Collab between Winter and Fox of Hearts
On The Other Side
“Meow?” A black kitten cried with delight.
Chaos’ blue eyes sparkled with delight when she spotted the newest addition to the Tankered Pirates. It had been awhile since she made new friends and Alicia seemed to be the perfect choice. The woman appeared very serene and inviting. Wasting no time, the excitable cat dashed over and rubbed her body against Alicia’s ankle. Her eyes closed as she started purring.
Chaos nuzzled the Feian woman one more time before her eyes snapped open. She stood on her hind legs and rested her front paws on Alicia’s knee. She gazed up hopefully as if she wished to be picked up. “Mrrrrao!”
Alicia had stood with her arms folded awaiting the next game before she blinked and looked down to see the small animal, her almost bored expression relenting into a softer smile as she crouched to glide a hand across the back of the cat. “Hello little one” she said softly, stroking a finger under her chin before gently wrapping her arms around the cat and lifting her up into her arms as she stood up once more. The swordswoman cared for all creatures big and small but she had a particular fondness for cats in particular for various reasons, the first and foremost being how they chose to show affection and trust.
Chaos’ eyes her closed. The kitten purred contentedly as her head rubbed against Alicia’s arms. Her approaching owner simply quirked an eyebrow at the sight. Cedric knew Chaos was very friendly by nature but this was the first time he saw her take to someone so quickly. He would have preferred observing a little longer but his eyes met Alicia’s.
“Judging by her purring, you might be her next favourite person,” he commented. “My brother would be heartbroken. He claimed he was her number one.”
He broke eye contact briefly before looking at Alicia again. He hadn’t planned on approaching her just yet but seeing that Jack was currently occupied he had no choice. “Well, First Mate Tashigi, have you figured out how you want to help your crew?”
His smiled briefly when he remembered Alicia’s face earlier when she was informed she was the First Mate. It looked as if the woman had no idea. That was highly unusual since most people knew their position aboard any crew. “You aren’t officially one of us yet. I doubt it would be wrong to help your crew.”
There was a lot of disgust in the way he pronounced the word “us” but he doubted Alicia would have heard it. Still, he paused for a bit to allow his previous message to sink in. “You must have realised by now that my Captain helped me score the win earlier.”
Cedric waited for Alicia to reply. He would offer information if she asked for it but he couldn’t do more than that. They were strangers and there wasn’t any trust between them. This meant that she would be suspicious if he appeared too enthusiastic. Jack was the only person who would trust him amongst the Stardusk. They had spent more than thirteen years together.
Alicia regarded the approaching man for a moment before returning her attention to the purring cat as he spoke, continuing to scritch behind her ears. “I’d considered incapacitating your crew and bringing the game to an abrupt end, but it seems my captain is enjoying herself… and has ordered me to behave myself” she replied softly, having missed his expression for his disdain towards the Tankards. “Cheating isn’t surprising, although not any less irritating. That being said even should we lose the game I doubt very much that we’ll willingly submit to join with the Tankard crew. I imagine either way we’ll be walking away from here so in the end it’s of no consequence” she spoke casually and calmly, no hint of threat present in her demeanor. “Your cat is quite lovely however, I always had a fondness for them myself”.
“She is, isn’t she? A good distraction from weightier topics.” He reached out to tickle Chaos’ chin with his finger.
“What the Stardusk does is of no consequence? There will always be rumors but none too flattering if you continue spilling blood unnecessarily.” Cedric turned his attention back towards the field just as Kadi took his first shot. “Not everyone here is your enemy. A lot of them are unhappy to be here. Speak to these men yourself if you don’t believe me. I’m sure you will be able to gain many allies. Not too different that day at Fort Nevis, no?”
The two of them were too far away to see the targets clearly. Luckily, it wasn’t hard to guess the results based on the Tankereds’ reactions. Samuel was outclassed by the one-eyed navigator. Cedric was amused. His captain wasn’t going to like this. The Stardusk were going to take back his newly acquired trophy in one round.
“It was nice meeting you in person, Maiden of Misery. Pity our time is so short. With luck, it will be even shorter with no bloodshed.” He dug his hands into his pockets and looked up at the sky. “It’s too beautiful a day to be soiled by death. Yula Fei has many wise teachings. None wiser than respecting life. Many nations should learn from your example.”
His eyes narrowed as the sunlight landed on his face. As his fringe slid backwards, faint silvery scars could be seen along his cheek. The lines ended abruptly near his jaw before appearing on his neck. Cedric’s hand reached up unconsciously as if he wanted to hide the imperfection from view. He dropped his gaze down abruptly with his hand still cupping his chin.
“Your crew has chaos following in your wake. Now you even have an adoring cat named Chaos in your arms.” He tickled her chin once again calling “Chaos” several times.
Chaos’ eyes blinked open. Her pupils were still fully dilated but she was oddly alert. She pricked her ears up when he called her name for the fifth time. She purred, twisted slightly in the crook of Alicia’s arms then winked out of existence. There was a sudden warm weight on Alicia’s shoulder when the cat reappeared. All traces of her earlier laziness was gone.
“Mew?” she murmured.
“Yes,” he concurred. He didn’t even bat an eye at his cat’s ability to seemingly teleport from Alicia’s arms onto her shoulder. “Non devons y’aller. Jack fait plasir d’vors.”
“Would you mind keeping her company a while longer? Jack would be happy to see both of you now that the match is over.” He cut off abruptly as a thought occurred to him. A calculating look crept into his eyes. “Reiner and Samuel. That makes two of them now.” he mused.
He started walking away from Alicia when he heard his name. He frowned. Wasn’t that the captain? He considered walking away when one of the Tankereds clapped a beefy hand on his slender shoulder. “Capt’n called ya. The Stardusk wants you.”
The tone was cold but Cedric didn’t let it bother him. He had no idea what the Stardusk (and by extension Jack) were doing. Calling for him by name was the quickest way to make them suspicious. He was supposed to be a stranger. Shrugging lightly, he allowed himself to be led towards the two captains.
Sid turned back towards Alicia after they passed her. “I’ll be seeing you soon, First Mate. Please take Chaos to Reiner for me. I haven’t had time to do that yet. You’ll understand why later.”
He wanted to say more but now wasn’t the time. He doubted Jack would let this opportunity slide. How long they had depended on the next round. No matter how brief it was, it would be enough for him to reassure Adelaide when they meet. He kept his face impassive but smiled when Runali did.
“Thank you, Captain,” he responded politely then took his leave when appropriate.
He studied the rest of the crew as he passed them. His gaze lingering longest on Sara who was upset Alicia didn’t rejoin them. He admitted he felt the same way but his upbringing wouldn’t let him express so crudely. Knowing that his stay was temporary, he bowed his head and continued walking. He spied a yellowish blob following him out of the corner of his eye as he passed by Zila. A small miracle considering how his fringe obscured most of his vision.
“Chester, vo soeur est’vec Reiner.” He said to the glowering cat. “Bring a little gift for Jack before you seek her out. You know what to take from my bag, mon ami. Go get it.”
The little lion looked skeptical. He yowled in protest before vanishing into thin air. Cedric didn’t even look to the side to check if Chester was gone. He knew his cat would obey him because it involved Jack. There better be cream this evening, Cedric thought with a shudder. His majesty would demand it later.
“That is why I said incapacitate and not kill” she replied softly. Unless Runali ordered otherwise Alicia had no intentions of drawing blood needlessly, whether they were her enemies or not. If push came to shove she was confident she could take down the vast majority without having to mortally wound any of them, of course she didn’t care to underestimate any of them as she was sure they would have one or two individuals that could potentially put up a resistance. Nevertheless Alicia would stay her blade till she was required to draw it.
She picked up on a few of the things he’s said, firstly about Fort Nevis which indicated he had a modicum of knowledge about them and then about her homeland which caused her to look up from the cat oddly named Chaos. She gave a small nod when he asked to transport her to the two mentioned Tankards from the previous games, drawn to fulfilling the request more out of curiosity than anything else. She was about to pose some questions of her own when her attention was suddenly stolen by the callout from Runali as she called for Cedric to join them, causing her eye to twitch a little.
“... She is in so much trouble” she murmured to herself as more Tankards began to fill in around her again as Cedric took his leave, resuming their awful attempts at flirting which Alicia did her best to navigate around awkwardly. Thankfully however she had a teleporting cat upon her shoulder, something she might have questioned in more detail had she not seen stranger things happen in the past. “Excuse me” she politely spoke as she made her way away from the eager Tankards to seek out the two names she’d been given, using her perception to pick them out from the crowd before making her way over towards them.
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