Chapter 142 - Pirate Archipelago (2)
Two days later...
Without knowing about Theodore's anxiety, the five pirate ships proceeded smoothly through the waves. It was at a truly terrifying speed. The pirate ships with the unknown 'blessing' always had their sails inflated with wind from behind, and the hard waves never stopped them.
Theodore clicked his tongue as he watched.
'Even the famously quick ships of the Soldun Kingdom wouldn't be able to catch up with these pirate ships.'
It was obvious for a sailor, but the speed of the ship was determined by environmental factors rather than the performance of the ship itself. This meant it was difficult to advance in a headwind or against strong waves, even if it was a good ship. On the other hand, a cheap ship might be able to move faster if it was carried by the wind and waves.
However, these pirate ships moved while maintaining the optimal conditions. It was different on land, but he could see that these ships had the absolute advantage on the sea. This wasn't a speed that human ships could catch up with.
Randolph also realized this despite not knowing much about sailing, as he approached Theodore and muttered, "Hah, it is ridiculously fast."
"You can tell?"
Unlike land which had many indicators, it was hard to determine speed on the sea. There were no trees, hills, or slopes. The only thing which could be seen from the deck was the horizon stretching out in every direction.
However, Randolph didn't hesitate to nod and reply, "The wind pressure, position of the clouds, the sun and angle of the light... Any number of factors can be used as a guideline."
A veteran sailor could do it, but Randolph was a monster who was half a step away from human standards. His senses were overwhelming despite the lack of experience.
In fact, he was right. It was now five days after departing Ramos and two days after encountering the pirate ships. Nevertheless, the distance they passed in these two days was much further than during the first five days of travel. Using simple calculations, it meant they had sped up by more than two and a half times.
If his calculations were correct, they should shortly arrive at the destination.
At this moment when Theodore's expectations had risen, a strange sight was visible on the horizon. It was the sea fog which was notorious for being a reaper in the reef areas. This wasn't a phenomenon which would normally occur in the middle of the ocean, but the crew's response was swift.
"Bring down the sails! Hurry!"
"Stop the oars and wait!"
"Reduce the speed! Leave the anchors alone!"
As the crew members ran around the busy deck, the fog approached at a rapid pace. It felt like the fog was a person approaching them. While Theodore was shaken by the eerie illusion, the six ships entered the fog at roughly the same time.
At that moment, Theodore's intuition shook violently.
'T-This isn't a fog...!'
It just had the shape of fog, but not a single drop of moisture touched his skin. This was a fog which couldn't be removed by wind and wouldn't change even when heat was applied.
The fog was a type of boundary line, a ward which wouldn't allow uninvited guests in. Theodore realized it was why the pirate ships were dragging the passenger ship with the chains. Speed aside, it was a necessary way to pass through the enchantment.
Otherwise, the passenger ship would've drifted aimlessly through this fog, never to be seen again. Theodore thought that this fog might be the ultimate barrier protecting the Pirate Archipelago.
"...Young Master, have you come to another dangerous place?" Randolph also realized this, and the always present smile was missing from his face.
Even the master level aura was useless in this fog. He might be able to break through with aura, but it would be a huge challenge. Additionally, they might be able to overcome this fog, but could they overcome the creator of this fog? Theodore dropped the odds to below 2%.
While the two people were tense, the fog lifted.
"Ohh, that place....?"
"It has been a long time...!"
The passengers on the deck burst out with delight. Some passengers admired the view of the Pirate Archipelago they had only heard about, while others were glad to be back. The Pirate Archipelago, an entertainment on the sea which some people would never know about...
The island of sin and pleasure.
* * *
The procedure to enter the Pirate Archipelago was surprisingly orderly.
"Line up in the order of boarding."
A muscular man wearing a tightly fitted suit greeted the tourists politely. The cutlass hanging at his waist was threatening, and tattoos covered his body. Of course, he was nothing more than a clown compared to Theodore's and Randolph's strength.
"Still, this is pretty good."
"Yes, he is at the level of a first class mercenary."
The individual skill of the pirate was quite good despite his appearance. In a one-on-one duel, an ordinary knight would be quite pressured. If this man was used to greet tourists, the elites must be composed of very talented people. Nobody dared make a fuss for fear that their necks would be slit.
Soon, it was time for the duo to get off.
"It is a 10 gold admission fee for each person."
The 10 gold Belf mentioned would be used here. Theodore pulled out 20 gold, including Randolph's share, and placed it on the man's rough palm. Then the man grinned and bowed down politely. His palms were rubbing together like he had ulterior motives.
Unsurprisingly, he started to speak instead of moving out of the way.
"Welcome! Is this your first visit to the island?"
"Then what do you think about taking a guide? If you add 1 gold, I will introduce you to a nice guide!"
'A guide...' As a visitor to the island, Theodore thought about whether he needed one.
They didn't come to this island for a special purpose, but it was true that they were unfamiliar with this place. It wouldn't be too bad to bring along a guide who could explain everything. Additionally, the cost of 1 gold was too light for him.
A gold coin was lightly flicked from Theodore.
"Oh, I received it well! Let me call someone over!"
The man grabbed the gold coins at a fast speed and took the two men somewhere else. It was an alley not far from the harbour where the ship was docked. There were shabbily dressed boys and girls sitting down and laughing. As soon as the man approached, the kids jumped up.
However, the man shouted without looking at them, "Jack! If you don't pop up in 10 seconds, I will hand it over to someone else!"
A cheerful voice was heard in return, "I'm coming now!"
Simultaneously, a boy jumped out of the crowd. He used light movements to climb down a wall like a monkey and landed before Theodore's group. He had dark skin covered with soot and bright eyes that shone with a wisdom beyond his age. Clearly, he wasn't an ordinary boy.
"They are guests who have just arrived. Your share is 50% as always, and you will receive the payment as soon as the guidance is done."
"Yes, thank you!"
The man handed the boy named Jack over to the duo and headed back to the harbor. The rest of the children sat down, leaving only Jack standing as he looked between Theo and Randolph. Unlike his mischievous eyes, he bowed carefully and politely introduced himself, "Hello! Please comfortably call me Jack. I will guide you anywhere you want to go."
"...Yes, please do it well," Theodore accepted the greeting lightly.
He hadn't expected the guide to be a child.
Jack probably noticed Theo's hesitance as he spoke up in a confident manner, "I was born and raised on this island. It will be difficult to find someone who knows it better than me. Is this your first visit?"
"Then I will do the whole tour. If there is a place you want to stop at, just tell me!"
After saying that, Jack started walking in front of them with a nimble gait, a gait which seemed to belong to natives of this island.
At first, the two of them followed with strange expressions, but they soon realized the boy's proficiency. This skill wasn't possible for just being on the job for a day or two. He must've worked as a guide in the archipelago for at least a few years.
The first place Jack directed them to was a casino.
"This is the place where the greatest amount of money comes and goes from our Pirate Archipelago. There is a total of 17 casinos."
As they crossed several bridges, there was the sound of gold coins rubbing against one another, as well as the smell of alcohol, tobacco, and perfume.
Dealers were interacting with guests in half naked attire. Most of the cupboards in the bar were filled with alcohol, and there were drunk people on the ground, while others were caught trying to cheat.
It was like a depiction of the outskirts of a civilized world.
Jack glimpsed the expressions of the two men and started explaining, "Of course, this isn't an ordinary casino. Unlike the casinos on land, there is no limit to the pot, and things that aren't readily available outside can emerge as prizes. However, in the case of cheating, you will have to pay back 10 times the amount as a penalty."
"What if you can't?"
"...It is like that." Jack pointed to a homeless man without any arms.
It was obvious that arms used to be there, so both arms must've been cut off in exchange for cheating. The rules of the world were bloody, but this place was completely ruthless as it was beyond the boundaries of the law.
However, the two of them didn't show any signs of wanting to enter the casino, so Jack moved on with a sad expression. Although it was less than the casinos, there was one place which received a lot of tips.
"I guess both of you aren't interested in this."
However, what about the next destination? Jack gave a wicked smile.
"Hehe, then let's go see my sisters. Both of you are handsome and chiseled, so everybody will like you."
The Pirate Archipelago wasn't called the island of pleasure for nothing. The prostitutes gathered from all over the continent were just as plentiful and high quality as those on land. There were beauties from the North, the Center and the South.
It was the instinct of rich men to pursue power and women. The Pirate Archipelago aimed at this, so it was natural to visit the beauties if they were men.
Randolph's nose couldn't help twitching when he heard it.
At that moment, Theodore hit him lightly.
"If you head in the wrong direction, I'll tell Rebecca."
"Heok!" Randolph restrained himself, and his expression became as dignified as his master's.
Theodore smiled before opening his mouth to say, "No, I don't want to go to the brothels."
"Huh? Ah, no. Then where do you want to go?"
"I want to know about a special place."
'Special place?' Randolph and Jack both cocked their heads at the cryptic words, then Theodore opened his mouth.
"Where is the ruler of this island?"