Threat and Expropriation
Here's the first bonus chapter of the week courtesy of Alan W. from the USA. Enjoy the read!
All of the pirates began chattering, Is that black-haired youth insane? Is he even aware of the situation he's in? Does he really think that he's superior and can push people around just because he's a noble? We are pirates, and this is the free and wide sea. Killing anyone and dumping their corpse tied to a huge rock into the ocean won't leave any traces...
"Skin that baby-faced youth!"
Squad leader of the marine assault vanguard? What the hell is that? thought Senbaud, just as he felt a strong feeling of humiliation.
During the civil war of the empire, he was already a company leader. Even though he was merely used as cannon fodder, had it not been for his desertion and fortune, he would've become a regiment leader already. With the passing of 13 years, he'd already broken through to the gold rank and was just about to become the knight of Count Seleih. To think that there would be someone who would dare to call him a mere squad leader.
He must think that I'm just another person he can use as cannon fodder! Ridiculous!
The more he thought about it, the angrier he got. Senbaud slowly drew his sword and promised himself that he'd teach that long-haired youth a lesson he'd never forget.
I will make sure this count never goes to sea again...
Senbaud waved his hand, indicating for the other pirates to quiet down, before manifesting his golden blade glow. He felt a sudden desire to look at the youth's expression and wondered whether the youth would freak out upon discovering his gold rank battleforce.
Much to Senbaud's surprise, however, the youth revealed a look of pleasant surprise rather than regret upon seeing his golden blade glow.
"Oooooh..." the young-looking count uttered happily, "I really didn't think that there would be a gold rank fighter amongst you pirates. It seems that I have quite a good eye. That's it, you'll definitely be the one to take up the position of the marine assault vanguard squad leader."
Senbaud only felt a rush of anger cloud his mind as his face puffed red and purple.
He gripped his sword so hard that it shook as he said, "I will cut you into pieces and feed you to the fish..."
After that, Senbaud leaped towards the young count like a ferocious panther.
The chronicles in the future stated that the Raging Bear King, Norton Lorist, had 16 generals which were often discussed by others. Those 16 gold-ranked knights had already been with him by the time he stepped on the path of uniting the Krissen Empire. The common trait among those knights were that none of them were of noble birth, the only exception was Divine Marksman Josk. Even he was originally an orphan who was adopted into a noble family.
The 16 gold-ranked knights would later become the paragons of future generations. Some of them would be made dukes, and some of them would eventually become blademasters. Among them, one who was both a blademaster and a duke, was the controversial and legendary Senbaud.
When he first went under Lorist's wing, he was made a marine assault vanguard squad leader right away. After every naval expedition he participated in, his position would slowly rise until, eventually, he became the admiral of House Norton's naval forces. When Lorist formed his own nation, Senbaud was made a duke. He came to be known to others as the 'Windstorm Duke'.
During the 80th birthday celebration of the Windstorm Duke, per his grandson's suggestion, Senbaud began to dictate his experiences for his grandson to organize into a million-word autobiography titled 'From Pirate to Duke'. The book mainly described his exploits following his recruitment into the Raging Bear King, Lorist's, ranks. After the book was published, it only took half a year for it to become one of the best-selling books on the whole of Grindia with more than a million copies sold. Many newer editions were published over the following decades. Countless military historians and strategists relied on it for their careers.
Naturally, the book also had its fair share of criticism. During the time of its publication, many of the pirates who had joined Lorist were still alive. When Count Tok read the first chapter of the book, he claimed that Senbaud had lied about how he felt Lorist's domineering aura right away, which was why Senbaud took Lorist as his lord at the very first moment.
The white-haired Count Tok said to the reporters, "Back then, Senbaud felt so humiliated that he wanted to kill himself. A gold-ranked knight like him was actually toyed with by a young-looking count like a ragdoll for half an hour. He had been unable to put up the slightest resistance."
"What were you doing back then?" asked one of the reporters.
Count Tok laughed bitterly and said, "The moment Senbaud was knocked off his feet and fell onto the deck, we rushed to his aid right away. It was then when His Highness spent less than ten minutes beating us all down on his own. He had said that from that moment on, our lives no longer belonged to ourselves, they belonged to him. The reason he disarmed us was so that we wouldn't kill ourselves in the heat of the moment."
"So it was then when all of you joined His Highness, joined his struggles, and managed to rake in lots of achievements yourselves! What a drastic change in your futures that was!" exclaimed the reporter in realization with a look of admiration.
The gold-ranked knight, Count Tok, no longer spoke and closed his eyes, Bright futures and great achievements... The reporters made it sound so light-hearted. I wonder if they know how bloody and dangerous that path was... It was filled with killings and mountains of bones... Out of the 300 or so pirates who joined, only around 30 survived... Had it not been for His Highness's underhanded methods back then, who would've been willing to join him on that so-called path to glory?
Senbaud, who was knocked flat onto the deck, kept crawling up to fight again. He wasn't willing to become a mere squad leader for the marine vanguard. Even Tok, who was clutching his waist and had forgotten his pain, could see the pathetic puffy-faced look of the beaten Senbaud. He could feel Senbaud's yearning for death. He had been played like a puppet by an unarmed count despite being a gold-ranked knight. The pure humiliation made it so that he would rather die in battle than live with it for the rest of his life.
In the end, Lorist kicked Senbaud unconscious in annoyance.
By the time Senbaud was awake, he found himself tied onto a mast. The rest of the pirate leaders, including Tok, shared his fate. They could see that all four ships were sailing towards the fishing village. Not all of the pirates were as stubborn as Senbaud. He saw many of his crew working as sailors, per the orders of a stranger he didn't recognize.
He took a look at the cursed, black-haired, ponytailed count and thought, oh, he even had a change of clothes.
The count was standing in front of Senbaud with a cup of tea in his hands, smiling at him with his white teeth.
"I admire your bravery and strong will. Naturally, I've noted your gold rank battleforce as well," the youthful count said, "But those are not important. What is, is that I have found out about your situation and you only have two options to choose from. First, serve me and I will treat your family well, just like I treat the family members of my soldiers. Their livelihoods will all be taken care of by the house. Second, you may refuse my suggestion and I will kill you without the slightest hesitation. As for your family... Hehehe, your beautiful wife and three children..."
The count then licked his lips with his tongue.
"No, you can't do that..." muttered Senbaud, panicked.
The count had prodded at the only soft spot in his heart.
"You're a noble, you can't do something so underhanded..."
"Underhanded?" the youthful count snorted, "You don't even know what that word truly means. And don't forget that you're a pirate. Even if you've broken through to the gold rank, a pirate is still a pirate. Your hands are no doubt stained with the blood of countless innocents. The people you've killed at sea all had their own families. They all had parents, wives, and children. How many blissful families have you ruined? Now that it's your turn, you're telling me that it's underhanded?"
At that moment, the young count stopped smiling and revealed a sinister expression that looked absolutely terrifying to Senbaud.
"Think about it. After your death, your beautiful wife will no doubt fetch a great price with a slave trader. After that, she'll spend countless days passed around from man to man, crying out in pain... As for your sons, they'll have to spend their lives with no clothes and food, and will be forced to fight for food from wild dogs. During winter, there's no doubt that they'll die somewhere in the streets, frozen as unmoving statues that get nothing from passers-by but their pity... Your..."
"Stop talking!" Senbaud cried out in tears, "I will serve you! Spare my family, and you can do as you wish with my life!"
"Ugh..." Lorist didn't expect that Senbaud would cave in so quickly, Tch, I still haven't gotten to your daughter's fate...
Lorist turned to the snickering Tok who was similarly tied up at the mast, "What are you laughing at? It'll be the same for you. Think about your family..."
"I'll serve you as well, milord. Oh, please spare my family," replied Tok casually.
"Gah..." Lorist was completely speechless.
After he recovered, he figured that he couldn't just rely on threats and had to offer them some incentive as well.
"Very well. Serve me well, and I will make you the knights of my family. In the future, I might even make you landed nobles. This is not an empty promise. I vow this to you on the Norton family name."
Just like that, Senbaud became Lorist's lackey. For the sake of becoming the knight of Count Seleih, he had gone back to sea to rob for the count, no, a better way to put it was 'to find a gift' for the count. Instead he ended up in Lorist's hand. He became a proud squad leader of the marine vanguard troops.
Having his path as a knight for a count extinguished, he became the cannon fodder of yet another count. But his eventual achievements would come to define his future, and would go on to impress and awe many.
With Senbaud and Tok's cooperation, Lorist managed to take over the pirate lair, or 'fishing village', as some would prefer to call it, without trouble. Much to Lorist's delight, the fishing village had a properly outfitted shipyard, meaning that the Flying Fish of Dawn could receive adequate repairs, and didn't have to crawl her way back to Silowas Island.
"I didn't think that this pirate lair of yours would be so well managed. I really couldn't see that talent in you," Lorist praised Senbaud.
Currently, Senbaud, his wife, and his three children were brought before Lorist.
Employing the stick-and-carrot method, Lorist stroked the head of Senbaud's 8-year-old son and said, "This kid looks rather intelligent. Not bad... Alright, when he's 16, I will take him as my disciple and he'll serve as my personal attendant. Howard, take care of this junior apprentice brother of yours. Give him the training routines you used to use so he can work on it as well."
"Yes, milord," Howard said.
He was happy to no longer the most junior disciple under Lorist.
"Thank... Thank you, milord," Senbaud expressed his gratitude in a troubled fashion.
To him, this wasn't a fortunate encounter. He thought that his son was being taken hostage to ensure his obedience.
"Alright, they'll be leaving tomorrow. Rest up and have a good time with your family during the night. Don't worry, when they arrive at the Northlands, they will write you a letter. When you read it you'll realize how fortunate it is for them to be able to live there," said Lorist.
The first thing Lorist did when he arrived at the fishing village was to gather up the family members of Senbaud, Tok and the other pirate leaders and send them to the Northlands.
Senbaud knew that he would no longer be able to serve as Count Seleih's knight. Instead he would have to be the so-called squad leader of the marine vanguard corps. It was no more than a suicide unit in his mind. He was worried that his inability to serve as a knight of Count Seleih might invoke his rage. He feared that the count would send soldiers to the fishing village. Senbaud wasn't sure whether that would come to pass or not, so he had no choice but to agree to Lorist's arrangements. He only hoped that the desolate Northlands he had heard so much about was as nice a place to live as the count had said.
It wasn't that nobody tried to escape at all. Some planned to secretly bring their family members to the nearby hills and camp there for a fortnight. They believed the accursed count wouldn't stay at the fishing village very long. Additionally, no matter how good at fighting the count was, he was only a single person. There was no way he could monitor every corner of the fishing village at all times. As for his men, they were busy defending the four ships. More than a couple pirates were ready to escape.
It was then when Josk appeared at the plaza of the fishing village with his green bow. He shot an arrow towards a tree thick enough for a person to barely loop his arms around roughly 100 meters away. It was felled completely and even sent flying. A few hundred men witnessed, with their own eyes, a huge tree sent flying for three or so meters. The stump of the tree splintered as if it was knocked down by a huge force. Josk's reason for shooting the tree was that the sparrows nesting in it were too noisy. Everyone knew it was actually a show of strength.
Nobody dared to take the risk to escape after that. After all, they were faced with a gold-ranked divine marksman. He could hear the noises made by sparrows 100 meters away. The sounds the pirates would make should they attempted escape would be like a shining beacon for the marksman to fire at.
Many of them hoped that someone else would attempt escape first. It would afford them an opportunity to test the marksman's capabilities before making their decision to leave or stay. In the end, none of them tried. Dawn was upon them before anything was achieved.
The time to board the ships had come. The pirates experienced something akin to separation for life as they watched their family members being brought on board the ships with teary eyes.
Lorist had the Flying Fish of Dawn sent into the shipyard for repairs before forming a small fleet with the three middle-class merchant vessels. Josk and Els were the fleet's main escort. He had all the marines -- injured or otherwise -- Master Mancheny and his family, and Professor Balbo and his maidservant, Swila, sent to Silowas Island before they would be transferred to the new port city at the Northlands.
To Lorist, they were people he couldn't afford to lose. With Silowas Island being in the eyes of the Chikdor Merchant Guild, there was no way Lorist would allow them to remain there. As a precaution, he felt it was best for him to send them to the main dominion in the Northlands.
The other 100 or so family members of the pirates would be sent to Silowas Island using the other three ships. They would be manned by some more honest and loyal pirates. After they dropped their passengers off at the island, they would return. As for the ones remaining at the fishing village, because there wasn't enough space on board, Lorist wrote a letter to Charade to tell him how to deal with the matter. The trip to Silowas Island and back would take roughly 20 days.
After sending away the small fleet, Lorist focused his attention on the Flying Fish of Dawn. Accompanying him were Howard, Captain Wilson, and two other guards. Fortunately, all the Flying Fish of Dawn needed was a new mast, which didn't pose too much trouble. Five days later, the Flying Fish of Dawn was good as new and set sail for the Sea of Grief once again.
As fishing while waiting for other pirates to take the bait and raid them would take too much time, Lorist elected to take a more active stance. Given the advantage in speed and agility of the Flying Fish of Dawn, he raided the ships that caught his eye at the Sea of Grief. Lorist did all that in the name of expropriation. He made it clear that if the ship owners cooperated, and didn't resist, House Norton would repay their losses in full. As for those who didn't believe his promises, they were given a taste of Lorist's fists.
Senbaud finally saw for himself the savagery and shamelessness nobles were capable of. The robbery, or as Lorist put it, expropriation, opened his eyes to a whole new world. Compared to Lorist expropriation, Senbaud's previous raids felt like nothing more than child's play.
At the same time, the pirates felt incredibly lucky for their encounter. They once saw two large-class merchant vessels belonging to the Wessia Merchant Guild with three gold-ranked swordsmen and seven to eight other silver-ranked fighters on board. Lorist boarded their ship alone and didn't take more than 15 minutes to kill off those high-ranked fighters, before a hundred other normal fighters, who didn't believe what they were seeing, rushed into a suicidal attack, and perished. The remaining people on the deck of those ships could only watch and shiver in terror.
By the time Lorist returned to them, completely covered in blood, all the pirates lowered their heads to pay their respects. Even Senbaud lowered the head he had proudly held high up until then. He understood that, had it not been for the mercy Lorist showed him, allowing him a second chance to serve Lorist, he would've become a dead soul at sea.
After 20 days, Josk and Els brought the three ships back to the fishing village along with Jim and 500 other guards. By that time, the fishing village's coasts were already filled with up to 50 middle-class vessels and 4 large-class, long distance merchant vessels. There were so many ships that the coast was almost unrecognizable.
Lorist said with satisfaction, "We should have enough ships by now. Senbaud, I'll put you in charge of organizing the crews for the ships. We'll head back to Silowas Island soon."
Senbaud lowered his head respectfully and said, "As you will, milord."