Chapter 1 – Dufeng Ship

The Dufeng had belonged to two sea captains. The first was known as Horse-faced Ghost. This nickname reflected his rather long face — a face which the second captain needed more force than usual to cut in half. That second sea captain was Hui Sha. Hui Sha was young and inexperienced, but his temperament was cruel and unrestrained. His rise from the leader of a small bandit crew to the owner of the Dufeng surprised nobody.

The sixteen islands of Yun Sea housed many pirates, but few quality ships. Thus, whoever could take ownership of a good ship would become the de facto leader of the area. After taking the ship, Hui Sha quickly rose to power and claimed land of his own along Yun Sea. In the last three years, the Dufeng traveled the areas surrounding Kakri Bay, bringing with it wrath akin to a grim reaper’s. Even government backed navies had to make way.

It seemed that the ship would remain in Hui Sha’s hands.

In the middle of the night, another ship appeared.

Silent and unannounced, the ship came directly for the Dufeng. The sailor on watch squinted into the distance. It took his booze-addled mind far too long to realize that the strange ship was headed his way. Luckily, he managed to remember his job. He lit the signal and raised the flag asking the other ship to identify itself. The other ship responded by drawing closer at a speed of 7 knots17 knots: approx. 8 mph. At this rate, the two would crash within an hour. Finally realizing that something was wrong, the drunk watchman sent for their captain.

Hui Sha had just finished a large operation and was spending the recent days resting. Being awakened from a deep sleep put him in a poor mood. He rubbed his eyes, took a glance through the telescope, then scoffed.

“Since they’ve come to offer their heads, we may as well grant their wish. Prepare the cannons!”

“They’re locked…” Someone responded quietly.

“Then the key?”

“With Hai Lian.”

Hui Sha handed off the telescope and clicked his tongue.

“I had forgotten.”

The person Hui Sha was looking for was on the lowest deck. He wore only a thin shirt and stood motionless, with his hands tied to the ship’s beam.

“Quit bothering people this late at night.” He said to Hui Sha without looking up.

“Hand over the key.” Hui Sha didn’t mince words.

“It’s on my waist.”

Hui Sha stepped forward and retrieved it while staring at the face hidden under disheveled bangs. In one swift movement, he pulled the boy to eye level by his hair.

“Sorry yet?”

“I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Red lipped and fair featured, his young face had an air of sorrow to it. There was a small wound along the corner of his left eye, but it was faint and seemed more like a tear waiting to fall.

“I couldn’t. She looked so much like my little sister.” Hai Lian repeated the words that landed him here.

“Just fuck me and quit being angry. It’s been two days and I’m bored. And hungry.”

Hui Sha was amused and promptly sealed his mouth with a rough kiss.

Seawater sprayed in from the window as the ship turned. It added a fishy stench to the stale wooden air. The smell of cheap tobacco was suffocating. Hai Lian frowned. His scalp hurt. The stubble rubbing against his chin also hurt. As soon as Hui Sha let go, Hai Lian coughed and rolled his eyes.

“Your breath stinks.”

“It’s not like you’ve died of second-hand smoke. What’s there not to like?” Hui Sha undid his binds. Hai Lian had just started stretching his wrists when a coat landed over his face.

“Fuck. Still so relaxed? Change your clothes and get ready to work.”

“Work?”

“There’s a ship, probably sent by that damn Tisu girl you set free.”

“That can’t be…” Hai Lian was already dressed and moved on to secure a sword to his waist when Hui Sha’s words stunned him.

“Is or isn’t, it’s my damn word that counts, not yours.” Hui Sha climbed up the ladder. Shouts could already be heard from the main deck. Guns, bows, and swords were ready to greet the enemy. Thinking of something, Hui Sha looked back.

“Hai Lian, you’d better pray this isn’t your fault, otherwise this won’t end with tying you up or fucking you for a few days.”

Hui Sha didn’t often address Hai Lian by name, but once he did, it meant he’d given Hai Lian an ultimatum. After Hui Sha left, Hai Lian silently wiped his mouth and muttered, “Then how will it end? Wouldn’t I just be paying back with my own worthless life?”

 

When Hai Lian arrived on deck, the other ship was barely two nautical miles away. He nimbly climbed to the observation deck. Balancing on a rope, he tried to make out the opposing ship’s flag. It was too dark. The other flag was blurry, and only the dark silhouette of the ship could be made out between the rising and falling waves.

“Doesn’t look like our type, seems to be some naval ship.” Hai Lian said.

“Naval ship?” Hui Sha sneered.

“It’s not Tisu like you thought. Their figurehead is a shark mermaid, this one isn’t.” Hai Lian hurriedly explained. He quietly let out a breath.

At least that ship wouldn’t cost him his sorry life.

The waves of Yun Sea never settled. Warships from Tisu, Moyi, Fanshui, and other countries crawled the sea, with Tisu’s sphere of influence being the largest. But this exchange would be simple. Even if the other was a naval warship, their Dufeng ship could rely on its cannons. This brig raider had defeated countless warships. The only difference defeating another one made was giving these sailors another story to brag about while drinking.

Hai Lian kept scouting. Moments later, he made a noise of surprise.

“What is it?” Hui Sha asked.

“Something’s not right…”

Hai Lain widened his eyes and shouted, “Shit, it’s a Dongzhou warship!”

The deck grew restless. Even Hui Sha swore.

But this wasn’t out of fear. There was only excitement.

Ten years ago, Dongzhou was split in two under the Hong dynasty. Even their naval admiral Fei Yi betrayed the kingdom and fled. The once powerful Dongzhou navy had all but disappeared into the Yun sea. To encounter one of their ships today was like offering a plump little lamb up for the killing. The sailors cheered. Greed flashed through their eyes.

The ships continued to draw closer. On the Dufeng, the cannon bay was already unlocked, the gunpowder ready. The other ship only needed to come a little closer. But suddenly the ship shook violently under their feet. If it weren’t for him holding tightly to the rope, Hai Lian might have been sent flying. He stared in shock. It seemed the Dufeng was the first to be hit.

“How could their range be this far?!”

“Someone give me a hand! Ah-Long fell!”

“Who’s in charge of the windlass? Which hole did he die in?”

“Hui Sha!” Hai Lian yelled out amidst the other sailor’s shouts.

“Full sail! Full sail! Don’t let them hit us!” Hui Sha wasn’t stupid. He strode up to the helmsman and took the wheel.

“Hold on tight!”

Like a fish in water, the Dufeng nimbly made an arc. Its bow brushed past the second round of cannons, losing only its figurehead sea god. Hui Sha’s skill wasn’t bad, but he tended to make sharp turns. Hai Lian swung wildly around the observation deck, like a wet butterfly frantically thrashing its wings.

“You can’t fucking steer!” Hai Lian swore.

“Don’t hit them below the water line, just the mast!” Hui Sha laughed.

“You sure?”

“I’ve taken a liking to their ship.” Anger colored his words. “But not their people. So I’ll take their ship and leave the people.”

Hai Lian wiped the water from his face, but didn’t answer.

He wasn’t as optimistic as Hui Sha. It had been ten years since any Yun Sea pirate fought a Dongzhou ship. All they knew was that merchant ships of Chijin and Lofu cities were easy to deal with — filled with silk, spices, and fine wine. With their large sizes and slow movements, the merchant ships were like fat and harmless sheep, ripe for the pirates to split among themselves.

This warship was different. From its sturdy hull to its explosive firepower, this ship presented itself not as a weak herbivore, but as a bloodthirsty beast.

“Fire!” The sailors in the cannon bay shouted at that beast.

Under the cover of the sky, their battle began.

  • 1
    7 knots: approx. 8 mph

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