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Headed By A Snake 132 Freedom Of Choice

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Tycon struggled to understand Lang Hai's true intentions. Was his goal to go on a personal outing with his superior officer? Or was it to gain permission for his ships to sail the waters around Caractere?

Should he applaud the boy-Captain for his brazen courage? ...Or would it be more socially beneficial to retrieve Chantal's branding iron?

The Fleet Admiral did not appear to be pleased. Her mouth was twitching and she wore an out-of-place, artificial smile,, "Captain Lang. My office. *Now.*"

Abruptly, the woman spun on her heel and walked back into her office.

Tycon still hadn't received an answer on just how he would attain a ship. Out of concern for the tense situation, he chose to remain silent. Chantal had already promised her a.s.sistance and Tycon would not question her sincerity.

Considering Tycon's remaining options... Tarquin Wroe proved unreliable. And finding a merchant's ship willing to take them on such a treacherous voyage could take weeks or moons. No, he would place his trust in the Royal Navy.

High-Captain Lang Hai gave his hat to Sea Witch Eilean. The pitiful way he looked at the blind woman made it look like he was pleading for help.

Eilean hopped giddily, "Och aye, a clandestine tryst! A tale of two star-crossed lovers! Cap'n! It's so romantic!"

He s.n.a.t.c.hed his hat back and thrust it into Tycon's hands.

Tycon narrowed his eyes, taking hold of the black-brimmed, white hat. Was this an implied sign of trust? Why were they looking at him?

"Uh... Ahem." Tycon cleared his throat. He felt obligated to say something polite, "You'll be fine, young man..."

« System, inquiry: Why is this boy's face turning purple? »

[System response: Target's skin color is a result of the target's oxygen levels dropping below 80%.]

What a strange child.

"May I suggest you take a deep breath," Tycon offered. "I daresay that collapsing would appear unprofessional."

...

High-Captain Lang Hai trudged slowly towards the stage of the final battle. Each step was heavy, weighted with regret. He wasn't ready. And the intoxicating scent of Fleet Admiral Chantal De la Croix only catalyzed his anxiety.

Eilean called after him, "Stop dragging yer feet, Cap'n!"

"I'm not," Hai responded listlessly. He continued to drag his feet on Chantal's stupidly expensive lacquered hardwood floors.
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Entering Chantal's office, he shut the ma.s.sive wooden doors behind him. He was such a fool... He had willingly caged himself in with danger, personified.

Papers were stacked, neatly and sensibly, on various tables and desks-- each of them likely one of Chantal's super-important Fleet-Admiral-y issues. Coin flowed through Caractere, threatening to spill out of its coffers, much like Chantal's logic-defying bust out of her coat.

Hai had to ration sugar. And use secondhand gear. And sail ships with big holes in their hulls. And as far as anything spilling out, Eilean's belly m.u.f.fin-topping over her skirt wasn't worth celebrating, at all.

Model ships of Captains-past were displayed on shelves covering each wall... Hai could almost hear the whispers of their old ghosts mocking him for having the gall to face the Fleet Admiral... But he had to! He wanted to sail through her jurisdiction. He had to professionally inform her, as a sign of respect.

As a High-Captain of the Royal Navy, he technically had free reign in any and all waters in the Kingdom... But the thought of offending Chantal... it made his cursed blood run cold.

It was the scent that troubled Hai the most. Ariavenna's wicked, noxious perfume covered everything in her office. If it wasn't a misty poison, Hai reasoned that it must be some kind of malevolent mind-control mana, its purpose to keep rational thinkers from thinking-- rationally.

Hai pomf'd down onto a luxurious, velvety backless stool, opposite Chantal.

She reclined back on her desk, striking a seductive pose, "Sea G.o.d's beard, Lang Hai. What the h.e.l.ls was that about?"

She grabbed the pistol on her desk and casually pointed it at him.

There it was. He was about to be shot. It was almost refreshing. Hai thought Chantal would rend him into tiny shreds before being taken out and shot.

Wait, was this good? She was being so serious! Was this the next step to her saying they could go out? Maybe she was going to lay down some ground rules-- No! Hai felt his face begin to burn red. He wasn't mentally ready!

...

Sea Witch Eilean had pressed her ear against the office door, wiggling her behind coquettishly.

Tycon ignored it. He held an empty cup to the door and pressed his ear to its base. If he was to utilize a low skill like eavesdropping, Tycon insisted on doing so with efficiency.

"I'm a wee bit worried about tha Cap'n," Eilean whispered.

"Hai can literally regenerate from deadly wounds," Tycon said matter-of-factly... "And I doubt he'd die even if Chantal kills him."

Eilean whipped around to show Tycon her puffed up cheeks, "Ah mean, 'asides that! Marines and sailors dunnae get along. It's been 'at way fer generations."

Tycon raised an eyebrow, "That makes no sense. You're part of the same Navy."

The Sea Witch shrugged, "Just 'ow it is. An' worse still, the Darktide Fleet's got a black hist'ry with recruitin' from pirates. A lot of 'em 'av seen the wrong side of Marine raids. Yanno we dunnae shoot warning shots?"

"Weaklings die." Tycon narrowed his eyes, "What's the big deal?"

"The prrevious Darktide Admiral died tae strange circ.u.mstance. He went off-grrid fer a few moons an' ended up gettin' 'imself killed by the last Beaurte Admiral. Dereliction of duty's wot they said."

The pieces began to fall together in Tycon's mind, "And there's particular importance of the previous Darktide Admiral?"

Eilean grimaced, "His name was Guilliame De la Croix. He was Grand-Capitaine Chantal's father."

Tycon nodded slowly in understanding, "I see how that could complicate things... But tell me, Eilean, why have the Sea Wolves come to Port Caractere? What could be worth provoking the Fleet Admiral, all things considered?"

She shook her head, "I tried tae convince 'im otherwise, but he wouldn't have any of it. Raiders 'ave taken men and women from o'er a dozen villages back home... and we've followed 'em this faer."

Tycon still wasn't convinced, "And your Captain values those villagers?"

Eilean smiled weakly, "Aye, he does. The Cap'n'll deny it outright if'n ye ask 'em, but his heart bleeds fer the slaves... sons and daughters, all. We all deserve freedom tae choose our masters..."

...

Click. Chantal switched off the safety on her pistol, snapping Lang Hai out of his reverie.

"The Darktide Fleet and the Beaurte Marines have *never* seen eye-to-eye." Chantal's voice was deep, sonorous, and womanly, "I do not appreciate being mocked, Capitaine."

What?! How in the seven h.e.l.ls did Chantal not believe him? It was a simple request! And what did this have to do with the 'Beaurte Marines' in the past?

"That's ridiculous!" Hai stood up and shouted, "I've never cared about who came before me. And it doesn't matter what other Marines approached you before!"

All those disgusting sycophants, trying to curry for her favor... Their very existence disgusted Lang Hai.

Chantal raised an eyebrow, "Wait, what?"

Hai moved towards Chantal, placing his hands on the desk beside her shapely thighs. Her pistol barrel pressed against his chest, ready to pierce his heart, but he didn't care. He leaned forward, ilms away from the woman's face.

"I'm different from them!! I'm-- I'm serious about you!

"You're the only one who matters, Chantal!" Hai declared. "And I'm here to tell you how I feel-- that I care about establishing a relationship between us."

Chantal's mouth hung open, her plump lips glistening. Her eyes narrowed, her long eyelashes fluttery and beauteous.

The atmosphere in the room seemed to change.

Sea G.o.d's socks.

What was it?

Hai gulped. Did he say something wrong? Why did he feel a sense of dread?

...Was he going to be killed?

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Headed By A Snake 132 Freedom Of Choice summary

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