"Reputation is half the battle." ~ Duke Fisablen

Lorist was very frustrated. The overall battle was going as planned, but everything smaller than the broadest direction was completely messed up. This was his second lesson at sea, a second failure to be properly cautious of his enemy. He'd underestimated his enemy's resolve to kill him and his men.

There were no fools in the game. He had thought he could conquer the whole battlefield by using anachronistic bronze cannons, but the enemy used such a simple method to counteract him. He couldn't forget this lesson, lest he suffer an even worse one in the future.

Half a head wearing a black bandana rose from the railings. The first boarder. The whaling ships weren't very small or low in the water, so his arms had to be tired from the climb. The moment an artilleryman spotted him, he cried and hurriedly picked up the pike. An arrow dug into the head before the artilleryman could strike. The head vanished without a sound.

Lorist looked and saw Josk in the crow's nest. He held his green bow… truly domineering. Not only did he kill every boarder the moment their heads appeared, he even took care of the sailors climbing up the neighbouring ships. The enemy corsairs were nailed to the hull like sausages on toothpicks.

His display attracted the enemy's attention quickly. A dozen archers fortunate enough to survive the last barrage drew their bows and aimed. Josk, however, didn't dodge. He merely grabbed a few and shot them back.

"Howard! We're about to get into CQC. We'll deal with the boarders, you focus on the Sabnim just in front! Keep the rest from getting on board!" Lorist yelled.

"Understood!" Howard immediately moved four cannons to the helm.

Agitated cries echoed over from the left. A few Daws stuck to a whaling ship. The two sides were fighting on the deck already and its cannons were silent.

Of all the combatants fighting up and down the line, Reidy was the most ferocious. No one could stand against him. A few gold-ranked corsairs had charged at him at one point. They were all past on the deck now.

Two thousand guards had come with Lorist, spread across the whaling ships. Each ship had a hundred of his guards and 200 corsairs. Most were now caught up in the fighting. One ship's deck was still completely empty, however. The boarders were pouring onto the ship endlessly.

Lorist's own ship had no corsairs, just 500 of his guards. They stood side by side with Lorist, ready to face their enemy.

"Jinolio, have the Daws withdraw and put some distance between them and the enemy. They have to keep firing. Peal the ticks off our ship!"

"Right away!"

"Be careful! Collision imminent!"

The whaling ship shook horribly immediately and half the guards lost their footing.

The flaming ships clamped between the whaling ships and the Invincible's Daws creaked audibly. Their structures were crumbling. Only their frames still remained, like skeletons refusing to die.

A few of the burning planks fell onto the ships nearby but nobody bothered. They focused solely on their enemies.

"Kill them!"

Countless corsairs jumped over the small gap to the other ship. They couldn't get a grip, however, and simply tumbled into the water. They had to discard their weapons and climb up slowly, searching meticulously for places to grasp with every step. Despite this setback, the enemy ships were soon swarming with Invincible corsairs.

Those who had and used grappling hooks, were already on deck fighting. They died by the bushel, however. Lorist didn't even get a chance to kill a few, he just stood there watching his men slaughter the enemy. The deck was soon cleared, and the men started flinging javelins, spears, and axes at the men still climbing up the hull or waiting for their turn on the ships below. Those close to grappling hooks cut through the rope, sending those clinging onto them tumbling into the water below or onto the decks below.

The ship shook again, it was harsher this time, enough to make Lorist stumble to keep his balance. He turned his gaze in the direction the hit came from and noticed boarders pouring in from four Daws on the other side of the ship. He darted over and started harvesting.

Soon after the cannons fired again. He caught the aftermath in the corner of his eyes. Several dozen enemies on the nearby Sabnim's decks vanished. Only two of the four cannons were focused on the ship, however. The other two pointed in the opposite direction, firing at a Daw to the ship's stern. The charging enemies vanished in an instant, but a few swung onto the ship from their ship's masts. Howard made short work of them but was soon after pushed into a corner by several gold-ranked corsairs fighting together.

Josk noticed this as well and ended one. An instant later Howard struck another distracted by his comrade's demise. With that the last boarder on the deck was dead. They now only had to keep mopping up the rest as they tried to climb up.

The enemy noticed this unnaturally large ship in the middle of the formation seemed to be faring much better than the rest. It had to be their flagship. A horn sounded and another group of ships charged at it, firing as they went.

Howard didn't sit by idly, however. He immediately turned his cannons on the new foes. Josk jumped down from the nest. A rope caught his feet halfway down, however, and he was left swinging back and forth halfway to the deck. He quickly cut the rope, but landed awkwardly next to Lorist, cursing.

As the enemy ships closed in, their more accurate weapons such as bows could be used. The height of Lorist's ship, however, meant they couldn't target the deck directly. Josk in the crow's nest, however, was a different story.

"There are at least a hundred high-tier fighters and a thousand or so sailors in total." Howard reported.

"Let them come. We'll deal with them, you just focus on their decks and ranged weapons. I don't want any nasty surprises again," ordered Lorist.

He dearly wanted to have a good slaughter.

The enemy had indeed moved their elites to his ship. He saw just over a hundred golden blade glows. The rest had silver glows. The six in the middle must be their commanders, they gave off the most bloody feeling. Blademasters.

It only took Howards cannons two volleys to completely decimate the enemy ballistae. Howard was just about to order another volley when he noticed there was nothing left to shoot at.

Two figures landed on the deck and charged straight for Lorist. He smiled at them warmly, like he was welcoming dear friends to his home for tea; dodged their attacks and beheaded them. Their corpses collapsed limply, spewing fluids over the salty deck. The ten a bit further away also charging at him stopped and stared incredulously at the scene.

Huh? What's going on? Weren't you going to come and kill me? Don't chicken out, you cowards!  I want a good fight!

"Step back," Lorist ordered the guards beside him.

The men obliged, leaving a small arena in which their lord could enjoy himself. Three more figures leapt onto the deck and took up positions in front of the ten.

"What's going on?" asked Penelope.

He had held back and allowed his subordinates to go up first. He expected to be greeted by a chaotic melee. Instead his men were just standing there, staring at the enemy.

What the hell?!

"L-look..." said one.

Penelope turned his gaze to the two corpses. Weren't they Blademasters Abigail and Fezny?  He'd dueled Fezny before. The fight lasted a thousand bouts.

The gold-ranked swordsman muttered as he pointed at Lorist, "One... one move..."

Penelope's heart burst out of his chest. This was not good. He'd forgotten why he didn't want to join this fight. He licked his dry lips.

"I am the commander of Invincible, Viscount Penelope. Who are you?"

"This is my fleet," Lorist answered, "I am Norton Lorist, Duke of The Northlands. I will give you one chance. Everyone charge me at once. I've been waiting all day and my patience is running thin."

Come here you bastards! Fight me already!"

"The... the bloodblade saint..." muttered Penelope.

Penelope's companion dropped his sword, almost like it had just slipped out of his hand.

"I surrender. I ask only to be treated as befits my station."

"I... I--" Penelope discarded his weapon unwillingly as well. "--I... I also surrender and. I ask only to be treated as befits my station."