On the northern slope of the southern mountainous region near Slag Valley, where it gently meets the plain, there’s a textile factory town brightly lit even at night.
Not just factories, people working in three shifts fill the streets round the clock, with diners, bars, and cafes ensuring the town’s lights never go out. On clear nights, one can see these lights even from beyond the horizon.
Airlines connecting North Gondoa Airport and South Tidis Airport aim for this town on their return from the north, circle around the foothills to the left, and head straight for Tidis. Going straight would take them into the mountainous region, making this a vital landmark for the pilots, especially at night.
When the air pirate Dola, departing from her hideout, saw the distant lights of the factories, the sun had already set and a full moon had risen considerably high. A strong wind from the north blew the clouds away, and in the clear air, those lights twinkled diagonally ahead like stars.
But what would elicit cheers of delight from airline passengers, Dola found it to be annoyingly abhorrent.
“Bad conditions are overlapping tonight,” she thought, as she paced back and forth in her cabin, hand under her jaw.
There were three “bad conditions” in Dola’s mind.
One is the wind. Dola’s Tiger Moth is only forty meters in length. Despite its outstanding performance as a brig-class ship, thanks to its bird feather-like wings, it is greatly swayed by the wind, unlike the opposing large ship exceeding two hundred meters.
The second is the full moon. It’s easy for her to be spotted, and the same goes for the enemy. In the moonlight, Dola could vividly picture her beloved aircraft, lit up and looking like a strange bird.
And lastly, and most importantly, the absence of clouds. For a small ship to fully utilize its nimble movements, it invariably needed “obstacles in the sky” – clouds.
Dola sighed as she looked outside.
Despite the annoyance and pity she felt in this crucial time of her life, when meeting such a big game, she did not despair. She’s been through this before.
“Clouds, if only the clouds come out, I’ll definitely do it,” she resolved, planning to hide behind the clouds and strike from behind.
Determination shined in Dola’s eyes.
“Stop the ship!” Dola yelled through the voice pipe.
A flying passenger ship at an altitude of about 500, in cloudless times, flies at this height.
Charles, while doing the final check on the Flaptter in the storage area below the Tiger Moth, heard Dola’s stop order.
“Is it finally time for an ambush? Hey Henri, are you ready there?”
“Yeah, good to go anytime.”
“Alright, let’s go to the dining hall and fill our stomachs.”
As Charles said “Please,” he patted the Flaptter and went up the stairs.
This Flaptter, like the Tiger Moth, is a miraculous flying device left by Dola’s late husband. With a dragonfly-like body and four fly-like wings, it can stop in mid-air and ascend vertically, making it an indispensable attack machine for pirates. Apart from the sound of its flapping, its flight was silent, making it suitable for pirates. Dola didn’t understand why it made no engine noise.
“Well, it’s the work of a genius, after all,” Dola would say half-jokingly when talking about the Flaptter, proudly speaking of her husband.
Leaving behind subordinates for piloting and lookout, dinner began in the dining hall. Needless to say, they were dressed for a raid, and launchers were placed at hand.
Dora is sinking her teeth into her specialty: two entire roasted chickens.
“Switch the lookout.”
One of the underlings dashed to bow, munching on cheese. The relieving lookout who stepped into the dining hall had a pale face, his nose dripping and tears streaming down his eyes.
“It must have been cold, good job. Now, eat.”
Dora tore off a chicken thigh and threw it. He bit into it desperately, his teeth chattering from the cold, undeterred by the impressive bite marks of Dora.
Even as they did this, the ship was occasionally greatly swayed by the wind, tilting.
“Hm..they’re so unskilled.”
Even while saying so, Dora knew best the challenge of keeping the ship steady on a windy day. They had to face the bow into the wind and move forward little by little, finding the delicate balance with the main wing and horizontal tail wing.
The meals of the Dora family are extremely quick. Big sons, sturdy underlings—all of them, including the sons, are always astonishingly gluttonous eaters like Dora herself. The meal ends in a moment called “hot.” It might have been the fate of pirates, who must always be ready to dash out.
— After the meal, a satisfying atmosphere flowed in the dining hall.
Louis and Henri sip black tea, Charles reads manga, and Dora with arms crossed, sometimes runs her gaze out the window and looks up at the sky.
When Charles finished reading his manga and yawned in a really silly way, Dora glared at him. At that moment, a strained voice flowed from the lookout tower’s speaking tube.
“Boss, there’s a light. A light is visible in the northwest direction!”
Reflexively jumping up from the chair, Dora stepped over the table, pushed open the door, and ran from the deck into the bridge.
A subordinate leaning out from the lookout tower of the bridge pointed.
Dora, who slid into the tower above the cockpit, glared at the northwestern sky. Rather, it could be said to be the most tense time during a night raid. They must not attack a military ship by mistake.
The lights of the pirate ship are kept to a minimum, but still, when you go outside from the room, only the moonlight enters your eyes at first. Until the eyes get used to it, there’s no helping it, but at times like this, they become terribly anxious.
In the cold and strong wind, Dora’s thick sidelocks swayed.
It shined… it shined again.
At this hour, on this path, the lights are too numerous for a military vessel.
“There’s no mistake.”
Dora, filled with conviction, brightened her voice as if to reassure herself.
<The distance is… the speed is…>
Dora, who had been staring at the “light,” shouted.
“Look at that!”
To the east of the “light,” there was a black cumulonimbus cloud. It was being carried south almost at the same speed as the “light.” Dora, who had been watching the “light” from the lookout tower, had changed her mind.
Her innate pirate soul was stirring to the tips of her hands and feet.
“We’ll break into the ship in one go. Charles, Louis, Henri will attack the Gatling gun tower, and I will attack the cockpit. If I say it’s like that thing two years ago, you’ll understand immediately.”
The wind was getting even stronger.
The Tiger Moss was set to emergency full speed, cutting upstream while making the ship creak.