A day had passed since we learned a bit more about midgard wyrms.
We were still living the high life. Fran had taken a bath last night, so she had been in an excellent mood all morning.
For the record, we made sure to drain the bath and refill it with a whole new tub of water once Fran was done with it. No way in hell was I going to let a bunch of dudes soak in the exact same water she’d just finished using.
Fran had spent most of the day gazing at the horizon, observing the fish and dolphins that passed by, and idling around in her room whenever she got bored.
But, that afternoon, our peaceful boat trip finally came to an end.
The clanging of a loud bell filled our ears. It rang four times, paused, and repeated. The four-clang pattern was a signal whose meaning we’d memorized ahead of time. It denoted that the ship was being attacked by pirates.
Fran grabbed me and rushed out to the deck. There, she found the captain, who happened to be in the middle of issuing orders to his crew. He had the sailors move around so that they’d be in position for the battle to come.
Mordred seemed to have been on the deck from the start, as he and his men were currently leering at something to the north.
「You’re here? That was fast. I’m impressed.」
「They’re right over there.」
We were certainly able to make out something where Mordred was pointing, but it was too far away for us to make out any significant details. We couldn’t even tell it was a ship, let alone a pirate ship.
「Those, pirate ships?」
「No way in hell they aren’t. Damned things have got pirate flag raised high.」
Jerome sounded really confident. At first, I thought he was somehow able to just naturally see really far, but upon closer inspection, I realized that he had a telescope in hand. He’d clearly used it in order to scope out the incoming ship.
「Doubt it. Those over there are fast, small ships, and the wind ain’t really doing us any favours right now. They’ll probably catch up in about an hour.」
「Then will fight.」
「We’ll probably have to. It doesn’t seem like they’ve got any intention of letting us get away.」
I highly doubted that the pirates would be able to damage our large boat with their much smaller ones. I highly doubted that they’d be able to board us even when they finally caught up. That said, there was no way they’d initiate a battle they didn’t think they could win.
「Those ship’s have got naval rams engineered into their front. They’re probably planning to breach our hull and have their men board us.」
The pirate ship’s naval ram wasn’t entirely solid. It had a passageway built inside of it for ease of infiltration. Their strategy was one crafted under the assumption that the ship they would be attacking was larger than their own.
They would catch up to us with their high speed vessels, stop us by ramming us with several different ships, and then break into our galleon’s interior. It was a much safer method than the one I thought of, lining their ships up with ours and boarding via ladder. As the defenders, I found it honestly quite difficult to deal with their approach. We had to be concerned with the fact that there’d be enemies inside our ship from the very start.
「We basically have to fall back on the basics and sink ’em with spells and cannonfire before they reach us.」
The thing the captain had told us really was pretty much the most basic possible thing one could do in a naval battle. The pirates needed to get up close and personal if they wanted to be able to board us. All we needed to do to stop them was to make sure they never got close enough to actually reach us. That said, I felt that engaging them up close wouldn’t be too bad an idea. We could just beat the pirates down, capture them, confiscate their ships, and trade them in for cash once we reached the shore.
「Sinking ’em is probably the best option, ’cause the aftermath’s a huge pain in the ass to deal with if we don’t.」
「Think about it. We need a place to lock ’em up till we reach the shore. We’d also need to feed ’em and keep ’em alive. As for the ship, we’d need to transfer a couple men over for it to actually get places.」
「But enemy treasure will also sink?」
「The only way they’d have loot on their ships is if they just finished attacking somethin’. I doubt any of the ones attacking us’ll have anythin’ valuable on board.」
The captain had a good point, and more or less convinced me that it was perfectly okay for us to just sink the incoming pirate ships.
「The only ships worth capturing would be the larger ones. Their propulsion systems can fetch a pretty penny on the market. They can rake in such a profit that I’d say it’d even be worth it for us to attack them instead o’ the other way ’round.」
Jerome’s tone was so serious it sent shivers down my spine. Merchant ships reeeaaaally weren’t supposed to be attacking pirate ships, were they…?
「I’d be more pissed if they got away than ‘nything.」
Though the captain knew of most of the pirates around these parts, he didn’t recognize the group attacking us. Their flag was an unfamiliar one.
「They probably either came from the north or south. We’d best be careful, they’ve already thrown five ships our way.」
That said, the appearance of a brand new group of pirates wasn’t anything to be too concerned about. The place was practically a hotbed for pirates because of all the merchants ships that would make use of the route. Pirates practically infested the place, but most merchant ships were ready for them. The act of attacking was actually quite the risk. Still, the sheer frequency with which merchant ships passed through the area still attracted them from all over, often leading to territorial disputes and the like.
Several bigger pirate gangs more or less completely dominated the area. It was really hard for a newly arrived crew to really make too much of a name for themselves, and it was for that reason that the appearance of a new band of pirates really wasn’t anything to be concerned with. They were probably just going to end up getting taken over by one of the bigger gangs eventually anyways.
「Them sending out five ships means they think they’ve got a pretty good idea of exactly where we are and how much we can fight back. It’d be best for us to sink ’em.」
I wasn’t sure what the norm was, nor whether or not it’d be fine for us to butt in just yet, so Fran turned towards someone with a bit more experience for advice.
「Mordred, what do?」
「The battle’ll start with an exchange of cannonfire. We adventurers, er, the spellcasters we’ve got, will start firing spells once we get close enough for it.」
The lava mage’s explanation made perfect sense to me, as the ship’s cannons had more range than most spells. Still, I felt it was inefficient. Both we and our enemies had cannons, so we’d effectively just be trading damage at first. Jerome and Mordred both told us that taking some damage was a foregone conclusion when we asked them about it. As far as they were concerned, trading hits was just a natural part of naval battles to begin with. We, however, opted to disagree.
「Leave to me.」
「I take it you’ve got something in mind?」
「Nn. Will sink enemies.」
「Sounds promising to me, but you sure you’re up for it?」
「Hm, I don’t want you doing anything that’ll put you in too much danger. We’ve still got a long trip ahead of us, and we’ll be needing you to power our way through it.」
Jerome exchanged glances with Mordred, as if silently asking the B ranker whether or not he thought Fran would actually be able to pull it off, to which he replied with a nod.
「A rankers are strong enough for us to call them flat out inhuman, and she’s got enough power to take one down. Me, I’d say she’ll be just fine.」
「Alright then, go fer it. Just make sure you don’t damage our ship, ‘lright?」
「Got it. Going now.」
「Nn. Going to sink enemies. Urushi.」
「Woooah! Your wolf was actually that damned huge?」
「I’m… starting to think that it could probably even beat me up…」
Fran ignored Jerome, who’s eyes had shot open in surprise, and mounted Urushi.
And so, the two of them leapt towards the pirates, leaving naught but a series of shocked sailors in their wake.