Meeting Hans Again
Though humans had explored for centuries, even close to a millennium, they'd only discovered two continents, Chino and Lance, commonly known as the western continent and the eastern continent, respectively. There used to be a good number of maritime explorers. They tried to sail to the far west of Chino to see if there were any as yet undiscovered land but their years of effort bore no fruit.
The men on Lance, on the other hand, had yet to expand to the continent's eastern coast; the dwarves lived in the Redmetal Mountains. While the short and hot-headed dwarves weren't antagonistic to humans, they didn't allow droves of them to march across their homeland to construct ports and expedition centers on the eastern coast. The race that dealt with mining and refining never understood why humans would be so interested in the dangerous, useless expanse of water. Hence, humans only knew about two continents. The sea between the ocean was considered the center of the world, earning it the name of Cardinal Ocean, Cardinal, for short.
East of Cardinal was a ship that ferried people from Lance to Keder in Locke. It was imperial property and since the situation on Lance had been stabilized, Emperor Larwin began extracting various benefits from the outpost. The transportation business was one. The ships made trips only once every ten days. The maximum number of passengers per trip was around a thousand, the average ticket price 40 gold coins. After deducting the cost of hiring the sailors and maintaining the ships, the ferry business brought the empire ten thousand gold coins every month.
Leguna and company were currently on board such a ship, bound for Chino.
"Whoa! Really pretty!"
Innilis flapped her hands about excitedly. The little girl wore a short milk-white skirt and a sleeveless light-gold blouse. Coupled with her long, golden hair and white, butterfly-shaped hair brooch, it made the doll-like girl far cuter and refreshing. Her excited squeal attracted quite a few people's attention.
"Hey, Innie, I know you're excited, but don't hit my head like that!" complained Leguna.
The lass had been filled with tension and excitement since she stepped on the boat. He had been woken up first thing in the morning by her to enjoy the view. He couldn't stand her pestering, so he accompanied her begrudgingly. Maybe because of Kreighdon, Innilis wasn't satisfied with view from her height. So demanded Leguna carry her around on his shoulder so she could 'properly enjoy the view'. She stood 1.4 meters and Leguna was nowhere near as large as her usual steed; the poor boy suffered under her weight.
"Ugh... Fine." Innilis ruffled Leguna's short, black hair, "Big Bro, you've seen the sea before, right?"
"Of course. How wouldn't I have?" boasted the boy. He'd never admit he was shipped as a criminal last time and had never seen the sea.
"Big Bro's amazing!" Innilis patted his head again, "Then where are we going now?"
"Why'd you follow me if you don't know? Aren't you afraid I'll sell you?" Leguna didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Innilis only knew him for a short few months, but she trusted him like they're grown up together. She followed him blindly wherever he went.
"I know you won't! Big Bro treats me the best!"
Well, I owe you at least this much.
Had it not been for him, Innilis would likely have lived the rest of her life in peace with her brother and sister. She certainly wouldn't be wandering around with a relative stranger from continent to continent.
Since you lost your family because of me, I'll fill in.
"It's already noon. You hungry?" asked he as he patted her fair, thin, soft, smooth legs slowly.
"A little. I want to have goldspear fish and rice for lunch!"
When he bid farewell to Wayerliss two days earlier, his teacher gave him a thousand gold coins and a dimensional pocket. Right now, Mister Leguna spent like a tycoon. What was a mere goldspear fish and rice dish to that kind of money? He could let her have the same dish every day if he wanted!
"Go call Boss and Sis. We'll eat together!" Leguna lifted her waist gently to get her off his shoulders.
Seeing Innilis skip away energetically in the salty breeze relaxed him.
"So it was you!" said a rough voice from behind.
Leguna turned around and saw a well-built, middle-aged man with a full beard and burnt brown skin.
The man felt familiar, but Leguna couldn't match him to anyone he knew. The man revealed a row of neat, white teeth.
"You forgot me so quickly? It's been just two years! Getting you to scrub the lavatories wasn't enough, huh?!"
Leguna's eyes lit up. He took a few steps back and muttered, "Y-y-y-you... You're Hans?!"
"So you do remember!" Hans smiled.
"Ah! You're the one that force me to scrub the deck and lavatory back then! You whipped me! I remember everything!"
Hans might hold no grudge, but Leguna sure did.
"Hey! You weren't that much better yourself. I still double check the wine before I drink!"
"Uhh… Hehehe, let bygones be bygone, huh?"
"Oh, Ley? You met a friend?" the trio asked, returning.
"I guess you can say that..."
He didn't quite know how to describe their relationship.
"We're having lunch. Want to join? I promise no laxatives!"
Hans didn't refuse so everyone left for the restaurant together. Their small-talk revealed that Hans suffered a disaster half a year after his time with Leguna. Most of his shipmates were dead, but he managed to survive, saved by a passing merchant. He didn't escape unscathed, however. His injuries made it impossible for him to do any of the physical work required. He was still a 5th-stratum warrior, so he could still be a security guard, which was exactly his job at the moment. He'd noticed the two kids during one of his patrols. He felt something familiar from the boy. Sure enough, it was Leguna.
"Hahahaha, you really can't blame me for what happened. I was just following orders," Hans said, downing a mouthful of beer, "I also heard the instruction came from Mister Marolyt himself. Apart from transporting criminals, the other request was to send you to Lance."
"Really?" Leguna asked.
"I remember reading your file. You were caught sneaking into Mister Marolyt's house, right? Come to think of it, you have guts, don't ya? To think you'd dare sneak into the galestorm swordsaint's house."
"How the hell was I supposed to know a saint-ranker lived there?"
He had been really surprised when he was caught, but everything now made sense. The man was acquainted with his teacher long before they met. He must have noticed his potential and passed him along as a favor.. However, that insane bastard still had the sailors mess with him along the way to get a little revenge.
Hans and Kurdak burst out laughing.
"What are your plans for now? I you've made quite a name for yourself since I last saw you. Don't tell me you're homesick?"
"It's not that. I've been in the east for a little too long. I want to go back and take a look."
He could not possibly say he was heading back because he had screwed up his chance at a life on Lance as well.
"The empire isn't still after me, is it?"
"Nah… You just trespassed and attempted robbery, nothing major. It was just your bad luck you tried to do that to Mister Marolyt. If the empire chased after every thief across the continent and ocean, the city would be covered in posters."
"That's good." He suddenly remembered something. "Oh, Uncle Hans, can I ask you about a place?"
"Do you know a town called Doen in Semralsin?"
"Well well... What a coincidence. I'm from Semralsin. Doen is a little rural, but it's not too far from my hometown. You're heading there?"
"It's a pretty small place. Nothing interesting, that's for sure. It's also infested with bandits. What do you want there?"
"I'm looking for someone. Can you draw a rough map? I'm sure it'll be easier since we're in a bit of a rush."
Hans waved casually.
"Why would you need a map? I'll take you myself. I have a month's leave after this trip. I'm going home, anyway. You might as well tag along."
"I can't thank you enough."
Leguna's last trip across the ocean took ten days, this one was no different. Unfortunately his head was filled with worry and yearning. His two women weren't standing behind him obediently, so he was very irritable. Fortunately, Innilis was there to console him and Hans would come over for a drink and a chat from time to time.
When he set foot on Chinoan soil again, he shuddered. Not only was this where he met the most important person in his life, it was also a return home and, at the same time, the beginning of his next great adventure.
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