Bathing in Blood [Cliffhanger 2 of 3]
This is the third and final bonus chapter for the week. Thanks again to Benjamin R. from France for this chapter. The conclusion chapters to these cliffhangers will be ready by tomorrow as the first regular release of the week, so look forward to it!
"It's the enemy! That's the fleet of the Chikdor Merchant Guild!" shouted the lookout after he identified the flags the ships were flying.
However, by then, they were already less than 200 meters apart.
"There are two large-class, three-masted merchant vessels, six middle-class, twin-masted, fast-sailing merchant vessels, and eight middle-class armed merchant vessels. Ugh, milord, what did you do to the Chikdor Merchant Guild for them to send so many ships, this one's larger than the previous fleet... It seems that they're fixated on holding us back," said Els jokingly.
At that moment, the people on the deck could tell the types of ships that were sailing towards them apart clearly. Lorist laughed as he shrugged and said, "How would I know? The Chikdor Merchant Guild just bit on us like a mad dog. To think that they'd send wave after wave of ships to stop us... Will this ever end? I think their main goal is to capture me and force me to hand Silowas Island to them..."
"In their dreams!" Josk exclaimed, to which Howard, Els and the rest nodded in response.
Captain Wilson asked, "Milord, what do we do? Do you want us to turn back and circle around them? We still have enough time and distance between us for that..."
Lorist shook his head and said, "No. If the fleet that we just escaped is behind us, then we'll be walking straight into the trap they set for us. It'll be even more troublesome if we're surrounded by both fleets. We'll just try to break through them like this. Joe, do you have any strength left?"
Josk wore a serious expression without saying anything. All he did was wave the green bow about in his hand, indicating that he was fine and that the rest could leave it to him. As long as he had his bow, nobody would be able to stop their voyage home.
As Josk made his preparations at the bow of the ship, he waited for the distance between the two parties to close. It didn't take long until the distance was around 100 meters. All of a sudden, the lookout on the crow's nest called out, "Be careful! The enemy has laid chains between their ships! There's no way we'll be able to rush through their ranks..."
Lorist staggered and almost struck against the railings of the deck. Good Sol, what's going on with his eyes? To think that he'd only notice the chains when we're this close... Now that the Flying Fish of Dawn was traveling at full speed, there was no way she could evade the chains. Even if Josk were able to break the masts of the two ships they were heading towards, they would still be hampered by the chains on the ships, allowing the other enemy ships to surround them. By then, the Flying Fish of Dawn would no longer be able to escape.
When I get back, I bet my ass off that I'll get myself binoculars! Heck, even a telescope would do! Now that I have Master Mancheny, glass production should no longer be a problem. The transparent oil-glass can be molded into concave lens pieces which I can fit to an iron tube to make a simple telescope.
Lorist felt that it was incredibly disadvantageous for them to not have a telescope at sea. Even if the lookout had better eyesight, they would only be able to see ships as small dots from 500 meters away and would be unable to tell friend from foe. Only until they were 200 meters away was the lookout able to see the flag the ships were flying. That would leave far too little time for them to respond. For instance, the chains between the enemy ships were also discovered too late.
Currently, the two parties were less than 80 meters apart.
"Milord, what do we do?" asked Captain Wilson hurriedly. That scenario was not one that any of them had envisioned.
Revealing a gaze of savagery filled with seething killing intent, Lorist shouted, "Head towards that ship at the right! Since they have a death wish, I will grant it. I will head to the bow of the ship. Els, order the ballista shooters to fire when we are close enough against people, not the ships. Provide suppressive fire against the enemy. Howard, head to the cabin and lock the door. I will leave Mister Mancheny and Professor Balbo in your care. Wilson, instruct the marines to prepare for battle. Since we're unable to rush past them, we'll fight our way out of this!"
The ship and the fleet were already less than 50 meters apart, but given that the enemy wanted to capture the Flying Fish of Dawn, they didn't use their fireballs to attack and only employed anti-personnel ranged weaponry such as bows and crossbows. Even so, most of the projectiles didn't hit their targets, and the ones that did find their way towards Lorist and the rest were easily deflected.
Lorist finally understood what Els said about the unreliability of ballistae at sea. He had stood beside one of the steel ballistae and saw six successive shots. Apart from a lucky shot that managed to skewer two unlucky bastards on the enemy ship, the rest grossly missed their targets.
Some flew too high and didn't hit anything, while others landed on the deck of the enemy ships.
Lorist couldn't help but sigh at the miss rate despite being only 60 meters away from the enemy. After all, not everyone had the talent for archery like Josk. Given the undulation of the ship, even if one aimed properly, one could still miss at the very next moment. Unless there were enough ballistae to fire in huge waves to suppress the enemy, they wouldn't be a threat to the enemy at all in small numbers.
It was apparent that the enemy marines also had the same thought; they were not the least dispirited despite the loss of two of their comrades. They howled as they waved the weapons in their hands around, prepared to jump and board the Flying Fish of Dawn once she was close enough.
"Joe, I'll leave the left ship to you. I will take care of the right one," said Lorist, who turned back and made a hand signal to captain Wilson at the helm.
Josk merely nodded.
It was then when the Flying Fish of Dawn swerved to the right suddenly, changing their trajectory to point towards the right middle-class, fast-sailing merchant vessel. Originally, the Flying Fish of Dawn would've collided straight against the chains, but with that sudden turn, it would crash against the ship at the right instead.
To the captain of the right ship, having the Flying Fish of Dawn's razor-sharp bow ramming against his own vessel was definitely undesirable. The collision might even incapacitate his ship. He definitely did not wish for his own ship to be the victim of the Flying Fish of Dawn's suicide attack. It would be a huge blow to his career and his future with the merchant guild.
A flurry of orders from the ship at the right to lower the sails and change direction could be heard. The sailors aboard that ship began to work busily and gave up on shooting at the Flying Fish of Dawn. The ship to the right's speed quickly decreased and its bow began to align with the Flying Fish of Dawn's, causing them to only brush past without fully colliding against each other.
"Turn the sails forward!" ordered Captain Wilson. A few of the marines pulled on the ropes and angled the sails to face the front of the ship.
The Flying Fish of Daw had originally been traveling against the direction of the wind. The front-facing sails now caused the ship to decrease in speed greatly, as if she had turned from a strong, athletic runner into an old, trotting lady. That sudden change was greatly out of the expectations of the crews of the two enemy ships, with the left ship wasting a huge wave of arrows and bolts that landed in the ocean directly in front of the Flying Fish of Dawn.
Thunderous twangs rang out again from Josk's bow, causing cries of terror to resound from the enemy ship at the left. As the ship to the left was kept occupied, Lorist turned his attention to the other ship to the right. The distance between them decreased incredibly slowly. It was taking too long.
The middle-class, twin-masted, fast-sailing merchant vessel was 35 meters in length, with its front being narrow and its back being broad. The bow of the ship was 1 meter long and was equipped with a long ram. The middle part of the ship to its back had a rough width of 7 meters and the two masts supported four rectangular sails in total, with another four triangular sails by the sides. The fastest the ship could travel windward was 10 knots, with her being able to transport a maximum of 88 people and a minimum of 34. 2.7 meters of the ship was submerged with the other 3.5 meters of it above the surface of the ocean. She had double-layered cabins which could transport loads weighing up to 24000 kilograms and was hailed to be one of the most amazing middle-class ships on the whole of Grindia, being the ideal choice for long distance voyages.
Even though the Flying Fish of Dawn traveled slowly against the wind with full sail, given the momentum built up from its previous charge and the relative velocity of the approaching ship, the two ships were naught but 4 meters away by the time Lorist finished recalling the information about the ship he had read before.
With a loud cry, Lorist leaped straight towards the opposite ship. Before he even landed, the enemy sailors had already managed to react and flung their javelins and throwing axes towards Lorist in response.
Lorist swung his sword mid-air and deflected both waves before landing haggardly on the deck of the ship. Lorist didn't think he would land flat on his face, but the momentum of his leap was just too much. The sailors made use of the opportunity to rush straight at him.
Swords flashed, and blood splattered through the air with severed limbs flying all over the place. 20 plus sailors had their bodies cut into discrete pieces without being given the slightest chance to cry out.
Rubbing his nose as he stood back up, Lorist thought, gah, that fall just now saw my nose landing directly against the deck, it's even bleeding... And the enemy even tried to swarm me when they witnessed my unfortunate landing...
When Lorist stretched out his left leg to prepare for the landing, his leg ended up amidst a pile of rolled up rope. One sailor saw the chance and gave the rope a pull, causing Lorist to trip over without being able to react and fall straight onto the deck. Had it not been for his quick reaction, he might've lost his life just then.
Wilson was right... The most important thing when it comes to fighting at sea is to pay attention to footwork. This is not land. I must be more careful with how my foot lands and find a perfect balance between heavy and light steps, all the while paying attention to the messy deck. With the fighting space so constrained, when there is a large number of enemies, even an Iron rank will be able to give a critical strike to take down a Silver or Gold ranked fighter...
Bam! The Flying Fish of Dawn that was rubbing against the enemy ship Lorist boarded collided into the chains, causing both ships to rub against each other even more tightly. Those who weren't paying attention collapsed after losing their balance.
Lorist took a horse stance to stabilize himself on the deck and pointed at the helm of the ship with his sword, saying, "Discard your weapons and surrender. Those who enter the cabin will have their lives spared..."
In Grindian naval warfare, the most important thing was to conquer the deck. As long as the deck of a ship was conquered, the enemy would be finished. That was because the most important things such as the helm, the rudder and the mast were all there. The entry into the lower cabin of an enemy in an act of surrender was akin to leaving their lives in the hands of the winning side, since if the cabin entries from the deck was locked up, the fate of the people within would be out of their own hands. A single torch was all that was needed to roast the people in the cabin below alive.
One heavily-bearded man held onto the railings as he stood up and drew his sword, infusing it with his silver blade glow. "You think too highly of your abilities. Everyone, attack him all at once..."
This time around, throwing axes, javelins and all sorts of other thrown weapons flew in Lorist's direction, some of the sailors even tried to lasso Lorist with ropes.
Since you all have death wishes, I'll gladly grant them.
Lorist slaughtered his way from the bow of the ship all the way to its end. Bathed in blood, he seemed like a frenzied killing demon that had emerged from a sea of blood. The bearded man called out in despair, mumbling, 'demon... demon!' until he was finally ended by Lorist's sword.
Fresh corpses that continued to bleed out littered the deck. Lorist didn't keep a count on how many he killed and was only aware that no one on the ship was left alive. He headed to the left side of the ship where two thick beams were. The chains that obstructed the way of the Flying Fish of Dawn were tied onto the beams.
With a slash, Lorist cut the wooden beams apart. But by now, the two ships were already fast against each other. Even though the beams binding the chains had been removed, the ships didn't drift apart.
Just as Lorist was about to leap back to the Flying Fish of Dawn, he suddenly felt the ship shake harshly. Losing his footing due to the slippery, blood-covered flooring, Lorist managed to stabilize himself half-kneeling. After hearing a couple of cries from his side, he turned his head to look and was enraged to the brim.
Surprisingly, the ship at the left Josk was targeting and one of the large-class ships that used to be roughly 50 meters away had approached all of a sudden. Just as the large-class, three-masted ship was pushing against the middle-class ship towards the Flying Fish of Dawn, countless people appeared all of a sudden around the side of the ship, using their higher elevation as advantage to rain arrows and bolts towards the Flying Fish of Dawn. A dozen of Lorist's marines collapsed on deck right away. The one who had it worst was the lookout who was practically indistinguishable from a porcupine.
Following that, dozens of men leaped from the large-class ship and boarded the middle-class ship adjacent to the Flying Fish of Dawn and kept on approaching.
Josk's longbow kept firing, causing streaks of green one after another to shoot towards the enemy like lightning bolts. But right after only two of the enemy troops were struck, a brown-clad old man stepped out of their ranks and easily deflected Josk's arrows.
"A Blademaster?!" said Lorist with surprise.
He didn't think that the fleet of the Chikdor Merchant Guild actually brought with it a Blademaster. At that moment, he made an urgent leap and landed beside Josk.
"You deal with the rest a the back. Let me tussle with that old guy."
After that, he made his way to the middle-class ship on the left and stood in front of the old brown-clad man.
The old man raised his sword in front of him, appearing incredibly cold and fearsome as he bellowed, "You're still not going to surren-"
"In your dreams! Go to hell!" said Lorist without bothering to listen to the Blademaster's ramblings, rushing forward instantly with his sword.
Clang clang clang! Echoes of clashing swords resounded. The old man in brown had already lost his first-strike advantage and was pushed back by Lorist's stream of attacks ever so gradually. As he parried the incoming strikes coming from his left and right, he began to swerve his body to dodge the following ones haggardly.
"Come here and give me some help!"
The old Blademaster was no longer able to hold on and asked for reinforcements without giving the slightest care about his reputation.
Two ignorant sailors rushed forward, right into the trajectory of Lorist's strikes.
After a few deafening sounds of clashing, the two sailors were both cut apart all the way from their left shoulders to their right hips. Even the axe and sword in their hands had been broken into pieces by Lorist's strikes.
But by then, the old man in brown had already turned tail to escape.
"Fool, I'll see where you can run to when we're at sea," Lorist said, unleashing his killing frenzy.
Since the Chikdor Merchant Guild was willing to spend so much resources for his capture, he figured that the loss of a Blademaster would hurt them even more.
No matter what, I have to make sure that old guy dies, thought Lorist as he gave chase.
The small fries barring his way were cut down like vegetables one after another as the brown-clad man began climbing back onto the three-masted merchant vessel.
Lorist was so agile that he seemed to be flying. With but a few steps here and there, he made his way up to that large-class merchant vessel and was greeted by countless blades and spears. A swarm of men rushed towards Lorist quickly while roaring at the top of their lungs.
It was at that moment when Lorist suddenly felt that his vision was turning redder and redder. It was as if he had entered a world that couldn't be adequately described with words. Everything that was happening on the large-class, three-masted merchant vessel was within Lorist's awareness, with not the slightest movement escaping his crystal-clear attention.
The red silhouettes he saw rushing towards him were moving at a laughably slow speed, allowing Lorist to evade the weapons that were swung at him easily. He put his sword through the throats and chests of the red silhouettes lightly, causing one after another to collapse on the deck of the ship in quick succession.
After a few moments, the number of red silhouettes on the deck had already decreased greatly. The remaining ones did not rush forward and instead tried their best to hide from Lorist, but it was a futile effort. In the end, only the brown-clad old man remained.
The Blademaster seemed to have broken while watching Lorist. He mumbled continuously.
"Sword Saint... Sain... Domain."
Do you think you can scare me by bringing up Sword Saints?! Lorist swung his sword, lopping the head of the man off cleanly. He stretched his free hand out and caught the flying head in mid-air. Raising the decapitated head up high, Lorist began to laugh out maniacally, with each echo of his laughter bringing with it a wave of bone-chilling bloodlust across the sea.
"Milord! Milord! Milord! Snap out of it!"
The cackling Lorist heard somebody call out urgently to him. Finally, he began to regain his senses and the tint of red faded from his irises, returning them to their former black color.
Wait, did I do all this?
Corpses could be seen piled up all over the three-masted merchant vessel with the deck awash with fresh, flowing blood.
"Why did you shout at me from so far away?"
Els, who called out to Lorist from the deck of the middle-class, twin-masted merchant vessel heard Lorist's query and replied, "Milord, did you think I would be brave enough to go there? Look around you! You killed the whole crew of their ship like a rampaging demon in less than 30 minutes! There was no less than 300 people there!"
"Ah? Was I really that amazing?" mused Lorist as he looked at the head in his hands.
Ugh, why am I holding this shit? thought Lorist before he threw the head away casually.
"Milord, the ships have separated. We're waiting for you to board right now," shouted Els.
"Alright, I'll come right awa--" Just as Lorist was about to head back, he felt an abrupt dizzy spell that drained him of every shred of energy he had left. As his vision turned black, he collapsed.