Fermoss’ ball of shadowmancy mana corroded everything within its reach, vapourising the naga along with the wooden panels of the deck. The hole left behind in its wake was only a fraction smaller than the earlier damage by the magic crystal cannon. It aggravated the vessel’s current predicament. Seawater gushed in uncontrollably, causing the waterline to grow higher.
“Not good! I need two more men down there for repairs urgently!” The mariner was first to snap out of his shock. He quickly called for the sailors’ attention.
Fermoss hadn’t realised its fault. It continued to sway its large tail around, watching the ocean surface with child-like curiosity. Locke kept its outbursts down through the bind of their contract, finally finding some leeway to study his fallen opponent.
The four-armed naga was bleeding out from the bevelled spear in its piscine tail. It wasn’t doing well, complexion turning ghastlier by the minute; its initial blue colouration was fading. Locke had been a man with principles so the naga should consider itself lucky that he hadn’t coated the tip with poison.
Locke watched its weakened body, deciding that only its weapons were worth collecting. It felt far-fetched to call the weird marine plants weapons. Despite that, the orange macrophyte was ridiculously rigid. His sword was smelted with froststeel and had even been subjected to multiple refinements at the Sanctum. It was enchanted to a certain degree but the plant had barely buckled at its force. Surely, it meant that it possessed some worth. Locke tossed the plants into his spatial ring.
He paced around the four-armed naga casually, noticing a shadow coming towards the vessel. He squinted under the sunlight; the bamboo hat Magister had returned from battle. Judging by his leisurely pace, he’d probably defeated his swarm of nagas. Locke had an inkling that the abrupt weakening of the four-armed naga had much to do with the Magister.
The confrontation came to an end once the Magister was back on the deck. The measly number of nagas that stubbornly resisted the sailors were turned into clouds of red with a single snap of his finger. The sailors screamed and fled as far as they could from the scarlet tarantulas on the floor.
“Not bad.” The bamboo-hat-wearing Magister nodded approvingly. He was praising Locke and the sailors for their superb performance. He was only slightly bewildered by Fermoss’ presence but said nothing else on the matter.
“I need two more men to stop the water! The rest of you, tidy up the deck!” The mariner stepped forward.
Fermoss was done running around the deck so Locke quickly tucked it away into his space flute. The deck was already a total wreck and the scorpiondrake’s larger size would make it difficult to keep it out of trouble.
The Magister hadn’t returned empty-handed. A blue naga’s skull laid pliantly in his palm while his other hand held a staff adorned with a huge pearl. The pearl was hard to miss but a glance of it had threatened to slip Locke into a mysterious daze.
“Oh, there’s another blue naga here? Not bad. You can sell its head for a good price on the east coast.” The bamboo hat Magister regarded the barely breathing naga, tone nonchalant as if looking at a non-living commodity.
“You’re more than welcome to have it if you wish, Grandmeister. I have no use for naga skulls,” replied Locke. Money was no longer an attraction for him and this bit of wealth was nothing with his current worth considered.
The Magister’s expression softened ever so slightly. Ironically, powerful Magisters didn’t necessarily hold equally powerful coffers. Experiments required funds, purchasing potions required money and the acquisition of new mana knowledge required a hefty sum. Everything ran on money. The problem was so deeply rooted that older and experienced Magisters would still find themselves quarrelling over a few gold coins.
“Thank you but I will not take this for free. Your generosity will be reciprocated as per our virtue,” said the bamboo hat Magister. “Come meet me tomorrow afternoon for some white tramp powder.” As soon as his words fell, he beheaded the limp naga with a sharp gust of green wind.
“Thank you, Grandmeister.” It was only until the bamboo hat Magister was out of sight that Locke dared to look puzzled. White tramp powder? What the hell is that? He kicked at the headless blue body and turned to look for Kristin and Laffey.
Kristin and Laffey were found in their armours, armed with their respective longswords that dripped with green blood. There was a green naga corpse beneath their boots that looked to be dead for a while.
“What are you doing out here?! What if you get hurt?” Locke fumed. Kristin and Laffey were mid-rank Knechts but that didn’t save Locke from worry. The nagas were similarly powered but their larger physique and brute strength had made them difficult opponents even for mid-rank Knechts, after all.
“I noticed that big fella over there getting injured so I knew I had to help. That’s why I dragged Laffey into the battlefield. I know what I’m doing, Brother Locke.” Kristin didn’t feel the slightest remorse, prepared to boast about her achievements instead. “I sent it to hell with this hole in its chest! Isn’t my handiwork great?” She pointed at the naga corpse enthusiastically. There was a gaping hole in its cavity that bore some burnt marks along the edges, which showed that Kristin had defeated it with a spell.
Locke’s muscles were still sore from the earlier battle but he bit back his frustrations to acknowledge Kristin’s work. He trudged over to the naga corpse to discard it into the sea. They were standing in the proximity of their cabin doors and Locke refused to be graced with the stench of death in his slumber.
“Wait!” Kristin stopped him. There was a scalpel between her fingers. “I’d like some of its blood for research.” She was still half a caster so her passion for new knowledge was naturally strong.
“There’s also another four-armed naga over there. Shall I bring it over to you?” He pointed at where his battle had taken place earlier.
“Of course!” Kristin was positively vibrating with excitement. She expertly ran her scalpel and collected a vial of green naga blood.
The mess on the deck was close to settled when evening arrived. Despite the loss of a few comrades, the sailors’ efficiency remained excellent. They’d patched the holes with new wooden panels. It wasn’t done in the most aesthetically pleasing manner but it was all they could do at the moment. At least it wouldn’t affect their progress.
“Grandmeister, the second basement is flooded.” The mariner reported helplessly. It appeared that the Magister had just completed an experiment earlier since there was an unpleasant stench that clung to his body. Even so, the mariner dared not twitch a single facial muscle. The Magister was dangerously bipolar and the only reason he’d been able to be the acting captain of the vessel was that the original committee had been wiped out.