48 Hours a Day
Chapter 110 - Black Sail XV
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
“You wish to learn the art of wielding the dagger?” Owen asked, surprised. Considering the extreme dangers pirates faced each time they went out to sea, they were mostly hedonists, living from each day to the next. Few made any plans for tomorrow, which was why Owen made it a point to remind Zhang Heng of what he was about to face.
“It’s not something you can pick up in two shakes. It would take at least a good month or two before you see any results at all, not to mention that the drills are very monotonous. Aren’t you already good with guns? Why learn how to use a dagger?”
“I’m terrible at close combat, and the flintlock can only fire one bullet at a time. Reloading is a pain. I don’t want to stand by and watch from the sides each time I’ve fired a shot. In any event, I can defend myself if I learn some fencing.”
“Mm, that’s true.”
The muskets in this era differed greatly from their newer counterparts. Although flintlock pistols were an improvement from matchlock muskets, reloading it was still a complicated process – the shooter had to refill the barrel with gunpowder before shoving down the charge with a long rod. The chances of it misfiring was also terrifyingly high. For that reason, whenever there was a battle, both sides would usually engage in a shootout first before moving on to the more physical sword fights.
However, the vast majority depended on sheer adrenalin and brute strength to get through combat, utilizing neither skill nor talent. Hence, those who had undergone official military training like Owen always had an edge in battle.
“Err, well then… be at the deck at sunrise tomorrow. I’ll teach you some basic moves like swinging,” said Owen. “You can practice your swordsmanship, but don’t you neglect your duties.”
“Thank you. I won’t,” Zhang Heng replied with sincerity. It was not without reason that Owen won the favor and support of the other pirates; he was generous but also upright. Rather than keeping his excellent swordsmanship to himself, he was ready to impart what he knew to Zhang Heng.
The same, however, could not be said of the others. Zhang Heng found the bosun of the ship, an old man named Rothko. According to the crew, he had been out at sea longer than living on land. Wind reading, weather forecasting, and sailing were three skills that he took pride in.
Having such expertise earned him the respect of the captain and the crew, even if he did not participate or contribute much in battles. He dearly valued and treasured his own skills, keeping his knowledge close to his chest lest others might learn from him and subsequently overtake his job. Zhang Heng wasn’t the first to approach him, and like all the others before him, his request was flatly rejected.
Zhang Heng attempted to offer a handsome 500 silver pesos to him, which would be paid within the year, but Rothko still insisted that he would impart his skills only after retirement.
Taking into account the present circumstances, it appeared that Zhang Heng would have to wait a very long time for that to happen. The old man was one tough son of a gun. Even at his age, he had an appetite healthier than most who were younger, and he was not a picky eater either–able to swallow anything given to him. At this rate, Zhang Heng suspected Rothko would continue to linger around long after he’d left the game.
After disembarking the ship for the third time, Zhang Heng looked for old Pirate Frazer in the tavern.
“How are your close-quarters combat skills coming along? Are you ready to be my debt collector?” asked Frazer as he tossed a chunk of peanuts into his mouth.
“No,” Zhang Heng answered truthfully.
After two months on the sea, his swordsmanship still remained at level 0. Like Owen had said, it was a lengthy process that required consistent practice and perseverance. The results would only show itself once he was able to integrate his basic moves with combative instincts. At the moment, he was still miles away from his goal.
Thankfully, Owen had already begun sparring sessions with him.
On top of that, the good news was that after such a long period of recuperation, Zhang Heng finally regained his weight, and his strength even exceeded his level when he first entered the quest.
Although no match to those born with divine power, he was already considered a prodigy among the regular crowd.
“Why did you come see me then?” the old pirate asked.
“The Sea Lion was originally yours. Rothko is the oldest crew member on the ship. You must know him pretty well, right?”
“Oh, that old fox? He may not be a man of many principles, but his sailing skills are pretty good, I must say. You’ll never find a better bosun in the whole of Nassau,” proclaimed a thoughtful Frazer.
“Ah, I really miss those times. There was this once, we came across pirate hunters and we were forced to head into a storm as we were a lot slower than them. Had it been someone else manning the sails, the ship would’ve been wrecked, and we would all have been dead. But no! Rothko and I worked together to secure the main mast, and, by a stroke of luck, we miraculously returned to Nassau in one piece. I only admire a few people in my entire life, and Rothko is, by the narrowest of margins, one of them. You must drink to that guy’s excellent skills.”
The old pirate picked the glass of beer in front of him.
Zhang Heng did not beat around the bush and jumped straight to the point. “What do I need to do to make him teach me those skills?”
The pirate looked amused. “You want to learn how to sail? Why?”
“One should always learn as much as he can while he’s young, right?”
Frazer grinned. “So, you’re going to persuade me with all this nonsense?” He lowered the knife and fork and stared at Zhang Heng with hollow eyes. Only after a while did he continue.
“It would seem you’re in luck today. I’ve found myself in a bit of trouble recently. If you can help me solve my problem, I wouldn’t mind telling you how to make Rothko more compliant.”
“What is it?”
“There’s a fool called Jacob in the city. He just stole a bag of black pearls from me this afternoon. If you can, find him in half a day and get my pearls back. I will meet your requirements then.”
“Sounds fair to me,” Zhang Heng said as he stood up.
“Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I hired another guy. He started an hour earlier than you, so I can only wish you the best of luck.”
Zhang Heng left the tavern.
As he stepped outside, he saw a group of kids frolicking by the side of the road. When a food peddler passed them by, a couple of them pretended to have a row. The peddler had his attention diverted while the smallest one among them slipped his tiny hand into the peddler’s pockets. As soon as their ruse was a success, they dispersed into oblivion.
This was Nassau, and petty theft was not an uncommon occurrence. Ever since Zhang Heng began renting the hut, he had never left anything valuable inside. Whenever he returned from a voyage at sea, he often caught the urchins sleeping in his place, god knows how they got in anyway. He would eventually rough them up and throw them out every time.
It was not going to be easy to find a pearl thief amongst a jungle of villains, not when all he had was a name for a clue.