This was an incredibly weird ship as her body was slender like a sharp razor blade. On Grindia, the ratio between the length and width of a ship was 5 to 1 at the very least, but this ship was different with its length being 30 meters but its widest part being only 5 meters wide. She floated on the surface of the ocean, proudly showing off the figurehead sculpted in the image of the dragon-slaying Dawn Goddess with one silver nameplate on each side, both engraved with the name of the ship: Flying Fish of Dawn.
At that moment, the seven white sails hanging on the three masts the Flying Fish of Dawn were fully opened, capturing the winds and propelling the ship across the deep blue ocean like a speedy arrow with the view of Bladedge Mountains in the distance slowly fading away.
Lorist stood on the bridge of the ship and welcomed the wind that blew straight at him and caused his black cloak to flap around nonstop. Standing beside him was his student and attendant, Howard, along with Els, Patt, and Jim, the three leaders of the guards. Also present were the leader of the mounted archers, Gold ranked marksman Josk, the vice leader of the carroballista brigade, Dulles as well as Gold ranked knight and commander of the marine brigade, Freiyar. The captain of the ship was Silver ranked family knight Wilson with his quartermaster being Old Jack.
Wilson was a huge man of 30 or so years of age and he was originally a captain of a merchant vessel. However, due to his encounter with pirates, the goods he was transporting had all been taken and he was apprehended by the owner of the goods despite surviving his encounter. Having no way to pay back the goods he lost, his whole family of five were sold to slave traders by the owner in a fit of rage. In the end, they were purchased by Potterfang who bought the slaves to form the very first forces of the northbound convoy. During the northbound journey, Wilson managed to rake in some achievements and was made a family knight by Lorist in the main camp of Nadegas City. Since Lorist had heard about his past and experiences, he elected to make Wilson the captain of the Flying Fish of Dawn.
Quartermaster Jack was 50 years old that year and he also had a background of a slave. However, his experiences were even more shocking. He had been a sailor for 30 or so years and he got to know a widow when he was 40 and decided to settle down and spend the rest of his life with her. And so, Jack resigned from his job and brought the widow back to his hometown. But before two months even passed, the First Prince initiated his rebellion and sent the Krissen Empire spiraling into the chaotic times of war. His small hometown had been invaded by the forces of the First Prince and his wife died as a result, with him being captured and made a slave and eventually becoming one of the workers of the Kenmays Family. He was finally released when Lorist returned to the Northlands. Now that Lorist wanted to form his naval team, an experienced sailor like Jack could finally be of some use and thus he was made the quartermaster of the ship.
It was currently the 8th month of Year 1773. At the 4th month of that year, the Norton Family had two whaling ships built equipped with the harpoon cannons designed by Grandmaster Sid and began a frenzied massacre against the whales of Whale Island and managed to rake in near a hundred whales for the Norton Family. During that time, much manpower and resources had been gathered up at Bullhorn Bay and it only took three months for this three-masted sailing ship Lorist designed to be built.
"Milord, this is the fastest ship I've ever seen so far and she is even able to travel at 11 knots on full sail. I believe that we won't be able to find a faster ship than her anywhere on Grindia," said Captain Wilson excitedly as he never even dreamed that he would one day become the captain of a magnificent new ship like this.
"That's right. I believe that this is no doubt the fastest ship on Grindia. I estimate that we will be able to see the Platinum Beach which is within the Sidgler Province of the Madras Duchy tomorrow afternoon," praised Old Jack as he agreed with Captain Wilson.
"Oh, Old Jack, have you been to this part of the sea before?" Lorist asked.
"Yes, milord. 30 years back, a few of the larger merchant guilds in the empire formed a coastal survey team and hoped that we can find a good spot along the coasts of the empire to build a port and establish a sea transportation route. Back then, I was only 23 and had already worked as a sailor for 8 years, so I was part of the team as well. The survey team set out from Armatrin Harbor of the Lormo Duchy and traveled along the coast of the continent northward for a little more than three months. The furthest we managed to go was the Lost Forest which is located north from the Black Forests," replied Old Jack.
"Did you manage to find a place to build a port in the end?" Lorist asked.
"No. Back then, the survey team stopped their efforts after reaching the Jillin Harbor of the Andinaq Kingdom because further up north, the condition of the coast would be the same along the Bladedge Mountains. Even though the coasts were shallow, they were filled densely with dangerous reefs and there was no way for ships to approach the coast. Had we not used smaller boats to resupply our ship, the crew would've lost their wits completely. I still recall back then when the president of the merchant guild that organized the effort said that the coastlines there must've been cursed by the gods because we weren't able to find a suitable place to dock at all," Old Jack said.
"Then what happened after that?" asked Howard, who was enraptured with the story.
"After that we continued on northward. After all, we're paid to sail so we had no reason to stop. Also, the merchant guilds that organized the effort said that they wouldn't stop until they found somewhere to build a port and doubled our pay. In the end, we finally found a place to dock near the Lost Forest and those few merchant guilds started to discuss about occupying the place and moving some commoners there to expand their territory before gaining acknowledgement from the empire to become landed nobles themselves.
"But the night three days after we docked, our camp got attacked by gigantic magical beast gorillas that came from the depths of the forests. They tore apart every man they saw and I was incredibly lucky back then as my shift required me to be on the ship. I personally witnessed the bodyguard of one merchant guild's president, a Two Star Gold ranked swordsman, being torn apart into two halves by a magical gorilla who later ate him whole. I continued to have nightmares about that for almost one whole month...
"Of the 700 plus people who were on shore, only 41 of them made it back. We had to give up on two transport ships to even have enough people to man the remaining five ships and returned to Armatrin Harbor in shambles before disbanding shortly after collecting our payment. It's even rumored that the three merchant guilds had lost so much from that venture that they went bankrupt. However, for a low-ranked sailor like me, it's already incredibly lucky that I survived at all. That's why I refused to join any other survey teams after that and only worked securely on the merchant vessel for a living..."
After Old Jack finally concluded the story of his adventures, Howard turned to Lorist and asked, "Are magical gorillas that strong?"
Lorist patted Howard's head and said, "Didn't you read one of the books in my collection about magical beasts? The information recorded on it is pretty accurate, but the part about the magical gorillas occupying the Lost Forest was only confirmed after the survey team Old Jack was part of returned. An adult magical gorilla is about 4 meters tall and it is blessed with unparalleled strength and can be said to be one of the top three strongest magical beasts. If a Gold ranked knight can calmly circle around the gorilla, there was a good chance he could escape without being harmed. The one Old Jack witnessed dying was an exception and he probably lost his life because he panicked. That's why, retaining your calm is always the most important."
Howard lowered his head respectfully and said, "Thank you, milord. I understand now that no matter what situation we encounter, we must always stay calm and keep a clear mind. Only by doing that can we escape our predicament."
"Hehe," Josk who was listening smirked as he came over to ruffle Howard's hair. "This kid is sounding more and more like an adult day by day. Did he mature overnight after his engagement? Having a wife really does change a person..."
During the 12th month of the previous year before the snow fell, Baron Felim went over to the Firmrock Castle with his 15-year-old daughter as promised. According to him, the mother of his daughter was more like his junior apprentice sister. When he was learning from an old knight, he fell in love with the knight's only daughter and the young couple couldn't control their lust for each other and the young maiden ended up conceiving a girl at the tender age of 16. During the 11th month of that same year, she gave birth to a daughter.
Two years later, the wandering Baron Felim got a piece of bad news about how his lover had attracted the undue attention of a new baron's son when she was out in town to purchase medicine for her sick father. The girl gave her harasser a harsh kick in a fit of retaliation, embarrassing the baron's son greatly. As a result, the baron's son killed Baron Felim's lover with a sword and burned her bedridden knight father alive. Fortunately, Baron Felim's daughter was in the care of their neighbor because the old knight was too sick to take care of her, allowing her to escape the misfortunate incident.
Baron Felim said that since he was only a wandering knight back then and he was busy searching for a way to restore the glory of the Felim Family, he had to endure it even though he developed a huge grudge for that noble family. It was only after five years during the civil war of the empire when he served under the Second Prince that he was valued and given command of a troop of soldiers. He used that chance when he was marching back from an expedition to assault the town of that baron who was also allied to the Second Prince and buried almost a hundred of the people affiliated with that family alive to avenge his dead master and lover.
Baron Felim's daughter Katrina was an incredibly obedient and mature girl who was blessed with a delicate, beautiful look. After Katrina and Howard met, the both of them got along pretty well and Potterfang felt quite satisfied to have a daughter-in-law like her. So, Lorist organized the engagement ceremony for Howard and Katrina and the two of them would marry after Katrina reached the age of 20 and underwent the ceremony of adulthood.
Lorist saw Howard's flushed face and decided to step in to spare him the embarrassment. "That's enough, Joe. Stop messing with my disciple. You know how easily embarrassed he is, so stop wasting your efforts to tease him and use that time to find yourself a wife instead."
Josk shrugged and said, "Milord, you know me. My heart is already sealed tight and will no longer beat for another woman. I think that I will be better off spending the rest of my life freely by myself."
Lorist shook his head and said, "That won't do, you have to form a family and give birth to a few healthy children to pass down your impressive marksmanship heritage. I'm sure that Baron Omador and that lover of yours will be cheering for your bliss from the paradise of the war god."
Josk merely stayed quiet without saying anything else.
Sensing that it would be insensible to continue pestering Josk, Lorist didn't press on and said to Howard, "Go check out on Knight Charade and see if he's feeling any better."
The Flying Fish of Dawn's current voyage destination was the Andinaq Kingdom. There were a few reasons that prompted Lorist to take this journey, with the first being the transportation of the imprisoned Second Prince there so that the family no longer had to waste any food feeding him. As a prisoner, the Second Prince was still pretty arrogant and even promised others who visited him empty positions of power in hopes that they would break him out of jail. There were some idiots who actually believed his words and thought that it would be a good opportunity for them to shoot for the moon and actually bothered to bring the Second Prince's letter to request for help to the dominion of the Fisablen Family, only to end up being captured by them and sent back to the Norton Family's dominion to be hanged in front of Firmrock Castle.
Apart from that, Lorist wanted to visit his other piece of land, Silowas Island. Five years ago when Lorist accepted the Andinaq Kingdom's entitlement of the position of the count, the Second Highness enfeoffed his own principality, Silowas Island, to Lorist in an effort to make up for his mistake. However, as Silowas Island was a lone islands amidst the seas, and Lorist was busy leading the northbound convoy back to the dominion at that time, he had no time to bother with the island. Now that the Bullhorn Bay was developed and there was a way out to sea, Lorist could finally check his new dominion out.
After hearing that Lorist was about to leave on a trip, many family knights all scrambled to join in. As they had spent too much time working on nothing but development paperwork for so long, many of them couldn't help but want to experience something new by going along with Lorist on that trip. However, even though the newly-constructed Flying Fish of Dawn was 30 meters long, it was rather narrow. Apart from requiring 28 sailors and a captain, vice-captain, and quartermaster, they could at most bring along 27 more people.
Josk was dead set on following Lorist no matter what so he naturally took one of the places. Freiyar on the other hand said that since he was the commander of the navy marine brigade, he naturally couldn't miss out on the virgin voyage of the Flying Fish of Dawn and took the second place on the ship. Dulles said that since the ship would be outfitted with five new steel ballistas, he had a responsibility to teach the marines how to use those ranged weapons to their full potential, so he brought along five other steel ballista shooters from his unit on board.
Since Lorist was on board, Howard would naturally be there as well, followed by Els and Patt with the reason of ensuring Lorist's safety. The Second Prince also had to be there. Charade on the other hand wasn't the slightest interested in going, but as Lorist said that the family didn't have a specialized officer for this trip, he dragged Charade along with him and left Shadekampf in charge of the former's tasks temporarily. After all, he was going to the royal capital of the Andinaq Kingdom, the former imperial capital of the Krissen Empire, and he would need someone to persuade some high-ranking and capable officers to go back with them to the family dominion.
Just like that, 14 of the 27 places had been taken up. Initially, Charade got seasick and frequently vomited all over the place. Within only one day, he had turned into a bedridden patient and it was only after Lorist made some medicine to help with his dizziness that he managed to get some sleep at all.
The night of the 8th month brought with it the cold breeze from sea. Lorist put on an outer cloak and sat on the bridge of the ship as he stared at the starry sky in deep thought.
Apart from the lookout crew on the mast of the ship, everyone else were sound asleep. The sails on the three masts had also been retracted with only the vertical sails at the head and tail of the ship still catching any wind at all, causing the ship to sail ever so slowly across the calm surface of the sea.
A silhouette appeared on the bridge, followed by the thumping of firm footsteps before the figure sat down beside Lorist with a small barrel of fruit wine and a silver cup in hand.
"Are you feeling any better?" Lorist asked.
The one who just came over was Charade. "After having some medicine and sleep, I no longer feel like puking, but I'm still a little dizzy nevertheless. It's weird, you know. I remember that I never got seasick when I was younger. Why would it hit me like that now that I've grown? Well, I slept too much during the day so I can't get any more sleep now and decided to come look for you."
Pouring some fruit wine into a cup and toasting Charade, Lorist said as he continued to stare at the stars, "Fatty, I was thinking whether we should use this chance to check out on Morante City. Old Jack said that given the speed of this ship, we can reach the Buried Treasure Bay within one month. Don't you want to go back and check on the academy? You can also write your father a letter and tell him you're doing very well with us."
"Forget it, I'll only tell him when you give me some land and make me a landed noble. I will surprise him when that happens," Charade said after taking a swig of wine.
"Then you'll have to wait four years more. Without serving the family for at least ten years, you won't be given a dominion. However, I'm only a count right now so I can at most entitle two viscounts and four barons. Additionally, I can't enfeoff the land within the family dominion so I'll have to see what we have to work with when we go to Silowas Island. If I can become the Duke of the Northlands, then I can enfeoff you guys richer lands."
"Locke, I actually have a thought. If you actually become the Duke of the Northlands, it's better if you don't enfeoff the land of the Northlands to anyone else. Naturally, you can have some manors and bastides for your Gold ranked knights, but it's better if you don't keep any landed nobles within it. I think that the Northlands should be unified and ruled only by the Norton Family. Only with that can the family have a secure foundation to continue on for the next hundreds or thousands of years. As long as we can seal off the two bridges and one crossing point that link the Northlands to the rest of the continent, the Northlands can exist as its own unit. No matter what happens in the outside world, the Norton Family will still be able to sit calmly in the Northlands and watch the happenings unaffected. Even so, given that we now have Bullhorn Bay, we must also form a strong armada to ensure the safety of the family dominion."
"What you said makes sense and those are my thoughts exactly. But we still have to wait for the opportune time to be able to achieve all that. What our family has to focus on now is to continue consolidating our power."
As the Silvermoon continued to shine upon the peaceful surface of the ocean, the waves sparkled with its light. The Flying Fish of Dawn continued sailing upon the silver, sparkling waves towards the distance...