We sank deeper and deeper into the water, until soon the light from the surface no longer reached us. At that point, I was forced to cast a pair of spells. The first spell was a simple light spell to grant us vision over an area. The second, however, was more complicated. Since the monsters within the ocean were fairly quick, and we were now a giant beacon of food, I also prepared a detection spell to help me keep an eye on anything approaching us.
Next to me, Thessa for her part was still fairly calm. On the other hand, Rache could no longer be considered so. Rather, as she looked out at the dark, mostly empty waters, she would flinch at every vague shadow.
“Scared of the dark?” I asked curiously, making sure to use my world sight as a third layer of security to scan the area. I already knew where the stone was that we were traveling towards, so it was just a matter of getting there. Theoretically, I could simply teleport… but I had heard stories of what happened when divers went up or down too quickly. I didn’t know what my tolerance was with the strength of my body, but… better safe than sorry.
“Not the dark…” Rache muttered, clinging to her staff. “This incarnation… she has a thing with the deep ocean. Trying to keep it covered, but her brain… let’s just say that it’s not an easy thing to control.”
I gave a small nod when I heard that. I considered slowing our descent to give her more time to adjust. But, if it was a pathological fear that her host had, then that might only make it worse. So, I continued our steady drop, until finally we reached a sandy ocean floor.
As we ‘landed’, the sand scattered around us in a cloud, eventually revealing a rough rocky surface. Of course, doing so obscured our sight by surrounding our bubble, which made Rache scream in a brief panic. I reached a hand over to gently place it on her shoulder, feeling how she trembled.
I could understand a fear of the ocean. I still remembered my time on that boat… when I saw the shadow of the giant beast that lurked below. Logically, I knew that I could likely kill it. But when I saw how large and imposing it was, it triggered an innate fear.
“It’s okay. We won’t need to be here for long.” I whispered to her while deploying my world sight to scan the area, finding the exact location of the mineral vein. It wasn’t far away from us, which was nice. Just a few steps off, and hiding beneath a giant manta-ray like creature that was using the sand as camouflage.
Okay, maybe that could be an issue. “Recall location, force enemy teleport.” I spoke in the runic tongue, pointing my finger out towards where I sensed the creature. As the white beam of light shot out, the manta seemed to sense something, lifting its body up abruptly. However, it was simply too large to fully evade the spell.
When it hit, I focused on the nest of insects in the twentieth floor where they had found the elementalist orb. My mana decreased by a rather surprising amount for a teleportation spell, likely due to having to break the boundary between layers, but soon there was a collapse within the water, the pressure sinking in to fill the empty space where the manta had previously been.
Looking back, I saw Rache crouched down, practically crying as she hugged her staff to herself. Thessa gently hugged her side, comforting her silently. Note to self, don’t bring Rache down here again.
If I had known that she was this bad with the ocean, I wouldn’t have brought her in the first place. Speaking of… Aurivy, why didn’t you mention anything if it’s this bad?
I heard a mental sigh at the question, moments before the prayer was answered. I had been managing her fear pretty well up till now. I didn’t think it’d get so much worse, or I would have said something. Sorry about that.
I nodded quietly when I heard that, silently waiting for Aurivy to get control of Rache again. There weren’t any other dangerous creatures around that I could sense, but that could change at a moment’s notice. While I waited, I decided to ask Terra a question that had been bugging me. Terra, you have a minute?
Sure. Her response came fairly quickly, though for once it didn’t seem like she knew what I wanted to ask her about.
If the tidestones create water out of mana, and that water doesn’t dissipate over time… that should be breaking even this world’s laws of physics. Conservation of mass goes right out the window when you can create water from mana without end.
There was a brief pause at my question, before Terra began to explain. You’re absolutely right. And… technically, the water isn’t limitless. It is just practically limitless. To say that the tidestones create water from mana isn’t exactly correct. Rather, they use the mana much like the fairy gates, connecting to an elemental plane of water.
So, theoretically, if the stones were to constantly pour out water till the end of time, they would eventually hit a hard limit? I couldn’t help but ask, closing my eyes in thought.
So what we need is a way to reverse the process, to send water back to this elemental plane. That way, the water will never be able to become too much of an issue.
After sending that thought to her, an idea occurred to me. Leowynn, I need you to brace yourself. This… could get strange.
Taking a deep breath, I lifted my hand once again, pointing my palm out towards the water. “Banish.” I spoke the runic word.
Like with the manta-ray, the water suddenly collapsed in on itself, a brief void having opened up outside our bubble. Holy hell, it actually worked! I thought to myself, feeling the strain on Leowynn’s control as the water tried to crash down against us, having to push it back with her will alone.
But wait… if these oceans were formed by the tidestones... then what about all the aquatic life that lives in this world? I asked, a sudden realization dawning on me as I glanced through the murky waters. Terra… the level limit of monsters on this floor isn’t really four hundred, is it…?
Well… I mean, technically? She replied, a difficult to explain tone to her voice. No monster greater than level four hundred can be born on this floor. And they can’t come through the gates between floors.
Uh-huh… and what about gates to the elemental plane of water? My eyes caught sight of a small fish that seemed to swim up out of the surface of the water. I knew that the location it emerged from was the tidestone vein, which only made me focus even more on it.
Level 621 Deep Sea Minnow
My eyes went wide when I saw the level of the small fish, before Terra’s answer came in a moment later. If it makes you feel better, the size of the gate is directly dependant on the surface area of the tidestone vein connected to the water, fueled by ambient mana. TYPICALLY nothing big can get through.
There’s a big vein somewhere on this floor, isn’t there?
Oh, it’s fucking massive. Her blunt answer came immediately after I voiced my question. Down in the deepest brine lake, surrounded by the city of scattered lights that the aquatic race created.
And you didn’t think that this was something I needed to know before!? I fired back in a brief moment of panic before cooling my head. Sorry, sorry… I know, you couldn’t tell me until I had already figured out that something was wrong with the tidestones themselves, right?
Pretty much. She said with a sigh. And I’ll have you know, Aurivy’s been eavesdropping. She’s currently searching frantically through the oceans to make sure that there hasn’t been anything coming through that vein yet.
“Styx… I think I’m good now.” Rache said shakily from behind me as she stood up, her knuckles white as she tightly clutched her staff.
“Okay… Thessa, you’re in charge of breaking that vein.” I told her, quickly walking towards it. “No matter what, you can’t use any kind of mana to do so. You can use ki fine, but no mana.”
Thessa looked towards me in confusion, before glancing towards her pick. With a sigh, she caused it to vanish into her bag of holding, cracking her knuckles as she approached the vein. “I don’t want to know, do I?”
“That depends, how much do you like sleeping?”
“I am the incarnation of a cat, sir.” She said as she crouched down, placing her left hand on the rock while her right began to glow a faint gold. “I love sleep.” I could already see drops of water starting to pool up from the vein as her fist slammed down, clad in ki.
There was a great crash from next to me, and I could see Thessa’s health bar appear within a cloud of smoke. When it cleared, I saw her hand bloodied, several large stones broken off from the vein. I reached over, putting my hand on her shoulder and letting my ki of beginning wash over her to fix the damage.
“Really…” She muttered, seeming to take that as a signal to gather more, her fist slamming down again.
“I… was just trying to heal you.” I admitted, healing her once again while she blinked her eyes in confusion, her face covered with a layer of sand now.
“Oh. Does that mean I’m done now?”
“Please, I want to get back onto dry land.” I nodded my head quickly, and she began to gather up the stones that she had collected, putting them all in her bag of holding.
Enchanted bag, stones that create water based on mana… well, that’s going to be a great big bag of water soon. I thought to myself, reaching over to grab Rache and Thessa’s hands to begin our ascent. Leowynn, how are you on energy?
I’m fine for now, Father. But you should hurry… I imagine that the air inside the bubble won’t last too much longer.
...Oh right, that’s a thing I have to worry about too. I may have sped up our ascent just a tad bit beyond what would normally be considered strictly safe. I estimated that we were around six hundred meters below the surface of the water. That meant that normally, I would want to give us around an hour to ascend.
Fifteen minutes later, I was seeing the light from the surface again, and I could feel that it was starting to become difficult to breathe. Twenty minutes, and I saw that the other two were having the same issue. At twenty-five, we were close enough to the surface that I simply told Leowynn to open a path the entire way, so that we could have a literal breath of fresh air.
Watching the ocean split open around us, the blurred sky now clear and visible, I took a deep breath, sighing in relief. The last thing that I wanted was for this whole plan to go down the drain because the girls ran out of air during a dive.