CH 64

Chapter 64 “White Oak’s Encounter With Duncan”

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The White Oak has returned—after a long period of disconnection and deviation from course, the advanced steamship belonging to the Adventurer’s Association has finally returned to the city-state of Pland.

Inquisitor Vanna didn’t need to give further orders. As soon as the whistle from that vessel blew, the personnel on the dock immediately took action.

The staff guiding the ship to dock had arrived and began to signal the White Oak with lights and flags, while the Church’s Guardians went to activate the deep-sea relics that had been placed all over Pier No.1 the night before: a large number of bronze “boundary tablets” with the name of the storm goddess Gmona inscribed on the base, and sacred grease and spices were strewn along the floor to connect all the tablets together. This arrangement would effectively seal off the area and become a “holy ground” under the goddess’s gaze.

Farther away were the policemen sent by the city hall. These ordinary folks weren’t capable of dealing with the supernatural; therefore, their main job was limited to blocking off the intersections with those steam spiders. Ordinary guns didn’t have much effect in dealing with the dreadful and invisible curses, but blowing apart a physical monster that might jump off the White Oak was plenty good enough.

Eventually, Vanna’s gaze crossed the dock and fell upon the White Oak that had blown a second whistle after drawing close enough to assess the situation aboard.

“It doesn’t look too bad Inquisitor. The White Oak has carried out its instructions, and it seems that the ship is still controlled by humans.” One of the priests standing next to Vanna murmurs in a slightly relieved tone.

“Things aren’t certain yet. Many people affected by visions and anomalies will appear no different from ordinary people until they mutate.” Vanna shook her head to dismiss the thought of success, “Send out the second set of signals and have the inspection crew board it. I want all guns pointed at the ship in case anything changes…. Do not hesitate to open fire if it does.”

The order from was quickly conveyed to those beneath, and since the White Oak’s communications device had been damaged, the people on shore could only communicate with the ship using lights and flags. After a complex set of lights and banners again, the bow of the White Oak lit up three lights, followed by the dropping of a rope ladder on its side.

Seeing this, the speedboat from the dock was promptly driven over using a steam mechanism. The inspection team had been comprised entirely of Guardians from the church, including eight combatants and a priest commander who lit the incense aboard to ward off evil while also sprinkling spiced grease around the waters. As long as the commander remains well and continues to chant the holy name of the Storm Goddess, no anomaly should be able to escape their findings. Supposedly anyway.

After all this was done, the priests and guardians on the speedboat swiftly climbed the rope ladder with ease.

This all fell into Vann’s eyes, who had remained on a wary lookout the entire time inside the watchtower.

It was perilous to let a ship that had been lost at sea “return home”, especially when its objective was to transport anomalies across the ocean. So, first, it mustn’t be allowed to dock and inspected by a team at a safe distance. But that’s not enough to enable the crew to disembark though. Instead, the second round of inspection must be followed to ensure the vessel itself hasn’t been mutated into something else entirely. This second step also allowed the team to perform a purification operation across the entire vessel to ensure nothing lurked in the darkness. Once done, everyone – including the inspection team – is to be kept on close observation by the church for several days to a week. This of course also included the White Oak since vessels are not excluded from corruption.

Now, if any of these links were to go wrong though, the White Oak and its crew would likely be buried out at sea where the Storm Goddess’s embrace awaits to receive their poor souls.

This cold, even cruel law, does not come from anyone’s malicious intent but the “way of survival” that human society has so far explored.

Of course, there are also those city-states that are unwilling or fail to enforce these strict tangent rules. For that failure, their names are now concentrated in the first two volumes of the secondary school history textbooks, which are required for the final exam.

Time passed minute by minute, and everyone awaiting the signal from the guardian team aboard the ship was tense and uncomfortable. There could only be two signals from this – the first being an all-was-okay from the psychic link of the clergies sitting inside the port chapel, the other a detonation of nitroglycerin on the dinghy to sink the White Oak.

A big ocean-going vessel like the White Oak wouldn’t have survivors if it did get deeply polluted by subspace. So, destroying the vessel wouldn’t bring guilt to those watching.

As Vanna crossed her arms and gently tapped the metal arm wear during this arduous wait, a sudden chime of the chapel bell caught everyone’s attention, followed closely by three long whistles of the relief pipes on both sides of the bell tower.

The priests in the church have received a secret message from the inspection team, and the church bells and whistles were the announcements that it’s safe to dock the White Oak for a special situational report.

This undoubtedly sent a wave of relief through Vanna’s veins. There’s no better news they could ask for.

As for having a special situational report… The lady was not surprised at all. In fact, it would be strange that there wasn’t after the ship bizarrely disappeared from the preplanned route.

More church guardians began to board the ship once the docking procedure had been completed. Vanna didn’t dally around either and led a group of highly trained priests over. She swiftly jumped over the long springboard to step onto the deck, where a gray-haired, burly captain awaited her arrival.

The old captain looked a little haggard, apparently having overworked himself in a state of high tension. However, after seeing the inquisitor of the church approaching, the old man immediately raised his spirit and took the initiative to greet the lady.

“Hello Captain Lawrence, I’m Inquisitor Vanna of the Deep Sea Church.” Vanna did not like the redundant etiquette and chose to get straight to the point, “Let’s skip the formality. First of all, I want to apologize for the reception and hope you and your crew will understand the strict inspection demanded of the authorities and church.”

“Of course, Your Excellency,” Lawrence nodded at once. He had wanted to say “Miss Inquisitor,” due to the lady looking no older than his own daughter, but quickly changed the wording to a more respectful title, “I had expected this, after all… We lost contact for so long.”

Vanna nodded, “Tell me briefly what happened to the White Oak. I want to know how you lost contact with the authorities and how you reappeared on an unplanned route. And what about the good you are tasked with escorting, Anomaly 099?”

As soon as these words came out, the expression on Lawrence’s face was suddenly full of frustration and nervousness. Sighing, he subconsciously glanced around before lowering his voice into a whisper: “You may not believe me when I say this, but we… met the legendary Vanished…”

In front of his own eyes, the stern and authoritative lady inquisitor suddenly got stiff like a stunned statue. Even the serious expression somehow appeared iced over like a frozen popsicle.

Lawrence couldn’t tell what that expression meant, but he got the inkling suspicion that this would’ve been how he looked when they crashed through the ghost ship.

“Inquisitor…?” The old captain asked cautiously, “You…”

“Captain Lawrence,” Vanna jerked back to attention like she’s awoken from a daze. Staring dead into the eyes of the old sailor, “Repeat that again?”

“You may not believe me when I say it…”

“I’m referring to the second half.”

“We met the legendary Vanished…”

“I believe you.”

This time it was Lawrence to be stunned: “That…”

“You may need to stay on the docks for a few more days, Captain,” said Vanna with a serious face, “this matter is very, very serious. You and your crew, hold on…. You encountered the Vanished, yet all your members survived?”

The expression on the face of the lady suddenly got a bit ugly like there was doubt and wariness in her eyes. This didn’t go unnoticed by Captain Lawrence, who promptly explained the situation: “Yes, my crews and I are fine, but the Vanished took away Anomaly 099. That is the doll in the coffin. I suspect the ghost ship came specifically for that puppet coffin.”

“The Vanished stole Anomaly 099?” Vanna frowned, then asked, “What about after that? It just let you go?”

“Ye-Yes…” Lawrence also became nervous and vaguely realized something, “Your Excellency, is lately the city…”

“…… It doesn’t hurt to tell you; after all, it seems that your ‘contact’ may be more serious than ours now,” Vanna sighed as she shot a grave look at the captain in front. “Captain Lawrence, you may not be the only person who has dealt with the Vanished recently. Let’s find a quiet place. I need to know more.”

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