A cannonball aiming for Jackdaw flew past the gunwale and landed onto the water. The cannoneer on Miranda was so frustrated that he slapped the bow chaser. This was the fifth time he missed his target. It had never happened to him before. Not only did Jackdaw manage to dodge the attack, but as if taunting them, they also successfully hit Miranda with their chase gun.
Ford could feel that it was going to be a big challenge to deal with them this time. They were like mudskippers that always slipped away from their hands, no matter how hard they tried to grasp it. It was no wonder they were known as one of the best pirate crews in Nassau. They were bloody good at what they did. Even in this critical situation, they were still alive and kicking. However, certain things couldn’t be solved by courage alone—things like Jackdaw’s damage. They were also a lot faster, and the moment Miranda pulled up to them, they would be able to fire their side cannons.
By that time, Jackdaw would be greeted by death, whether they wanted it or not. That was why Ford wasn’t too worried when his cannoneer missed their target. The sailors on Miranda started to loosen up as well. Coral Island was different from Parrot Island. It was smaller, and there wasn’t a tall ridge running through it. The land was unobstructed except for a small forest in the middle. After circling half the island, the chief officer was confident that no other pirate ships were hiding there.
It appeared that Jackdaw and her crew had run out of options, and they were forced to sail into a hidden reef zone. Just like what Ford said, their ship would be safe from scraping the reefs as long as they followed right behind them. A couple of old and experienced sailors were on Miranda, and they had been through many battles with countless pirates. These were cunning and crafty old sea dogs. Defeating so many pirates was enough to prove that they were no ordinary folk. Their experience taught them to be extremely sensitive to any threats that approached them.
Until now, they didn’t notice anything fishy. Victory against Jackdaw was within their grasp. Just as Ford started drowning himself in joy, he felt his ship shudder violently. Many sailors were caught off guard and fell off balance.
“What’s going on?!” asked Ford.
“Captain, I think our ship hit a reef,” said the chief officer.
“Of course, I know we hit something! You don’t need to tell me that. I’m asking, how is it possible that we hit the hidden reef?!”
Ford lost all calm and had started shouting furiously. He then pointed at Jackdaw.
“They just passed this place as well! Why didn’t they hit the reef?!”
The chief officer was left speechless. The ship had started taking in water as they were arguing. Having hit a rather high shoal, it scraped open a large gash under the hull. The hole was too big to be fixed, and soon, Miranda started to list before finally stopping at 30 degrees. Just before they could do anything, they heard cannons being fired at them.
The pirates asked to stay on the island had been waiting for this moment for far too long. Miranda colliding with the reef was their signal to open fire.
Lady Fortuna must have missed her mark, and Ford wasn’t in luck today. Cannonballs rained on Miranda during the first round of attack. Their sailors stumbled again as their ship was pattered by the relentless firing from the shore. The chief officer was shouting orders, attempting to gather all available cannoneers to return fire. Unfortunately, Miranda was at an angle where the beach was out of reach of its cannons. At most, their shells could only reach the beach. They simply didn’t have the range to attack the enemies that were hiding in the woods, no matter how hard they tried.
At the same time, Ford shouted and ordered his men to adjust the mainsail with the hope of getting his ship away from the place. Unfortunately, it yielded no result. His bulging eyes were bloodshot, and the veins on his neck popped out. No matter how hard he screamed, he couldn’t stop Miranda from sinking.
“Captain. It’s time to abandon ship!” cried the chief officer desperately with tears in his eyes as he embraced Ford.
Ford was unable to accept that this was happening to him. The whole thing was puzzling. Only a few minutes ago, Miranda was slated for a sure win in this battle. Within the blink of an eye, everything changed dramatically. This was the second time Ford dealt with Zhang Heng. Supposedly, Jackdaw had lost all her advantage. However, today’s outcome was worse than in the previous battle. At that time, Ford had to retreat due to the weather, something he didn’t have control over. Now, he had no excuse. The haggard man was embarrassed and disgraced. They hadn’t even touched Jackdaw, and they had already started sinking.
How did Jackdaw pass the hidden reefs undamaged?
Where did the attack come from?
Who was working together with Jackdaw to attack them?
These were questions Ford couldn’t answer. It was indeed a peculiar battle. Disgraced and demoralized, the crew could take it no more, hence jumping into the sea one after another.
Ford had no recollection of being dragged down the ship by his chief officer all the way to the beach. By the time he regained consciousness, he was greeted by guns pointed at him. The survivors from Miranda were huddled together on the beach, trying to tell each other that everything was going to be okay. With their heads bowed, they were waiting for fate’s judgment.
Once the battle was over, Zhang Heng rowed to Coral Island on a small boat. Billy was so excited that he ran up to Zhang Heng when he spotted him.
“This is a tremendous victory for us! Other than a pirate getting hurt while capturing the sailors, everyone else is fine. However, we spent a lot of ammunition to complete this mission. I tried my best to ask our men to conserve it, but it seems many grudges are buried within their hearts. Luckily, they managed to stop in time. The Miranda is still intact. I have sent someone of our men to see what they have on board.”
Looking at a dejected Ford, Zhang Heng wasn’t surprised by the outcome. The Miranda’s fate was sealed the moment she took the bait and decided to pursue Jackdaw. The fighting part wasn’t that complicated. The complicated part was getting Miranda to take the bait. Now that victory was claimed, Jackdaw’s food and water problem were solved.
Zhang Heng was also surprised that he managed to capture Miranda’s captain and chief officer. In other words, he could extract valuable information about Worden’s plan, the number of ships they had, the direction they were heading, and the rendezvous point. This could greatly help in their safe return to Nassau.
“Look for a quiet place. I want to interrogate them.”