Chapter 2 – Boarding Battle

Chain shot1A type of cannon shot that looks like either two spheres or two half spheres connected by a chain wrapped around the sail. The weather vane on the main mast spun freely, following the movements of the ship’s hull. Seawater poured like rain from one side of the deck to the other. No more than five or six rounds were exchanged before the unnamed warship came straight for the Dufeng. Once its ribs pierced the Dufeng, rope thicker than a man’s arm hooked onto the deck. The opposite side’s flaming arrows fell like a curtain of rain.

Some people had already fallen into the sea, their bodies covered with both fire and water. With the ships essentially attached at the side and battle about to break out, Hui Sha let go of the wheel.

“Toss the kerosene barrels overboard!” He shouted and pulled out his curved cutlass.

“Toss those bastards over too!” The sailors roared.

Hai Lian heard two long whistles amidst the crackling flames. It was Hui Sha’s signal. One whistle meant he was responsible for holding down Dufeng, two meant he was to take out the opposing admiral. They might have bitten off more than they could chew with this Dongzhou ship. As Hui Sha’s confidant and Dufeng’s first mate, he had his duties.

At any rate, a battle while boarding ships was Hai Lian’s cue to appear.

The bright flames danced with the waves. A layer of slick, black oil covered the water’s surface. Anyone that fell would immediately be burnt alive. Hai Lian swung himself to the other ship using a rope hanging from the side of Dufeng. The burning waves licked the soles of his feet. Taking advantage of the chaos, Hai Lian felled two soldiers, stepped over other corpses, and headed for the auxiliary mast. He scaled it in the blink of an eye.

The soldier on the observation deck wasn’t blind. Seeing Hai Lian, he unsheathed his sword to defend. Unfortunately, he was one step behind. Like the crow announcing the grim reaper, he leaped forward and grabbed the soldier by his neck.

The observation deck was small. Hai Lian need only release his grip and the soldier who was already hanging over the railing would fall to his death.

“Where’s your captain?” Hai Lian’s voice was soft and calm, a stark contrast to his vice-like grip.

“It’s okay if you don’t answer. I’m only asking on a whim.”

The soldier’s eyes were bloodshot – either from lack of oxygen or terror.

“Let.. Let go first.” He frantically waved his hands, still desperate to live.

“You asked for it.” Hai Lian tilted his head.

He swiftly uncurled his fingers.

Then calmly proceeded to grab the nearby telescope and open its cover. The scene below was pandemonium. Under the firelight, the red Dongzhou uniforms and the yellow pirate clothes all looked orange. Identifying their captain would be difficult. Hai Lian frowned after sweeping his eyes across the deck.

Everybody’s uniform was the same. Was the captain in the cabins below? But what sort of captain hid themselves away after close quarter combat began? His thoughts stopped there. Each second he wasted here decreased the Dufeng’s chances of victory. Hai Lian estimated the distance and breathed out. Then let go.

He jumped straight down from the mast, slitting the throat of a Dongzhou soldier as he landed. Blood colored the front of his pale coat. Hai Lian unsheathed his sword and continued without hesitation. His eyes fixed on the lower deck opening. Ducking around a cable, he crossed the noisy battlefield in one flying leap. He tossed out a smoke bomb once he neared the hatch.

Boom!

Hai Lian disappeared into a sea of white fog.

Cannons were useless after boarding a ship. So only a few soldiers remained to guard the cabins. This uninvited guest shocked them. Sword in hand, they came at Hai Lian.

The cabins were small, making the whale bone swords difficult to use. Hai Lian simply used a dagger. This dagger was his most valuable belonging. Made of Shimizu steel, it barely made any sound when passing through flesh or bone. Victims only felt a chilly breath against their neck. Only afterwards did they feel the blood pouring from their wound.

Two soldiers died without so much as touching Hai Lian’s clothes and the other only grabbed his arm before Hai Lian flipped him to the ground and stabbed his heart. Hai Lian flashed a smile at the last survivor, then twisted the knife in his hand to hasten their death.

The ship began to sway again. Hai Lian stumbled forward, holding the cannons for support. Going two days without food or water caught up to him. He blinked through the fatigue that blurred his vision and straightened up.

“Such nice cannons… If they were mounted on Dufeng, we could even challenge Fei Kona’s ships. They’re wasted on these Dongzhou sailors. What a pity.” Hai Lian whispered as he parted reluctantly with the cannons.

“What’s a pity?”

“Who’s there?!”

Hai Lian turned so quickly that he started feeling lightheaded again. At least Hai Lian’s wobbly vision could steadily follow the new arrival.

A tall Dongzhou man walked out from the dim cargo hold. It was hard to make out his face. His identity could only be inferred from the scarlet cloak he wore – a cloak of similar color to the Dongzhou soldiers outside but of better quality. The edges were even embroidered in black. If Hai Lian wasn’t mistaken, this was the captain. The man pointed the object in his hand at Hai Lian’s head.

Seeing this, Hai Lian lost the energy to even insult him.

“Recognize this, little pirate?” The man mocked him.

“Yes, a handgun.” Hai Lian moistened his lips. “If you pull your index finger, it’ll shoot straight through my skull.”

“Hey, seems like this one’s knowledgeable.”

“Saw it at Bolang market, too expensive.”

“It definitely is expensive. Made in Tiege Valley of Beimo, this cost me two months of my salary. ”

“Seems your salary is quite high… Captain?” Hai Lian held on to the cannon behind him, unwilling to show any weakness to the man before him.

“Indeed.” The man acknowledged it. “You’re one too?”

“No. Even if I dream of being one, I can’t.” Hai Lian wasn’t here for small talk, but the man was too far away. He wasn’t sure he could both quickly kill the other man and avoid his gun.

“Hiding in nooks and crannies like a cat and not joining your fellow soldiers on the deck, what sort of incompetent captain are you? Afraid of death?”

“Yes, I’m still lacking experience. I’ve only been captain for two months and this is my first time fighting pirates.” The man smiled deeper at Hai Lian’s words.

Hai Lian returned the smile.

“Two months… Two months is barely enough to let you play in the shallow water with bare bottomed* children.” His smile was catlike and his voice just as lazy.

* meaning that they haven’t been potty trained yet.

“So, what did you say was a pity?” The captain wasn’t offended by Hai Lian’s mockery — he even leisurely changed the topic.

“You,” Hai Lian blinked slowly. “Your first expedition; it’s a pity you’ll die at my hands.”

As soon as he finished speaking, Hai Lian threw a small ball to the ground. A second smoke bomb. He leapt forward under the cover of white fog. The second his foot touched the ground, a scalding sensation passed over his scalp and an explosion sounded by his ear. The other man had fired.

Fortunately, handguns could only fire once at a time. In the time it took the man to reload, Hai Lian would have killed him at least ten times. Hai Lian knew he had been grazed by the bullet, but didn’t have time to wipe the blood from his eyebrows. He thrust his dagger towards the man’s neck.

He didn’t hear the clear sound of cutting flesh, but rather a crisp sound of hitting something hard. The gun barrel! Hai Lian reacted quickly, taking half a step back and immediately striking out again.

The smoke blocked his vision and filled his lungs. In this sort of situation where one could only rely on their sense of hearing, Hai Lian clenched his teeth and refused to make a sound. What he didn’t expect was that his opponent would do the same. The two exchanged chaotic blows, but Hai Lian never came close to hitting the other man’s vital points. He felt his energy rapidly leaving him. If he couldn’t end this soon…

The waves suddenly jerked the boat violently, and Hai Lian hit his head hard. Stars filled his vision. In the smoky space, he couldn’t tell left from right. Normally, this sort of blow wouldn’t affect him, but currently, he felt as if he had lost all strength. His knees gave out and he fell to the ground. Once the smoke cleared, the victor was clear.

Half an hour ago, he had still been strangling that lookout. But now, his life was in someone else’s hands. He was pinned firmly on the ground, his dagger and sword tossed to the side. Hai Lian could feel the cold barrel of the reloaded gun against his damp brows and the hard floor against his cheek.

“Good skills, Little Pirate Brother.” The captain’s voice floated down from above.

“I didn’t eat, no strength. Otherwise you would have died.”

The man burst out laughing at Hai Lian’s matter of fact tone.

“Say, are all the sailors on your ship as skilled as you are?”

“No. I’m the best. Otherwise why would I be sent to get rid of you?”

The captain made a noise of assent.

“That’s unfortunate. Your friends are going to lose.”

  • 1
    A type of cannon shot that looks like either two spheres or two half spheres connected by a chain

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