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The sky road starts to sway from side-to-side, then sharp turns start to appear. We furl the sail because the wind is too strong, and this allows us to control the ship better. If we also close the wings, we won't be pushed along so strongly by the Looping Winds, but it also makes it easier for us to fly out of it.
The clouds have been blocking our view more, and the number of hidden islets has increased, so flying out of the Looping Winds is getting more dangerous than before. Not only that, but we don't have a working compa.s.s, so it'll be extremely easy to get lost in the clouds if we lose sight of the Looping Winds.
Then we see many tight turns ahead, making us become very nervous.
"Focus on flying!" I say with [G.o.dly Language], and a wave of confidence hits us, reducing our anxiety.
We trace a path in our minds and prepare to follow it. We swing the ship to the right and get ready to swing back to the left when the turn starts.
We turn to the left, and a second later, the sky road follows.
We quickly realize how slow and heavy this ship is from seeing how our turning speed is much slower than what we expected. Because of this and the Looping Winds. .h.i.tting the side of the ship, we're being pushed off the sky river.
We slow down the ship to give us more time to turn, but the ship's [Fly] gem isn't powerful enough. We lose all forward momentum and drift harder.
We think about closing the wings fully, but [Piloting] gives me a new idea. I open the wings and unfurl the sail. The ship creaks as we gain a huge boost of speed, and the girls on the deck yelp in surprise.
Fighting the rapids won't work, we have to fly through them head-on!
The next turn is to the right, and it comes after mere seconds, so we bank the ship to the right, half-submerging it in the smoke, and pitch up.
The sky road suddenly turns down, so we roll the ship upside-down and continue pitching up.
We surface below the sky road, which pushes us up to the surface, so we continue rolling clockwise until we're positioned sideways to the left, then we immediately pitch up again, making a banked turn to left.
Before the turn is completed, we roll to the right and sink into the smoke, then make another banked turn, preempting the tight curve coming up.
We finally turn upright, allowing us to cough out the smoke for a few brief seconds, then we see the sky road turn upwards so sharply that it looks like a wall.
[Piloting] triggers a desperate warning in our minds. We fold the wings, furl the sails, and point the ship upright, sinking into the smoke again, then we speed forward at full speed.
We rise out of the sky road, then hit the smoke wall. We open the wings and unfurl the sails again, but we continue sinking into the smoke due to our momentum.
We slip out of the sky road through the bottom, then we hear a crash, followed by sc.r.a.ping. My Holly at the bottom of the hull is crushed as the ship hits an islet.
The sail is still inside the smoke, so we get forcefully pushed forward, and the ship sc.r.a.pes along for a few seconds before the [Fly] gem manages to push us away from the islet.
The crash was actually a G.o.dssend since it slowed us down, allowing us to make the next three turns without a problem, while also allowing me time to summon another Holly and inspect the damage.
There's now a big hole in the hold where a pillar of rock pierced through it before breaking off. A lot of the planks are cracked and bent, but that type of damage is easily repaired. The best part, though, is that the bottom part of the hull will hold, and we aren't at risk of suddenly losing half of the ship.
Heh, what a st.u.r.dy bathtub.
The sky road suddenly turns vertical again, and the smoke pushes us up at a frightening speed. The instability has reached its apex.
Then we see it: at the top of this climb, there's another super tight curve that ends in a vertical drop. Beyond the sky road, we see a dozen cones of rock peeking through from behind the clouds, like the tips of a spike trap, waiting for us to crash onto it.
All around us, there's only islets, making it very dangerous to leave the sky road.
Is this a deliberate trap?!
I switch around the points of the girls while I let Alissa take control of the ship.
She folds the wings and furls the sails again, but the smoke is pushing on us too hard, and we don't slow down significantly. She pitches up the ship until we are facing backward, then she rolls us to align the ship with the surface.
"USE [WIND HAMMER] TO OPEN A HOLE IN THE ROCKS AHEAD!" I order through [Bind], and the girls relay it to the non-bound ones, then they all go to the ship's aft.
Gify pops onto my head and nestles inside my helmet, eager to see what's about to happen.
Oh, you little s.h.i.t. Just watch me f.u.c.king dominate this challenge!
Alissa releases the controls and grabs her elven bow. She lays against the control panel so that she can draw it and concentrate all her mana into a single shot.
Ciel's glaive glows like a star as she charges up her own attack along with the others. Then she floods the deck with Wind mana, taking it from the islets nearby to boost our spells.
I get an idea and extend my soul to the rock trap above us, the furthest I've ever reached with it.
"FIRE AFTER ALISSA!" I order through [Bind].
I use [Redirect Mana] to pull all the Wind mana that I can draw from the islets.
The girls are ready, we only have a few seconds left.
I focus on Alissa's sight so that I can see better.
One islet twitches, then slowly starts to sink.
I guide Alissa, and she releases the arrow towards it. The bottom part of the islet gets blown off by the arrow, but that's not enough.
I grab the islet with [Telekinesis], then push it to the side.
"[EXPLOSION]!" Roxanne casts at the side of the islet, pushing it away.
"[WIND HAMMER]!" The rest of the girls cast in unison.
A sonic boom hits us as all the boosted spells are launched at the same time, then Ciel casts her [Beam] immediately after that.
Half of the islet is melted or blown away, and the rest of it gets pushed to the side by my [Telekinesis].
A rock comes straight at my face.
Without my metal enchanted shield, I'm forced to trigger [Enhanced Reflexes] and [Muscle Explosion] at the same time to dodge it.
A second rock comes, but now I have enough time to divert it with [Telekinesis]. The other girls are safe since they have their enchanted shields on hand.
We turn to the controls and make our final adjustments.
The ship reaches the top of the climb and flies off the Looping Winds. We snugly fit through the hole we opened in the islets, then we open the wings again and unfurl the sails, suddenly and heavily increasing our drag and decelerating.
HAH! WE'RE GETTING BETTER AT THIS!
We feel the pressure from the heavy deceleration, then the ship's aft gently touches an islet, and we remain still for a few seconds.
The view is breathtaking. If only we weren't vertical and barely hanging on, we could fully appreciate the chaotic and fantastical sight. Then we start to fall.
This time, we are slow enough that we can turn the ship and safely re-enter the sky road.
"GIIH!" Gify cheers, and I laugh out loud.
The rapids continues, but we start getting used to its unpredictability and learn how to make the ship go through the maneuvers that we want it to.
The rapids slow down to more manageable speeds, then the sky road straightens out. Soon after, we reach another anchor, and we take the opportunity to stop and make repairs.
The beams holding the wings have been stressed too much and started to crack, so we make some repairs on them, too. Lina helps this time with a [Grow] magic tool. The tool is more limited than using the spell yourself, but it's still helpful.
I sit on the railing of the deck and take in the sight. The clouds have now turned a muted light blue and are slowly darkening. They've also cleared up a bit, allowing us to see further than before.
The islets grow to a size that they can now be called actual islands. They're also visibly moving, and if we consider how far away they are, it means that they're going really fast.
"Wow, that's... frightening," Alissa comments as she stares at large islands crashing into one another. Their impact is so strong that it creates a disk of rocks and dust that's launched away at high speeds.
Then, a moment later, the shock wave hits us. The loud bang makes us wince due to its volume, and Alissa suffers the most.
"INCOMING!" Hana yells.
I summon three wind elementals to deal with the approaching debris barrage, then I pull out my shield from my "Items" and activate [Wind Shield].
Rocks and boulders of varying sizes pelt us, and a few break into the hold.
"G.o.dsd.a.m.nit! We just fixed the hull!" Yunia complains.
"Make sure the gem doesn't get damaged!" Lina yells.
Yunia nods and goes down to the hold, and I summon two earth elementals to form themselves into a coc.o.o.n around it.
We return to the bridge and take over the controls again with a sigh. We've barely had any time to rest.
More rocks come from above, having been lobbed in our direction by the impact. n.o.body gets hurt, but a rock hits the deck and crashes through to the hold, frustrating Yunia again.
Suddenly, far off in the distance, a huge volcano erupts.
Another shock wave hits us and hurts our ears, but this time, it's strong enough that it rattles our bones. I immediately cast [Heal] on Alissa to stop the pain in her ears.
"Thank you," she mutters.
The volcano spews out a column of red hot lava and smoke; long trails of lava make kilometers-long arches in all directions; and lightning courses through the gigantic plume of toxic smoke and debris that continues to increase in size.
Forecast: lava and smoke.
"Next danger: the maelstrom," Lina says through [Bind].
Two islands collide nearby us again, and another debris barrage hits the ship. This time, though, we're prepared for it, and we manage to protect the ship from getting damaged.
For some reason, the islands in this location keep moving towards one another. The only thing that's different about this area is that the mana is wild and unpredictable.
Ciel frowns and calls for Lina's attention. "There's something odd here. I feel a 'need' to go to the center of this maelstrom," she says to Lina.
"The ship will pa.s.s close by it. The center is calm, so there's an anchor there," Lina responds.
Ciel nods anxiously and looks ahead.
Clouds of dust threaten to blind us, so the girls and the elementals work together to clear them off the sky road.
Suddenly, a ginormous island as ma.s.sive as the entirety of Rabanara bursts out of a purple cloud, it's flying directly towards us at an incredible speed. We are right in the middle of its path, so going forward or backward will have the same result.
"I don't think we can outrun that," Alissa says, worriedly.
Is someone seriously slinging islands at us?!
"Now's the time to turn on the afterburner fueled by the power of friendship," I mumble and grin.
"The what?" Alissa questions.
"Afterburner. As if we could use more mana to give us even more speed at the cost of efficiency."
"Hm... that'd be something useful to have."
"Remind me to suggest it to Lina sometime."
"Lina, can you ask Ciel if she knows a way to use magic to make us go faster?" I ask through [Bind].
I pitch the ship up and leave the sky road, then I get Alissa to carefully look over the entire island while I think of something.
"So... this is bad," Aoi says in my soul s.p.a.ce.
"Ciel says that we're going to get blown away by the wind that's enveloping the island," Lina says.
"Crazy idea time!" I yell and Alissa frowns. "I'll jump onto the island and open a [Gate] to a plank, then Hana slams the plank against the ship's bottom!"
"Wow... Wolfy..." Alissa mutters, stunned.
"AHAHAHAHAHA! THIS IS SO STUPID THAT IT JUST MIGHT WORK!" Hana bellows inside my soul s.p.a.ce.
"Hey, what do you mean by that?" I ask, a little offended. My idea is crazy, but it's not "stupid"!
"Okay, it's silly to use [Gate] like that, but it'll work. Just... how are you going to land on that island?" Yunia asks through Aoi.
"Actually... the island must be displacing a huge amount of air. Approaching that would be pretty difficult for me, so I'll use a boulder, instead. I'll put a [Gate] coordinate on it, then throw it and make sure that it lands on the island. If it lands safely, then I can just teleport everyone!"
"See? I told you it was stupid," Hana says with a snort.
"That was just the initial idea! I needed time to develop a proper plan!" I protest, and she just laughs.
"Then you'd better start with this plan, we don't have a lot of time," Ciel says through Lina as she warily eyes the approaching island.
I una.s.sign my useless points until I have enough to cast [Fly].
"Ted, Suzy, and Jarn: Alissa's the captain now," I say and release the controls.
"Understood, master," Ted says.
Ciel's [Holy Spirit] jumps up onto the bridge, then scurries over to me and climbs up my body. It finds its preferred spot right behind my head, and Gify greets it with a happy chirp.
"I'll be right back, my love," I say to all the girls through [Bind], then I cast [Fly] and jump.
I'm suddenly a.s.saulted by the exhilarating and also frightening feeling of being freed from the shackles that chain us to the ground. And not only that, but I'm also charging straight at an island that's trying to hit me. Can anyone in all of history say that they've been slammed by an entire f.u.c.king island? I want to believe that I'm the first.
Alissa directs the ship to fly away from the island to give me more time.
The looming ma.s.s of pure rock and death gets closer and closer. I start to hear its rumble as it violently pushes an inconceivably large volume of air out of its way.
I continue flying up and try to look for an inclined location to throw the boulder at. The turbulence the island is creating might be less over there.
I stretch my soul a lot further ahead so that I can feel the air and stop before I get swept up by the turbulence.
I start to discern the details of the island. It's an inhospitable landscape, full of jagged mountains, pointed crystals protruding out of the ground, and dark valleys in between them.
My soul detects a frighteningly fast torrent of air ahead, so I stop and fly backwards. I pull out a boulder and a plank from my "Items," put a [Gate] coordinate on the boulder, then use [Telekinesis] to throw it at the island. I keep extending my soul towards the surface, waiting for the right moment.
I spend several long seconds breathing heavily with anxiety as the torrent of air gets closer and closer to me.
Suddenly, my soul touches the ground, then I stop using [Fly] and put all of my effort into decelerating the boulder with [Telekinesis]. It's so far away that I can't even see it anymore.
The torrent of air reaches me, and I'm swept away.
f.u.c.k f.u.c.k f.u.c.k f.u.c.k f.u.c.k f.u.c.k f.u.c.k.
I spin like crazy and get so dizzy that I release [Telekinesis], and my soul returns to me. Then I open a [Gate] to the boulder on the plank that I'm holding and touch it.
My spinning immediately stops, but I'm now free-falling towards the island, and the disorientation is dulling my responses.
A f.u.c.kING DRAGON WOULD NEVER CRASH INTO THE GROUND!
I roar and flood myself with the anger of a dragon, then I cast [Fly] again and open my eyes.
I see something shining green right in front of me, then I crash against a crystal.
"WOLFY!" Alissa's worried voice sends a wave of guilt through me. I may have f.u.c.king crashed, but at least I didn't pa.s.s out.
My pain immediately fades away and turns into pleasure as Ciel's [Holy Spirit] starts its work.
With the help of the dragon's energy flowing through my veins, I immediately get up and check the damage. I see a few cracks on my armor, including my visor, but overall, I'm fine. [Fly] canceled most of the momentum of my fall, so it wasn't like I just fell from G.o.ds-know-how-high.
I think Alissa is right; I'm doing some stupid s.h.i.t lately.
But it sure is f.u.c.king fun...
No time to waste, I scan my surroundings and notice that I'm inside a hole surrounded by green, glowing crystals. The wind howls a few meters above me as a stupidly high amount of air is forcefully displaced by the island.
I fly out of the hole, and I'm nearly swept up by the wind, so I remain close to the surface and fly towards the center of the island.
The time the girls have left is slowly running out, so I speed up as much as I can without crashing.
I finally reach the top of this f.u.c.king mountain and sigh in relief. This whole island seems like two meteors that joined together. After cresting the mountain, there's a lot of flat ground that isn't getting blasted by the strong winds running along the meteor's face.
I fly down a stony slope and land on a large strip of flat, straight rock, then I drop a coordinate there and open a [Gate] to the deck of the ship.
"Miss me?!" I yell after I cross it.
"Sure did," Roxanne says in a warm tone.
"Ack! You're wounded! Bad, Wolfy! Bad!" Alissa chastises me, and I smile guiltily.
I pull out another plank, then I cast [Gate] on it. "Here, slam it against the ship, then I'll use [Bind] to summon you back," I say and hand the plank to Hana.
"Understood," she replies and takes it, then flies off the ship. "I'm ready," she says in my soul s.p.a.ce.
"Alissa, stop the ship," I order. She powers down the ship, folds the wings, and furls the sails. "Do it."
Hana touches the black circle against the bottom of the hull, and we're all teleported to the double meteor island, then I summon Hana.
We all wobble, the sudden change from being in motion to (relatively) not being in motion is rather difficult for our brains to deal with. I also groan from a headache, feeling the effects of mana overuse as a huge chunk of my mana is used to transport the ship.
Ciel holds me as I stumble, and Jarn holds Alissa on the bridge. She softly thanks the stick figure golem as she smiles.
I sigh and relax a little, then I make my way back to the bridge as the girls admire the environment. With all of its glowing crystals and strange dark rock pillars protruding out of the ground, the landscape looks rather alien, as if we'd landed on a child's imagination of another planet.
We power up the ship again and fly towards where the sky road should be. We fly past wind-blasted mountains and valleys shrouded in shadow. Alissa detects a few things living down there, so we fly high to avoid them; now isn't the time to get caught up in fighting random things. We can't fly too high, though, since the torrent of turbulence around the meteor is still going strong.
It takes us nearly half an hour, but we finally get past this ridiculous obstacle. We lower the ship to follow under the path that the center of the island took to avoid the trail of turbulence it left in its wake.
After a minute of flying, we see the sky road appear in the distance and sigh in relief. At least we didn't get lost. Then some strong turbulence hits us, forcing us to fold the wings and furl the sails until it pa.s.ses.
Just as we finally clear it and approach the sky road again, the volcano's lava spray reaches us.
"Lovely weather," Alissa says, flatly, and I chuckle.
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