"This should be all. Are you sure this is enough, princess?" Kanto asked as he ticked off the last of the barrels containing food and fresh water for our voyage home. I was quite surprised when he showed that he could actually read and write. Most people in this region who were neither nobles nor merchants often couldn't read even if their lives depended on it.
"It's probably not enough, but if we bring too much food, there'll be less living space. Let's just hope the amount we presently carry is enough. If not, we'll just stop by Wamor or Hollehafen on our way home," I said while watching Mr. Lars, my second mate, conduct interviews of every man and woman who came on board.
Apparently the longboat couldn't carry all the supplies to the ship, so he had to buy three rowboats to help carry it with the leftover money I gave him. They still needed two trips to carry it all but it was good that the loading of supplies proceeded smoothly. I wondered if some of the less desirable people could be persuaded to sleep in the boats on our way home.
So far, we had carpenters, cooks, masons, glassblowers, a medicus, a school teacher, a mime (yes, seriously, a mime!), bards, fishermen, construction workers and what appeared to be a glee club. They had been singing non-stop from the moment they came on board. Such noise! What could make them so happy as to keep on singing for that long?
There were also thieves, thugs and cutthroats as well. That Surfesian bastard really cleaned house this time and dumped it all on me. And I actually fell for this trick. How stupid!
There were still about 150 people left, and I already feared a mutiny. To avoid any unnecessary incidents, I had the spear sentries, the women and children relocated to decks 2 and 3. Those from Mruna and Renus slept on decks 3 and 4 while the rest slept on deck 5. It was cramped, like a can of sardines. There must have been more than 500 people on board now.
"Hey, Fel!" a slightly deep voice of a barely adult man called from somewhere in the crowd.
"Yes, big brother Yucks, what do you want?" I asked while leaning against the starboard railing. If only I could throw all these people into the Mrun River.
"Why do you keep mispronouncing my name?" my big brother asked.
"Why do you keep shortening my name?" I asked back.
"Fel is easier to pronounce. What's your excuse?"
"Yucks is more amusing to say aloud."
He made a grimace as if holding in his shit. But instead of taking a dump, he said, "Father and I have been wondering, where do we sleep? It seems like all the private quarters were taken by the other nobles."
"Talk to Gani, ask him for two extra hammocks. You and father will sleep in my cabin."
"Where do I find Gani? How does he look like again?"
"Third deck. He's the quartermaster. He's 10 years old."
"A quartermaster at 10 years old? How weird!"
"Or you can sleep with the fishes. Your choice."
"I didn't say I wouldn’t see him!" he grumbled as he took the rear staircase towards the lower decks.
Without caring whether he actually managed to find Gani or not, I opened the door to my cabin and entered wordlessly. In front of me was the crown prince, sleeping soundly in a hammock tied to the ceiling. At his side was Lili, who was feeding him some kind of liquid through a straw.
"How is he, Lili?"
"Sleeping like a baby, my lady. As long as I keep feeding him the Sleep Draught every five hours, he won't be waking up at all."
"Very good. Are you coming to bed, Lili?"
"B-bed? Can I, my lady?"
"We've slept together for a week, it will feel weird sleeping by myself when we're so close to each other, Lili," I said as I laid down on the bed.
"Th-then, if you're okay with me, my lady, but-"
"Come, Lili," I called her with my hand as I laid on my side.
"Yes, my lady!" Lili gushed in happiness as she laid herself beside me.
We slept snuggled to each other, just like before that pest Sul appeared.
I woke up hugging something soft and small. Somehow, Lili felt very fluffy. The size was also a little smaller than usual. And what's with this flat chest...
WHAT THE HELL?!!!
I woke up abruptly. My eyes opened wide as I looked at the thing I was holding.
It was the pest! Why was she here? How could she be here? What? How? Why?
"Uhn? Oh good morning, big sister Feli," she said groggily.
I grabbed her by the collar, opened the cabin's window and threw her out into the Mrun River. That was not Sul. That was an evil spirit. Yup, an evil spirit. Not even a human, or an animal. Just an evil spirit. Oh, if anyone asks, let's just say I was hallucinating. Yup, that's good.
While I was heaving a sigh of relief from my delusions, the door opened and what appeared there was... "That was a good bath. I feel so refreshed now. Thanks for the wake up bath, big sister Feli."
In front of me, standing at the open doorway, was the evil spirit. She was soaked from head to toe. Her plain white dress that had been dry was now wet, dripping dark water on the wooden floor. In the darkness of the cabin, she looked like an avenging spirit from the bottom of the sea.
"Gyaaaaa!!!!" I screamed in terror.
"My lady?" Lili appeared behind the evil spirit.
"Lili, I'm haunted. I'm haunted!"
"Eh? Haunted? What do you - wait, we have a bigger problem right now actually, my lady!" Lili said as she handed the evil spirit a towel from the closet and dragged me outside.
I stood on the aftcastle and before me were a lot of triremes. After we arrived near the port, most of the triremes that escorted us went away, leaving only six patrolling triremes passing by us from time to time. At the moment though, I could see that we were surrounded by 13 triremes.
Did they found out I poisoned their prince?
"Anyone can tell me how long they've been here?"
"Since dawn, captain," Mr. Lustri answered, "They're not doing anything, just... watching... it seems."
"Have they said anything yet?"
"Nothing, I tried to ask them to make way through flag signal, but they wouldn't even answer."
"Strange... I wonder if they're picking a fight. Wake all able-bodied men. Arm them with something, but keep them out of sight."
"Aye, captain," Mr Lustri said as he left for the lower decks.
While waiting for any sign of change from the trireme fleet surrounding us, I laid out a plan in case they were going to fight. I looked at the survey that Mr. Lars did last night and from there, I assigned 40 men to each to Mr. Lustri and Captain Kento and they were going to take a longboat each to protect the brig. I left the strategies to them, but they would generally rely on quick hit and run tactics, which would include bowmen firing arrows at officers (Mr. Lustri) as well as quick boarding and demolition (Captain Kento). For that matter, I had them discreetly move weapons into their longboats in crates and barrels, masking it as usual loading of cargo. I also placed some lollipop explosives near the ballistas.
While the sailors were busy loading stuff, I asked the knights to give a crash course on weapons handling on the deck below to the men. As for the women, I had the spear sentries handle their crash course training, but with so many men, it would be unlikely for them to have to fight except to keep the enemy from entering the hold. For those who couldn't fight, such as those without an arm or a leg, I had them learn how to row the forty sweeps of the brig. All we had to do then, was wait.
We didn't have to wait long. Four hours after dawn, a newly arrived trireme sailed very close towards us. I had Captain Konto move his longboat to the other side of the ship, to avoid those in that trireme from seeing the inside of the longboat. When that trireme stopped about twenty feet away from my ship, a man walked up to the bow. From the demeanor and the flashy leather armour, I imagined he was someone fairly high ranked.
"Greetings to Forlendian ship. I am Duke Rafjar The Victorious. Who commands your ship?" the man in flashy armour introduced himself.
"Good morning, I am Captain Felicia Belphere Metrune. Am I right in assuming that it is by your order that these ships are blocking our way home?"
"Indeed, it was I who gave that order."
"May I ask why?"
"You sailed a warship into our waters. You, Forlendians. It can only be construed as an act of intimidation, if not an act of war."
"An act of intimidation?! How many times do I have to keep waving the letter from the Duke of Renus? We are here to ransom our people from Prince Hans! Due to the large number of hostages we needed a large ship. Go ask Prince Hans how many people we ransomed!"
Oh wait, he's probably still asleep. I dumped a lot of the Tincture of Truth into that bottle of wine.
"Or just ask his knight Carlton!" I added.
"I do not know nor do I care about your arrangements with the prince. As far as I know, you are a threat to Surfes and Lytis, and therefore I must ask you to surrender your ship and prepare to be boarded."
"The prince didn't send you?"
"No. I do not take orders from the prince."
Phew! I thought we were blockaded because they found out I poisoned the prince.
"So surrender and I shall let you live and return to your homeland."
I see. So this is a ruse to steal my ship? Don't make me laugh.
"If you take my ship, how will we return home? There are around 500 people on board now. Most of them are women and small children!"
"You may hire merchants to bring your people home. We will provide you escort into Forlendian waters. I promise you safe passage all the way to Wamor."
So not only you want me to give you my ship, you want me to pay merchants to transport us home? How obnoxious can you be?
"Would you allow me to discuss this with the nobles, duke? They may not like leaving their comfortable quarters."
"You have an hour," the duke said as he walked down the bow of his trireme.
"Captain, are we really giving up the ship?" Mr. Lustri asked once we were inside my cabin.
"Are you kidding me? Give these apes my ship? Do I look like some kind of pushover?"
Gani added an obvious fact. "We're facing 14 triremes, and who knows how many more on the way."
"Hum, that's the problem. Even if each of the lollipops can sink one ship, which would be too much to hope for, we'd still be facing 3 more triremes. That is if we're lucky that they can't bring reinforcements quick enough. With enough momentum, they can ram us and sink us."
"Then what should we do, captain?"
"Gani, how much base mrug do we still have?"
"We still have 18 barrels of base mrug, my lady. As you recall, we sold 6 barrels to your merchant friends."
"Gather everyone's mugs as well as their lids. If any mug doesn't have a lid, have the carpenter make one. I want at least 100 watertight mugs in half an hour. As soon as possible, have the spear sentries, the women and the unskilled children fill each of them with pure mrug and close it tightly. They are NOT to drink it."
"Are we having a party, my lady?" Gani asked.
"Do it. Now."
"Yes, my lady."
"Whatever, get your men ready. You and Mr. Lustri are going to do as we originally planned. Your duties will be to ensure that enemy triremes don't get close. If you need anything, load it now, but make it look like you're evacuating. You can use any method you can think of to stop them. If you have to sacrifice the longboats, do it. Make sure that the triremes can't ram the ship. This ship is now our castle, it must not fall!"
"So we're fighting, captain?" Mr. Lars asked.
"Absolutely. Also, have someone carry six barrels of mrug and place one of them at the bow near the ballista. Do the same with the rear ballista. But not too close, you hear?"
"Ahhh, ok?" Mr. Lars nodded.
"While you're at it, Mr Lars, deploy all four of our rowboats. Fill them with flammable stuff like straw, paper or wood chips and tie the other four barrels of mrug to the front of the rowboats."
I'm so glad Keizo bought us additional boats last night.
"Captain, are we going to fight or give them a bribe?"
"Oh, we're going to have a festival. Huhuhuhuhu."
An hour later, Duke Rafjar The Victorious (lol) came up to the bow of his trireme.
"It's time, little girl, what's your decision?"
"Nyeh!" I taunted with my tongue out.
"Impudent brat! Archers, fire!"
"Shields!" I ordered as the spear sentries stacked up wooden square shields that completely protected one side of the deck from arrows in two levels.
This shield was different from a spear sentry standard issue shield. For one, it was completely square, flat and featureless. It was basically a series of planks nailed together by two wooden bars. When used, it could be stacked atop another in two levels, causing anyone behind it to be fully protected. It created a shaded area eight feet tall that was completely safe from arrows. We couldn't use these back during the night raid by the pirates because we were caught by surprise, but we had plenty of time for this battle.
"Ballistae, fire lollipops! Closest ships first!"
The three ballistae then fired their explosive payloads. As they had already taken time to aim at their targets, their attacks struck true. Three triremes were sunk within the first two minutes of battle. Meanwhile, I had a surprise of my own.
"Hey duke!" I said as I threw the lollipop in my hand. Its fuse already burning, I said, "Here's a present from the beautiful Lady Felicia! Hahahaha!"
Despite seeing three of his triremes sunk, he still couldn't comprehend how it happened. Therefore, he couldn't tell that what I was throwing was actually the cause. As with all unidentified thrown things, the natural decision would definitely be to evade. So he did. Too bad for him, the lollipop fell into the lower decks of his trireme. Can you guess what happened?
BOOM! Even as his leaking trireme was filled with water, he still couldn't understand what actually happened. That idiotic look that was a mixture of shock and incomprehension was classic. It was priceless!
The general is down. I repeat. The general is down. Muhahahahah!
Unfortunately, the lollipops weren't as much of a technological edge I had hoped for. Perhaps it would've performed better had I carried more, but with only 11, there was a limit to how many ships it could sink. As it was, only 5 successfully sunk a trireme each. 4 of them were used to sink two ships when the first ones failed to open a breach on the hull. The rest missed the ships completely. As the enemy triremes started circling the ship to bring their firepower (arrows) to the unshielded side, it was time for Plan B.
"Split shields to starboard. Protect the ballistae. Bring up the mrugs!" I commanded.
"Wait! Captain, you can't be serious!" Mr. Lars said as my young crewmen brought up casks filled with watertight, mrug-filled handle-less mugs towards all three ballistas.
"Drench the mugs!" I said, to which the mugs were drenched in more mrugs. I could hear sounds of pleading from around me.
"Aim, set flames, fire!" I ordered as the ballistae launched their flaming projectiles towards the triremes in range.
There was a resounding "Noooooooo!!!" from the whole ship. I ignored the look of despair among the crewmates around me. Not only that, I also ignored the tears of the ballista crews. We had more important things to think about than their chance of getting drunk.
"Ballistae, fire mrugs at will!" I ordered as fireballs made up of flaming wooden mugs filled with flammable beverage flew in the air three at a time.
"Captain, please, stoooopp!!!" Mr. Lars begged on his knees.
"If you have the time to grovel, I suggest you start launching the fireboats now."
"But they're carrying mrug!"
Reluctantly and with tears wetting his face, Mr. Lars gave the order to launch the rowboats filled with straw, wood chips, paper and a whole barrel of mrug towards the approaching enemy triremes. The boats manned by five sailors each then approached the approaching enemy triremes and with tears in their eyes, set fire to the straw and jumped out. As the triremes smashed into the boats at high speed they crushed the barrels of mrug into pieces, causing the mrug inside to spatter against the ships and catch fire. Before they could even reach my ship, the whole front part of the triremes were in flames and their rowing crew simply escaped into the water. It was easy to avoid the burning ships afterward.
We managed to destroy all 14 triremes simply from the sheer act of surprise.
Unfortunately, we couldn't celebrate just yet, as the second wave, a fleet consisting of 12 more triremes, approached fast. I immediately ordered the ballistae to concentrate their fire on one trireme at a time. We managed to set the lead ships on fire, but many others escaped or failed to catch fire.
I noticed that the ones that had a direct hit but failed to catch fire were all spanking new ships. I deduced that the older the ships were, the easier to have it set on fire. It was probably related to the level of wood rot.
"Ballistae, aim towards port-bow, fire at will! Archers, put pressure at starboard. Shields, protect the ballistae!"
Just as I finished giving orders, a trireme that was on a ramming speed towards my ship was hit from the portside by the Stare Vipers. The whole frontal part of the longboat was smashed, but it succeeded in diverting the trireme's path, eventually causing it to miss the ship by a small margin. As their longboat started to sink, they threw grapnel at the trireme they had diverted and boarded it in just a couple of minutes. As expected of pirates.
As battle raged on the trireme that Captain Kento boarded, Mr. Lustri's longboat performed hit and run tactics consisting of archers firing at visible officers as well as a liberal use of flaming mugs of mrug. They basically tied the mugs with linen ropes, set them on fire, then spun the mugs over their heads while holding on to the end of the rope before lobbing it into the triremes. Just by themselves, they managed to set fire to 4 triremes.
Three of the triremes managed to ram the ship, but thanks to its sturdy construction, they couldn't puncture the hull. The large number of wrecks around us likely helped too, as they helped reduce the momentum of the ramming ships. It was similar to threading the needle around a bunch of wrecks on a highway, you couldn't possibly go fast. Unfortunately for them, speed and inertia were a trireme's greatest weapon. The wrecks of triremes around the ship actually helped shield us from ramming attacks as the triremes couldn't use their main weapon, the ramming head.
We managed to set fire to one of them by throwing a whole barrel of mrug into the trireme from the top deck and throwing a torch into it after it smashed against the deck. One of the triremes that rammed us was abandoned when we peppered them with arrows. Unfortunately, the same wrecks that shielded us from their ramming attacks also hindered our maneuverability, as the debris and wrecks made it impossible to row effectively.
The crew of the other trireme managed to board the ship. Thankfully, we had more soldiers on board now and they managed to hold the boarders on deck. I shot them whenever I could, but the real MVPs of the battle on board the brig were the knights and nobles that we ransomed from that perverted prince. For the first time, I was able to watch father and Yucks's prowess with their swords. Watching Yucks, I realized that it was absolutely inexcusable that he was still an apprentice knight.
All in all, we destroyed 21 triremes and captured 3. The other two triremes fled in fear.
A third wave consisting of 8 more ships from somewhere else also arrived later. When they saw all the burning wrecks around us, they didn't even bother getting close. It was a wise choice. It was also a good development for us, as we ran out of mugs to throw at them. Until we reached port, the crew would have to share their mugs with each other. Maybe I should start designing a flamethrower now.
We lost all four rowboats, one longboat and around 80 dead or missing. There were many injuries, some severe and that would probably cause them to be crippled for the rest of their lives. Let’s not count the enemy's casualties. Mr. Lustri tried to find and save as many of our crewmen that fell into the water, but he couldn't find many of them.
We did recover Duke Rafjar The Victorious (lol) and two of his men, though. He was wet and his leather armour clung tightly to his body, probably causing him much pain now. I had the sailors kick his knees, making him kneel on the top deck.
"Apologize to my crew for the lives you cost us today," I said.
"I am a duke! I do not apologize!"
I looked down at this prideful duke. "Let's see, if you don't apologize, you'll become a dead duke in about one swing. Do you think you're able to do that, Keizo?"
"It's Keito, princess."
I gave a Keizo a glare.
He coughed. "Not that it matters, princess. Yes, actually I wonder if I can do that. It will probably take me several swings to kill him."
"Hum, I'm sorry it will be a very painful death for you, duke. So why don't you save yourself the trouble and just apologize?"
"I will not apologize."
"Keizo, slash his leg."
"Which one, princess?"
"Wait! Wait! I-I apologize..." he said quietly.
"Ha? I can't hear anything. Does anyone hear that?"
A resounding 'no' was heard from everyone around me. Some even added encouragements for a death penalty.
"I'M SORRY!" he cried, his face looking down.
"See? That wasn't so bad. Now kiss my boots."
"What?" he asked back. It seemed like he still had some fight in him.
"Kiss my boots."
"You! How dare you! I'm a duke!"
"Oh? Someone please start cutting up his legs."
"WAIT!" he cried, before he bowed lower on his knees and kissed my boots, one after another.
"Very good, because you kissed my boots like a good dog, I'll let you live today. Now everyone, throw these losers off my ship," I instructed as the sailors kicked the duke and his two lackeys off my ship.
Mr. Lustri made one final sweep of the waters for our men, but he only managed to recover two more who were shivering from being in the cold water for so long. As the evening sun set, we departed from the waters of Lytis, leaving behind the burning wrecks of enemy triremes and the crewmen that we couldn't recover. Most of the men were moved to the three triremes, led by Mr. Lustri, Captain Keiso and Mr. Lars. Gani, my quartermaster took over as Abundance of Lollipop's second in command.
It was unfortunate that so many died, but for that price, we killed hundreds, perhaps thousands of Surfesian soldiers. As a final service, we as a whole prayed for their eventual reincarnation and offered them some salt and ash to help in their long journey. May the ancestors watch over them.
Before we left though, I told Mr. Lustri to fire an arrow wrapped in a letter that I wrote towards the lead ship of the third wave. His arrow hit the captain of the lead ship, causing him to fall to the deck. It was an act worthy of praise.
"Mr. Lustri, not that I'm complaining, that was a good shot after all. But I thought I told you to hit the main mast?" I asked as I looked at the lead ship with my telescope.
"Aye captain, but it's hard to hit the target at this range and in the middle of the Mrun River."
Just then I saw the captain got up with the help of one of his crewmen. I breathed a sigh of relief that the arrow only hit the captain's arm. One of the crewmen unwrapped the letter around the arrow.
The letter read:
|Listen you Surfesian dogs,|
You have been pwned by The Abundance of Lollipops. Just look around at the pathetic wrecks of your formerly vaunted trireme fleets. Your only option is to let us go our own way. If you dare send any ship in pursuit, I will turn around and burn Lytis to the ground as well as your whole fleet until even the night will become as bright as day from the flames that will lick your city and your ships.
You have been warned.
Captain Felicia Belphere Metrune.
That pretty lady that will make your mothers weep.
I later found out that on this day, my name carried along the title of 'Destroyer of Fleets'. So whenever Surfesian mariners spoke of me, they would call me 'Captain Felicia The Destroyer of Fleets'. Mr. Lustri became a legend as 'He Who Hits An Arm At 2 Miles'. Technically it wasn't even half a mile away, but you know how rumours got exaggerated over time. As for Duke Rafjar The Victorious (lol), his name was changed into Baron Rafjar The Bootkisser by his own men. Yes, his rank was also reduced to a baron by his own king after the great loss Surfesian navy suffered and he retired in shame shortly after.
It's good to have a spy in enemy country. I get to listen to all the funny gossip.
"And then mother said "Bring back souvenirs!" And I was like "Mother, we're not in Lytis to sightsee, you know?"”
Father chuckled listening to my stories.
"That sounds like your mother, alright. Always so adorable."
"Unn, childish is more like it though," I mumbled.
There was a knock on the door before it was opened wide and Mr. Lustri's face appeared. "Captain, we've arrived at the port. What are your orders?"
"Take us in slowly. Give the populace time to spread the news of our return. Allow all the soldiers we brought back to stand on the deck. Make sure they're seen."
You're probably wondering why I gave such an order. It's simply a publicity stunt. What raises the morale of a populace of a war-torn land the most? Of course, it’s to see their loved ones return home. Some won’t see their loved ones return and they will cry and feel sad, but that also works in my favour.
"Aye, captain." Mr. Lustri saluted before he went out and closed the door behind him.
"Shall we go out as well, father?"
"Of course, being kept inside a dungeon made me think of home far too much," father said as he offered me his arm.
I hooked arms with father, walking side by side to the door... until we realized that the door was a little too small for both of us to walk side by side.
"After you," father said as he disengaged our arms.
I probably should have this door enlarged.
"Strange, I feel like we're missing something," father said when both he and Yucks were outside and looking at the port we were heading into. There was already a small crowd at the port, their cheers could be heard even from here.
I looked at the direction father was looking at and said, "Ah you mean the forest behind the port? I cut them down."
"You... cut... the forest? That forest... my grandfather... planted?"
"Yes, where else would I get all the timber?"
Eh? Father, why are you lying down on the floor so suddenly? Father, your mouth is foaming, are you okay? Oh! Is this what they call 'fainting with foaming mouth'?
Geez, I only took a quarter of the barony's timber supply. It's not like I cut down everything. Don't make such a big deal out of it. I'll replant everything, okay? Stop being so melodramatic over a bunch of trees.
Hi everyone. It's Ai-chan again. How are you all doing? This is the last part of chapter 8. There is a sidestory after this one titled "The Prince's Forgotten Night" which is the retelling of Felicia's romp in Part 2, but from Prince Hans's POV. Unfortunately, it's LN exclusive, sorry. Had to keep something for people who buy the book. It's not necessary to read that, it's just an extra amount of lol
As mentioned previously, the LN has better flow and written better. Also, active editing has ended for book 1's webnovel, though I did do some minor grammar editing for posting here. Thank you for your support so far, please await the epilogue.