9. Pirates Vs. Hunters

Chapter 9

Pirates Vs. Hunters

            Almost there, almost there, almost there… I kept muttering in my mind as I gripped the wheel with both hands. Just two days ago we passed the border into the Sea of Tiata and my nerves started to get agitated. I had almost forgotten how much the body of water disturbed me- it was like Tiata’s feelings of disapproval were being forced on me, causing me to feel on edge. The goddess probably did this in hopes to drive me off peacefully.

It was like this every time, though I eventually grew used to it after a while. I always made sure to be on my best (as possible) behavior and limited my raids so Tiata wouldn’t get further upset with me. I didn’t really have to do that, but I was scared of losing my powers, even if it were only temporary.

As far as I was concerned, her grief was with Elati, my patron goddess, and she only disliked me because she disliked the concept of the Lord of the Sea. But she couldn’t rob me of my rights as a pirate- not without condemning all pirates and risk making sea dragons go crazy from the lack of precious metals in their diets.

Whether she hated the idea of the ‘ultimate villain’ or not, she had to concede that pirates were a necessary part of the cycle. It was either have humans steal from other humans, or have dragons slaughter humans to satisfy their cravings.

Even so, I encouraged Satel to stay around more often so that I had a form of back up in the worst case scenario. Since Tiata was a goddess who was ruled by logic instead of emotions, she couldn’t fault Satel for being a falucite with water magicks, nor could she punish him for wanting to protect his mate- even if that protection also involved saving the ship. As long as he wasn’t a Lord of the Sea like me, he didn’t have to suffer on her waters.

But now that he was around more often, his focus was mostly on me once again. In accordance to our agreement a few days prior, he was very discreet with his amorous touches and used illusions for things that got little…risqué. Mostly he’d just drape his body over me from behind and pepper my neck with kisses. The worst he’d done yet was hold a hand to my mouth and snaked a hand into my leggings to pleasure me- while everyone else just saw me steering the ship like usual through an illusion.

Thankfully he kept his word about Rutan, and always backed off a few steps should the boy ever appear in sight. It was likely my mate did so because I couldn’t promise not to hurt myself out of desperation, and he didn’t want me to be in pain if he could help it.

At the moment, both Rutan and Rohje were on the quarterdeck with me, and Satel stood behind me at a reasonable distance. Times like this, I needed the company so that Tiata wouldn’t drive me mad- and I wanted to keep an eye on Rutan to ensure he wasn’t feeling anything yet. Surely the goddess wouldn’t bother a child, but since he was also a Lord of the Sea – powers or no – she didn’t like him either.

He had been affected before in his previous life, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember exactly when it started for him. I only remember that he was young enough to still be crying, but old enough to take care of himself. …Unfortunately, that was a wide gap, and I could only hope that this wasn’t the year he’d be affected.

“Capt’n! There be a naval ship ahead!” Someone shouted from the crow’s nest. I glanced up to see that it was Hammer who was on watch, and he appeared a little worried as he added, “Ah think they’re headin’ ta Gominta!”

Gominta was an island just southeast of Kagma, and it happened to be our destination as well. I asked the captains of Tiata to sail with me there so I could supply them with temporary cannons and be able to gather information for the best raiding ports. It wasn’t quite a ‘pirate’s’ island, but many do end up there to settle down.

“Capt’n!” Rohje shouted, wide eyed and panicked as he waited for my order. Though he wasn’t born there, Seikram, Spearhead, and his mother and father lived there at one point, and he often visited there in his youth. I wouldn’t be surprised that he had some attachment to the place- hell, even I was fond of the island. Most of my old crew was buried there- well, ‘buried’ the seafarer way in the ocean within the perimeter of Gominta.

“Calm down- ah’m sure they’re headin’ there ta arrest someone. They know better than ta invade the whole island when there be innocents livin’ there too,” I replied while maintaining a confident façade.

I grabbed Rohje’s spyglass from his belt and tried to get a better look at them. There was only one large ship out there, and, by the shape and color of their flag, it wasn’t from any of the kingdoms- it was from the autonomous naval fleet.

There were two types of authoritative asses that sailed the sea and bothered us. One was the ‘king’s men’, or ‘royal navies’ that worked for their respective kingdoms. The other, simply known as the ‘navy’, was an international and self-governed lot that sailed anywhere – without the limitations of individual land laws of various kingdoms – to keep the peace.

“Capt’n!” Hammer called out again before he made a fast journey down to the main deck with the nets and any hanging ropes from the sails. I scowled as Rutan watched it all with fascination and knew the brat was going to copy him someday.

My boatswain landed roughly on the deck before he staggered forward to run all the way up to the quarterdeck. The Erudian stopped short of the helm and bowed with his hands on his knees to catch his breath.

“Ah got identification on the ship- it’s the infamous pirate hunter brig, Fate’s Hand!” he announced excitedly.

“Oh-ho! Pirate hunters!” I responded with glee before I turned to Rohje, “Ah wonder why the scallywags didn’t mention this little treat? Ah love bringing down the rotten bastards!”

The ‘scallywags’ were, of course, the captains that were sailing behind me.

“Either the hunters weren’t ‘round when our allies had left these waters, or they thought ye’d refuse ta come if ye knew,” Rohje guessed with a shrug.

It couldn’t have been the latter- pirate hunters were my favorite playthings on the sea and everyone knew it. Even the boys back in Elati knew that well, though I only picked on Bardam all of the time- he was the closest thing to a hunter back home.

I turned to Hammer and asked, “Ye say they’re infamous, but ah don’t recall them. Ah ne’er chased them down before, have ah?”

Though the navy was international, certain divisions didn’t travel far from the lands of their origin. Pirate hunters in particular usually didn’t go out to the far distances of the world to track down wanted sea dogs like us. There were so many of us, and most didn’t have the balls to go after high level cases. Needless to say, I didn’t get to see much of them in Elati- aside from Bardam, most sailors rightly feared me.

“They’re new an’ only well known ta the Tiatans- ah heard from other crews at the meetin’ that they go after the obnoxious and the well known crews. They hadn’t really succeeded ‘gainst the powerhouses, though they do harass them,” Hammer replied before slyly cast his eyes in the direction of the enemy vessel. “How much ye want ta bet that they heard rumors o’ Gominta an’ want ta capture retirees fer information?”

I waved my hand dismissively and said, “If that’s their game, then they’re wastin’ their time, though ah’m glad ta hear they’re cleanin’ up the fakers.” I knew that the obnoxious ones Hammer was referring to were the glory seekers who knew nothing about pirating. Apparently some people out there think it’s easy to become a pirate, and that rules and order didn’t apply to us.

Damn idiots made us real pirates look bad the wrong way. We didn’t steal to put on a show or look glamorous- we did it because it’s our way of life, and because we reject the idea of life on land.

“But wot ‘bout Gominta? We can’t let them reach there!” Rohje pointed out frantically, worried that I wasn’t going to stop them.

I smirked darkly. “Who’s says they’re gonna get there?” I inquired before I caught my quartermaster’s eyes. “Methink it’s time fer them to make my acquaintance.”

My announcement soon made everyone grin before I nodded to Hammer to inform everyone of the coming siege.

“Okay Rutan, let’s make this a lesson- we have a ship that’s known ta attack pirates an’ it seems ta be headin’ ta our destination. We have three allies sailin’ behind us, an army o’ mermaids ta fight wit’ us, powers ‘o the sea fer as long as ah don’t piss off the goddess, an’ power o’ the falucite on our side. Wot do ye do first?” I asked my son, giving him his first insight to being a captain.

The brown haired boy didn’t even think long or hard as he pointed out to sea where the hunters were and yelled, “Fire the cannons an’ sink them ta the bottom o’ the ocean!”

Satel, Rohje, and I laughed as some of the crew glanced up and wondered if they should be following that order. I shook my head to dispel any confusion.

“Love yer enthusiasm, lad, but that’s not the first thing ye do. Ah’ll give ye a hint- it has somethin’ ta do wit’ our allies,” I told him, hoping that he’d get it.

But he only became confused as he cutely crossed his arms and stared up at the sky. “Umm… make sure the allies are out o’ the way before we fire the cannons?”

I was tempted to slap my forehead, but the fact that he was almost close gave me some hope. At least he also spared a thought in regards to his allies- it’s just that he wanted to see something explode more, and that had most of his attention.

“Heh, like mother, like son,” Satel commented behind me, sounding amused.

“Oh shut it, ye!” I snapped back, not really offended. Fine- I had to admit that I relied heavily on violence as my answer to everything when I was younger. It was no surprise that Rutan picked up on that as well.

“Wot the capt’n was tryin’ ta hint was ta inform the allies that we’re enterin’ battle so that they would know wot we’re doin’,” Rohje answered for him.

“Oh, thanks Rohje!” Rutan said brightly before he repeated the answer to me, “Inform the allies!”

I let out a sigh and glared at my quartermaster, of whom grinned back at me. It wasn’t so much that I was annoyed that he gave Rutan the answer, but that he was setting himself up as a ‘good buddy’ that my son could run to later for other questions he should be answering on his own. While Rutan didn’t exactly know the right answer, I didn’t want it to be easy for him to get it without some good common sense thinking.

Though I do hope Rohje is prepared for the consequences- not only Rutan might depend on him too much, he’ll have the right to be disappointed in the red haired teen should he fail to perform as wanted. That kind of discord wasn’t good for future captain and quartermaster relations- they needed to trust each other. Of course, I had no intentions of clearing this mess up for either of them- I’d rather them learn their lessons the hard way. It’ll stick better.

“Right,” I muttered slowly before facing Rohje fully, “get someone who knows flagging messages an’ relay the situation. Tell the others ta either stay back ‘til ah’m done or join in once the bastards are disabled. Ah don’t expect them ta fight wit’ their lack o’ fire power.”

“Aye, aye, Capt’n,” the quartermaster responded before he headed down to the main deck to find someone. Since it was still daytime and too bright to use a message lantern, we had to use two small red flags to communicate.

“Wot ‘bout me!?” the shaggy haired boy asked excitedly, already expecting a good role in this.

“Aye, ah have a task fer ye, but before ye complain, this is only somethin’ the capt’n o’ this ship can do, so feel honored,” I warned him before I gave him the order. “Go ta the main deck an’ get the attention o’ the mermaids. Tell them ta prepare fer battle an’ that they have level one restrictions. Got that? It’s important ta tell them that they have level one restrictions.”

“Level one, got it,” he responded, still appearing grateful for the task. I was glad it was enough to make him feel useful.

Level one restrictions meant that the mermaids could keep and eat any enemy who resisted after the battle is over, but must allow those who willingly retreat to escape. While I was used to deaths as a pirate, I still felt better allowing as many as possible of my victims to survive. But where the mermaids were concerned, I still needed to respect their diets and allow them some prey.

Though all because I wouldn’t let them eat fellow pirates or most adversaries didn’t mean they stopped hunting humans away from my sight. I knew their serving me didn’t starve them, but I had to maintain a level of respect with them. They were here on contract with Cyirlie and the goddess, so they had to protect Rutan and I, but they didn’t have to like us. If they didn’t like us, they would only work to keep us alive, and still do as they pleased.

“And fer the love of Elit, don’t jump in the water ta talk wit’ them! They’ll eat ye alive!” I warned after him as he ran off.

Now that my safeguard had left, Satel immediately surged forward to hug me from behind and nuzzle my hair. I had forgotten about him- or rather the mild threat he possessed to my concentration. Hopefully he would have the restraint to back off when we engage in combat.

“Silly ‘Tia-dear. You know they won’t consume the lad,” he said jokingly in my ear.

“That ain’t the ‘eatin’’ ah was referring ta- an’ ah don’t want Rutan ta know the meaning behind it either,” I commented dryly. I still dreaded the day he becomes a teenager and start noticing the massive globes on those sea-bitches’ chests. Why can’t my baby stay a baby forever?

Satel chuckled over that as he cuddled me a little more and then inquired, “So what role shall I play in this?”

“Ye jus’ stand back an’ look pretty,” I retorted with a smirk before I amended, “Actually, it would help much if ye can keep Rutan up here on the quarterdeck an’ create illusions o’ enemies fer him ta attack. This would be great practice fer him wit’out him gettin’ hurt. Other than that, yer more o’ a secret weapon in case Tiata takes offense ta wot ah’m ‘bout ta do.”

As far as I knew, they were going after retired pirates, and there was nothing wrong with me wanting to protect them. She shouldn’t have any problem with that, even if those I were saving were former criminals. Besides, it wasn’t as if I intend to kill all of them. If everything goes right, then they’ll be running away with a damaged ship at most.

“Ooh, I feel special,” he replied with light sarcasm.

“Wot, ye want ta join in on the raid?” I asked in amusement. He’d never shown interest in it before, but then again, he was always busy with his own work. Now that he had more free time, I suppose he had a right to be curious.

“Well technically I am a seafarer, so I would like to try out the common hobbies of an average pirate just to get the feel of it. I might just like to get more involved,” he answered, surprising me. I didn’t think he would ever want to try it, though I doubt he would have any difficulty participating.

“Ah see, well then, let’s start ye off light- consider it an initiation,” I suggested as I moved out of his arms and faced him.

With my free hand, I guided his right hand to grab the spoke of the rudder wheel that I was currently holding. I let go after he took the hint and then moved to guide his other hand to the spoke on the opposite side. Satel looked surprised, then a little panicked as I let go of him to let him completely hold the wheel.

“The swell is light today, so ye don’t need any advanced trainin’ ta steer her, but should a wave tilt us, jus’ turn the wheel slightly towards the slope ta keep us on course. Sometimes big swells like ta drift us ta the side. But fer now, ye jus’ need ta keep her steady- use yer magicks ta calm the sea ‘round us if ye need ta,” I informed him before I clapped my hand on his arm.

I made eye contact with him before I smiled and nudged my head towards our target. “Once we get the all clear, ah want ye ta ram me cruel whore into that bitch up ahead,” I told him, referring to the wooden and chain figurehead under the bowsprit.

I never got the whole story as to how my father came across The Cruel Whore, but someone made it to where the wood never faded and remained strong as steel. This enabled her to stay in good condition for the past four thousand years- the only thing we had to watch out for was the aging of parts like rope, the davits (especially the davits), the sails, and the pulleys that went with most of them. But as for the figurehead – a carving of a female with outstretched arms and chains clothing her – nothing could even scratch it.

“Sounds easy enough- what’s the catch?” he inquired, not sold on the idea that I was giving him a real task in the operation.

“After the rammin’ ye have ta stay here an’ watch Rutan. But don’t worry, there will be a next time, an’ ah’ll watch the lad an’ let ye lead the charge when it comes,” I reassured him. At least when it came to battles, I didn’t have to worry about him like I did with Rutan. The boy was talented and all, but at his age anyone could easily break his guard or distract him. Hence why I wanted him away from the fight.

“Promise?” he prodded, acting as though I couldn’t be trusted. He knew better than that.

“O’ course ah promise!” I confirmed, pretending to be upset by the insinuation. “Ah’m a man o’ me word, am ah not?”

Satel didn’t seem to want to take his eyes away from what was in front of us and only spared me a quick glance with a raised eyebrow. He then smiled. “Nice try, but you’re not a man.”

“Really? Half the time ah’m the one on top- innit that called being the ‘man’?” I asked jokingly, earning a bark of laughter from the über hat man as he got the reference.

“If that’s the ‘man’ I’m dealing with, then I’ll gladly trust your word- and enjoy my place under you,” he added with a sly smirk. If it weren’t for the fact that he was aggressive about our mating and took charge most of the time, I would have called him the ‘woman’ in our relationship.

“Capt’n!” Rohje called out from behind us, where he and the flag messenger had been contacting the other ships. “They have agreed ta stay out o’ our way, but they want ta take wotever weapons they have when ye capture them.”

“Fair ‘nough. Ah agree wit’ that,” I answered, signaling for the messenger to relay that to them. I then looked down at the main deck where Rutan was wandering around, sizing up the masts like he was going to attempt the stunt Hammer pulled.

“Rutan! Get yer ass up here!” I shouted to him. While I didn’t specifically order for him to come back, he should’ve known to report to me that my orders had been carried out. …Elit, I hope he conveyed the message to the mermaids.

“Ah told them, ah told them,” he confirmed, acting annoyed with my questioning ‘glare’.

“All right, then yer next order is ta remain up here ‘til the enemy ship is apprehended-”

“No fair!” he whined, interrupting me. He instantly thought I was making him stay out of the way and gave me a stormy expression that warned me he was about to go into his little disobedient mode.

But I ignored it and continued on, “And ah want ye ta guard yer pappy while he’s guardin’ the wheel. Some enemy sailors might try ta attack him while we’re o’er there. This will be a good time ta prove yerself an’ show us wot ye got.”

That brightened him up instantly. “Really!? Thanks Ma!” he shouted before running towards me to wrap his arms around my legs in a hug. Satel raised an eyebrow again at my little lie. Hey, no one said I had to be the honest one in the family- that was his shtick.

But even though Rutan was about to face water and illusions, this was still good practice for him without having to worry about him getting hurt. Plus, I’d like to know how well he can handle himself in such situations and see if he is really ready for the next level of his training. And, if it seemed as though I was taking the boy more seriously, he might just start obeying my orders a little more. I wasn’t holding my breath though.

Besides, lie or not, this was enough to make him happy. I smiled down at him before I leaned forward some to partially return the hug.

“Ye know, yer suppose ta say ‘aye, aye, Capt’n’,” I reminded him gently, when he pulled away. Mother or not, I was still the boy’s captain and he needed to learn respect before he could demand any from his future crew as their captain.

But the boy didn’t seem to hear me and instead promised, “Ah swear ah’ll do me best!”

Oh, who could be mad at that adorable face? His eyes were alit with excitement and his grin was so wide that I could see almost all of his teeth. I almost wanted to pinch those darling freckled cheeks, but I held back, knowing that doing so would ruin his budding ‘I’m a growing tough pirate’ reputation.

“Ah know ye will,” I replied to him before I turned to Satel again. It might’ve been my imagination, but he was looking a little put out, as if he was being shoved to the side.

I assumed he was somewhat disappointed that I wasn’t giving him much to do, so I closed the already small distance between us and told him, “Ah’m sorry fer givin’ ye a borin’ job here- it is kinda last notice, an’ ah need ta plan ahead fer yer style o’ fightin’.”

I soon discovered that the blond had been thinking deeply and my words snapped him out of it. He shook his head and then spared a smile at me. “Oh no ‘Tia-dear, this is fine. I’ve never charged an enemy with a large vessel before, so this should prove to be a learning experience. Besides, you can’t get more ‘seafarer’ than manning the helm.”

…Okay, so if he wasn’t upset about that, then what caused him to make that saddened face? Had I misinterpreted his feelings?

I decided that that was a mystery that could wait for later. Now that all parties were informed, we had to move quickly before the pirate hunters could get any closer to Gominta. I stuck my finger in my mouth long enough to coat it with saliva and held it up in the air.

“The wind is comin’ from the southeast- good. It’ll help wit’ the speed from that direction. Ah’ll head ta the bow an’ propel us wit’ the sea, Satel, ye break the wind resistance in front o’ us,” I ordered with a fond smile towards him.

“Aye, aye me queen,” Satel responded with a cheeky smile.

“Capt’n,” I corrected him in faux exasperation. I then turned to my quartermaster. “Rohje, have the men prepare the port an’ starboard side grapplin’ hooks closest ta the bow an’ fire after impact. Ah’ll make the first strike, then the rest o’ ye follow once ah disable most o’ their firearms. The mermaids will make a surprise attack from behind. If we’re lucky, they’ll surrender before they can get a shot ready ta fire.”

It might’ve been much, but I wanted as little casualties on my side as possible. Though we had the advantage of an unbalanced battlefield, and the ability to dodge most shots in that situation, there was always a risk that someone might get hit somewhere vital. But then there was always a risk when it came to piracy, and I had to accept that.

Rohje saluted and gave the respectful response that my son and mate were lacking before he headed off to inform the crew. I glanced at Satel one more time before I checked everything on my mental list.

“All right- the allies are informed, the mermaids are gettin’ into position, the crew is gettin’ ready, an’ ah have someone reliable at the helm. All that’s left is a good luck kiss,” I said before I jumped up enough to loop my arm around the back of my mate’s neck.

He resisted me a little, not expecting my move and not wanting to let go of the wheel and cause an accident, but he soon was a happy participant as soon as my lips sealed under his. Being bold today, I licked at his lips until he opened up and quickly plundered inside. I made sure to keep it brief because my men were waiting for me, and because Rutan was getting annoyed by the ‘gross’ affection.

I was tempted to slap my hand to his bottom as I pulled away, but I didn’t want Rutan to be witness to that. It wasn’t a move to be used on just anyone- I viewed it as a sign of tough affection for my mate, while others viewed it as something sexist or very disrespectful. There was no need to teach Rutan that behavior and get the wrong idea about it.

“Have fun ‘Tia-dear,” he called after me as I headed for the stairs down to the main deck. “I want more kisses like that when you come back.”

Perhaps it was the thrill of the coming hunt that was humming through me, but I kind of wanted to give him more kisses ‘like that’ – and more – too. It was times like this, just before a raid or battle, when I felt on top of the world and able to take on anything. And, strangely enough, I felt extra naughty in the aftermath and very willing to play with my mate.

I could blame this on the mermaids and their pheromones, but they weren’t always present- at least not during land raids. I suppose it was just my inner darkness, the power-crazed pirate in me, at work.

“All hands report ta the main deck an’ get somewhere secure! We’re rammin’ into the ship!” I warned as I crossed the main deck amidst the bustle.

“Aye, aye, Capt’n!” everyone roared, likely feeling the same energy as me.

“Capt’n, the enemy is changin’ course- ah think they spotted us,” Hammer cautioned me as we passed on the stairwell to the forecastle deck. “They’re only turnin’ so that their broadsides face us.”

“Good- makes it easier ta hit,” I replied. Them exposing their side to us was more of a threatening stance to warn encroaching enemies that they were ready to fire. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t dealing with the garden variety pirate.

I didn’t waste any time in summoning a swell behind the ship and propel us toward the target. I felt a manic grin on my face as we drew closer, allowing me to see the vessel better. It was a fairly large ship with three masts and even a cannon deck just a step below the quarterdeck. I wasn’t sure if they meant business, or if they managed to tax a lot of people for no reason to get such a fancy schooner.

I noticed them waving flags to warn me of immanent destruction should we not change course and leave, but, of course, I wasn’t going to let that stop me. They didn’t wait long before I saw a line of fire, followed by a ‘boom’. In that instant, I raised a wall of water for the cannon balls to hit, and then parted the barrier down the middle in front of me. With a wave of my arm, the water fell to both sides, taking the ammunition with it back into the ocean’s body.

Because we were rapidly approaching, I could see them trying to quickly prepare the next round of shots, hoping to take us down before we could make it. Either they didn’t see what I had done, or they weren’t going to let a dose of impossibility stop them. Kind of respectable if the latter- I could use men like them, though they probably wouldn’t want to become pirates.

Since we were now so close, I decided just to throw a wave at them to knock back the men and drown the explosive powder that was used in the firings. If the powder was wet, it couldn’t spark, rendering the entire weapon useless.

At the last possible second I grabbed the ropes tying down the jig sails and yelled for everyone to brace for impact. Thanks to the speed and extra propulsion, it was a very strong jolt that threatened to toss me off ship. My feet did leave the ground and my body swung around the jig sail ropes, but I managed to regain my footing quickly.

“FIRE!” I ordered to the crew down below, signaling for them to capture the vessel with the hooks. Seconds later, there was a boom before two four pronged hooks attached to rope shot forth and embedded to the side of Fate’s Hand, preventing their escape.

I immediately ran for the end of the bowsprit and jumped down onto the main deck of their ship before someone could try to cut her free. I could see many of them were anticipating an attack and had their guns and rifles at the ready, but many of them balked at the fact that only one person – a woman no less – was the only one to jump down. I used this confusion to my advantage, summoning up a wave of water to knock everyone off their feet- or at least make them drop their weapons.

The water surge lasted for only three seconds, and some men were thrown off the other side, where some mermaids might catch them. Rohje and many of my men had long since climbed unto the forecastle deck and was waiting for that moment. Once the waters were settled, my quartermaster let out a battle cry and led the others down to the main deck with me.

Within seconds, it was a battlefield as the opposing side had no choice but to draw out their swords and engage us. Some managed to pick up their guns in time, but they had to run away so they could get a chance to change out the gunpowder. Some of my boys made sure they didn’t have the time to.

I had my sword out and ready to clash with the nearest man as he tried to attack me. Now that I’ve showed off my power, they couldn’t afford to let me do it again. Even if they couldn’t fathom how I did it, they knew if they stopped me, then their victory would be certain.

I dodged and twirled around as if in a dance to avoid most strikes, and only attacked if I saw an opening or a way to counter. Though I was much better at fighting, I still had difficulty facing a group of adversaries. Whatever I lacked in my evasion was made up with my water armor- it kept swords from being able to cut off my limbs should I mess up, but the impact still hurt like a good punch. But if I could manage to form a temporary shield before the hit, then I wouldn’t feel anything.

Usually around this time, I’d help the mermaids up on deck with a wave, but I was quickly surrounded and too busy to try it. They had to climb aboard themselves, and once they did, they drew some attention away from me. After all, mermaids, while beautiful, were also a great threat to men. Though I was a little surprised that they didn’t think I was a demon, too- or at least a mermaid with human legs.

Maybe they have heard the stories of the Lord of the Sea and knew it was me without questioning my appearance. If so, they were pretty quick- that in itself was dangerous.

But I didn’t dwell on it for long- I had a captain and quartermaster to capture. Once I did, the battle was over, as the sailors needed a leader to guide them. I quickly knocked back the men still attacking me with a stream of water and knocked a third one out with a sharp kick to the stomach. As soon as I was free, I ran towards the cannon deck they had and sought for the path to the helm.

“Argh!” I shouted when it felt like something hit my arm. It felt like Didra giving me a shot! I soon realized that I did get ‘shot’, but not with a needle. The water magicks didn’t allow the bullet to pass through, but the impact still hurt. I knew that was going to leave a nasty bruise later. Well, better a bruise than a hole.

I glanced up at the quarterdeck and realized that there was a man in a tri-cornered hat aiming a pistol at me. With all the noise going on already, I didn’t hear the pop, but I could see the smoke still steaming out of the end. I smirked as his eyes widened in fear and he backed away. He was expecting me to fall over, not act like I’ve only been pinched.

I couldn’t be sure if that man was the captain, as naval officers had different identification marks for positions than pirates did, but I felt he had to be someone important thanks to that fancy coat he was wearing.

“Wait, come back!” I called after him tauntingly as I began running up the stairs towards the stern of the ship. “Ah jus’ want ta kick yer ass!”

Yeah, as if that were reassuring. Actually, I was only going to hold him down- maybe put a sword to his throat to show I mean business, but I wasn’t planning to hurt him unless he wanted to fight.

My smile didn’t fade, even as I found that the man with the lucky shot wasn’t alone. On the quarterdeck was two other men guarding the sniveling coward-likely the quartermaster and first officer. They both held a fancy silver gun, and like that captain, who was desperately trying to reload his gun, they were one-shot pistols intended for protection and not mass destruction.

I sheathed my rapier sword and held out my hands invitingly. “Go ahead, take yer best shot,” I offered as I continued to approach them.

They held their positions for a second, seeming too scared to actually move before their fear forced them to act. I deliberately made a swell hit the ship just before they fired so as to throw off their aim. I was able to dodge one by moving with the ship, but the other I had to block by forming a shield with the water membrane around my arm.

At that point, they had to use swords to defend themselves, but I didn’t give them the chance. I rushed over to the shorter man, giving him a right hook that sent him tumbling over to the captain’s feet. The remaining man who was next to me thought he had the opportunity to strike me, but I slapped his arm away and head-butted him, using my magicks to cushion the blow for me.

As he backed away to recover, I swung my fist to knock his face to the side and then twirled around to kick his side over towards the stairs. He fell on his back just short of the slope. I quickly turned to the remaining man, still smiling as the one at his feet struggled to regain his senses.

Whoever this captain was, he was fair skinned and didn’t look like he belonged on a ship. When it came to the navy – or even the king’s men – one didn’t have to be a seafarer to lead the ship, though the crew did. This was likely some noble seeking to gain status or was given the position on a silver platter. How dare he parade around as a ‘pirate hunter’!

“Aww, wot’s the matter? Scared o’ the little ol’ Lord o’ the Sea?” I asked him as I walked closer. His knees were shaking and his eyes were bulging out. It made me wonder what stories he had heard of me to make him act like I was the infamous fictional monster that hid under children’s beds. No matter- it just made my job easier.

The sniveling man started to run and I quickly chased after him. I let out a laugh as I easily grabbed the collar of his shirt and forced him down against the railing near the helm. I then pinned him down with my foot and pulled out my sword so I could hold it near his neck.

“‘Ey! Stop fightin’!” I roared, trying to get everyone’s attention. Since the ship was fairly large, it wasn’t easy- I had to whistle to gain some notice, but it was only those on the cannon deck below me. Thankfully that was enough as the enemy sailors dropped their weapons and my men ran over to the railing to inform the others that we were victorious.

Just as my crew began to cheer, the man I had previously knocked over recovered and tried to rush me with his saber, but I pulled out my gun in time to stop him in his tracks. I didn’t even look at him as I heard his sword clatter to the ground. Regardless of who he was, it seemed he was their last hope- the moment he gave up, the rest followed suit.

After that it was easy to gather them all up and have the mermaids watch over them closely. I warned them all that if they tried to resist, they’ll become lunch to the demons. Well, actually I was nice first and told them they they’ll all go home to their families as long as they cooperated- then came the mermaid threat. I didn’t know which one worked, but I didn’t hear a peep out of them after.

Still, the hard part had yet to come- someone had to signal to the other ships to come closer and collect their prizes. I felt like it took forever for them to get here and surround the ship- or, rather, I was just getting antsy. Now that all of the fighting and invading was over, I had left over energy that I still needed to burn. I was also curious as to how Rutan and Satel were fairing, and if Satel was still sending illusion enemies for him to fight.

I only managed to hold out long enough to help the other captains decide who got what weapons and how many. Once that was finished, all they needed to do was load them onto their ships, and I was hardly needed for that. I quickly gave command to Rohje for the rest of the mission and informed the mermaids to watch the pirate hunters closely after release- and to keep any who does try to come back later.

I also reminded both mermaids and my men to not let down their guard- I didn’t want the hunters to think they could be brave once I was gone from their sight. I took into consideration that the battle could’ve been easy solely because of their fear for the mere legends of the Lord of the Sea, so I didn’t want to bungle everything up by forcing my men to rely entirely on me for protection. They had to handle some things on their own- and I needed the security that I could trust them to handle it.

When I was satisfied that all possible angles were covered, I climbed back onto my ship and began to head back to my mate and son. But as I was crossing the forecastle deck, that annoying feeling of disapproval increased tenfold just then. Or perhaps it had increased ever since the attack and I hadn’t had a chance to really notice it before now.

Just to be safe, I tried to summon a tiny wave and was relieved to see that I still had my magicks, even though I felt a little resistance. I was only slightly weaker, but not enough to make a difference- it was probably a warning from Tiata. Damn, she was going to punish me for fighting against pirate hunters?

I suppose I could see her point, since they didn’t attack me first, but there was a decent chance they would’ve gone after us eventually. Though sometimes I had to wonder if she even understood what I was trying to accomplish. Goddesses weren’t all knowing, even though the water ones could watch my every move while I was on the sea.

Still, if she was going to get upset over taking the initiative against pirate hunters, was she going to accept my raiding major distribution ports? Would she understand my motives through actions? If only there was some way I could talk to her and figure out what she was thinking. If I could negotiate with Elati, then surely I could do the same with Tiata…

“Ma!” Rutan’s voice called out once I was close enough to the quarterdeck. I glanced up in time to see him waving wildly, while Satel stood next to him, still clenching the wheel. I smiled up at them, finding them both being cute- particularly Satel. I wonder if he knew it was okay to let go now?

As I climbed up the stairs, I found many ‘bodies’ laying around that looked nothing like the hunters. The officers wore violet coats, while the rest of them had something violet on them, like a handkerchief or a hat. But that was okay- as long as Rutan didn’t know any better and believed he made a difference today.

“Ah see ye’ve been busy while ah was away,” I commented as I mentally counted the number of bodies. He took down five, it seemed, though I have no idea how easy or hard Satel made it for him. Did they go down with one blow, or were they tough enough to last a genuine fight before falling? I wanted the experience as realistic as possible so that the boy could learn something from it.

“Aye! Ah made sure they didn’t get anywhere near Pappy!” the freckled boy proclaimed as he turned to the blond while beaming. “Right, Pappy?”

“That’s right,” Satel confirmed smoothly, using a tone that was subtly unconvincing- Rutan didn’t notice. “He saved my life today.”

“That so? Good work, lad,” I praised as I rubbed Rutan’s head affectionately. I then knelt down to his level and pulled out a shiny gold compass that I pick pocketed from that sniveling captain. “Ah got ye a souvenir. Why don’t ye go an’ add it ta yer collection?”

I loved seeing his expression lighten further at the sight of a ‘shiny’. “Really!? Thanks Ma!” he said gratefully before he gave me a quick hug and swiped the trinket from my hand. I then let out a laugh as he rushed past me and headed straight for his room to inspect his treasures and add his newest addition. Thank Elit, too- I was worried he would want to see what was happening on the other ship. I didn’t want him to suspect something off if he should notice that the enemies he ‘fought’ didn’t look like the ones I had faced.

No sooner than after he disappeared, Satel made the ‘bodies’ melt into seawater and trail back down to the ocean. I had to wonder if Rutan even remembered them, or if he expected someone else to clean his mess. I suppose one of these days I’ll have to teach him the importance of ridding dead bodies after invasions.

“Ye know, ye can let go o’ the wheel now- the ship should be anchored, an’ we’re attached ta the other ship. We ain’t goin’ anywhere,” I told my mate gently as I stood up.

He appeared shocked for a second before he became sheepish and let go of the spokes. “Oh… of course,” he replied as he backed away from the helm.

“Did ye have fun?” I inquired as I sauntered closer to him, deliberately swinging my hips. His rust colored eyes immediately darted down to stare before I caught him licking his lips.

“Oh yes, very much so,” he answered in a deeper tone, bringing his gaze further up to lock on my lips. Somehow, even though I was trying to ask about his role at the helm, I had a feeling we were both talking about something else.

“Good, ‘cause the fun ain’t o’er yet,” I announced in a sultry tone before I wrapped my arms around his shoulders to hoist myself up and then circled my thighs around his waist in a tight hug. He was quick to respond by placing a hand on my bottom and finding the nearest available skin to kiss.

I really, really shouldn’t be doing this while my men did all of the work, but it was as if I couldn’t control the urge anymore. I had to concede that this was a normal feeling before and after raids, but it was never this strong before. And since I was clearly the one who started it, I couldn’t suspect Satel at all.

I let out a soft moan as my mate teleported us to our cabin and pressed me against the nearest wall. What I wanted most of all was to feel close to him and just kiss, but it was obvious that Satel wasn’t going to waste the opportunity I had just given him. He wanted to mate, and so did I- even if in my mind I didn’t fully understand why.

Either I was finally losing control over myself and was showing my true colors, or Satel was right and I was worrying over nothing. Maybe I just hadn’t noticed this behavior before, when it had actually been this intense for a long time. I dismissed the thought- I was far more interested in trying to use my weakened magicks to restrain him and have some fun on top.

And he had no complaints when I did so.

To the Next Chapter

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