138 Stronger than Dragan - Headed by a Snake
Early the following morning, Guild Invictus arrived at the docks to see off Dragan Ashlord and Kimura Taree. Their mission was to inform the Gatekeepers of the incursion attempt by the Flamebriar Monarch. The fate of the world would be decided by an existence beyond that of the Iron-Rank adventuring guild, Sol Invictus.
High-Captain Lang Hai agreed that it would be best to send the Calypso towards Bael Turath. The Elizabeth Dare and the other two Sea Wolf ships would be enough to hunt for the slavers, the Saltspray Kings.
Tycondrius, Pale, the Lone Shadowdark, and even Levi Wolfrider accompanied their allies to see their departure.
"We still thinkin' Flamescars for the girl's development, Boss?" Dragan asked with a grin. The "new" curved blade Dragan wore on his back was as tall as Lone.
Tycon nodded, "The Flamescarred Martialists should be more suitable for the young lady's offensive fighting style. Why do you ask?"
Dragan smirked, "Ehh. I might have another idea. But it depends on what the girl wants."
Tycon pursed his lips, "Agreed. Most conducive to growth is desire. Whether the girl wants to develop her Skills, her raw power, or even her paltry intelligence-- as long as she grows, so too will Sol Invictus."
Dragan saluted with his fist to his chest, "Sounds good, Boss."
Tycon returned the salute, "Where is that little whelpling, anyroad?"
"Ehehe," Dragan grimaced, "It looks like she and Bucket got in a fight. She's already on the boat."
"Tss. Of course, they did." Tycon scoffed, "I'll reprimand the boy with some training."
Taree huddled behind a barrel, hugging her knees. She felt so betrayed. She still couldn't believe that Pale knew they were being sent on different missions and didn't tell her.
Stupid! Stupid stupid stupid! Why did she like such a stupid boy?!
A shadow loomed over her and her barrel, but Taree only curled up tighter.
"Heyyyy... What'cha doin' there?" Dragan's curious voice boomed.
"Go away, Mister Dragan..." Taree felt her own voice crack, sounding pathetic. She really didn't want to talk to anyone, so she buried her face in her knees.
The Titanblood squatted down, his great height still towering over her, "I know you're pretty upset right now, but you're not gonna see Bucket and the rest of 'em for a while."
Taree peeked her head out, revealing a pouty, tear-filled face.
Dragan gave a broad smile and offered the girl his humongous hand, "You gotta say what you need to say, while you can say it, kid."
With some difficulty, Taree nodded and took Dragan's hand. She rushed to the railing to see Pale still on the docks-- the ship had lifted its anchor and it was beginning to sail away.
She cupped her hands over her mouth and yelled. Even though she cried and sobbed and sniffled and coughed, she needed to say everything she needed to say. She needed Pale to know how she felt.
Pale yelled back... but he was too far away and she couldn't hear his response.
She felt Dragan place a comforting hand on her back. She looked back to see the gentle Titanblood nod stoically.
She hugged him and cried.
"Mister Dragan?" Taree asked.
"What's up, kiddo?" Dragan asked, as cheerful as ever.
"I want to be strong."
The Titanblood chuckled softly, "I know."
"Will you... help me?" the silver-haired girl looked up, trying her best to keep the strength in her voice.
Dragan smirked, "Y'know, Boss had a plan for you to follow. And he's a real smart guy. Heh. And it probably won't be as painful or as difficult."
Taree hesitated... but only for a moment, "I want to be stronger than anyone else... Stronger than Pale... Even stronger than you."
"Hahaha!" Dragan laughed, "You serious? You with me, then? You can't change your mind after you decide."
Taree nodded, resolve clear in her eyes.
Dragan grinned, his eyes flashing red with mana, "Don't say I didn't warn you."
The rest of Guild Invictus sailed on the Elizabeth Dare towards the pirate base of the Saltspray Kings.
Tycondrius of Charm. Invictus Pale.
Lone Shadowdark and Levi Wolfrider.
The voyage was relatively uneventful. The Sea Wolves were incredibly adept at hunting large and varied fish for food. Tycon remained in good spirits.
The gentle rocking of the Elizabeth Dare inflicted Levi Wolfrider with a horrible nausea. Tycon assured him that the effects were temporary and he'd grow used to it... That was what he hoped, anyroad.
In an ironic twist of fate, Pale, the prodigious spearman was... not good at being on a ship. The boy's sense of balance became nonexistent, and he constantly tripped and fell. Every time the Sea Wolves would cast their nets to catch fish, any fish that dropped onto the deck would somehow manage to bite him. He even dropped his water canteen overboard when a high wave splashed him and... only him.
The superstitious Sea Wolves said that the sea god hated him.
Tycon was tempted to agree.
As for Tycon's experiences, he spent his days trying to decode Eilean's speech and playing games suitable for children with Rico... The girl was remarkably astute for a 3-year-old.
The Lone Shadowdark had become suspiciously good friends with the Sea Wolf Sergeant named Garret, a man who Tycon had previously identified as 'Hammer'. Captain Lang Hai had informed Tycon that Garret was their newest, youngest Sergeant.
The two were rather alike, both of them being idiots. But if Sergeant Garret was capable of melting butter, he'd rate the Sea Wolf as superior.
As the Elizabeth Dare sailed closer to the island identified on the map, Hai maneuvered the ship to approach with vision blocked by some steep cliffs. As they set anchor, the sun began to set off the starboard bow.
A team of Sea Wolf scouts climbed aboard the ship, dripping wet. A gaunt, familiar man with daggers strapped to his belt saluted Lang Hai.
"Welcome back, Corporal Jacque." Hai nodded, "Report."
The man saluted, "Aye, Cap'n. 3 frigates and 6 corvettes in port, a seventh corvette out in the waters-- probably as a scout. We spotted a walled camp and a fortified structure beyond... They're flyin' the flag of the Seaspray Kings, Cap'n."
Lang Hai whistled, "If those ships have full crews, we're looking at 1,500 men, at least. We've got less than a third of that."
"Is that a problem, Sea Wolf?" Tycon smirked.
Hai scoffed, "Tch. Yeah. We only need 3 kills per Marine? My men are gonna be bored."
He turned to Jacque, "Good job, Corporal. Prepare a team. Two bells 'till dawn, I want every pirate on that scout ship dead."
"Aye aye, Cap'n," Jacque saluted before hurrying off.
"Lieutenant," Hai called.
"Here, Cap'n!" Eilean saluted sharply. Tycon was both surprised and respectful of the woman's sudden lack of coquetry.
"Once dawn hits, I want to be on that beach while the tide is rising. Inform the men."
"Aye aye, Cap'n," the Sea Witch grinned.
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"Invictus?" Hai looked up at Tycon, smirking derisively, "You gonna help out? Not that it matters if you do or don't."
Tycon scoffed, "Tss. Of course, we will. Lone Shadowdark, you're on the assault team."
Hearing his name, Lone suddenly began to pay attention, dropping a hand of cards onto the deck, "Wait, what?"