CLOSED SIGNUPS Pirate Age: The Golden Era

Discussion in 'GROUP RP IN CHARACTER' started by Capt. Blu, Nov 12, 2016.

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    Sara stood up, forcing her shaking knees under her control. It didn't work but she tried nonetheless. "Yes." She took a step towards the herald. "Yes." She repeated. "I want an audience with the King. I have questions that demand answers."

    By now, she had regained control over her knees, even having to disgrace herself by having to hit them steady .
     
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    Gang’s Back Together
    Location: Shellfish Palace


    The captain spent a few moments rubbing her temple, trying to quell the loud noise the King echoed through their heads, only for someone else to begin chattering on. “Aye, aye.” She waved the priest away, pulling her hand back when she realized the priest wasn’t human. She had to remember this place was full of… surprises. Runali set the skull down where she was told, not really feeling like a hero or valiant whatever the priest yapped on about. But she couldn’t dwell on that. All she could do was wait for the others to come.

    The chess set that sat ominously in the corner of the room had seemed like a no go from the moment she saw it, so the moment the priest offered them to play a game, she immediately shook her head. “We’re going to pass. We’ll just wait for the others.” She stressed the word ‘we’, making sure the others knew not to touch that chess set either.

    It seemed like forever, but the rest of her crew finally returned to the palace. The moment Luro mentioned them, Runali perked up and turned to the entrance. She immediately noticed them, tattered but alive and didn’t hesitate rushing over to them, stopping to examine them all before they could give their half of the ‘deal’ to the King.

    Similar to her father back in Jaipur, she didn’t hesitate to stop in front of Zilia, checking her over first. Fortunately for the doctor, the captain refrained from cupping the girls’ face and turning it left and right. They couldn’t have an injured doctor, so she was first priority. Seeing that Zilia was fine, she gave Ray and Jack a once over as well, happy to know they were alright as well.

    When Ray gave a small salute and a quiet gesture towards Kadi, she looked a bit confused, only to examine him for herself. It looked as if he had taken most of the damage compared to the rest of her crew. By the looks of it, most of the blood on him didn’t seem like it was his- a judgement call she had made time and time again with her crew. But looking at him- her brow furrowed a bit and she pulled him down a bit by his collar so they were at eye level. He wasn’t that much taller than her like the rest of the crew (except Zilia) but she did bring him closer to examine his face.

    Kadi didn’t look hurt- at least not physically. She had known him for far too long not to notice his usual ‘grumpy’ nature gone. He was a little roughed up, moreso than the others, but he was fine. Even though ‘a little’ might have been an understatement.

    She was quiet for the entirety of her little examination, not bothering to listen to the remarks from her crew or chatter from the priest. It only lasted for about a minute before she finally let go of Kadi with a sigh. “I s’pose you’re not too worse for wear. You did come back in one piece. Or close to it.” Runali’s eye closed before a small smirk formed on her face. Before she turned to face the Drowned King and the priest, she patted Kadi’s chest. “I guess now we can really see eye to eye. But not to worry, Alicia bought me an extra eyepatch, you can have that when we get to the ship.”

    When Runali was sure her crew was fine and she was sure that she was content and all of them were together, she turned to the priest and King with arms crossed. "You've gotten what you wanted, yeah? Now what about our deal?"
     
  3. @Arcadius
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    Epilogue
    Location: Shellfish Palace

    The Navigator… was he even Navigator anymore? The person who travelled with Stardusk for the last four years, through hell and high water? Was the good ol’ Kadi still in there somewhere, in this new, alien being?

    The Pathfinder read the note and chuckled. “Ah, a point most fair, I have to admit,” he conceded in light and focused tone, a tone Arcadius never ever used. The Navigator was always either absolutely focused, or completely dissociated in his thoughts. This man seemed that he followed the conversation, but his mind also wandered somewhere far away, out of reach. “It came from… well, from me. I am the true Mikchail Arcadius, flesh and bone, mind and soul!” he said with a chuckle.

    The Shellfish palace looked like a lit birthday cake, and the man was smiling, as if something dear and precious was waiting for him there. “Neither of you know the tale fully, I suspect, but Runali and Alicia have fished me out from a lifeboat, wracked by stormy sea, some four years ago. I was navigator on the Karalean, the ship we are about to raise from the dead. captain Hollister and First Mate foolishly stole something of value from the Drowned King, and the ship had to flee, heading for the High Wilderness. To sail through High Wilderness, you need to hire the services of the Guild, based in Zokarazok, but the cheap bastard of a captain decided he would not bother himself with the expenses.”

    “You can do that, of course, if you are willing to be marooned in the High Wilderness. Than the Grand Navigator made himself shown, and offered Hollister to enhance one soul on the ship with what was necessary to guide the ship back to surface. In exchange, he would keep that soul after the ship was safely up top. The captain and first mate were quick to throw my sorry ass on the sacrificial pit. I took the ship out to the surface, and my soul was torn from my body, separating me into the two sentient entities. Body. Soul.” He spoke calmly, smiling a smile of a man who know the ordeals were past him, and now it was his time to rake the rewards. The Gant colour of the Undesea that reflect in his eyes could not lie, however. There was a lot of pain in those words and memories.

    “Up top, the King’s seastorm was already waiting for us. The ship was wrecked, and everything with soul was dragged underwater, until the soul left the body, and the body was claimed by the King. I was spared, because it though I was just another servant sent along to ensure the maelstom left noone from Karalean alive. The story after that you know. I joined Stardusk, and though all of that soul thing was just bullshit. I did not know all the facets of the story as I know them now. The body needs the soul as a…”

    “Heh. I would say as something to drive it. To give it ambition. To be more than just a walking fleshbag. Without it, it starts to wither, wondering why it should bother with all that animation. Rock don’t need to be animate, so why should the body?”

    “Now, of course, my body had no idea what happened to my soul. Lady de Macropulos, she is my countryman. She needed an agent in the Dreamworld for her venture. She swindled my soul from the Grand Navigator, and my soul agreed to work for her as her employee. Assuming my body lost at sea, I had fairly little else to do anyway.”

    “Four years later, all the cartography was done, and she was mightily grateful. Just as you know it, you guys showed up, with my body in tow. The lass was more than happy to support you in your endeavour, and planned to give me my soul back, but you made it to the Archive sooner than she could. And, well…”

    He turned around and beamed at Zilla, madly happy. He leaned back against the ship’s railing, with more spring to him, more relaxation and life they ever saw in Kadi. “Now’s now. Now I get to have my reward. The Karalaeo’s crew will be given a second chance, and I will get to skin Hollister and first mate alive, then sew them into bags made out of their own flesh and keelhaul them until there’s nothing else left than a bloody, shark ridden trail in the ship’s wake.”

    Just as he finished, the ship bumped against the coral jetty, right next to Lady Luck. The man grabbed the jar of dirt and nearly danced past the guards that came to place the gangplank from the jetty to the ship, saying “cheerio” to one and “top’o’the’whateverthefucktimeitis” to the other.

    “Captain!” he merrily shouted after spotting Runali in the Palace, but quickly dropped the gesture after he noticed how seriously her eye looked at him. Ah. Figures, he said for himself. He let her take a closer look at him, hiding nothing. Every moment, every breath was the celebration of his existence to him, and he refused to hide the fact.

    “Aye, cap’n. ‘fraid I can start using the puns about looking at things from your angle. But let’s look at things from the brighter side. Finally you have someone who will shop for eyepatches with you. Ain’t life grand, eh?” Deflection. Sarcasm. Poorly disguised nihilism. Kadi was still somewhere in there too.

    The King looked away from Sara. “Your… audience… granted… after… my debts… are closed… give… jar…” The human effigy priest reached out for the jar in Kadi’s hands, and the Pathfinder gladly let go. “Done…” the King groaned out with some stress and exertion.

    The smirk on Kadi’s lips grew even wider. “Perfect.” A light shower of shellfish and loose bits of coral was the only mark left behind by his quick disappearance from the scene.

    ***

    “Bernio, get the boy. It’s time we leave,” Hollister shouted at the first mate. “Make him charter course for the North.” The man had his back turned to the man, bent over the table in the captain’s cabin, the Shellfish Palace lit behind the ornate panes of the windows.


    “Boss,” Bernio growled. “We don’ have the Guilder onboard. You herd the stories. Someone will have to pay. With their soul.”


    “So?” Captain asked. “The kid is a navigator. His job is to get the ship where I tell him to. Contract’s pretty clear about that. By all means at his disposal. His soul sure is at his disposal, nah?”


    “Heh,” chuckled Bernio a chuckle of naive malice of a highschool bully.

    “Heh,” chuckled Hollister a chuckle of calculative cruel carelessness.

    “Heh,” chuckled Pathfinder a chuckle of wanton revenge, closing the door to the captain’s cabin and jamming the latch.
     
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    Zilia wrote down Kadi's story as he spoke giving small nods here and there to show she was still listening to him. The whole matter seemed so surreal as she listened, Kadi was a body without a soul, and the person in front of them was the real one as a complete whole it all sounded far fetched, something told as a scary story to lads and lasses about the dangers of the sea, but with all they've seen and dealt with, she had little reason to doubt the navigator. His sudden joy and exuberance also made it hard to not believe him, she had never seen Kadi this happy before, it really did seem like she was staring at a different person, granted she didn't know him as well as the others the smile on his face seemed genuine, unlike Jack's sometimes.

    It seems they had gone through all this effort and pain for the current moment, she recalled part of his story from the one he told them earlier as well and she was aware how they met their navigator though having it come from Kadi's mouth was an extra bonus. She still wasn't sure about going through all this effort but seeing Kadi so happy was almost contagious...almost being the keyword as she kept the same calm expression giving a small nod to him. Her brow arched at his plans with the men who gave away his soul but she had no say in such things, if he desired revenge she wasn't going to stop him, but getting others pulled into that desire was another matter, that was for another time however.
    "Thank you for explaining Kadi...it all seems so...strange but I suppose worst has happened today. It's good to see you're at least content," Zilia held the note out to him before putting it away as they reached their destination.
    She admittedly was a bit antsy at seeing the others, going off their previous encounters someone was probably going to be hurt, she was even more worried with Alicia and Sara together, if they got into it because of dreams of some matter...well the result of them fighting was already well known.

    "Welcome back guys!" Luro exclaimed throwing his arms up as the other entered. "I missed you! I thought two of you would die, glad I was wrong!"
    "Which two..." Zilia thought glancing at the others.
    Luro grinned clapping his hands together before his eyes moved to the navigator, he blinked a few times tilting his head to the side at the somewhat strange sight. His eyes moved to the Captain as she went over to examine everyone, noticing Zilia looked far more relaxed now then when she came in for some strange reason. When she got to Kadi and finished he walked up to him and bringing a hand to his chin sniffed Kadi for a moment.
    "Hmmm you smell like Kadi...kind of," Luro said. "What's that thing on your face though?"
    "Oh he lost his eye at one point and the eyepatch is-"
    Zilia started to write but stopped seeing Luro wasn't pointing at it.
    "That thing your lips are doing, it looks like a smile...but Kadi doesn't normally do that," Luro said his brows lowering slightly. "Except after he vanishes with Belen, and even then it's not this big. Man Kadi can smile...this is so great! Welcome back Kadi, I like your new look, you should have told me you were going for a change, I would have offered some ideas for that! Now normally copying the Captain's bad but you look good like that so I think we can let it go."
    Zilia pat Kadi on the shoulder and laughed a little at the man, he Jack a playful punch in the chest to let him know he was glad to have him back too, he held his arms out for Zilia but the doctor held a hand up indicating that wasn't going to happen causing him to turn towards Jack and Kadi making a beckoning motion with his hands.
    "Come on you guys, give me some love. Also Kadi don't forget, you may look good but you still owe us a debt when you get out of here," Luro said chuckling a little. "I hope you weren't trying to disguise yourself to get out of it, we know ya too well not to recognize ya."

    When the king departed mentioning something about an audience Zilia's eyes narrowed slightly, she wasn't sure what that whole thing was about but she was okay with getting out of here as fast as possible. With the King gone she relaxed a bit more glad she didn't have to lay eyes on him any more. She turned to Runali to question when they were going to leave when she noticed Luro was standing at the king's throne, she arched a brow before noticing he had a chisel in his hand and a hammer. Seeing him raise the hammer up her mouth opened into a silent scream and she sprinted over to him grabbing his shirt. The sudden pull caused Luro to stop and glance back at Zilia as Kadi seemed to wander off somewhere.
    "What is it Z?" Luro questioned.
    "Are you insane?!" Zilia wrote realizing that was a bit of rhetorical question. "What are you doing?!"
    "I'm just going to take a few chunks with us, I'm sure he won't mind," Luro said raising the hammer again.
    "I'm pretty sure he would! Do you remember what he did to the last people who took something from him! That's why we're here in the first place!"
    Luro stared at Zilia's note his gaze moving to the ceiling as he shut his eyes in thought before he pounded his fist onto his hand and gave a small nod, Zilia seemed to relax considerably before Luro turned right back to the throne.
    "They stole from him though, this is just part of our reward for helping," Luro said raising the hammer again. "It's not like I'm taking the whole thing...I doubt it'd fit on the ship anyway."
    Zilia continued to pull on Luro to stop him, as Luro tried to take a bit of the throne for himself, leaving the others to their own business.
     
    #304 Mizos, Mar 31, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2018
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    Jack couldn't help a grin as he watched the antics of the carpenter and the doctor, correlating with the relief that Stardusk made through safe and mostly sound. Kadi's eye was the biggest injury, next to the beating Luro initially took from the King yesterday. Physically, at least. It was hard for the cook to know what mental wounds Runali's group may have endured while they slept.

    As they waited for Kadi to collect his "reward", Jack found himself near the captain and observing the rest of the crew.

    "Rice pudding," he said suddenly. Jack turned to the captain with his crooked grin, "Your mother's recipe. Rice pudding and a full course meal. I'm thinking I'll buy the ingredients next time we make port. We certainly deserve it. A celebration to our navigator for... well, getting his soul back, I suppose."

    Those were words Jack never thought he'd utter. His eyes wandered to where he last saw Kadi, even as his hands moved to his pockets to dig out his smokes--only to find them empty. In the chaos of the Auction House, Jack forgot he'd already exhausted the supply he had on him and would have to get more when they returned to Lady Luck. A faint tremor started in his fingers. He shook his hands then shoved them deep into his pockets, hunching his shoulders. All at once the cold was back. Shivering and disgruntled, he hoped the navigator would be quick in his vengeance. So they may all return to the real world.
     
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  6. Time To Go:

    Kadi had disappeared within a blink of an eye and had the captain not known about how things worked with the Drowned King, she would have bristled. Her trust of the place was practically none, so seeing her navigator disappear was a bit unsettling.

    Hearing Jack’s voice made her attention turn and her head tilted slightly in confusion, only for her one eye to light up. “Really?” Her hands clasped together in excitement. “Aw, man that sounds like a great celebration!” She had been wondering about the ‘secret recipes’ her mother had given to Jack, but he refused to tell. Hearing that one was going to be a celebratory meal helped ease some of her tension. If she hadn’t been eager to leave before, she certainly was now.

    Fortunately Kadi came back almost as quick as he left. And when he returned he seemed even more content. Runali was starting to agree that seeing a smile on his face was a little foreign. It almost made him a whole new person. But if Kadi was happy, then Runali was happy as well.

    Now they could leave. “Aye, Zil.” She placed a hand on her shoulder, shaking her head. “Trust me, Luro taking pieces of that throne is the least of our worries. He could be doing much, much worse…Besides, who doesn’t want a free souvenir.” She grinned and then whistled over to Luro, pointing towards the exit.

    “Alright. We had our...fun. We got what we came for. Let’s go!”

    For such a dramatic entrance, leaving the Shellfish Palace seemed a little too… easy. Runali lagged behind a bit, letting her crew head to the ship. At first, she felt the desire or maybe necessity to speak to the King one last time, however when she looked back their eyes seemed to meet for the briefest moment. And for that moment, a cold chill went down her spine.

    “Hmph.” Runali nodded to the King, as if there had been an exchange of words, turned, and didn’t look back.

    “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and I make eight. And CP makes nine.” All of them were back on Lady Luck with their bodies and souls intact. Runali could safely say that the mission, while they didn’t gain anything in monetary value, was still a success.

    Their guides to the Shellfish Palace happily guided them back to the start of their trip, bidding them goodbyes and farewells along the way.

    “But how do we get back to the top?”

    The question was immediately regretted as it was asked. Going down a whirlpool into the Undersea was dizzying enough, but going up a whirlpool in reverse? Needless to say, even the captain felt a little sick when the ship stopped spinning.

    However, fresh air cleared her head and for once they could see the evening sky.

    It wasn’t clear how long they had been there, but one thing was clear for sure, “Hey Kadi, heh, a deal’s a deal right~?” There was a devious smirk on her face. “Like Luro said, arms to the side and chin out.”

    She was glad to have him in one piece.


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  7. Collab Special! between @Grothnor and Capt. Blu


    Location: Out at Sea

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    Two weeks had passed since they escaped the Under Sea with all their lives and limbs attached. The moment they were out at open sea, the captain immediately set sail to the first island they could find. Even she needed solid ground for awhile. Unfortunately, the small unnamed island they landed on learned a bit too quickly that they were pirates and chased them out a week and a half into their stay. Although, it couldn’t have been considered much of a chase. It was more of the island’s elder threatening to send for the Navy and the captain agreeing to leave. After their underwater adventure, she was still in no mood for immediate conflict- mainly with the Navy. They needed the time to relax.

    It was going on the third day since their ‘escape’ from the small island and judging by the sun’s slow decent and how long the captain had been leaning over the edge of the ship watching the fish below, it was becoming later in the afternoon as well.

    “Penny for your thoughts, Captain?” Ray walked up next to Runali and leaned over the railing next to her, a half-empty bottle of rum in his hand. A rime of frost ringed the mouth of the bottle, indicating Ray was fully enjoying the return of his powers.

    “Not that this life isn’t all fun and rewarding,” Runali continued to look out at sea as she spoke, “but sometimes you have to, I don’t know, reflect on how many times you’ve died... or almost died? At least, I do. Captain-ly concerns is all.” She straightened up and gave a small shrug. “Next thing you know, Luro’s gonna spread some rumor about how the Stardusk are the undead or how we’re cursed.” She laughed a little at the idea, actually finding it much more amusing than she realized. “You know, that sounds pretty cool. We could scare people and walk our way right to the number one spot.”

    “Heh, don’t forget, we are[i/] undead… in a manner of speaking. We did take a trip to Davy Jones’ locker a few years back, remember?” He smirked playfully.

    “Well-” Runali blinked and smiled. “Alright. You got me there, but considering that,” She quickly took the bottle of rum while Ray wasn’t paying attention. “I’m sure we’ve got some sort of countdown over our heads. Only a matter of time before Davy’s escorting us VIP back to his ship.” There was only a moment’s pause before she tapped the edge of the ship. “But enough of that doom and gloom. How’s it going iceman? I see you’ve bounced back from the one of many wild Stardusk adventures.”

    “Physically, yes.” He summoned a puff of frost from his hand to illustrate his point, still smiling. “Emotionally… well….” He stared out to sea as the smile grew wan. “That toll we all paid to get us down there… revealed some things that bear discussion, I think.”

    Runali finished the rest of his rum, listening to him talk, only to raise a curious brow. “I think everyone's gotten a little,” She was aware of what he was talking about- it was all too obvious. But, she figuratively danced around the subject instead. “emotionally overwhelmed in one way or the other thanks to the trip.” Runali sat the empty bottle on the edge of the ship and leaned forward again. “And everyone, uh well, uses their own methods to get through them.” Her gaze went from Ray to the water below. “I'm not going to push anyone into doing or saying anything they don't want to, however, that doesn't mean I'm not willing to listen.”

    Ray sighed and took a moment to collect his thoughts. “Thanks, Capta- Runali. You saved my life when I was at my lowest, you gave me a new life to lead and for that- no, because of that, I… well, you’ve heard all this before. I am incredibly grateful that you entered my life when you did, in the way you did. I just….” Ray huffed in frustration at how poorly he was explaining things. “I don’t- I never thought it appropriate, to tell you nor to act upon it. Not just because it's inappropriate for a Captain and a crewman to fraternize, Lendrian Academy traditions die hard, you know, but also because I… I’ve known a lot of women, and I think you deserved better. Y-you know, with others it's just fun and games, but you meant more to me than that. So, I did nothing. And I was okay with that.”

    She started to notice that every time Ray mentioned how grateful he was about being saved, that the situation was serious. Grant it, she knew this was serious in it’s own way as well. The mini revelation didn’t make her speak up though as she didn’t want to interrupt his thoughts. When he sighed, she glanced over at him, debating if she should speak. Runali wanted to say, ‘take your time’ or even ‘if you want to, you can try again later’. But those would have been nicely wrapped excuses for herself because she wasn’t sure how to respond. This wasn’t something for her as a captain to decipher, but as herself. Just… Runali. And it made her realize just how much she didn’t pay attention to those feelings. All her life she was so ready for adventure, always looking for the next thing to find or even fight, but this? Well, this required a different approach. A softer approach that she wasn’t ready for. Fortunately for Ray, she was brave enough to try.

    “You know,” Runali started slowly, trying to puzzle piece words together. “I never knew anything about that. The ‘fraternizing with crew’ thing as you call it.” She couldn’t help but give a light laugh. “Which shouldn’t be all too surprising, but anyway- “ She continued, waving in front of her face as if she was waving the thought away. There was another brief pause. “To be honest with you, it’s never something I’ve thought about. Open sea, an adventure at every turn, new places every day, all of it’s so freeing and fun.” There was a sort of wonderment in her eye as she smiled out at sea, but it slowly turned into something of confusion. “And I always imagined I’d have to settle if I was to ever… I s’pose ‘fall for someone’. Kinda like how my parents did.” She shook her head. “Not something I really wanted.” Runali tapped the glass bottle and laughed a little. “But did you know, captains get to do what they want? ” It wasn’t clear if that was an invitation or Runali’s own musings, but she continued.

    “Don’t sell yourself short Ray, you’re a good man. A good pirate too, but that’s besides the point. You are… much better than you give yourself credit for. Especially for what you’ve been through.” She nudged him a little and raised a brow. “So, were you really okay with, you know, being passive?”

    “I… no, not really. I would have managed, told myself it would’ve never worked out, made excuses, like the ‘no fraternization’ thing, but…” He turned to look at her, face to face, eyes to eye and paused momentarily… before his eyes moved to something behind Runali. “Captain, we’re being followed.”

    Runali straightened up a bit, waiting for his response, only for her head to tilt ever so slightly when he actually did. “Followed?” She had to do a full 180 turn on her heel in order to actually see what he was talking about. “Raymond you and I both know my eyesight is not that great, you have to say whe- oh wait.” She patted her hip remembering she took Kadi’s spyglass for no particular reason besides that he just wasn’t paying attention.

    Looking through it, she spotted a familiar Blue Hydra symbol they had seen only years ago. “Speaking of Lendria,” She handed the spyglass to Ray. “I think you’ve got company.”

    Not too far from them now, the large ship flying a black marlin flag drew closer, making to overtake them. “I don’t remember talking about Len- nevermind.” Ray took a glance through the spyglass and spotted a familiar figure standing at the prow of the ship. “Great… another visit from Uncle Percy.”

    “To be fair, this one isn’t trying to kill you?” She gave a shrug before whistling for the rest of the crew to come above deck to greet an old ‘friend’.

    “Yet. Let’s see what he has to say today.”


    A few minutes later...

    With the Blue Hydra alongside Lady Luck and some naval greeting formalities aside, Captain James Percival Skalter strode aboard the Stardusk Pirate’s ship for the second time, with the same gleeful grin he had before.

    “Raymond! Still see you’re in one piece, so I’ll drop the ceremony; the Separatists- we- need you.”

    “Yeah, about as much as I need you to leave me alone.”

    The captain snickered at Ray’s comment and looked over at the crew, mostly towards Sara, Jack, and Zilia who hadn’t met the man. “Family ties aren’t that strong with him. We helped his uncle a while back.” She left it at that so she could listen to what the man had to say.

    “Listen, It’s happening, and soon. The Royalists are going to be making their big move and we need your help to stop them.” Uncle Percy was serious now, and all sign of his jovial persona had gone.

    Ray scoffed. “How? With who? Last I heard, the Separatists didn’t have the manpower to stop three frigates, let alone an entire fleet. And that’s not even counting the Songbirds. I doubt you have enough heavy hitters to take down one of them.”

    “We’ve found some allies, in a rather unlikely place. We’ve been working with a few… freelancers, not unlike yourselves…”

    “Pirates?”

    “...who aren’t too happy with the way Cerania’s being run, yes. One of them suggested we involve you in this endeavor. A ‘Durant’ fellow.”

    “Really?” Ray crossed his arms skeptically.

    “Yeah, said you’d be happy to kill some Ceranian fops, were his exact words, but he also mentioned that you did him a solid at Kane’Artem, along with other words of praise.”

    “Really?” Ray’s skepticism deepened.

    The captain watched the back and forth, not very interested in what was going on mainly because it seemed Ray had made up his mind the moment Percy stepped onto the ship. If he wasn’t willing to go, then the crew wouldn’t be following. Further into the conversation, Runali’s brow furrowed a bit as she realized what Percy was asking. Sure, a favor was needed from someone that helped aid in her escape, but Ray’s uncle sounded oddly specific that he only needed him and not the whole crew. Runali started to say something about it, but held off to let Percy continue.

    “Aye. We need you, and you won’t go away unrewarded. The Separatists are willing to put their political clout towards clearing your name if you help here, we won’t bother you ever again, and you’ll get some closure with your old… acquaintance, Lisset.”

    Ray kept silent for a long moment before responding with, “Really?” This time, free of skeptical disbelief, replaced by astonishment.

    In Runali’s few years of being a captain, she learned that knowing names was an important part of the job- at least more important than she would have thought. There were some people she just couldn’t forget, whether they were important or just someone to fight later. This particular name, Lisset, was one that Ray had spoken about enough times for her to know the weight of what Percy had just said. She glanced at Ray long enough to see the surprise on his face before making her own voice heard.

    “Hm,” He wasn’t necessarily untrustworthy, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t be skeptical. Runali stared at Percy as if trying to spot the lie in his eyes. Not finding it, she began to speak. “Sounds like one of those… rare opportunities don’t you think?” Her arms crossed, but she spoke in that calm manner she normally had. “It’s up to you of course. Just know, we’re behind you with whatever you choose.”

    Ray looked back to Runali and smiled weakly, but appreciatively. “Captain, I’m not sorry I am who I am. But I do feel like my past is an ever-recurring specter that just won’t leave me be. If I do this, and Uncle Percy’s honest-”

    “Which I am.” Percy interjected.

    Ray glared back at him for eavesdropping before continuing, “-I stand to exorcise the ghosts of my past. I love my homeland, and it hurts not being able to return. Even if I never want to, it would be a weight off my shoulders to know I could go home. But I can’t ask the entire crew to up and turn around just for me, even if they’d agree. So that comes to the hard part I’m driving at….”

    “Remember all those years ago at Waterdeep, where I swore my life and my sword to your service? I staked my honor and my life on serving you, being there for you. I can’t in good conscience just leave unless… you release me. It may sound stupid, but it’s a matter of honor, and, well, old habits, like Lendrian naval traditions, die hard, yeah?”

    The captain had a high suspicion, in fact practically expected, Ray would want to go home- or at least go confront his…. old life choices. It wasn’t too surprising and the captain didn’t mind it at all. However what was surprising was Ray saying that he wanted to go alone.

    There was a visible frown on her face. “We’re a crew Ray. We’ve fought together. Through navy and war. Why would you think we’d have a problem going to help?” Her arms crossed as he explained that he couldn’t exactly leave unless she said so. She was having a hard time just accepting the fact that Ray wanted to- or needed to take leave from the crew.

    This happened before after all. Nolan left to better himself and be safe. Kai left to help his old home… And he promised to return too but that was years ago. Even Jem had to take her leave to be with a family she had. Runali wasn’t upset with their choices. She was happy that they had found their place. She was even happier that they had pledged themselves to continue being Stardusks despite their absence. Their crew was small, but strong. They were loyal, if not just stubborn. She allowed them to depart in good faith, no matter how much she didn’t want them to go, but now?

    Runali wanted to convince herself that now was different.

    “This is something for me to do, and just me.” He shrugged, “Pride’s a hard habit to break, you know? Besides, I can’t risk putting you in danger, especially now.” Ray sighed and took a breath. “Besides, I need some time to think about this- us. Straighten things out. And I think you might too.”

    The word ‘us’ made her frown dissipate into something more of surprise. “Hmph.” She started to say something, only to rub the bridge of her nose. This wasn’t what she was expecting. She spoke again, mumbling something in her native language, obviously not liking how things were turning out. After another moment, she composed herself. However instead of speaking to Ray, she walked past him and to Percy who was still definitely eavesdropping. Without much hesitation, she pulled him by his collar to reach her own eye level.

    “Just so you know, if you’re lying and Raymond gets hurt- or worse,” She decided not to finish that sentence, allowing Percy to fill in the blanks. “I will personally kill you. Alright?” Her voice was too low for the rest to hear and yet it still held a hidden venom that meant she’d be true to her word.

    Percy could only quietly nod and clear his throat as she let him go. When he could, he quickly straightened his rumpled clothing and refrained from looking as surprised as he felt but by his expression, it was obvious what transpired.

    Runali had already turned her back on him and grumbled in defeat. “Alright Raymond. You are as loyal as you are stubborn so I won’t fight with your… pride.”

    She stood in front of him, with arms behind her back, and her gaze out at sea. “You have my permission to go.”

    “Thank you, Ca- Runali.” Ray turned to Uncle Percy. “Give me a moment to gather my things, say my goodbyes.” Uncle Percy only nodded.

    Before he could move too far off, Runali grabbed his wrist, and then the other to get his attention. Instead of explaining herself, she flipped his hands, palms up, to point to the jade cufflinks her mother had given to him. “By the way, don’t lose these.” It looked as if she wanted to say something else, but she shook her head and let him go. “If you do, you’re on your own explaining that one to my mother.”

    A few minutes of farewells and gathering belongings later, Ray stood ready to depart. “Friends, though our paths diverge here, I will return, one day soon.”

    The captain leaned on the edge of the ship, as she had earlier that day, and watched as Ray departed from Lady Luck to the Blue Hydra. She couldn’t help the small laugh with how dramatic he sounded, but she nodded. “Just make sure you don’t leave any more of your past to haunt you.”

    Fingering the cufflinks, Ray smiled. “I won’t.” He waved goodbye as the Blue Hydra pulled away.

    “I like her.” Uncle Percy broke the silence once they were out of earshot of the Stardusk. Ray glanced at him with skeptical surprise. “She threatened to kill you and you like her?”

    “Well, that’s ‘cuz she’s honest. Always like folk who announce their desire to stab you in the front, rather than in the back. Come on, yer quarters are this way. We’ll discuss the plan in depth at dinner.” Uncle Percy headed into the ship, leaving Ray a brief moment to watch his friends and family retreat over the horizon, before he followed his Uncle below deck.
     
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  8. [​IMG]

    Collab with @Midas


    Arcadius was still gone to Zozaformokarozakoza, with Jack and Zilla, and it seemed Runali, Alicia and Luro were not going to need her until then. The King had his head tilted towards her, though his eyes darter around in a strange pattern, as if they were not looking at her person, but something closely hovering around her. The hall was cold, and dank and everything around her was sharp and reflecting the multicolored glow coming from above.


    “Yes, the King has granted you an audience! Ask carefully, and show respect, otherwise you will be made play chess as a price for your transgressions against royal etiquette!” the priest said, with cadence and intonation that would fit a hymn rather than direct speech.


    The question mark was hanging in the air between Sara and the King sitting on the Seastone chair, like a sail rope made taut by a raging cyclone. What did the pitiful mortal worm wished to ask?


    Sara stood alone, her arms folded on her chest as she looked up. She paid no heed to their warnings, for she knew and cared little about royal etiquette. She was a Tilean, Sara reasoned, and Tileans never bowed their heads to ones who called themselves king or queen. This fact comforted Sara and provided her some ground to speak on, even if this particular monarch wasn’t human.


    She knew what to ask, the question bubbling to the top of her mind, the very first thing she thought to herself when she saw the King for the first time.


    “What are you?”


    It was not particularly pleasant feeling, even without having your head slammed against a rock, as happened to Luro. Suffice to say, it was not necessary to be touching the place with your head. Feet, even through thick soles, were able to transfer the hallucinatory vibrations as well. Sara instantly felt like she was drunk. Her own thoughts were sluggish and uneasy to conceptualize into coherent forms, and she would find keeping upright balance almost a herculean task. Instead, she felt an intrusive line of thoughts emerging in her mind, dominating over her consciousness.


    Suddenly, she was thinking about being a sailor on a ship. She was leaning over the side of the ship. A hard slam on the back of her head made her lose balance and fall over the ship’s side. As he was falling, he managed to get a hazy look up, just long enough to see a man with a bloodied hook leaning over and watching him fall. Then the sea closed around him. He lost his consciousness from the head injury, mercifully before he started to drown.


    Next, his dead body was washed up here, under the sea, against a what remained of a dead emperor crab. He looked at himself, and realized that while he drowned, and given the state of his body, he most certainly did drown a good deal of time in the past, he was not quite done with this body. He crawled into the empty exoskeleton of the huge crab, and here he found an empty throne, made out of Seastone. He sat down, and never got up since.


    Sara would feel her thoughts taking over the reigns again, with the memory hallucination ending. The King was looking at her, expecting another query.



    The suddenness caught her off guard. Gasping with pain, she was brought down to her knees in an instant. This only provided another path for the vibrations to resonate through her body. Sara watched the memory play out in an instant, feeling sick when his head, her head, was struck. She gasped with effort when she was brought back to the throne room in a rush, pausing to reflect upon that memory.


    And yet… There was something that wasn’t quite right, something that was out of place, but what? She broke down what she experienced, chunk by chunk, analyzing one piece before moving onto the next. What was it that she saw? She knew it was something, but what was it?


    The answer came to her, like a bucket of ice-cold water to the face. It was when they were falling, only seen for a fraction of a second, a name emblazoned in burnished copper across the ship. A name, that when she first saw she had no idea what it said, that was burned into her mind.


    “The Karaboudjan!” Sara said suddenly, her eyes going wide. “The Karaboudjan was the slave ship I was taken on. That wasn’t taken from your memory, that was taken from mine!”


    She took a step forward, ignoring the heart pounding in her chest. “So again, I ask you. What are you?”







    No one in the crew knew what happened next. Sara, after being gone for a considerable amount of time, was escorted back with the rest of her crew. She was quiet and thoughtful for the trip back home, not speaking to anyone and just looking straight ahead into nothingness. Her eyes were not vacant, but burned with the fires of an unseen determination.
     
  9. Collab: Mizos and Capt.
    Accidental Honesty

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    [​IMG]


    Location: Out at Sea - Days after Ray’s departure

    Zilia stood at the Captain’s door clutching one of her books, she had left a note for the Captain to meet her at her cabin earlier. There was something she had to discuss with the Captain mainly something she promised she would share with her, and now seemed a good opportunity since they had a moment's reprieve and she actually had a chance to make some progress on her own ventures. Twirling her bang Zilia closed her eyes unable to deny she was a little nervous at actually talking about this with Runali, which was one of the reasons why she wanted to speak with her alone.
    “...wonder if she’ll laugh...no that doesn’t sound like her...but it could happen...maybe I should just leave...no if I don’t do this now I’ll just lament it later,”

    Not too long after Zilia walked up to Runali’s cabin, Runali was making her way there as well. She had a small bowl of grapes Jack sent her off with in replacement of her trying to nab food while he was busy. She didn’t say anything as she walked past the doctor, but she did hum an acknowledgement of sorts as she opened her door and gestured for Zilia to follow. There were a few more silent gestures, like a gesture for Zilia to sit on her hammock instead of standing and another gesture offering to share grapes that she sat down on her desk. When she was finally settled in, sitting on the edge of her desk, Runali nodded.

    “Alright, you have my attention, Z. What’s buggin’ ya?” While Zilia wrote what she had to say, Runali looked down and fumbled with her eyepatch. At some point, she had grown accustomed to the short spans of quiet as Zilia began to ‘speak’. She had also grown accustomed to the idea that these ‘private chats’ meant she had a lot to say. So the captain was patient and filled in the silence with idle things.

    Eventually, she ended up taking her eyepatch off, letting her hair obscure her blind eye as she examined the worn down straps. “Hrm… I need to put this one away. It’s gonna fall off my face mid fight one day.” She didn’t want to throw it away, as it was one of the eyepatches one of the crew had gotten her, but she did have a few others- well half now that she had given half of them to Arcadius. “Hm. D’you think I should get more colors? I’m thinking a nice green. Maybe a blue? Probably will have to check the next island.”

    Zilia jumped a bit when the Captain approached pulled from her thoughts. She looked over at her as she entered offering a small nod to her before following her in taking a seat on the hammock. She took a grape and popping one in her mouth opened her book and got to writing what she had to say, though she regretted not just doing so while she was waiting but if Runali had been busy she would have spent half the day, erasing and rewriting just to find the right words. In a situation like this it seemed important to just speak what was on one’s mind immediately.
    Her eyes twitched slightly when she heard her say ‘Z’ but let it go and looked up only to look immediately back down. Leaning forward she handed her a quick note.

    “Blue,”
    Answering her first question she continued writing and eventually handed Runali another page which had a bit more words to it, she grabbed one of her books after handing it to her and looked back at Runali as she read the note.
    “I’ve made progress in the Chronicle and I’m showing you what I have so far. The more detailed description are in the early parts and I’m still finishing those up. I’d like you to take a look at the later pages, which are a bit more opinionated, I’d like to add yours as well if possible and get your opinion on a few things, once you finish reading.
    Zilia held the book out to Runali after this, her eyes lowered slightly and it wasn’t exactly a mystery that she was nervous at this point, but she wanted to keep her word to the Captain.

    “Blue? You think so?” Runali gave it some thought before confirming it with a nod. “Sounds like a good idea. I should make a note of that so I don’t forget.”
    Zilia handed her another sheet of paper, pulling her train of thought back into focus. While Runali read over it, she stood and walked over to a trunk of clothing to find another eyepatch that would replace the older one. “Oh, your book!” Almost instantly, Runali was more interested. However instead of immediately jumping to see it, she noticed Zilia’s unease and spoke a little softer.. “I can’t wait to see what you wrote about us.” She gave a wide grin, allowing her usual excitement to return. “Hopefully you made us sound as cool as we are- or even cooler!”

    The book itself was very well kept and the red cover showed itself once more as Zilia held the book out to her. She motioned to the small bookmark in the book to show where to start, she was still messing with the earlier pages and didn’t want to present it until it was complete, so for the time being the later chapters would have to suffice. She hoped they were sufficient enough to keep her interest, she didn’t really share her written works with others and she found herself a bit more fidgety than normal. A part of her just wanted Runali to hyrr and read as she could feel her face start to heat up a little seeing how excited she was to read it.

    Entry 23

    “Where to begin…I suppose starting with the crew is a good point. Thinking of them is generally how I start some of these anyway. Let’s begin with the Captain. Captain Runali Lev…I still can’t believe I met her. You hear of so few female captains she stood out immediately. How to describe her though…I suppose imagine what you see in a Captain…and completely turn it around.
    That’s not bad however I actually like how she handles things on the ship, it doesn’t feel…authoritative like the other Captains I had to deal with. She steps up when needed and let’s things flow as need be which I believe is what pulls out the real potential in her crew. I respect that aspect of her leadership. She’s also not all muscle though, she actually looks pretty normal, I could imagine seeing someone like her walking around in town. Haha she also has these really adorable moments, I just want to pat her head during them but I’ll write about those later.

    Alicia…I’m not even sure where to start with her. She’s so strong, I never thought I’d see someone match Miss Sara but she not only equaled but beat her. Yet she’s not over talkative about it, she’s gentle, polite, considerate…if all Pirates were like her they probably wouldn’t have such a bad reputation. She’s the kind of person I feel I could trust to watch my back, not that I don’t feel that way towards most of the crew, but Alicia is definitely near the top of the list….she’s also really pretty and that’s a little aggravating. I find myself staring sometimes…granted that happens with the Captain too but in her case it’s just the fact she’s really pretty for what she does…it’s not fair in some aspects but I won’t allow Envy to cloud my thoughts….how is her hair always so perfect though…

    Jack…he’s…a bit of an enigma…I still don’t understand him. I feel like he’s lying and telling truth’s to me at the same time when we do speak…I feel like there’s a wall there. I kind of want to ask him about it, but I feel like I’d only be bothering him. There’s always this weird distance in his interactions…but I’m the same I guess. I get the same feeling sometimes.
    I do think he’s a good guy though, but I can tell when someone has a weight on their shoulders…even those who hide it well, part of my job as a doctor. I hope it’s not too heavy…

    Miss Sara…I don’t even know what to write here. I’ve known Miss Sara the longest…though I didn’t really...know her I guess. I watched her fight in the Arena in Tilea often…and it was thanks to her killing all my clients bets I couldn’t leave. I disliked her for that but I had to be present for every fight in case any survived…and I can’t deny her strength was always fascinating to watch. I’m not one for the whole showboating but seeing her get into position and fight her opponent, I found myself drawn in before I knew it. Sometimes…sometimes I’d root for her not wanting her to die…though I intend on taking that one to my grave.

    Luro…he’s…so weird. He doesn’t make sense as a person. Ironically it was Luro constantly watching me that kept me from escaping funny enough. He always pulled me aside to talk to me, and when I asked him why one day he just said ‘cause you look lonely Z’ and…well I suppose he wasn’t wrong. I was keeping to myself not sure what to do now that I had met Stardusk and afraid I wanted to run away, but Luro stopped that…almost like he could see I was trying to leave. He’s weird…but a good person, seeing him smile in even the worst situations gives me a little courage. He always seems happy to take on whatever’s in front of him, makes me feel silly for worrying you know. If this guy who can’t even spell my name can see the good in this, then why can’t I?

    Instead of sitting back on the desk, Runali decided to make herself comfortable right next to Zilia on the hammock. They were small enough to share and Runali had moments of invading her crew’s personal space and not realizing it. The sudden added weight made the hammock swing a bit, but Runali was already invested in what was written and wasn’t fazed as she put a foot down to keep them both from falling.

    She wasn’t sure what to expect from this tale Zilia was creating. It could have been an epic adventure of highs and lows, or, something like a list of places and a description of what happened. The possibilities of it were near endless, and when she started reading-

    Well, it wasn’t something Runali actually expected in those near endless possibilities. That wasn’t to say it was a bad thing, in fact, Runali loved what she was reading. Her eager grin turned into something more of a warm smile as she realized why she liked it so much the further she read.

    “Getting to know a more personal take,” Runali tried to look for the proper words. “You know, I never considered myself adorable, but, I really like this. It’s not a grandiose story of battle but this personal touch really makes the story… come to life.” She gave a soft chuckle. “And I also agree with this take on the crew. You’ve hit the mark about them. You’re definitely better at putting it into words than I am.”

    The captain realized that as much as she tried to ‘read’ her crew, some were a bit harder than others. Zilia, despite being as expressive as she was, still kept a lot to herself. Her being mute, made it all the more difficult for the captain. So reading the entry and getting a peek inside the doctor’s head was nice, heartwarming even.

    Zilia had been watching Runali as she read trying to see how she felt about the Chronicle, seeing the smile on the Captain’s face her whole body seemed to relax. Though she tensed up again slightly when the Captain sat next to her. She had to remember personal bubbles were smaller amongst the crew, Luro had lifted her up five times to have a talking partner without really asking her opinion on the matter. Admittedly she couldn’t deny it was nice to feel the presence of another person close by, the Captain was a surprisingly comforting one as well so she decided not to complain.

    When Runali spoke Zilia jumped pulled out of her own thoughts and looked over at the Captain, she gave a small nod to her about a personal touch. This part of the Chronicle was a part of her opinion, she didn’t want it to be all information, she felt the reader would feel more pulled in if she spoke honestly, instead of with facts. Zilia smiled a little happy that the Captain seemed to like that part of the Chronicle, though it faded quickly as she brought up ‘adorable’ she didn’t recall calling the Captain adorable in the Chronicle. She brought a hand to her chin wondering if she had her in the wrong section or if she added it, she did write some of this late at night after all.

    Entry 24

    It’s…kind of funny actually. I always worried being a part of a crew, the only times I was a part of one was generally when I was kidnapped. I can’t even call that being a part as I was locked down below deck a majority of the time, only called when someone did something stupid and got wounded. Few trust in my abilities as a doctor, generally due to my appearance. I learned to just keep my face hidden to avoid seeing doubtful gazes on the faces of my patients and those who came to me for help. When you’re being held at gunpoint failing as a doctor isn’t really an option. Your patient dies…you die. Yet there’s still so little faith in me…but that’s just me being immature, in the end I can’t save everyone…but that doesn’t mean I don’t try. Thinking on it the fact I’m wanted might play a part in that too…but that wasn’t my fault! The marines thought I was a pirate! When I tried to explain they threw me in prison…instead of rotting in one for the rest of my life I left and now I’m a criminal! Thinking on it that way I suppose ending up with pirates was a good thing…it’s…nice to be a part of this crew. It’s annoying seeing them rush headlong into danger but…it’s a good feeling to be depended on. Luro told me not too long ago ‘I’m gonna get into all kinds of trouble cause I know you’re right there Z,’ and I told him not to get into it…but it felt good to have someone have so much faith in me if not a little concerning…that’s why I have to do my best. It’s…been a long time since others have treated me so warmly. For what seems like lifetimes this diary was my only companion as I traveled, it’s nice I can actually write about other people now

    “Hmm,” The sound Runali made was a curious one as she continued reading the next entry. Her brow furrowed a little in more confusion. She knew she didn’t read a lot of books anymore, but she couldn’t quite tell the order it was going in. She looked back at the first entry she read and then to the one she turned to. It was definitely in chronological order, at least according to the titles.
    And yet, this didn’t seem like something Zilia would put on display. Maybe she was a lot bolder when it came to storytelling or maybe…

    The captain made sure to be extra careful not to fiddle with the pages like she would any other book. This one was extra special and needed the utmost care. She took a moment to recall the last story she read- or at least the last story she listened to Sara read before glancing over at Zilia. “Not that I’m a professional like you or anything, but,” Runali set the book in between them so she could point at the passage she was reading. “You might’a given me the… wrong book?” Her finger hovered near the word ‘diary’. Understanding at least a little about Zilia she tried to keep as calm as possible about it, not wanting to spook her like a frightened animal.

    It was no wonder Runali felt that it was such a personal touch, Zilia wasn’t sharing the actual stories of their adventure, but sharing her own personal and private thoughts about them. It wasn’t something that was supposed to be shared and yet it was always something the captain was curious about- not just with Zilia, but all of her crew.
    Before she continued, she let Zilia look for herself to see if maybe Runali was mistaken and the book was in fact the Chronicle she planned on showing.

    Zilia gripped her pants noticing Runali’s furrowed brow as she read, she seemed content earlier but it seemed something she had written bothered her. She wondered if she focused too much on one thing again, she tried to balance the events and Stardusk themselves, trying to take it from the viewpoint of someone who wasn’t there but she might have failed in that attempt. Perhaps it would be better to just write it the way she was before, while contemplating this she noticed Runali set the book down and looked at it herself. At the very least she was willing to point out what bothered her, which would help her with the edits later.

    Her eyes moved along the pages her brows furrowing a bit themselves she read the words on the page. They seemed familiar so she didn’t understand what she meant by wrong book. When her eyes landed on diary Zilia’s eyes shot wide open and she quickly grabbed the book looking closer at the words. The more she read, the more red flowed into the Doctor’s face and her mouth opened slightly, though no sound came out a silent scream echoed inside of her. She slammed the book shut and clutched it against her chest leaning forward as her entire body shook. She refused to look at Runali her hidden gaze focused on the floor as the reality of the situation hit her. Zilia jumped off the hammock and quickly ran out of the room slamming the door behind her. A little more than a brief moment passed before a knock came at the Runali’s door once more.

    Runali started to reach out and stop her, but pulled her hand back. Zilia seemed like the type of person who needed to work out her emotions on her own before getting back to other people. She didn’t want to push her too much and make her uncomfortable. Rubbing the back of her head, Runali gave a soft laugh. “It was an honest mistake really.” She spoke to no one in particular as the door slammed shut. With a soft sigh, she made her way to the grapes on the desk and waited patiently.

    Zilia would be back. She was the polite kind and didn’t leave conversations on such an odd note. Fortunately, she didn’t have to wait too long either because there was a knock on her door again. Runali didn’t hesitate to open it and gesture the doctor back in. “Uh huh, well, welcome back.” She offered some more grapes, hoping to ease Zilia’s tension a bit. “Hopefully you, uh, gathered your bearings and are okay now?” It was an honest question. Before Zilia could hide her face and run off, Runali caught sight of the shade of red she turned wasn’t sure that was healthy. But she wasn’t a doctor.
    Before it could fall silent for too long, Runali cleared her throat and added, in a much softer tone, “If it means anything, I didn’t plan on sharing any of it. The chronicle either. Your works should be shared by you and you only. I do appreciate the privilege of getting to read it beforehand however.”

    Zilia stood at the door hands folded in front of her, her calm expression rested on her face and her composure seemed to return. She gave a small nod to the Captain as she entered taking a grape before moving back over to the hammock. She opened her notebook and wrote in it as the Captain spoke to her, she seemed to flinch slightly at the words but didn’t look up as she continued to write. Zilia took out the page and handed it to Runali closing her notebook in the process.
    “Thank you for seeing me Captain, hopefully I haven’t disturbed you doing anything busy. I’m here today to show you the progress I’ve made in the Chronicle. Granted it’s not the complete details but the more opinionated side so forgive a bit of the disorder in the flow.”

    Zilia grabbed the other red book off the hammock, opened and flipped through multiple pages her eyes scanning the words before stopping and holding the book out towards Runali. She offered no response or comment to the Captain’s earlier words and just held the Chronicle out for her to read. There was…a strange look in her eyes, something almost desperate as she stared at the Captain.

    The doctor had done many strange things before, and now was no different. Runali tilted her head ever so slightly when she read the note. Hadn’t they gone through this already? She studied the look in Zilia’s eyes trying to find an answer to her unspoken question. Runali could almost understand what was going on. Almost.
    With a soft laugh, she happily took the Chronicle and was once again back in the hammock. “Oh yeah? Well I can’t tell you how to write a book so whatever problems you have with it are all in your head. You are, in fact, the expert at it.” She scooted over to make room for Zilia. “Thank you for letting me see it. I thought I’d have to wait till it was finished!”

    She pretended like earlier didn’t happen. She didn’t know exactly why they were doing it, but Runali didn’t know why her crew did a lot of things. Sara’s constant need to spar, Jack’s questionable sleep patterns, Luro’s general being… she could go on really. This particular moment didn’t even reach the top of the list of “odd”, so she couldn’t complain. Either way, her excitement to read the book had not diminished a bit.

    Zilia nodded and took a seat next to the Captain, she seemed to relax a little her shoulders lowering slightly as she folded her hands in her lap. She closed her eyes and waited for the Captain to read the Chronicle. It was still a ways off from being done, but the book itself went into intricate detail of Stardusk’s adventures, with Zilia commenting on her own so the reader would know the feelings of the writer, hopefully giving the pages a bit more of a personal touch, rather than just being information on the page. There was a point where the words stopped and Zilia held a note towards Runali.
    “That’s about it Captain, I’ll make some more progress on it as we continue, please look forward to it. I’ll take my leave now, but thank you for your time.”

    Zilia took the book back and nodding to the Captain got off the hammock, she started towards the door but stopped halfway and turned back to Runali, she met her eyes and stared at her for a moment. She didn’t reach for her notebook just meeting the Captain’s gaze and raising a hand she started to reach towards Runali, but halfway closed her hand into a fist and pulled back.
    Turning her back to her she opened her notebook and quickly scribbled something down, after about a minute of this she dropped it on the floor and walked away nodding to Runali again before closing the door, ignoring any comment on the fallen piece of paper.

    The captain made it very clear on how much she enjoyed the excerpts she was reading. She’d point out something she especially liked, or would laugh to say that she “remembered when that happened”. So when Zilia made promise of showing her more later, Runali grinned. “Our wild adventures made into a story? Of course I can’t wait to see! S’probably the only book I’d go outta my way to read. Well, unless Sara’s reading. She’s good at storytelling.”

    While Zilia packed up to go, Runali turned over the bowl of grapes, realizing they were all gone. “Hrm, I should probably give this back to-” Noticing Zilia had paused, she raised a brow. “Somethin’ wrong?” It was hard to read Zilia’s expression again, but Runali was sure she wanted to do something, so she waited. She waited and she watched up until the note fell on the floor and Zilia was out the door. “What an odd doctor.” Runali walked over and picked up the note to see what it said.

    Entry 25

    …The people on this ship are kind, in ways I can’t describe with simple words though I’ll do my best. Sometimes it’s a simple nod, a smile on a bad day…putting up with someone’s selfish request. It’s a strange warmth I can’t really put on paper, but I feel inclined to share this warmth with the others. I think that’s part of Stardusk’s strength, it sounds a little cheesy I know but just knowing there’s a giant who’ll ruffle my hair when I’m sad like he can read my mind, an understanding Captain, two dependable fighters who are strong and kind, a cook with food that smells of home and a navigator with a surprisingly nice smile, it really makes this place feel like…a home…sometimes. Though I still wish they’d stay out of trouble…but that wouldn’t make them Stardusk would it? I suppose I’ll just have to be there when that happens, least I can do to repay the favor I suppose.

    Ahem...Captain burn this note, I swear if you show it to anyone especially Luro your next treatment won’t have anesthetic…and I wasn’t crying, please dust your room when an opportune moment presents itself.

    Runali grinned at the note and promptly placed it in her desk with a few other important papers. “An odd doctor, but a good one.”​
     
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    Luro sat in the training area of the ship loading bullets back into his rifle, a few rum bottles lay on the ground next to him and one rested on the head of a dummy not too far away. He found himself stuck in a rare situation, and his head hurt from trying to think and actual solve the problem. In the end he came up with nothing on his own, and realized he was going to need help with this particular matter, thankfully he knew the perfect person that could help him get past this. The best part is they were on this ship, so that was an additional bonus. He had left a note in that particular person’s room along with a rotten fish he acquired requesting they meet him in the practice room. He couldn’t help feeling a little excited about getting to spend some personal time with one of his friends again, though it was mostly a favor he needed over anything else.


    The rotten fish was understandable, Sara grimaced as she pried the note free from it’s hanging, but was it really necessary? She understood that Luro might have been a little bit bitter after what she and Alicia did after they got back from the Undersea but she hoped that this would be the end of it as she tossed the fish overboard.


    “You asked for me?” She called out as she entered into the room. She hardly ever used it, Alicia wouldn’t spar with her and she much prefered exercising outside than in the cramped spaces of the room. “What’s up, big guy?”


    The moment Sara entered Luro grinned and set his gun to the side grabbing the bottle off the dummy’s head. With a bright grin he sniffed the air in Sara’s direction before giving a firm nod.

    “Ah good good, I knew if I bribed you, I’d see you faster,” Luro said. “Make sure to use that fish properly.”

    Luro gave Sara a small thumbs up, it seemed their previous actions were either forgotten or forgiven by now, more than likely the former judging by the amount of rum bottles around his feet. Luro brought his hands to hips chuckling a bit as everything seemed to falling into place, if this kept up he would absolutely be able to complete his object. Luro turned his back to Sara before he spoke again.

    “Masu I kinda need a favor, I’ve been developing a new function for the L.A.S.S. and I’m kinda stuck. I’m not really one for all that heavy thinking and stuff, that’s what the Captain and Kadi are for but because of the Captain’s rule I can’t just go out and handle it myself thus why I called you.”

    Luro turned around and walked over to Sara, reaching forward he rested a hand on the woman’s shoulder and grinned at her.

    “I need you to punch me repeatedly in the face really really hard and try to kill me.”


    Sara didn’t know, and didn’t want to know, what the intended fish’s purpose so she quickly moved on. “You know, I am kind of curious. What is L.A.S.S? What does it stand for anyway?” Admittedly, she wondered where Luro got all the rum, after what she and Alicia did. She was fairly sure they found all of his hidey-spots, but all these bottles suggested otherwise. Did he have some secret room aboard this cantankerous tub that he brewed those foul concoctions? Ultimately, it was a ship with limited dimensions, so there wasn’t much room for such a lair. But with Luro, you never knew.


    At his bizarre request, she looked up at his face to see if he was serious, and she couldn’t tell. So Sara looked skeptically at him. “Are you sure you want to do this? As in, sure sure? There are easier and less painful ways to kill yourself, you know.”


    Luro only offered a small smile to Sara’s inquiry and removing his hand walked away from her and grabbed his rifle, messing with the switches on the side a small orb popped out of the side and Luro removed it before holding it up so Sara could see it more clearly. The object was spherical with strange designs on the side, continuous spirals circled around it revealing very small openings on it.

    “I’ll answer your first question first since it kinda has to do with the second,” Luro said. “The L.A.S.S. is one of my inventions based off technology from Brass Cape, you see-”

    Luro went onto explain what the L.A.S.S. was and did, though the words he used didn’t have any real translation in the tongue of normal people. He excitedly explained different aspects of it, but it seemed he was instead discussing how fish could fly in the air with the power of Mango’s, then into why clouds are actually people without eyebrows. This went on for a few minutes before Luro stopped and brought a hand to his chin.

    “Hm...actually maybe I’ll just show you,” Luro said.

    Walking over to a wooden dummy he loaded the L.A.S.S. and pointing it at the dummy pulled the trigger, a burst of blue mist exploded from the gun and the air in the room seemed to shift slightly as if it was being pulled towards Luro, an invisible force blew apart the dummy, sending wood flying every which way.

    “I fire and immense amount of concentrated pressure out of it causing that to happen, I also use it to make myself move faster, it’s currently weak though. If amplified I could blow people apart with the pull of a trigger or reach Alicia speed,” Luro said grinning at Sara. “However the problem is overheating. I can only fire a few shots before it overheats then I can’t shoot at all…which kind of leaves me in a bad place. So I’m trying to fix that along with mess with other functions, the L.A.S.S. has so much potential. I could even make the ship fly with a big enough one by-”

    Luro ended up going off on another nonsensical tangent, this one seeming to linger around why barrels are actual cognitive and deserved respect.


    “Anyway Masu I am serious about the punching thing though. I need a good brawl to get the ideas going. Normally I’d just go out and destroy a few towns, fight the marines a bit, kill a few hundred people, steal a ship or two, but the Captain has asked me not to be too destructive so I don’t know how to get the blood flowing right now.”

    Luro said all this with a small sigh setting his rifle back on the ground.

    “That’s why I asked you to come here. I can’t ask Jack cause of certain stuff, Z doesn’t like fighting for some weird reason, Kadi…well he’s still Kadi in a way so no luck there…and I can’t kill the Captain yet so no sense fighting her. I really want to fight Alicia but…well you know how she is, she won’t fight you for real, and there’s no heart in her attacks depending on her opponent, I’d feel nothing from her right now, that and she can’t throw a proper punch for how masculine she is…which is a mystery…”

    Luro trailed off bringing a hand to his chin but shook his head and looked back at Sara.

    “That’s why I need you, I know you can throw down like proper sailor,” Luro said with a grin. “You’re better than me at fighting stuff up close though, I’m a marksman through and through, but without a real target I’m out of luck using that to think, so a brawl is just what I need to really get the blood pumping and my thoughts going and I know you’re strong so that just excites me even more. Fighting a losing battle is one of my favorites!”

    Luro spread his feet out and raising his fists got into a fighting stance a small smile on his face.

    “That and we haven’t really had any alone time Masu, one of the best ways to understand someone is with your fists after all. You’re a crew member, and I wanna know you better, and you’ll be helping me out as well. Don’t worry as well, I called Z down in case I end up at death’s door or something. Just fight me, I’ll even repay you for this favor if you want.”



    Sara listened to his ramblings seriously, taking in every word and trying to wrap sense around his words. Even if it felt like she was metaphorically barking up the wrong tree, she couldn’t help but feel that there was some method to his madness, some meaning behind his metaphors. It was a riddle wrapped up in a half and Sara gave up trying after his third sentence. Nevertheless, she did try to understand.


    At his demonstration, her eyes widened at the destructive force. “... It manipulates the air pressure? Is that how it works?” She tentatively asked, her mind considering the possibilities. If he can really make this ship fly, he would be an inventor as skilled as the great Leonardo Da Vincus, perhaps even surpassing one of the brightest minds of Tilea. It seemed impossible, but Sara reasoned that if there was anyone in the world who could make it possible, it was Luro. That was just the kind of person he was.


    When he mentioned that Alicia wouldn’t give a proper fight, Sara couldn’t help but smile. “Yeah, despite how overwhelmingly manly she is, Alicia is pretty useless in a brawl. And alright.” Her feet widened too in a stance. “But I won’t hold back, so yell stop if you want to, well you know, stop.”


    She wasted no time, seeing that he was ready, with a right hook to his side. But that was only a feint, she held it back at the last possible second to deliver a quick jab to his exposed kidneys. Using the opening, she grabbed his shirt and cannoned upwards, pulling his face down to her head, breaking the cartilage in his nose with a wet crunch, knocking him back. All this in the span of a few seconds. She grinned as she looked up on him, her feet bouncing in place. “Come on big guy, I wanna see the best you got!”


    Luro only offered a grin to Sara’s question about the L.A.S.S. she wasn’t too far off but wanted to fight more than explain at the moment, and seeing her get into a stance it seemed she was willing to help him, something he greatly appreciated. At her warning Luro grinned and gave a firm nod lowering his stance a bit, he could already feel that familiar sensation running up his spine. Sara was strong, he could tell from her stance alone the difference between them, and he couldn’t help feeling excited.

    “I appreciate it and sure, my safe word is Mikchail,” Luro said.


    The moment happened so fast Luro barely had time to register it, in the span of what seemed to be a single breath Sara was already close. He went to defend against the feint only to see her attack redirect, he shifted his body slightly knowing he wasn’t going to dodge it, avoiding taking the full brunt of the blow, but the follow up sent him staggering backwards, his gaze moving to the ceiling as he placed his foot back his arms at his side. Blood ran down his face and toothy grinned form on his face.

    “I’m so glad I asked you Masu,” Luro said lowering his head.

    Reaching up he gripped his nose a small crack coming from it before he rotated his shoulder.

    “That exactly what I needed. How did Alicia hold back against you!”

    Luro quickly sprinted forward closing the distance between them, he didn’t have Alicia’s speed, or Runali’s precision when it came to being up close, his movements were erractic, there was no clear plan in the attacks, but there was a strange focus in them. He focused his attacks on Sara’s skull mainly she’d keep her guards up, throwing a few hooks in her direction.

    “So you’re getting used to be being on the ship it seems, that’s good Masu!” Luro exclaimed throwing in a quick upper cut.

    There was no strength in it however as he he mainly just wanted her to dodge it quickly moving forward to try and slam his knee into her stomach if she moved away.

    “You seem more comfortable!”



    Sara had to agree with that, she was definitely getting more comfortable of her new life aboard. Aside from the bouts of nausea when the sea got especially rough, she was perfectly comfortable doing her daily routine of training. She hung back, her arms up, waiting for Luro to tire himself out before going for the kill. Sara paused momentarily when he said Alicia was holding back, letting him get a good hit in. She shook her head, annoyed both with the blow and with herself for getting distracted. When she felt the knee in her stomach, she had her opportunity to turn the tables.


    Hugging his big leg, she pushed him back, bringing him down to the ground with a large thump. Still with a tight grip, she wrapped her entire body around his leg and leaned back, letting the pressure build up.


    “Give up.” She said simply. “Or I’ll break your leg.”


    Luro grinned at the connected hit but he could already see Sara was recovering, he didn’t waste the opportunity to try and follow up with another attack, but feeling Sara’s grip his eyes widened and he chuckled a little as he felt himself fall towards the ground. Luro seemed to shift slightly as he fell before he felt the hard ship at his back. His gaze moved down to Sara feeling her hold and he arched a brow tilting his head to the side at her words.
    “Break it,” he said simply. “This is a brawl not a capture.”


    Luro however didn’t allow that moment to come grabbing Sara’s leg and using the little opening he made as he fell reached forward and grabbed hold of Sara’s arm, which he appreciated her staying in place so he could do. Shifting his whole body he forced her leg off and pulled her away from him, not wasting the moment he knelt astride Sara and start wailing at her face with his fists, a wide grin adorning his face, he couldn’t help but enjoy himself at this, Sara was so strong!
    “Did you really think it’d be that easy Masu!” Luro said before he suddenly stopped. “Ah my bad.”
    He stood up and got off her on his own taking a few steps back, this was a friendly brawl and he almost lost it for a moment there. His wide smile turned into a small one and he got back into stance.
    “A little more Masu I felt I almost had it,” Luro said. “Have to say I’m impressed though, I thought only Marines knew moves like that, you haven’t worked for the government have you?”



    “For a moment there, yeah I kind of did!” Sara couldn’t help but grin too, enjoying the fight. She kept herself low under his onslaught, using her shorter height to her advantage, and occasionally sneaked in a few blows when the advantage presented itself. In fact, when Luro suddenly stopped, Sara lashed out a punch to his exposed stomach before realizing that he surrendered.


    “Shit, Luro!” She swore, immediately coming to his aid to help him up. “I’m sorry, but why on the Kaiser’s marble grave did you stop, you dummy?”


    At his compliments, Sara’s concerned expression disappeared to be replaced by a grin. “Of course.” She said, patting his shoulder. “I am the best, after all.” When questioned, she tilted her head confused. “No, I’m Tilean.” She replied, understanding dawning on her face. “We’re above your World Government. Plenty of fighters from plenty of nations end up in the arenas, I got the chance to soak up a large variety of techniques


    Luro gripped his stomach and held up a hand smiling at Sara to indicate it was fine, he would have been disappointed if she didn’t take advantage of an opening like that. He was more pleased at the fact Sara was enjoying herself, everyone on the ship tended to have their own reasons for fighting, noble, malicious and survival being a few, but it was rare that anyone really fought for fun. There was nothing better than a good old fashioned bout between friends, there were some things that just could be said with words, and Luro who didn’t have much vocabulary in the first place found it was the easiest way to communicate.
    At Sara’s confusion Luro lowered his fists before laughing a little, he grinned giving a small nod understanding completely, he felt her style was a bit harsher than the marines.
    “Hahaha that makes sense Masu you’re hold was much better than the commander I fought. The world was my arena so I can see where you’re coming from,” Luro said. “Sorry to stop so suddenly, it won’t happen again. Let’s keep going!”
    Luro quickly moved towards Sara to continue their violent but fascinating conversation.

    Hour passed until Luro finally backed away from Sara, his chest heaved and his whole body trembled, both from weakness and excitement. He was battered and bruised all over, there were a few tears in his clothes revealing his bandaged arms, which had come a bit undone during the fight. His hair was completely disheveled and it looked like he had returned from war more than brawling in a tavern. With a bright grin Luro fell onto his rear and rested his arm on his knee.
    “Mikchail,” Luro said holding up a hand. “Hahaha I concede Masu.”
    Taking out his notebook he immediately started writing in it, scribbling a few notes and drawing a few designs as the adrenaline left his body.
    “I got some great ideas, I’m definitely out of my slump…I may have even come up with some new possibilities,” Luro said before putting the notebook back in his sleeve. “Thanks to you Masu I know exactly what to do, and I got some new ideas to try out. That one time when you slammed your fist into my face, it came to me, and that knee to the groin helped with my calculations. I appreciate it.”
    Luro fell onto his back and laughed as he stared up at the ceiling, he spread his arms out stretching with a content sigh.
    “Ahhh it’s been too long since I’ve had a nice fight. I owe you one Masu, you ever need anything, I’m happy to return the favor.”


    Sara stopped once she saw Luro had conceded, her fists falling down to her sides. She was out of breath but significantly less injured than he was. Throughout the fight she was always in motion, never staying in the same spot for more than a second, making it hard for Luro to get a good hit in with his long arms.


    “Yes.” Sara nodded in agreement, smiling while red-faced from exertion. “Yes, that definitely was a lot of fun.” She was a little bit concerned that Luro wanted to be in pain, even more so that she got dragged into this, but if it was for a favor…


    “Actually Luro.” Sara said suddenly, looking down on him. “There is something you can do for me.” She dropped down to one knee, at face level with him. “I need you to teach me the basics of firearms and how to shoot with them. I only need the basics, everything else I can figure out.”


    Lruo hummed to himself as he rewrapped the bandages on his arm, his gaze moved back to Sara however when she spoke his name. He arched his brows at her pulling his sleeves back down surprised she already wanted her favor. He kept his attention on her however smiling at her as he waited to hear what she wanted from him. The moment she brought up firearms, there was a faint sparkle in Luro’s eye and his smile quickly turned into a grin before he quickly stood up.

    “Gahahaha! Man no one’s come to me for that kind of thing, this is going to be fun. I’ll absolutely teach you the basics. Everyone kind of shoots their own way so it’d be for the best you find your own style anyway, that and it’d be impossible to teach you how I shoot anyway. Now have you ever fired a gun at anyone or anything, that’s important.”
    Luro reached into his back and pulled out a pistol and spun it in his hand.
    “I imagine you’ve held one, but have you ever raised it at something? I’ll give you a quick course on firearms, with how you are Masu I’m sure you’ll be fine.”


    “I’m surprised.” Sara said, her astonishment coming through. “You’re an expert on firearms, I would think that more people would ask you to teach them.” She smiled at his response and stood up, glad that he said yes.


    When asked if she ever shot before, she shook her head. “Nope, never even held a firearm before. But I am a very very fast learner.”


    A small laugh escaped from Luro and he rubbed the back of his head, he wasn’t used to being complimented, especially on his shooting. Generally cause he killed whoever saw his shooting since they were normally on the other end of it. He couldn’t deny it was a nice feeling, though he scratched his cheek at her comment of others not coming to him.
    “Well…most are dead by the end of it I guess,” Luro said with a grin. “Before everything it was only the Captain who appreciated my shooting so thank you Masu.”

    When she mentioned never holding a gun Luro grinned, he spun the flintlock in his hand and held it towards Sara to take, honestly he had really been hoping she would say something like that. It was people in Sara’s position that ended up having the most potential.
    “It’s not possible to master shooting, but with your quick learning teaching you how to use that gun like a proper gun will be easy,” Luro said. “Take a moment and get used to the weight, look at it, become acquainted with it. If it helps you can treat it like your other weapons, an extension of yourself. When this is over you’ll only feel its weight when you want to, when you need to. The good news if you already know how to enter That World so the actual shooting will be easy.”
    Luro gave Sara a quick explanation of the gun in her hand, including how to ready and fire it.
    “The flint’s important but I changed it so it will absolutely shoot and its already loaded. Now Masu I’m glad you’ve never fired one before, because the first thing you train your gun on should be something important. Think of the time when you first killed someone Masu, was it out of desperation, survival, enjoyment, take that moment and relive it. When you hold your sword does that feeling ever return? Do you recognize that feeling, do you embrace it or push it down? Do you love it…or hate it. Let it flow through you Masu”
    Luro walked in front of Sara folding his hands behind his back, a few feet away and smiled at her.
    “You got that feeling…good. Now raise that gun and shoot me,” Luro said.
    He was standing close enough that even at Sara’s level missing was pretty much impossible, he grinned at her and remained perfectly still waiting for the shot.


    Sara held the gun in her hand, feeling the weight of it as her finger closed around the trigger. This was just another tool, she told herself, that she had to master.


    BANG


    She dropped the smoking gun, recoiling from the object like one would from a particularly venomous snake. It was an accident, she wasn’t expecting the trigger to be that sensitive. Sara wasn’t aiming at anything in particular, her eyes slowly raised from the dropped weapon to where she shot.


    “Jack!” She exclaimed suddenly, realizing that the shot went through the wall and into the kitchen. She sprinted out the door and towards the kitchen, flinging the door open as her wide brown eyes were filled with panic.


    “Jack!” She repeated, rushing up to him. “Are you okay?”


    Luro remained perfectly still as the gun went off, he was silent for a moment as Sara moved away from the gun walking over to pick it up off the ground. His gaze moved over to her as she ran out of the door and he turned the gun over taking a good look at it. With a small sigh he moved the gun to his holster, that was almost a beautiful moment but at least Sara learned something from it. However he saw everything he needed to see in that moment, and not all of it was good but they could cross that bridge when she returned.


    “…shame that wasn’t intentional,” Luro said scratching the side of his head.

    Turning he looked where the bullet had gone and grinned seeing where it had landed, he chuckled a little and quickly ran out of the door just as Zilia ran into it. She noticed Luro run out and blinked a few times but seeing him motion to stay there she shrugged before noticing the blood on the floor.

    “Did you shoot Jack! If you did good job Masu!” Luro said running into the kitchen.


    As they peered in, curling smoke filled Lady Luck’s kitchen, choking out the rays of sunlight emanating through the portholes. It was a surprisingly big kitchen for a pirate ship. In the center was a counter that took up the bulk of the place, a heavy wooden block currently lined by all old iron pots filled with rice, bowls of spices, tin plates ladened with salted chicken and fish. Barrels and sacks of preserved food occupied space left along the walls, save one. The most noticeable feature being a miniature stone fireplace, made for a single pot to be heated without burning the ship’s wood, placed against the outer wall.


    Currently that fireplace was coated in black soot, impossible to see by smoke and shadows, but it’s cauldron noticeably knocked out place. Its contents- a thick red sauce- stained the floor.


    Groaning and rattling came from behind the mess. Jack slowly sat up. Startled by the bullet coming unexpectedly through his kitchen, the cook had jumped backwards, stumbled over the cobblestone rise, and fell right into the fireplace. He coughed, black ash covering his face, and sauce coating him head to toe. He looked around bewildered and spotted the trio at his door.


    “Who the fuck is shooting at my kitchen?” Jack blurted.


    Sara practically shrieked at the sight of Jack covered in red. “Oh my goodness, Jack!” She rushed up to him and placed her hands on his chest, as if trying to find a bullet hole when she suddenly stopped, and looked at her stained hands. She stared at them curiously, smelling them first before tasting it. “...Marinara sauce?” She asked, confused only then realizing that he wasn’t hurt.


    “Jack, I’m so sorry. Are you alright, you’re not hurt?” Sara started to help him on his feet, as she stared wistfully on the red sauce on the floor. “And I’m sorry about dinner too, that tasted really good.”


    “Thank you,” Jack grumbled out of reflex, allowing Sara to pull him up. A quick revealed the bullet had disappeared into a sack of flour on the far wall, trickling white dust on the floor. He looked despondently at it. And here I just got everything put exactly as I needed it. Sighing, the cook wiped away the soot from his face, taking a moment to compose himself, then glowered at his mates.


    “Alright, which one of you did it?” He immediately looked at Luro, but that ear-splitting smile told him the giant- for one- wasn’t the culprit. Which left Sara, because Zilia was out of the question. He blinked at the gladiator, surprised and disappointed that the biggest fan on this ship of his culinary expertise would shoot him in his own kitchen. He opened his mouth, took another look at Sara’s worried face, and scoffed. “You know what? I don’t want to know. But since you have the audacity to try and kill me the least you can do is help me remake tonight’s dinner.”


    Luro clapped his hands together seeing the red on Jack and a bright grin adorned his face, though it faded when Sara revealed that wasn’t blood. Luro snapped his fingers and put his hands on his hips before taking a look at the mess Sara pointed out, it was really fun what a single bullet could do. He gave a firm nod at the destruction, Sara had potential if she could cause this must damage by accident, though Jack seemed a little upset about dinner. Luro’s gaze went over to the bullet hole and he brought a hand to his chin, moving his attention to here the bullet landed a chuckle escaped from him.

    Luro focused his attention onto Jack as he brought up helping in the kitchen and walking over he put a hand on Sara’s shoulder.
    “Jack it’s mostly my fault this happened, so let me handle the bulk of it kay,” Luro said with a nod before looking at Sara. “Masu…you failed pretty badly. Still you learned the lesson so that’s okay. I’m sorry but I’ll have to teach you about firearms another time the boring way with words instead of action. You’ll have to endure sitting and learning things slowly instead of the fun way okay?”
    “Why didn’t you do that in the first place?” Zilia thought tying an apron around her. “Why do I have to help as well…I should have figured such a thing would happen getting involved with Luro.”

    Luro grabbed a pink apron and tied it around himself before stretching his arms over his head, Zilia was still surprised to see Luro actually being responsible, though he generally wasn’t shy about admitting when he messed things up anyway. She looked over at Sara feeling a little bad for her, she really seemed shaken up earlier thinking she killed Jack, she’d have to get the whole story another time.
    “All right! I’m ready to get started! Masu, Z let’s do our best to fix the problem that was mostly Z’s fault!”
    Zilia’s eyes twitched and she immediately looked at Luro who seemed to read the doctor’s expression.
    “Well Z if you got there earlier you could have stopped us…that’s what the Captain normally does. You gotta be more responsible Z. I mean the shooting thing was my fault, but Z you’re the doctor, it’s your job to stop people from getting hurt.”
    Zilia picked up one of the kitchen knives on the table her hand trembling as Luro went to clean up the mess on the floor, she pointed it at him gripping it with both hands but something in her made her set it back down. Maybe there was another red on the floor in the kitchen already; adding more wouldn’t help the matter.
    Luro hummed to himself a little sad Masu missed shooting him, they could have avoided it going into the kitchen, but that’s to be expected of a new shooter, accidents happen.


    Jack blinked, not expecting everyone to jump in so readily, especially Zilia who he suspected had no part in whatever Sara and Luro had been up to. He almost protested against Luro. Though he liked the giant well enough, he did not, under any circumstances trust him in his kitchen but witnessing his well-meaning attitude the cook decided to let them be. (Where Luro got the pink apron, Jack truly wanted to know).



    Sara looked down bashfully as Jack lectured her, but suddenly looked up when he was accusing her of trying to kill him. “It was an accident Jack, one that I’m sorry for and promise not to do again.” She turned around to pick up an apron, a plain white one, as well as a brush and bucket. Since they were at sea, fresh water couldn’t be wasted, so she was going to use sawdust instead. “But know this.” She said with a smile as she was stepping out to head towards Luro’s carpentry room. “If I was trying to kill you Jack, I would not exactly be trying to do so.”


    Swallowing, Jack cracked a hesitant smile. “Apology accepted. I will do well to keep that in mind for I have no doubt you would succeed.”


    On her way out, she winked at Zillia before gently taking the knife away from her hands and putting it back where it was supposed to be. “Yeah, I get it.” She whispered to her, nodding silently in thanks. “There are times when I want to stab him too.”
     
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    It wasn't unusual for Alicia to be quiet, but unlike her usual behavior she'd completely withdrawn from the others over the previous days. She'd taken up time to herself to contemplate over what'd happened in the Undersea, the things they had done and the things she'd seen during their venture across the dream realm. Having been to the locker of Davy Jones it wasn't her first supernatural experience, but back then she hadn't been met with a confrontation with a familiar face. She'd earned his forgiveness through allowing her soul to be vulnerable to his wounds, a gesture with plenty of meaning within their homeland due their many teachings and beliefs.

    Then they had to say goodbye to Raymond, a friend and and individual whom had become more like family along with everyone else on this strange ship. The swordwoman wasn't fond of goodbyes and so instead she'd parted Ray with a 'goodluck', for goodbyes were reserved for those whom would never meet again. She was content with that and hoped that the man of Ice would one day return as she'd hoped, but whether or not fate would have it was another question entirely. Alicia gave a short exhale as she sat upon a neatly laid out cloth at the bow of the ships deck, the usual place for her to be found when not in her room or seeing to her duties around the ship.

    Next to her was a small glass bottle with a yellow liquid half filling it, several thin dark colored sticks protruding from the bottles opening in different directions that gave off the pleasing perfume scent of freshly bloomed flowers. On her other side was a tray with a china tea pot decorated with Feian art, an accompanying tea cup upon a saucer with a few instruments essential for fine tea art. Finally at her front was a peculiar instrument, a rare item that Alicia very rarely, if ever, brought out from her room. It was entirely plausible that most probably weren't even aware of it's existence given the swordswoman spent the vast majority of her time with her sword or training.

    The silver haired girl gently picked up the instrument, fondly inspecting the wood and the strings. It was carved from the wood of a tree in her home estate, a particular tree for which these instruments were made in better quality due to the design. Alicia was no expert in the craftsmanship of them but it was wonderfully made and like with most of her possessions she'd endeavored to ensure it was kept in great condition. In Feian it was simply called an Ehru and it made for a very particular kind of sound that one would normally hear played within the lands of Yula Fei, Alicia had learned as a child and it was theorized that the discipline within the strokes and measurement of the bow against the instrument transferred to the sword.

    She closed her eyes before raising the bow delicately to the strings, taking a steadying calming breath before she moved to stroke it against the strings. Almost as soon as the bow touched the strings a loud 'BANG!' caused her to jump, causing the instrument to complain harshly as Alicia let out a panicked squeak before bringing the hand holding the bow to her mouth as she blushed with embarrassment, thanking the souls of her ancestors that no one was around to hear and see her. She recomposed with a sigh and thought to probably check out what was happening before deciding to stop herself, thinking that she would likely be found if she was needed. With another deep breath she brought the bow towards the strings as the sun began to sink towards the horizon.

     
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  12. Collabo: Mizos and Capt. Blu


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Location: Out at Sea
    Time: A week or so after Ray’s Departure


    They’d been out at sea long enough for Runali to realize, and for Alicia to hint, that their supplies were limited and they needed to make another stop at some island soon. She couldn’t deny she was still a bit somber towards the idea that they lost another crew mate- even if it wasn’t permanent, but she also knew that dwelling on it wouldn’t make anything better. Besides, her crew had been doing a better job at coping- or at least getting into trouble.

    “Alright, it’s time to actually set a course somewhere.” Runali said to no one in particular. She had left breakfast a little earlier than the rest of the crew so she was standing on the deck of the ship by herself, at least for the moment. “Alright!” Runali said a little louder, as if cementing the idea in her head.

    Just as she was about to call the crew, the squawk of a bird caused her to look up. It wasn’t CP, but the falcon did land on the captain’s shoulder to examine if it was a threat. Both bird and captain looked up as a large pelican flew downward wearing a white hat and carrying a satchel. “Oh it’s just those news birds- Hey!” Runali ducked when a heavy newspaper fell from the sky. She couldn’t grumble about it too much because the bird was already gone. So instead, she sat and sifted through the papers, pushing ones that weren’t important to one side, and pushing others another way to look at later. Eventually, it looked like a scatter of papers surrounding her.

    What caught her eye had been the pirates “Wanted List” that had its own section. She skimmed through, at first seeing a boring list of pirates she didn’t know or cared about and then skipped to the Worst Gen’s section. Being such dangerous criminals, the navy usually gave them their own section- if they could figure out what they were doing. Usually the navy had a hard time finding them so it was just a wanted section for them. Seeing that none of the Worst Gen’s ranks had changed she was about to move on-

    Until she got to the fourth spot on the list.

    “N-...No way…”

    CP tilted her head left and right as she watched Runali scramble through the papers she planned to read later. Sure enough, when she found what she was looking for, she yelled. It was loud enough to startle the falcon in front of her and definitely loud enough for the entire ship to hear. “No way! No way! No way!” She kept repeating, bouncing on her toes until the rest of the crew scrambled out to see what the commotion was about.

    “Tell me my eyes- eye isn’t deceiving me!” Luro was the closest to her by the time they all rushed on deck so she ended up shoving the eight toned pages up at him and continued pacing, now around the giant, in absolute disbelief.

    Each paper had a Stardusk member’s face on it with their titles and bounties.

    Zilia Vilimar - Ashen Philosopher: $40,000

    Jack Kunal - Tenebrous Bodhisattva: $80,000

    Sara Masuma - Thorn or… Fluffykins Bun-Bun Bottoms(?): $20,000

    Mikchail Arcadius - The Pathfinder: $400,000

    Raymond Skalter - The Fallen Scholar: $500,000

    Alicia Tashigi - The Maiden of Misery: $450,000

    Luro Makachi - ???: $550,000


    But the real reason Runali was in disbelief was because the very last wanted poster, hers, read:


    Captain Runali Lev - Wielder of the Reaper’s Eye: $2,500,000
    Wanted: Dead or Alive



    It was such a dramatic leap in price that she could have yelled again. She was surprised she didn’t.

    It wasn’t just the new bounty number that had her pacing back and forth, it was also the principal of it. As ruled by the Navy, any pirate crew over the $1,000,000 mark were immediately placed under the Worst Generation.

    The Stardusk crew were now apart of the Worst Generation, bumping whoever was fourth, down to the fifth spot. It was some pirate group called The Court, but she didn’t care much about them at the moment.

    Luro held up a small bullet moving it between his fingers as he wrote in his notebook with his other hand. He sat on the edge of the ship and was observing some of the ammunition Zilia had brought back with her, granted she had forgotten it but he couldn’t deny it was interesting to look at. He had moved to the spot a little after breakfast wanting to get as much research done as possible, with Ray gone, which meant his rear list had to be adjusted and he had to depend on someone else to attract the lasses, he figured he needed to get started as soon as possible. Ray had provided him with constant resources for his L.A.S.S study, without that supply he’d probably blow up the ship if he tested it again, and he had a feeling the Captain wouldn’t like that.

    When the news was delivered Luro looked in the Captain’s direction and with a small smile put the bullet away before returning to looking over his notes. He turned one page before the Captain’s voice reached him, he raised his head only to almost fall over the edge of the ship as she yelled. By time he straightened himself out the papers were shoved into his grasp as Zilia ran onto the deck having heard the Captain’s scream as well. Luro stared at the posters with arched brows, always pleased to see everyone was wanted. Though after a moment as he flipped through each one he realized what had gotten the Captain’s attention, the smile on Luro’s face widened and he laughed and quickly ran over to the others handing them their posters.

    “Guys! Look at this! We’ve gotten even better! They’re gonna wanna kill us even harder now! This is great! We’re super pirates!”

    Luro continued to laugh holding up his own poster unable to contain his excitement, they were some of the most wanted pirates that sailed the seas now!

    “…Ashen Philosopher…what kind of name is that?”

    Zilia’s eyes moved down to her bounty and her face immediately went pale, she felt her thoughts fade and her mind go blank, the world seemed to spin and she staggered placing a foot down at the last moment to keep from hitting the deck, she took a moment to regain herself to at least stop the world from spinning. Bringing a hand to her face she ran her hand up moving her bangs out of the way as she stared at her poster with wide eyes. This didn’t make any sense, how did her bounty go up this much?! She didn’t remember doing anything pirate like to warrant this kind of bounty on her head.

    “Captain!”

    Luro ran past a frozen Zilia and put his hands on the Captain’s shoulders shaking her slightly, Luro removed one hand and pointed at the ship. There was a bright twinkle in his eyes and a tiny bit of drool ran down the side of his mouth as his excitement reached its peak.

    “Captain we have to upgrade the ship!” Luro said. “We’re Super Pirates now, which means we’re going to get all kinds of strong people coming after us. Let’s go to Brass Cape I got some ideas how we can make the ship better, I’m gonna add all kinds of stuff so we can fight even more people! Oh man so many people are going to try and take us down! This is great Captain!”

    There was a star in her eye as Luro reciprocated her excitement. She was bouncing on her toes again. “Yeah! Super pirates!” The idea of upgrading their ship to something even better made her practically radiate with even more excitement. “That’s a great idea!” Her hands clasped together and she twirled around to face Kadi. “We have to!” Sure Brass Cape would have been in the opposite direction and would have probably taken weeks to get to, but this was important! She was sure they could just island hop to gather a few quick supplies and keep it going. It was a great idea!

    Zilia’s eye twitched and she immediately made her way over to the two, did they not realize how bad this was, a bigger bounty meant they were going to be in an extremely bad place. Armies came after people with bounties this size, this was a horrible situation and these two were excited about being in even more trouble. Zila brought a hand to her face and quickly grabbing her notebook held the note out to the two, her eyes twitching as she tried to hold back her irritation.

    “Why are you two excited! With bounties like this! It wouldn’t be surprising if an armada showed up to capture us!”

    “Exactly!” Luro said looking over at the letter. “We’re going to take on an Armada, just like at Yula Fei! Oh man if I can find Risa maybe I can add a generator onto the ship! A huge L.A.S.S. and an ultra big boom!”

    Zilia put her head in her hands her body shivering, she had never been so bothered by the existence of two people then in this moment.

    Runali’s excitement continued even as she read Zilia’s note. Luro beat her to the answer, but she nodded rapidly in agreement. “An armada means we’re good at what we do! And you know what?!” She excitedly tapped Luro’s arm, a quirk that happened on more than one occasion when she was really excited about things. “That’s even closer to taking the Pirate Lord spot!”

    There was no room for anything less than excitement as Luro and Runali gushed about this big news. Both of them began rambling about the possibilities, ignorant to the dangers that they were bound to face in their upcoming adventures. They were practically children with a new toy. There were now even larger targets on their backs’ but those two could only see the opportunities- even though that didn’t necessarily mean they were good ones. Had Runali not had crew like Zilia or even Alicia, Luro would have definitely enabled her to do something too reckless.

    Who knew how long their hype would have lasted had it not been for the sudden overcast above the ship.

    There had been no signs of a storm, so the sudden shadow made Runali stop and look up in confusion. “Eh?”

    The sight before them was a familiar yet foreign one, the familiar billow of the sails and the wordless song they sang as the wind moved against them. Wood carefully constructed in a shape familiar to any seafarer, it took a little more than a glance to recognize that what was passed overhead them was a ship, yet that was what was the most foreign about it. The looming construct hung above, a vessel made for the sea instead soared over its natural home making its presence known to all inhabitants of the water.

    The crew, at least Luro, Alicia, and Runali, had seen this type of machine once before. “It’s… It’s one of those flying ships!” If the captain wasn’t as excited as a child before, she definitely was now. “Luro!” She began tapping on his arm again as if wasn’t already paying attention. “Luro, it’s one of the flying ships we saw at Brass Cape!” The last time they had seen them, the crew was told that there were only three in the world, and only one actually was in the air. Who knew they’d actually get to see it up close.

    There was a brief moment where Runali could only stare in awe, only for her to blink and turn to her crew. “We have to get its attention!”

    “Take into consideration the person trying to keep you alive!”

    Zilia shook her head realizing there was no way she was going to be able to explain how bad this situation was to these two. She watched as Luro and Runali gushed about being Super pirates, a small smile finding its way onto her face. She had to admit it was hard to be mad at them when they were this excited, she supposed as Pirates this was a good thing in its own way even if it was more danger. Zilia messed with her bang figuring she was going to have to work even harder now, things were going to get more difficult and she had a job to do.

    When the shadow loomed overhead however the smile faded from her face and her eyes lifted up as she hadn’t noticed any dark clouds in the sky. What she saw almost made her drop her notebook, for a brief moment she thought a large whale flew over them from its size alone, that was more believable than what was actually flying overhead. A ship was in the air over them, Zilia fell onto her rear her eyes widening at the sight, a ship was flying through the air, an actual ship!

    Luro seemed just as entranced by the sight above them, his gaze moving up with the Captain’s. A wide grin found its way onto his face and he laughed his hand reaching up towards the wonder looming above them. His dream for the Coral seemed so close yet again, warmth filled his entire being his heart leaping in his chest at the very sight of another flying ship, that was the kind of ship they needed now, the kind Super Pirates needed! The moment the Captain mentioned getting its attention Luro grabbed his rifle off his back.

    “Aye Captain! Let’s do it!”

    “Why?!”
     
    #312 Capt. Blu, Apr 9, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2018
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  13. [​IMG]
    Following the Kitchen Incident, Sara had spent the week practicing with pistols, taking endless shots against bottles that Luro had so kindly donated. It became a daily ritual, with the crew hearing shots ring out across the sea for a few hours at a time. By the time the week had come to a close, Sara was confident enough to carry a pistol in a sash across her chest and to use it combat.

    When Runali received the papers, Sara was about to take a shot on a bottle perched along the rail of the ship, her head turned curiously when she heard her scream out. Along with the rest of the crew, Sara made her way over to her captain to see what the fuss was about.

    "And that's... good?" While she understood and related the desire to be at the top, this put a massive target across all their backs. Sara sighed, looking away, unable to understand the mind of a pirate and a criminal. Unfortunately, one poster caught her eye, her poster. While the photo looked like it was taken from the boughs of a tree, Sara was at least grateful that a branch had covered part of her face, but was still very annoyed that they found her name.

    "Faex!" She swore in her native tongue, as she stepped back to consider what this means. It was going to make retirement harder, what with watching her back for governmental forces for the rest of her life. She was going to have to change her name, which annoyed her as she much appreciated her old one as it was. Her eyes quickly scanning the rest of the poster, one eyebrow raised at her new title and it's pair rose too when she saw the bounty.

    "Fluffykins Bun-Bun bottom? Where did that come from? And twenty-thousand dollars?! What the hell did I do?"

    Those questions, and more, were interrupted by the sudden arrival of a floating impossibility. Sara looked up, whistling appreciatively. She had heard rumors of a flying machine in the ports of Tilea, but she had always heard those tales from drunken sailors trying to impress her so she took them with a grain of salt. "Wow." She said, awestruck.
     
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  14. [​IMG]
    "What the hell did you do?" the perplexed Navigator answered Sara. "What the hell did I do for four hundred grand? And even worse, what the hell did Alicia did to beat me by fifty! We stumbled into ONW's operation, and royally fucked it up, and got out alive! All she did was to nap on the job." The man made fairly weak artistic impression of being sad and disappointed. He also didn't mention his hidden surprise on the sudden name change. Sure, he did use the Pathfinder moniker, but he was positively certain he only used it for communication with things that were, shall we say, not existing in the traditional sense of things. "Suffice to say, Captain, no, your one eye is not deceiving you, the numbers are indeed there, and they are pretty pretty round."

    He turned towards her with oddly happy grin, his arms raised. "Congratulations, people will want to kill us even more than before, ain't that grand?" There was a hint of sarcasm there, of course. It was Kadi. However, the man also seemed genuinely happy about this.

    Same as Alicia, the Pathfinder spent the last few days shrouded in silent contemplation, sitting hidden on the poop deck, next to the helm, with his legs up on the gunnel. The chair he swivelled on had a missing, shot off leg, but for some reason, it seemed to not impair its stability one bit. He did not say much, but his facial expressions and hand gestures implied some sort of wordless conversation with something that was not completely there.

    Ray's sudden departure seemed amusingly ironic and humorous. He couldn't say much more to the man than a wish of a good luck, and good hunting. Words of honesty, from one man repairing his past to other.

    As for the sudden appearance of the airship, the Pathfinder was suddenly reminded of a significant lack of a Belen-shaped space around. Last time the airship was mentioned, his thoughts of world domination were severely derailed by her actions. The man sighed. He carried memories of a man who had not seen a real woman for four years, and then was told there was such a darling waiting for him. He looked up to the mechanical wonder.

    "Hm... Luro, look at the front-right stabilisator. Bit of a vakl in it, ain't?" he shouted over the loud humming of the airship's engines. Since his soul reformed, his accent got worse again, and occasionally a Wisegradian word slipped in. "My guess it they are heading back to Brass Cape for a refit, possibly. Now, as for getting their attention..."

    He already retrieved a flare rocket from the ship's supplies. A more careful man could mention that shooting flare rockets around the airship was possibly not the best idea. Man such as the late Navigator. Luckily, the Pathfinder was man cut from a slightly different cloth. With a whizz, the rocket flew off on corona of burning gunpowder, drawing black smoke line through the clear air. Suddenly it made a perfectly right, precise right turn and headed in the direction of the airship. It flew dead centre in front of it, and exploded into a cloud of red smoke.

    "Right. Should be enough, ne?"
     
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  15. [​IMG]
    Location: Aboard Lady Luck

    80,000. Three to an 80,000 bounty.... the edges of Jack's updated warrant crumpled in his fist. Around him, Luro and Runali jumped with elation and eagerness, presumably wanting to celebrate for the boost of notoriety, while Kadi wore a grin of barely contained excitement (but then, the navigator smiled a lot more now) and those left seemed as taken back as Jack. Zilia and Sara had it worse, accruing substantial bounties for first-time pirates. Jack's was a leap as well. One that put his heart in his throat.

    What does 'Tenebrous Bodhisattva' even mean?

    For over a decade of sailing, the cook never attained a bounty more than 3,000 and that number was a little over a year old. Pirates tended to wear their bounties as badges; a way of showing off their standing in the crowd. The more money that's on your head, the better you're doing your job. Jack preferred avoiding that mentality because it tended to paint a bigger target on your back and then more people ended up dead or chasing you. It'd been a hard fight keeping the cook's bounty to a low, seemingly unimportant number so he'd be the smaller target. He had joined Stardusk thinking, as a whole, they wouldn't attract that much attention.

    Of course, when he joined, he didn't know they'd broken out of prison.

    Jack wiped a hand over his face and rubbed his shoulder. He glanced at the others, judging their reactions. The excitement of the captain made him uneasy. He couldn't grasp quite what made her eye light up like a kid getting a new pet. Still, he tried to force a smile. His trademark smirk slipped. These last few weeks had been...challenging. Ray's departure didn't affect him as much, though he was nevertheless disheartened to see the musician go. Ray was someone Jack saw as dependable and had the crew at heart. Morale slipped, a little, afterwards. Jack did what he could with the food he made, and started a habit of bringing out a tray of drinks each night like he did when they first entered the Undersea. Sometimes it would be tea, or heated cider, or plain rum. The Kitchen Incident certainly stirred things up. Frequently, his mind drifted to that day of port they made to restock, after returning from the Undersea.

    Giving himself a shake, Jack bent to pick up the remaining papers. He glanced at the list of the others' bounties and nearly dropped the papers when he saw Runali's on top. "Oh no," he gasped under a staggered breath. Quickly ruffling through the rest, his hands shaking and clamming, he found the paper featuring the Worst Generation. It hadn't clicked until then, just exactly was the source of their captain's excitement. He looked around, bewildered, wondering if he was the only one that missed this. He looked back down, and felt his heart plummet from his throat to his bowels.

    No. 4. Stardusk was a Worst Gen crew.

    Whatever hopes Jack had of staying out of the world's limelight, they fled with tails tucked between their legs. Lost in his own miserable thoughts, he didn't even notice the flying ship that cast a shadow over them.
     
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  16. [​IMG]

    Location: Out at Sea (still)
    Time: Afternoon


    The ship was much too far away for any sort of communication to get through. The flair Kadi shot up looked like it had managed to get far enough to be seen but nothing happened after. All of their efforts were null and void, making the captain lean over the side of the ship with her head in her hands. “Aw man! This has gotta be a once in a lifetime opportunity! And it’s getting away!”

    Runali would have suggested following after it, but the ship was going in a completely different direction. She didn’t know how long it would stay in the air, so if they stopped for supplies it would have been easily lost afterwards. And they needed more supplies!

    Following that would have been like tracking a-!

    Runali blinked and looked over at CP who was perched next to her, preening her feathers. “Like tracking a bird… Or a bird tracker…” She gestured for the falcon to come closer before pointing at the ship sailing away. “I need you to get that ship’s attention.” It was a little odd talking to a bird still, but seeing CP nod and give small winged salutes did comfort her in knowing the bird understood. “If it’s anything like a regular ship, there’s gotta be a navigator somewhere at the front. Hopefully. Whoever you see, get them to look down this way.”

    The falcon chirped out as if saying ‘okay’ before flying off. She soared up into the sky alongside what looked like a giant wing of the ship before disappearing above it. Unlike Lady Luck, or any ship at sea, there were multiple sails and they were arched slightly and splayed out like fans. This didn’t bother CP too much, she just had to avoid the air currents that pushed her backwards.

    The deck of the airship had been bustling with people so it was easy to spot the brownish red falcon circling around. A woman, resting on a bench whistled to get the falcon’s attention, only to grin when it landed at her side.

    “Oh, what a cute bird!” She examined it for a second, mainly checking to see if it was injured. “What’s a bird like you doing flying so close to us, hm~?” Her voice was light and almost like a song as she spoke. A few others had gathered around to curiously check out the bird as well.

    CP cooed when she was petted, only to raise her head and flash the golden pendant on her collar.

    “Hm? Oh, you’re a domestic! What a well trained baby!” The woman looked closer, flipping the pendant over to reveal the Stardusk insignia. It caused a wide grin to slowly cross her face. She jumped up, shooing the crew away from her before hurrying off to find someone else.

    “Babe you’re not gonna believe this~”

    Back on the ship

    Runali’s gaze didn’t break until CP disappeared. She had ordered the crew to close the sails so they were at a brief standstill, in order to wait just a bit longer. She ignored the chance that the crew on that ship could only mean trouble for them. Besides, they were Worst Gen pirates now! Now they had to get into some trouble.

    It had been a few minutes, but Runali was still determined. She wasn’t sure why some of her crew weren’t excited as she was about all of the events that were going on but she was sure they’d get excited eventually. “If this doesn’t work, we gotta follow that ship… We’ve got a navigator, we could get somewhere.” There was no real reason they had to follow the ship. But like she said earlier, when would they ever see something like that again! And if they could get close enough for Luro to figure out how to make one… Her eye lit up in wonder at the idea of being able to have one as well.

    Suddenly, the airship was turning around.

    “It.. It worked!” She watched as the ship seemed to drift lazily above them before the force of four grappling hooks sank claws into the edges of the ship. While it looked as if they were being attacked, Runali looked a bit closer at one of the claws holding onto the ship nearest them and noticed there was no real damage done, as if specifically calculated for minimal damage. It was there just to hold onto the ship. “Whoa. Hey Luro, have you seen something like-”

    Her excitement didn’t end there because a platform from under the ship began to lower. It stopped a few feet above Lady Luck only for a man, holding a woman by the waist to jump down directly onto Lady Luck. The ship seemed to shake under his steel toed boots. It was impressive that he didn’t go right through the floor. As he straightened up, the man stood at around 6’5”, towering over the crew (save for Luro of course). He was bald with peculiar green lensed glasses on his face, obscuring his eyes. Besides the steel toed boots he wore a simple faded gray shirt and a dark green puffy vest. The only odd thing seemed to be his green pants that had one too many pockets.

    He let go of the woman next to him, who was a lot smaller in comparison and much lighter on her feet. Her dark curly hair and large gold earrings bounced gently when she landed on the deck of the ship and she gave the most radiant smile compared to the man’s stony expression. Her flowy white dress seemed to shimmer with gold, just as radiant as she was.

    If the crew were paying any attention to the platform above, they would have seen a few faces, four to be exact, watching comfortably from the edge of the platform. None of them looked threatening and they seemed to be watching for pure entertainment. But attention turned when the large man scratched his beard and cracked a small smirk. “Well I’ll be damned, love. When you’re right, you’re right. It is the Stardusk crew.”

    Runali had already stepped in front of her crew the moment they realized they were being boarded. She watched and waited, ready to fight, as a man twice her size effortlessly jumped off a platform a few feet up with a woman at his hip. But when he spoke? Runali almost immediately relaxed. She wasn’t sure if she meant to, but it was something about the casual, low tone that felt comforting and peaceful.

    The woman at his side took the liberty to take dainty steps forward to greet Runali. The closer she got, the more surprised the Stardusk captain seemed. Ignoring the fact that the woman casually glowed, her face started to become something she recognized.

    The woman held Runali’s hand in her own. “It’s nice to meet you Captain Lev! I’m-”

    “Robin Guaneri… the Robin Guaneri- which- which means you-” She looked at the man standing behind Robin. “You’re Alton Guaneri… Captain of the Nova Pirates?!”

    Robin giggled. “So you do keep up with the papers, hm?”

    THE Nova Pirates?! As in the second on the list of the Worst Gen!?” Runali wasn’t sure how much shock she’d be put into today.

    “Aye! We are! By the way, lovely bird you’ve got. She’s still on our ship, eating snacks. You must’ve been the ones who shot the flair too?” Robin gazed over the whole grew, drifting towards each of them to happily shake their hands in greeting. “Normally we ignore those kinds of things because ships try and attack us all the time. Heh, scared of new things you know?” Eventually, Robin was back at Alton’s side, letting him speak- although he seemed fine with letting Robin do all the talking.

    “Well, yeah. Your captain’s got it right. We’re the Nova Pirates. I’m the captain and this beautiful woman is my wife- And also the first mate. But she’s basically a captain too, to be honest.”

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Runali was staring in shock still as they both began to speak, only to shake her head and gather herself. “Wait, wait, wait! You greeted us like you wanted to meet us. What gives?”

    Almost in sync, both of them crossed their arms in slight confusion. “Well, because you’re in the Worst Gen of course?”

    Robin casually took a similar newspaper article out of Anton’s vest pocket. “Haven’t you heard the news? You knocked The Court to the fifth spot! Must’ve been that crazy Kane’Artem break out you guys did. You guys must be great at laying low too! The navy’s been scavenging the seas for you guys, I can’t believe you didn’t know!”

    “Oh no we just- Oh no we just found out about that…” She glanced back at her crew. “We got the news like an hour ago.”

    Robin and Alton looked at each other before giving shrugs. “Oh. Well? Congrats on the new spot?”

    Above them all, the four people sitting on the platform gave thumbs up and stood at once, seeming to prep something out of their view.

    “It’s always safe to size up the new competition.”

    “Bah, don’t worry about Al, he’s only joking. We don’t go looking for trouble with other crews.”

    “That’s what she wants you to think.” Had it not been for Alton's small smirk it would have been difficult to tell that he was only joking.
     
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  17. [​IMG]

    The silver haired swordswoman had been meditating upon the ships bow before the sudden commotion knocked her from her quiet serenity, causing her to let out a sigh to herself before she began to climb to her feet. She half expected it to be something stupid, like Luro being able to chug down an ungodly amount of rum or something else trivial that sometimes seemed to inspire enthusiasm and excitement. However when she arrived with the others she noticed them all looking at something, walking over to inspect the bounties herself before her eyebrows raised. "That is certainly quite the jump" she commented casually and softly as she read down the names, stopping at Sara's for a moment before suddenly laughing into her hand. "Fluffykins Bun-Bun Bottoms... I suddenly feel a little better about my moniker" she said as she eventually managed to recompose.

    She smiled sympathetically down at Zilia who seemed to not be taking the news well if her facial expression was anything to go by. "Don't fret Zilia, as long as we have each other... what more is there to worry about?" she said to hopefully reassure her a little before turning back in to Runali and Luro getting carried away, causing her to shake her head and roll her eyes a little. "Don't get carried away you two... this poses challenges for all of us. It may require us to become stronger or seek to better ourselves to prepare for the new challenges ahead" she said, thinking carefully about their future. The swordswoman contemplated a few things to herself about how this might effect them, but it seemed that through would be pushed to the side as her attention was eventually pulled along with the others to the flying ship overhead.

    ".... You know I'm not even surprised anymore" she said with a small smile before looking down at Zilia, giving a smile at her endearing reaction. Alicia wanted to warn about gaining the attention of the ship but before she could get a word out Kadi had already launched a flare, leaving Alicia to bring her palm to her face and exhale a long drawn out sigh. "I don't know why I still bother..." she commented lowly to herself before readying herself for the consequences. The ship was coming back this way due to their on board bird, courtesy of the Cutthroats and Alicia began to prepare herself for a confrontation. In her experience most things they got involved in usually ended with them in some kind of fight or running for their lives. She wondered if she might seek to demonstrate a new feat of power, dangerous given their ship loomed above them but... effective if it worked.

    When the ramp lowered and two of them descended to their ship, Alicia couldn't deny she was impressed, not just by their entrance but also in their physical presence. The man was giant, not something she was unused to having put up with Luro for so long but the woman was undeniably beautiful. Their friendly attitude set her at ease the more they conversed and when they exchanged hands Alicia rather awkwardly shook their hands, something not very commonly done in Yula Fei. Still though she smiled and introduced herself politely before listening as they continued to explain, mentioning the prison break which started to make their bounties make a bit more sense. Alicia hadn't known they were being searched for however, at least not so thoroughly. "Thank you for your kind words" she replied, "It's nice to have met another crew not looking for a fight for a change" Alicia more than most could appreciate that.
     
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    Luro rested his gun on his shoulder wondering if he shot at just the right place he could do a bit of a damage and gain their attention, though before he could search for a spot he stopped hearing Sara's proclamation, he glanced over at her lowering his gun when she mentioned her name as well. With a grin he started to speak but stopped when Kadi pointed out the fault on the ship, he gave a small nod and pat Kadi on the shoulder before looking up at it himself.
    "Aye Kadi you're right, for a guy with only one eye it's certainly keen," Luro said. "Airships have this flow to them that's indescribable, but they're still ships, you can see the faults if you look close enough. I'm so proud of you right now."
    When the flare went up Luro put his gun away, his hands closing into fists as he quietly hoped the plan would work, there had to be someone with knowledge of airships on there, it only made sense or it'd plummet out of the sky, and they were pirate friends! Meeting them was extremely important!

    Zilia meanwhile was trying to get her thoughts straight, quietly hoping that they didn't draw attention to the ship that could literally drop onto them. Her gaze moved over to Alicia at her words and she offered a weak but genuine smile thankful for the words, she couldn't deny them being together improved their chances, and she was going to make an effort to linger near Alicia and Sara, or Luro to hide behind if things got bad. When the ship seemed to continue on Zilia's shoulders lowered a bit and she sat down on one of the crates relieved the idea had failed, now they could stock up and leave in peace. However she tended to forget how determined the Captain could be and watched as she sent CP up to the ship, Zilia reached out towards the bird but it was too late.
    "Why CP...he's one of my favorites..."
    Zilia pulled out her notebook really hoping their feathered friend would be safe, going up to draw the attention of possibly violent pirates, she started to comment towards the Captain but when the hooks slammed into the side of the ship she jumped at the sudden noise and movement of the ship looking between the hooks the color draining from her face.
    "A-are they boarding us?!"

    There were moments in your life that you tended to remember, a first love, your first ship, that one time in that tavern in that town you can't really remember because you had too much the night before, and only remember a dirty wedding dress and four angry men. For Luro this was one of those times, staring up at the floating ship above them, inches from touching the hooks in the ship and the couple landing onto their ship from the sky. A toothy grin slowly found its way onto his face at the sheer joy flowing through him right now.
    "Hi new friends!" Luro exclaimed throwing his arms up. "It's nice to meet you!"
    His eyes sparkled as he stared at the two shaking the hands of Robin and staring at the hand with a grin grinned as he waved it at the Captain.
    "Captain Captain! We got Worst Gen buddies...Worst Gen Buddies!"
    Luro looked up waving to the four before they were out of sight, these guys were great and if the Captain really was aiming to be the top then they'd have to fight these guy eventually, that made it all the more exciting, he could tell...he could feel it these two were strong.
    "Your wife is very pretty! I also like your glasses. Oh right I'm Luro Makachi, I'm the Carpenter of Stardusk it's nice to meet you! I hope when we come for your spot we have a lot of fun fighting each other! Can I see your ship?!"

    There were moments in your life that you tended to remember, fixing a hole in someone's stomach, dodging bullets on a battlefield, hiding in a barrel from a drunk carpenter who wants to explain the difference between round clouds and circular clouds only to be found when he opens the barrel to grab the rum inside. This was one of those times, and Zilia wasn't sure what to exactly do. She had slid back behind Sara and Alicia but lowered her body in case of a fight only to stop noticing the friendly faces on the two new guest in front of them, she seemed to relax a little as the expression didn't seem forced or fake like Jack's earlier but these were still pirates and a threat. Though when her eye landed on the woman's hair she blinked and straightened up slightly.
    "...it's so...curly...I kind of want to touch it..."
    The moment the Captain mentioned who they were Zilia slid even further back from the two, she remembered the Worst Gen from Jack's conversation, and these two were second on that list. They were two steps above them and they were engaging in light banter, just imaging their bounties made her head hurt. Though she was afraid of these two their smiles made it hard not to approach them, it was like being drawn into a carefully laid trap.
    "Goodness...her smile literally shines...she could give Luro a run for his money. Oh don't you smile too I might actually end up blind."
    She flinched when they brought up that they were Worst Gen, and her eyes twitched hearing the navy had been looking for them, so luck was the only thing that had been saving them all this time, that thing that was finite and eventually ran out.
    Hearing CP was safe calmed her down at least, she shook the woman's hand nodding at her and doing her utmost not to make it more awkward then it was, though her reservation was hard to hide.
    Taking out the notebook she wrote something down quickly, she took a step back and handed the first note to Jack before moving towards the Guaneri's.
    "Jack your smile is slipping...take a moment okay..." Zilia's note to Jack was simple and she glanced back at him for a moment before focusing her attention on the Guaneri's before handing one to Robin since she was closest and Alton literally towered over her, something she was used to but made it hard as he wasn't bound by rules not to kill her.
    "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance...I suppose my poster gives it away but I'm Zilia Vilimar, most call me Zil. I'm the Stardusk Doctor..."
    Zilia took a step back and gave a small nod to the two before stepping back behind Luro.
    "Forgive Z," Luro said holding up a hand. "She's a generally terrible person and is really bad at keeping her murderous impulses in check."
    Zilia looked up at Luro who looked down at her arching a brow seeing the wide eyed expression on her face.
    "What?" he questioned.
    She quickly pointed at the Guaneri's mentally screaming at him to clear up that particular misunderstanding.
    "...why would I lie? You're a cold blooded killer...I think."
    Zilia ruffled her hair hating that he one understood what she meant and two wasn't clearing it up. She ran over to Sara before shoving a paper to her, Luro was just going to get this wrong and this was one first impression she didn't want to mess up.
    "Miss Sara! Please tell them I'm not a cold blooded murder. I hate violence. Please explain!"
    Zilia grabbed Sara's shirt practically begging the woman to please clear up the misunderstanding.
     
    #318 Mizos, Apr 16, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018
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  19. [​IMG]

    "Nah." Sara shook her head at Alicia's dig. "Maiden of Misery sounds like it's trying too hard, whereas with Fluffykins Bon-Bon Bottom, you don't know what to expect. Think about it, if someone goes around deliberately introducing themselves with that ridiculous of a moniker, you know they are ready to take on anything whereas something like Maiden of Misery could only come from a child trying to make themselves sound cool." Sara nodded as she followed her logic. "Yes... I will make Fluffykins Bon-Bon Bottom into a name that will strike fear into the hearts of anyone who hears it."

    With that said and done, Sara quietly watched as the occupants of the airship made their way down to theirs. What caught her eye at first was the sheer size of the man. He would be tricky if they had to fight, he was a man that knew how to fight with his body beyond just raw strength or power. But what then distracted her was the arrival of his companion, one of the more beautiful women that Sara had met at sea. She felt a stab of jealously at the make-up that she wore, Sara was unable to use it regularly herself as the damp salty air and the sea-spray would guarantee that it would just run down her face. Not for the first time, Sara felt a little bit homesick.

    "Charmed." She said, holding out her hand to shake both of theirs. "I'm Sara Masuma, one of the more-recent members of the crew." She looked up at their airship. "Your ship is very beautiful." She commented, tilting her head curiously. "Although, I would not want to be stuck in a storm on one of those. What is it like, flying?"

    She felt a tug at her shirt, looking down to see it was only Zillia with a note. "... Well, I don't know about you hating violence. You did fight surprisingly well back on the captain's home island." She said, truthfully. "But I can say that Doctor Zillia is a very gifted and talented physician, who I have never seen hurt someone who didn't deserve it and never have I seen her kill anyone or even anything."
     
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  20. Location: Lady Luck (near an island)

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    Sara leaned against the railing on the top deck, staring out into the island that Alicia temporarily disappeared to. Today was a special day, for today was the day that Sara’s new form of training began. Even if she didn’t visibly show up, she was a little bit apprehensive and nervous, despite no reason for being so. The training, she reasoned, could not be that bad, it would probably involve meditation or some other spiritual activity. She may not believe in the benefits of such an activity, but she was going to give it her best try, if for nothing out respect for Alicia. She saw Alicia, in the jolly-boat, row back towards the ship alone, the necessary preparations probably complete. Sara made her way down and climbed aboard the boat, facing opposite of Alicia. She remembered why Alicia picked this island in particular, something about its proximity to Yula Fei combined with its remoteness meant that this was an ideal training ground.


    “All set?” Sara asked, taking a seat and facing Alicia.


    The swordswoman had spent the better part of the morning exploring the island, looking for locations that would enable her to carry out her lessons. Alicia wasn't entirely convinced Sara was ready for this, nor capable of owning the patience required for what she needed to teach her over the next few weeks, although she decided to give the gladiator the benefit of the doubt. She'd made it clear the importance of what she was going to learn along with her own expectations from Sara. To Alicia this was a very serious parting of life changing knowledge that in the wrong hands can bring nothing but death and destruction to the world. But in the right hands, the world could only benefit from such knowledge passed on to others.


    "I believe so" Alicia replied as she handed Sara one of the oars. "I hope you're ready, this will take some time and you'll be presented with rather.... unusual tasks, some of which will test you in more ways than just one" she said as she took her own seat.


    “Oh you know me.” Sara took the oar and settled herself down. Despite herself, she couldn’t help but grin a little. “You know I love a challenge.” Alongside Alicia, she dug deep into the water and they made swift progress. When they landed, Sara hopped out of the boat and dragged it onto the shore, that way the tide wouldn’t take it out back to sea. “Well, lead the way!”


    Alicia merely nodded at Sara's response before they set off towards the island, silently contemplating the tasks she'd set and wondering how successful they would be. Sara was the oldest person she'd taught and certainly different than the people she'd trained form her home land in the past, nevermind that only a very small handful had ever progressed to the stage of learning the power. The swordsman stepped off the boat and as Sara mentioned leading the way she gave a small smile, "We're already here" she replied before motioning to the part of the beach where the waves crept upon the stones and sand. "I want you to select a pebble, any pebble you like however... take your time. Once you've chosen, we'll proceed".


    That was fast, Sara had to admit. The request caught her by surprise. “Huh?” Sara stared quizzically at Alicia, confused. “Why?” Looking around, she surrounded by different rocks of various sizes, shapes, and materials, nothing stood out to her. Ultimately, they were just rocks and she didn’t see the point.


    Alicia stood patiently with her hands behind her back, the breeze gently kicking against the silvery strands of her hair tied neatly by the black bow. "Don't question the why, just do as I ask and pick a pebble. Take some time, consider the shape and size, the color and texture... it'll become clear in due time".


    “Alright, if you say so.” Sara still didn’t quite understand, nor did she particularly like the do-as-I-say tone, but she reasoned that all would be illuminated eventually. Taking her time, she walked around the beach, scrutinizing random rocks, occasionally picking one up, weighing it, and then dropping it on the ground before moving on to the next one. After five minutes, she settled on a flat round piece of tan solid smooth sandstone, perfect for skimming the ocean with. It felt comfortable in her hands and, if needed, could be used as a crude if effective missile. “Alright.” She repeated herself, delivering the stone for Alicia’s inspection. “How’s this?”


    The Fein swordwoman looked at the stone but didn't touch it, giving a small nod to acknowledge it. "I suppose it's fine, though it's not my opinion which matters, it is yours" she said before turning, "Follow me, it's quite a walk from here and... bring your new friend" she said as she lead Sara away from the beach, further inland down a grassy path which lead up a gradual incline. "Over the next month that pebble will go everywhere with you, I expect you to get up early every morning to clean it and have it with you at all times. This is very important".


    Alicia never broke her stride as she walked, seeming to take in the island's natural beauty as she looked around at the various colorful flora that blended together. "I understand this is an unusual thing to ask but all of it will become clear in the end and I assure you it is not without purpose". The incline eventually took them into a stairwell of stone cut into the rock that required them to ascend carefully, of course Alicia took her time and suggested Sara do the same since falling would probably mean a few broken bones. Once at the top they would be presented with a clearing.


    "This place will do I think, it's beautiful no?" she asked as she headed further into the clearing, the edges of which stood old trees with winding branches. Beautiful flowers filtered between the trees and at the center of the clearing appeared to be three jagged boulders of unusual shape. If Sara turned to face back from where they had came, she would be greeted with a view of the ocean with the silhouette of the Lady Luck gently swaying in the bay.


    Sara stopped, looking down at her new burden in her hand. “Are… Are you serious?” She asked, but her blood curdled when she realized that Alicia was. And being asked to get up early? Sara was positive that she was awake and exercising at least half an hour before Alicia got out of bed. With a heavy sigh, she slid the stone into her pocket and followed Alicia. She took her time climbing up the stairs, much like Alicia did.


    Once they got up to the top, Sara had to admit, the island was certainly picturesque, definitely worthy of a painting of some kind. “Yeah, it’s nice.” She said, staring out into the island with the ocean at her back. “But I’m guessing you didn’t bring me up here for the view, as beautiful as it is.”


    "You're quite right, I didn't" Alicia replied as she continued to walk, heading for the three jagged boulders before turning towards Sara. She waved the gladiator to come closer before stepping beside her and motioning to the boulder, "What can you tell me about this boulder. there's no wrong answer here. I'm just curious".



    Sara stared at it flatly, her patience starting to wear thin. She came here expecting training, not to pick up and stare at pebbles. “It’s a rock Alicia, a really big rock. I can’t give you its life story. It’s a rock now, it will probably be a rock in ten years, and in a few more years, it will be a slightly smaller rock.”


    Alicia exhaled a short breath, perhaps she expected too much too early from Sara but never the less she gave a nod. "Alright" she motioned with her hand to the area beside the rock, "You see the rock is casting a shadow, if you look close enough you'll notice with subtlety that the shadow is moving due to the timely location of the sun" Alicia motioned to the sky for a moment before then looking to Sara, "You and I both are casting shadows, in fact every single object living and not is casting shadow in the wake of the sun" Alicia paused for a moment to let Sara think a little on that before continuing. "What we learn from this... relationship, is that both shadow and therefore the dark cannot exist without the light, and likewise light can not be light without dark" Alicia cocked her head to the side.


    "Balance Sara, everything in this world demands it. There is always a push and pull, a give and take or even an up and down. But, what relevance does this hold to us as users of power?" Alicia smiled, "To use the power we must accept these laws and abide by them, which is to say in our case, we must accept both the light and the dark when using the power of destruction, which means we have to understand the nature of them as individuals"



    Sara stared, stunned. That was the message she was supposed to find? She stared at the boulder, wondering how on Earth anyone was able to come to that conclusion based off of what was in front of them. “So you’re telling me.” She said slowly, her voice filled with just the slightest tinge of sarcasm. “That the absence and counterpart of light is dark. Yeah, I would have never gotten that on my own, thank you so much Alicia.”


    Sara, thankfully, did keep her mouth shut for the second part of the explanation, listening with focus, even if she failed to see how the balance of light and dark reflected within a person. Morality is relative, after all, one person’s good was another person’s deviance or even evil. But at least Alicia was starting to provide some form of explanation instead of treating Sara like a simpleton, incapable of tying her own boots up.


    Alicia couldn't help but think that if she had been this smart with her teachers she'd have a sore head by now. Nevertheless the patience of the swordwoman remained firm. "No, what I'm saying is that without one the other couldn't exist. Understanding the relationship of both is vital in using the power, for it will require you to regulate both entities within yourself when using it. Failing to do so risks instability... instability risks an unstable result in how you project your power and manifest it" Alicia sighed a little, this would be harder than she thought, mostly because it seemed Sarah would struggle to comprehend these details.


    "Take a seat" Alicia took one of her own as she crossed her legs, waiting for Sara to do the same. "Close your eyes for a moment and concentrate on a something you enjoy, a memory perhaps or an experience which brings you peace" Alicia waited.


    Sara obeyed, but still not understanding, sitting opposite of Alicia. Likewise, she crossed her legs and closed her eyes. What peaceful memory did she have? She thought back to when she exercises, remembering that occasionally she slips into a state of pure calm, finishing her current routine and moving onto the next one and the one after that without even realizing it. Maybe that’s what Alicia was talking about. Having nothing else to go on, Sara took a deep breath, held it for three seconds, and exhaled through her nose, focusing entirely on that sensation. Her body quickly became motionless and utterly still, waiting for Alicia’s next instructions.



    Alicia watched and waited as Sara followed her instructions and proceeded with what she asked of her. The swordsoman didn't say anything for a few minutes, merely letting Sara experience the memory combined with the ambience of the world around her. The sounds of the birds, the hush of the gently swaying trees and the feel of the warmth of the sun on her tanned skin. All of these senses needed to be felt and enhanced by the positivity emanating from the emotion within the memory.


    "Good" Alicia eventually spoke softly. "Now, while maintaining that mind state, start to pay attention to the sounds around you, the feel of the light air upon your skin carried in the breeze and the shush of the waves hitting the shoreline. Focus on each sound, really concentrate on how it applies to you, your place in this world and your connection to these natural forces" Alicia would once again fall silent to allow Sara to try and connect herself to the world around her.


    The feeling should feel uplifting, as if a warmth would spread from her chest and push through her veins, softening the tense knots of her muscles as her mind would be carried into a calmful peace. Of course, assuming Sara succeeded.


    Sara sat there quietly, her other senses magnified as her vision was cut-off from the world. She heard the birds call, seagulls; she wagered, the gentle rustling of leaves still on trees as the wind carried warm salty air from the sea. She felt her core loosen up, as if letting go of a breath that she did not know she was holding. A peaceful serenity was cast over the scene as Sara held her calm state, making a mental note to do this more often.


    When the next set of instructions came, whilst maintaining her calm state, she directed her focus to the waves and the winds in turn, and their neverending forces. But, for a single heartbeat, she understood. This realization caused her to gasp in fright that broke the spell over the pair. Sara paused, blinking, and resumed control over her breathing. With the connection between herself and the world made manifest, Sara couldn’t help but feel very very small.


    Alicia was of course observing Sara closely and as she could see her gradually coming to understand the world around her, she gave a small smile. "We are all connected, everything from the smallest plant to the greatest forces of nature itself. Through understanding the world and our place within it, we learn to appreciate life and it's importance. Everything has a role to play and every action has a consequence, for a push there's a pull, for an up there is a down, a give and a take and well, you see the point" Alicia tried to outline the world of balance around her and how every action she made would have a consequence, whether she desired it or not.


    "Accept these truths into yourself Sara, for it is through understanding this world that we learn how to move it and where power is granted to the enlightened" The feeling would be quite overwhelming, like locked doors in her head opening at once to let through a flood of understanding. It would feel like the world itself was calling to her, beckoning her to an embrace like an old friend returning after a long absence away. The world in all it's magnificent beauty was laid before the Gladiator, walls of iron falling away to reveal a light warmth felt against the soul as the connections were made for the first time.


    Sara pushed the few notes of anxiety away and tried to listen to Alicia’s speech, but the knuckles on her hand became white with tension as she listened. For a fraction of a second, she had felt it, the sensation of being connected to everything and knowing her place within the world. However even if Alicia didn’t intend to imply it, Sara had no intention of ever being a slave again. Whether the bondage was to mankind or to destiny itself was irrelevant, she would not let anything or anyone be her master.


    “I… I accept.” She began, eyes still closed, finally speaking up for the first time. “I accept this truth… This feeling of everything impacting each other. But my place… Our place in the world… I refuse to be controlled by anything, neither fate nor destiny will dictate my actions.” Deep down as the walls blocking her from the rest of the world tumbled, the blinding light of the outside world burst through. But the fire within herself burned brighter, bright enough for even Alicia to feel. Sara opened her eyes with a start and, taking deep breaths, looked towards Alicia, her eyes filled with determination. She slowly stood up, looking around as if seeing the world for the very first time again. Sara turned to look down at Alicia, smiling softly with gratitude. “I think I’m ready for the next step.”


    Alicia could feel it, the awakening of the soul within Sara as the world embraced her and she in turn accepted it. "The world does not plan for us Sara, it merely responds to our actions" was her response. Such things as destiny and fate were notions Alicia herself didn't believe in, much like the rest of her culture. It was genuinely believed that thier lives were as a result of choice and not the will of gods and deities.


    The swordswoman watched as Sara looked upon the world, her new home with greater understanding after opening her eyes. The colors would seem richer and more beautiful and even the sounds were more pleasing to the ear. Alicia looked up at Sara and smiled warmly, "Yes, I believe you are" she said before slowly standing to join her, exhaling a deep breath. The day really was quite lovely, a good day for such experiences.


    "Come, let's continue" she said, motioning with her hand and a friendly smile for Sara to walk with her as she lead her away from the open area, towards a break in the trees, another cut path Alicia had forged with her blade. "As we make our way, tell me how you feel... what're you thinking?" Alicia asked curiously.


    It was hard to describe how her perception of the world was affected by this, but if Sara had to describe it, she would say that everything seemed cleaner, as if a subtle fog was removed from the world. She followed Alicia, curious as to what the next test would be, when she was asked what she was thinking.


    Sara could only sigh and look away, deep in thought. “I don’t quite know.” She answered truthfully. “I feel… well, better would be the best word to describe it.”


    Alicia nodded without looking towards Sara as she responded, after all the answer to her question was not for Alicia to challenge, it was just her genuine curiosity. The swordswoman lead Sara down a path which eventually opened up at the mouth of a cave entrance, a violent strong wind blowing at them from within at such an intense volume that should Sara attempt to get close to the entrance she would be physically pushed back, the wind strength increasing the closer you'd try to fight your way closer. "Ah, we're here" she said with a smile.


    It wasn't clear what was causing the seemingly supernatural wind current but the force of it was unlike anything someone would expect to be coming out from within a cave. The mouth of the cave itself could almost be described as the maw of an angry dragon, angular teeth across the top lining the caves jaw. Alicia walked over to a nearby rock and sat upon it, she'd look to Sara before motioning towards the cave. "After you!" she said with optimism in her tone, "We must cross this cave to the other side to continue our journey".


    Sara looked at the cave and felt the unnatural wind blow through. Ordinarily, she would have hypothesised that it was air being pushed out of underground caves by the incoming tide, but she suspected otherwise. This wind far stronger than it should be. She stared into the cave, a fair distance away, as her hand gently rested on her chin, apparently very deep in thought. After a few minutes, she must have came up with an idea because she lowered her hand and dipped it into her pocket, pulling out the stone that she picked up from the beach. She held it, feeling the weight and the shape before gently tossing it into the wind-swept cave, curious to see if the wind had any effect on a non-living object.


    Alicia watched with genuine curiosity as Sara picked up the stone, causing the swordswoman to lean forwards a little as she took it and threw it towards the cave entrance. The stone would sail through without seeming to be remotely hindered by the wind current, hitting the floor and rolling a little before coming to a stop. Alicia opened her mouth to comment before stopping herself, merely watching to see what Sara would do next.


    Sara resumed her previous stance, gazing into the cave. “Hmm…” She hummed idly, for whatever reason, this wind did not seem to affect non-living objects. This was a key fact that she could use, but how? Coming to another idea, she slammed her fist into her palm and exclaimed. “I got it! I’ll be right back.” Without another word, she turned around and disappeared, heading back for the hill they stood on. She arrived five minutes later, carrying one of the smaller boulders, holding the weight in a tight hug. “Okay.” She panted with the effort, but grinning at Alicia. “I’m ready now.”


    Without another word, she stepped towards the cave and against the wind, confident that the added weight would be enough to fight the wind’s power.


    Alicia raised her eyebrows as Sara walked away and for a moment she wondered if Sara had given up, although her brow quickly furrowed at her own obvious mistake in thinking Sara was capable of giving up so easily. She watched Sara return with one of the rocks and grinned, understanding her intention almost immediately. Alicia gave a single nod, "Very well then" she said before jumping up from her seat and moving towards the Gladiator. "After you Sara".


    Alicia would walk beside Sara as they approached the cave entrance, two things becoming immediately clear, the first being that Alicia seemed to be unaffected by the wind as she stood with her hands neatly behind her back. The second was that the boulder was working, allowing Sara to progress towards the cave entrance, "Don't forget your stone" Alicia reminded, before walking ahead to make her way to the other side.


    Meanwhile the wind would howl in Sara's ears the deeper inside she pushed, whipping at her hair and threatening to launch her out of the cave like a cannonball if she slipped up or allowed the wind to hit her directly. Alicia would be waiting patiently on the other side.


    It was hardgoing, but Sara pulled through step-by-step, her entire body fighting against the wind. When Alicia walked ahead, she shot her a deep look of annoyance when she saw how effortless Alicia made it look. Nevertheless upon this sight, she pushed even harder. When she was reminded of her responsibilities, Sara stopped dead in her tracks, looking down in utter despair. Even over the winds, Alicia could hear Sara moan. “Ohhh, fuuuuuuck me.”


    This was not a very pretty picture, Sara with shaking knees holding a boulder that she couldn’t let go to bend down to get a stone that she couldn’t pick up. She knew the instant she let go of the boulder, she’d be forced out of the tunnel, but she could not complete the challenge without it. Unfortunately, much to her eternal regret, this stone had become a matter of pride and she would not progress without it, if only out of some sense of misplaced ego. After all, she put herself in this situation and she’d get herself out of it.


    Inch by inch, she slowly lowered the boulder, placing it against the ground and leaning against it for shelter. Taking in deep lungfuls of cavern air, she reached out with her arm, fighting against the wind, to grab ahold of the rock before tightly clasping it to her chest out of fear of dropping it again. With one bold swift movement, she stood up against wind and out of her shelter. The raw force overwhelmed her and threatened her grasp on the earth, but she stood firm. Trying to stand alone took most of her energy, let alone move through it but she tried nonetheless. Step by delicate step, inch by grueling inch, she slowly made progress but it was clear to see that her natural stamina, while impressive, wasn’t nearly enough to make it all the way. This was a fact that Sara herself knew but she did not let it stop her.


    Somehow, step by step, she persevered. Finding that same calm that she had before, Sara shut her eyes and just kept moving, gasping for air every step of the way. But, just as she was just about to use the very last iota of her strength, she found the will to keep moving and push past through the wind, practically running the last few steps before collapsing at the mouth of the exit, her chest heaving and her skin red with exertion. The stone, her goal, was clasped firmly in her hand. From Alicia’s perspective, for those last few steps, it was as though Sara’s soul flickered, ever so briefly, like a lit match flaring up and dying to the wind.


    “There.” She gasped, in between breaths. “How’s… that for your… challenge, huh?”


    Alicia blinked at Sara, tilting her head to the side, "Challenge, what challenge?" she asked, leaning against what seemed to be an old wooden fence that'd been erected here long ago, a guard against the sheer drop on the other side that lead into an expanse of tree tops. Falling would be certain death so it made questions for why Alicia so easily leaned against it without fear of it giving way.

    Alicia walked over, standing over Sara as she looked down at her. "Tell me, what do you think happened just now?" she asked curiously.


    Sara rolled up on her back, taking deep and controlled breaths, but still clearly exhausted. “Don’t… give me ‘what challenge’. That was… one of the hardest things I ever done” She rested her head back down and breathed, looking back up at Alicia. “I don’t know.” She sighed. “Maybe a force that only things with a soul can feel?”


    Alicia raised a hand to her mouth and gave a small laugh into it before she bent her legs and offered her hand to pull Sara into a seated position. "As good a guess as any, but no not quite" she replied, adjusting her position so that she knelt on one knee as she explained. "The wind was quite real and quite powerful, powerful enough to move even you and your boulder... yet, it didn't affect me... would you like to know my secret?" she asked, retaining her smile.


    "I believed that I could overcome it and so I did" she suspected Sara might feel like lunging at her with that statement so she decided to stand before continuing to explain. "Users of the power have the ability to overcome situations of adversity, but strength doesn't always come from our physical talents and honed skills. Faith and belief in yourself above all else is one of the strongest methods of self empowerment" Alicia said before she motioned with her hand back towards the cave.


    "You believed the boulder would work, so it did. The power within you combined with your belief gave you what you needed to overcome the obstacle. But, it was difficult no? the wind still pushed and fought against you... that is merely because you withheld doubt, sure within yourself that failure was a possible outcome. You must believe in yourself Sara, don't try, don't attempt... simply do and trust yourself that you can overcome it" Alicia smiled before offering her hand again to help Sara up fully.


    "Of course not everything can be fought with will alone, but there is value in this lesson none the less. With every move you make, be confident and unwavering... never doubt yourself".


    Sara squinted at Alicia suspiciously when she declared that she simply wasn’t trying hard enough but kept quiet to let her have her say. After squinting at her some more, Sara relented, sighing and taking Alicia’s hand, pulling herself back up. Her hand reached down to her belt , where she wisely remembered to bring a water canteen with her. Removing the top, she took a few greedy gulps before wiping her mouth with the back of her hand and stowing the canteen away. “Well, what now?”


    Alicia looked further up the path, a steady incline that ran up beside a stone wall of the mountain, the other side the fence with the long drop to the bottom. "We continue of course" she said before she began to walk at a leisurely pace up the path, allowing herself to think over Sara's small spark of the soul, a clear sign that it was awakening within her. The path eventually lead them under waterfalls that crashed over them into the drop below and Alicia stopped a few times to marvel at the beauty of it before continuing.


    Eventually they would find themselves following the path running beside a river that lead to one of the waterfalls they had passed earlier, following it till they ended up a smaller clearing than before which sat adjacent to the river, several trees with shedding pink leaves creating a snowfall of color over the small meadow. "Beautiful, this spot should do just fine I think" Alicia said as she lead Sara over to the grass verge beside the river, under one of the larger cherry blossom trees before taking a seat under it, motioning for Sara to do the same.


    "This next... experience is going to be a little more intense than the previous ones, but I assure you that you'll be quite safe" she'd wait for Sara to take her seat before continuing. "I'm going to directly attempt to make a connection to your soul, but to do this I'm required to place my hands on you, of course I'm asking your permission on that first before we proceed" Alicia's tone was quite serious. In her culture placing hands on another wasn't something done unless you were close friends or family and even then it was done within social etiquettes.



    Sara had to admit, as she followed Alicia up, it was quite a pretty tree. Nothing she had ever seen before in Tilea. “Yes.” She admitted, admiring the cherry blossoms. “It’s gorgeous.” She took her seat opposite of Alicia and tilted her head at the next task. Going into her soul? Sara felt like she should say no, but her curiosity demanded otherwise. When asked for permission to touch, Sara couldn’t help but laugh. “Sure, as long as you’re not trying to cop a feel.” Grinning at Alicia, she turned her back towards her and awaited the next step.


    Alicia rolled her eyes, "Well at least you're smiling and not complaining, which is more than I could hope for..." she responded before having Sara sit and face her. She'd instruct Sara to close her eyes and center herself like she had done when connecting with the world, of course Alicia would wait patiently for Sara to proceed with this step before readying herself for the next steps.


    The swordwoman would gently place her thumb on Sara's forehead and two fingers against her chest over her heart before closing her own eyes, focusing her energies before her soul would ignite and burn brightly with intense power, the strength of which Sara would be able to feel now that she was open to such things within the world. Sara would soon find her mind falling away, as if the ground beneath her had simply been removed from existence.


    She wouldn't be able to move, yet... she could no more feel her body, almost as if she'd fallen into a dream. Light would burst into her vision suddenly, the world coming to life around her once more, revealing Alicia sitting in front of her in the same position under the tree by the river. Nothing had changed, except that Alicia was no longer touching her. "Oh good, we're here" Alicia said as she looked around.



    Sara couldn’t help but feel that Alicia didn’t exactly have high expectations for her, but Sara felt that her performance so far spoke for itself. At Alicia’s request, she closed her eyes and found her calm, finding that it got easier to center herself the more she did it. Once she was ready, she silently nodded. As Sara felt Alicia’s gentle touch, it was as if the world melted away and, when the sensation passed, she opened her eyes to find herself… in the exact same spot she was in. If it weren’t for her experience with dreamworlds during the Undersea incident, she would think that she was still in the same place.


    “So…” She said, looking around. “Where exactly is here, are we in my head or yours?”


    Alicia would already appear to be awake when Sara opened her eyes, as if the swordswoman had been waiting for some time for the Gladiator to join her in this new realm of existence. “Neither” was the short and simple answer she gave, maintaining her soft smile. “If you were to enter my mind, your consciousness would have been spiritually pulled apart leaving your physical body to remain a drooling husk without conscious thought, this is a bridge world between our minds…. an island of armistice where our minds won't compete for domination over the other” she continued, climbing to her feet. “Now!” she began, “There’s a few reasons I brought you here, first and foremost was to confront something”.


    In the next moment that Sara blinked she would find herself standing upon an island of jagged rocks in the middle of the ocean, huge powerful waves crashing against them threatening to pull her into the dark blue void to be swallowed whole. It would all feel very real, from the spray of cold seawater upon her skin to the howl of the wind in her ears. A second blink and Alicia would be standing before her, standing neatly seemingly unphased by the water around them. “You need to pay attention here Sara for this next part is very important” Alicia’s expression was one matching her tone. “If you fall into the ocean I may not be able to bring you back, for it represents something beyond my control… bare that in mind” the swordsman stepped to the side revealing a bridge leading off from the jagged rocks, through crashing waves into the unknown, a cloud of wet mist blocking vision to the other side.


    “I understand that the ocean is somewhat of an obstacle for you?” the question didn’t require and answer. “I will meet you on the other side”. With that Alicia turned and made her way across the bridge. A wave would slam against her and in the next moment she was gone, as if it had wiped her off the bridge… or perhaps had prevented Sara from seeing her long enough to lose her to the mist that blanketed the midway point.


    Sara sat down on her knees, hands on her lap, as she listened intently to Alicia. Ever since the Undersea incident, she has been dying to get more information about the dreamscape. If she was ever going back to that wretched nightmare, she was coming armed with knowledge. When Alicia mentioned the reason they were brought here to begin with, the hairs on the back of Sara’s neck stood on end. Confrontation? That could only mean one thing. With a blink, she was whisked away, her worst fears confirmed when they arrived. She looked around and let out a heavy sigh. ‘Yup.’ She thought idly to herself. ‘They were doing this now’.


    Sara listened to her explanation, a flat expression on her face. With how dramatic Alicia was sounding, Sara couldn’t help but suspect that she was deliberately overacting the seriousness of the danger, as if to heighten the sense of fear. Once more, as if to confirm her suspicions, Alicia dramatically disappeared.


    “Oh, real funny Alicia!” Sara yelled loudly, her voice filled with sarcasm. “You really got me there! Wow, good job!” Since it wasn’t Sara that made this place, she reasoned that Alicia was responsible. Furthermore, if she was the architect of this world, that meant she had to have some sort of power over it. Chances are, she pictured annoyed, Alicia was watching from a distance away, with a telescope and a cool drink in hand, far away from the storm and watching Sara suffer at her own leisure. With another heavy sigh, she turned her focus away from hypotheticals and to the task at hand. She just had to walk through, nothing more. But, she thought grimly, there had to be a catch.


    Nothing ventured, nothing gained, she thought to herself, as she took her first few steps onto the bridge and into the unknown.


    The waves continued to break against the rocks, rearing up above Sara in looming angry shapes often made in the real world by the ocean. As Sara spoke there would be no answer other than the howling wind and the endless stretch of disturbed ocean. As she approached the bridge it'd creak and strain to her footsteps, as if at any moment it might break and have her plummet into the cold void swirling beneath her. The mist would close in soon after, enveloping her as she ventured deeper, consuming her till she was surrounded by nothing other than a white. The wind still continued to howl through it and every so often a wave would lunge at her from a few feet away, splashing against her.


    After what seemed like ten minutes, nothing had changed and the bridge seemed to stretch on for an eternity. Within time it was hard to tell when minutes fell away into hours, or if perhaps she had been there longer. Time didn't work as it should and just when a fear would perhaps begin to creep in, the outline of something in the distance would make itself known to Sara. It'd be something familiar, something in the back of her mind which would trigger a memory that'd been drowning in the realm of the forgotten. Yet she would know it immediately as the outline of her parents, their features just out of her visual reach, albeit their gestures beckoned her to seek them out, calling out to her.



    Sara pushed her fears to the back of her mind. They were only illusions, she said to them, I do not fear ghosts. This world was a construct, she wasn’t going to die. Yet her fears remained. As she took her steps, and her view of the world was obscured, she kept reminding herself, over and over, even saying the words like a mantra.


    “This world is not real.” She whispered to herself. “This world is not real.”


    Sara looked up towards her destination and froze. Her eyes widened and an ache, an ache that she had all but forgotten about, rise up in her heart. She stood there, still frozen, her mouth open in disbelief. It couldn’t be them, but it felt like them. After what seemed like forever, the knuckles on her hand turning white with tension, did her eyes narrow, and her sorrow turn to anger. Step by step, she pulled herself closer and closer to them, her teeth gritted with anger. Alicia had crossed a line bringing her family into this, and there would be hell to pay.


    The outlines remained at the same distance no matter how fast Sara moved and how determined she would be in her attempt to cross the bridge. The wind would continue to howl and the waves continued to wash along the tightly twisted rope that barely strung the wood together. If Alicia was truly the architect of this world, it was becoming quickly obvious that she would not be allowed to proceed until she confronted the memory. In truth Alicia was awaiting Sara on the other side as she said, albeit she could still hear Sara just in case the Gladiator truly required her for any reason. She didn't particularly want to intervene during this particular trial but nevertheless it was important that she remain in constant communication with Sara, even if she didn't know it.


    Sara doggedly kept going, pushing all other thoughts and memories aside, and letting only her anger push her forth. “Alicia!” Sara roared into the storm, not knowing if she heard her and not caring. “When I get my heads on you, I’ll turn this dream into your nightmare!” Sara kept walking, but she could not maintain this pace forever, she had already pushed herself to her mental limits during her last trial. And, eventually, Sara faltered and fell to her knees, her arms supported by the rails. “You bitch.” She spat out a curse to the storm before hanging her head and taking in lungfuls of air. Dimly, in her moment of rest, she felt a long forgotten memory rise up within her but was too tired to stop it.


    It was the last memory she ever had of her parents. After months of cramped and nauseating travel by sea, she was chained up alongside her parents and taken to the market to be sold. She remembered how potential buyers would prod and poke her, peering inside her mouth to check for cavities, treating her like they would a horse. She was scared, remembering that she hid behind her mother who, despite her own fear, comforted her daughter the best she could. Sara felt her touch, her hands running through her hair, she could almost even feel it now. They were made to stand in the hot sun all day until, eventually, someone bought her parents and left Sara behind. That was the last time she had ever seen them.


    She kneeled there on the bridge, taking in deep ragged breaths, the intensity of the memory caught her off guard. Sara blinked, wiping away the water from her eyes, she wasn’t sure if it was tears or ocean spray. She had not thought about her parents in years. For the time being, she just kneeled there, dimly thinking about old memories.


    Once Sara had relived the memory, confronted and accepted it, the mist would slowly bleed away into the ocean, now calm and flat as if the howling wind hadn't been present before. The bridge lead onto a clearing where Alicia could be seen sitting on a wood bench surrounded by colorful flora, sunlight cascading onto the small oasis as butterflies filtered between the array of color and tranquility. Alicia noticed Sara and beckoned her over, "Ah! you're finally here" she called over with a smile. She noticed Sara looked to have been quite affected by the trial, noted mostly due to her kneeling position near the end of the bridge. "Come! tell me about what you experienced" she said with an eager curiosity as she set herself forwards on the bench, a couple of the colorful butterflies taking rest on her clothing.


    Sara’s eyes eventually opened, to find a scene quite opposite to the one just a few moments ago, but that was to be expected. Her eyes, blinking with the light, narrowed to see Alicia. She stood up, a slight shake in her legs, and quickly made her way to the meadow. She stood up, staring down at Alicia, her arms folded, her knuckles white with tension again. “You know.” She said sternly, her eyes flickering with some hidden fire. “That was an exceptionally cruel thing to do.”


    The smile slowly faded from Alicia as she saw the Gladiator storm over with a fierce look in her eye, feeling the flickering burn of something she was all to familiar with. It was no secret that Sara was far stronger than Alicia and in the moment that Sara stood over her she was reminded by her own memory of what it felt like to be punched by her. Nevertheless she was curious to what Sara was so worked up about, "... Are you really that annoyed about some waves and some mist?" she asked with a raised eyebrow, some of the butterflies taking flight from her as others now started to rest on Sara's crossed arms.


    A moment of pause before Alicia exhaled a sigh of realization, "Oh you mean what you saw within the mist. Sara, I genuinely have no idea what happened after I left you, of course I knew something would happen even if I wasn't sure what" she paused before adding, "Whatever it is you saw was probably something meaningful or something which held a lot of power in your life, something your soul wanted you to see... to remember" Alicia gave a small smile, "Besides for me to recreate a memory surely I'd have needed to be present within it, to be able to draw it upon the canvas of this world in such detail, no?" the question was once again rhetorical. "In any case, your soul presented you with something you've likely been running away from... I won’t ask you what it was unless you so desire to discuss it... but I would ask, how do you feel? take some time, think about it for a moment".


    Sara stared at her for a few moments, attempting to ascertain if she was telling the truth or not. After a few moments more, Sara sighed and unclenched her fists, taking a seat next to Alicia. Leaning forward, she crossed her hands together and looked straight ahead, brooding. She seemed tired, not merely exhausted.


    “I remembered my parents.” She spoke up. “Before we were… separated. But that’s all in the past.” Sara turned to look at Alicia, a melancholic expression on her face, “Why is it coming back now? It’s been buried for fifteen years. Truth be told, it’s been so long that… I can’t even remember their faces. I was only seven years old when I last saw them. Can you imagine? Forgetting even the touch of your mother?” She sighed deeply, and looked down at the ground. “When I was younger, I was worried that, if I ever did see her again, I would not see her as my mother but she will appear before me as a complete stranger. Now?” She trailed off, sighing again before realizing how much of herself she shared. Feeling somewhat embarrassed, she turned away from Alicia, and said.


    “I no longer wish to be here, can we leave?”


    Alicia hadn't said a word as Sara spoke, merely listening and giving her full attention as she faced towards the Gladiator with one leg crossed under her, the other planted on the ground with her hands neatly in her lap. She smiled softly and with reassurance when Sara had just about finished speaking before giving a single nod. "Of course Sara, it's been a long day" she said before standing and walking around to face her. Like before she pressed her thumb against her forehead and two fingers over her heart before closing her eyes. There would be a momentary feeling of confusion as both of them returned to their physical bodies once more. The entire ordeal had only taken the real world time of five minutes, of course time worked differently within the supernatural.


    "I'd say that's enough for today, we'll return to the ship and pick up again tomorrow for the next trials" she said as she stood up, offering her hand to Sara. "But, you did very well and I think we made some really good progress" she said confidently. Alicia would discuss other stories and details completely separate to the training on their way back, feeling it was best to take a break from the training till tomorrow. That being said Alicia had to ask her one important question, "You still have your stone... right?" she asked with a raised eyebrow as she prepared the boat.



    Sara ignored her hand and stood up on her own. She only paid half-attention to Alicia on their journey back, very deeply lost in thought to herself. A lot had happened within a single day and she needed time to process it all. As they pushed the jolly boat back out to sea, Sara heard Alicia’s question and stared at her, processing her request. Her hand, dipping into her pocket, pulled out a smooth piece of sandstone, picked up from when she threw it into the cave.


    “Yeah.” She said, putting it back in her pocket. “I still got it.” It showed just how much the day had affected her when she didn’t have a snappy retort ready.


    A single month passed by and each day Alicia would bring Sara to the island to undergo very strange conditioning. From asking her to balance upon boulders with her stone down to asking her to prepare trivial things such as cooking fires while explaining to Alicia what she was doing step by step. Sometimes the swordswoman would explain to Sara why, sometimes not but it seemed Alicia was very serious in everything she asked of the Gladiator. To the Feian's credit she never once became impatient with Sara and anytime that she would stumble or fail in her attempts she would patiently wait and work with her till she was able to complete the task asked of her.


    The pair found themselves on the same beach that they started on the day before. Sara looked alert, eager to get started. In her hand, she grasped a woven wicker basket. “Lunch.” She explained, raising it up for Alicia to see. “I asked Jack to pack some for us, that way we don’t have to go back to the ship when we’re hungry.”


    Upon arriving at the beach once again Alicia turned towards Sara, giving a gentle smile as always as she patiently listened to her explain about lunch. "Good idea Sara, that would save us time" she replied before motioning for her the Gladiator to follow her, like she had done in the many days before, taking her time as she walked to enjoy the scenery despite having walked the same path over and over. "Today we're going to do something a little different than before" she said as she lead her down a different direction towards a singular large tree in a clearing, a popular tree in her home land that shed petals of pink whenever the wind brushed against it. The Cherry Blossom tree as it was known was a beautiful piece of nature and one which brought the swordswoman fond memories of home and her family.


    "You've come a long way thus far and I think it's time we go over some of what you've learned into a different application" Alicia stopped under the tree and turned towards Sara. "Remember how when we started, I asked you to close your eyes and connect to the world around you, to see and feel it as I do... in much more clarity?" she wanted to remind Sara of that moment. "We're going to apply the same method here, except you're going to connect to the world around you again in order to precisely measure your movements in tune with the world.... let me explain" Alicia smiled. "It is true that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, but when we endeavor to move with the world instead of against it, sometimes those actions and reactions can be redefined in how they will apply to us".


    Alicia motioned to the tree, "By connecting to the world and understanding it, it is possible of us to break constraints of the physical world. Let me demonstrate, I will have this tree shed it's petals upon me... I will not move away but not a single one will touch me" Alicia drew her sword and with a flick, a weak wave of air dashed against the branches causing the petals to fall. Alicia closed her eyes and began to move, her sword moving with measure and grace as it pushed away any petal that looked to be on a trajectory to touch her, without the blade physically making contact with the petal itself. By the time the air had settled, not a single one had touched her. "I want you to try to do the same. Take your time, don't rush it... just focus your mind, feel it in your every bone down to the center of your heart".


    Sara, in the meantime, had incorporated Alicia’s training into her daily routine. Alongside pull-ups, sit-ups, and pushups, now Sara spent two hours each day meditating, taking in everything the ship and the sea had to offer. A month had passed, and Sara already felt like she was making improvements. Everything seemed a little bit brighter, and she noticed how her already-sharp reflexes had improved, by ‘feeling’ her surroundings she was able to predict what might happen next and act accordingly. From Alicia’s eye, deep within Sara’s spirit, she could feel a spark, trying to catch aflame but failing.


    When Sara was asked to do this, she tilted her head but knew better to ask the question ‘why’. She was used to these bizarre challenges by now and took to them with wearied relish, taking a certain amount of pride through beating them all. Sara stood under the tree, nodding to show her readiness. Once the trial began Sara looked up, watching how they fell and anticipating where they were going. She drew her gladius, at a disadvantage she noted compared to Alicia’s longer katana, and delicately pushed the air that pushed the leaf away. About two seconds later, already two petals touched her shoulder but to Sara’s credit, she was able to finish with only five more making contact, seven if you counted that she had to physically push away with her weapon.


    She sighed, looking down and breathing in for a second, before looking up at Alicia determined. “Again.”


    Alicia watched carefully as Sara went about the task, lashing another stroke of air against the branches after Sara had given her the sign she was ready. The swordswoman had a perception to match her speed and skill, and so it wasn't hard for her to note and count the petals that touched the Gladiator before the air had cleared. "If this is too hard for you we ca-" she was cut off by Sara who asked to go again, causing Alicia to politely nod with a small smile before she once again lashed air against the branches. Alicia had intentionally picked her words to bait Sara, feeling upon the spark and trying to devise ways and methods to bring it forward, to pull away the veil and expose her soul to the power she trained for.


    Sara’s eye twitched at the bait, but said nothing. As of late, after their adventure in the Underworld, her mood could only be described as strained as the memories of that frightful adventure have been haunting her dreams and disrupting her sleep. Nevertheless, she maintained control over these feelings, not lashing out at her friends that didn’t deserve it. She stood ready, and this time only six came into contact with her body and she didn’t have to resort to touching any of them with her blade.


    She took a longer moment to compose herself before saying.

    “Again.”


    Alicia was of course pleased by the improvement but outwardly she would sigh, before taking the saya of her katana, poking Sara in the head. "Stop using this" she said before poking her in the chest over where her heart was, "And start using this" she said before stepping back and lashing air against the branches again. "Focus".


    Of all the things she was going to take from Alicia, having the shame and indecency of being poked was too far. Like a cobra lashing out, her hand sprung out and wound tightly around the saya, holding it still against her chest. There was a pause as Sara stood there, the two warriors staring each other down. When Sara spoke, her voice was calm and measured, but was betrayed by her frustration and anger in every word. “You are trying to help me, I understand that. But the next time you poke me, it better be with your cold steel. Because I will not abide by being poked. You being my teacher does not give you the right nor permission to poke me like you would poke me with a stick like some dog in a cage.” She paused, letting her message sink in, before adding.


    “Are we clear?”


    The expression of the swordswoman didn't change as Sara grabbed her Saya and spoke, merely tilting her head before quickly shunting the tip of the Saya forwards to loosen her grip and push her back a little before pulling the sword away. The move was laced with strength that wasn't from Alicia's physical ability, otherwise she dare say Sara could have held the blade there without her being able to do much about it. However she'd done it to make a point, "When you're able to challenge me, I'll take your threat seriously Sara" she replied softly. "When I learned, failure was met with similar consequence. You asked for my help, I'm standing here... I will not subject to anything that I haven't myself" Alicia took a small breath, "Now, try again... and stop overthinking it. Connect... feel it". Alicia would once again cause the petals to fall.


    “You misunderstand me.” Sara glared down at Alicia with mutinous eyes. How dare she try to physically fight back, all she wanted to do was just talk. “That wasn’t a threat. That was a request. I am asking you to not treat me as if I was a child. I certainly do not need someone to punish me for my failings to advance. I am an adult, barely younger than you, and I stand here asking that you treat me as one.”


    Alicia was actually quite surprised by how Sara was acting, and while she approved of how she was handling her temper it was at a detriment to what she was trying to do. The swordswoman wanted to make her angry, to feel upon emotion to bridge her into the connection... she had to press her more, as much as she held displeasure within herself for doing it. "Adult? you have been floundering at these tasks like a child for the past month and you want to exclaim that you're to be treated as an adult?" Alicia sighed. "Perhaps this was too much for you... I should have known not to expect results from a Tilean... " Alicia was watching Sara critically, partly in case the Gladiator went for her and partly to try and feel upon something more than just a spark. She wondered how far Sara could be pushed, and if it would succeed.


    “Alicia…” Sara seethed, taking a step back and pinching the bridge of her nose in frustration. “Stop it. How retarded do you think I am? I know you’ve been trying to bait me for the past month, I thought you’d know by now, I’m not an idiot.” Sara looked up at Alicia with critical frustrated eyes. “So why don’t you do the one thing you haven’t been doing this whole time and just fucking tell me why.


    The swordswoman raised a hand and burst out laughing, "You know, the power can do some wondrous things but making you a good actor is not one of them..." she said at first before shaking her head a little. "Calm down Sara... I understand you're frustrated but getting all... how do you say... bent out of shape, isn't going to do us any favors" she took a few steps and sat herself down at the base of the tree. "I'm trying to induce a strong emotion from you in order to establish a connection between your soul and the power that resides within" she explained. "I have felt the spark within you, I know it's there... but it's like a flame that can not kindle.. something is missing" Alicia shrugged, "We have delved beyond the physical realm, trained physically and introduced you to concepts that probably seem silly to you. Yet you're stronger, faster and more precise than you ever were before... we're so close...". Alicia exhaled a breath and paused before adding, "And for what it's worth, I'm proud of how far you've come. If that's patronizing to you then take it as you will, but I am nevertheless".


    Sara had to suppress the urge to punch Alicia in the face when she started to laugh, and asking her to calm down from it all. Although, some small part of her was pleased to hear that Alicia was proud of her, she did not say it. She closed her eyes and breathed in harshly through her nose before exhaling through her mouth. “And is there a reason you couldn’t just say that to begin with?”


    "Many reasons" Alicia replied. "You might become distracted, focus on it... become complacent from your task and duties" Alicia listed off a few reasons with ease. "It was simply not important for you to know... also in case my poor acting skills worked in inducing an emotion from you" she shrugged. The swordwoman plucked a pink petal from the air, feeling the texture of it between her fingers. "Though perhaps now is the time for you to be honest with me, Sara" Alicia perked a brow as she looked up at Sara expediently.


    Sara stared dumbfounded at Alicia. She had to be honest with her? She?! Sara couldn’t help but let out a laugh. “I have to be honest with you? I do? When have I ever lied? And for that matter, when you have you ever been honest with me? And since when do you ever get to decide what is important for me to know or not know?


    The swordwoman rolled her eyes before she stood up to face Sara head on while the Gladiator spoke. "I decide what's important for you to know within this training, if you don't like it then feel free to quit" Alicia was rather short with her response, "I'm not calling you a liar but you haven't been straight with me, so why don't you tell me why you really want to learn how to use the power of destruction" Alicia looked Sara dead in the eyes as she spoke.


    She wanted to know? Sara laughed at her question. “Isn’t it obvious?” She said, matching Alicia’s stare. “To kick your ass on level ground, to knock you off your pedestal, to drag you down with the rest of us mortals.” She took a step closer, using the full advantage of her superior height. “I saw it the moment I saw you for the first time, the way you moved, the way you talked, and the way you keep your distance from everyone.” She took another step forward, until they were practically face to face. Sara was quiet now, her voice barely raising above a whisper. “And you act as if you are untouchable. As if nothing can harm you in the world, as if you’re somehow above all mortal fears or troubles. And I just can’t stand that on a personal level. So that, my dear Alicia, is why I want to learn to the Power of Destruction.”


    Alicia didn't move an inch as Sara stepped up to her, meeting her gaze every step with her hands on her hips and a smile on her face. When the Gladiator was done Alicia's smile turned into an amused smirk, "You think you know me but you don't." she replied. She'd already known from the start what Sara really wanted, but the Swordswoman saw something deeper than the Gladiators ego, even if Sara herself believed her own words and truly felt that way. Alicia wasn't buying it though, not for a minute.



    Alicia then found herself laying on the ground, staring up at the sky figuring out what just happened. Sara, seeing Alicia not taking her seriously with that smirk and then being told that she did not know her own thoughts, had struck hard. She looked down at Alicia and saw the bruise blossom on her ivory-like cheek. “You are by far.” Sara breathed deep through her nose as her eyes narrowed down. “The most arrogant person I have ever met. You smirk at my answer to the question that you asked, you believe that I am unworthy of being told of what I’m doing and instead have decided to bait me, you think that I am a child unable to concentrate on her task with any form of distraction, and to top it all off; you said that I haven’t been forward with you, when I have been nothing but honest since the day I honored our bargain.”


    Her head jolted with the hit and it'd come so fast and so hard that she didn't really know what'd happened at first before she felt the soreness on her cheek set in, her vision slowly returning as she blinked. She slowly got herself up, taking a hand to her cheek and wincing a bit as Sara spoke. "... I have had it with you" her words were the same usual softness that they were before. "Everything I have done and worked with you to achieve has been to benefit you" she stood to face Sara again. "Do you think I'm a fool!" her tone began to climb, "Do you think I didn't know the reason you wanted me to teach you!" her brow furrowed and her eyes narrowed. "I asked you the question because I wanted to hear it from your mouth!" Alicia's eye began to slowly burn into a dark black aura, the environment becoming colder as the grass below her began to wilt and die. "I have been so darn patient with you, putting up with your sarcastic comments, helping you when you fail and standing by you each and every darn day for the last month till you get it right... and you have the audacity to treat me like that!" the pink petals that fell close to Alicia disintegrated as if they burned away like embers from a stoked fire, a sudden wind starting to swirl around their proximity. "Ask me why I would do that Sara! why the hell would I do that when I know you want to hurt me" she was almost shaking as she shouted.


    She didn't wait for the Gladiator to respond, "Because I believe in you being so much greater than that, I'm the one who thinks you are capable of so much more if you would stop getting in your own way for once in your ignorant life!" the color from the world was draining around them, as if it was being sucked away the more angry the swordwoman became. Her eye was burning stronger and stronger the more she shouted at her before something went wrong and Alicia stumbled, falling forwards onto her knees, holding her head with one hand as the other broke her fall. Color returned and the dark effects on the environment began to fade away. Alicia was likely suffering from a concussion, starting to feel rather unwell and dizzy,


    Sara stood back, arm shielding her face from the onslaught before her. She saw the effects of the power on the surrounding wildlife, it’s very existence anathema to nature itself. She realized that there was a significant chance that she might die and that there was nothing that she could do about it. What surprised her though was when Alicia collapsed, she guessed that she hit her a lot harder than she had intended to. Sara rushed to Alicia, holding her up and preventing her from collapsing in her arms. Very gently, as Sara had recognized saw the effects of a concussion probably more times than even Zillia had, she put her down to rest on an unsullied meadow, leaving behind the dead ground. She had a feeling that the grass would never grow back in that spot.


    As time passed, Sara had left to Alicia to rest as she sat down and brooded on a nearby boulder. She heard her stir and turned around to face her, her own face unreadable. A moment grew between them until Sara sighed and simply said.


    “Thank you.”


    Alicia awoke with the daggers of evil itself stabbing into her brain, like what she would imagine a seriously bad hangover would feel like after a long night of drinking. She seemed confused at first as she looked around before her memory began to catch up which only caused more of a headache as she groaned and held a hand to her head. She blinked her eyes to adjust to the light a few times before she noticed Sara who seemed much unlike she had been before she'd collapsed. Alicia sat herself up just as the Gladiator thanked her, Alicia didn't respond at first as she looked over towards a patch of dead grass. "For what..." she replied.


    Sara screwed open a pouch filled with water, took a sip, and passed it to Alicia. “You were…” She tried to figure out the best way to phrase her next statement. “Partially right back there. Yes, it was true that you are training your own potential assassin, and yes it was true that, outside of the times when you were painfully trying to bait me, you spent a whole month being supportive by my side every step of the way. And I’m touched, Alicia, I truly am. That you think that I can be greater than I am, that I can be more capable, I aim to match those expectations. During all this, I realized that I never did say thank you. So, y’know, thanks.” She rubbed the back of her head sheepishly before turning back to Alicia, serious. “But I still stand by what I said. I appreciate your training and expertise, but I am still my own woman, I have my own path and a code of ethics that’s different from yours, and that’s okay. All I want is for you to be more open with me, to take me more seriously, and to trust in me.”


    The swordswoman continued to listen quietly, staring at the dead grass burned by her anger as Sara spoke. Eventually she would look towards Sara after she'd finished talking, letting out a small sigh. "All I asked is that you use what I teach you for the right reasons, that was my only condition. Sara I'm not asking you to change who you are but you must understand it from my perspective" she didn't yet try to get up, her head was still feeling dizzy and at times she had to close her eyes to stop the spinning sensation. "I only know one path, my path... the one I have been following since I can remember, learned from family and the culture of where I come from. But you asked me to help you Sara and that requires you to follow my path for this part of our journey, so that I can teach you in the same way I myself was taught" Alicia hoped Sara would understand what she was getting at. "If I knew how to teach you another way that would appeal to you more I would gladly do so, but you have to appreciate I can't be anything more or less than who I already am". Alicia took a moment before adding, "I will be straight with you from here on as you request, you can also ask me anything and I will gladly tell you providing I know the answer. But trust... let me ask you, would you trust someone aspiring to be your assassin?" she asked.


    Sara laid the water-bag next to Alicia and sat back down, sighing. “I see. You know, a wise man, a wiser person than both of us, once said that ‘a teacher must never impose this student to fit his favorite pattern; a good teacher functions as a pointer, exposing his student’s vulnerability and causing him to explore both internally and finally integrating himself with his being.’ I think he would agree with you though, he also said that ‘Martial art should not be passed indiscriminately’.”


    The quote may have come from a Tilean, but it sounded Yula Feian to Alicia. Sara sighed again, rubbing the back of her head. “Maybe this should be a learning experience for the both of us.” She mused. “I was always taught that the master should learn just as much from the student, as the student does the master.”


    When Alicia said that she would be honest with her, Sara nodded appreciatively but then tilted her head, utterly confused, when the issue of trust came up. “...Yes? By know, you should know I’m interested in challenges, stabbing you in the back or betraying you would be downright cheating. No, Alicia, our fight will take place on even ground and when we are both ready, victory by any other means would be cowardly and dishonorable.” Her eyes flicked toward the waterskin by Alicia’s side. “You should drink, that was a pretty nasty hit you took.”


    Alicia didn’t say much to the quote Sara spoke of, it sounded to her like a lot of what she used to hear and read back home to be honest. She was quiet for a moment as she listened to what Sara was saying before she eventually replied, “Though true it might be that I have taught others, I am far from finished learning Sara. I’m in my mid twenties, I fully plan to one day retire from the world and teach with all the wisdom I’ve collected throughout my younger years and carry it into my later years. But for now, all I can offer you is the methods and teachings I was subjected to, with my experience and understanding as it is now” she said before looking at the waterskin.


    She really didn’t want to drink from it, mostly because the blow to the head made her feel like anything that would go in might come back out again. Nevertheless she would remove the cap and take a few small sips before placing it down. “As for your idea to fight me. You misunderstand me I think. I have no intentions of fighting you again” she said as she placed the waterskin back down. “I’m not interested in proving which one of us is better, nor am I interested in a bout which could potentially kill you. As I’ve tried to make you understand over the last weeks of your training, life is important, beautiful and sacred. You may see things differently and that is ok, but I’m sorry… I will not fight you without cause or reason. Whether you agree with it or not, my respect for your life falls beyond that” Alicia took her sword and placed the tip in the ground, using it to pull herself up to her feet.


    “Come on, let’s head back to the ship for today. It’s been quite a mess of emotions and I think both of us could use a break from each other. Tomorrow we’re going to come back and you’ll try this again, and then I want to get into sparing” in the whole time leading to now they hadn’t crossed blades or even wooden ones, having subjected Sara to many tests or having her shadow her own movements standing next to her through disciplined sets. She hoped the sparing might elevate Sara’s spirits a little. “And I will tell Zillia this was down to a training accident, that way you wont get reprimanded for it”.


    Sara stood by silently. She didn’t help Alicia help up, not wanting to shame her. But she did stand by her side, in case Alicia needed to lean on her for support or if she collapsed.

    “You should drink more.” Sara said seriously, leaning down to pick up the waterskin and passed it to Alicia. “I’ve seen a lot of concussions in my lifetime and nothing helps more than water, even if it will make you feel sick.” Sara stared down at Alicia authoritatively, until she had drank enough to satisfy her standards. She didn’t say anything else, although a ghost of a smile appeared on her face on the prospect of regular sparring sessions, it would definitely beat having to mimic Alicia’s movements like a shadow.


    Once they got back on the ship, Sara helped Alicia onboard and diverted her straight to Zillia. “Sorry!” Sara grinned sheepishly, rubbing the back of her head. “I got a little bit overzealous during our training and bonked Alicia on the head.”
     
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