The hustle and bustle of Slipstream was overwhelming to Laurence and Yun. Neither of them had ever been in a city before, so the sights, sounds and smells were like being dumped into an unfamiliar jungle. Slipstream was not a large city, but it was a sizable port. There were hundreds of people passing through the port every day, going too and fro within the world contained on the fifth floor. Each floor had its gimmick, or unique characteristic that made it distinct and the fifth floor’s oddity was that each landmass was placed upon a precipitous spire of stone and metal. The spires all stood upon an arid and desolate land, so hot and dry that no living thing could possibly stand to live there. Instead life had migrated to these great spires
The spires were a much more liveable space, with clean, clear air, water and even copious amounts of plant life. It was a lush, verdant paradise in comparison to the land below. Different societies had developed at the peak of each pillar, separate for generations before finally being connected together in a massive network of airship routes. These societies revolved around the trade routes that passed their various speciality goods around to the different continents, and so most ports quickly built up into cities.
Every five or six faces that the group walked past was an entirely different species of person. All of them were bipedal, but some had wings, like Louisa, some had fur like Declan, some even had scales. It was something that Laurence could not help but point out.
“They are the general populace that the four great animal clans were born of”. Replied Louisa. “I’m part of the Vermilion clan, one that reveres the vermilion firebird. We call it the phoenix, and it’s our most prized ally. It’s why we, I mean the Vermilion clan, were allowed to reside in the breeding grounds of the phoenix”. Louisa shone with pride at the concept of living in the breeding grounds of one of the four great beasts. “We call them godbeasts; the vermilion bird, white tiger-wolf, azure dragon and black turtle”. She ushered the two boys into a nearby inn and asked for a room. The innkeeper quickly handed them a key when she passed him five copper shards. Finally Louisa ushered the boys into their room before talking to them again.
“I didn’t want to say Yun, you’re one of those godbeasts, which is why I am so confused as why you were found on the first floor. You should have been brought up in the grounds of the Lupe clan, but for some reason you were born outside. It’s like the tiger-wolves don’t trust the Lupe any more”.
Laurence sat on one of the beds in the pokey little room they had been given. He sat, mulling over what Louisa had told him before realising that what she said was lacking something. “Why are these creatures called godbeasts? What makes Yun so different from other wolves?” Laurence admired his brother, but he could not see what made him so different that his entire species was worshipped by a race of humanoid canines. From what Laurence had seen when growing up in a church, it took a lot of power to make someone a subject of worship. Sometimes it took very little to generate a sense of worship, but to hold it took great forethought, ability and action.
“It’s simple really”. Louisa replied, preening the feathers on her arms as they conversed. “Godbeasts of all kinds have something that the four beast clans sorely wish to attain. They call it The Shift, but we refer to it as Physical Ascension. Like the paths to ascension that you Golden Children walk on, this skill can lead you to immortality. However, it is so much more difficult than the books. You have no path to follow, you must simply learn to control all your skin, muscles and bones, then your veins and mana paths. With those skills you can emulate anyone, you can become anyone”.
“But why do you need to worship the godbeasts? Surely this is something that your clan would have spent generations trying to create, to copy in such a way that it stops being a copy”. Laurence was confused. Surely they should realise that this was not the best way to go about the study of the skill. He remembered when his father had received a message about an event in the tower that had gifted the village with a large amount of foods that people had never seen before. No one asked where the food came from, because it was from the almighty tower. Yet Laurence wanted to know. He had wanted to know more than the parables that he was told that did not quite match up to what he saw. He had wanted to know the other side of that magnificent black stele that he had seen every day, to see the top of the tower and survey the lands that spanned universes below him. It was his greatest driving force, his only driving force. He could not understand how it could not be for anyone else, and how they could go about learning by waving a veil of worship and ineffability over the truth. He could not understand how someone could willingly blind themself.
“Because they teach us. It took generations of mutual acceptance, but the four beast clans took on a patron animal closest to their form and began to be taught. There is a mutual bond between the clan and the godbeast has aided us both for millennia, but now Yun here was born outside of that realm”. Louisa sighed. “Something is very, very wrong with the Lupe clan if the godbeasts no longer want to be around them, if they would go out of their way to breed outside of the homeland to avoid their young being caught up in Lupe machinations”.
“You can read that just out of the fact I was born outside?” Said Yun. “I can hardly believe that you can pull that much out of the fact that my earliest memories are all of the primordial first floor. It’s a bit of a stretch”. Yun was developing far quicker than Laurence. It was as if he was experiencing seven seconds for every second that Laurence did. The speed at which he learned and reacted was as fast as his experience.
“It’s because of those facts that I can only assume something like a sense of distrust has bloomed. The godbeasts would only leave us if something threatened their lives or the chance of their line failing. The tiger-wolves have, without a doubt, left the realm of the Lupe. As for the exact reason I cannot even fathom to guess”. She stopped preening and settled down into her bed. She was more woman than bird, avian in some respects but humanoid in most, however her bedding routine was very much a reflect of the bird in her. “Now we need to get some rest. We will have a long day ahead of us tomorrow, especially if we are to find a ship to charter to the north of the floor. We’ll be cutting out of the slipstream if we want to make the next testing area in any good time, and that can be dangerous.. Or at least unpredictable”.
The three companions all finished getting ready for bed and settled down to a rest filled night, one of the few truly restful nights that Laurence had actually experienced on his journey so far. His eyes slowly began to get heavy as he lay in the dark, thinking about what lay ahead and the people he had ended up leaving behind. Eventually he drifted off into sleep, silently wondering what his parents were doing.
The morning came around and the three companions began moving as early as possible. If they were going to charter an airship then they needed to either be the first to speak to the captain, or be lucky enough to find a ship already chartered in the direction they wanted to go. It took almost a hundred days to get thus far, so getting to the stele before the year was up was imperative to the group. They were so rushed because the sixth floor testing room was different, if they could not reach the fifth floor within a year of leaving the fourth floor both Laurence and Yun would have to wait an entire year in the testing room. Louisa had told both boys that every five floors the testing room was different.
They left their room, entering the hustle and bustle of the streets outside. The day was a warm one, with the huge sun beating down upon the heads of the masses that crawled below it. As they were preparing to go out Louisa and Yun had ironed out a plan to cover as many of the captains in Slipstream as they possibly could. Before the day was out they would cover every captain in the city, and using any means at their disposal they had to at least find one captain before the day was over. The longer they searched the harder the situation would be as there were only so many captains in the city.
They moved to the city docks and split up, with Laurence heading for the bars, Louisa headed for the docks proper and Yun headed for the surrounding streets. If just one could get lucky, then it would save so much time over taking pre-chartered ships from port to port. Not only would the pre-chartered ships take a much longer route they would stop at every minor port that they came across to pick up and drop off goods or people.
Even on a beautifully sunny day like the day was, sailors would still find an excuse to get drunk in a tavern or public house. Something about being in confined spaces with lots of other people for most of the year drove them to it, so Louisa had told Laurence that he would likely have the best luck when it came to finding a captain to fly them to their journey. Louisa would have done it herself, but people like her were less than welcome in most of the seedier parts of dock-towns. All they could really do was bet that one of them got lucky.
The day went by, with the heat slowly making even the slightest movement a chore, but not one of the three companions had an ounce of luck. Laurence had been laughed out of some places, and cursed out of most. There was something that the sailors disliked about the journey that was being suggested to them, but none of them would say why. Yun fared no better, with the street-sellers and passersby being profoundly unhelpful out downright rude at times. Louisa was simply ignored.
After trawling through twelve taverns Laurence came across a short, messy alley. Litter was strewn across the floor in front of the doorways and over the paths. The alley stank of fetid meat and spoiled beer, all originating from a tavern, a place called “The Lonely Wife”. It was a rundown affair, with more boards in the windows than glass and a clientele which reflected that. The building creaked in next to no wind, and loomed precariously over the pavement in front of it, proudly threatening to collapse at any moment from disrepair. It was a place that no and man would enter, let alone drink in. It was the last tavern on the street Laurence was in so he decided to look inside, more out of a sense of completion than actual hope.
He pushed open the door to the establishment and watched with interest as a bar brawl was evolving into what looked like full on warfare. A man with short blond hair was caving in the nose of a man with much longer, greasier black hair while the occupants of this tavern were holding each other at knife, hook, sword and even bottle-point. Beneath the two men was a painting of a beautiful woman, shorn in two by a long blade. It was obvious the blond man was punching the black haired man because of something about the painting below, but Laurence had no idea what. Laurence could not help but take advantage of the odd situation the tavern was in. Silent but for the sound of a fist repeatedly striking flesh, the bar was a perfect place for Laurence to ask about captains available to charter. He had found that taverns would often be far too loud a place for people to hear him.
“Excuse me, is there anyone here who is a captain available for charter?” None of the men looked at Laurence as he spoke, but eight men put their empty hands up to signify they were captains. This included the man who was getting his face beaten in. “Are any of you willing to take myself and two companions to the northern continent?” Three men put their hands down. “We’d need you to take the fastest route possible, to make no stops on the way”. Four more hands fell. The only hand left up was that of the man being beaten at the bar.
“Excuse me sir, I need to speak to the man you’re hitting,” said Laurence to the blond man.
“If it’s about him leaving Slipstream, then yeah, you can talk to the scumbag”. He growled, spitting on the bloody-faced man. “If I hear about my Lily and Mr Jonas Fetters again in the same sentence, I will find you and I will kill you”. He slammed the captain’s head against the counter he was pushed up to and walked out the door, with a third of the men in the room following his heels.
The room came alive when the blond man left; some men sat down again and sheathed their weapons, some kept fighting, and some simply walked out of the building. Laurence walked over to the captain who had heeded his request, Jonas, and smiled at him. “My name is Laurence. Shall we talk about business then Mr… Er, Mr Fetters?”
“Please, call me Jonas. Kiddo, I don’t expect you to understand but the only reason I am even talking to you is in the faint hope that you might be able to make leaving port early worth it. If you can make it worth my time then we will go where you want, otherwise we will just go to the next port and continue trading”.
Jonas began wiping the blood off and inspecting himself as he leant against the bar. Every few seconds he would wince as he found a sore spot or open cut on his face, or had to pull his long, matted hair out of quickly congealing scabs of dried blood.
“What do you want as payment for the journey then? Also are you okay? That man was hitting you for a long time”.
“It’s okay. It’s mostly flesh wounds”. Jonas said, checking his teeth for loose ones. After a few seconds he pulled his hand out of his mouth and took one of his molars with it. “It’s a lot of flesh wounds”. He said, correcting himself. “The average fee to charter a ship is either a gold shard, a fifth of a full load for the ship or an initial Saint tier artifact. I’ll happily take half that, seeing as I can only make a loss in Slipstream this time. If you can get me fifty silver shards by tomorrow morning then my crew will take you where you want to go”.
“I can deal with that”. Laurence replied. “I could also fix your nose if you like, my father taught me how. It will take a few seconds, but better a normal nose than a flat one”. Laurence paused, recalling his issues finding a captain. “Why did so many captains not want to take my friends and I straight to the northernmost continent? You were at least the hundredth captain I asked, so was I really that unlucky?”
“I’d say you were pretty lucky finding me when you did, kiddo”. Jonas said, wincing as Laurence rearranged his nose with surgical precision. “There’s a rumour going round that a Maelstrom Snake had shown up round here. It’s apparently chewing up any trade ship that goes off the beaten routes, which is what we would need to do to get you to the north as fast as possible”.
“What’s a maelstrom snake?”
“A huge snake, some people say that at their smallest they are as big as my ship while at their biggest they are hundreds of meters long. They fly and bring stormfronts with them wherever they go, which is why most people fear them. Out in the endless sky an approaching storm can be a death knell for an entire ship. If you enter one you’ll likely just disappear, never to appear again. The storms are why maelstrom snakes are considered the strongest pseudo-dragons, the strongest non-immortal beasts”.
“Sounds frightening,” said Laurence, voice devoid of any emotion. He quickly finished organising the shape of Louis’ noise and laid a mana mesh over it, forcing the nose to heal in a correct shape.
“It is. Now, my ship is called Rosie’s Demise and we are on the eighth dock. If you aren’t there by midday tomorrow then I will cast off without you”. Finally the captain pushed off of the counter and stumbled out of the bar. “Toodleoo kiddo!”
Laurence rushed back to the tavern and up to the shared room as soon as Jonas left to bar. He did not have much time but needed to create an item of Saint tier for his party to continue to travel through the floor. Sitting down on his bed, he emptied out all of the materials from his little bag. At some point in the third floor he had discovered that the bag was actually in the Book of Creation. It was called a bag of holding or a portable dimension there, so he began calling it the former.
Laurence could not get enough from the Book of Creation. It seemed to have some sort of inbuilt safety mechanism which stopped any person reading it from absorbing too much information in one sitting, so every time he re-read the book he would come across a new item or a new technique for creating. It was not until his sixth re-reading that he had discovered the concept of array making and a lot of the issues that people came up against when crafting using trueforming as a base.
The act of trueforming cut down the process steps of making a tool, but it also meant that a key component of the process was missing. Creation of any tool could be shown as having several steps. First one would find their materials and design the object, then one would go about crafting its physical form. Once the form is complete the creator would inscribe the necessary glyphs upon the tool that give it power with mana injection. After this they would insert socketable gems, which Laurence discovered were used for two things: Law masquerading and as an array battery. An array would often contain a power that could be formed in the glyph laying stage but was self sustaining rather than requiring an injection of mana. This meant that as tools for supporting a challenger they were far superior to a simple glyphed object, but for all offensive objects or powerful defensive objects they were far inferior.
The reason why trueforming was a useful tool and not the entire process of creation was actually a rather simple one; within creating something you would inject a portion of a power that every person had but only done could activate. When a person embarks on the path to ascension they gain two powers, mana and spirit. Mana gives form to the laws of your path, the elements of the world that you explore to gain longevity. Spirit however, governs your control over the aspects of the laws you are using. Unlike mana spirit is not represented in the reservoir of a challenger’s body, but rather is shown in the aura that a person exudes. When doing anything the small amount of aura that is injected into the action shows people that you performed it, and the more skilled the action the more aura is injected. Once an object is infused with enough of its creator’s aura it takes on that will, that intention, and begins to develop it into its own. The reason why Laurence had to follow so many steps to create something was because just trueforming an object into the final shape, with all the glyphs inside it, did not give the tool a will of its own and self will was what separated the initial grade of any ranked weapon from the advanced grade.
Laurence did not realise that most of his early works were actually arrays, lacking a battery they would absorb the essence from the object they were part of until they decayed and crumbled to dust. He did not intend for that to be the case ever again.
After weeks of practice and trials Laurence had finally managed to set up several arrays. Today would be the culmination of his work so far, today he would create his first advanced grade Saint artifact. He spent an hour studying the materials in front of him and separated them into three groups.
The biggest group was the pile that was going back into his bag. The second biggest pile was that of materials that Laurence intended to trueform together into similar but higher grade materials. They were of a quality that was below the Saint tier that Laurence was searching for, but through combination and fusion they would be raised in quality to the point where they would fit with his intention. This pile contained ten objects: a few kinds of wood, some metal and three of the gemstones that Laurence had found on the cavernous third floor. The third pile was that of the materials already good enough for processing and building into what Laurence had in mind. He had spent the last four weeks trying to pin down how to make the perfect storage unit, one that would run with a time dilation within it, have a self contained dimension inside and also be compact enough to easily carry. It was the perfect thing to get a trader like Jonas on his side, but he would have to construct it first.
He put the largest pile back into his bag of holding and quickly refined the ten objects into three sets of metal, wood and gemstone. All three masses of material were extremely high quality composites but could not be considered a true Saint tier material. The fact that he had to trueform them into existence would give them a small amount of aura but not as much compared to the aura level that Saint tier materials naturally contained. The other materials were a small amount of leather from Garral, the Orik that he killed when he first arrived in Babel, and the black gemstone he got from the third floor.
Now that Laurence had amassed the materials he needed he began to shape the wood, whittling it all into a form that he desired. He made the wood into two small boxes then sanded and polished them, setting them aside once he was finished. The next part was the casing and the mount for the gem which would involve the metal used. Laurence summoned his hammer and ignited it, extending the flame and wrapping it around the metal until it was soft and malleable, then he shrank his hammer into a manageable sized and beat the metal until it was the shape he desired. He cut the metal into four separate sections, two for the frames of the boxes, one for the hinges, lock and mount, and one for an idea that he had just before he began the process. Once the metal was shaped he quenched everything by cutting it off from the world around it with a bubble of mana, rapidly cooling the metal and solidifying its general shape. He formed a file out of mana and began to shave down the rough edges of things until everything was as smooth and sharp as he needed it to be, then assembled the metal and wooden parts together. Once he had done that he used some of the lesser gems to add colour to the boxes, while finally finishing with the black gems mounted in the center of the boxes.
The two boxes were set up, but not complete. Before they were, Laurence had to add all the glyphs onto the two boxes and complete the array for each one.
The array took the shortest time of all the processes, but the entire task to make the two portable dimension boxes took three hours. Laurence was doing the finishing touches when Yun and Louisa both arrived back at their room. They both looked dejected after an entire day of failure but when they saw Laurence sitting on his bed, item cut offs strewn all around him and a big grin spread across his face.
“Did you have any luck guys?” He said to his despondent friends.
“No we didn’t,” growled Yun. “But I know that smug grin of yours. You found one didn’t you?” He jumped on his bed, kicking off his boots that he reluctantly wore and got comfortable.
“I did. I fixed a captain’s nose and just finished making the payment for him. We have to be at the eighth dock before midday tomorrow and we can get to the stele!”
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“Well then, we’d better get rested up for the journey. It’s going to be a rocky ride,” said Louisa.
The next day the group made a quick journey to the eighth dock. After being pointed in the right direction by a man on the side of the docks they saw her. The ship was a monstrosity. There was no other word for it. It was more like a tube with wings than any real vessel. Even the other airships around it had the decency to at least look ship-like, and yet there was a perverse charm to it. It was like a middle finger to the world that was ridden by a captain and a crew known for being uncompromising madmen. Laurence thought it was beautiful.
The wood finish was soft and smooth, the curve of the nose was flawless – even at the point where the glass of the windshield intersected with the chassis, and despite how it looked on the outside it was capable of being run by three people but worked optimally with twenty. It was a feat of engineering, design and craftsmanship that Laurence could not help but be impressed with. Only Yun truly understood his fervor, but Laurence’s stoic brother simply watched on as the boy asked a thousand and one questions about every single design choice and whittle stroke. It was not the first time Yun had seen Laurence act this way, but it was the first time he had seen him to this extreme. It was refreshing, and an excellent distinction to the awful way Laurence got after he fought or killed someone.
Seeing the crew come out Laurence waved at Jonas and ushered him over. “Jonas, I have the payment for you in this sack but we might want to go somewhere private so I can tell you what it is”.
This piqued the captain’s interest. Never did he think that Laurence would choose to charter the ship for an artifact rather than the money, but there the boy was implying it was also a powerful one. He ushered everyone on board and then took Laurence to his quarters, to decide if the boy had paid for the journey or not.
“Right then, kiddo, what is your payment that had to be kept secret?”
Laurence closed the door and put the burlap sack on the table. Pulling the coarse material down around the artifact he revealed the chest to the captain. It was a beautiful little chest with metal edging and a lacquered finish, a few gemstones littered the top of the box but they all artfully framed the small black stone in the middle of the lid. Runes were artfully scored into the metal cage that surrounded the box. There were thousands of them, each one representative of a single attribute that would interlink with another glyph to form a characteristic chain which, in turn, would define the power of the little box in front of them both.
“This is a treasure I made,” said Laurence. The moment he said those six words Jonas frowned and his eyes went wide. Laurence did not realise it but he was going to cause a storm with his existence. “You’ll want to bind it with blood, seeing as the mana in your body is insufficient for a spiritual binding. If you just put a couple of drops of blood on the black gemstone in the middle you will have complete control over the item”.
“Hold up, hold up. Kid, you made this?” Interrupted Jonas. If the child was a member of the Hephaistia clan then that knowledge alone would make him a very rich man. Laurence nodded in assent. “Kid… I hate that I’m going to tell you this, but seriously do not mention that you can make artifacts to anyone. Arrays are fine, any one of the six clans can do that, but artifacts?” He paused, rubbing his eyes. “Damn kiddo, just tell me what the chest does”.
“If you insist”. Laurence replied. The way Jonas reacted just now had echoed the way his father had spoken when he first showed his creations. While hiding his creations seemed fundamentally wrong to Laurence, he could see that the people he told were often stunned by the revelation. “Why is it so important I hide that I can make artifacts?”
“Kid, the fact that you can make artifacts means you study the Book of Creation. This Book went missing around eight years ago. For some reason one day every practitioner of the book of creation, every member of the Hephaistia clan, just upped and left. No one knows where they went, but within two months of them all leaving the symbol of the clan had been wiped off the great gateways”. Jonas looked at Laurence, watching to see if he could glean a reaction from his description, but rather than an obvious sense of Laurence trying to hide something all Jonas had gained was Laurence’s rapt attention. “It’s never happened before, not in the thousands of cycles since the creation of the tower. Since then the powers that be that run the tower have paid riches for any information on the Book of Creation or the Hephaistia clan. So, kid, are you a member of the Hephaistia clan?”
“I’m not. My name is Laurence Absolution, and my parents are Angus and Maris Absolution. My father is also known as ‘Bloody Gus’ apparently, the guardian of an entrance to the tower from one of the outer spaces. Yes, I cultivate with the Book of Creation but I may be an Absolution experiment to see if they could gain two books”.
Jonas swore. The gold mine he had found was one with several dragons inside. Unless he was willing to disturb the beasts protecting the hoard then the information the boy just have him was almost entirely worthless. “Alright kid, tell me how the chest works then. What makes it so special?”
“Well, it’s a bit of a complicated creation that works in three parts”. Laurence opened the bottom of the box rather than the top. Inside the base was a very small compartment with a ring of sigils around the base. “The base section here can only be opened by me or the binder of the box. It contains a pocket dimension which is five meters cubed in size and can store any non-living object in it that fits that”. He closed the bottom of the box. Putting a small key in the lock he opened the chest revealing an empty middle. “The key is also special, but I will get onto that after I have finished with the chest. Inside you have a small space to store curios that you want people to know you have. This way anyone who thinks you have a set of gems can look in there and perhaps see some of the smaller gems, but the bigger ones would be hidden away. The book referred to this kind of thing as a facade. Now onto the final part”.
Jonas could not help but gawp at the little box in front of him. It was extremely valuable just from the fact that it contained a stable pocket dimension, but the facade on the front made it an incredibly enticing item. The fact that there was still more within the little box raised its value again and again.
“The real value of the box comes from the black gem on the top. The top half is an access point to an even larger space, one that runs at an hour per second difference. An hour to us will be a second inside the box. The space is twenty five meters squared and chilled because the space I made didn’t have a heat source inside. The bottom half of the gem, the side that is protected by the rest of the case, has a seal upon it which locks it in place. Once again, only I or the binder can move it. So in summary, it’s a box with two storage spaces and a gravitational binding”. He locked the chest again and showed Jonas the key. “This is the bit that makes the chest special. This key is one that binds into the skin, so once you bind it the thing will sink into your skin as a tattoo, like the ones Challengers have. It was where I got the idea actually. Not only does it unlock the chest to keep with the facade, it also has a very small space inside it, one that can only fit the chest inside it.
“After making the space I realised it would have been easier to make a general pocket dimension than the one I did, but I doubt I could have added the special capability in the key”.
“What special capability?”
“The binder of the key can transport the box into its personal dimension at any time, no matter how far away the box is from you or the key. You could even just use the chest as a money pouch and people would be none-the-wiser”.
The more Jonas heard the more he could not believe the item in front of him was a Saint tier item. It was more like one of the mythical Ascendant tier items with a million uses, each one more practical than the last but held in a nondescript ring. “Are you sure this is a Saint tier item?” He said, carefully trying to hide his excitement and shock at what he had been shown.
“Oh yes, the materials I used were bad. If I had Heaven tier gemstones I could have made the spaces contain living things, so you could have carried livestock or used a section as a prison or something. In a story my father read to me once there was a man who was kept imprisoned in a ring for over a hundred years”. Laurence paused, thinking for a second about what he could have done with better materials. Finally a grin lit his face and his eyes brightened. “I could have made the chest into something less gaudy for starters, a ring is the classic pocket dimension holder so I could have made that. I could have made the dimension bigger. I could have also made the time difference, the Book calls it ‘time dilation’, much greater. To the point where a year happens outside while a second goes by in the ring in fact. I wanted to make it flip between slowdown and speed up by that increased the power draw by tenfold, even on three or four second differences, so I doubt I can do that without a lot of experimentation but…”
“Enough, please, you’ve proved your point. The item you’ve given me is still valuable beyond compare. More than enough to certify us taking you on your journey”. Jonas quickly cut his hand open and placed the bloody palm on the key and the chest. The two of them watched as the blood was absorbed by the objects then as the key sank into Jonas’ skin and the chest disappeared. Smiling he looked back at the boy. “Welcome to the ship, kiddo! I hope you enjoy your journey”.