48 Hours a Day
Chapter 151 - Let’s Begin
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The loud shouts of the watcher alerted most of the pirates who were fast asleep. Most of them scooted out of their cabins to the deck in a frenzy. Some of them were even undressed. Zhang Heng and Anne were already out on the deck. With a pair of binoculars in hand, the captain watched the approaching ship from afar.
“So? What about it?” asked Billy.
“We’ve got abysmal visibility tonight. I can’t see it. I’m not sure if that’s the ship that we are going after,” said Zhang Heng while handing the binoculars to his helmsman.
The weather today didn’t seem to cooperate. It was a dark, foggy, moonless night. The stars that usually lit up the night sky were nowhere to be seen as well. It was actually a miracle that the watcher even managed to spot the ship. That said, that was all they knew about the approaching vessel. There were only four hours left till dawn, and Zhang Heng had no intention to take any risks.
Firing his cannons now was equivalent to a gamble, where even the best cannoneer would find it hard to land one hit in ten shots. It was unecessary to waste ammunition just like that. Every failed shot that they fired would cost them a lot more money to replenish the armory, and even if the cannoneer was somehow lucky enough to hit the ship, they might not be able to move all the spices back since their surroundings were pitch black.
“Let’s follow him for now. Be careful not to get within its sights.”
Billy and the rest of the pirates were fine with Zhang Heng’s decision. If Carina was right about this ship, their target had at least a dozen six and nine-pound cannons. Although the Jackdaw far outgunned them, it was still unjustified in attacking at night. It would be a safer and wiser decision for them to wait it out till day broke.
Soon, Zhang Heng assigned more watchers to keep an eye on the ship, grouping two into a team to ensure that they would their target wouldn’t slip away. As for the rest of the crew, Zhang Heng instructed them to return and to rest to prepare for tomorrow’s raid.
However, most of the pirates were not sleepy anymore. Most were ready to return to Nassau after spending an entire month on this ship empty-handed. Just as they were about to give up on the operation, they saw hope again. For those that couldn’t sleep, they harnessed their weapons and began to sharpen them.
15 minutes later, it appeared that the watcher from the other ship had discovered that the Jackdaw was tailing them. Immediately, they sped up to attempt to escape the Jackdaw. Billy and the rest of the pirates were lit with excitement when they saw their prey trying to shake them off. Until now, the black flag of the Jackdaw hadn’t yet been flown. Besides, considering that the visibility around the area was extremely low, there was no way they would figure out that a pirate ship was tailing them.
That could only mean one thing. The merchant vessel was carrying something precious. Even if it wasn’t spices, it could be something else that was equally valuable. After trying to get away from the Jackdaw for a while, they realized that they couldn’t shake them off. Instead, the two vessels had now crept up to each other.
By then, the merchant vessel discovered that a navy battleship was the one after them. Considering that they were armed and heavily loaded with cargo, they could only move at a modest four to five knots at the fastest. There was no way that they could outrun the speeding Jackdaw. So, in desperation, they decided to slow down and arm all their cannons, preparing to open fire.
Under normal circumstances, they were no match to the battleship. However, the night had become their best cover, and besides, luck was the critical factor in this fight. If they managed to land their cannonballs on the Jackdaw’s armory, they might just be able to turn the tide around.
The crew of the merchant ship knew that this was their last chance to attack their pursuer. Once the sun was up, there was no way that they could beat them anymore. To their surprise, Zhang Heng slowed down the Jackdaw as well. She still followed them closely but kept outside their shooting range. Despair hit the merchant crew when they realized that time was quickly drifting away from them. There was nothing else they could do about the Jackdaw, as they could not fire, nor could they flee.
At the same time, the Jackdaw made her final preparations for the upcoming war. The helmsman carefully executed every order given by Zhang Heng, ensuring that there was at least a nautical mile between them and their prey. Similarly, the merchant ship attempted to fire, but alas, it failed miserably. Eventually, they gave up and decided to stop the pointless attacks.
When the sun came up, Zhang Heng confirmed through his binoculars that the merchant ship was hauling a grand load of nutmeg. From the size of the ship, their flag, and the number of cannons, it almost precisely matched the information provided by Carina. All of a sudden, the sorrow and despair of the Jackdaw’s crew was replaced by an elated sense of happiness. Finally, they got to reap what they had sowed. This boosted the pirates’ spirits in an unprecedented manner. Zhang Heng was at the bow with Anne and Billy to discuss the final battle plan.
“First, we will fire at them twice. Our primary targets are their masts and main deck. We need to make sure that they lose their mobility and kill as many as their crew as possible. We do not want to damage the structure of the ship. The spices will become worthless if water floods into the hull. Once they surrender, we’ll close in and start organizing our people to plunder them.”
It was at that time that Carina finally woke up. With a terrible hangover looming over her head, she remembered bits and pieces of what she told Zhang Heng last night and was worried that Zhang Heng’s impression toward her had changed for the worse.
“Your identity is somewhat sensitive around here. You should head to the captain’s quarters and stay there. Remember to close the windows. You don’t want anyone from the merchant ship to spot you.”
Zhang Heng needed her help to sell off all the spices that he was about to loot later. It was risky enough for her to get on the Jackdaw and chase down the merchant ship. She was sincere enough about sealing the deal, and Zhang Heng had no doubts about it. There was no reason for her to reveal herself to the merchants on the ship later. If she was exposed to the customs officers, she would be left with no other options but to become a pirate. Carina did not insist on lingering on, clearly understanding the decision Zhang Heng made. She quickly thanked him and left the deck.
“Ask the cannoneers to get ready. It’s time to fight,” proclaimed Zhang Heng to Billy.