Leguna wiped the sweat from his face and stared dazedly at the deep azure sea. He had heard others talk about the sea before, but he'd never actually seen it for himself. He didn't believe that a place where one could only see water existed. Now that the ocean of endless blue was right in front of him, it no longer mattered whether he believed or not.
The things that happened to him during the past few days were a little too overwhelming for him. As an orphan, all he could do to survive was struggle to see his stomach filled. He hadn't seen much or thought much about it either. His life was so simple, yet so difficult, at least it used to be ten-odd days ago before he snuck into the residence of a noble to escape from pursuit.
He didn't quite remember what happened afterward. He could only fuzzily recall hiding under a tree within the residence to keep out of his pursuers' sights. When they ran into the distance, 'Leguna the Nimble', as he was notorious in the slums, couldn't help but feel his hands itch when faced with the laxly guarded residence of a noble.
Just when he managed to sneak his way to the storehouse and prepared to leave with a few things to sell, he felt a thump at the back of his head before losing consciousness. Before he blacked out, he seemed to be able to hear an old man complain.
"Freaking hell, to think someone would want to steal from me even though I'm already almost broke..."
By the time he awoke, he found that he was kept within a jail cell.
The treatment here is not bad at all! I get to have two meals of black bread, ones that are not moldy to boot!
That was how he felt after spending his first day in jail. For someone who'd never been arrested before, he didn't feel any fear from being locked up. On the contrary, a peaceful life behind locked bars with a stable source of food was nothing short of paradise for him. He even considered studying the laws and punishments of Hocke to start drafting his plan to get the ideal life sentence.
But alas, life goes not the way one wants. Before Leguna had had enough of the food in jail, he was chained and sent to Port Keder with his jail mates. A few days later, the whole group was ordered to board the ship that was supposedly sailing to another continent.
It was no overstatement to say that he had experienced more in the past half a month than he had in his ten-odd years of life.
Before this, while surviving was a tiring affair for him, he had spent most of his life within Melindor. Now that he had left the city's dirty waterways and the trash and waste of the citizens for good, he was faced with a brand new world far wider than he could ever imagine.
Oh, to think there are large plains, lush forests, and blue seas spanning further than land outside of Melindor! There is even another continent!
When he first had that revelation, he couldn't help but feel a trace of excitement.
Whap! A wet leather whip cracked against his back.
"Get back to work and stop looking around! If there's a speck of trash on the deck today, you'll have the whip for dinner," said a chubby imperial sailor hatefully.
Leguna furrowed his brow as he rubbed his back to ease the pain before returning to scrubbing the deck. The sailor nodded with satisfaction at his obedience.
For a young kid like that to not cry or shout after being whipped... Looks like he's the obedient kind.
However, before the sailor made it far away, Leguna secretly glared at his back before gesturing with his gaze to another one of the prisoners and pointing at the sailor.
If anyone from the slums of Melindor was present, they would know what kind of misfortune the sailor was in for. Over the course of many years, anyone who received Leguna the Nimble's glare would be messed with to the point of despair. It was only a matter of time.
When night fell, he stretched himself comfortably atop his grass mat as a huge man of 1.9 meters in height obediently gave him a foot massage. There was another prisoner behind him who massaged his shoulders as well.
"Did you learn the name of that sailor I asked you to check on?" he asked as he rubbed his back again.
The final prisoner in the cabin, the one Leguna had gestured to earlier in the day, replied, "I did. That fellow's called Hans. He's rather well-connected thanks to his frank personality and loyalty to the captain. He's the chief-mate of this ship. But Boss, I also heard Hans is an eighth stratum warrior. While it was super easy for you to deal with us yesterday, against Hans... Forgive my frankness, but I think he'll easily mop the floor with you."
"Stop spouting crap. Since you already know he's an eighth stratum warrior, do you think I'll clash with him head-on? For some reason beyond me, this Hans fellow seems to have some kind of enmity with me ever since I boarded the ship. All I want is to get back at him to relieve my pent-up anger. Then again, why's the ship's crew so lax on us after we set sail? Shouldn't they be far stricter?" asked Leguna.
The prisoner explained awkwardly, "Boss, you've seen it for yourself. Even though we are quite well-built, we aren't actually a threat to anyone. I think any of the sailors on board can easily take on more than ten of us. I also heard the captain is an eighth stratum magus. I doubt us prisoners and sailors combined pose even the slightest threat to him even if we attacked together. There's also nowhere we can run to here in the open seas, hence the lax supervision."
"Tch, why are people that strong transporting prisoners? It's no wonder the sailors are so fearless. Then again, I suppose it's better this way," said Leguna as he felt up the secret paper pouch he kept on him all the time.
Fortunately, his little baby had not been confiscated. He waved for the three to prepare him for sleep. The two who had been massaging him prepared his grass bed, flattering him all the way by saying stuff along the lines of how amazing Leguna was for him to be able to mess with Hans so badly.
Even though it was weird for three large men to call a weak teenage boy their boss and answer to his beck and call, the three had little choice. The one who could fight the best was the boss. It was just as true a rule in the slums as it was in jail and a scrawny kid like Leguna was somehow the best fighter.
When the three had first realized their fellow inmate was a weak little boy, they thought they had finally found a goon they could order around to make their beds, massage them, and wash their feet. The three very quickly learned they were no match for the dirty brat. The moment his impetus surged, the three found it impossible to open their eyes. Luckily they were aboard a ship, so the brat didn't bother to pummel them. In the end the three agreed after a 'friendly' discussion who would make their boss's bed, who would massage him, and who would wash his feet.
The three breathed sighs of relief when they saw the young tyrant fall asleep. They finally made their own beds and lay down to get some shuteye.
The seas were relatively calm for several days. Despite the good weather, the sailors realized that their chief-mate was in a rather sour mood. Even though he did suffer a number of unfortunate accidents, like slipping and rolling down a flight of stairs, suffering from diarrhea for no apparent reason, or having the zip in his pants open for some mysterious reason, the sailors didn't think Hans had to overreact.
Over the past couple of days, Hans would give the prisoners a kick or two when he saw them slack off the slightest bit. Leguna received the worst of it for no apparent reason at all.
Both the sailors and prisoners tread carefully, lest they ruffle Hans's feathers. Some of the sailors even requested the captain advise Hans to calm down. However, the captain merely smiled. He didn't treat it as a serious issue.
The days continued in the same fashion. On the 14th day of their voyage, they finally arrived at Port Lormi on the coast of the continent of Lance. Lormi, the nearby town after which the port was named, was the first resupply hub at the continent for the ship. All manner of items were available -- and in abundance, no less. There were inns for workers to rest in and even a jail.
When the ship arrived, the captain left ten or so of his sixth and seventh stratum subordinates to watch the prisoners. The rest were allowed two hours shore leave. That night, when most of the crew were outside, Hans knocked on the door to the captain's cabin and marched in.
"Captain, I really can't stand it anymore! I want to pummel that kid!" complained Hans incessantly after he entered.
"Hey, calm down, Hans. Sit down and tell me what's going on."
Unlike his rough-mannered chief-mate Hans, the captain was a cultured person whose face did not show any trace of the weathered look sailors usually had.
Hans brought out a jar of rum and began gulping down its contents.
"That brat, Leguna, is going too far! If you ask me to play dumb and ignore his antics again, I'll really turn stupid! I want to beat the heck out of him!"
"What did he do, well, apart from making you slip and fall a couple of times, giving you diarrhea, and pulling down your zipper? You really have to give it to that fellow for doing it without anyone else noticing," said the captain, impressed.
"That's not the worst of it!" grumbled the chief-mate as he grit his teeth.
The captain couldn't resist a smile.
"Oh? What could be worse than all that?" he asked curiously.
"Much more you don't know of!"
"Well," Hans muttered in an awkward tone before he could no longer resist, "When I was inside the lavatory shitting myself thanks to his laxative, he tossed a tin can in from the outside..."
The captain was stupefied. He imagined Hans's expression when the can fell into the lavatory and the waste within splashed all over. The expression was definitely one of despair, hopelessness and resignation.
"No wonder you've been smelling rather weird these past two days..." he whispered in a low voice.
"He secretly spread chili sauce all over my clothes when I was airing them out..." continued Hans a moment of awkward silence later.
"No wonder the chef kept complaining that his chili sauce ran out so quickly for no apparent reason," said the captain again, before he secretly acknowledged how savage Leguna could be.
"I'll admit the kid has messed with you quite a lot, but don't you do the same quite often yourself?" the captain interjected before Hans could say more, "I still remember your expression when you ordered him to clean the lavatory. You seemed as if you wanted him to lick the whole place clean."
"But that's all because that brat messed with me first!" argued Hans.
"And didn't it all start after you whipped him?" asked the captain.
"To hell with that! Had you not ordered me to do so, why would I have bothered to mess with a little devil like him?!" screamed Hans, already at the edge of breaking down mentally.
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