The cloudy storm passed away just like that. Now, the blue skies with its occasional clouds greet us in the sky. The waves are calm to the point of barely any. Back to the usual calm weather before the harpies came in. As if what happened before wasn’t real and didn’t happen. Just a passing thought.
The mast sail was hastily replaced with a new one as soon as the harpies retreated. Leaving the evidence of that horrific encounter of numerous scars of the harpies, monstrous nails, and stained blood in the ship’s wood. And dead bodies.
The casualties in total are three injured sailors, two deaths, a sailor and an adventurer. That doesn’t even factor in the missing people; a whopping three sailors are missing.
Missing is an understatement. Everybody knows deep inside that the missing are very much dead. Taken by the harpies to their nest to be eaten for their starving children or sunk to the deep sea left to its own fate by either drowning or eaten by the sea monster. Their bodies never to be discovered alongside their ultimate moments before their death.
If only I helped a little earlier, maybe the casualties wouldn’t be this high.
My mewling of the past however, is a very dark contrast to the sailors who simply shrug it off. At first I thought it was insane how there’s no outburst of mourning, no tears, or any signs of grief. How easy it is for them to accept the death of their comrade who slept close to one another in their hang bunk, sharing the smell of their sweats and the sourness of the sea for most of their entire life.
But I guess it’s just their nature to simply accept that it’s how it is in life on the harsh sea.
Nevertheless, a mourning is necessary, and here lies a burial at the sea… of some sort. A tradition for all men who lived and passed away in the middle of the sea.
To give some sort of meaning to the death of these people. A last farewell before their bodies were thrown off the ship, leaving it to sink to the deep dark blue sea. Leaving no trace of their existence.
At least on land, there will be a stone with their name on top of where they buried the body. Ashes of the cremated dead bodies if it were in Japan. A proof of their existence. A remnant to be remembered for their predecessors.
I understand why they must do it. Left alone and the body will rot, causing infectious disease that puts the ship and the whole crew in danger. But I can’t help but think that this is just too… heartless.
The tradition feels like it’s just a facade. To give a sense of grandeur and meaning to their death. Even though in reality, what little remains of them will be discarded off the ship like unwanted trash.
The dead bodies are all on top of a plank on the side of the ship, covered in a plain white cloth, from the scavenged damaged sail. With nothing attached to their bodies except the same little intact clothing they wear at the time of their passing.
It was a disaster. The deceased adventurer’s body was in a horrible state. It’s body was plucked piece by piece, like a scarecrow slowly nibbling the meat out of a corpse. The harpies, when left alone, eat their prey. There’s little they can do to clean or fix the body to its prime or proper state.
If there’s one monster you should fear the most, it isn’t the strongest or the one with the most magical prowess. Rather, the one that thinks humans are a delicacy meat.
The mourning and the burial starts with devout prayers by Sir Aston. Standing on the captain’s deck with his hand grouped together. Sailors, adventurers and including I are all on the main deck, looking down serenely. For a while there’s no words or voice, only the occasional gushes of the waves resonating during the burial session.
「 O goddess of the sea — Pontus — I beg of thee. 」Aston begins the prayer, 「 Take these souls — your children, gently. To be consumed tenderly by your mighty waves. To your vast blue kingdom of the sea. Where we will all inevitably return to as humble mortals alongside our ancestors. Amen. 」
『 Amen. 』『 Amen. 』『 Amen. 』
With just a single nod from Sir Aston. The plank lifts and the bodies drop to the sea.
And just like that, they are gone in a matter of seconds.
The people that once stands at the center of the ship moves to the edge. And from the few bowls attached to the side of the deck, grabs a fistful of dried red petal flowers and scatters it to the sea. Throwing might as well their cherished memories with their deceased brothers. A last farewell.
That reminds me…
I wonder how they treated my dead body in my past life?
She must be the first one to see my lifeless body. What would she feel the moment she found out?
Would it be a feeling full of regret? No… Knowing her, she must’ve been relieved — delighted even. Jumping out of pure joy with the nice house in mind most likely.
Sadly, I won’t be able to truly know what that woman’s expression would look like when she first discovered it.
「 Sir Renald, a word with you if you please. 」Caedric reaches out to me, while simultaneously gesturing to me to follow him.
…Is he going to reprimand my action of taking over his command over his party? But surely it was out of necessity and didn’t really overtake his authority by much. I don’t see why I have become the center of his attention, but might as well see it to the end.
「 Lead the way. 」I reply with a nod.
Caedric wastes no time and goes straight to the stairs and down to the quarterdeck, where I follow his lead.
Where one of the sailors, in hand with a filled pouch bag, rises on top of the box crate. Calling for attention.
「 Gather around now, men. Dig into your pockets — dig deep. And be generous to the dead man’s widow. 」
The auction of the dead man’s belongings has started so it seems. I remember from one of the sailors they will use the money gotten from the auction to be given to the dead’s widow.
Well it’s not like I have something I want to get. I have a more concerning business here with Caedric.
I follow him down the stairs to the quarterdeck, a place of relative peace and quiet, with just the two of us. Away from the commotion that’s happening on top. I sincerely hope nothing bad is going to happen here.
He takes a seat and I follow suit, and before I’m about to address why he wants to talk with me, he faces me with a rather solemn expression.
「 Back then… How were you… how were you able to stay calm when facing those harpies? 」
「 What? 」
「 When one of the sailors screamed for his mother… I… I panicked. I knew I was doing it. But… But I couldn’t stop… 」
「 I’m pretty sure we were all are afraid- 」
「 But a party leader… 」He cuts me off, immediately.「 Has no business in panicking… It led to the loss of some good men. 」
「 And as such we will always remember them. 」I start talking after he calms down, 「 How’s your party holding up? I’m sure nobody blames you. Although it is quite hard to accept the death of your comrade. 」
「 Sort of… Nobody is in a good mood. Kataryna took it the hardest of it all. 」
「 All of you are adventurers. I’m sure they know what they signed up for. 」
「 They signed up for adventure, loot, legendary tales to share; not to die horribly in the sea! 」He shouts, banging the table.
「 His death can be easily avoided. 」He continues, slightly frowning,「 if I just… stayed calm… like you. 」
Is he asking for comfort or advice? Nevertheless, this is not necessarily the first for someone to randomly come to me and act this way. There was that time where multiple junior engineers rely on me in mentoring and training them, getting them used to the company engineering effort.
「 We all make mistakes. When someone feels that things go awry for the first time, it’s hard to calm down. The only cure for it is experience. 」
「 I… I’ve fought goblins that outnumbered us five to one. Orcs that’s the size of three men combined. 」
For him to only mentions common low-level monsters and not the unusual hazardous kind such as the killer worms that he once used to boast about, perhaps my prediction of his empty boast was correct.
「 But those goblins, orcs, and others aren’t as terrifying as the harpies right? For the first time, you’ve realized there’s nothing you can do to fight against them, especially when they are above you, immune from everything you can throw at it. Leaving you all helpless to the core. 」
「 Even then… His death was due to my carelessness in the end… 」
From that last sentence of his, I know what he wants is comfort. I still truly don’t know why he consulted with me instead of Aston who’s far more credible. But somehow, I think an advice would be more appropriate than just soothing, comforting words.
「 I’m afraid that is the price of command. The only way to make sure his sacrifice never goes in vain is to always remember him — to learn from your mistake — and never repeat this incident to ever happen again. 」
Silence ensues. He seems quite perturbed with what I said but slowly starts to get it the more he silently thinks of it.
「 I’m thinking of retiring after this contract is over. 」He breaks the silence, 「 let everything here be bygone. And set out back to my hometown. Maybe follow my father’s wishes in inheriting his blacksmith shop and craft. 」
「 This is quite the very big news… Have you ever talked about this with your party? 」
「 I’m planning to, after I talk with you. 」
「 I am just an outsider to your adventurer party but if you are very certain to retire then I highly suggest you tell the news almost at the end of this contract. Telling the news right now would drop the morale even further. 」
「 Huh… You think the death of our comrade wasn’t enough? 」
The place succumbs to a quiet silence once more, leaving only the chime waves of the sea and the occasional creaking of the ship’s wooden hull. Mostly due to nonresponse to my end. I want to further move the conversation forward, but he seems to be processing everything that I just said, even more this time. Perhaps it’s about time we end this conversation.
「 You seem to have a lot in your mind. I will leave first, if you ever need help, you can always knock on my quarter. 」
He nods seriously while still looking down. With nothing left to do, I walk to my quarter.
「 How… 」He starts speaking slowly again, stopping me on my track,「 How can you be so sure and confident regarding this whole adventurer’s business? Are all scholars as wise as you? But this is nowhere close to books and that mind wizardry of yours… 」
「 That is easy. 」I look back to him,「 before I was a ‘scholar’, I used to be an adventurer like you. 」
I finally left him. It’s important for him to digest and internalize those thoughts himself. Only by then he can learn and hopefully grow into a better person.