48 Hours a Day
Chapter 172 - Sailors That Disappeared
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The stench in the cabin was awful. Zhang Heng saw that everything was covered in a layer of green, slimy algae. He had to tear off a part of his shirt to mask his mouth and nose. As he made his way to the captain’s quarters, he noticed that the doors of all the cabins were ajar, and the place was in complete disarray. Tables and chairs were all over the floor, with a couple of old rags strewn around the place as well.
Considering that the ship had been adrift for a long while, everything he just witnessed wasn’t surprising. He noticed something peculiar, though. It looked as if the crew had left in a hurry. Let alone people that were still alive, he saw no rotting corpses or bones. He also noticed that all the windows had been boarded up by wooden planks.
That explained why the ship’s interior was so stuffy. Zhang Heng drew his sword and punched holes into the boards, allowing fresh air to flood into the ship. Thankfully, the putrid stench soon became more bearable. As he continued on, he found three gold coins stuck between the boards on the floor. It puzzled him as to why the owner would leave such valuable items there.
Zhang Heng did not linger around for too long. Soon, he arrived at the captain’s quarters located at the end of the hallway. It was the only cabin along the corridor that had its doors closed. Zhang Heng attempted to push the door. To his surprise, it didn’t budge, seeming as if something was jamming the door from the inside. So, Zhang Heng took a few steps back and gave the door a kick. After three continuous bootings, the door finally flew open. At the same time, he saw what was blocking the door. It was a chair, now broken, thanks to Zhang Heng’s brute force.
Instantly, he proceeded to explore the room. The captain’s quarters were less humid than the other parts of the ship as it was sealed off well—moldy books sprawled all over the floor. Surprisingly, the table was still in its original position. Just like the other cabins, there was no one here as well, and the windows were tightly sealed. After going ahead to hang his oil lamp on the hook, he carried on looking around the room. He found a pearl necklace, a ring, and some coins in the drawer.
With the gold coins that he found earlier, Zhang Heng could confirm that this ship hadn’t been looted by any pirates. Something else must have happened to them. He then found a couple of the captain’s diaries on the table, but they were illegible to him. Based on all the languages that he knew, he could confirm that it was neither English nor French. There were a ton of languages spoken in the continent of Europe, and Zhang Heng couldn’t figure the language that the captain used. In the end, he decided to bring all the diaries with him, telling himself that he would look into them later.
After that, he spent another 15 minutes searching the quarters but found nothing worthy of taking. Just as he was about to leave, he noticed something and stopped in his tracks. For the previous cabins that he visited, Zhang Heng could see evidence of people fleeing in a hurry. However, the captain’s quarters were in a completely different state. The windows were sealed, and there was a chair blocking the door as well. How did the person leave this room considering it was locked from the inside?
A chill ran down Zhang Heng’s spine. Knowing that this ship had been adrift for a very long time, there was a small chance that the chair was sent to the door by the rocking boat. Still, he could not explain why they would seal the windows. The valuable necklace, ring, and gold coins were strong evidence that the crew left without even looking back. Were they trying to hide from something?
Suddenly, Zhang Heng heard someone walking towards him. Immediately, he turned around and drew out his saber, only to find that it was Anne.
“Why are you here?”
“I just checked out the cargo hold. I quickly came up after I heard someone kicking the doors. This is so weird! I don’t see anyone on this ship. In fact, the goods are still intact in the cargo hold. Unfortunately, the humidity had damaged the entire stock of nylon. It’s impossible to sell them off. By the way, why do you look so nervous?”
“There’s something very wrong with this ship. Let’s leave since we can’t find anything valuable. Where’s Billy and the rest?”
“He’s gone to check the lowest deck with Monte. Should I inform them that we are leaving?”
“Let’s go together.”
Zhang Heng had a bad feeling about Anne walking alone on this ship. He quickly collected the diaries and unhooked his oil lamp. As usual, Anne led the way. Soon, the two arrived at the stairs that led to the lower decks. Strangely, the guardrails were gone. It looked as if someone destroyed them on purpose.
“Billy said that this ship is about 100 years old. Is that true?”
“Judging by its fitting and structure, she sure doesn’t look like something that belongs to this era.”
“Where are all the people?”
“I would love to know the answer to this question as well. I’m pretty sure that no pirates looted this vessel. I found no trace of fighting in the captain’s quarters as well. The possibility of the sailors retaliating against something are relatively low as well. We should have seen some skeletons lying around if a deadly disease hit them. Something horrifying must have forced the entire crew to abandon ship.”
Suddenly, Zhang Heng heard Billy’s voice.
“Both of you better come here! I found something interesting.”
At that, Zhang Heng and Anne sped up and descended to the lowest deck. Billy and the two pirates with him lifted their heads and looked at the ceiling. Everything else around them seemed normal.
“What’s going on?”
Billy lifted his oil lamp, and a series of claw marks were presented to Zhang Heng and Anne.
“Are those… caused by rats?” asked Anne.
“I have never seen any rat capable of inflicting such damage to a ship. How about you guys? Have you found anything interesting?” asked Billy.
“Everything looks normal in the cargo hold,” replied Anne.
“There is a large amount of smoked meat left in the kitchen. I don’t think there was a food shortage around. We also found two boxes of silverware.”
Only the last pair of pirates brought them some good news. Still, none of them could figure out how the sailors disappeared from this ship. At least, they did not return empty-handed.
They soon left the derelict vessel after moving the silverware to their boats; rowing back to the Jackdaw. As the small boats were approaching the Jackdaw, Zhang Heng turned around and gave the mysterious ship another look. He thought he saw a line of ghostly black shadows standing at the gunwale watching over them. When he took another good look, all he could see were the shadows of the masts.