Deep Sea Embers

Chapter 296

Chapter 296 “The White Oak Sets Sail Again”

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In the southeastern dock area of Pland, an elegant white steamship was undergoing its final preparations.

After an extended stay, the White Oak was at last prepared to set sail once more. This time, it would transport numerous commissioned items from the city-state of Pland, journeying through the central and northern shipping routes, heading north, passing Cold Harbor, and ultimately arriving at Frost.

The voyage was substantial, but for a ship specifically modified and designed for long-distance, rapid round trips, this route—mainly within safe waters—posed no significant challenge. The powerful steam core guaranteed the ship’s impressive propulsion, and the newly refurbished onboard chapel provided adequate protection for all crew members’ safety.

The sailors working both onshore and onboard seemed quite at ease with this arrangement.

Inside the White Oak’s engine room at the back, the chief engineer and assistant mechanic oversaw the sailors as they finished the steam core’s final preparations.

This incredibly powerful machine, as large as a house, was anchored to the ship’s main support structure with a sturdy steel frame. It consisted of three vertically aligned spherical containers and a series of intricate pipes, valves, and linkage devices surrounding the containers. A metal suspension bridge hung halfway up the three containers, allowing sailors to inspect the steam core’s operation and perform necessary maintenance.

At this moment, several sailors were busily working on the metal suspension bridge. They opened the heavy hatch doors of the spherical containers and removed a few dimly glowing metal rods that were nearly depleted. They then secured several forearm-thick, almost one-meter-long pale gold metal rods in the slots inside the hatch doors, activated the mechanism, and inserted the metal rods into the containers’ center.

These metal catalysts were the source of the steam core’s immense power and one of the critical safeguards for the machine’s stable operation. Similar to the prayers and incense ceremonies performed by priests near the steam pipes, the alloy catalysts inside the steam core could also help ward off specific malicious forces to some extent, preventing the machine from becoming suddenly “possessed” after extended operation.

The ongoing sounds of pulleys and hinges in motion filled the air. The actions of two sailors seemed a bit rough, and the burly bald chief engineer immediately shouted, “Be careful! Don’t damage those metal catalysts; they’re as soft as breadsticks. If you break one, the captain will have your head!”

“If you’re talking about the breadsticks baked by Chef Finley, then you should be worried about damaging the grooves and tenons inside the steam core instead!” A sailor on the suspension bridge laughed, but despite his joke, he became more cautious in his movements.

“Once we reach Frost, I’ll suggest to the captain that we buy a batch of high-quality metal catalysts from there. Gold metal is as cheap as rocks on the ground in that place,” the assistant mechanic muttered nearby. She was a woman in her thirties or forties, with arms as strong as a man’s and a work uniform stained with grease. “The Explorers Association’s procurement channels are too shady.”

“That depends on the clients and the church,” the chief engineer shrugged. “Half of the cargo hold on the White Oak consists of special ‘sealed chambers.’ Many of the items we’re transporting this time are raw materials and semi-finished products for sacred relics ordered by the church, and they are quite sensitive. The supplies delivered to the ship have to be strictly inventoried. Once, the Gray Raven had a fool smuggle a barrel of honey wine on board, which loosened the seals of the chambers, allowing two shadows to escape and kill half the crew.”

“I know, so I’ll just suggest it to the captain when the time comes,” the assistant mechanic waved her hand dismissively, then frowned slightly. “Speaking of which, the captain hasn’t arrived yet, and he’s not usually late.”

“The captain will come,” the chief engineer said, pausing for emphasis before repeating, “The captain will come—he hasn’t retired yet.”

“You really should retire,” his wife said, arms crossed, leaning against the doorframe, her expression stern and her gaze as sharp as ever. “Don’t wait until I have to come to the ship and pull you by the ear before you realize how serious your situation is.”

Lawrence didn’t respond; he simply adjusted his captain’s uniform in the mirror, checked his meticulously combed hair, and solemnly picked up the hat beside him. He only allowed himself to breathe a sigh of relief once it was on his head.

“Thank you, Martha, but I must be going,” the old captain whispered. “The White Oak is waiting at the port.”

His wife watched him in silence, without angry words or endless complaints—only a long, silent stare.

After what felt like an eternity, she finally sighed softly, “Fine, be careful and come back soon—don’t run into any more trouble.”

“Hopefully,” Lawrence sighed helplessly and turned away from the mirror.

“Did you bring everything?”

“I brought everything.”

“The house keys and the amulet for going out?”

“I have them; I didn’t forget.”

“Bring a small prayer book; it’ll be helpful.”

“I brought that too,” Lawrence bent down to pick up the small suitcase by the door and patted it. “I also have a few handwritten prayers and some holy candles from the cathedral.”

His wife opened her mouth as if to say something more, but Lawrence turned to her with a smile, “I’ve brought everything. I’m not so old that I forget things.”

His wife fell silent for a moment and then exhaled softly, “Your medicine.”

Lawrence’s movements froze.

“Your medicine, don’t forget it,” she repeated.

Lawrence’s lips trembled slightly, and his gaze gradually shifted to the side.

A small brown glass bottle sat quietly on the small table by the door. The sunlight fell on the bottle, revealing the clear texture of the liquid inside.

After a long silence, Lawrence picked up the bottle of medicine. Several seconds passed before he opened the tiny stopper.

He looked up at Martha and saw that his wife was still leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed, watching him, just as she had always been.

“Safe travels,” she mouthed the words.

“I’m leaving now,” Lawrence replied softly. Then, as the psychiatrist had instructed, he placed a few drops of the medicine in his mouth.

The strong taste spread within, and his wife’s figure quietly faded in the sunlight.

Lawrence silently put the cap back on the medicine bottle, opened the small suitcase, and placed the remaining medicine in a corner where it wouldn’t get bumped. As he organized his things, he grumbled, “That psychiatrist is just fooling people… This stuff is so bitter. There’s no herbal aroma at all.”

The old captain, who had spent half his life wandering the Boundless Sea, finished preparing his belongings, sighed softly, picked up his suitcase, and left home.

After a day’s work, Heidi finally returned home before evening. She pushed open the door, took off her coat, and the first thing she did after entering the living room was to ungracefully collapse into a chair with a deep sigh.

Meanwhile, her mother sat by the warm fireplace, sorting through some letters that had just come today. Hearing her daughter come home, the old lady turned her head slightly, “You’re a grown woman now. Try to be mindful of your appearance—a lady wouldn’t behave like this.”

“Let the lady rest for a bit, she’s been dealing with strange nightmares and sailors spouting nonsense all day,” Heidi slumped in the chair, weakly waving her hand. “There was a ship with a mechanical failure on the Boundless Sea, stranded for nearly twice the planned time. Several sailors were carried off the ship, bound hand and foot. It was a disaster.”

She took a breath and shook her head, lamenting, “Making a living on the Boundless Sea is not an easy task.”

Her mother looked up from the letters, “Sounds awful. In that case, you shouldn’t be slumped like this. Hurry upstairs and take a bath to relax; the water is already heated.”

“Fine, you’re right,” Heidi pouted, finally mustering the energy to get up from the chair. She walked towards the stairs, but suddenly stopped, curious, “These letters are…?”

“Water bill, electricity bill, gas bill, all sorts of bills—miscellaneous stuff,” her mother said casually, “Your father used to handle them, but since he’s away, I’m taking care of it.”

“Alright, I don’t want to deal with this stuff,” Heidi said, waving her hand and heading upstairs.

Her mother watched her daughter go up the stairs silently, then looked back at the letters in front of her.

Most of them were indeed bills.

But there were also two real letters—one of them from a place unimaginable to most people.

It was a letter from Morris, delivered this afternoon by a messenger engulfed in green flames.

The letter bore the special spell of the god of wisdom to prevent outsiders from seeing its true content.

The old woman looked at the familiar handwriting with a smile:

“…I’m on my way to Frost; there isn’t much scenery to see along the way, only the occasional small ice floes on the sea and the distant cold mist are quite interesting…

“…Nina was doing her winter break homework in the dining hall today when a strange shadow emerged from her textbook. Everyone fought to beat it, creating quite a lively scene…

“…Before lunch, the captain went fishing again, you know, that kind of ‘fish’ – it put up quite a fight this time, making for a thrilling scene. The captain claimed that lively fish taste better, but I honestly couldn’t tell the difference…”

The old lady smiled and momentarily set the letter aside, picking up another recently opened letter.

This letter, however, came from Frost.

The sender was Scott Brown.

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