Operation: Liberate Southleaf Island – Part 01

Southleaf Island, though not particularly large, boasted a well-kept harbor, owing to the numerous residents whose livelihood hinged on the bounty of the sea.

Like cherry blossom petals adrift upon puddles of water, the harbor teemed with numerous fishing vessels. However, presently, not a soul was in those boats. Silence shrouded the harbor.

The only signs of life were found on the Knights Templar’s medium-sized armored ship, a robust vessel with steel reinforcements on its hull.

“How refreshing. Not a single Beastman in sight.”

“You can say that again. The place was crawling with them when we arrived. It gave me the creeps.”

Two knights stood upon the ship’s deck, watching the empty harbor. Similar to the ferryboat, their ship couldn’t dock due to the shallow seabed, necessitating the construction of a makeshift bridge of linked small boats.

“That boat looks to be swaying. Look, one of the boats we’re using as a bridge.”

“Probably just the waves.”

“I suppose. By the way, have you seen the weapons the adventurers here have?”

“I did! They were jokes. Some of the swords even had rust on them. Imagine having those things as weapons and calling yourselves adventurers. Life must be easy in the sticks.”

“Only lowborns become adventurers.”

“Damn righ—hngh?!” One of the knights’ face contorted in pain. “Ahhh!”

“Wh-What’s wro—hey!”

Letting out a scream, the knight launched himself from the deck to the waters. His legs bore a deep wound. The other knight realized that his colleague had been attacked.

“Intrude—aaahh!”

Despite their vigilance, the knight was tackled and sent hurtling from the ship, plunging into the sea with a resounding splash.

“Man, Assassination is as disgusting as ever.”

The Soul Board’s Assassination skill rewrote fate, bestowing attacks with lethal potency when executed without the opponent’s awareness. Hikaru had maxed out this ability, allowing a mere extension of his arm and a slight jab to send the knight clad in metallic armor hurtling through the air.

Inflicting injuries and tossing them into the sea. Resurfacing was impossible unless they took off their armor, and they would have to treat the injured, greatly diminishing their combat force. A nastier tactic than outright killing them. Hikaru actually had an objective that could be achieved by keeping these knights alive as much as possible.

“What’s going on here?!”

Hikaru hid himself as a group emerged from the cabin and onto the deck. There were twenty knights stationed on this ship, a considerable number. They despised the idea of sleeping in a town teeming with Beastmen, so they opted to rest inside the ship. The nighttime guards were sleeping at this hour.

“Men overboard!”

“What?! Let’s go help—ack!”

Hikaru pushed the five individuals from behind, propelling them over the ship’s railing and sending them into the water. He slashed the arm of the final person.

Thirteen knights left. Ten showed no signs of movement, presumably asleep.

Hikaru cast a glance back toward the harbor; it still appeared deserted, but when he stared hard, he saw several figures behind the buildings. Did they manage to see him? Though he was on a sunny deck, there was a high chance that he hadn’t been spotted.

“The knights still haven’t surfaced. It’s probably fine.”

Hikaru had heard that removing armor took time, but given their familiarity with them, they should resurface soon. Those who failed to surface would require rescue, further weakening their force.

Hikaru ventured into the ship’s cabin. Being a military vessel, the inside was dreary yet well-organized. Doors leading to the ship’s cabins lined both sides of the narrow corridor. He saw people moving in the kitchen, seemingly preparing lunch.

Descending the staircase, Hikaru made his way toward the ship’s storage area, where weapons confiscated from the adventurers lay haphazardly strewn.

“Phew… How to carry all these?”

Weapons were chunks of metal. In short, they were heavy. And numerous adventurers meant equally numerous weapons—just a little over fifty in total.

Certain items, such as bows, were lighter, but their unwieldy nature made carrying them a challenge.

“Not the time for grumbling, though,” Hikaru muttered.

For the initial batch, Hikaru bound twenty-five swords together with a rope and hoisted them on his back. It was heavy, but for Hikaru, who had allocated two points to his Muscle Strength stat on the Soul Board, it was a manageable weight. He sprinted with the swiftness of the wind, but the sleeping knights showed no signs of waking up.

As he neared the deck, faint voices carried to his ears—utterances of concern, questions such as “Are you all right?” and “They’re still down there.” Several of the knights had managed to resurface.

Hikaru positioned himself in a spot shadowed by the ship, out of view from the harbor.

“Over here.”

A single small boat floated nearby. Hikaru had instructed Daigo to bring the boat once he dispatched the knights into the water, so the weapons that Hikaru had retrieved from the ship could be returned. It was a perilous task with the risk of immediate death should they be discovered. Hikaru wanted to enlist the help of someone who worked at the harbor, and Daigo staunchly insisted on undertaking the duty himself.

“This is a battle for the reclamation of Southleaf Island’s autonomy,” he had said. As before, he didn’t sound like a child at all.

Daigo had come with a monohull only, likely for increased maneuverability. Hikaru lowered the weapons from the deck using ropes, and Daigo caught them. The boat creaked as it swayed.

“Two more rounds,” Hikaru said.

Daigo raised his arm in response. After one more round trip, Hikaru retrieved the last weapon and headed to a different location, not the deck.

The steering room—and it was empty.

“Hmm… As expected.”

Hikaru had hoped to find one here—an alarm bell used to alert all crew onboard of any anomalies. In this world, it was a magic speaking tube.

The tube hung on the wall, accompanied by a sign that read “Emergency Communication,” and a handle. Hikaru pulled the handle toward himself without hesitation.

There was a shrill sound, like some microphone feedback, followed by the grating pounding of a bell.

“S-So loud!” He couldn’t even hear himself. Hikaru flung open the lids of each speaking tube and bellowed, “All hands, abandon ship! We have an emergency. I repeat. All hands, abandon ship!”

Hikaru then exited the steering room. The clamor echoed through the corridor. Knights in their sleepwear emerged from their cabins.

Hikaru vaulted onto the deck. He hooked the rope and descended, along with the weapons, to the boat.

“Daigo, full speed ahead!”

“Understood!”

As Hikaru boarded the overloaded boat, the seawater crept close to the edge. Hikaru grabbed the longest spear and thrust it into the hull of the knight’s ship, propelling the small boat forward.

And he swung the spear around toward the land.

From behind a structure emerged a dark silhouette—likely Lavia. Even in broad daylight, it was difficult to spot her due to her use of Imperceptibility.

A magic circle materialized around her.

“Daigo, faster!”

Daigo tried to propel the boat as fast as possible, but the excessive weight hindered their speed.

Clang, clang, clang!

The metallic sound grew distant. As knights emerged on the deck, Hikaru shouted from the small boat.

“We’re under attack! Run!”

Startled knights gazed upward and saw a colossal flame hurtling toward them.

In an instant, shrieks rent the air. Lavia’s fire magic struck areas of the ship’s deck devoid of knights, inducing violent tremors. Knights tumbled, some plunging into the sea.

“Wow…”

The hot wind produced by the spell ruffled Daigo’s hair.

“It’s all up to you guys now,” Hikaru said.

“Oh, right. Guys, you’re up!” Daigo shouted.

Residents lurking in the shadows emerged all at once, boarded their small boats, and rowed together. Owners of the small boats that were used as a bridge to the ship kicked the resurfacing knights back into the water.

Meanwhile, Daigo’s boat reached the pier, where he dropped Hikaru and the weapons.

“Do we really just need to wait out there in the open?” Daigo asked.

“Yeah,” Hikaru replied. “That’s all you need to do.”

Hikaru bid farewell to Daigo as his boat joined the fleet of small boats fleeing from the harbor—a task Hikaru had entrusted to him and the others.

Flames engulfed the knights’ ship. Despite its steel reinforcements, the ship’s interior was made of wood and susceptible to massive fire magic. Complete incineration wasn’t necessary; immobilizing the ship was more than enough.

Struggling to stay afloat, the knights helped each other and swam towards land. Even those who gave up extinguishing the fire salvaged their valuables from their cabins and plunged into the sea.

“The blockade is complete.”

With that, no functional ships remained in the port. The once-bustling harbor now lay deserted, save for the burning ship.

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