With a splash, Darwin’s boots pierced the surface of the water and reached the shallow, sandy bank. As if guided by the waves, he walked towards the shore—his men behind him, pulling on the ropes tugged on their boat. The beach was a little too shallow for their ship to moor, and thus their situation.
Darwin kept his pace, not minding the work of his sailormen. Soon, his eyes rested on the array of trees and bushes that lined the shore. Among the array of trees was a large, familiar rock. For Darwin and his men, it was a hint for the trail they seldom used.
About two days, Darwin noted.
They arrived a little too early, but Darwin did not mind. Though Darwin is a man of the sea, it was not his passion to live floating above it for the rest of his time. A little breather was needed. A change of foodstuff is better than a constant stream of fish and dried meat.
Darwin set foot in a cabin not far from the shore. He cleared the few branches blocking the door and entered. At the same time, he drew a short sword and raised his caution. A few steps after, he returned the sword to his waist and approached a nearby window. Though it was dark, Darwin knew by intuition where the lock was.
After a quick twist on the window’s lock, Darwin pushed the window open and used a wood to jam the window open.
“Seems like there’s nothing this time.”
Darwin traced his way towards the back of the cabin. Just about a meter and a half away from the window stood five rods with varying skulls hitched at its end. It seemed that their make-shift ward did its job in preventing animals from trying to enter the cabin, which Darwin considered a great luck.
Darwin chuckled. “For it to work, I guess it’s not a mere superstition.”
There were many superstitions within Libet, all thanks to its religion. And Darwin, who once grew up in a town near the sea, found those superstitions unpleasant. Though he is a believer of the church, his faith did not bind his mind into its doctrines. In other words, he was not an advocate of the church.
If anything, he believes more in the God of the Sea rather than the God of humans.
Darwin opened one window after another, repeating the same process to let light and air to filter into the interior of the cabin. After which, he laid himself on a long wooden chair and took a sip from his canister.
Finally, a rest. Haah… That damn Welkin is a damn pushover. Why does he keep on accepting ridiculous jobs such as this? Well, I’m not one talk. But hey! Why do I have to be involved with this? Shit, I want something more honest.
The job required a degree of professionalism, even if it was a shady job. Though Darwin was not involved with such in the past, him receiving his Lord’s favor earned him a position in his private army, to which Darwin accepted with delight. After all, earning something from sheer effort was rare. Often, people with talent is rewarded than those who spent more effort.
Either way, there was no longer an escape for him. Though he could always plot to vanish, he can’t leave his family behind. So, the only option for him was to obey.
Two days have passed without a significant event. Other than them taking risks in hunting in the nearby vicinity, careful not to come too close on the rocky flats where the Flameclads dwelled, nothing much happened.
“They’re late,” Darwin said. Welkin’s order was to retrieve his so-called client. Darwin had no idea who Welkin was referring to, but according to his orders, there is a fixed meeting location, which is just by the shore of the northeast beach of Surtur, which is the island at the center of Formos.
“Captain, shouldn’t we search for them?”
“No, we shouldn’t.”
Though infrequent, the island was still between the kingdoms of Laurel, Brent, and Libet, so there are times where soldiers set foot on the island to inspect if there are invasive structures. Structures like ordinary cabins were allowed, so they were free to dilly dally inside without worries. However, encounters with soldiers of another kingdom is a pain. And if anything, it would only raise suspicion.
“Just keep watching from a distance. And as soon as you meet the client, dig out our implements.”
Another day has passed but the client, Evelyn, has not arrived.
“Really, what’s going on?” Darwin mused. If he considered the delay caused by the sudden change in weather, a day or two was enough. But the weather was not that unpleasant in the recent days. So most likely, a day of delay was enough.
“Captain!” One of Darwin’s sailormen burst through the door.
“Have they finally?” Darwin stood with renewed vigor. “So where are they?”
The sailorman frowned. “No, Captain. You see, someone has washed ashore.”
Darwin knitted his brows. “Washed ashore? You meant someone was swept by the waves here?”
Darwin rushed outside. Even though he was at a position to keep on a steady watch, helping people in need, especially those struck by the nature of the sea, was second nature to him. He lived in the waters enough to experience that phenomenon himself.
When he arrived at the shore, three people were laid out on the beach. One was a rotund man. The other was a woman in a robe. The last was a man wearing a leather suit cut similarly to that of a butler.
“You have… my gratitude,” Veight spoke in a trembling voice. Soon, he collapsed like William and Marina.
“Carry them to the cabin!” Darwin ordered.
“This is an emergency! And can’t you see the crest on that girl’s robe?! That’s a crest that belonged to the Nobles of Libet!”
Darwin was not acquainted with the crests the Nobles of Libet bore. Neither had he thought of memorizing each one them as he often sets out in the sea, far from the lavish life the Nobles had. But sensing the hesitation of his men, he took notice of the crest and handed a false remark. Such was the importance of life for Darwin.
Darwin’s men promptly carried William, Marina, and Veight to the cabin. Scattering the chairs and tables aside, the three of them were laid on the floor.
“Get me some rags. Any will do.” Darwin’s voice hinted calm and unease.
Darwin started with Marina, who was entirely wrapped in her robe. He unstitched the knots around her neck and began pulling on the strings, effectively loosening the robe.
“Start with the old man and the other one,” Darwin ordered, his eyes focused on unwrapping Marina’s robe.
It did not take long before Darwin was able to part the robe to the sides, which revealed Marina’s cotton clothing frilled from her neck down to her stomach. It was sensual, tempting. Her thin clothing stuck to her skin and inspired lust, which is why Darwin chose to prioritize Marina. It was inevitable.
It was not that he did not trust his men, but Darwin knew that his men would feel a knack for it—a situation in which Darwin wanted to avoid. Darwin kept stripping Marina’s clothes and soon exposed her body for all to see.
“The rag.” And yet, he was unmoved.
Careful not to exert too much force, Darwin started wiping Marina’s body, leaving no skin unwiped. However, that much is a must. After all, it was soon to be winter. The air was humid. The sea, cold. If he did not do this much, they would remain at great risk.
“Get the blankets and cover them up. Then Cole, Drake, go back to the shore and see if you could find more people washed ashore. If there are, bring them here. They might be this Noblewoman’s servants.”
They don’t look like sailors. If that’s the case, where they thrown off to the sea? But then, if they’re this healthy, then it wasn’t that long when they were thrown.
The condition of the three was not too life-threatening. At most, they were suffering exhaustion due to the sheer cold and a slight dehydration. Darwin has assured himself that the three would be back to normal in about three to five days’ time. However, a day is enough for him to ask them what happened.
“Fritz, go and accompany Cole, and Drake. Search the shore for wooden debris. If you didn’t see anything of the like, go back to the ship and fetch more supplies. Afterward, grab three men and search the vicinity of the ship.”
Darwin kept his eyes locked on the three bunched and blanketed by the same cloth. They were no ordinary people, that, at least, was what he surmised. If anything, their clothing was of quality. So perhaps they were comrades of, or maybe the client themselves. However, more important was him returning with at least a hint regarding the client’s whereabouts or condition. Welkin would not want a news of I don’t know.
He’ll probably send my head rolling. Oh, for heavens…
A few hours have passed, and Cole returned with a man on his back.
“Captain, it’s another one. But it’s a sailor this time.”
“I see, lay him down over there.”
A sailor huh. But they only found one. But with this three on-board… or perhaps more, then they probably have around four or five sailors.
“Cole, where is Drake?”
“Drake remained on patrol on the shores. There is a chance of another one washing up so he took chance to remain there.”
Darwin nodded. “Good. Go and inform Drake that you two would switch between watches. Give yourselves six hours each. On the other hand, I’ll watch over these.”
“Gahk!” Bubbles frothed from Dwight’s mouth, climbing up the dark, cold waters. His face twisted, expressing the tantamount volume of water filling his lungs. “Aaagh! Kah!”
Why did this happen? How could this happen? Those thoughts loomed as he reached his hand towards his only source of light, the setting sun.
As the light drew further and further away from his stretched hands, Dwight’s thoughts turned muddy. His sight Hazy. However, he refused to give up. He refused to accept that this was his fate. To die unexpectedly and to drown without an achievement next to his name, it was revolting.
He flailed his arms around and kicked his legs, all the while enduring the pain that once overcame him when he fell into the sea. A pain which stemmed from a fractured leg.
Ah, I envy them… After a while, Dwight thought this. They are lucky… Really lucky… I want to be… in their shoes…
A moment after another, Dwight’s consciousness started to fade. He saw Veight jump just in time and was able to secure both William and Marina. But what about him? Why didn’t he search for him? Why did he, who was supposed to aid the Hero, left him to drown?
Hate smoldered into his being, but it was immediately extinguished. He thought that it was pointless. He was going to die anyway. And besides, the pain that continuously shook his being did not allow him to feel anything other than pain.
Was I this weak? Was it a mistake to obey Father Santiago? Was this what entailed to be with a Hero?
Dwight was warned of the dangers of accompanying a Hero. However, he was confident enough to face an existence above him, if the difference in strength was not too overwhelming.
He once rejoiced that his skills would be put to use when Evelyn told him of their task. He held pride in the shard fitted on the pommel of his treasured sword—which allowed him to whip up a blade of wind. He was confident of its prowess, and his skills in using such. He thought,
It doesn’t leave much trace. It’s great for covert operations.
Nonetheless, in his current situation, the shard he so believed in could not help him at all. Chanting could have helped, but his throat filled with seawater made chanting impossible.
It would have been different if he could swim and search their belongings—which was left to Evelyn for safe keeping. After all, Evelyn could easily store whatever they had. Even arrows gliding through the air could be stored as long it was within Evelyn’s range. It was as if she had the ability to negate whatever ranged attacks were aimed at her.
But where was Evelyn? He did not know. However, what he knew was that they were split up the moment something crashed onto the boat from underneath.
He could still remember it, albeit vividly. Without warning, the boat burst, showering the surroundings with splinters of wood.
Unfortunately, Dwight was near the center of the boat, as well as two of the sailors propelling the boat from two sides. Among everyone else, they three felt most of the force that tore the boat asunder—which led to his broken leg.
Marina, William, and Veight were settled at the front of the boat, which made them much safer compared to Dwight’s. Now Evelyn, Amelia, and the third sailor were at the rear, so they too were comparatively safe. And unlike the others, Dwight and the two sailors were assaulted by the beast that destroyed their boat. The two sailors did not take long for them to forfeit their life. With a simple whip of its tail, their life has ended.
Compared to them, Dwight sank at a faster rate. Perhaps the metal that decorated his armor helped in dragging him down, but that made Dwight survive death. But after earning the pain, he wished he had a swift death just like the two sailors. It would have been best, he thought.
“Tch!” The white-haired, red-eyed young boy clicked his tongue. His face contorted in irate. “I was that close! Again!”
He grumbled as he watched his target, Evelyn, rise to the surface of the water. The beast he baited onto the path of the boat would take was nowhere to be seen, but he knew how it sank deeper into the sea as a corpse.
Again, he failed. Last time, it was on Meiko. This time, it was on Evelyn. But still, a failure was a failure. It was hard to stomach.
“If only she didn’t appear!” The boy lamented. He grieved at his chance to dispose of Meiko after she left Issenheim out of hysterical fear. But his actions were put to a stop after he realized that that Divine was present in Issenheim herself.
Turning back time, Amelia, after slaying one of the Angels, was forced to realize the danger colony of Angels. Now Celes gave a compromise. That compromise was to make a copy of the dead and make it act as if it was alive. Or simply, Celes offered Amelia a refuge by tricking the Angels into believing that none of them has died unexpectedly.
Though it was not Celes herself, that same Angel, or priest, in this case, was controlled by Celes. Since that priest was bound to report back to the bishop in Issenheim, Celes used the occasion to monitor the Heroes at a shorter distance. That was where the boy’s misfortune laid. Celes caught wind of the boy’s, the Ancient’s ploy—which led to Meiko’s relatively safe awakening after she fell unconscious outside of Issenheim.
However, out of fear of encountering Celes once more, the boy took a more haphazard approach, which was to bait a beast that even the Nereids feared. A Halvsoth.
“Hmm…” For a moment, after watching the lens the floated before him, he seemed to have caught onto an oddity. “Let’s see… Where’s is that girl?”
True to his words, there was one missing person.
“Did she drown? Hah. Foolish. To drown by being dragged by shackles. An unfortunate death.”