The mountains were green, the fields were awash with flowers, rain watered the earth, and the rivers flowed under the bright sunshine until they reached the great sea.
It was during the godless period. After meditating for an age, the great sage Stoicheia discovered the truth behind the changes in nature and created the Wise Cube to observe the blessings that filled the planet. And so, we, the people of Zoo and Magallanica, founded the nation of Stoicheia based on the great sage’s teachings.
“…At least, that’s what I was taught.”
I leaned against the railings and sighed. The petals on my sleeves wilted, matching my depressed mood.
The skies were gray; it was past noon. A light rain started to fall only in the vicinity of the boat. The water in the old Magallanica Bay undulated like some enormous black creature.
“Bioroids do not get seasick. Besides, this is an airship.”
I answered the voice that had come from behind me without bothering to look up.
Zorga, the captain of the ship, as well as a self-proclaimed rain spiritualist, let out a breath. Was it a sigh? Or a laugh?
“Ah, but I might be ready to go home. Mind if I get off next time we land?”
“You’re contracted for one year. One year minus two days, to be exact.”
Zorga gave no indication that he’d heard me as he slowly walked away from me (on those horrifying demonic legs of his).
“I’ll only say this once: I won’t get involved in piracy. Also, can’t you do something about this rain!?”
As I shouted that at the retreating figure, I could see the huge staff that he held in his clawed left hand begin to shake.
The clouds behind me faded, letting a little sunshine through. We had apparently entered into the waters of Old Zoo.
It was a rainy night. The boat danced through the skies over the dark ocean. It was said to be home to the souls that had not yet departed from this world and were manned by deformed creatures.
It was the legendary ghost ship Regrain.
And it was the ship that I now called home.
It had been two days since I had been called into action.
I was at the Neo Nectar trading post in the old Magallanica town of Trans, north of Stoicheia. I was so nervous about being called in by the gunman who acted as our guild leader, but the talk was brief.
“Hendrina, I’m assigning you to the Regrain. That is all.”
And that concluded the meeting. The guild leader’s attendant ushered me out of the room, then slammed the door close behind me.
That’s when the trouble started.
I went shopping for items for my trip… But what was the Regrain, anyway? When would we be leaving? Where did I need to be?
That night, as I sat on my bed in the inn where I was staying, I had a visitor…
There wasn’t a single island in sight, so I turned back to the deck.
A girl dragging a large stuffed animal passed in front of me. Her umbrella cast no shadow around her feet.
Nothing. The girl ignored me and carried on across the deck. The flowers on her sleeves, that I had previously complimented her on, began to wilt again.
Perhaps “good evening” would have been a better greeting for a ghost.
I’d rather not remember the night that this ghost girl, whose name I had yet to learn, first visited me.
I looked up, startled to find her right in front of me. After a brief pause, she silently handed me an invitation (when I thought back to that evening later, I started to wonder whether that invitation was real or not). I ran straight into the closed door of my room in an attempt to follow the ghost; I was glad that no one was there to see that.
I rubbed my sore forehead, then headed to the docks where I found an unmanned boat. As soon as the girl and I climbed aboard, the boat set off into the open water and led us to this boat full of strange looking people… I suppose one could call them monsters.
Next, a man came from the opposite direction. He was just as silent as the girl. As he approached, an indescribable stench started to fill the air.
The man, who carried a huge machete and whose body emanated a green light, left without saying a word.
Looking around, the deck was filled with more than just ghosts. There were fairies, deep sea monsters, demons, dragons resting on the mast, and even moving skeletons (which I later found out were the sailors in charge of holding the rigging). Despite the crowds on board, I could only hear the lapping of the water.
“Ugh… I want to go home…”
But however much I wanted to escape, where could I go? We were in the middle of the ocean. Plus, we were high in the air and moving fast.
I was so depressed sitting there on the deck of that ghost ship that I thought I might just stop functioning.
I had to snap out of it.
One aspect of traveling that I have always enjoyed is the food. This is especially true when traveling by boat, as there’s little else to mark the passage of time.
On the Regrain they marked the hours by the sound of a bell. I remember being impressed by the accuracy of that bell when I first boarded the ship. But the sound it made also sent a shiver down my spine.
I didn’t want to think about what the rest of the crew were eating (if indeed they ate anything at all), so I headed to the bow to eat my lunch in peace. I washed down my ship’s biscuits with a sap-infused drink I’d brought with me.
Nutrition is still important for bioroids. Though not as important as sunlight. I started to feel a little better, and though the light was still weak the flowers on my sleeves and in my hair perked back up a little, waving lightly in the wind.
“There’s a scent in the air. Rare for this ship.”
“If you don’t like it, please, go.”
It was Zorga. It seemed the captain had a talent for sneaking up on people. I didn’t turn back to face him this time.
“Remember the contract.”
“Yes, yes,” I said, facing my client. I took the contract out of my pack and started reading. The waterproof paper and indelible ink were the product of science, but the wording that bound me to this ship and the captain were pure magic. It was an old-fashioned but solemn acknowledgment of commitment.
“Let’s see… ‘To provide knowledge. To aid in combat and boost our abilities. One year. Continuation and modifications to be negotiated.’ That’s what it says. I will stay until my work here as a Neo Nectar is done. My word is my bond.”
I tried to stand firm. I didn’t want to get involved in a crime, but I also wanted to protect my guild’s honor.
“If you say so.”
“But what I don’t understand is the part about amplifying power. I’m not sure how much I can boost the power of mon… people like that.”
“You mean the fact that me and this ship… the sea and the monsters are all Magallanican? And you, a bioroid, are from Zoo?”
“If you’re talking about the outdated views of Zoo and Magallanica, then yes. But then I guess now that they’re mixed together, you could say we’re all Stoicheian.”
“Chaos envelops everything. That is where we find our chance. And where we find the freedom to explore.”
Zorga pulled back his hood, letting his long hair flutter in the breeze. Only his right hand still resembled that of a human. Even with all the deformities he was a hauntingly beautiful man.
“Do you not like monsters?”
“Isn’t it natural for the living to be afraid of ghosts, skeletons, and the dead? Mr. Spiritualist, sir.”
“Life and death, the nature of the soul, these are the things that I am here to study. Fear can be useful sometimes to help keep us, and our secrets, safe.”
“So, the rumors of this ship being a ‘ghost ship wreathed in dark clouds that traps wayward souls’ are all a form of protection? Truth is, we sail during the day, and we’re crewed not only by the dead, but also by dragons, fairies, and others like me.”
“It’s a lively crew, for sure.”
Something that must have been a smile emerged on Zorga’s face.
He was not only evil, but also a liar. Deciding that our conversation was over, I turned away.
“Hey! Can you see that?”
Something appeared on the horizon. Not land—it was some kind of moving object.
“I should have known a bioroid would have good eyes. A ship?” asked Zorga.
“It’s too big to be a ship. Wait. That size, its speed, color, shape, in this region…”
I was familiar with all the legends about this region. That was why the guild had selected me for this job.
The object made its way closer. We all cried out in unison.
It was the great sea beast known as the kraken, a nightmarish monster of the deep that destroyed any ship it came across. Countless sailors had lost their lives to it. Against such an enormous creature with its immeasurable strength, even the Flying Ghost Ship Regrain couldn’t hope to…
Tentacles as thick as the ship’s mast loomed over the bow of the ship.
What happened after was all a blur.
I jumped back, and Zorga stepped in front of me. At the same time, even though I knew they’d be useless, I summoned forth a number of flowers and threw them at the enemy. They flew into the space between Zorga and the oncoming tentacles. It may not have been flashy or powerful, but I kept to my contract and did my best to protect my client.
Still, Zorga waved his staff and one by one the flowers exploded.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
As the flowers burst, they turned into a giant chain that proceeded to bind the tentacles together. The ghosts and skeletons rushed out from the hull of the ship and solidified around the enemy.
This was magic.
Zorga had used the flowers that I had created as a kind of catalyst in his own very advanced Trance and Summon magic. He made it look so easy.
“Not bad. I should add ‘lookout’ into your contract. Of course, I’d increase your pay by twenty-percent. Do you agree?”
Zorga’s voice boomed out to me.
“Okay. And…” I stuttered.
Zorga turned back, all the while summoning dragons from the sky and creatures from the deep.
“During the day, could you let the clouds clear a little to let the sunshine in? I can’t make my flowers without it.”
“Agreed. Inheritance Maiden, Hendrina.”
Zorga turned back to face the Kraken.
I’ll never know what expression he had on his face.
<<Notes about Terminology>>
A humanoid species of Neo Nectar. They are artificial creatures created by casting magic spells on plants, trees, and flowers. They resemble a fusion of plant and human, are highly intelligent, and have the power to control the same kinds of plants they were formed from. Most bioroids are formed from a single type of plant, but the more powerful individuals are composed of multiple plant species.
Flying Ghost Ship
A ghost ship known as the Regrain that only appears on rainy nights.
It is said that it was crewed by the souls of the unrepentant, though this is likely just a cautionary tale to keep people from living a life of regret.
One theory is that it was actually a Stoicheian special task force led by the Mysterious Rain Spiritualist, Zorga.
Supervising Editor: 中村聡