Chapter 16: A story from over the seas. My father discovers the conspiracy and…huh? Wait, I make an appearance!?
After passing through the tempestuous sees, the clear blue sky was almost as terrifying.
A blue sky like that reminds you that God had given you the luck to survive.
The ship Blanche, owned by the Orange Company, broke through the cresting white waves of the ocean like an arrow.
Her white sails grabbed onto the gales and screamed the craft ahead joyfully.
The fore, main, and mizzen masts all stood strong, accepting the winds with little shaking. Each mast was selected 300 years ago and carved into the current form. The horizontal cross was pulled up, put into place, and even if the sail below it was hit with a strong gale, it never faltered.
This was an amazing tailwind. The sails of the ship were all in place and enjoyed the favorable help of nature.
The jib on the bow was also filed with wind, looking like a brave man’s shield stretched out. It almost was easy to imagine that it could stop arrows and other attacks.
It was clear that if there was a god of the sea, he had given his blessing.
The enormous force of the wind and its ability to move a ship is amazing to a puny human.
「Just a lit’l to the east! Change course, right rudder!」
The skipper shouted back towards the stern of the ship. It was a roaring voice that beat back even the sound of the waves.
Along with Seraphy, this man was the one that had accosted the stranded Duke.
With his tanned, muscular body, if one were to guess, he seemed like someone that would be hoisted up and down the mast, doing athletic work on the ship like some kind of monkey, looking like a kid on playground equipment jumping around the yard, but he was the skipper, in charge of the fate of this vessel.
「HEYOOO! Change course, right two notches! It’s only a small turn!」
The helmsman responds in a mechanical voice and turns the rudder with the wheel.
The helmsman’s wheel is not out on the deck but inside the ship, so the shouting seems muffled.
「When you have a lady like this dressed up in smoothly flappin’ sails, she looks keen and elegant. And now we have someone even more noble that joins her, duke, maybe I’ll leave the steering to you!」
The skipper said, jokingly, comparing the Blanche to a woman dressed in open sails to the wind.
「Leave the steerin’ to him?! I can’t see the lady yer referrin’ to because I’m stuck underdeck!」
The helmsman complained from below with a jocular tone. His intuition and experience allowed him to steer and make adjustments and the request of the skipper.
Normally, the navigator shouts instructions into a tube up to the helmsman, but since both skipper and helmsman had such big voices and knew the sea, they just dealt with it by shouting at one another.
「So that’s how you steer the ship? Very interesting. What a capable ship and crew.」
Scarlet’s father, the Duke, said on the deck with an impressed tone.
He had been underdeck to see the helmsman steering as well.
「You haven’t seen much of Hydrangea, I take it.」
The skipped smiled broadly, as he asked the Duke.
「This ship was designed to be maneuvered with the minimum amount of crew. She’s so full of ropes, some of the fouler mouths here call her “Princess Marionette.”」
The skipper said, yet with a tone of comfort.
One reason for this was because the Duke showed no signs of seasickness, even in this tempestuous sea.
Sailors respect men that are able to handle the sea.
And the sea was a hellscape. Waves sounding like thunder. The ship tossed both vertically and horizontally. Wind screaming so loud that sounds were erased. Splashes never-ending, swaying, and the eternally blowing wind.
And the rocking of the ship was not just that, but the top of the hull dipped so far downwards it almost touched the sea, but then the sea roared away in the next wave so suddenly it seemed as if the boat would be flung into the sky.
A normal person on deck would think it not enough to cling to the mast, but would probably prefer to be tied to the deck. Even so, they would tremble and plead to God.
The waves broke into the wind and spilled over the deck. Relentless as it was, it was surprising no one was washed away. If anyone was swept over, they would quickly melt into the seaweed below.
This constant spray also covered the air like a fog, yet it was endlessly moving, ready to sweep humans into the ocean to join the countless others at its bottom. The smell of salt was overwhelming and the spray lit into one’s eyes like blinding white smoke. Almost like a giant formless creature that was searching for prey.
The Duke, however, was calm and showed no semblance of seasickness, which to a group of sailors that had seen many strange sights, seemed so much stranger. Bernard, who accompanied the Duke, was retching below due to sickness, which is normal if you’re not a sailor. But this Duke…was too strange. Add to it his red hair, his dashing appearance, making him seem almost like a demigod to those who saw him.
The skipper wasn’t superstitious, but still watched the Duke cautiously. And more, this Duke praised the value of the ship and sailors as if he knew their value. This noble called the Duke…not a bad man for the skipper to meet, a man that loves the sea and his ship.
So he enjoyed talking with this Duke.
He also answered any question the Duke had,
「I’ve never seen a ship like this. In Hydrangea, the helmsman pulls a long rod from side to side that changes the rudder….what’s the name of it? The whip…?」
「Oh, you mean the whipstaff? Well, the principle here is the same, we just use a wheel with ropes and pulleys.」
The skipper says, watching the other sailor finish inspecting the outfittings while sprinkling sand over the deck.
「The legendary Blanche of the Orange Company. What a pleasant surprise. I’m honored to be on board. Thanks to you, I should see my wife give birth to a child.」
Hearing the words of the Duke, the skipper squinted and asked,
「…so you know about this ship…?」
From the rear deck, a step higher than the stern, Seraphy, the president of the Orange Company leaned forward to ask.
「This is the ship that started the Orange Company. It’s a lucky ship that made tonnes in gold transporting oranges over the raging seas before. It’s the only ship that the president of the company owns. All other ships have been blown into the sea, while this one alone emerges with her sails intact. That’s why they call her the Blanche, because she always flies the white sails…I’ve heard.」
「You know about her well, Duke. The reason why we took your invitation is because we had a good chance of surviving.」
Seraphy smiled bitterly.
「I wouldn’t entrust my life to any ship. My wife, though, is heavy with child…Cornelia’s first birth.」
In this world of rudimentary medical care, childbirth is a dangerous process. This is why the Duke was so desperate to challenge the deadly seas.
In fact, because of the abortion drug that was smuggled into the Duke’s mansion from the Shylocks, Scarlet had already been born prematurely, two weeks before schedule. And Bradd, the eldest son of the Lawless Crew was dressed as a maid and protecting her from the Shylock’s evil hands, also treating the duchess after her birth. No one knew all this was happening, however.
Seraphy nodded to the Duke.
Then he quietly continued his story,
「This ship is the only property left for the Orange Company and only a few ports have a place for us to berth. We lost almost all of our property in a trade war with the Shylocks.」
「I’m sure the previous president of Orange finally has time to rest…now that he’s left this world.」
Seraphy bit his lips at the mention of his father and said,
「When my father passed, I was still a child. My father…no, I’ll talk about him later. My mother died after the shock of his death. My father was a lonesome man, no other relatives. When the turmoil of their deaths subsided, the Orange Company had lost most of its staff and property to the Shylocks.」
Seraphy was still a child, but a child that had been through much.
Strangely this genius child always wished to have been born earlier so he could have aided Orange out of this predicament.
The skipper also nodded along with Seraphy’s story.
「The only sailors left were the ones that had promised to stick with the father since the founding of Orange and the building of the Blanche.」
「Did you ask me to join you on this boat for support…or revenge against the Shylocks?」
Seraphy nodded briskly at the Duke’s question.
The sea breeze lifted his hair and his eyes could be seen.
「The Crimson Duke is a weighty name. Even with no financial support, the name alone would be a great weapon for a merchant. But not just that. We can fight together, Crimson and Orange. I am convinced it can be done.」
The Duke squinted suspiciously at Seraphy’s words.
「What do you mean?」
「Before that, let me ask you…is the rumor that you’ve joined with the Shylocks true?」
「No…my father, the marquise of Vygod knows him well, though…」
Seraphy looked seriously at the confused Duke.
「We, the Orange Company have lost many things but we still have our means to find information. Immediately after you left your secret mission the eldest daughter of the Shylocks, Ambrosine, claimed to be your concubine. She sent a letter greeting your wife as her mistress. She also declared that you would be staying at the Shylocks and that any further communication with you would be through the Shylock’s residence.」
As the Duke listened, his countenance changed.
「It seems, Duke, that viscount Vygod was also there. Since there was no word from the duchess, it seems she must believe Ambrosine’s words.」
The eyes of the Duke of Wilhelm turned a bloody red, the color they take on when he is determined to crush an enemy without mercy.
Those eyes are the reason for his strange epithet, the Duke of Crimson.
A wise man could understand the circumstances and plots of this story.
「They said that to Cornelia…when she was pregnant…」
His voice said it quietly, as he stood staring with motionless eyes.
It was like the calm before a massive earthquake shook the firmament of the earth.
「…they did. The Shylock Company. And my father, the marquis of Vygod. Selfishly doing as they wish while I was away.」
The Duke addressed his father as a marquis now, and not as his lord…he was seething with a horrific anger.
「I have other bad news. Your confidants and three retired warriors of Hydrangea have disappeared as well. They haven’t appeared at the tavern they usually meet at for a long time. They may no longer be with us.」
The Duke’s eyes opened wide. The depth of what was imparted struck him soundly.
When the Duke left Hydrangea, he entrusted his wife with three of his former warriors, Bobby, Brian, and Bill…even though they were older, they were still fierce warriors. They were also very cautious and familiar with traps and schemes. One could expect them to win against any enemy and handle unexpected situations…so he was relieved for them to be protecting her.
There was no way that an enemy could deal with those men secretly without tremendous difficulty.
「Also, two months ago, there have been sightings of three great beasts along the border of Hydrangea…and a hunchbacked one-eyed old man has been in contact with the Shylocks.」
「That controller of the Juohdah demon dogs!」
It was a name that arose from the depths of his memories.
The Duke gnashed his teeth in anger and his hair was standing straight.
He muttered her name as he hit the deck railing with a clenched, sweating hand.
Before his mind’s eyes flashed a man with a crushed eye…more than 10 years ago, he had hunted down the man with his three warrior confidants, but the old man had just avoided them.
This opponent must have accumulated more power by then, so the defeat of his three friends was possible…which meant his wife had no protection.
But on the contrary…
「…I myself have been attacked by a demon dog.」
Seraphy raised his bangs…and revealed a forehead with a giant scar.
「My father was a ruthless merchant. After his success, many turned cold against him, except the men of the Blanche, but my father…」
Seraphy had a woesome frown.
Instead of his usual boyish face, now he had a look much older than his years.
「My father died after protecting me from that dog. He smiled and told me to live. He told the men of the Blanche…my father…father…」
The skipper looked down gently at the grieving Seraphy.
「Your father, the captain of Orange, was a captain until his last. He died smiling with the spirit of a sailor and not a base merchant. He gave his life for his wife and children. We, the men of the Blanche, will always care for his dear ship. We keep his spirit alive.」
The skipper said with a smile to Seraphy.
The sailors all turned and gazed at Seraphy as well.
Encouraged, he raised his face to the Duke.
「It was Shylock Company that sent those demon dogs at me, so I hate them! That’s the real reason why I helped you…I…」
Seraphy’s eyes burned hotly.
Usually Seraphy’s bangs hid his expression, but the Duke could see his passion and anger.
「…I want revenge for my father’s DEATH!」
And the sea breeze roared in a gale that seemed to echo Seraphy’s determination.