Translated by Tianic, edited by MadSnail.
Note 1: Please click on the character name for their illustrations.
Note 2: Recommended reading music of this chapter ‘Shipwrecked’, from Illumina by Two Steps from Hell.
Characters in this chapter:
- Cohen Kheda: The main character.
- Sander: Leader of the Aqua Clan.
- Marfa, Jack, Wilder, Moya: Cohen’s childhood friends and firm supports.
- Dior Merlin: One of Cohen’s wives.
- Fischer Summers: Cohen’s friend and the prince of the Swabia Empire.
Massive blocks of dark clouds rested down on the ocean, rejecting any sunlight struggling to pierce through. The once azure blue sea water now looked blackish green. Everything that consisted such ambiance made me so irritated.
I stood on the prow and felt the cool breeze unique to this vast water area. It somehow eased my restless mind. My ships were seized by an unknown group of bandits. The cargo was not worth so much. However, such incident meant that this route that took me so much labor was no longer safe.
“Marfa.” I said with a small voice, “Recite the episode once more.”
“Yes. As we came back, we were caught up by a dozen rapid dingies.” Marfa also replied in a very low tone, “We were outnumbered and considered your word to avoid casualties. Thus I decided to abandon the ships. That group of guy has kept our ships and required you, the leader, to take up the matter. I don’t think this would end well.”
“You’ve made the right call. Since we are not familiar with naval battles, to start up a fight might mean worse.” I turned about and told Marfa, “Tell them to get their weapons ready. I’ll be inside, tell me when we’re there.”
I retired to the cabin and rested by the table, sipping wine little by little, while cautiously considered the current situation.
My unknown enemies have kept my cargo instead of hurting any of my men along the way, which was a rather friendly posture. If this was a trap, then what’s their purpose? If they were targeting me, there was no way they did not know my identity! If they were just a group of pirates, then they could just take the ships and leave. Instead, they asked for the boss, namely me. Apparently, they have required me to talk.
Looked like I was in this to prepare earlier.
By the dawn, Marfa tapped my cabinet door.
“Boss, they should be located on that island up front.” Marfa said, “We’re arriving soon. Should I get a few of my men to get off and follow from behind?”
“Drop it. They are good with water so they can’t be neglecting our tiny tricks.” I tapped Marfa’s shoulder, “Tell everybody to stay alerted and follow me. We need to get to know who are they and let them make their offers.”
As I finished talking, our sentinels on the mast had spotted conditions. His fingers were pointed at a few lights swagging in the water.
“They’ve been following us!” Marfa gasped.
I laughed and said to him, “Easy now, since they didn’t hurt us before now, neither will they afterward. We’re safe, prepare to go ashore!”
Our ships were led by those enemy dingies to avoid dangerous rocks hiding in the seawater. Not long after that, we docked and discovered that my smuggling ships were parked aside.
I left a few guys to guard the ship then went off the board with Marfa and Amart and the others. Then walked toward a few men who looked like the ones to welcome us.
The two parties approached, a tall and thin guy sided his body and gestured as to encourage us to keep walking. Then we were led and headed toward the island center.
I could understand that he was merely a not-worth-mentioning, so I nodded silently, and everybody followed me. I noticed uniformity of male gender on the way. Oddly enough, women and children were missing.
Could it be, that this was only one of their base? Their figures were odd as well, I’ve gone through hundreds of them without spotting a fattie.
A camp-like ground was getting closer, then we finally stopped at a giant wooden house. Thus I met their head leader by a bonfire. That man was handling a barbecue rack.
“Have a seat!” He said, “Didn’t expect this newbie smuggler boss will be so young.”
“Oh, really?” I seated, “Didn’t expect the one to rob my ship is a barbecue cook.”
A roaring sound accompanied by one of his guard rushing toward me.
I gazed upon the guard’s steps and told Marfa,”Put him down.”
Marfa bounced up front as his body went parallel to the ground, he supported by holding both hands on the ground then swung one of his legs sharply to attacked that guard, which, unfortunately, that guard dodged. However, he did not foresee that Marfa continued his attack by kicking both feet steadily targeting his target, sharply and with force.
Within four of my friends who grew up with me, Marfa was the weakest in the strength of all. However, he was the most skilled and flexible one, which might be originated from his experience as a young thief. I took some pain and time to come up with a set of martial combination focusing the use of calf and dagger.
Marfa who was engaged in the fight laughed and roared then he spun his body rapidly. As for the other man, he got hit for several times underneath his waist. While before he could fall, he was kicked out yet again by Marfa’s flashy kick. Looked like he was not getting up again anytime sooner.
“Impressive!” The leading-looking man clapped and said, “What a kick-ass fellow you’ve got as a smuggler.”
“I’m flattered.” I said in a blunt tone, “What an idiot fellow you’ve got as a pirate, and what a bitch you are.”
“You listen!” He pointed a finger at me and said, “My politeness is not your excuse to act arrogantly!”
“Is that so? Your Lord is arrogant all the time.” I said, “As for you…”
I laughed, “You’ve summoned me here, yet you didn’t introduce who and what you are or your purpose here, rather, you indulged your man in making a fool of himself. Don’t you call this a bitch, what say you?”
“Fine! Business first!” He stood up, “My name is Sander, pirate!”
“I’ve got your ships and your stuff. You’ll need to trade something to get your stuff back.”
Well, how straightforward he was. If I offered a ransom this quickly, I would be getting extorted constantly since.
“That stuff…” I said coldly, “You can keep ’em if you like so much. Those, as well as the ships, are yours.”
“… You really don’t wanna get those back?”
“Those things worth nothing much to me. I’m capable of losing some. I’m here because I’m interested in you and your people.” I said, “However, now, looks like you are not the one I have expected!”
“LISTEN!” The leader said, “If you don’t comply, we’re gonna grab your ships every time! We are the masters of the sea!”
“Whatever, I can always get back to the land.” I kept on laughing and despite his threat, “By that time, you, and your people will be feeding on seawater!”
“Oh?” His face turned, “You’re pissing me off. I feel the need to fight you nevertheless! However, before that, we need to finish our business.”
I said deprecatingly, “Tell me about it! Skip your tricks on me, I’m stronger than you think.”
“OK, blunty.” He said, “I will assure your safety while smuggling in the sea, but I want a cut out of your profit.”
“You want to make a deal? On what ground?” I threw up my hands and laughed, “Have you invested?”
“On this ground!” He reached his right hand and spread all of the fingers. Between each of his finger, there were flesh webbings that connected, “I’m the leader of the Aqua Clan!”
“You are right! We are protectors of Arethusa.” He raised his head proudly, “Your safety will be guaranteed under our protection!”
“Sander…” I glimpsed him, “You’ve become the leader quite a short while ago, right?”
“You know?” He looked surprised.
“Sit closer, you.” I said, “I don’t like to yell.”
Sander called off his guards and sat next to me.
“You are young, but your negotiating skill is terrible. I reckon that you’ve focused on practicing martial skills, am I right?”
He nodded. As I suspected, he was a newbie talker.
I continued, “So, have you got an elder in the clan? Or was there any incidents happening?”
“There is. We have a Chief Elder.”
“I wanna see him!” I said, “Maybe we could work something out, something big.”
“Our Chief Elder is not someone to meet if only you want.” Sander considered, “I am the chief leader, you talk to me.”
“I have nothing to talk with you.” My clear vision was straightforward, “Or so to speak, I’ve got nothing to say to the current you.”
“How dare you think less of me!” Sander said, “You are nothing more than a smuggler!”
A situation like this made me stop talking and turned and prepared to leave.
“Stop!” Sander yelled, “I’ll keep every last one of you, don’t you believe that?”
“Sure!” I did not bother to look back, “But the cost to keep me will be too much of a burden to you.”
“OK! Then just you and me.” He said, “One on one to keep the costs low.”
“I’m ok, you are an aqua.” I gazed at him coldly, “Using weapons will be unfair, I’ll just fistfight.”
Hearing me talking like this, Sander could not hold any longer. He roared loudly then instantly jumped toward me. However, what he did not know was that a fistfight was something I was best at.
He was as impulsive as a child, if Sander were the main leader, then there must be only one rational reason: The Aqua clan had gone through an unforeseeable turbulence. Judging by his action to rob a smuggler like hungry dogs eat dirty puddings, the aqua clan’s incidence was bad enough to not only make Sander take over the chief chair so hastily, but his clan people were suffering from starvation! All of these had firmly made me decide to pay a visit to the Aqua clan.
Sander threw a fist towards me, though it took a small curved path, the fist looked dominant that echoed a twist of a swirl. It was only for aqua people like Sander who had strong back and waist muscles to steady the body in the ocean’s invisible waves and take advantage of it. Thus on the land, without water, their superiority on body strength had become even bigger. Sander’s movement always brought up twisted wind that swirled and the fists he threw were all quick and powerful from body strength.
To fight with a man like him, it’s best to keep him close and cut off any distance for him to deploy his advantages.
My countermoves were well planned. Thus I cut in his fast movements once I spotted chance. Sander did not see this. Thus he froze for one second, which left a flaw in his act. I caught his flaw and grabbed his arm, in the meantime, kicked hard on his body. Sander had to abandon attacking me and readjust his movement. As long as he was caught, he will lose.
Sander reacted quickly, but once my kick connected his body bounced away. We shared a quick look and engaged once again. Between our fists and kicks, clapping sounds of body parts impacting on each other constantly echoed.
“Take me to see the elder if you lose!
“Ok, you have my word!”
I stopped being polite and approached him again in threat. After several impacts, Sander came to understand that he was not going to win in combat. Thus he dashed back while rest the right hand on his chest, thus a piece of chanting came out.
“My ages enshrined Arethusa, please unfold your eyes and redeem your people…”
He folded both hands then blue lights started to appear there. “Algal Wrath!”
That was a spell!
I bent forward and started to gather strength on my feet. Yellowish combat aura began to show up on my body.
As Sander chanted, a sky-blue water pillar raised gradually in his palms. Its color became ever so deeper as if the water had absorbed all the blue color from the night sky.
At the front end of the pillar, a female body was illustrated. She wore a suit of armor and had a blade. Even her face was so bright to be seen.
I knew it was utterly dangerous stop moving and just watch during a fight. However, my damn curiosity drove me to continue.
Though this figure was based on water, I was thrilled by her beauty. Each of her tiniest movements was incredibly vivid and lifelike, even her gaze was touchable.
She landed the look on me and instantly frowned then chopped her blade. The blue water sword reflected a light beam. Was this the Algal Wrath?
The situation did not allow me to hesitate. I crossed both of my hands to concentrate all of my combat aura to form a golden shield in front of me.
“BANG!” An enormous sound as if a real metal sword chopped on an actual shield resounded the short kickback had made me retreat few steps back. I couldn’t handle the shock wave that followed. Buds of sweats were already there in my head. However, Sander was no better. It took his effort to cast this high-end spell.
“Ah… AH!” I yelled like crazy, “TORN!”
My golden aura emitting dazzling lights instantly enlarged twice the size as before and pushed away from the blue sword. My both hands then shook. Thus the combat aura shield, as well as the blue water pillar, broke because of this.
Sander was astonished. He refused to believe that I successfully defeated his magic. I surely was not staying idle during this moment. Thus I rushed forward and punched him in the body. The exhausted Sander was too weak to dodge my fast attack, he then was caught by the belt collar and belt and raised over my head.
“Wanna continue? I can go for another few rounds!”
Sander sighed and tapped on his head, which was a gesture to admitting defeat.
Sander knew that once anyone was lifted over another’s head, he will not stand a chance winning unless any dirty plays were pulled out.
I laughed and admired his generosity and put Sander down. I sat with him.
“Now I… can’t beat you.” He said, “But give me some time!”
“Finally you are talking like a clan leader! You speak much better than you fight.” I tapped his shoulder, “Can we now talk in parity?”
“We can…” Sander said, “What do you want?”
“Honestly speaking, I think your assault is in big trouble.” I thought, “However I don’t believe that you’ll be able to solve the problem by robbing a few smuggler’s ships. If you can trust me, tell me your problem. I might be able to help.”
“You?” Sander made a bitter smile, “What a brave talk, smuggler.”
“Fine, I’ll tell you.” Sander surrendered to my sincere look and started talking.
Turned out that since last year, the island where Sander and his clan people lived had been in a great drought, and lacked rain. What was worse in this year, rains were even more scarce, thus the starvation.
However, at this moment, Sander’s father, the aqua people’s elder leader had passed away, making the young and inexperienced Sander came to succession in haste. Thus then and there appeared a pirate robbing to feed his clan people.
“Indeed a big trouble.” I sighed, “What a rough time to be the boss!”
“We don’t have much of choice…” Sander lowered his head, “There are invisible waves around the island. Fishing is far from enough for us. No matter how hard I tried, I can’t feed everyone. Then I heard Winper had a new boss man, I was planning on blackmailing you… notwithstanding that…”
“Don’t be so discouraged!” I hit hard on Sander’s shoulder and urged, “All problems can be fixed!”
“Easy for you to talk, we have ten thousands people.” Sander said in dismay, “All need food.”
“How about this, you get some ships ready.” I told Sander, “I’ll have my men get food ready for you in Winper. The rest, maybe I should meet your chief elder for now. What matters most are better decided by a venerable elder.”
“Are you giving us food? For real?” Sander asked in surprise, “You already beat me.”
“That’s another issue. Nothing is more important than people’s lives.” I raised and said, “Send me back now! I’ve got many matters to attend.”
In Lucy’s whore house, I filled in everything about the aqua people to Fischer. While Fischer was considering the issue, I had sent Amart to prepare the food.
“Seems like we’ve come close to yet another mysterious alien race.” Fischer said, “I’ve never heard about the Aqua Clan.”
“This is why I paid a visit.” I said, “That Sander guy, he’s such talented on water spells. If he continues practicing for another few years, I’ll have to run before him.”
“Since he’s an aqua, it’s no wonder that he excels in water spells.” Fischer knocked on the table, “I was predicting the foreseeable sea warfare that we might encounter.”
“It’s not ‘might’, it’s definitely!” I said, “What then?”
“If in any case, battle in the ocean…” Fischer grinned, “And we have the aqua soldiers, what’s it gonna like?”
“Ah! Hahaha!” I laughed, drooled and approached him, “I get it, an invincible fleet made out of aqua warriors!”
“Exactly!” Fischer slashed a hand hardly in the air, “You should go this time. We have to prepare early!”
“I know that.” I said, “How come you suddenly become so smart?”
“Glad you noticed that.” Fischer certainly looked proud of himself, “Because I think it’s about time to beat out your arrogance! How am I called an adult otherwise?”
“Puffffff!” I ignored him.
“Say, how about that of your significant other?” Fischer grinned wickedly, “Did she fall in love?”
“Sooner or later!”
“True? Then good luck on that.”
I watched as Fischer exited the room, my mind had already traveled to the castle, to the girl who has been making me ache mentally and physically. I wondered what she was doing now. I laughed at this idea and noticed the black suit on my bed.
I got dressed in black and recalled what happened the other night on the balcony. Suddenly, I missed her so much.
Moments later, on the road from Winper City to the old castle. An all-black horse, as well as its rider, galloped at full speed.
I have to set off with the food and ships tonight. Meeting with Jack and the others will compromise my time to explain. Thus I have decided to get off horse outside the castle and secretly sneak in.
Given that I was on my own territory, getting caught would be embarrassing.
I began my search for a comfortable spot to climb in at the outer castle wall. A much-ruined wall was repaired long ago without many climbable vegetations. I honestly had no idea why I was doing this despite all the impulse to meet the girl.
“If you want to go in.” As I was scratching my head desperately trying to figure out a way to enter, a female voice came nearer, “My suggestion is the gate.”
I was masked, so I turned and faced the owner of this voice: my wife, Dior Merlin.
“It’s really you, dumb thief…” Arnold was in her arms, and her eyes glimmered, “How did you find it here?”
My heart beat in disappointment.
“Easy…” I talked with a lowered tone like last time, “It looks like a delicious place…”
I messed about my shoes and clothes as well except for my voice, which made me looked taller and stronger, in case Dior would recognize me.
“Shamefully,” She smiled, “I am the lady of the house. It’s your fate not getting anything here today.”
“Lady of the house?” To my surprise, Dior said her words seriously this time.
“Yes, I am.” She sat on a tree trunk and used her finger to comb Arnold’s fur, “Why not have a seat? Have you become a coward this time around?”
“Not a coward. I was confused…” I can’t let go of the chance to snooping into her true self, “How come you marry this guy all of a sudden. Judging by this place, the man seemed rather a bounder than nobility.”
“Respect yourself. Don’t you speak anything bad about my husband!” She glared me, “As for who I marry, you don’t need to know.”
“Do I? Sounds like your relationship is not bad.” I cannot help recalling the days fighting with her, “I heard the incidence about your family and came here specially to see you.”
“Why didn’t you come a few days earlier?” She said distantly, “Why are you showing up now?”
Hearing this, I remembered the dagger she always carried. Did this mean, she was into this thief identity? Then my presence here was indeed unnecessary.
“I can tell…” She continued, “that you are a rich man!”
“Yes, indeed.” I said carelessly by accident, “I am a noble.”
“So to speak, my hair band is still there? Give it back.”
I fetched the band and tossed it back.
“Thank you.” She looked at it and said, “And thank you for visiting me.”
“You are welcome.” I said, “What happened to your… personality?”
“You can have this back. I’m under my husband’s protection now, I think this is not needed any longer..” She took off the black steel dagger from the belt, then place it on the ground near her feet. She gazed at me and said, “Surprised to my changes?”
“Yeah! You were kinda vicious when I met you…”
“I was not feeling good at that time.”
“So now you are in a good temper?” I shrugged, “I don’t quite get it.”
“‘Cuz I saw a friend!”
“Are we?” I said, “I thought we were the kind of relationship between a robber and a robbee…”
“Speaking about how you did your job.” She made a cute giggling, “Won’t you feel shame?”
“Ya, indeed.” I said bitterly, “That one wasn’t going as expected.”
“Actually.” She lowered her head, “I am grateful…”
“Grateful, to me?” I asked astonishedly, “For what?”
“You might have just left your dagger out of sudden interest…” She said, “However, during the time when my life was at its hardest, it’s there with me the whole time. It gave me the courage and empowered me. I, I for many times imagined you would show up one day and take me away from such hardship… but, you didn’t.”
“I… Is it too late to say sorry?”
“Why sorry? This is not your fault.” She looked at me, “Because you didn’t show, I was able to meet my husband.”
“I… was busy those days…”
“Liar.” Her smile appeared once again, “Why lying? Aren’t we friends?”
“Accepted.” She continued in the smile, “This is the difference between you and my husband. Him… he never regularly to anyone.”
“Thus you decided to be with him?” I asked, “How is he treating you?”
“Though he is a bit weird, not nobility, I still…” She thought for a moment, “He is honestly good to me. At least different from the men who chased after me. He is honest, sincere, has a kind heart.”
“I need to go back!” She stood up and said, “You have my permission to come and visit. But I hope the next time you will go from the gate and lose that mask. By then I’ll be very glad to tell you about my husband.”
“You are saying…” My heart beat inexplicably, “You have accepted him?”
“Humans are not perfect. And he has the good things on him to compromise the bad.” She made a dazzling smile, “If this is not enough, I, as his wife, will certainly be of his help!”
I watched as she walked further and remained silent with a mixed feeling.
I retrieved the dagger from the ground, then surprisingly found its weight had increased. This was new to me. Was it because I lost the sense of it, or a particular girl has left something on it?”