning us towards the west. I couldn’t help but glance up towards the sky as I thought inwardly. Did you really have that conversation with her?
Yeah… Terra replied with a low groan. She’s been pestering me about where to get food for a couple weeks now. Not just her, but most of the crew have. They hope that I will guide their fates. Originally, the plan was to make you all sweat a bit more, and in another two weeks you’d hit a large island to resupply. You’d have just barely enough food to make it there, but you wouldn’t be in any danger.
Is this detour going to extend our trip?
To my question, there was a slight sigh. Not by much, just a week or so. Why, are you getting homesick?
Even though she asked that playfully, I immediately answered honestly. A bit…
Oh… Her tone became more serious when she realized that she had hit the mark. You can come back for a little while, Dale. Honestly, we’re all surprised that you managed to make it this long without returning. The longest bet anyone was willing to place on you was four months…
I felt a slight chuckle rise in my throat as I heard that. How long did you bet? I wasn’t surprised that they had made these kinds of bets. This was dozens of times longer than I had ever stayed on the surface, and it had taken everything to stay down here this long. I’ll admit that it was kind of fun to play Tebor, but I also missed being home as well.
Two weeks. Terra didn’t even hesitate to answer, before her tone turned a bit softer. Come on back, Dale. You can let your Host take over for a few days while you rest. Bihena’s already set to take over guiding the ships whenever you want to take a break.
I nodded my head, a small smile playing on my lips as I heard the concern in her tone. Okay, but make sure that my host doesn’t do anything unusual while I’m relaxing. If he does, you all have full permission to hit the global stop button. I made sure that message went out to all the girls watching over the voyage, just in case Terra decided that something was more amusing than unusual.
I could faintly hear a laugh as I focused, choosing to return to the Admin Room for the first time in around six months. The first thing I noticed was that I felt far more clean than I had been as Tebor, as well as how I could move more easily. The second thing I felt was a pair of bodies pressing against me, one on either side.
Once I opened my eyes, I saw Terra and Ryone, both leaning against me and smiling slightly. “My idea.” Ryone immediately spoke up once I opened my eyes. “Thought you might like to get some proper relaxation in the arms of your goddesses~.”
Terra rolled her eyes at that. “You just wanted him to f*** you again now that he was back, don’t try to hide it.” Though she said that, a small knowing smirk was on her face, which caused Ryone to laugh.
“Maybe, but all in due time.” She admitted, before tugging on my arms gently. “First, let’s go sit down, hmm?”
I nodded my head, letting the two girls lead me towards the living room. To my surprise, I actually saw Ashley and Aurivy already there, sitting on a recliner. Well, to be more precise, Ashley was sitting on the recliner, and Aurivy was in her lap. Not surprisingly, they were watching an anime that I could faintly recognize from Earth.
“Hey, Ash.” I called out, drawing the demon goddess’s attention to me. “How’s the Keeper life treating you?”
At that, Ashley simply groaned. “A hundred and twenty thousand years. Three ice ages, two supervolcanoes, and a near-extinction plague. I didn’t exactly sign up for that, Dale… I don’t know how you handle it.”
I blinked slightly as she briefly gave her summary of her experiences. “Huh… I don’t even think I’ve hit ten thousand years on my world.”
“You also have nearly a dozen beautiful goddesses who actively work to prevent total planetary collapse.” Ryone pointed out, guiding me to the couch, though that brought a laugh from Ashley.
“Right, right. Anyways, they should be all set for your plan whenever you’re ready.” She smiled, shaking her head. “They’re not quite at the modern age yet, but they’ve definitely made steps in the right direction.”
“And they look really cool, too!” Aurivy grinned, pulling her attention away from the TV for the first time since we entered. “Really, bro! I’ve been working with sis Udona to make some movies for you to watch about them. They don’t have any magic or anything like our people do, but they still end up being really interesting!”
I smiled towards Aurivy, nodding my head. “I’ll have to check those out soon. I don’t think my end will be ready for a while. Not until the races all have at least met each other. Though, at this rate I don’t see it taking too long, once I start fast forwarding again.”
Seeing Aurivy nod her head excitedly, Ashley giggled to herself, wrapping her arms around the halfling’s waist. “Terra said you had a plan, so I didn’t want to bring my world too far ahead. These last few months, I’ve been getting to know the others, and playing with them. They’re really good people, Dale. I have to say, if I was going to spend an eternity anywhere, I’d rather spend it with them.” While she spoke, a soft smile was on her face.
Ashley had never been an unpopular woman. She was always beautiful, which naturally led to her being surrounded by others. Though, the people she was surrounded by weren’t always the best… Maybe now, she was starting to feel more at home here than she had before?
“Did you ever get the chance to master flying?” I asked curiously, noticing how she had tucked her wings in so that they wouldn’t get in the way of her sitting posture.
That drew another groan from Ashley, though she nodded her head. “It took me around fifty years of my world’s time practicing to get the hang of it! Terra found me a volcano where I could descend without using any of my energy, and had me practice there until I could properly control my body.” She sent a grateful smile to Terra next to me after saying that, to which the catgirl just purred a silent response.
“And you’re not getting bored up here?”
At that question, Ashley just shook her head. “Nope. Why would I? Aside from playing with the others, there’s still so much that I can do. Just playing around with the Admin Room itself can be pretty interesting. If you get some free time, you should check out Udona’s room. The two of us did some remodeling on it.” She grinned playfully as she said that, drawing a small snicker from Aurivy, who no doubt knew what she was talking about.
“Well… I’ll probably be up here for a couple days, so I can do that.” With that, I decided to stop interrupting their show, wrapping one arm around Ryone and Terra each, pulling the two of them against me. Of course, that lasted for just a moment before I found another form pressing against the other side of Ryone, Leowynn happily leaning against her mother.
It’s good to be back for a bit.