Waiting for something to happen was always a dry and dull affair. Except for the watchers tasked with scanning the surroundings, there was nothing else the pirates on the ship could do. Some lay on hammocks, dreaming away, some chatted with their mates, and some cleaned their weapons. There were those who even sought to kill time with prayer.
Harry was known as the ‘little king’ on the street where he lived. On a normal day, he would lead a band of kids to fight with another group from the next street. That said, this was the very first time he faced a real battle. At first, Anne thought that Harry would have completely freaked out since he was always one to bully the weak. To her surprise, she noticed that Harry wasn’t actually nervous, but instead felt excited about the upcoming conflict.
While everyone was waiting for their target to show up, Harry started bothering the quartermaster, begging him for a weapon to defend himself.
“Mr. Dufresne. I can fight too! Captain Zhang Heng said that once a battle commences, there would be no escape for all those on board.”
“What kind of weapon do you want?”
“A gun would be nice. I don’t think I can handle hand-to-hand combat since I’m the smallest here. I think I should be able to aim and shoot at our enemies from a distance.”
“Have you shot out of a gun before?”
“No. As the saying goes, there’s a first time for everyone. Even Captain Zhang Heng didn’t shoot too well when he first started using a firearm.”
“Actually, Captain Zhang Heng was quite the marksman when he fired a gun for the first time.”
Dufresne paused before continuing.
“I don’t think I will give you a gun. I don’t want you to shoot my people in the heat of battle accidentally.”
“Come on, man! Don’t be such a miser. I promise I will not shoot our people by accident.”
“I highly doubt that.”
Harry wanted to continue convincing Dufresne to give him a gun, but when he saw Anne coming from a distance, he immediately tried to make a run for it, as if he had just encountered his arch-nemesis. Before he could make any headway, Anne stopped him.
“Mr. Dufresne, did Harry give you trouble again?”
“No. Quite the opposite actually. Our young Mr. Harry here helped me a lot this morning. He counted our weapons stockpile with me.”
Harry’s sour face started to brightly shine when he heard Dufresne’s compliments.
Seeing Anne’s less than enthusiastic response, Harry was rendered speechless.
‘What kind of tone is that? Are you disappointed by the fact that you can’t find a good reason to beat me up?!’
Harry wished he could say that out loud, though, he would never dare speak to Anne like this. All he could do was to curse in his heart silently.
“Come with me,” Anne continued.
At that, Harry followed Anne, and they both headed towards the galley. It was a familiar place for Harry, considering he had been tasked with peeling potatoes for hours on end each day.
“When the battle begins after this, I need you to stay here with Mr. Ramsay. Come out only after the battle is over.”
“Before I say anything, I need to tell you that I’m happy with everything so far. Ever since I started working on the ship, I’ve been cleaning the toilet and peeling potatoes every single day. I have done everything you’ve asked of me. I think it’s time for me to take up bigger responsibilities.
“It makes sense, I guess. When the battle starts, I’ll need you to stay here and protect Mr. Ramsay,” said Anne while passing her dagger to Harry.
“It’s no different from what you asked me to do just now,” Harry lamented.
“What kind of difference are you asking for?”
“For example… let me stay on the deck? This will be my first sea battle! I beg of you, Boss Anne. What am I supposed to tell the others when I return to Nassau? Am I supposed to tell them that I hid in the galley like a coward while the rest are busy fighting on the deck?”
Suddenly, Harry realized that he had overstepped the border. Immediately, he turned around and apologized to Ramsay.
“Don’t worry about that. You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last to something like this to me.”
“Battles between pirates are very different from your little street fights. I have no problem with you joining us, but you have to wait at least two years before I can allow you to do that.”
Zhang Heng was in the captain’s quarters, fiddling with the seashell. He had been carrying it for three weeks, and up until now, nothing special happened to it. At first, he thought that it must have something to do with him being on land. Now that he was out at sea, Betty, the ancient god, still hadn’t contacted him.
He had also instructed Anne to arrange for someone to keep an eye on Seth. As the first person on the ship that came in contact with Betty, Zhang Heng was worried that she would somehow affect him in some way. Many days passed, and Seth acted like how he typically behaved. He no longer acted suspiciously, seeming as if he was truly liberated from the supernatural incident.
Having said that, Zhang Heng was in no rush to study the seashell. For now, he knew that Betty would grant the power to summon storms to whoever that worshipped her. Hence, he suspected that Betty might have even more supernatural forces up her sleeve. In the end, he decided that the best time to study the shell was when he got his hands on the wooden box that was made of a Tule tree.
The next morning, the sun shone brightly, and the sea was calm. So far, nothing out of the ordinary had taken place. The Spanish treasure ship was still nowhere to be found. It wasn’t until the afternoon before the watchers finally spotted something. At the same time, Zhang Heng extended his bronze monocular and gazed out to the ocean as well. At first, he saw three black dots approaching from afar. He could not identify what these dots were.
After a while, Zhang Heng finally saw a Spanish flag flying above the mast. The pirates on Parrot Island signaled Zhang Heng and Brook using a mirror, indicating that their targets were approaching them.
“Our targets have arrived! On the ready!” said Zhang Heng as he put away his monocular.
Billy quickly ordered the pirates to hurry back to their designated positions. At the same time, the Jackdaw raised her black flag. Suddenly, Zhang Heng and a couple of old pirates raised their heads after noticing a change in the wind direction. It was coming from the southeast but was now blowing from the southwest. In other words, they would need more time to approach the treasure ship. Naturally, Billy wasn’t too happy about this. Now, fighting the enemy would take a longer time, exposing them to more damage.
Whether they wanted it or not, the Spanish convoy was already too close for them to make any adjustments. Zhang Heng stood at the bow of the Jackdaw with one hand holding a rope and a cutlass in the other.
“Adjust the mainsails! Let’s charge at the enemy; full speed ahead!”
After the briefing, everyone on board discovered that they were just bait in this battle, learning how they were supposed to lure the target to the rear of the island. The damage they could inflict did not matter in this operation. The most important thing here was to ensure the survival of their ship after being attacked by their enemies. Other than the helmsman, the next stressful position had to be the carpenters. They were already prepared, ready with all the planks and tools that they would need to fix the ship.