Chapter 2 – The Crippled Shop
The grand Seille River flowed noiselessly. Thin ice bumped into each other as they floated in the river that was over five kilometers wide, producing soft brittle sounds that couldn’t be heard. Along the river bank were ten dock workers spread out like an arm, this was Borali’s northern dock area. It’s also the most chaotic district in Borali, which was mostly composed of villains that struck terror into the people,
At the northernmost part of the dock area, close to where Seille River and Mana River intersected, there was an old-fashioned tavern.
After passing several worn-out flights of steps, ahead of the muddy road was the tavern’s front gate made out of two thick and heavy slab stones covered with mottled paint and greasy filth. On the left and right side of the tavern’s door were two big flower pots, inside them were small withered saplings. There was a dead mouse tied to one of the branches of the sapling on the left side. As for the sapling on the right side, hanging from one of the branches was the bones of a viper
Above the gate was a crookedly hanged pitch-black board, only when using one’s vision to the utmost can one managed to make out the few disorderly writing – Crippled Shop!
Walking through the slab stone gate was a big flat field. On the left side of the field were two rows of stone houses. At the moment, they were filled with big burly fellows who were sleeping disorderly. They could be the dock’s homeless sailors, the dockworker, some warehouse keepers, or even heroes coming to the dock area as visitors. The muffled sound of snoring reverberated inside the wide stone houses, some people occasionally talked in their sleep, followed by the deep sound of laughter.
On the right side of the field was a row of folds, nearly a hundred animals were quietly standing inside, chewing on the very few grass. Parked near the folds were several crude tricycles and chariots. There were also some seemingly unremarkable stands which actually contained materials and crafts specifically put there.
Directly ahead of the field was a big door leading to three stone buildings. A dim light was flickering inside the stone buildings, making them even more dark and gloomy. To the right side of the stone buildings was a flight of stone steps that descended into the ground. A few meters down this flight of stone steps was an underground tavern.
The three stone buildings above ground were the tavern’s additional inns, one only needed to pay with money to lodge, even the empire’s most wanted criminals would find this residence most satisfying. The underground tavern was the one place where the owner mainly operated. Even when it was this late, it was still as brightly lit and noisy as ever.
Walking down the flight of stone steps and past a heavy old oaken door, one would be greeted by the smell of alcohol that was so strong that it practically made people want to tumble and fall.
Behind the oaken door was a bar large enough to hold several hundred people. On the west wall was a row of wine shelves. Several gorgeously dressed women were standing before the wine shelves, smiling wantonly. A group of drunkards were leaning on the counters, similarly teasing the women.
In the middle of the tavern there was a round wooden platform. On the platform were three young women wearing revealing clothes swaying their bodies vigorously. Several tens of burly men whose face were flushed red were dancing joyfully around the platform, excitedly yelling some catchphrases with their feet ferociously trampling on the stone floor, making a loud and regular ‘pa pa’ sound. Occasionally, there would be several overly excited men pulling out some glittering copper coins from their pockets and tossing it on the platform. The three dancing women would then sway their bodies even more vigorously, long hair fluttering next to their bodies, red lips and sparkling eyes moving seducingly, their bodies moving provocatively, exciting those men to nearly exploding.
A cripple was standing at the corner before a wine shelf, a copper wine cup in one hand while holding a plain white cloth in the other. He was vigorously cleaning the cup while grimacing. His mouth was holding a big cigar smuggled from overseas while continuously puffing thin streaks of green smoke.
That cripple was the owner of this Crippled Shop. There were extremely few people who knew his real name. Everyone just called him ‘Cripple’. It was the same with his father, his grandfather, his great-grandfather, as well as all his ancestors before him. They were also called ‘Cripple’ and had been the previous owners of this Crippled Shop.
On the wall behind the wine shelves, there was a square portrait about two thirds of a meter long, that was hung on a part of the wall that was in complete shambles, blackened by smoke and dust. It was a portrait of a burly man, his head wearing a red cloth, his left hand was cut off at the wrist, replaced by a sharp iron hook, his right hand holding a big chopper, and his left leg was chopped off at the knee, replaced by an artificial limb made of iron. His face was vicious and on his head stood a multi-colored parrot.
The man in the portrait was the Crippled Shop’s first owner. It was not clear how many generations he was before the current Cripple. Some people said that Crippled Shop’s first owner was once the ringleader of the islands across the three seas, but Cripple always refused to tell anyone – his ancestors were descendants of an intellectual family who always observed the rules.
Suddenly roars of laughter exploded inside the tavern. At a long oaken table at the corner of the tavern, there sat a man wearing a triangle hat. On the brim of the hat was stitched a thumb-sized white skull insignia. This black bearded man suddenly laughed and stood up, lifting a wine cup the size of a person’s head.
“Let’s pray so Old Jack can rest in peace in hell!”
Sitting around the oaken table were more than twenty brawny, bare-chested men. Each and every one of their faces was rude and savage and every single one of them showed a taint of bloody and ferocious aura. They laughed and cheered, as they lifted up their wine cups. This was definitely a group of ruffians; every hair on their bodies was screaming the term ‘ruffian’.
Wine cups were colliding with one another, spilling the pungent, cheap wine all over the table. Those burly men enjoyed drinking to their hearts’ content and laughing merrily while showing off the profit of their last ‘big transaction’. They unrestrainedly showed off and bragged, making every single person in the tavern know that they just robbed a ship and killed everyone in it while all the goods in the ship became their spoils of war.
In this enriching harvest, the only loss was their old partner, Old Jack. Unfortunately, someone had stabbed his lower abdomen.
Putting the heavy copper wine cup in his hand on the wine shelf behind him, Cripple grabbed another wine cup and vigorously cleaned it again. His rough and fierce face showing a queer smile as he shouted in a loud voice, “Heroes, welcome, so you still remember my lovely Crippled Shop. Drink to your heart’s content; eat to your heart’s content. I have prepared a group of sexy ladies for you. They can definitely satisfy all your requests!”
That group of pirates sitting at the corner excitedly whistled. All the customers in the tavern went into an uproar. The smell of men and alcohol filled the air, making it all the more foul.
Cripple grinned excitedly and laughed heartily. More than half of every profit that this group of bastards painstakingly made on the sea would end up in his hands. He loved this kind of strong bodied, simple-minded people the most. He simply loved them too much. The Crippled Shop could get wealthier and wealthier precisely because of them.
At this moment, a bell under the wine shelf next to Cripple’s feet made a ‘ding-dong’ sound.
Cripple stared blankly, and then murmured in low voice, “That little devil is here? I wonder what good stuff he brings me this time.”
Putting down the wine cup and the white cloth, Cripple retreated into the shadow of the wine shelves.