“Thanks, but no thanks. After that battle, I swore that I would never go through such an experience again,” Billy said.
“Apart from us, I also intend to recruit another four experienced captains from the island. With the six of us working together, we have a good chance of a victory,” said Black Prince Sam. “After it’s done, we’ll split the loot equally among us. It’s a lot of money–enough money to pay everyone’s wages for an entire year. This means that if you want to, you can take a year-long vacation after that.”
“If the whole point is just to make money, you can probably a more suitable prey, right? What draws you to this Spanish treasure ship anyway?” Zhang Heng asked.
It was undeniable that Spanish ships carried the most valuable treasures. Other than tobacco, they would also haul silk, silver, and most importantly, gold. When Black Sam said that it was enough to pay off a year’s wages, he wasn’t exaggerating. Even if the money were to be divided equally among the six pirate ships, they would definitely each get a handsome share.
However, the stakes were also very high. Unless the motive were revenge, like Blackbeard’s battle, most avoided getting involved with military forces under normal circumstances.
What more, Spanish ships were notoriously tricky to plunder. Even the most valiant of pirates avoided robbing the Spaniards because they rarely surrendered. Many a time, when the Spaniards were at a disadvantage, they would rather go down with their ship than to suffer any financial loss. Robbing them not only meant having to face a fierce battle but also a good chance that they would simply return battered, bruised and empty-handed in the end.
“The main reason we should try is that it’s a rare opportunity. Generally, Spanish treasure fleet travel in a convoy of at least a dozen ships, which make them practically impregnable. This is one rare occasion that a Spanish ship will be moving alone. Even with two naval frigates escorting her, it’s still considered a golden opportunity,” Black Prince Sam harrumphed with great enthusiasm. “I acquired the route they would take from a trusted intelligence dealer for a large sum of money. So? Are you interested in doing this together? If we succeed, we will be the first group of pirates to ever successfully to rob a treasure ship!”
“That’s all you really care about, right?”
Unsurprisingly, Black Prince Sam did not deny it. Instead, he flashed his signature smile at his companions. “We always need a little challenge in life. If Blackbeard Teach can take the Scarborough, then it makes no sense that so many of us cannot take on a Spanish treasure vessel.”
Zhang Heng looked at Billy and asked, “What do you think?”
The Jackdaw’s helmsman looked a little troubled. “I still prefer the safer route of robbing merchant ships, but we haven’t had any tipoffs recently, and I know those bastards on our ship won’t refuse an opportunity like this to make big money. Their ravenous appetite for wealth can never be satisfied, much like a bottomless pit. But since our target has only three ships and we have six, I think perhaps… perhaps we should give it a try.”
“How’s recruitment going? Can we set sail in two days?” Zhang Heng asked. When he received the prompt from the system earlier, the number of crew on the Jackdaw had reached 70, and they hadn’t stopped recruiting since. Zhang Heng and Billy agreed that the goal was to reach 90 sailors this time.
Once they hit the number, sideboard battles would no longer be the Jackdaw’s Achilles heel. Even though this meant that they were still far behind the larger pirate gangs, they would end up faring a lot better should someone attack them from below the waterline again.
“So far, we’ve recruited a total of 26 men. In our last battle, we lost four, and the two severely injured men left the ship after taking their severance pay. Now, we have 82 sailors on board. Our main problem would be finding experienced gunners and carpenters. For now, though, our workforce is nearly enough,” Billy answered. “Two days shouldn’t be a problem. Replenishing supplies won’t take long as well. I will arrange for a few people to haul our men out of the brothels and taverns.”
“Sounds good to me. I’ll need to inform a few more people. Let’s meet up here again after two days,” Black Sam said hurriedly. As he was about to leave, he suddenly stopped in his tracks and reached into his coat. “Oh, I almost forgot. This is for you.”
“A joint letter signed by seven influential people recommending you to be part of the parliament on the island. I must apologize–there was a delay in the process. Two of them were in dispute because of a problem in the distribution of a batch of loot. Each of them insisted that if the other signs the letter, they will not be a part of it. I could’ve simply found someone else to replace them, but the conflict between them wouldn’t have been resolved through this matter.”
“Thank you,” replied Zhang Heng, who gratefully accepted the recommendation letter.
“You just have to hand this letter to Mr. Klay, the Speaker of the House. Then the parliament will organize a vote for its members. As long as the votes in favor of you exceed a third of them, you can join the parliament.
“Klay? Which Klay? Kim Klay, owner of the brothel?!”
“Urm… don’t take it to heart. The position of the Speaker in the parliament is more of a formality. Anyway, everything has been going well the past two years, and the Speaker simply reviews the memberships. When it comes to huge decisions, however, everyone is involved. Klay’s popularity in the parliament… well, you know, there is no one on the island dislikes him. On top of that, he’s willing to give a 30% discount to all members of the parliament, so it’s a challenge, to say the least, to not support his Speakership.”
“Heh…” Zhang Heng chuckled.
After that, Zhang Heng did as Black Prince Sam instructed and went to the brothel. Before he even said a word, he was given a grand welcome when he arrived.
This was mainly thanks to the Jackdaw’s sailors who had recently been the top whales at the brothel, spending an obscene amount of gold coins at the establishment. After remembering her employer’s instructions, the bawd lit up the moment she saw Zhang Heng from a distance. She quickly gathered all her available girls and offered Zhang Heng with a complimentary service as an expression of gratitude for his contribution to their business. However, Zhang Heng turned down the proposal.
As they conversed, a scraggy elderly man hurried out of the building with a cigarette in one hand.
He was Kim Klay, the owner of the brothel who also happened one of the most well-informed lads on the island. Having ears everywhere, he had already heard of Zhang Heng’s preparations to join the parliament.
The old man accepted the letter of recommendation with a smile and said, “Welcome to the Parliament. Even if you hadn’t seen me, I would’ve come to you sometime later. Your name, Captain Zhang Heng, has recently become notorious on this small island. We sure need an outstanding man like yourself if we want to build up Nassau.”
“You’re too kind, Mr. Klay. Isn’t it too early to welcome me? Doesn’t the parliament need to vote on this?” Zhang Heng asked.
“Don’t worry about the vote. The one-third ruling is simply a preventive measure to stop anyone from causing trouble. In fact, there are a handful of members there who didn’t pass through the votes since the parliament was established,” Klay said. “Above it all, no one would dare refuse a recommendation letter with the signature of Captain Sam on it.”