Two days had passed since Fran had sunk the five incoming pirate ships. It was currently around noon, the sun was shining directly overhead.
Fran was doing the same thing she’d been doing most of yesterday: training her apprentices. She made them stretch, sparred with them, and showed them how to move. The training itself was going well, but it was cut short by an interruption nonetheless.
The alarm bell began ringing during one of the group’s cooldown sessions; its clangs sounded off over and over in a fourfold pattern.
We’d once again found ourselves subject to a pirate assault.
「L-Let’s go teach!」
「Shit, pirates again!? Why the hell are there so many? Isn’t this supposed to be the Kraken’s Nest?」
Both melee ranged fighters, Liddick and Miguel voiced their opinions in that order the moment they heard the bell.The former suggested immediately jumping into the fray, whereas the latter groaned and complained.
「They might be a part of some sort of huge pirate brigade, the kind that can get its hands on brand new, state of the art ships capable of easily outrunning kraken.」
Liddick spoke up yet again. Unlike his immediate reaction, which seemed to function as a call to action, his second set of words seemed to contain a bit more thought.
「You serious man? We might be in some deep shit then.」
「Stop panicking Miguel. We’ve got Ms. Fran, our teacher, here with us. How’s a pirate ship even supposed to begin to compare?」
「R-Right. Good point, Naria.」
Fran had her apprentices to stand by before heading over to the ship’s bow. There, she found Captain Jerome already gazing at the incoming pirates through a telescope.
「I was just thinking it was about time for you to show up. They’ve got 12 this time ‘round. There seem to be a couple bigger ships mixed in amongst their ranks too.」
12? Damn, that’s pretty big for a band of pirates.
「They’re waving the same flag as the five you sank a couple days back.」
「Seems like it. They’ve probably got their HQ somewhere in the area.」
「Sent main force?」
「Sorry princess, but no idea.」
At first, Fran and I had both thought that 12 was a pretty big number, but according to Jerome, it wasn’t. Pirate fleets could get big, really big. The ones we were up against were, relatively speaking, so few in number that the captain couldn’t actually figure out whether they were some small-time group’s main fleet or a larger group’s scouting party.
「The one thing I do know is that somethin’ feels off.」
「No idea. I’ve just got a bad feelin’ is all.」
「Want to see enemies.」
「Right. I’ll let ya borrow this then.」
Jerome handed Fran a spare telescope. She promptly picked it up, lifted it to her face, and joined him in gazing at the pirate fleet.
『You see anything?』
「Nn… That, weird-looking?」
『Uh, you’re asking me? I was asking you cause I can’t see shit…』
「So not even you know what that is, Black Lightning Princess?」
The sight of a really buff dude standing next to a little girl, with the two both speaking in low, guttural tones, was one I couldn’t help but find comical. Seeing them side by side made me want to burst into laughter.
「Look at that ship over there.」
Jerome seemed to have noticed something.
『Is he maybe talking about the ship’s flag, Fran?』
「Nn? Weird flag above skull and crossbone flag.」
『Isn’t that just some sort of pirate flag?』
「Strange insignia. Draconic.」
Well, it probably wasn’t a pirate’s flag if it looked draconic.
「That’s… the Sheedran flag. Shit, I knew it!」
Jerome seemed to have figured something out, as, though he still had the telescope to his eye, he’d started to groan in displeasure.
「Well, I’ve figured out why I felt so on edge.」
「That draconic mark you saw? It’s a sign that the ship’s from Sheedran, one of the maritime nations to our north.」
We didn’t really know much about Sheedran, so we had Jerome elaborate a bit further. According to him, it was an oceanic country whose borders spanned the archipelago with whom it shared its name.
The continent we just departed, Gilbard, had Chrom to its west and Brohdinn to its north. All you needed to do to find the Sheedran islands on a map was to mark the three continents, connect the dots to form a triangle, and find the centerpoint. Visualizing that allowed me to realize that it lay just south west of the demonic sea, the expanse of water between Gilbard and Brohdinn. Taking our current position into account, we’d probably actually be able to reach it if we headed straight north.
Wait, they’ve got a country’s flag hoisted? Does that mean they’re not actually pirates?
It turned out the whole situation was much more convoluted than I’d initially suspected.
「Y’see, thing is, Sheedran’s status as a country is something that people like arguing about. The place was originally occupied by a group of notorious outlaws called the Sheedran Pirates. They were successful, so successful that they managed to absorb basically every other pirate band in the area. Before long, they started calling themselves a country instead of just a group of criminals. Probably shouldn’t really think about that part of it though. We ain’t got no time here to talk politics. All that really matters is the gist. We’ll be golden so long as you know that that the Sheedran people descend from pirate folk, meanin’ they like to be rough. I’ve even heard rumours sayin’ that their entire popluation’s made up of sailors.」
As far as Sheedran’s citizens were concerned, the strong and charismatic belonged in society’s upper rungs. The country’s former king was especially outstanding. He had been so charismatic that he got every single one of the country’s citizens to acknowledge him, and then some. Even people like Jerome looked up to him, and that was seriously saying something.
「The king was a hell of a man, but no one lives forever. He kicked the bucket a few years back. His successors jumped right into fightin’ over his seat the moment he left it. Ended up throwing one hell of a shitshow.」
The flag fluttering about above the pirate flag indicated that the vessel belonged to Sheedran’s royal family.
「Then, Sheedran’s navy?」
「Not even Sheedran’s navy would be brazen enough to fly a pirate’s flag. You see how the royal flag’s blue? That’s apparently s’pposed to mean that it belongs to the first prince, the guy that lost the power struggle and got his ass kicked outta the country.」
The first prince took his men and started playing pirate after leaving his country. As Sheedran’s royals had descended from pirates in the first place, it would technically be more accurate to say that he returned to his roots.
I wasn’t quite convinced that we could really conclude that much from just a flag. It could’ve just been a fake. I didn’t need to think too deeply to think up more reasons why that’d be than I could count. Besides, why would someone that’s gotten their ass deported want to raise their old country’s flag in the first place?
I had Fran express my doubts, but they were shot down. According to Jerome the flag was probably authentic, and the ship most likely bore some sort of connection with Sheedran’s royal family.
「Try lookin’ at the ship’s bow.」
『You see anything, Fran?』
「Right. They’re hooked up to a water dragon. Water dragon warships like that one were the whole reason the Sheedran were so powerful at sea.」
The concept of taming magic beasts and using them to pull seafaring vessels had been around for as long as people could remember, but Sheedran’s first king was the one and only person to have ever succeeded in taming B ranked magic beasts, water dragons.
「There were only ever four of them, but those four alone gave the Sheedran enough power to plow through every other group of pirates and topple even the fleets sent by the most powerful of countries.」
Water dragon pulled ships were truly terrifying; they totally eclipsed regular ships in terms of both speed and firepower and dominated any battlefields they were sent to. Mentioning their traits and specialities caused Jerome to realize why he’d felt something was wrong. It was the speed. The water dragon ships were closing in on us as quickly as would speedboats.
「They’ve probably gots the flag raised either cause they want to assert themselves, or ’cause they want to intimidate anyone they come across.」
The act of self-assertion sounded really stupid and reckless, but not too unlikely based on what Jerome had told us. After all, the prince had already gone as far as causing a shitstorm inside his own country despite his responsibilities.
「Dealing with ’em isn’t something we’d want to do, but they’ve got too much speed on us for us to get away.」
「Hell no, not against a Water Dragon Ship. Shit’s worth a whole fleet 100 strong.」
「But can’t escape.」
「Yeah, we’re shit out of luck. Damn it! Why the fuck did we have to run into that monster of a ship!?」
It looked like we weren’t going to be able to retreat.
「The Sheedrans hate our country, so I doubt we’d be able to get away with losing only the usual 30 percent of our cargo either…」
Many of the less extreme pirates were willing to let you go scot-free so long as you were willing to pay a toll fee. The ones attacking us, however, had a Water Dragon Warship. They could care less about making an enemy out of a country. It was possible that they’d slaughter everyone on board even if we surrendered immediately.
「Fuck it. Our only hope is ramming their flagship head on and engaging in an all out melee. They’ve got too many cannons for us to stand a chance at range. Time for you adventurers to earn your keep! Think yer up for it?」
I didn’t understand why the captain felt that engaging in melee combat was better than letting Fran do the thing she’d done last time. Logically speaking, that seemed like it’d be the way better choice.
「You’ll be up against a water dragon, y’know? That shit’s dangerous up close.」
「Can just attack from ship.」
Though water dragons were B ranked threats, it was rather unlikely for them to be capable of sniping us out of the air. All we had to do was find a few openings, and we’d be able to sink the dragon ship alongside all its escorts.
I couldn’t say for sure whether or not we’d be able to take the water dragon itself down, but destroying the ship it pulled would honestly be a pretty easy task.
「I like the idea, but it doesn’t get us out of the bind we’re in. The water dragons could start going berserk if freed. We’d sink for sure if they attacked us.」
The only people that knew how to calm down a raging water dragon were Sheedran’s higher ups.
To be honest, I was at a loss. I had no idea what to do.
『We still have a bit of time to figure things out before we actually have to engage them in combat. What do you say to asking Mordred what he thinks?』
「Nn. Got it.」
The most optimal solution would be for us to totally wipe the pirates out, water dragon and all. Our biggest blocker was that we weren’t sure we’d actually be able to kill the dragon in question. We’d never fought any sort of dragon before, so we didn’t have a frame of reference we could use to figure out our chances. To that end, we needed to keep ourselves on guard, just in case.