Chapter 3: Taking Control
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"Clear the way!" he said as he forcefully pushed Regina and her unsavory companions aside, catching them off guard with his swift action. He was not there see the details of whatever transpired between them, for he had set his sights on a different destination - the vast expanse of the ocean ahead, fixated on the reflection it held.
"By the Lands of Marbh," the exclamation escaped his lips as soon as his eyes landed on his reflection.
His entire form, from his physical appearance to his facial features, have changed to his late adolescence.
How was this possible? What kind of sorcery had caused such a transformation?
He couldn't help but be aware of the accusations of magic that often surrounded him, even though he knew he merely channeled the power of water.
As he examined his face up close, he couldn't find a single wayward difference. Everything had reverted to its state when he was seventeen years old. His fingers gently touched his skin, where the faintest hint of a beard was beginning to reappear on his cheeks and chin.
Had time, in its unrelenting march, flung him back to a period before his passing? Before her death? Before Violet? Before the countless adventures and quests? Before he assumed the mantle of Emperor, or even before his journey as a Captain began?
This might solve the mystery of Regina Thornheart's inexplicable survival. It provide insight into why she remained among the living in a realm where she appeared to have no rightful place. As far as he knew, her soul should have departed to the Death Isles of Umbra, a deity she was rumored to have prayed to. But opened whole lot of other questions.
The sudden sensation of a gun barrel pressed against the nape of his neck startled him.
"Are you thinking to die, brat? Will you be a scoundrel and take a walk off the plank, then? I'm afraid it won't be that easy to grant your freedom from my debt. Your mother ought to have regained her strength and returned to work after takin' that elixir. She possesses the skill to help you pilfer a coin from between a man's legs. Not a bad notion, if I may offer my advise," he overheard Regina's taunting words.
Among the numerous phrases Regina could have chosen, those were the most potent in fueling Nolan's anger.
In an instant, the pain, humiliation, and betrayal he had endured from his comrades flooded back into his consciousness. The tides of fate had turned against him, and at that moment, he was reliving the very scene of his downfall. After being compelled to walk the plank by his friends, he died without the means to seek retribution against them. Now that he have regressed in time, He vowed to track down those responsible and make them tremble beneath his might.
As he clenched his fist, an intense pressure engulfed him. Beyond the island, he sensed the crashing waves and all the life teeming beneath the ocean's surface. The impending storm seemed palpable, fueled by his rising fury.
As soon as he felt the water, a subtle smile graced his lips. His power had remained with him, even after all this time. The water had not forsaken him. If he had truly been transported through time, then he had a formidable ally in the ocean. He would not be a helpless victim, as he had been in his previous life. He would not be a mere pawn in the hands of fate. He would be the master of his destiny.
Regina stood behind him, and he was in no mood for it. After gazing ahead for a moment, he turned to face Regina, her gun pressed against his side. He snapped out of his reverie and chuckled.
"Be careful where you point that firearm, Regina. Only those expecting to be shot at should wield weapons. Do you wish to be a target?" He posed the question with a sly grin.
His words seemed to irk Regina, and he could imagine the grimace on her face. In her eyes, perhaps, he was still the spoiled brat exploring the island. Little did she know he had long shed that persona.
"Oh, really? Who exactly is going to shoot at me? Despite my many rivals, none of them reside on this island. Let's move past your empty threats and return to my actual ones. Don't force me to use your mother as a pawn if you fail to pay up."
He cracked a satisfied smile. The same old pay or die. But Nolan had made up his mind. He possessed the ability, knowledge, and motivation for change, and he wouldn't let this unique opportunity slip away. Especially not in the presence of someone with Regina's underground connections. With her help, he could navigate the world's shadows more effectively.
"Hmm, two hundred silver coins and fifty gold. It's a hefty sum, more than I remembered being owned but I understand you're a shrewd businesswoman. However, how would you like to earn five hundred silver coins and a hundred gold?" he proposed.
A gunshot echoed through the salty air, a bullet narrowly missing him. The birds scattered in alarm, but his grin only widened. When bullets and guns were your daily companions, you grew accustomed to the sound that once terrified your younger self.
Regina aimed her weapon at his head once more. "Since when do you find amusement in fake promises, Nolan? If you persist," she warned, "the next shot will find its mark between your eyes."
He knew she wasn't joking, yet her immediate frown only added to her charm in his eyes.
He knocked her pistol out of his face. "No need for theatrics, Regina. I can assure you, I have the means to pay. A simple request would have sufficed," he calmly explained.
He was well aware of his reputation as a beggar and scavenger, someone who had collected many people's lost belongings and secreted them away. This wasn't a secret between him and Regina, also was one the reason why she agreed to give me the load, and he knew she will believe his words.
Regina expressed her doubts, her skepticism evident. "If you had the money, why go through the trouble of evading me for five minutes brat?" she asked.
"Perhaps I merely wanted to give your companions a workout. The sea gods know it's vital for your profession. You're intrigued, admit it. Money means more to you than anything else in this world. What's there to fear? If the claim is successful, all prior agreements and conditions will be honored. You have nothing to lose..." he countered.
She seemed to ponder this for a brief moment, but her reflection was short-lived. "Even the poorest soul on this island would approach cautiously upon stumbling upon a sack of gold," Regina replied.
At least his younger self impressed him when it came to dealing with witty and confident women like Regina.
They both knew she couldn't refuse. If she had, he might have found himself on a return trip to the deep again.
Her lack of trust was evident, and he welcomed it. It was a trait he valued in a anyone.
"Let's put your doubts to rest," he said. Stepping toward the pier's edge, he led her to believe he was going for a hidden stash of money beneath the wooden planks.
However, he had no intention of such a mundane act. Instead, he approached the ocean, immersing his hand into the water. A rush of exhilaration coursed through him as he felt his powers again. How he yearned for this when he was dying.
It wasn't uncommon for sailors to lose valuables at sea, and many young men would dive into the depths in search of coins and lost treasures. His actions weren't dissimilar, but the water yielded its secrets to him willingly. He retrieved several coins from the seabed and held them out for her to see, the water heightening his senses and making the metal easy to detect.
Soon he have a fistful of gold coins. He could have retrieved more, but he didn't want to arouse suspicion. He had to be careful, lest she thought that killing him will get her more.
Standing up, he showed the coins. "Do you still doubt me?" he asked.
Oh, how he wished he had a skills to capture her beautiful expression in that moment. She wore the same look many pirates did when they spotted something gleaming — a glimmer of greed alongside the desire to seize and possess. Regina Thornheart, this formidable woman, was no exception, he can already imagine her planning to rob him of his treasure.
Regina fixed him with a scrutinizing gaze, clearly trying to assess his intentions. "I'm listening," she declared.