Mizos

*Insert quip here*
Roleplay Invitations
One on One Roleplays
Posting Speed
A Few Posts A Day, One Post a Day, A Few Posts a Week
Writing Levels
Elementary, Intermediate, Adept, Advanced
Genders You Prefer Playing
Male, Female
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
Both are fine. I tend to be aggressive more though.
Favorite Genres
Modern Fantasy, Historical, Fantasy, adventure, romance, anime, action, etc.
Genre You DON'T Like
Depends on the story, not all that picky about it.

The Court of Miracles, one of the Worst Generation Pirates. While they made their way through the ship Luro couldn’t help but think of a few of their encounters with the other Worst Gen. The first ones they met went pretty badly which were the Red Pirates, the Cutthroats who rested at the top of the Worst Gen meeting wasn’t too bad, though the men were held at gunpoint at first encounter but that was from an accident that was partially his fault and partially nature's, and they were really nice afterwards. Then there were the Nova’s who they met after becoming Worst Gen and were one of his favorites, also really nice from the beginning. Luro tilted his head realizing that a lot of the Worst Generation were nice to them from the get go after they joined their ranks, he felt with the Nova’s it wasn’t just because of that and they hadn’t met the other two before they became Worst Gen.
He looked over at the Captain’s of the Court, they were being nice to them too, though wherever his thoughts were going dissipated when he heard about their activities.
“Oh I know that story! I haven’t seen a performance of it though, I like that one. Wonder if you guys have done any Lendria ones, I have a friend who’d like that.”
After contemplating a few of the old legends Luro noticed Sergei had vanished, he opened his mouth to say something but Cecilia drew his attention, mainly because she was in his sleeve and he was worried that was the bad sleeve. Raising his other arm he gave it a small shake, hearing a familiar rattling sound he nodded and focused his attention back on the First Mate as he believed nothing friend ending was in that one. Strangely enough Cecilia reminded him of someone, though he quickly shook their image from his mind.
“Hehe it’s a Makachi secret, I make em big to deal with Winter. They’re much roomier than they look huh.”

Luro folded his hands behind his head after Cecilia had moved away and offered a grin as the Nova’s were brought up, he couldn’t help but laugh a little at the idea of a trap. If that was the case it was a pretty elaborate one, and since these guys liked doing things flashy if they did try to kill them it’d at least be fun to watch.
“Well Parlay does make things a little easier, and the Nova’s are wonderful, kindness and all. Not every pirate has to be mean. Let’s see where this goes Captain I’m looking forward to what the show is.”
The moment they stepped through the door Luro felt…off for some reason. He wasn’t sure what it was but something suddenly filled him with a strange sense of longing. There wasn’t much time to contemplate what the feeling was as hearing the Captain’s comment he turned to noticed the door wasn’t there, and reaching over touched the wall.
“That was quick, I wonder if Sergei used a mechanism for this…” Luro continued to touch the wall considering different methods when the woman next to Jack introduced herself. Luro didn’t turn around until he heard Jack’s voice and it was at that point he realized why he suddenly felt a sense of emptiness. Luro pulled on his strap and realized the familiar sensation on his back gone. He had grown so accustomed to the gentle caress of his rifle it took a moment to realize her fingers no longer traced along his back.
Though Luro had noticed the strange change in Jack at the moment he felt opening his mouth wasn’t a good idea, for a split of second, for the smallest of moments enough for a single blink a familiar feeling ran through his entire body, but the emotion faded quickly and resting his hands on his hips he smiled a bit.
“Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten my stuff taken, whoever did it is really good I didn’t notice at all,” Luro said this with a smile. "I even unlocked it expecting trouble, that's bad."
Though he laughed a bit at the sudden realization the smile slowly grew smaller as he ran a hand through his hair.
“It was kind of rude to take her though...didn't think the day was going to go like this."
Luro’s gaze moved over to Alicia and noticing the missing sword from her waist, he met the swordswoman's eyes, and in that one moment Luro believed there was a brief but knowing connection, a familiarity with his comrade about the gravity of the action taken.



She wondered why she even bothered.
She wasn’t even sure where to start with this whole thing, first of all the woman with them knew Jack and he didn’t seem too entirely pleased to reacquaint himself. The second part was that Jack was apparently a spy which took her a moment to process and Luro a few extra minutes as he seemed to fumble with his strap. It was during this time Zilia realized his familiar companion was missing, she arched a brow as Luro didn’t seem….himself without the rifle that was constantly on his person. It reminded her of the story without words and it bothered her. Almost as if on instinct she reached over and touched her right wrist, her eyes shut as the familiar lump that normally rested there was missing, she flexed her hands a few times and adjusted her gloves, at the very least there was one weapon they couldn’t take.
There was another matter to address which Zilia was reminded of when Luro casually spoke up.

“Jack’s not a spy, he said so,” Luro said with a small nod. “Sides even if he was Jack’s Jack. He can be a navy officer for all I care with how good his food is. If I had that kind of stuff when they locked me up I might have actually stayed longer.”
Zilia watched as Luro went back to patting his body seeming to search for something but offered a small nod to show it wasn’t something that concerned her, at least at the moment. Jack had accepted her secret she felt now was a good time to return that favor.
She was more concerned about Jack’s attitude, she didn’t like how nervous he was and something made her not want to turn her back to the woman but just as she was considering one of the many questions flowing through her mind, Luro started patting her body. Zilia slapped his hand away causing him to rub the back of it.
“Ow Z what are you doing?”
“Why are you touching me!”
“I hid a gun on you but it seems they took that too.”
“When did you do that?!
“I slip one on you every few days just in case something happens to my gun.”
“You…didn’t think to ask me to just hold it.”
“If you knew then you would have given it away, it was my secret back up gun.’
Luro started patting Kadi’s body as well.
“Dang they took Kadi’s too.”
“How many secret guns have you put on us?”
“Pretty much everyone but Alicia, with her clothes it’s hard to hide them without it being obvious. Next time she wears pants I’ll do it.”
Luro walked over and pat Runali a few times before shaking his head.
“They took my secret sandwich too…that's not even a weapon."
“Don’t hide food on the Captain!”
“There’s so many places to hide stuff on the Captain though. I'm still figuring out Cedric and I already have stuff in Jack's dreads."
Zilia just put her hand on her head and decided not to think too much about it, there were things to focus on. Dealing with that came later.
 

Fox of Hearts

Call me MsNoMer
Cedric ran his fingers through Chaos’ short fur. His caress was enough to keep her in his arms. Slowly, her eyes began to close. The monkey that caught her attention earlier was all but forgotten. Cedric was relieved. Her presence was soothing amidst the craziness of the Valhalla. The constant bombardment of his senses was starting to wear him down. He wasn’t as alert as he had been when they first boarded, but he wasn’t completely oblivious.

He observed two, no make that three, interesting things. First was Sergi. He didn’t know why he found it fascinating that the man was both the shipwright and the navigator. Second was Pierre. The way he mentioned being fifth on the list had forced Cedric to glance his way. It sounded strained. Almost uncomfortable. Sid wondered whether the Stardusk’s current ranking might have affected the Court’s ranking somehow. The good captain mentioned being fourth before Sergi corrected him. Finally there was Cecilia. He hated to admit that she might have gleaned a lot more information about him from that short exchange than he did about her. The thought made him uncomfortable. Just how transparent had he become in that one year away from Jack? Cedric prided himself with being unreadable yet two people proved him wrong. Cecilia and Luro. He definitely needed to be more vigilant in the future. He had no intention of giving either the upper hand should the worst ever happen.

“Meow?”

Blue eyes shone with concern. Cedric couldn’t help smiling fondly. His fingers stroking the furry chin. She meowed again trying to get him to talk. Her owner refused. He chuckled softly and began stroking behind her ears. Sid appreciated the short respite from his ongoing internal monologue, but he wasn’t in a talkative mood. She huffed before lying her head down on the crook of his arm again.

A flash of warm orange caught the corner of his eye. Sid’s eyes focused on a lithe woman keeping Jack company. He took in her clothing and her painted mask. A monarch butterfly, he mused. His mind immediately supplying him with the word ‘Norja’. He wondered if the same thought crossed his brother’s mind. Most likely, he concluded. Everything he knew about the place he learned from Jack. Enough apparently for him to want to have a home there in the future. As he continued observing the acrobatess’ teasing Jack, he was reminded of another woman. Adelaide. He stared. She had been the one to break the news to him. That was a year ago. The last time they met. She was supposed to be …

She couldn’t be here. Could she?

He wanted to believe he was wrong. It had to be a coincidence. Surely, there were other woman out there with the same annoying ability to get under Jack’s skin. He was about to ask when his suspicions were proven correct. He allowed his gaze to pull away. He looked in Alicia’s direction. A sinking feeling began creeping in his stomach. Her sword was gone.

Bringing his attention back to himself, he realised his shoulders were a lot lighter. He frowned. When? Or rather, how? He had disarmed drunk, unsuspecting guards before as part of a mission. Yet he doubted any of them had been that oblivious. He thinned his lips. No one - in theory - should have been good enough to avoid being detected by all of them.

He shifted Chaos into a single arm. Actually, there was someone who might be able to get away with it. He didn’t forget what she was capable of. His eyes flicked towards Adelaide briefly. The quickest confirmation would be his cards or the lack thereof. Only she (and Jack) knew what they were. His fingers felt around several of the pouches suspended on his belt. All he found were five blank cards. His pre drawn cards were gone. He wiped the irritation from his face as he finally met her eyes. His hand reached his right ear then his left while he glared at her.

“C’est tro’ tôt, Zebulon,” he responded before changing to Common. “Where are our weapons?” (trans. “It’s too soon, Zephyr”)

He knew he didn’t have any evidence to back up his accusation, but that didn’t matter. He preferred believing she was involved, because he wouldn’t be able to explain his missing summoning cards if it was someone else. Actually, it would be even more alarming. The fact the person didn’t take his aeter meant that they knew what summoning stones were and how they were bound to their owner. Yes, he definitely preferred it if Adelaide was involved. He didn’t like feeling so exposed.

Chaos didn’t share her master’s sentiments. Her eyes sparkled the moment she saw Adelaide’s face. She cried excitedly before disappearing from Sid’s arms. She appeared at the woman’s feet. The kitten gave a throaty purr as she began nuzzling Adelaide’s ankles. “Meow!”
 
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Winter

Queen of cold.
Roleplay Invitations
Group Roleplays, One on One Roleplays, Private Convo Roleplays
Posting Speed
Several Posts a Day, A Few Posts A Day, One Post a Day
My Usual Online Time
I check in pretty much all times of the day, either from my phone or from my home computer. So it's likely I'll see messages shortly after I've received them.
Writing Levels
Intermediate, Adept, Advanced
Genders You Prefer Playing
No Preferences
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
A bit of both, honestly. I like a bit of balance here with my partner.
Favorite Genres
Sci Fi, Fantasy, Fandom, Anime, Sometimes Horror. Survival, Romance, Furry, Magical.
Genre You DON'T Like
I'm not entirely sure. I don't like playing canon characters already defined from shows. I also don't like any genre utilizing a roll system for combat.

~"Phantom limb... a term Feian soldiers would use to describe the feeling of being parted with their weapon after having served countless years alongside it~

The Feian swordswoman still lacked comfort as they stood upon a ship that wasn't their own and more so in the presence of those whom appeared more as entertainers than pirates which only furthered her suspicions given how entertainers often possessed talents for putting forward a convincing facade while applying misdirection. Despite her own talents for observation there was something 'off' that she couldn't directly place, causing her brows to furrow slightly through the entire of the interaction before they were corralled off towards another part of their ship.

The arrival of the woman claiming to be Adelaide did little to quell her suspicions and Jack's reaction to her presence bothered her further to the point of suggesting to Ru that they take their leave while they still had the chance to avoid anything unpleasant. Or at least that's what she would have done had she not soon noticed her sword was missing, no longer tied to her Obijime. Her brows furrowed further as her hand glided into empty space where Sushui usually lay dormant, surprised at least somewhat that she hadn't felt the lack of it's weight once it'd been taken from her.

Her eyes briefly crossed paths with Luro, her head inching subtly forwards in recognition of the moment they shared in silent understanding that whomever was responsible would live to regret placing hands on their possessions. Then Sara spoke, pulling her attention towards the Gladiator who commented on Adelaide's title, bringing up her own which pulled forth a small sigh. "I really do hate that name... " after all who wished to be known by such a depressive title, it implied that she was either miserable herself or brought misery to others, both arguable if anyone had really gotten to know Alicia for themselves.

Having laid her eyes on Sara, she was recalled to a memory that further raised Alicia's concern for their situation, which was seemingly becomming worse by the minute as things continued to transpire.

~~~~~///// Shortly after the defeat of the Tankard Pirates, The Lady Luck \\\\\~~~~~

Sara, still covered mostly in gold, silver, and pearls, hummed happily to herself as she put the last heavy box on the set of shelves before her. The pile of treasure that was laying on the floor of the inner hull was now sitting in neatly organized boxes. Each box had a label, listing the contents, quantity, type of material, as well as the overall quality of the pieces inside. There were seperate boxes for necklaces, bracelets, earrings, loose gems, and other pieces of jewelry, with each box sorted based upon the type of gemstones inside. Each shelf held their own gemstone, ruby rings, necklaces, and loose rubies were stored on the top shelf, sapphire below that one, and so on and so forth.

“Soo~ My little beauties.” Sara smiled, as she took each ring off of her fingers. “What will you be, I wonder? A new dress? Maybe… Maybe. But you.” She held up an especially shiny gold emerald ring. “*You* will definitely be new soaps, I’ve been running low.”

“Yeah, you do smell a bit.”

Sara opened her shirt opening and smelled, her nose wrinkling a bit, before resuming a proxy-conversation with herself and an emerald ring that replied in a slightly falsetto voice. “I do, but you try being two weeks at sea and not smelling at least a little bit ripe.”

“I mean, I don’t have to.”

“That’s a fair point.” Sara nodded, as pulled a box out, dropped the ring in, and penned in another notch to the tally (Emerald, Ring [g] x IIII). Before she slid the box back into place, a falsetto voice called out.

“Wait, wait!”

“Yeah, what is it?”

“Can you promise me that you’ll come back?”

“Okay, I promise, I will come back for you.” She replied with a small chuckle, sliding the box back into place.

Alicia strode across the deck after receiving orders from Ru to recount the treasure, carrying with her a small black book she used to jot down all of their finances both incoming and outgoing. As she made her way down into the treasury she arrived just in time to hear Sara’s rather interesting conversation, raising and eyebrow as she stood in the doorway and watched the Gladiator speak with herself, using a different voice for what she assumed was the ring she was holding. At first she found it rather odd but after a moment more of observing she found herself rather amused by it. “Having fun?” she eventually spoke up, deciding to announce her presence before entering the room. “Captain asked me to check up on you and recount the treasure” she added, withdrawing the black book and opening the page at the bookmark.

Sara turned around, surprised at Alicia’s arrival but didn’t seem perturbed by the fact that Alicia caught her talking to herself. “Hey Alicia. Just about, I finished tallying and sorted everything up. You can see the master-list here. Pretty nice haul, all things considered.” She passed a clipboard that was laying on top of one of the crates that neatly and accurately listed every bit of treasure that they had stolen. “Not sure why it all needs to be recounted, but what Runali wants, Runali gets, so have at it.”

Sara hesitated, for a moment, but then confidently said. “Besides, you’re easily the most valuable treasure that we won.”

The swordwoman cast her gaze upon the organised treasury, her eyebrows raising as she smiled softly. “I have to say I’m impressed” she replied, noting the different boxes allocated to various different treasures. “Certainly makes my job a lot more easy, thank you” she added with a smile as she made her way to the first box, opening it and checking it with Sara’s list before adding it into her book. “Ru probably just wants to be thorough that’s all, in case there’s something big that we need to expend on that might mean we need to be sure of what we have”. She paused upon the last thing Sara said which drew her attention towards the Gladiator, caught off guard at first but smiling nonetheless. “Thank you Sara… that is, lovely of you to say” she replied.


“It’s true.” Sara persisted, taking a step closer to her. “Even though I knew it was temporary, I realized that I don’t want you gone. I like you Alicia, a lot. Not just because of how good of a fighter you are, you are nothing less than a master artist with a blade, but because of who you are. I never met anyone who is as selfless as you are. You work so hard and take on so many burdens for us, for me, without any complaints or bad words. Not many people would’ve trained someone who could be their potential killer, but you did because I think you saw something in me that I didn’t see. I admire that and you deeply, and you make me want to become a better person than I am already.” She took another step closer and slowly raised her hand to gently touch Alicia’s cheek, with a smirk on her face.

“Besides all that, I think your white hair is incredibly attractive.”

Alicia’s lips parted as if to speak but words escaped her, unused to such attention and physical contact on top she was momentarily stunned and unsure how to respond. A moment passed before she eventually responded, “I-.. Thank you Sara, I didn’t know you felt that way” she replied eventually, realizing only now that her cheeks had taken on a subtle hue of redness to them.

Sara, for a moment, stood there awkwardly and withdrawing her hand from Alicia’s face. “Do… you feel the same way? I mean, I don’t even know if you’re attracted to women, so this could potentially be an incredibly awkward position that I just put you in. I don’t want to ruin our friendship, but that’s how I feel about you.”

This moment came harder to the swordswoman than any battle or any challenge of the sword throughout her life. Such simple vocalisations of emotion that came easily to some were difficult for Alicia and because of this she didn’t respond immediately, looking away to the side for a moment as she gathered her thoughts before eventually looking back up at Sara. “I.. happen to… have a… I mean, I don’t have a preference to a particular gender” she began, “So I suppose I like both” she replied, speaking slowly as if she were steadily pushing herself through the conversation. “I admit I hadn’t considered this before… but, I’d like to try?” she gave her answer in the best way she could, hoping that Sara might at least understand her hesitancy to speak on the subject, given where she came from.

Sara upon seeing the swordswoman struggle to put her feelings to words had felt her heart melt a little bit. Alicia was capable of many things, something that Sara admired her for, but seeing her struggle was simply too cute. “What?” She teased, her voice low and quiet as she leaned closer. “Have you never considered this? Have you never considered me? . She smirked gently as she reached out with both hands to gently caress her cheek. “If you want to try something, then close your eyes.”

Once she did, Sara leaned in closer. Guiding Alicia’s face with her hands, she closed her eyes and gently kissed the Yula Feian swordswoman. They stood together for a moment before Sara pulled away. “There, how do you like that?” She asked, staring down at her with soft brown eyes.

It was a new feeling, to know oneself to have such a strong prowess of lethality and yet feel so vulnerable in such a situation. The concept was ludicrous and yet she couldn’t help but follow Sara’s words as she asked her to close her eyes, closing them before feeling the presence of their lips meet which caused the red hue on her cheeks to deepen more, her body tense at first before relaxing slightly before opening her eyes again as Sara spoke once more. “I… it was nice” she replied softly, “And you’re sure you want this?” she asked, “I can be complicated… my culture, is complicated. I can’t promise it’d be easy” she spoke in a quieter tone, doubt lingering in her mind on whether Sara would truly be able to simply put up with everything she was signing up for.

Sara smiled, still gently caressing her cheek. “I’m glad you liked it, because I liked it too and I want to do it more with you.” When asked if she wanted this, Sara nodded firmly. “What, and I’m just a simple farm girl?” She teased, before affirming her answer. “Yes. I’m not a seer Alicia, I do not know what the future holds for either of us. For all I know, we could stab each other after being together for about a week or we could grow up and get old together. I don’t know, but I am excited to find out with you. Cultural unfamiliarity, the World Government or even other pirates won’t change that or how I feel about you.” Alicia could hear the honest sincerity in her voice, before Sara leaned back towards her to kiss her again and this time she didn’t pull back.

Having heard Sara quiet her doubts the swordwoman gave a single nod, satisfied with her answer. “Very well then” she replied softly before closing her eyes once more as they shared a second kiss. When it finished Alicia lifted the book of their finances before smiling, letting the drumming in her chest soften as she refocused on the initial reason she’d came down here. “I better finish this up before Ru manages to somehow get us into another troublesome adventure. Perhaps later we could spend some more time together?” she asked.

“Yeah, knowing the captain, she’s probably sending us somewhere so that we can all die in newer and more creative ways. It is the Stardusk way after all. And I would love to spend more time with you later. The next time that we stop somewhere that’s half civilized, let’s explore that island together, just us two, and hope that the ship would still be intact when we get back.” With her chores and good deed done for the day, she left Alicia to her work, stopping only to give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. With plenty of time still left in her day, she decided that she was going to spend that time relaxing and borrowing one of Zillia’s many books.

~~~~~///// On board the Valhalla \\\\\~~~~~

Alicia turned her attention back to Adelaide, folding her arms as she awaited to find out exactly what she wanted. If she had to make a guess she was hear to either kill them or kill Jack, given they had been disarmed of their weapons. She didn't want to jump to the assumption but she did however start forming ideas for how they might survive the situation if things start to progress in that direction, but for now she would have to wait and see and perhaps hope that her suspicions and discomfort were wrongly founded and that maybe, just maybe... they wouldn't have to fight their way through a potential obstacle.
 

Capt. Blu

Fake it til You Make it
Original poster
Roleplay Invitations
Not Taking RP Invites at this Time
Posting Speed
A Few Posts a Week, One Post a Week
Writing Levels
Adept, Advanced, Adaptable
Genders You Prefer Playing
No Preferences
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
Both
Favorite Genres
Fantasy, Adventure, Scifi, Anime, Steampunk, Heroes and Villains
Collab: Captain and Silent


Location: On Valhalla…?

“I’ll never understand the necessity to be so-” Runali had long since gotten over the “long” walk to the end of the hall. Based off the short banter alone, she could make a few theories here and there about the two, but she decided to save it for a later time when Jack wasn’t so worked up and for when they weren’t wrapped up in… whatever was going on with the Court of Miracles. That she still wasn’t sure about. It was hard to say though, despite her better judgement, they were pretty convincing. Though, Runali did keep note of her crew’s behavior. Like Zilia, she noticed Luro’s slight change without his rifle, but remained quiet about it. And like the carpenter, Alicia’s sword was something more personal to her, so Runali knew it was safe to say she wasn’t happy about it.

The sudden pat down she got from Luro made her pause for a moment. Stashing weapons on his friends did sound like a very Luro thing to do. Instead of swatting him away like Zilia, she waited long enough just to shoo him off but the moment he mentioned food Runali snickered. “Hm, that one may have been me. Food’s easier to find than weapons I thought I put on myself. But Z’s right, at least ask if it’s okay to store secret weapons on your crew before you go stashing them.”

“So…” Her attention turned back to the walk when she realized they finally reached the end of the hall. The only door available was unlocked and it was opened with ease. When it opened her eyes widened in a bit of surprise to find a royal ballroom, bedecked with splendor and dancers. Velvet draperies of deep blue and seafoam green covered the ships’ walls, ceiling to floor, as large candlesticks and chandeliers illuminated the space. Wooden floorboards were replaced by black-and-white checkered marble that flowed up to support beams crafted like castle pillars. Everything was gilded with fine gold, and between the chandeliers colored glass orbs hung in all shapes and sizes, creating a faint and colorful opulence across the dance floor. Each held in its center the musical note anchor.

Filling the ballroom to its capacity was the Court of Miracles, waltzing to a melody that played with no orchestra. Its quiet tune floated above the dancers with haunting willfulness. They swept across the marble floors in perfect synchronicity and vibrant displays of every color. There were stunning ball gowns of glitter and gems; coattail suits sparkling with fancy embroidery; fingers and ears weighted by the jewels of royals; and each face hidden by an unique, handcrafted mask to complete their ensembles.


Curiously, not a voice spoke in conversation. The only sounds were the kiss of skirts against the floor, footsteps patting to the beat, and that eerie waltz playing the dancers like marionette strings.




“Oi… Luro? This ship’s not bigger than the Nova’s ship, I’m sure. But, it’s definitely not big enough to hold an entire room like this… right?” The room was in fact more fitting for a castle than a ship.

Unfortunately, before Luro could answer her, a man took a deep bow in front of her and took her hand without question, spinning her into the room and roping her into the dance amongst everyone else. Runali was no stranger to dancing, a fact that she had her home to thank, but she wasn’t expecting to be pulled into one. It immediately reminded her of Brass Cape, back when they were in the Alley- for a brief moment she wondered if it was the Court that set it up… But she was almost sure the Nova’s shipwright, Caleb, would have mentioned it… Almost sure.

Much to the rest of the crews’ dismay, they were all pulled into a dance whether they wanted to participate or not. And even when they tried to escape, another of the Court would so casually swoop in to replace the next, never missing a beat. After a few steps, and realizing she couldn’t escape her new partner- or partners for that matter- Runali stopped struggling to cease dancing and began to pay attention to her surroundings more closely. She caught a glimpse of Cecilia sweeping Zilia off her feet, the firstmate grinning ear to ear as she led Stardusk’s doctor to be lost in the crowd. Adelaide and Jack, somehow managing to stick together, brushed past her with ease. The new woman winked at Runali- Jack’s face taut and pale- as they went by. It was… just a dance. Nothing threatening, nor anything out of place.

Then things took a turn for the peculiar.

With the music being either really long or on a repetitive loop, Runali began to count every step. She didn’t need to, as it was easy to stay in rhythm with the man in the mask, but she started to notice an odd change. With each spin, she could have sworn she noticed her crews’ outfits changing. One moment she was spun and dipped down and at the same time, she spotted the coattails of Kadi’s outfit become embroidered with purple and red gemstones, but when she straightened up and looked back, it was as if it never happened. Another time, she spotted Alicia’s robe turn into a shimmering blue ball gown that dragged across the floor- something much different than she was used to seeing on the woman. She also wasn’t used to seeing Luro in a tux- one that dazzled no less. It was an image she definitely wasn’t going to forget, to say the least. What was even more peculiar was that her outfit never seemed to change, and from her perspective, it was safe to say that her crew didn’t seem to notice the changes at all.

“Listen… I don’t know what kind of performance this is, but I don’t get it. Nor do I want to be apart of it.” Runali spoke to the stranger dancing with her, but it was loud enough to be heard by the people in her vicinity. Said stranger never responded, in fact, he smiled and twirled her into the arms of another. “Do other pirates have to go through this?” This time, Runali mumbled more so to herself and yet somehow this got the attention of one of the captains.

With another spin, and she was surprised she wasn’t getting dizzy from it, she was dancing with one of the captains, though it was hard to say which when he was wearing a masquerade mask and dressed just like the other, in greens and blues. This one however had a mostly green mask (Paris), while the other, who passed by had a blue one (Pierre). “Only the ones with the luck of meeting us darling!”

On another side of the ballroom, Kadi was tangled in a dance just as the rest were. His partner was a woman with fiery red hair that matched her sparkling red and orange gown. The half mask she wore resembled that of a cat, with silver stones decorating around the eyes. Should Kadi have spoken to her, she only responded with a cute smile and continued to dance. Should he have pressed further and looked a little closer he would have noticed something… uncomfortably familiar. As a man that had experience with souls and the soulless, had he started to gaze behind the bedazzled cat mask and into this woman’s eyes the soul connection of life and death would seemed to have been cut almost immediately. It would have been a near whiplash effect however, because the moment she blinked things seemed to return to normal- or what could constitute as normal for this situation. And without lingering too long, Kadi was dancing with the next.

Cecilia directed her reluctant partner towards the edge of the ballroom floor, dancing-- or, in Zilia’s case, being forced to-- to a tune that was a step out of synch from the rest. Cecilia hummed happily and led her partner according to that song. Once or twice Zilia could see they were on a direct collision course with twirling couples, but just as they neared each other, the couple sidestepped the last moment and Cecilia swung the doctor away without taking a second glance. Each time, Zilia felt goosebumps along her arms. Soon, they reached a wall lined by long tables cluttered with shiny glasses and pans, unused, flawless enough that Zilia could spot her reflections in them. If she glanced once, she’d see her and Cecilia surrounded by the stunning ballroom glamour. But if she glanced again-- there was her, the Stardusk crew, and no one else. The reflections were empty. A third time filled back the Courts’ captains, Cecilia, and Sergei but to look at the pans and glasses was to think no one else danced in the ballroom.

On Luro’s end of the dance floor, patrons seemed to enjoy passing him from one partner to the next, never keeping him with one for long. Their faces were shielded from him except for a smile or playful wink. Unlike the others, who at least got a few steps in or were able to examine those they danced with, Luro never got a clear look of those he danced with. He only got an odd sense of familiarity, almost as if he was dancing with himself, or a piece of himself. There was this oddly noticeable disconnect when Luro danced with the Miracle Crew. For the Stardusk, danger was never really subtle and this situation didn’t read as danger in any sense of the word, however there was a certain tug, almost as if some of those familiar voices in Luro’s head had come together to tell him that there was something wrong.

Cedric’s situation was similar to Runali’s. He danced for awhile and then he switched partners. There was nothing out of the ordinary of this ballroom dance save for the quiet partners and the lack of answers the crew had gotten. However, one thing that was the most noticeable to Sid was that his cats weren’t anywhere near. Chester, especially, was less than inclined to be on the shi, considering his princely mannerisms. But Chaos- the one known for her mischievous nature- had been around right up till the entered the ballroom. Sid would notice her tail puffing up in an immediate, adverse reaction, and when it became clear he was entering the space she disappeared entirely. Though neither he or the rest of the crew felt anything change, it was clear Sid’s cats hated the room.

Sara’s dance was a little different. From her perspective, everyone was farther away and she was center stage with the spotlight on her. However, even in this place, the people around her, including her own crew never seemed to turn to look in her direction. They were all practically faded into the background. Her accompaniment for the waltz happened to be Pierre, who donned a blue mask similar to his brother’s green one. He danced with skillful expertise, giving a warm smile. “Not that my words hold much merit to you, but I do hope you can forgive us for anything we said that may have crossed you.” He spun her outward, before pulling her back in and added, “We should have been more conscious that there’d be someone with class onboard- that is a dazzling dress you have on.” Sure enough, when Sara looked down, instead of the attire she had on before she had a strapless black ball gown on, the bottom patterned red with cherry blossoms and at her waist was a muted yellow bow to accent it off [https://i.redd.it/tezdze5f65l21.jpg]. Out of her crew, if she took the time to notice, Sara would realize she was the only one dressed to fit the occasion, further standing out from the crowd.

Like the rest, Alicia’s experience was met with a reluctant dance and consistent change of dance partners- that is, until she was dancing with Sergi. Instead of the skull mask he wore when the crew first arrived, he wore one that resembled an owl. There were even blue and green feathers to match the overall ensemble. Sergi had remained relatively quiet for the most part, save for the polite bow and “Lady Tashigi” as a greeting. Unlike before, Sergi’s cheery disposition didn’t seem to be all there. In fact, he didn’t seem to be very focused at all. His eyes darted around every now and then, keeping an eye on the other dancers as if to make sure things were still okay. It was in the brief moments their eyes met that Alicia would have felt something strange. With Alicia’s training, it was safe to say that she knew the connection between souls and strong emotions. Strangely enough, she remembered words she spoke to Kadi back in the Undersea. ‘Husk of a person..’ It was hard to say whether or not that could be applied in this situation with Sergi, but it at least would have felt that way. Behind that owl mask, every time Sergi’s eyes met Alicia’s he’d give a charming smile. Eventually taking a moment to say, “Things typically make the most sense in the final act.”




 

SilentxChaos

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“My answer’s given, tomcat,” Adelaide spoke in the Common tongue, when Sid again asked her what happened to the crew’s weapons. She glanced down at Chaos when the kitten came around, smiling vaguely, but made no move or greeting. Jack stood a few feet apart from Adelaide, and the rest of the group. The shock hadn’t worn off, but his mind was racing behind eyes that grew harder with each passing moment. He stopped speaking after Runali addressed Adelaide; reluctantly admitting to himself that she raised a point. He remained unconvinced his former partner wasn’t the immediate threat but the Court of Miracles had vanished. They were alone, on a ship that suddenly felt vacant. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as they reached the doors at the end of their hallway.

The moment it opened, Jack took a step back, squinting against the overwhelming glamour. His eyes flicked to Runali. He agreed at her assessment of Valhalla: it seemed too small to hold a room of this size. Before he could turn to Adelaide, curious despite himself at her reaction, he felt her callused hand wrap around his wrist and pull him into the fray.

“Wait, Adelaide-- don’t--!” he started to fight her, turning only to discover Stardusk meeting a similar fate at the hands of the Court. They became separated.

Jaw clenching tight, Jack looked around frantically for his crew. He spotted them on occasion. Luro was the easiest to pick out, his height giving him advantage over the ballroom dancers. He thought he saw Zilia and the first mate pass them by, but they were gone before he could confirm it. He didn’t even notice how naturally he fell into the dance until a deep sigh pulled his attention to his partner.

The entire time he’d been searching for his crew, she’d been examining his face. And taking the lead. The scars pulled tight at the corner of her eye when she smirked. “You haven’t changed,” she said.

Jack’s responded quip and tight. “Sid would disagree, I think.”

“They’re only cracks.”

His eyes snapped to hers. They swished across the floor and blending effortlessly with the dancers. The two spies brushed by Runali, who was suddenly decadent in a velvety black gown embroidered by silver threads. It was well-fitted, sleeveless, matching gloves covering her forearms as her eyepatch sported gleaming amethysts. Adelaide caught the captain’s eye and winked. She was fiery in a sheathed dress of rubies and a plume of feathers in her hair. Jack- who, to Runali, was dressed entirely in black and gold- seemed oblivious to all these changes. He remained fixated on Adelaide until they passed Runali by and back into the fold.

“Are you here to kill me?” he finally asked. The edge in his voice dropped. He sounded expectant.

“What makes you believe that?” Adelaide replied.

“Where should I start? How about when you left me to the wrath of our crew?”

“Which time?”

Jack scoffed as they stepped away from each other, raising pressed hands together as they paced a circle.

“You betrayed me.”

“You did it first.”

“Well, that’s the problem with us, isn’t it? Round and round we go, where does it end--”

“-- and where does it begin?” the smirk never left Adelaide’s face. It made what she said near dubious.

They continued another rotation of steps while never breaking eye contact. With every silent pause, a wealth of history filled in what words couldn’t. Two conversations seemed to be taking place at once-- one spoken, and one not. It was impossible to tell where each started or stopped. When they rejoined each other, Jack released a sigh.

“Tell me why you’re here, Adelaide,” he whispered softly.

“To bring you home. Why else?” her voice lowered to match his.

"I... can’t...”

“You have a choice?”

“I’m not leaving my crew.”

She paused. “You never cease to amaze me.”

“Oh, don’t antagonize me. I owe them my life.”

“Jack. You can’t care about everyone.”

“And you can’t kill everyone,” he snapped. Anger came out from nowhere, causing his face to flush, and his eyes to gleam with a watering film. Adelaide remained unphased but it ended their conversation. They continued wordlessly until the Court’s waltz came to its close and they turned to stand side by side.

"I think your tall friend would disagree," Adelaide murmured.

Jack closed his eyes and inhaled sharply.
 

Mizos

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Luro gave a nod at asking for permission next time as he did want to try hiding larger things on them. Just as he was about to ask if the Captain really ate the sandwich the ballroom entered his vision, he stopped suddenly his shoulders drooping a bit at his eyes moved to the varying amounts of shiny that now surrounded him.
“I’m positive it was smaller Captain…Sergi must be really good at managing space and-”
Luro cut himself off noticing the Captain was currently out on the dance floor, he looked at the space next to him then back out to the floor before he was pulled out himself.
He stumbled a bit surprised at the sudden attempt but eventually managed to settle into an awkward rhythm, his eyebrows drew down a bit as he didn’t do fancy dances…probably. His body knew how to move a little but his memory was hazy on if he'd ever done this, he recognized this feeling, it wasn't a pleasant one.

Being constantly moved between partners made it hard to get his bearings but he finally managed to locate the Captain, Luro’s eyebrows arched seeing her form seem to shift or rather her clothes change, in one moment she was in her normal wear and a blink later she was in an extravagant blue gown, black ruffles running along the neckline of the outfit, a name echoed in the skull, something called Dècolletage, a phrase he only knew as it was referenced due to his own outfit when he ended up among nobility. He was pretty sure he shot the person who said it thinking it was an insult now that his memory was coming back.

The dress kept close to her form, the black bodice matching well with whatever shade of blue the glittering dress was, he wished he could reach Kadi to ask him as he was sure he knew. The ruffles ran along the bodice creating a trail that crossed into itself, the sleeves seemed to stop just short of her elbows for some odd reasons and he turned his eyes away as the light reflected off the weird stones lining the end of the sleeve. Unlike most ball gowns which flared out at the bottom a long slit had been made in the side the dress exposing the Captain’s leg, the dress’ bottom adjusted to show just enough to draw attention and allow better versatility. It somehow managed to conceal and expose simultaneously and did so tauntingly.
Quite honestly it bothered Luro.
“The Captain looks weird. Noble stuff doesn’t suit her...I mean it looks nice but...something about this feels...off,” Luro thought before he was spun again.
A familiar unwanted voice resonated loudly in Luro's skull causing a sigh to escape from him, for some odd reason the regular voices were oddly louder than usual.
"Oh my goodness look at that dress...you see this right. I've always wanted to see her in a dress like that."
"Oh this is your doing..."
"I honestly don't know but I can say I like this."
"You don't like this stuff either."
"Oh I don't but the Captain is an exception, seeing her like this...I just want to wrap my hands around her throat and start squeezing, I want to stare into her eyes while the color drains from her face, taking pleasure in the contrast of her complexion and makeup as I slowly tighten my grip, bonus if it's red lipstick it's basically art at that point. Then I'll watch as her eyes shift between, surprise and confusion to sadness then ultimately fear as the bright light in them diminishes....just thinking about it-"
"You have explained this too me numerous times. Yesterday when I was in the kitchen you wrote a poem about stabbing her."
"I want her to claw at my face and beg for her life so badly right now, she'd look so beautiful dying in a dress like that...hearing that out loud I think you might have a few problems that are absolutely not my fault...you should really sort out your feelings I'm not sure what to call this."
"Please go away."

"I will in a moment I just wanted to ask you if you 'felt' that because all of us can and uh...it's kind of nice."
Painful as it was to admit Luro knew what he was talking about, everything seemed fine but there were thousands of voices saying otherwise, they were being coy as always but it was plainly clear this wasn't a good situation and the presence of the chuckling man in his head was further proof. He was only this loud because Luro felt there was some actual truth hidden in there. The strange feeling he got being passed between the other performers didn't help him any, he didn't deny it was fun but it was hard to enjoy it with a crowd like this one.
"We're imposters you and I so it's hard not respect fellow ones, be it metaphorical or physical I always enjoy the masks of others."

"...which one are you respecting now."
"The fact you think I have an answer to that is funny. I love how you depend on me, just do me a favor and 'think' about killing her at least, you know what I'll just make sure you do since we're buds and all."
Luro's shook his head dispelling Imposter's presence to the best of his ability, he was pretty sure he had an answer, one he couldn't obviously see himself or he was just messing with him and truly didn't know, he could never tell with him.
He put that notion aside and instead decided to focus on trying to find the others, while also looking for his rifle. He wasn't in a good place without his gun and the longer he was away from her the angrier she would be when they reunited. He didn't want to get into another fight with her it took forever to make things up.
That aside he was going to make sure he enjoyed himself up until then.
 
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SilentxChaos

Vivid Imaginings
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Male, Female, Primarily Prefer Female, No Preferences
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I'm willing to do either, but may lean more towards the passive side.
Favorite Genres
Fantasy, magical, modern, medieval, horror, dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, adventure, action, anime
Genre You DON'T Like
Realistic fiction, romance

No sooner had Stardusk entered Valhalla’s ballroom than Cecilia reappeared to whisk Zilia away. “Come my doctor, my star! I claim this dance as ours,” she cooed and pulled Zilia into the throng.

Effortlessly, Cecilia set their routine with two steps to the left, two the right, and sashaying in a lazy circle across the dance floor. The sea of dancers ebbed, the two woman cantering to their own melody that neither flowed nor disrupted the others around them. Cecilia held one of Zilia’s hand aloft as her other arm secured the doctor around her waist. If she made any missteps, Cecilia corrected her and kept her steady.

“Your irides are lovely,” Cecilia sighed as she dreamily gazed into Zilia’s eyes. They were close in height and it was hard to escape the firstmate’s obsessive stare. “Such a rare shade of succinite. What I wouldn’t give to study their patterns. Would you permit an examination? I’d only need one.”

The moment happened so quickly, she barely had time to register what had occured when she found herself pulled into dancing alongside the Captain and the others.The worst of it was she was currently in the ‘care’ of one of two people who she didn’t want looking at her. She wanted to decline but unfortunately her hand was trapped in the hold of her undesired partner.
Out of an old instinct she adjusted resting her hand on Cecilia’s arm her eyes narrowing at her as she picked up on Cecilia’s intent adjusting her steps accordingly.

There were a few times when they seemed to get too close to the others dancing but that was easily remedied with a simple movement, Zilia tried to escape during these moments but found herself spun by another person on the floor and immediately back with Cecilia, the movement was so smooth by time she was forward again she was already being led by the First Mate again. Her eye twitched seeing the face of the strange woman in front of her once more.
She wondered if she could trip this woman and escape to her friends but not knowing where they were she knew taking a violent action was a bad idea. Even if they were last these people were Worst Gen’s, she wouldn’t last long in a formal fight against them, the fact she was so easily manipulated back to Cecilia was proof that her moves were read and effortlessly used against her.
“...hah...why are we dancing? I hope this is just eccentricity and not a prelude to something terrible...as usual. I hate that I can almost adjust easily to situations like this...I’ve been around Luro too much.”
Zilia was pulled from her thoughts at Cecilia’s voice, her eyes twitched a bit at her tone and she leaned away from her a bit, her questions however caused her body to twitch and she casually averted her gaze from her, she wanted little to do with this woman.
Just as she contemplated breaking away two things caught her attention, the first was the Captain in a dark red ball gown, one with a low and fluffy skirt, the ruffles stopping just above her waist where what looked like a silver sash of rhinestone ran diagonally down her torso, the bands around the top of her exposed arms also covered in glittering stones stood out. She shook her head at the outfit only to see her back to normal a moment later.
While searching for the others to at least try and head in that direction her eyes landed on the glass resting on the tables, at first she paid it no mind noticing her reflection along with Cecilia’s and the strange other dancers filling the room, but at another spin she noticed the reflection change her friends showing but no sign of the other couples, another glance and Sergei came into view, she ended up gripping Cecilia’s shirt at this her mouth twitching the the side seeing the man again. Her eyes raised and moved to the faces surrounding them, her steps became a bit more aggressive almost stomps at this point as she peered at the others dancers in the room, this entire room disgusted her and it became harder and harder to hide it. Being stuck in a masquerade such at this made her uncomfortable in more ways than one.
After the strange discovery she tried to stay near the table, avoiding any attempts to move back towards the center of the room, the reflections had shown her something interesting and she preferred to look anywhere else but the eyes of the woman in front of her right now.

“Do you like them?” Cecilia asked, when she caught Zilia looking at the scattered display. She took her incessant staring to mean Zilia was fascinated with the pots and grinned exuberantly, forgetting for a moment she desired to examine on of the women’s eyes. “I spent positively hours working on them! I wanted the angles just so to capture the ballroom’s natural lighting.” She sighed a long, satisfied exhale of someone admiring their due diligence. She didn’t seem to notice the change of reflections.

“It must be hard, always writing in that little book to talk,” Cecilia abruptly changed the conversation.

Her eyes glimmered at Zilia. Despite all the dancers around them, she acted like they were the only two in the ballroom. “Nearly impossible to talk right now, us dancing so. I can provide you with a voice, if you like.” With the hand that held Zilia’s, she turned it over until the doctor’s fingers rested in her palm. “All you need to do is trace the words in my palm. I’ll understand what you mean. You’ll have to take the glove off though.”

Cecilia blinked at her with a hopeful smile. Her face was open and carried a strange, childlike innocence. She exuded curiosity and harmlessness. “Pretty please? I’m dying to know what you wish to say, doctor my doctor.”

Zilia jumped a bit being spoken to again; she had been pulled into her own thoughts for a moment there. Zilia was quickly reminded she was still weaponless and found it difficult to get close enough to her comrades to take any kind of action. She offered a cautious nod towards Cecilia glancing sideways at her in response to her interest in the glassware, she wasn’t sure if they were playing tricks on her as well but something about what was reflected in them called out to her, that accompanied by the goose bumps she felt earlier and she could tell something was…off about the others in the room, Cecilia even paid them little mind, whether that was part of the show or not she wasn’t sure.
When Cecilia brought up her way of speaking Zilia firmly shook her head, she had no qualms speaking with her notebook though she couldn’t deny it was difficult to talk currently. At her suggestion and the movement of her hand Zilia glanced at her gloved hand her eyes narrowing a bit at the offer. She disliked the idea of touching Cecilia directly and she wore her gloves for a reason not liking that was a stipulation. The woman however seemed sincere in offering a voice and looked relatively harmless, but Zilia remembered the last person with a smile she trusted, she pushed the image down not wanting to let that memory surface.

Cecilia currently had her left hand in her own, she glanced at her right and mentally sighed as it wouldn’t be too big of a deal to remove this one, she didn’t like it but she had very few options at her disposal right now. Until Runali did her…thing she just had to buy time and hope someone, anyone had a plan or this participation ended. She wasn’t going to last long against a Worst Gen, so playing along and waiting for a proper opening seemed a good idea.
Zilia removed her left glove off her hand stuffing it into her pocket; dainty fingers tentatively at first followed Cecilia’s instructions and wrote on the palm of her hand since she was supposedly dying to know what she had to say.
“…I’ve never encountered your group during my travels; I tend to avoid such matters so I’ll admit a casual curiosity to this participation.”

“Never ever!? By the ruins, you’ve missed out my doctor. Our performances are the best in the world. Stardusk has been on my captains’ list for quite some time, you should be honored that you get to see how we perform first hand.” She launched into a tirade of the Court’s grand shows, all the while massaging Zilia’s left hand in hers, thumb pressing tiny circles on the hand. Her head tilted to one side and a look of fascination overtook her.

“Doctor my doctor! That writing-- what language is it in? I’ve never ever encountered symbols such as the ones covering your arm.”

She pulled Zilia in a little closer, mystified by this new revelation. She giggled. “Forgive me, my parents were scholars you see? The Grand Pennyworth Archaeologists! I grew up knowing all sorts of ruins and languages. These… yours are new. I scarce believe it! Do tell me about them?” She spun Zilia out, nearly colliding her with another couple.

Zilia wasn’t sure if she would use the word honored right now, such grand events weren’t things she normally engaged in. The many ornament objects surrounding them, the extravagant dresses the beautiful glasses she still peered at, it was just the flaunting of wealth. She didn’t want to be involved in this affair, being in a crowd and dancing only made her want to return to her books and solitude. She didn’t speak this silent desire however and offered a nod to Cecilia, she admitted adding this to the Chronicle would be a good addition; the Miracle Court was quite the enigma after all.

She was about to comment on the extra touching of her hand when Cecilia’s question caused Zilia’s eyes to move to her still covered right hand. Her eyes narrowed and for the first time she showed her discomfort of this woman, her body tensing and she instinctively leaned away when she leaned in. She took in the knowledge that Cecilia had just shared with her but she disliked this woman knew something she had kept even from her friends. Unlike Stardusk however she chose to ask questions.
She gave a small nod at her apology and held her arm out as she was spun out, spinning as she came back in disliking having to participate in this performance. Memories flashed through her head of these dances, and her eyebrows drew down slightly at the memory. For some odd reason her mind kept drifting to the past in the presence of these people, she blamed this situation.
“I can respect the pursuit of knowledge especially the language and worlds of those who came before, but I have no intention of sharing what is written on my arm, the language or meaning…there is a reason I keep it covered and hidden after all.”

Her eyes moved to the silverware again then returned to the room looking for her friends, what was the point of his performance? Who were witnessing this, the crew from earlier? Was this just something joyful for the crew themselves? Zilia’s gaze moved back to Cecilia and she wrote further.
“Cecilia…who are we dancing for anyway? What is this performance for? Is this grand showing just for fun among the participants?”

“Who are we… well, isn’t obvious, doctor? It’s for you.” Cecilia, who’d pouted at first when Zilia denied her the secrets written all over her covered arm, quickly switched to confused hurt when she asked such silly questions.

“Stardusk is our guests. And… I’ve been waiting so long to meet you! I’ve been following your exploits ever since you escaped that wretched prison. You’re not like other pirates, you know? You do good things-- most of the time. The adventures you’ve taken though! Like the time you disappeared into Davy Jones’ locker… a-and the Undersea! I’ve always longed to go there, ever since my parents wrote me about it. My captains, oh I do love them so but, this is what they love best. Not some grand quest or exotic locales… just these performances and meeting new, bright and happy faces.”

Cecilia smiled and stopped dancing. It didn’t even phase the others around them. Taking both of Zilia’s hands in hers, she gripped them close and stared at the doctor. “I can read everything about you, you know? I can see the tattoos on your arm, the type of ink that stained them into your skin. I know the scars your body bears and the fibers of your clothes and everything that you’re carrying.” As she spoke, Cecilia adapted this distant gaze. She stared off beyond Zilia’s shoulder as she again started rubbing her fingers in a soothing, almost instinctive way, as if she was feeling the very lines that crossed her palms. “I can also feel how tense you are. You’re not… happy. Are you? Is it the performance? Do you not like it? Oh, please say you do!”

Zilia couldn’t help feeling a twinge of guilt hearing this was all for them, it bothered her how prepared it actually was but it was at least a kind gesture and a…interesting welcome. She was just glad she dropped the matter and decided to just stop their conversation before she ended up digging any deeper. However the moment she brought up their old adventures Zilia’s eyes widened slightly, she could understand some of their more public antics, but to bring up the Undersea and Davy Jones, as if it was fact, as if she had watched it herself made her uncomfortable.
“If you wish to see more of the world than do so…you speak as if it isn’t an option.’

When they stopped Zilia’s brows arched wondering if the performance was over but seeing the others still dancing without a care in the world seemed to prove otherwise. Her attention returned to Cecilia at the sudden pull of her hands, not pleased to meet eyes with the First Mate once again, her eyes shifting away from her. Her words didn’t help to calm her already frayed nerves, this woman’s attention as expected was something she didn’t want, options flowed through Zilia’s mind, actions she could take and she did her utmost not to let her emotions guide her right now, she only felt more on edge with each passing moment. Cecilia had been forthwith about some things…but at the same time it felt she was hiding more under it, telling enough truth to keep her calm but not revealing everything.
When asked about her current emotions Zilia closed her eyes realizing that the most she could do was be honest, something she always aimed for.
“It’s not a matter of the performance. It’s you Cecilia. I can’t be upset at your curiosity of Stardusk, in a way I can understand. It were their exploits that drew me to them as well, the fantastical adventures you describe, even the ones before the prison are astonishing. I can see why you’d want to meet them, I sought them myself. In that aspect…I can empathize at least a little.”
Zilia opened her eyes her gaze rising to Cecilia, her expression had shifted, the tenseness in her face had faded and she instead peered at Cecilia, staring into her probably for the first time since setting foot on this ship.
“I’m upset…because you didn’t properly ask. You invaded my life, you’ve peered at my person outwardly and inwardly and I didn’t agree to such observations. Again I can’t be mad at your curiosity but at least when I approached Stardusk…I spoke to them, asked them to share such things with me. It took time but I didn’t force it, I didn’t dig without permission. I can’t accept that kind of prying.”
Zilia’s eyes narrowed slightly at Cecilia as she continued.
“We could have started slow, gotten to know each other, shared experiences together, good and painful, just like I have with the others. I would have shared with you my scars; the marks on my right hand, my feelings, but you ignored that option and just looked at it anyway. It should go without saying I would be upset about something like that. Thank you for the dance…but I believe I’m done.”
Zilia stepped away from Cecilia and slipped her left glove back on, a silent indication that their conversation had concluded. She turned to leave and find her friends, she had no intention of sharing anything further with someone who either ignored her feelings or didn’t recognize them for all the prying she did.
 

Capt. Blu

Fake it til You Make it
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No Preferences
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Both
Favorite Genres
Fantasy, Adventure, Scifi, Anime, Steampunk, Heroes and Villains
Collab: Captain and East (And Silent, thanks!)



Location: On Valhalla…?

Sara blinked as she was suddenly pulled into a dance and, for a moment, naturally fell into step. She looked down and saw that her clothes, as well as everyone else, had changed likely in the same way as their weapons had vanished. She had to admit, forced wardrobe change aside, that she liked her new dress. She liked everyone’s new clothes, but she had wished that she got to see them without being forced to. She focused on the song, and tried to see where it came from, but to no avail. It was a waltz, a standard measure of three beats, which was a rhythm that she had plenty of experience in. After all, a semi-famous and local celebrity like herself was invited to plenty of dances in Tilea. Only there was one difference between those dances, and this one.

She stopped what she was doing, taking her hands out of Pierre’s, and slapped him across the face, leaving a hand shaped red mark on his right cheek. “Before you take someone to dance with you.” She hissed, angrily. “Ask permission first!”

Pierre had very little time to react as Sara snatched her hands away and suddenly the firm smack resonated as if the room was empty. The dancers stopped, not in unison, but still rather abruptly. Compared to the silence before, the room was filled with small gasps and hushed whispers. Sergi, farther off to the side, spared Cecilia a glance from across the room. They gave each other brief nods and Sergi turned back to Alicia, starting to say something- only to pause when Pierre righted himself.

He rubbed his cheek for a moment and then his jaw, before he stood to his full height once more. The room stilled and the music got quieter and then-

Pierre laughed. He was still rubbing his cheek, but his laughter was light and harmless. “That’s a bit of force you have there. Also, quite a… brash reaction.” Pierre held his hands together behind his back, before taking a single step to distance himself. “It hasn’t been that long Miss Masuma. Don’t you remember? We did ask if you’d participate. Captain Lev so kindly agreed.” He took a moment to unclasp his hands and gesture towards her. “And there was no need to get so upset. All you had to do was just request for the music to stop.”

Sara bristled, and her short hair seemed to curl in on itself. Her boredom had now passed into annoyance, “We were asked to watch a theatre performance, not to be a part of it. My brash reaction was a match for this farce that you call a performance. You took our weapons, you locked us all in here, and now you expect us to dance with you? We’re not your performance piece, we’re your hostages. This is little more than a kidnapping with a few sparkles.”

Pierre’s laughter faded and his hand slid from his face until his arms crossed over his chest. Happiness turned into confusion and his head tilted. “Interactive performance. We used it very clearly…? Miss Masuma, you must keep up.” However his brow creased in more confusion. “Took your weapons? Hostages?” The sound of his voice wavered from offense to confusion before he straightened up and clasped his hands together. “What do you mean locked in here, there’s several doors to go through. Surely you know how to go back the way you came?”

By this time, Paris had left Runali- spinning her off to Kadi and Luro, only to join his brother and comfortingly pat his shoulder. “I say we don’t question Miss Masuma’s… odd behavior. If she wants to depart- if they all want to depart, we shouldn’t keep them any longer. After all, no need to host an audience who happen to be,” And he paused to click his tongue. “impatient.”

Sara folded her arms and scowled at the pair. They had acted like they hadn’t led her through disappearing doors, they acted like they didn’t take all their weapons away. And now they were playing a trick on her to make her think that she was an idiot. By now, she thought that she had enough of this crew and this ship’s shenanigans. “Yes. I think that would be best.”

Pierre still looked a bit troubled while Paris continued on, unbothered by her scowling. “Ah, Cecilia? Please direct them back to deck please. I have to…” His gaze went over to his brother and his brow furrowed a bit. “Temper his, uh, confusion.”

There was a slight strain to his voice that Sergi caught and he quickly gave a deep bow to Alicia. “I do apologize for the abrupt end to our dance and the sudden dismissal. And I suppose if you were as troubled by our… performance as Miss Masuma is. It was never our intention.” Sergi looked and sounded genuine as he apologized, before adjusting his masquerade mask and briskly walking towards the captains.

The people around began to get more lively and they separated, some going through the door the Stardusk came in and others going through a door much farther back. Cecilia herded the slower Stardusk towards the door they came from. She approached from the opposite side Sergi originally saw her, briskly shooing Jack and Adelaide back to the fold. “Come along now! Time to go! Tip-top and all that. Make sure you have your weapons, yeah?” she talked in her same uppity voice, but after the dance with Zilia, there seemed to be a subtle change. The skip in her step was gone and she refused to meet the doctor’s eyes. Jack frowned, about to point out they didn’t have their weapons, until the first mate handed him the hidden knife normally kept in his right sleeve. “Can’t leave weapons on the dance floor, no sir! Not tidy at all!” she waggled a finger at him while he checked- and found- all his weapons still on his person.

“Bah, aw Sara you couldn’t have waited a little longer before making them upset? As weird as it was, I kind of wanted to see how it’d end.” Runali looked around as they walked down the hall. All seemed practically normal. Even the crew had the same outfits they did before they stepped onto Valhalla. Then, she patted her hip, feeling her blades back on her side.There was obviously something up with the Court and all the tricks they were playing… but seeing as they were just going to leave, she supposed it didn’t matter too much. Plus, there didn’t seem to be a hostile moment from what she saw.

“Ah well, guess we can go back to sailing until we get to another port town.” At least that’s what she thought until she took a step forward and bumped into some invisible force. “Wh-” Her brow raised in surprise when she reached out in front of her, only to suddenly see her reflection- along with the rest of the crew. “Hmm, alright first mate. What gives?” Runali’s head tilted back towards Cecilia only to realize she was walking off, arms splayed wide like she was trying to fly as she disappeared. “Oi. What’s the big-” The captain followed Cecilia only to suddenly be blocked by another mirror. “Man this place is… weird.” Runali studied her reflection, adjusting her eyepatch and patting her hair down. “Hmph. Gettin’ a lil wily. Zil, you mind trimming this down when we get back to the ship before my hair blinds me?” She was still studying herself, only to rear back in surprise when her reflection stuck its tongue out at her. The reaction made the reflection silently laugh before waving and disappear.

“Kadi, mirrors don’t do that, right?”

“Mirrors, no. Apparitions attempting to get a rise out of us? Probably.”

“Apparitions?”

“Ghosts- or at least ghostlike people. Which,” Kadi thought back to the dance and his brow furrowed for a moment. “Doesn’t seem too far off.”

Runali stared at the mirror again but the reflections looked normal. In fact, the reflections made it look as though they were in some room. “So how do we get out?”

“Tut-tut! Stardusk, you’ve wandered off,” Cecilia’s voice suddenly echoed around the room. When the crew looked around, they couldn’t spot her in the mirrors, except for a flash of coattails here, a twirl of pink-and-purple hair there, and the sound of footsteps pattered around them. A snicker came from behind Cedric’s shoulder but when he turned, only his own reflection stared back quizzically.

“This is the Hall of Mirrors,” she explained, “We try to keep guests away from here, you see, as not many make it back out! It was very bad of you to go in without asking. But I’m positively positive a brave crew like yours should figure it out, no problem! Be quick-- we’ll be waiting for you on the other side. Oh, and do try not to anger the reflections? They don’t like to be laughed at.”





 

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The sound of Sara's slap resounded in the silence of the dancers. It was loud and echoy, reminiscent of a gun shot. Jack immediately turned to where it came from, his grip tightening around Adelaide's hands. She peeked around him. When they spotted Sara and Pierre, Adelaide glanced around, noting Sergi's position and how his eyes went straight to Cecilia when the dancers stopped. She shifted her weight. Jack, sensing her movement, glanced down at her then followed her pointed looks. She pursed her lips. "Do we rejoin your crew?"

Jack frowned and examined the area again. Before he could confirm, however, Cecilia made their decision instead. She came out from the opposite direction of where Adelaide first spotted her, herding Stardusk together. Apparently they were no longer welcomed. Though a twinge of suspicion furrowed Jack's brow, the pressure building in his chest lessened. It was starting to feel... too much. This extravagant crew, Adelaide's reappearance, their tricks, his past-- they pressed together like the walls of this ship, closing in one inch at a time. The Court's pull on Stardusk's leash prevented Jack from dealing with what he saw as the bigger threat, sashaying at his arm. Or rather, the threat she represented. As they finally left the ballroom, he gripped her hand and held her back until they were behind the group.

"I'll give you once last chance," he said in a fierce whisper, "tell me why you're here, or we're done the moment we leave this ship."

Both eyebrows raised up at him. "I already told you--"

"That's not what I'm talking about and you know it." Jack glared at her. He leaned closer. "Where do you stand, Adelaide? We betrayed each other at Oublia and then didn't see each other again. Why are you--"

Bonk!

Jack walked straight into a mirror. Adelaide laughed loud as he stumbled back, gripping his nose as he bewilderingly took in their sudden change of surroundings. Damn it. Not again, Jack though. He noticed Adelaide's clothes finally averted to their normal state. A simple dress of leather and linen; a brown vest, sleeveless shirt, short trousers and thick flats. She wore no armor or protection, save for her weapons, which were a whip and dagger. A satchel nestled across her chest with a pink flower poking out from under the flap. Jack's face withered at her mirth as she tugged at the satchel's strap.

"This isn't funny," he snapped, wiping away a trickle of blood from his nose.

"No? I think it is." Adelaide folded her hands behind her back and balanced back on her heels. As the crew inspected the mirrors, Kadi's comment of apparitions had Jack white as a sheet, noticing their glassy doppelgangers were in fact not pure reflections. If Adelaide noticed, she pretended she didn't. "Is it fascinating? How much this ship changes?"

Her question was directed at Stardusk. A subtle shift occurred as she turned her back to Jack and sauntered over to Runali. His eyes followed her, briefly, while the crew turned their attention to finding a way out. He stepped back and leaned against one of the mirrors with both hands. His eyes squeezed shut. Fingers curled against the glass. Armament turned them black and tiny fissures cracked in its surface. He felt them spread from his fingertips like strands of hair. When he looked back up, his reflection stared at him with the tiniest shake of its head.

Adelaide continued addressing Stardusk behind him. "What suggestions do we have for getting out? I don't wish to be trapped in here, for one." She mused while walking beside the mirrors, toeing the edges where flooring met glass.
 
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Eastwood

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Sara was glad that she had her weapons and regular clothes back, although she wished that she got to keep the dress. If it was even real and not an illusion that is. She ignored Jack and the Windy She-Devil's arguing, not really wanting to be involved in all that. As they were about to leave, they stumbled or were lead to in another weird trap or performance piece. Among the maze of mirrors, it would seem that a lot of stumbling around and guesswork would be needed to navigate through this room. But that was more work and effort than Sara was willing to put in.

"You know, a really obvious solution presents itself." She walked up, reaching out with her hand until she had felt cool touch of the reflective surface. Drawing her gladius, she raised her arm and brought the pummel down against the glass, shattering the reflection that stared back at her. Mirrors were expensive, but these weren't her mirrors. She figured that if they wanted to lock them down here, then they should be prepared for the consequences.
 

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Zilia had barely taken a few steps when she noticed the festivities had come to an end, her attention moving to the source of it, her eyes resting on Sara. She also noticed Luro throw his hands up in jubilation only to stop seeing his partners had stopped, he seemed confused but lowered his arms to help catch Runali with Kadi seeing their dancing was done. Zilia found it oddly easier to locate the others and it appeared that they were being escorted out all of a sudden. She barely pulled her notebook out when they had been shoved out of the room. Her gaze moved to Cecilia and she could see there was a difference in how she carried herself, unlike before her attention had moved away from her. She was thankful expecting their conversation was the cause but something in the back of her mind told her she was wrong.

Zilia's eyes ended up moving to Luro seeing he was now holding his rifle in his hand, she blinked and touched her sleeve feeling the familiar weapon. Her eyes narrowed a bit and she checked to see if it was attached to her again. Losing it the first time was surprising enough but seeing it was in the same spot as if it had never left bothered her. Glancing around she noticed everyone’s weapons had been returned which she expected but it brought her a bit of comfort.
“I’m so happy your back!”
Zilia jumped seeing Luro rubbing his cheek along his rifle.
“Ahhh let’s never part again.”
He quickly leaned away from gun holding it at arm's length as if it was trying to bite him.
“C-calm down I’d never abandon you. It was circumstances, don’t be mad okay. I’ll make sure to properly clean you when we get back…hmm…you feel off too. I’ll take ya apart when I have a moment…huh…no I noticed immediately. You know I wouldn’t lie to you…it kind of hurts when you look at me like that.”
Zilia turned her attention from Luro only to walk into same wall as the Captain and stumble back a bit; she blinked seeing her own reflection staring back at her.
“Okay now that I’ve got her back.”
Luro spun and raised his gun leveling it at Cecilia, Zilia stepped forward to stop him but when Luro didn’t pull the trigger and instead lowered his gun she stopped mid step. She realized why pretty quickly, he was aiming his gun at himself, there was a mirror behind him.
“Boo…” Luro said returning his rifle to his back. “…guess I can’t shoot anyway. Captain’ll be mad.”
Zilia let out a silent sigh of relief only to glance at Runali at her haircut request; she spun her scissors in her right hand a bright gleam in her eyes as a silent acknowledgment. For now they had to find a way out of here, especially given Cecilia’s warning.

While Zilia was inspecting the mirrors Luro had been glancing at Jack on occasion, he was doing his utmost not to eavesdrop on the conversation between the two but he was walking nearby so it was hard not to listen. That and it wasn’t exactly subtle that Jack wasn’t pleased to see this woman, he knew what it meant to have a lass you don’t want to see next to you, it was a feeling he knew all too well.
Luro brought a hand to his chin and poked one of the mirrors, he held his sleeves up taking a good look at his person, turning around and checking himself out from the back.
“Makachi…ya got a one of a kind style,” Luro said grinning at himself.
Luro spun around and pushed his rear out of a bit bringing a hand to his chin, a tug from Z pulled him back from his staring.
“Can you focus for two seconds!”
“I am focused Z…it takes immense effort to put basically no thought into my appearance,” Luro said nodding. “Just like Cedric. Look how nice his clothes are, imagine if he chose not to wake up like that. He’d be up there with Kadi.”
There were so many words Zilia wanted to say but she put it aside seeing the Luro in the mirror was moving, he was standing near the reflection of Runali, he waved at Luro getting his attention.
Mirror Luro pointed at Runali and made a few stabbing motions with his hand, Luro arched a brow at this and mirror Luro raised his hand and brought it down a few times pretending to stab the Captain.
Luro tilted his head causing Mirror Luro to shake his head and taking his rifle off his back fake bludgeoned her with the butt of the gun pointing at it afterwards. Luro shrugged his shoulders and mirror Luro spun the gun around pretended to shoot the Captain making silent ‘pew pew' motions with his mouth.
At this Luro shook his head motioning to Runali with both hands, before bringing his hands together shaking hands with himself.
Mirror Luro shook his head and walked towards the edge of the mirror digging into the crevice between two of them, he tossed a few things over his shoulder before pulling something, he seemed to struggle for a moment before he finally pulled a cannon from the inbetween of the mirror. Turning it towards the Mirror Runali he lifted a cannonball into it before lighting the fuse and covering his ears.
Luro looked over at his Captain then at Mirror Runali, he opened his mouth to say something when mirror Zilia stepped forward and stopped the fuse herself. She pointed at the real Runali before motioning to the real Luro.
“…what is going on?”
“I don’t know but your reflection is mean.”
“Mine’s mean! I’m not trying to kill anyone.”
Zilia’s reflection held both her hands out like she was holding a sword and made a stabbing motion towards Mirror Runali, Mirror Luro shook his head and motioned to Luro informing her he had already discussed that.
Luro looked over at Zilia his eyelids lowering a bit wondering if he should take a step away from Zilia.
“What’s with that look?! I’m not trying to kill Captain.”
Luro looked back at Mirror Zilia who was pulling up on an invisible noose while mirror Luro watched and nodded.
“Z…”
“That’s not me!”

Luro's attention was pulled away by the two's discussion, which led them to kneel down and start drawing out designs, by Adelaide's inquiry. He took a good look around and folded his hands behind his head.
"Well that First Mate mentioned figuring something out, so it probably has something to do with that," Luro said shrugging. "They're waiting for us so this is probably another test or somethin'. I'm kind of having fun with all this so I'm haven't put too much thought into it, there's probably a secret-"
Luro stopped talking hearing the loud shatter and looked in Sara's direction, Zilia did the same staring down at the broken glass.
"Masu...I think you look fine there was no need to destroy the reflection...that and there's more of them. Jack compliment Masu if it's from you she'll think it's sincere. Everyone gets mad at mine for some reason."
"...why did you break the mirror Sara...I mean I understand why but that's just more bad luck."
"Didn't expect that kind of talk from ya Z," Luro said grinning.
"We are constantly followed by misfortune I don't want to invite more, superstitious or otherwise."
Zilia knelt down and started picking up pieces of the mirror, she only stopped to write a note.
"I'd rather the possibility of more misfortune avoid Sara, Luro you keep that sack on you to put on s future kidnap victim's head, I need it."
"Z...I'm not going to put a sack full of glass on the next person I kidnap's head. I can do that after I steal them but not during that's just rude."
Zilia just held her hand out and Luro dug in his sleeve and pulled out multiple sacks, shifting between them he tossed Zilia one.
"I'm not going to ask why you have that many."
"Friends and family," Luro said putting the sacks away. "I got small ones too for the kids just in case."
Zilia shook her head to further push the point she wasn't asking.
"Do you want the Captain's old one? It's better quality. I was going to throw it out but it's a really good sack."
Zilia shook her head to inform it was fine.
 
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Collab: Captain and Silent



Location: On Valhalla…?

It wasn’t hard to see Jack and the newcomer having a spat. Runali squinted in their direction, only once, before determining the brunt of Jack’s agitation was at the woman and not the ship itself. ’What is up with this crew and their woman troubles-’ She paused for a minute, a thought occurred to her. When Adelaide got closer to her, she kept the thought to herself instead, deciding to take a moment to watch Adelaide. There was a familiar way to how she carried herself and it was as if she was trying to get them to figure out something she knew that they didn’t. While she questioned, Runali watched. Her eyes flicked from Adelaide to Jack and then back to Adelaide. At one point, they went to Cedric.

And then, Runali nodded to herself and turned to one of the mirrors. “Ah. I see now.”

Her revelation went no further because when Adelaide spoke, she gave a curious look. Kadi, though, beat her to the questioning. “So, your loyalty to this… crew is a temporary one? They must pay well if you’re willing to perform as the others do.” His brow raised. “And I’ve never heard of pirate crews being so lenient with loyalty.”

“Why is it loyalty you assume I offer?” Adelaide cocked her head at him.

“It is hard to believe you wouldn’t have at least a small idea of how to get out of here.” Runali quipped, her attention on Adelaide’s reflection near her own. “You know more than you want to tell,” The captain paused and spun around to face Adelaide, taking a step closer. She gave a cheshire smile and continued. “But it’s nothing I’m not used to.” It sounded a little ominous, but the moment didn’t last very long. With a shrug, Runali tapped a nearby mirror. “The value of secrecy is usually weighed by the effect it has later. And it always seems like the price is rather high with some of you.” She stuck her tongue out at her reflection when it did so to her. “But if you’re looking to bother my chef, could you politely do so after we get out of this?” It was followed with a vague hand gesture around the room they were in.

Watching Runali, a flicker of amusement crossed Adelaide's face. “I see why he likes you. As you wish… captain.” Behind them, a mirror cracked as Jack applied extra pressure. His reflection balked; Adelaide didn’t even flinch.

Sara didn’t seem to care about any of it- not to Runali’s surprise. And not moments after, the sound of glass shattering filled the room. “Hm. Guess that is an option. I mean, you can lead the way on that path of destruction since you’ve already slapped one of the captains.” Runali gave a playfully smug look. “Stardusk always getting into trouble, yeah?” She looked over at Alicia with a thumb jutted at Sara. “Let the records know that she’s the main culprit this time.”

When the glass shattered, Sara’s reflection, and those near her looked silently panicked and scrambled to the next mirrors or just disappeared completely. Some looked a little angry and shook their fists in silent rebuttal. Runali noticed the reaction and put her hands behind her head, standing behind the gladiator. “Well, don’t stop there. Lead the charge. You’ve made it this far with that luck of yours.” Runali chuckled. “Surprised they haven’t started a fight, honestly.”

“They are not like that,” commented Adelaide. She mildly leaned against an unbroken mirror, picking at her nails with an air of apathy. Her reflection seemed to like her; ‘mirror’ Adelaide pretended to rest on the real one’s shoulder that touched the glass, blinking up lovingly. Adelaide winked down at the reflection and made a kissing sound.

Runali had taken a moment to observe the area again, raising a brow as she caught the tail end of Luro and Zilia’s reflections. She wasn’t sure what to make of it but she decided that it was in her best interest not to question it. Instead, she looked over at the other reflections. Alicia’s made a peculiar facial expression, pressing her nose upwards and sticking her tongue out- not something she was used to seeing from Alicia. Kadi’s looked a bit devious, but she couldn’t quite tell what it meant, only to step back when he pulled out a gun and took a shot. Of course, nothing happened, and it made the reflection laugh. Cedric’s for the most part, mimicked the real one, however every time the man turned away ‘mirror Cedric’ would make a face or do something else as if he didn’t want to be seen. At one point, when Cedric looked, his reflection was that of a woman’s- no one they knew though. It was odd, especially looking at her own reflection who stared at her with a curious eye. A cold chill went down her spine when the reflection took off her eyepatch and there was nothing underneath. The way the reflection stared with the wide expression was even creepier and it made her reach out and touch her eyepatch for a minute.

And suddenly the glass near her was shattered, causing her reflection to silently gasp and scramble away. Zilia’s words about bad luck made Runali focus again. “Hey Z,” Runali knelt down to put a hand on the doctor’s shoulder. “Misfortune will come, saving glass won’t help.” She sounded matter of fact though her tone shifted into something more cheery as she gestured towards Sara, “Besides, you’re not gonna be able to pick up all the glass that she’s shattering.” She helped the doctor up and at a leisurely pace followed behind the path of destruction- up until one particular strike caused Sara’s gladus to bounce back, sending her with it. Runali sidestepped so Sara wouldn’t tumble into her, and pulled Zilia by her hood and out the way. “Must be a sturdy mirror.” She commented with an amused smile.

Her smile faded when near instant, the remaining mirrors crumbled into nothing. The eerily empty room was suddenly overcast with a red light. Before they could adjust to the sudden harsh light change, a voice echoed around them. “I admittedly am not regretful to inform you that my captains do not appreciate your company anymore.” The voice was easy to recognize as Sergi’s, but his tone was different… a lot colder and near threatening. “Rude, brash, utterly destructive- all while we tried our best to be polite and put on a proper show. I can excuse poor taste, unfortunately not everyone can be refined. Disrespecting our captains however will not be tolerated.”

A bright spotlight shined in front of them and Sergi stepped into the light. Unlike his suave masquerade owl mask nor the odd skeleton, the mask he wore covered a most of his face. Despite it being completely gold in color, it was nowhere near as pristine as the others. It was hard to tell if he could even see with the mask on, but as he stepped forward with the spotlight following him, it was easy to spot the emotionless- and as Alicia felt earlier- the near soulless gaze the man had on them.

“And you all must obviously understand the plight one must go through when disrespecting your captain, no?” His eyes fell onto Runali, making another chill run down her spine. “After all, loyalty must run deep if you were to get all the way to the Worst Gen status.” Sergi pressed a finger to his mask and heaved a sigh. “No matter. We’ll be rid of you soon enough. Cecilia has decided to be kind.” Before any of them could answer, Sergi stepped back and clapped his hands together.

What followed was a pitch black room, making Runali reach for her weapon. “Stay-”

The lights were off for only a few short moments, but when they were back on, she was in a completely different area- a doorway to be exact. “...close?” When she turned around, there was only Luro and a wall behind her. “Another one of their tricks… Hm. Guess we’ve got no choice but to play along till we find the others?”

“You’d be correct, Captain Lev. But this time there’s rules.” Once again, Cecilia’s disembodied voice spoke to Stardusk. “Let’s play a little survival game, shall we? This maze is something special-- of Sergi’s own design! We should applaud his mastery, should we not?”

A distant chorus of clapping and caterwauling ensued, surrounding them, as if they a part of an arena instead of a closed-in maze. Cecilia let it continue for several seconds before speaking again and the crowd noises immediately silenced.

“Don’t worry, Stardusk, the rules are simple. You must work with your partner to get through the maze and reunite with your despondent comrades. There’s a series of three doors you must get through. Each leads to a new room for you to navigate. But be wary-- not all is safe. One misstep could lead to… harmful consequences. Traps, triggers and obstacles oh my! A test of friendship and vigilance is what you face.” The woman giggled. “I wish you luck, Stardusk. See you at the end.”

And just like Runali and Luro, the others met a similar fate. When the lights flickered back on, each of them found themselves looking through the first doorway, the room felt much like an empty kitchen. There were a few wooden cabinets, counters, and even a rusted over stove. It was a poorly kept kitchen, but a kitchen nonetheless. Some of the handles off of cabinets were broken, the singular small table was missing two of its legs, and in one corner it was completely empty as if someone had removed something large from it. The floor was a checkered pattern, something Runali had mostly seen in ballrooms or the palaces she had been in.

But similar to Runali and Luro, everyone had been paired off. Zilia and Kadi were together, Adelaide and Cedric, Jack and Alicia, and with Sara and… Cecilia?

The first mate made a hesitant smile barely concealing her jubilance. She waved at the gladiator. “Hello Thorn.”





 

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High School
Collaboration with SilentxChaos



Sara navigated the crew down the maze of mirrors, smashing them as she made her way. At first, it was mainly practical to determine which path was real or not but by the last few mirrors, she was deriving a child-like joy with every shatter. As her false reflections ran from her, she contemplated that while they had her face, they didn’t have her spirit. There was only one real Sara Masuma, and that was her.

“I make my own luck, I don’t see how breaking a few mirrors changes that. Even if they are magical.”

But there was one mirror that fought back. As she swung out casually to break it, she was knocked by the impact, almost to the ground. “Yeah… It must be.” Sara replied to Runali, staring at it curiously before the room was lit up in red and a harsh voice rung out.

She wasn’t impressed by the sudden change in scenery, but she did feel a little bit of excitement building up in her. They were boring but at least it was a dangerous kind of boring. “Well, your show was uninspired and completely without substance. You’re all style and flash without anything backing it, and it’s not even an interesting style! I have seen a more creative vision from the plays that children perform, and they are absolutely terrible at it. Even the dregs of Tilean society have higher cultural tastes than all of you put together!” She shouted up at the audience and at Sergi, utterly unfazed by all this. She was so busy shouting that she didn’t even notice Cecilla until she spoke right next to her.

“... Oh.” She blinked and turned in surprise. “You’re here.” She felt a little bit of disappointment well up in her. Her first real adventure with Alicia as a partner, and they were immediately separated. “So, I’m the odd one out, huh? Just so you know, I’m fully expecting you to walk me right to a trap.”

She snickered. “I wouldn’t blame you, seeing as you’ve upset my crew and all.” Hands clasping behind her, she skipped farther into the room, spinning on her toes before coming to a stop at one of the counters. She ran a finger over it, then lifted to her face to inspect the accumulated dust. “You will believe what you are meant to, but do please take my words to heart. I have not been false to your crew. I do love Stardusk and wish you safely off Valhalla….” There was a distinct pause, the first palpable moment of hesitation the first mate exhibited. Her eyes took on a far away look. “But Sergi has his war face on. I’m sorry to say that doesn’t bode well. To you least of all.”

She gave herself a shake. After rolling the dust between her fingers, Cecilia wiped them clean against her leggings and finally walked up to Sara. “Consider me as collateral. I swear to you, mighty Thorn, I’m only here to provide assistance when asked. How you decide to get through Sergi’s maze is entirely in your hands. What do you say?”

Cecilia raised an offering hand, waiting expectantly.

“What about you?” Sara cocked her head curiously and asked in a neutral tone, and started to stretch as she did so. “Aren’t you upset too? I insulted your crew and, by proxy, you.” She eyed the offered hand somewhat suspiciously, wanting to hear her answer first before committing to a partnership. At the prospect of having a worst generation captain out for her blood, Sara seemed to not be too worried. On the contrary, she looked a lot more livelier than Cecilla had seen her before.

There was that chuckle again. Cecilia hid behind her hand. “Not to worry! I have a surprising thick skin. I’m used to such insults and don’t mind them so much anymore.”

Smiling up at Sara, Cecilia redirected her gaze over the room. “Your crew must be moving forward by now. I suggest we do the same. So, Thorn? What should we do first?” Whatever the reason Cecilia was there- whether she was true to her word or not- she took a step back, making it clear her intention was to have Sara lead the way. “Nothing will kill you here,” Cecilia added later on, “I’d just prefer you didn’t sustain… lasting harm.”

Sara shrugged, and started to move down the corridor. A part of her wanted to stay where she was, not out of fear of what might come, but because it would simply annoy her kidnappers. But another part of her didn’t want to stay still, so she pressed on. If Cecilia backstabbed her, then Sara would deal with that as it came.

Once Sara entered the empty kitchen, the door closed behind her with a small click. It wouldn’t open again under any force or persuasion. Cecilia cleaned a spot for herself on the dusty countertop and perched on it. Her chin rested in her palm as she watched the gladiator. The moment Sara put her weight on the tiled floor, it creaked, and shifted ever so slightly. Another step, it creaked again. A third step landed on a white tile. She felt it shift, and then abruptly give away with her foot dangling over a black, bottomless pit.

“Tut-tut,” cautioned Cecilia.

Sara stared down at the pit, utterly confused. “...Wait. Aren’t we on a ship?” She could feel the boat roll with the waves confirming her thoughts as she continued to stare at the impossible hole. “An illusion or trick of the light? Something that looks bottomless but is only three feet deep?” To test this theory, Sara reached into her pocket and pulled out a small pencil. Dangling it between her fingers, she held it over the edge and dropped it, waiting to hear any kind of sound before moving onto the next room and going around the pit.

The pencil didn’t make a sound when it landed-- if it landed at all. As Sara continued, she’d quickly find that wasn’t the only false tile. Her next step revealed another but this time only a single square dropped instead of several. The room was littered with random squares that may lead to one square falling beneath her foot, a whole section, or the entire room. It was a possibility, at any rate.

Cecilia shifted until she sat cross-legged on the countertop. She pulled out a small, black notebook with a charcoal pencil and watched Sara. Occasionally, she jotted something down, or clicked her tongue, as if surveying a mouse in a cheese maze.

“Hmm.” Sara considered what lied before her, as she thought about her next move. Carefully, very carefully, she tested each tile with her foot before moving onto the next. She didn’t like Cecilla, not one bit, but she would be damned if she didn’t make it through this room with or without her.

A couple tiles dropped away, but soon enough Sara came to the door, safe and sound. Cecilia grinned. “Nicely done, gladiator!” Vaulting from her vantage point, Cecilia casually strutted across the floor, paying no mind to the tiles, before reaching the door unharmed. “Shall we continue?” she gestured to the door and it opened on its own. The inside looked dark and hard to see from their side. After waiting a moment, Cecilia lead the way in.

“Tell me. How did you like being a gladiator? And what, pray tell, convinced you to join a pirate crew?” she asked, curiosity fluctuating her voice. Raising her hands, she made two resounding claps. Torches flared into life. They revealed the second room to Sara’s “maze”, small and barren of decorations save for the literally thousands of keys hanging from its low ceiling. They came in all shapes and sizes, ranging from brass to silver. They hung from clear strings and glittered against the torchlight. To their right, a normal wooden door marked their exit.

“It was nice, I do miss it on some level. I had good food, good wine, I was practically worshipped by my adoring audience. But after awhile, I decided that I wanted to fight for myself and for my own profit. Once I was free though, I made a bet with Stardusk that if I beat their best fighter, I could claim all their bounties. If I lost, I would join them. You can figure out the rest.”

Sara looked up and examined all the keys with a passing glance. If she tried every single one, she would be here all day. Instead, two plans came to mind. First, she tested the door to see if it was actually locked by jiggling the handle and pushing and pulling. Then, taking a step back, she kicked with all her force as she threw everything she had to break down the wooden door.

An invisible force pushed back, sending Sara flying across the room. Cecilia laughed and petted the door. “I’d thought you’d learn from before. No hurting the ship! It has feelings too, you know?” As if to prove her point, the door shuddered and growled. “Looks like you’re going to have use something other than brawn to get out of this one, Thorn.”

Stepping forward, Cecilia reached up and plucked a key from it’s string then flicked it to Thorn. It was silver, shiny, and looked unused. Engraved on its stem was what appeared to be the constellation of Lyra the harp.

“The devil’s in the details,” the first mate winked.

On every key, Sara may come to see, was a different engraving: the constellation, a feather pen and the traditional theatre masks of comedy and tragedy. They marked each one at random.

“Sara.” She corrected her, after getting back up to her feet. “My name is Sara, no one has called me Thorn in over a year.” Sara walked around the room, examining each key as she passed. It was clear that the door would only accept one key, but which one? As her eyes swept the vast array of keys, one of them seemed to catch her eye. She got closer, and she realized that one of the keys had the same sigil as the Court of Miracles. Was it really that obvious? It was almost too obvious. Nevertheless, Sara plucked the key from the ceiling and walked over to the lock to see if it worked. Much to her nonexistent surprise, it did.

Cecilia clapped fervently. “Well done, well done! Not surprising from the great and mighty Thorn. On to your last conquest, no?”

Her enthusiasm seemed unmatched to the simple task presented to Sara, but Cecilia was unconcerned. She rose from her sitting position next to the door (she’d been having a whispered conversation with it during the search for its key) and dusted off her waistcoat. With a bow, she gestured for Sara to enter next, pitch-black room. As she passed by, Sara may have heard the soft sigh of relief exhaling beneath Cecilia’s breath. It was quickly covered as she perked back up to follow Sara.

“This is the third and final challenge for you. How exciting!” They entered the room and the door closed behind them with a rude sound. It left both of them blinded by the dark but Sara could hear and sense Cecilia still at her back. She continued talking as if they were sitting at a sunny cafe patio. “Granted, we didn’t quite things to go this way. But I suppose that’s what you get after--”

She suddenly gasped, and Sara felt a vacant void where she used to be.

A loud clap sounded and light appeared, creating bright spots in Sara’s vision. Once they cleared she found herself in a round, high-walled arena. This room, unlike the previous, felt more a part of the ship. Its wooden construction was identical, and the air felt damp, as if they were in the ship’s hold. A very large hold. The floor was covered in a thin layer of sand and felt hard beneath her feet. Sara was in the center of the stadium; her weapons, once again, missing, and something strong and heavy weighing on her ankle: an iron chain. Long and sturdy, it shackled her to the center of the arena. It was long enough for her to reach the high walls within three feet. If she looked up, she’d see in the stadium's seating Cecilia sitting there, hugging her weapons, her mouth shaped in a perfect ‘O’ of surprise. Clearly, this wasn’t what she expected.

A growl came from directly in front of Sara. With her in the arena, a large orange beast striped black glared from behind its shadowy cage with eyes that glowed yellow. Paws the size of the gladiator’s head pressed against the bars of the cage, showing off the long claws, as it growled again to bare its teeth in hungry desire.
“Oh dear,” Cecilia sighed. She talked normally but Sara could hear her with perfect clarity. Her words were disrupted by the tiger in the cage, lunging against the walls repeatedly. Each time, the cage emitted a loud bang! and groaned, ready to fall apart. “It seems like I was out-voted after all.” Bang![/] “A shame, really, we could have had such a wonderful chat--” Bang! “--after swimming with the sharks.”

BANG. The cage door erupted from its hinges. It landed with a resounding crash. Leaping over it, the tiger was free.

Sara blinked and rubbed her eyes at the sudden light change. She looked down at the weapons that were no longer there, at the restraint sealed to her feet, and up at the tiger that was breaking down the cage. Her eyes widened and she felt a line of cold sweat run down her back. She wanted a challenge, but this was closer to suicide. “You bastards!” She pointed at the audience and cursed them all out. Not even in Tilea’s arenas do animal fights still exist. This crew had a very sick sense of drama. She tugged at the chain fruitlessly before giving up and readying herself for the fight ahead.

With a powerful kick of it’s legs, the tiger leapt and Sara ducked, watching the striped predator jump over her before closing the distance and punching it in it’s ribs. It didn’t do much, the tiger roared in pain and swiped at Sara with a dazzlingly quick motion. If it weren’t for the restraints, Sara felt like she would have dodged it. She gave out a yelp of pain as the tiger slashed through her left sleeve and sliced her arm with it’s razor sharp clacks. If she had been a little bit slower, her arm would’ve come off with the force of the blow. Biting through the pain, she took this opportunity to deliver a hard punch to its face. This stunned the tiger, but as Sara followed it up with a hook from her left, the tiger swiped again leaving a bloody gash in her belly.

The fight went back and forth for fifteen minutes with neither opponent gaining an upperhand, or claw, above the other. Sara was covered in scratches, gashes, and blood. Most of it her own but some of it was the tiger’s. Her left ear and cheek were ripped down to her mouth, giving her a sneer, and her back covered in deep claw marks. She had also lost the tip of her left pinky after it the tiger bit it off following a punch. It’s left eye was swollen shut and as it paced around the gladiator, it did so with a heavy limp. With a final growl, it leaped towards Sara using it’s superior strength and speed to end the bout. But Sara saw it coming. Taking ahold of the chain binding her, she sidestepped the leaping giant and as it landed, leapt onto it’s back and wrapped the chain around its neck. With a roar, it struggled and jolted as it tried to throw the gladiatrix off, but Sara held firm and tightened the chain. Focusing her breath and dispelling the ghosts of blood loss from her mind, she channeled her Power of Destruction to match the tiger’s raw strength with her own spirit. As it stumbled and choked, Sara kept tightening her grip on the chain. Eventually, with one last weak effort, the tiger collapsed, and died.

Sara, after jerking the chain to make sure that it wasn’t faking, rolled off the beast and onto her back, taking in great lungfuls of air as exhaustion and bloodloss threatened to overcome her.

A face appeared in her field of vision. It took a moment for it to come into focus, but when it did, she saw Cecilia staring at her with round fuschia eyes. Strands of her hair fell over them as she knelt beside Sara, clutching the gladius to her chest. Her face was tight and stressed, pale skin pulling at the corners of her mouth, in an expression that muddled sadness with fear.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered to the bleeding Sara. She made no move to help the gladiator. “I tried asking them to stop. I did...but they’re my captains. I wouldn’t have thought that....” she bit her lip, glancing at the tiger. She seemed more distressed at seeing its death than Sara wounds, but when she looked back down, she attempted at a reassuring smile. It failed. “No one likes a bad audience, Thorn. Did you learn that, from your time as a Tilean gladiator? I was there, you know? During one of your fights. The crowd got so nasty-- it was thrilling! The bloodlust, you’re majesty in the ring.” She lit up, for a moment, talking about something she remembered fondly. She reached down and patted Sara’s shoulder. “There there. You’ll be home again some day. Could we meet again? A fresh start, I think. That’d be nice. I’ll buy you a pizza to make up for it.”

Cecilia smiled sadly at Sara, as if putting hope in her own words but somewhere, a part of her mind told her that would never come true. She took one of Sara’s hands and placed the gladius in them, giving her fingers a soft squeeze. “I guess the fun’s over now. Time to go back to your crew. It’s been a fond pleasure, Sara Masuma.”

And just like that, Sara would wake up on Valhalla’s deck. The fog still clung to the sea, coming and going, but in the far distant a hawk’s cry echoed. The wounds Sara sustained were healed completely as if they’d never happened-- if they ever happened. Her gladius was in her hand, where Cecilia left it. Around her the Stardusk members were all accounted for but it different stages of awareness. The deck itself was vacant. No performing stage or lavish decorations; no Court members caring for their duties. It was as quiet, barren and eerie as a derelict ship.

Sara’s exhausted eyes opened up and she rose suddenly in a start. It was as if her exhaustion and tiredness had melted away with her wounds. She blinked as she slowly turned around to see her friends and crew-members rise to her feet. What just happened? Was the tiger? It felt real as it slashed through her body, but there were no marks, and her hand was still in intact.
 
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Capt. Blu

Fake it til You Make it
Original poster
Roleplay Invitations
Not Taking RP Invites at this Time
Posting Speed
A Few Posts a Week, One Post a Week
Writing Levels
Adept, Advanced, Adaptable
Genders You Prefer Playing
No Preferences
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
Both
Favorite Genres
Fantasy, Adventure, Scifi, Anime, Steampunk, Heroes and Villains


Luro looked over at the Captain as she called out to Adelaide, his brows arching as both her and Kadi seem to notice something about their new companion. Luro stared at her for a moment only to look back at the mirrors and tried to poke his reflection. He didn’t pay too much attention to the conversation at least up until the Captain mentioned the trouble this time wasn’t his fault. With a grin he looked over at Alicia and raised a hand.

“It’s fun to be on this side of things for once, don’t forget to sigh heavily at Masu like you do me, you gotta treat everyone equally,” Luro said holding up a finger to her before turning back to the mirror. “Oh wait should I do the fists on my hips thing, I’ve always wanted to shake my head disapprovingly at someone’s actions….but I don’t really disapprove of Masu’s actions…this is a toughie.”

While Luro was trying to figure out how to be a ‘responsible adult’ Zilia stopped picking up the glass to look at the Captain only to turn her eyes back to the ground and the countless glass. Zilia offered a small nod agreeing and tying the sack tossed it back to Luro.

The Captain was unfortunately correct, it didn’t matter how much she tried to get rid of the misfortune, this group created far too much to counteract by normal means.

The next few moments happened so quickly Zilia barely had time to register what happened, she reached for her notebook only to be pulled aside by the Captain, who she offered a small nod to for her help, then she was staring at Sergi, something burning in her chest as she stared at his hidden mug.

She gripped her shirt and narrowed her eyes at the man, only pulled away after hearing a familiar click as Luro loaded a bullet into the chamber of his rifle.

“Just putting it out there that I wanted to be friends,” Luro said smiling at the man. “I understand all too well about the captain stuff though, better bring something big though cause if we survive imma return the favor properly.”

“Why are you making this worse...”

“I’m not trying to Z I know what I would do if someone disrespected the Captain. I’m expecting something good from this,” Luro said the grin on his face fading into the sudden darkness that suddenly came.

When the lights came on Luro blinked a few times taking a good look around realizing they were somewhere new, seeing only the Captain was nearby he clicked a switch on his gun and returned it to his back. Just as he was about to open his mouth and question what was going on Cecilia spoke up explaining what was happening, Luro looked up at the ceiling clapping along with the invisible crowd not entirely sure where they stood until she told them they had to get out. Luro gave a small nod listening to the instructions before folding his hands behind his head.

“Seems simple enough,” Luro said. “I am worried about Kadi though. When we were going through that one temple he was really bad at dodging all those traps I set off.”

Luro took another look around the room once everthing was explained before his brows lowered a bit, his body tensing slightly as he took notice of a few things.

“Allowing a room to reach this kind of state…I’m a little disappointed,” Luro said kneeling down near the broken table. “Your ship is your home, why neglect it like this? Now I just want to punch him for allowing this.”

Luro stood up rubbing the side of his head deciding not to think too much on it and turned to Runali.

“I’ve gotten much better at navigating Captain so why don’t I take lead for a bit and we’ll switch back and forth while keeping an eye out for these traps.”

Luro turned towards the door leading into the ‘survival game’.

“If it’s friendship their testing then this contest is already won. We all mostly like each other,” Luro said making a fist. “Well I like everyone at least so I believe in them.”

“I’m not so much worried about them making it through, so much as I wonder who was left to go through the maze on their own. We’re odd in numbers. Not everyone would be paired.” She rested her hands on her hips and watched Luro examine the scene. Save for the damages, she didn’t notice anything out of place or screaming ‘trap’. Plus, the door was right on the other side of the room. It seemed as easy as just walking over really and the captain would have done just that had Luro not spoken up. When he mentioned the room’s ill state, Runali could only offer him a shrug. “Nothing has made sense since we’ve gotten here, I don’t plan on trying to make sense of things now.”

When she stepped forward, she paused as the black tile under her seemed looser than it should have been. Slowly and carefully, she slid her foot off of it, bracing herself for something to happen. But when it didn’t, she relaxed and glanced up at Luro with a curious gaze. “Taking notes from Kadi?” She crossed her arms and nodded. “Sure thing,” With a light tap to her eye patch she smiled. “Lead the way. Be my… ‘other eye’.” She gestured to the door on the opposite side of the room, so he could do just that.

“A test of friendship is nothing Stardusk hasn’t done before. We’ll see everyone on… whatever the other side of this is.” She took another step forward, avoiding the loose black tile she stepped on before only for the white one to sink inward the moment she did. Quickly following the press of a hidden button, something sharp flew past Runali’s face, just nicking her cheek. Her hand went up to the scratch and she looked behind her. Embedded into the wall, an old knife was jammed inside. “Well, coming out of here with a few new scars wouldn’t be too surprising for an adventure.”

“Ohhhh you’re right Captain, that’s why you’re the Captain Captain.”
Luro nodded towards Runali after taking a moment to quickly count the crew.
“I would be worried if Z was alone, hmm still we’ve survived worse even Z.”

Luro looked back at the Captain as the object scratched her cheek, he looked where it came from figuring this was one of the traps Cecilia had mentioned. He stared at the mark on her cheek a small smile resting on his face as he grabbed his open shirt and pulled it down slightly to show a few of the scars hidden underneath.
“Each one’s a story Captain,” Luro said adjusting his shirt to hide them once more. “Try not to have as many as me though, at that point people think you’re just bad at not getting hit.”
With a grin he gripped the handle of the door to start their ‘adventure’
“Z’s going to be mad you got hurt,” Luro said with a chuckle before opening the door.

A loud click followed before Luro picked up what he could only call a whooshing sound, he turned his body as three flaming arrows flew past his face, close enough to feel the warmth of the flames, and stabbed into the wall behind him. He looked ahead then back at the arrows before smiling a little and patting his chest.
“Hehe they’ll have to try harder than that,” Luro said turning back around.

The end of his hair was currently on fire but he paid little mind to it as he took the lead walking forward. Luro placed his hands on the wall as they made their way down the long narrow hallway, running his fingers over the grey brick on both sides of them, his brows arching at the strange design, the place seemed more like a small temple than a ship, there were even red torches lining the walls that lit up the pathway, only by a little though as the area ahead was still shrouded in darkness for most of the walk. His footsteps seemed to echo on the stone floor which thankfully gave him all the knowledge he needed.

Eventually the hallway exited into a round area, which was illuminated by blue torches resting on the stone walls, filling the area with light. The ceiling above them was dome shaped, ornate designs stretching across it, paintings that were clearly fancy but Luro had no idea how; it seemed to be of the two Captains. The paintings didn’t seem as important as the three wooden doors resting in front of them which seemed to be the only exits. There were pictures drawn on each door, the one on the far right was of nature, the middle seemed to be a round ball and the last one on the left had a skull on it.

Luro gave a small nod pointing at the doors ahead.
“There doesn’t seem to be any way back, so the only way is forward. I got a good feeling about this door.”

Luro walked up to the ‘nature’ door and opened it without hesitation, he started to take a step forward but stopped as something swiped at his feet. He looked down as multiple growls drew his attention, a collection of black bears were in a small pit, trying to swing at him from their captivity. Luro looked past them only to see the pit stretch on indefinitely more bears below them, some sleeping others staring up at him. Luro looked back at Runali and pointed down at the pit and the clearly famished bears.

“This is why you need to have an extra sandwich on you Captain. These guys look really hungry.”
Luro took a stop back and closed the door.
“Okay that door was bad…so maybe the skull door will be better.”
Luro opened the skull door only to see a wall on the other side of it, stopping them from progressing any further.

A click followed once the door was fully opened and Luro quickly extended his arm out in front of Runali, five darts stabbing into his arm a moment after. Blinking a few times he pulled his arm away.

“Ah sorry Captain, you have Armament I keep forgetting you can handle that stuff yourself,” Luro said this grinning at her. “I won’t do anything next time.”
Luro yanked the darts out of his arm dropping them on the ground, humming to himself as the sleeve stained red.
“Hmm I’m pretty sure I’ve been poisoned,” Luro went silent for a moment closing his eyes before nodding. “Yep that’s definitely poison. Guess we’ll find out in a few minutes if it’s one I’m used too or what story we’ll have to tell the others about my death.”
Luro rotated his arm and motioned to the last door.
“Why don’t you get that last one Captain, I’ll watch your back and try to come up with a cool way I died just in case.”

“You’re one to talk, you get hurt all the time.” Runali rubbed her cheek and followed behind him. “And most of my...skill is in the art of not getting hit.” She figured if she stood right behind him, there was no chance that she could accidentally set off one of the traps. Though, not being able to see in front of her made her step to the side- only to pause as the flaming arrows raced past them. “...Would have been worse than a knife for sure.” Her brow raised a bit when she spotted the small flame on his hair. “I realize you’re a very hard to kill giant but,” She raised her hand up to him, gesturing for him to bend down a bit. Using her armament, she put out the small flame. “Try not to make it easy for them.” With a smile, she patted his arm and continued following him along the path.

“You think it’s a crazy power they have? With all the wild ship decorating and changing? Or is that just some weird shipwright secret where things can shift and change as you see fit?” Runali was staring at a picture of the two captains, shuddering a little when it seemed like the eyes were following her. She blinked, but she was sure the creepy smiles shifted ever so slightly. It was hard to tell, but she didn’t have time to dwell on it because Luro was already by the doors. “Wait I don’t think opening the doors at ran-”

The first one was opened and she admittedly raised a curious eyebrow and peeked inside. Seeing the bears, she frowned. “No animal should be treated like this…” For a moment, she was sympathetic seeing them in such an awful state, but when Luro spoke it reminded her that all of this wasn’t real. Or at least, most of it wasn’t. “I’m tellin’ you Luro, hide weapons on me all you like. I probably won’t notice, but if it’s food I’m gonna find it. Do a better job.” She closed the door and sighed. “Besides, a single sandwich would do more harm than good for them.”

They moved on to the next door and things happened a lot quicker than she admittedly expected. Runali stared at the wall behind the door before it registered that Luro took five darts in the arm to shield her. Runali took his hand and pulled his arm closer so she could examine it. “Aye Luro, I’m your captain remember? I can handle myself.” She hid the quick flash of worry with a retort before letting his hand go. Now Runali had to be weary of a possibly ticking clock. Even if Luro didn’t go dying, she couldn’t drag him around. Or at least, she could but it’d be a pain to do. “Zilia’s not gonna like that one…” She pocketed one of the darts, to show Zilia later. “Hm. Well either way, can’t go dying on me now.” She turned and walked towards the last door tugging Luro along. “You said it yourself, Stardusk dies in memorable fashion. Poison in the arm doesn’t cut it. Besides, you’ve gotten like one important rule from me since we’ve made it this far,” As she walked over to the door, she shoved Luro out of its ‘line of sight’ to prevent him from getting attacked any more than he could have been, at least she hoped. “Can’t die until sometime after I get to Pirate Lord status. Or, Pirate Empress as Alicia calls it. And even then that’s debatable.”

Runali tapped on the door, listening to figure out what was on the other side. But there was no sound. “Drinks on me if this one is a bad door too.”

Luro could only offer a nod to the Captain, he knew how strong everyone was, he rarely felt a need to step in as he knew they could handle themselves, much better than he could. Which made him wonder why he had moved in the first place, he stared at his bleeding arm for a moment flexing his fingers to make sure feeling was still going through them as he contemplated this. He didn’t expect to find an answer anytime soon so he decided to think about something else, especially since he probably only had a few minutes left to live going off the weird feeling in his body.

“Whatever the name the title’s not really that important anyway, but I’d rather not die at that point Captain.. I gotta tell your story to everyone we meet especially that time you took over Harla Island by accident.”

Luro leaned to the side to peer through the door as the Captain opened it, he grinned at her offer and lowered his body waiting for something to happen. The door opened but nothing followed, Luro held a hand out to the Captain and stared down the hallway that lied behind the door.

It was wider than the one behind them and unlike the previous one was illuminated well enough to see most of it, it was faint but there was a door in sight. Luro’s eyes moved to the ceiling of the hallway then to the wall before he took a few steps forward and peeked fully inside. When nothing happened he snapped his fingers before walking through the door.

“I was really hoping for those drinks. Since we weren’t offered any here,” Luro said shaking his head. “I think there’s a door on the other side.”
Luro reached up and ran his hand along the wall, his eyebrows lowering a bit as his fingers ran over the stone.

“It’s not impossible to make a ship that can change and shift. The Lady has a few tricks like that and when I spoke with Caleb I learned of at least three secret rooms,” Luro lowered his hand from the wall and continued forward bringing a hand to his chin. “There’s always a mechanism for it though and the sound is either being masked by something else, or those lights going out allowed them to use it without our knowledge.”

Luro reached up and rubbed the side of his head.
“Actually they could also have-”
Luro seemed to drone on naming different possibilities until he eventually stopped realizing he was going in circles.
“I think powers might be involved, at least a little as that would explain the ballroom, that or they’re really good at hiding the trick,” Luro said. “I’d like to ask but that’s not a-”

Luro stopped talking as a crashing noise came from behind them; he turned to see a large stone ball covered in spikes fall from the ceiling behind them. Luro blinked as the ball immediately started rolling towards them.
“Ohhhh I get the door now…we should probably go,” Luro pointed behind them before running forward.

The ball started to pick up speed as the passageway seemed to slant further in, it was at a point where it was basically a downhill sprint, the ball getting steadily closer, sparks flying off the wall as it rotated faster. The door that was in view was now attached to the wall above and upon closer inspection it was revealed to be little more than a painting.

There was another door further ahead which brought a grin to Luro’s face though it faded a little as he noticed the floor in front of them was now falling apart bit by bit, and taking a look below at the sharp implements pointing up he disliked the idea of dying by impaling, though it was better than poison it was still a boring way to go.

“Captain!”
Luro tossed a glove to Runali and pointed at the now missing floor.
“Would you mind making an ice bridge for us! I’m pretty sure that’s the ice glove, if it’s the fire one it’s been fun and I’m going to get impaled belly up so I can make a funny face.”

She was a little surprised when ‘third time’s the charm’ actually worked in this situation, but she said nothing of it since they had to keep moving. Instead she curiously listened to Luro explain the ins and outs of the ship, nodding every now and then to show she was listening. He was going over a long list of things so she decided to save her questions for the end. But of course, luck didn’t last too long as a Stardusk and they were suddenly being prompted to run to safety.

“Guess I do owe you drinks.” She commented, inspecting the scene. As Luro turned to run, Runali stood in one spot debating how hard she could hit the spiky death ball. “It’d break for sure… unless it’s not regular stone. And I can’t tell this far away” She took a step back as it got closer. “But... this place is too narrow.” She took another step back. “If it explodes we’ll probably be impaled by some of the spikes anyway and that’s counterproductive.” Runali took a step back again. “Alright, maybe not the best idea.” Realizing the spiky death ball was getting closer, she turned and sprinted to catch up with Luro.

“You think the others are having as easy of a time?” Runali fell in step beside Luro, glancing over her shoulder occasionally to check to see how much distance they had. Though, fortunately for her, Luro was keeping an eye on the front of them because she didn’t realize the ground was disappearing until Luro yelled and tossed her an all too familiar glove. “Huh? Oh, right! Right!” She quickly placed the glove on her hand, trying not to run too fast but also not too slow. “No big deal, yeah? Just the pressure of doing this right so we don’t die or this being fiery and we die. I swear if it’s the latter Luro I will get to you before Davy does.”

Just like she practiced countless times before, the armament went up her arm and with a quick inhale, she raised her arm to aim. Though aiming wasn’t necessary as the hole in the flooring got larger. It was barely a moment after, but very quickly did Runali start to lose her balance on the downward and now very icy slope. “See, no big deal at-!” Her feet slipped from under her and she went careening down the slope. The loud cracking of ice behind them was a clear sign that the death ball hadn’t stopped. Between trying to slow down and not fall off the side of the 'bridge' and attempting to use the glove again, Runali had to focus her concentration. "Alright Luro, new plan! You keep going! I'm gonna do something dangerous!" That was as much of the plan she could say before creating a small block of ice to stop herself from continuing to slide. She made enough of the bridge for Luro to get across before turning her attention back to the spiky ball of death. The path she made for Luro wasn’t strong enough to hold after he passed, but Runali didn’t seem to pay much attention. “Time to find out how much haki is too much for this glove.” The armament went all the way up her arm instead of her elbow, reinforced even and in the same moment slammed her fist into the bridge directly in front of her. The impact caused ice spikes to emerge from the bridge and form on the walls large enough to create a barrier from ground to ceiling. Thanks to the impact, the other side of the bridge began to crumble as well. “Oops, time to go, time to go, time to go.” Runali chanted as she ungracefully scrambled to her feet. On the bright side, when or if the ball broke through it wouldn’t have been able to follow, but now the captain had to move faster. “Luro! Catch!” Seeing Luro on the other side and near the door, Runali impulsively decided to do a leap of faith from one side to the other with her arms outstretched.

“Well Z does have a habit of causing trouble all the time. I imagine she and Kadi are having fun! If we die I’m still holding you to a round in the locker! So save getting me till after you treat!”

When he felt the familiar cold as the glove activated he grinned before jumping as the ‘path’ ended landing on the newly formed ice bridge, he laughed trying to maintain his balance glancing back to see that the Captain hadn’t lost hers. His eyes moved up to the approaching deathtrap, at this rate it was going to reach the Captain, that or she would plummet below.

“Don’t die Captain! It will be hard to explain that I didn’t do it without witnesses! That and we need you for the ship!”

Luro was already turning to catch up to Runali when she mentioned a dangerous plan causing him to stop a grin flashing across his face.
“Dangerous plans are the best kind Captain!”
Spinning back around Luro continued along the makeshift bridge and sliding onto the other side spun around to check on Runali, his eyes widening seeing the ice explode off the glove reshaping itself, he felt a chill fill the area as the ice spread along the walls as if responding to Runali’s will, blue frost filling the seeping into him as he breathed in. He was only pulled from his astonishment at Runali’s yelling, he blinked only to see the Captain falling towards him. Running forward he jumped and extending his arms managed to the grab the Captain’s hands before landing on his stomach holding her over the dangling pit.

The ball crashed against the ice spikes ahead, the ice cracking but managing to hold the ball.
“You even managed to make the ice harder than usual,” Luro said. “This is going to be great for my research! You have to tell me how you shaped it so I can-”
Luro cut himself off remembering he was still holding the Captain over the death trap below.
“Hey Captain…is this a bad time to bring up our conversation about an elephant on the ship again.”
A toothy grin flashed across Luro’s face before he climbed to his feet and pulled Runali back onto solid ground, shaking a bit of ice off his hand he chuckled glancing back towards the shut door.
“Gah now he’s yelling at me for pulling you up. You get the first and second round now Captain.”

Luro walked over to the door and opening it looked into the next room only to stop mid-step. A long narrow walkway stretched out from the door to the other side of a room where another door resided, shrouded in darkness save for a few hanging lanterns, that swung back and forth only showing the walkway mid swing. Looking closer into the room there were small grates on the curving path, fire spewing upwards out of it on occasion, below in the darkness he could hear bubbling and leaning forward noticed bright red lava resting below them, he could swore he saw movement in it as well. Swinging with the lanterns were bladed crescent shaped pendulums that swung over the walkway in an almost hypnotic pattern, a random one occasionally passing through to try and disrupt the flow.

“Huh,” Luro said kneeling down.
Holding his gun out he compared it to the walkway, it was barely a width larger than his rifle. His brow arching Luro returned the gun to his back before stretching his arms above his head.
“Man it's one thing after another, if there’s not rum waiting at the end of this I’m going to be disappointed in these guys.”
Luro leaned to the side stretching a bit before reaching forward and closing the door.
“Think I figured out the trick though.”

Luro opened it again and instead of the death trap the original room they had been in revealed itself, with a nod Luro motioned for the Captain to enter first.
“I think I found the exit Captain. Which is good cause the pain flowing through my body is quite excruciating. I think my organs are melting, what it feels like anyway.”
Luro grinned continuing to hold the door open.

Her grip tightened the moment she felt Luro grab her. She flinched when she hit the rocks, but glancing down at the spikes below, it was better than being impaled. “Elephants belong with their families Luro. They don’t belong on ships.” She rubbed her shoulder when she was on solid ground, realizing her entire arm was a lot more sore than when she normally used the gloves. Runali handed the glove back to Luro and opened and closed her fist, now feeling the slight shake in her arm. “Couldn’t tell you how I did it really…” Her focus pulled away from her arm and towards the door when Luro opened it. “Honestly, you’d think they’d get tired of it after all of this- oh.” The rooms went from lava to empty space in the matter of seconds and Runali sighed in relief- until she realized what Luro said. “We gotta get you to Zil before your legs stop working. I’ve had to help lift you before and you’re heavy.” Without waiting for an answer, Runali pulled Luro by his shirt and through the exit.

“Man this would have been a real fun time if they hadn’t tried to kill us and all. And they had a monkey- see monkeys are animals I’d allow. But we’ve already got Coral and two cats.” There was a faint glimmer of light in the distance that only Luro noticed. “But if you really want to see elephants, we could always double back and visit Jaipur again- when I’m sure the Navy isn’t scouting the place like dogs.”

“Y’know, for what it’s worth the ship and all its flash and flair, is pretty cool. And the performance was pretty fun.” Runali continued on about how the ship had its perks and even the captains seemed like people she’d be interested in seeing perform, but in a much too sudden moment, that faint glimmer flashed bright. And in the next moment, Runali’s voice hitched and she stopped in her tracks. She was still for a few moments, but Luro could tell she was slightly shaky. “That’s… That’s not good.” Runali stumbled backwards into Luro, one hand clutched her chest, revealing the arrow pierced through it, and the other reached out to grab Luro so she wouldn’t fall. “A lucky hit...r-really.” She mumbled a string of words in her native language, mostly expletives when the pain started to settle in. It trailed off into a weak huff and she looked up at Luro with a slight smile. “Z-Zilia isn’t… isn’t gonna be… h-happy about this one.” Her grip loosened on Luro and she staggered. “R-Really hoping this is the last room. It’s gonna be… a real pain walking through… now.” She forced herself to steady, taking slower and heavier breaths. “Hah… this is probably a bad time to bring up… t-to answer your request, huh?” Runali’s gaze drifted towards the darkness in front of them. It was starting to get hard to tell if it was getting darker or her vision was getting blurrier. “Not to sound… S-sorry for making you wait so long. I’ve wanted to answer I just… A-Anyway, better time than never to say I w-”

“This one got a little messy… That wasn’t supposed to happen. Not for you at least.” The disembodied voice of Sergi echoed around them and followed right after was a snap.

And just like that, Luro woke up back on Valhalla’s deck. It was still fairly foggy and the ship wasn’t as lively or colorful as when they first stepped onto it. In fact, no one was around save for the Stardusk crew. Around him, the other Stardusk were waking up in various intervals and directly next to him, Runali laid next to him, still unconscious. Though, with closer inspection, all of the injuries the two sustained, including the poison Luro received, was gone as if it never happened at all.
 
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Capt. Blu

Fake it til You Make it
Original poster
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Not Taking RP Invites at this Time
Posting Speed
A Few Posts a Week, One Post a Week
Writing Levels
Adept, Advanced, Adaptable
Genders You Prefer Playing
No Preferences
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
Both
Favorite Genres
Fantasy, Adventure, Scifi, Anime, Steampunk, Heroes and Villains
Collab: Captain and Silent


Location: On Valhalla for sure

“Man this would have been a real fun time if they hadn’t tried to kill us and all.” There was a faint glimmer of light in the distance that only Runali noticed. “Hey Luro did you see-” When she turned around, he was gone and his place stood Paris. The sudden change made Runali reflexively put distance in between them and reach out for her chakram.

“Now, now Madame Captain. We’re not trying to get violent with you. Unnecessary, really. We just want to talk. Make peace even.”

“We?” Runali felt a hand on her shoulder and she willed herself to relax- not wanting to be even more jumpy after Paris’ entrance. When she turned, Pierre was standing next to her with a pleasant smile and waving hello. Sergi wasn’t too far off, back in his original skull mask. He offered a lazy two finger salute before turning back to his book. “You guys gotta stop appearing out of nowhere. It’s creepy.”

Paris chuckled and gestured off to the side as a dining area revealed itself. It was simple, like a normal pirate ship’s kitchen, which was the more surprising thing about it. “No worries, nothing bad will happen.”

“Right. Usually when people say that, bad things happen. But you’re here to talk.” Runali walked over and took a seat, staring between Paris and Pierre, unsure which was which. “I don’t understand you two, y’know? You greet us, rope us into some wild… extravaganza, attack us and claim it all in good nature? What’s your game here? Most people that want us dead usually just try and kill us, not send us on a wild goose chase.” The captains sat on the opposite side of her, both smiling in content. Sergi sat at the end of the table, his nose still in the book. Upon closer inspection, she could see that the book had music notes across it and what looked like stars.

“That’s just it Miss Lev. We told you from the beginning.”
“We weren’t trying to attack you.”
“No, no, no! Like we said, we wanted to show you a new experience.”
“A performance of the ages. Something that would truly wow the crowd!”
“Something people would remember forever!”
“It would have been fantastic if only-”

“Who are you?” Runali broke through their reverie as she rested her head in one hand. She looked expectant, serious almost. Before they could speak, Runali raised her hand up to relieve them of some of their confusion. “Who are you… really?” She mimicked their motion, straightening back up and then proceeded to cross her arms. “Something just isn’t right. As much as it isn’t real. It’s hard to tell if you’re just as much of an illusion as the rest. What’s actually real here?”

Sergi’s book shut closed and the tension began to build. Paris’ brows furrowed ever so slightly and Pierre looked a little confused- almost as confused as when he was with Sara. “What do you mean?” Paris rested his hands together on top of the table. “We’re very real. Us, the crew, our ship. It’s real as real can be. As real as the stars in the sky.” He spoke slowly and carefully. “We performed for you, danced with you, and you all took that as hostility which frankly we should be more confused about. Have you done nothing but collect enemies as pirates? Are you so used to slaughter that you don’t remember the joys of people?”

Runali’s head tilted slightly before she leaned forward and dared to challenge. “Have you done nothing but lie for so long that you don’t remember how to act around others? Or how to be empathetic? Have you been tied to your games for so long that the world slowly started to revolve around you? Do you even care about-”

“That’s not true!” Pierre placed his hands on the table a little too roughly and Sergi’s eyes narrowed. “That’s not true... Not true at all. We have a very big family of performers. We know exactly what we’re doing and we bring happiness to everyone we perform to. You all are just… a bad audience.” With every word Pierre spoke, there was an odd pull that almost urged Runali to be sympathetic and even scared. But she steadied her resolved and continued to watch the two captains. “No one likes a bad audience... Right Paris?

“Absolutely, Pierre. Madame Captain has no rhyme or reason to speak to us that way as her crew here has been utterly disrespectful. Our work is only enjoyed by those with class after all. Not those who spend their days being awful and brutish.” Paris patted his brother’s hand before carrying on. “You know of others’ emotions more than any of them.”

“Now, no need to get hostile.” Runali waved her hand in front of her. “That doesn’t answer my question captains. With so many things that don’t make sense on this ship, tell me what exactly is real? We came on board and you had a full ship of performers and color and the moment we stepped through those doors they vanished. They surely weren’t all in the ballroom you had- which, I find hard to believe could fit on such a boat. And then we were surrounded by mirrors with reflections not our own. Reflections don’t do what they did. And then we were thrown in a wild maze of doors that could never fit on a ship this size… And yet, the injuries feel very real. So, it does leave me very confused.”

Despite the mask covering most of Sergi’s face, there was an almost worried look in his eye. “Ah, capt-” He was interrupted by a raised hand. It made him nod and stand. He took his book and left the room in silence.

Runali’s gaze didn’t turn from the captains, but when she didn’t hear Sergi’s footsteps anymore, she raised her eyepatch. With a raised brow, she spoke again. “I’ve danced enough with the dead to know when I’m doing it again. So I’ll ask you this instead… What happened?”

~~~

Runali woke up back on Valhalla’s deck, being the last one to do so. The moment she opened her eyes, the world spun around her. When her disorientation dissipated, a wave of emotions crashed through her. She wasn’t sure if all of them were her own. Runali sat up slowly, wiping her eyes and not remembering when she started crying. Though from what she remembered, she at least knew why. Runali noticed the movement around her and then looked over to see Luro sitting right next to her. “Luro- oh good. You’re okay- you are okay, right?” She leaned towards him, absentmindedly rubbing her neck. Based off her reaction and the way she examined him over, it was obvious that whatever she saw wasn’t the same as what Luro did. Her head turned to see the others and she quickly counted them. All of them were together; Jack and Adelaide helped each other up before wandering away from the crew, far from prying ears and eyes. Everyone was standing and well. Runali slowly stood to her feet, dusting herself off. For some odd reason she felt some sort of pain in her chest as if she’d been stabbed, but it went away almost as quickly as it came.

The fog cleared enough to see Sergi walking forward with Cecilia. When Sergi stopped, Cecilia continued until she was directly in front of Runali, taking the captain’s hand once more. “I would love to say it was a pleasure to finally meet you all. I truly do. Maybe one day, when we meet again we can start anew. A fresh start and a more... proper introduction.” The unreadable expression on Runali’s face made Cecilia sigh in defeat. “I see…the captains are quite persuasive, aren’t they? They do mean well, most of the time… this time they tried.”

“...You’ve focused solely on surviving for so long that you all forgot how to live…” Runali’s voice was soft and barely heard by her crew, but it was matter of fact. It took her a moment, but her memory jogged back to what happened and she stepped past both Cecilia and Sergi. She adjusted her eyepatch and stared into the fog, ignoring Sergi’s skeptical gaze. “I know you’re there.” She continued to scan the area as she continued. “I won’t forget, but I suppose this should be a thank you for the answer.” She straightened up and spoke a little louder and with a lot more determination in her voice. “As heavy a truth as it may be…” Runali glanced around once more. “If you continue following this foggy path you’ll only end up in circles…” Her voice got a little quieter, but the sympathy was obvious. “And you don’t have much else to lose now, do you?”

“Oh, but please do.” Cecilia had looped both arms around Sergi’s and picked at his sleeve repeatedly between thumb and index finger. For the first time since Stardusk met her, the first mate spoke with absolute seriousness. She hadn’t been with Runali and her captains in the kitchen, but the way her eyes stared unblinking and passive, suggested she knew every word that passed between them. “Do forget. And don’t look back. Pasts can get… quite groggy. Full of shadows and holes. What joy is it to hold onto those that aren’t yours? Take my words from experience, if you will. I am a scholar.”

Hearing Cecilia respond instead of the captains didn’t make Runali turn. Instead, she waited to see if the captains would make their grand appearance. It didn’t last though, because Cecilia’s words made her frown just a little. Thanks to facing the opposite way, it wasn’t seen. Instead, what the two- and the rest of the crew saw was Runali turn back around with a sympathetic look in her eye. Sergi looked a little guarded, growing a bit more uncomfortable under her gaze. “Those aren’t words of a scholar… Those are words of the broken. There is no joy when you hide from the past you know.” She left it at that and walked back towards her own crew, her gaze towards the foggy sea. It slowly began to clear just enough to reveal Lady Luck right where she was left and Coral sitting attentively in the crow’s nest. The bird didn’t move near Valhalla, but she did squawk loud when she spotted the crew. “First mates are supports to their captains, yes… but they’re also supposed to know when things have gone too far.” She began to follow her crew off of Valhalla. As they all climbed back to Lady Luck, Runali paused and looked at the two one last time. “You may not think so but our experiences are shared but,” She stopped and shook her head. It was time to go. Their stay was over welcomed. “Next time we’ll have a better introduction.”

~~~~

Back on the ship, Runali hopped down from one ledge to the other and looked at her crew. “No lost limbs, no missing people. Hopefully nothing worse than dying.” She offered a shrug and a smile. “If it tempers your ire, we can get mov-”

“Stardusk!” The familiar pair of voices from the Court of Miracles captains came from Valhalla who was slowly drifting away. The captains stood side by side in all their dazzling glory with outfits that Runali could only imagine the most prestige to wear. “One last magic trick! For the road! Or the sea for that matter.”

Runali turned back to the edge of the ship, leaning forward to watch what would happen.

“Consider it a goodbye!”
“But not forever!”
“Maybe the next time we meet you’ll be a much better audience.”
“Maybe the next time we meet we’ll be even better performers.”
“Who knows what the future holds!”
They held hands and raised them together. “Farewell for now Stardusks.”

The fog started to get heavier until their vision was obscured and they could see none of Valhalla. Runali didn’t even try to look for the ship, guessing what would happen next. Sure enough, when the fog cleared the ship was gone and the Stardusk crew was left just as they were before they were interrupted. Time had passed a considerable amount as it went from morning to early evening, the sun starting to set. But everything was suddenly quiet. Suddenly less wild. And for Runali at least, a sudden whiplash back into normalcy. The only real show that the Court of Miracles were ever around was the scattered bits of green and blue confetti that made its way onto their ship.

“Never thought I’d see a whole ship disappear but what a wild performance, that’s for sure.” Runali glanced over her shoulder back at her crew. “Well? No use floating in one spot, yeah?”




 

SilentxChaos

Vivid Imaginings
DONATING MEMBER
Roleplay Invitations
Group Roleplays, One on One Roleplays, Private Convo Roleplays
Posting Speed
A Few Posts a Week, One Post a Week, Slow As Molasses
Writing Levels
Intermediate, Adept, Advanced, Adaptable
Genders You Prefer Playing
Male, Female, Primarily Prefer Female, No Preferences
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
I'm willing to do either, but may lean more towards the passive side.
Favorite Genres
Fantasy, magical, modern, medieval, horror, dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, adventure, action, anime
Genre You DON'T Like
Realistic fiction, romance
Collab bet’w Silent and Fox

176499
176498
Location: On Valhalla…?

A Toast to Your Good Health


Adelaide placed a hand on the wall at their backs. “Hm,” she said.

Taking a step back, she paced their closed-off corridor once before peering into the old kitchen before them. She took a piece of jerky from her waist pouch and chewed at it as she did. Her face was unreadable at their sudden change of situation, though an eyebrow lifted ever so slightly when she found Cedric by her side and not Jack. As she stood in front of the door, her form began to blur. Sid felt a trickling breeze brush his cheek and tweak his hair. When she solidified again, she turned her head to him.

“So, tomcat? How do you feel about entertaining our hosts?”

“Depends on the amount of effort and whether we can find a bottle of fine wine. You and I know that Jack won’t like us experimenting in an unfamiliar kitchen. Not that we can cook much in a showpiece.”

The whole setup felt sterile. Cedric appreciated the amount of effort spent in making the simple kitchen look old and dipliated. The person had painstakingly coloured every inch of wood in hues of brown that darkened into black. It was almost perfect save for the absence of smell. In his mind’s eye, he recalled a similar kitchen from years back. His first apartment with Jack. It was the smaller of the two rooms. A tiny space enclosed by peeling walls and scarred floorboards. There was a rusty, leaking sink in the far corner under a misted window. The glass on the lower right corner was fragmented. Spidery lines raced from each missing piece never quite reaching far enough to shatter the entire pane. Recalling the place brought back memories of the overwhelming mildew in the air. He doubt he’d ever forget that smell. Sid wrinkled his nose. Maybe the absence of smell and the overly bright (artificial) lighting were a boon. They reminded him that they were in a very real and a very different place.

He hadn’t quite shaken off the feeling that the crew had stepped into an ever changing dreamscape riddled with confusion. The dance and the strange mirrors, everything, had been overwhelming to say the least. He was simply waiting for the big reveal. With how much he had already speculated, he suspected it would be a relief. Constantly being on the look was exhausting. He missed having clear objectives, but this wasn’t the worst he had experienced either. Jack was always better at dealing with ambiguity.

Heliotrope eyes scanned the yellowing expanse enclosing the square space. The chipping paint coat wasn’t too old. He could estimate how much yellow had been added to the white paint. Just enough to distract the eyes from seeing the tiny keyhole camouflaged by a big watermark. It was carved barely a foot from where the wall kissed the floor. He didn’t want to imagine how big the space was. The last thing he wanted to do was get on all fours behind Adelaide in a tight crawl space. The reverse wasn’t pleasant either. There were bound to be far too many squabbles the moment someone received a kick to their face, intentional or unintentional. Such was the nature of their co-existence. He wasn’t even sure he could classify it as a relationship.

His eyes flitted back towards the table. An unlabelled bottle of wine, the liquid red as old blood, was placed on it with two beautiful crystal glasses. He narrowed his eyes and looked at Adelaide. He didn’t like how the setup echoed her earlier question. Just how involved was she with this group? He wouldn’t put it past her to one of the key players in this nebulous plot. He only hoped she felt enough for Jack to let the man leave unscathed.

“Entertaining you say? I find this a bit too much of a consequence.” He swept his hand towards the table to indicate what he was referring to. “Either you are more involved with this crew than I suspected or your membership is tenuous at best. So, Zebulon, mon cheri, are you going to produce some cheese to go with this wine or will you join me in this drunken misadventure?”

Cedric pulled out a chair and motioned for Adelaide to sit down. His actions contrasted with the venom embedded in his words. He gave her the same polite smile he usually gave her whenever they met at formal dinners. It was all part of their training. Manners, appearance … the necessary polish to allow them to blend in seamlessly with their gilded surroundings. He had a feeling she wouldn’t be giving him a straight answer, as usual. At least, if she sat down opposite him, he wouldn’t be as worried. There was a chance that he might be able to manipulate her overconfidence if he caught her off guard. A slim chance but he liked the thrill of it. The rush was a throwback to another life. A less languid existence.

A smile matched his own, and Adelaide lowered herself into the offered chair. The entire time her eyes had been trained on Sid, watching him, waiting to see what he’d do. Something close to smugness flickered over her face when he mentioned her affiliation with the Court of Miracles. She leaned into her chair, ankle crossed on her thigh. An arm relaxed along the backside. She was completely at ease. Unperturbed by the sudden changes of events, and the animosity between the Court and Stardusk.

He stretched out a gloved hand and picked up the bottle as decorum dictates. In the absence of servants, the gentleman would be the one to serve the wine. He held the bottle in his hands turning it around. He hated how murky the liquid was. Definitely cheap, unfiltered wine. He shuddered at the thought of having to drink it. He could already taste the biting sourness on his tongue. A shade less intense than vinegar but not that much better. This was the reason he never really liked the balsamic foulness Jack enjoyed with freshly baked bread. He swore his brother had a dead tongue. If Adelaide’s tongue was just as dull, and she was actually participating in their apparent demise, maybe he could foist more wine onto her. His suspicious mind already justifying that poison no matter how little ingested should be just as deadly. That was how he would have done it if he planned this. You should never bet that your target was a raging alcoholic.

“J’en ai ras le bol. Vin pas cher! N’amis sont sans méchants.” (trans. “I’m sick of this. Cheap wine! Our friends (implied hosts) are mean.”)

He sighed loudly pushing the note towards Adelaide. He thought he could bypass that friendly suggestion written in bold lettering, but his fingers told him the bottle won’t shatter no matter how hard they throw it. He guessed they could always opt to pour the foul liquid away and risk offending their hosts even more. That was a very tempting idea, honestly! He didn’t want to risk poisoning himself out of sheer stupidity.

“The key is in the bottle. I can’t see how it’s suspended thanks to the sediments. We need to drain most of this emmerder to get it.” He thinned his lips. (trans. emmerder = piss (politer sounding lol))

Unvoiced was the question of how do they get themselves out of this obvious no-win situation. It was a given. He doubted she’d be that willing to put her own life at risk. Neither of them have enough medical knowledge to make such a death less tortured. Well, other than slitting the damned person’s throat. Now that was a funny thought. Both of them were better at ending lives than preserving it. That’s how wretched they were deep, deep down. Not much better than Luro, which was perhaps the reason behind his constant irritation. No, he was certain there was more but such thoughts were pointless at this moment. Cedric quirked an eyebrow as he waited for Adelaide to respond.

Picking up the note between two fingers, Adelaide lifted it to the front of her face. Bottoms up! it read, with the picture of a key next to it. Her fingers drummed once against the table before she flicked the piece paper onto the floor. “Alright then.”

Snatching up her glass of wine, she drained it two large gulps. She licked the droplets from her red lips. “Hm. Not bad.” She slammed the glass down and reach for the bottle. She glanced at Sid, amused. “Cheers, tomcat.”

Lifting the glass to him, she drained her second helping.

“Non, tu bois tout seul. I’m not gambling my life for nothing.” He removed the glass Adelaide placed before him with a slight grimace. He wished the smell wasn’t spreading so rapidly. (trans. “No (thanks), drink it yourself.”)

He began fanning the air near his nose to alleviate the smell. In the past, he’d carry a scented handkerchief on his person but such fussiness was impractical for someone in his line of work. Even the slightest scent could be the difference between life and death, a lesson he wished he never learned. He glowered at Adelaide who seemed to be enjoying his suffering immensely. Was she on her fourth glass? The bottle was about a third drained.

“Your nose must be as dull as your tongue. You and Jack,” he sighed. “Both of you never seem to suffer from anything. Why? Didn’t all of us share a similar childhood?”

This same complaint had been become rhetoric over the years. It baffled Cedric how he had always been a lot more sensitive to smells, sounds and colour. He had hoped that his senses would dull with age, but they remained as sharp as ever. He gave up fending off the smell and simply cupped his hands around his nose pretending not to care how silly he appeared. If the Court wanted him to die from humiliation, they were succeeding. Kudos to them!

He curled his toes and screwed his eyes shut as he heard Adelaide lift the bottle to pour her seventh glass. Par l’toiles! That woman was a monster. Nothing short of a miracle would let him hold down that much swill. He felt his head spin. Very reluctantly, he forced himself to take several breaths in succession. Then it hit him! (trans. “Par l’toiles” is the equivalent of using God’s name in vain.)

His eyes shot open as his hands slam the table. “Stop! Woman just … stop!”

It was there! A sickly underlying sweet scent. Merde! It was a trap after all! They had been tricked into vaporizing the drug. He tried to hold his breath but his vision dimmed. He grabbed at the bottle in Adelaide’s hand and missed. She had fallen to the ground. Wine stained her top making it look like she had been stabbed in her gut. Cedric swore. Try to. His lips felt heavy. He stumbled. Fell…

“...wake up, tomcat. Can you hear me? This is no time for you to die. Especially now.” Adelaide’s voice pulled Sid from his intoxicated unconsciousness. He felt hard taps on his cheek as she roused him and a smirk met his opened eyes. “Welcome back. Nice to see you still care.”

Sid groaned. He clutched his head with his right hand. That intermix of sweet and sour remained in his nose. The air was fresher here, merci l’toiles (trans. the equivalent of saying “Thank God”). There was a whiff salt as well. He didn’t mind the latter that much seeing that he never lived too far from the sea. Overall, though, il se sentait comme d’la merde (trans. “he felt like shit”). He really wanted to kill Adelaide right now. Pity she was more useful alive than dead. Merde! Thinking about her was just as annoying as dealing with her.

“Shouldn’t I be welcoming you instead? You look like someone failed to send you to the afterlife, O Sanglante Abella!” (trans. “O Bloody (Queen) Abella”; meant to be an insult. Implying someone is like pest who won’t die.)

She laughed. Placing a hand under his upper arm, the other holding his wrist, Adelaide helped Cedric to his feet. The first thing he’d notice was his back soaked through from the flooded space. They’d awoken in what looked to be a tower; crafted from damp cobblestone and degrading wood, it rose high above their heads. The cylindrical walls were lined with odd contraptions: ropes, netting, flimsy platforms, uneven stones that protruded like steps, pulleys and such. It reminded her of an obstacle course. Down at their level, water sloshed around their ankles, numbing feet with bitter cold. Adelaide bent down, cupping a hand and brought it to her mouth. She made a face and spat the water out. “Saltwater. We still be at sea.” She looked up. “Do you recall such a rousing tower from the ship’s deck, tomcat?”

It was hard to tell if her question was serious or rhetorical.

Cedric rolled his eyes. “Un aveugle ne peut pas l’voir. I fancy we are below the ship. There are many ways to build a ship that won’t sink even when one section is compromised. It’s usually a safety measure but … this is risky! Clever, surely, but still risky. I wonder who, M. Sergi or l’Captaines?” (trans. “A blind man would have missed it”; not a literal translation)

Adelaide glanced at him sidelong. His quiet observations were meant to be a warning. He doubt Adelaide would like drowning given her weakness to salt water. It was a fact he discovered during one of their joint missions together but he never used it against her. He wondered why.

The tower’s quiet shattered with the sound of a gong. Adelaide’s hand snapped to the whip at her waist, but paused when the tower rumbled. Loose dust drifted from the stone walls, and a sloshing sound rose from the flooring. Adelaide looked down, then stepped back rapidly when she saw the water level beginning to rise. Her eyes flicked across the floor, up the walls, then to the contraptions hanging above their heads. Her lips pressed together.

“Alright then. We’re going up, it looks like. See the best path?”

“The path doesn’t matter. Not for someone with your advantage. I suggest you race like the wind, Zebulon.”

He pointed towards the ceiling and Adelaide followed his finger up. Hidden among the shadows of the dome was the outlines of a door. Sid guessed it was a trap door that open downwards. For most people, attempting to access the door would be tempting fate to the extreme. He observed that the closest beam wasn’t even directly underneath it. He’d have to rely on Adelaide to grab him and haul him up. Not exactly the most comfortable position to be in. Still she had proven her relative “trustworthiness”. She could have killed him while he was knocked out earlier. He was alive and not even mortally injured.

“Treat this like our first training exercise. Charlotte told us to press our advantage but leave no one behind.”

His eyes met hers. There wasn’t time to say more. His ears detected metallic clicking and the sound of straining wood. Time was an illusion here. The trap was designed to fill up faster as more water flowed in. Their opponents probably harnessed the pressure generated by the flowing water to open more pipes. Deadly yet fascinating. “Go! I’ll manage.”

His mouth moved but his later words were deafened by the roaring water. Adelaide moved before he finished speaking, and barely had time to escape before Sid disappeared beneath the foam crested barrage. He felt the air knocked out of his lungs as his skin turned numb. He resisted the urge to fight the current and swim up. He allowed himself to be knocked into the wall where he clung to one of the hidden crannies. Once his panic subsided, he crouched down and jettisoned himself to the surface. It was a fight to keep above the water but each controlled, small gasp was enough to keep his alive. He just needed the ache in his legs to dim enough for him to begin his climb.

Adelaide jumped the wall, gripping one of the jetting stones with one hand and her feet scrambled struggled for purchase. The stones were horribly even with wide gaps filled by dirt and grime. Her fingers dug into them and she hauled herself up the wall. It was a struggle to get above the waterline; the saltwater drenched her skin, bogged down her clothes, made her a weight that threatened to sink if she fell. Her teeth bared as she continued to climb. It got easier the farther she was from the waterline. Once she cleared it enough, her body began to blur. The edges of her form wisped like smoke. Eyes trained to the platform just out of her reach. She braced herself -- then, she vanished. For the briefest moment. She re-appeared on the platform, looking down for a sign of Sid.

Instincts honed by training took over. His mind might be hazy and his ears waterlogged but Sid continued struggling. One hand up. Feel around with the other. Now one foot. Then the other. Finally, the water was kissing his ankles. He had time to breath a little more. He inhaled his sweet reward appreciating the salty smell even more. Still, he couldn’t afford to be indulgent. The water was gnawing his shins again. Sparring a few seconds, he threw his gaze towards the ceiling trying to see where Adelaide was. He doubted she could hear him from her vantage. There was far too much white noise. But what of the dome above? Could she use it to amplify her voice? He hadn’t given echoes much thought before. In the future, he planed turn it into an advantage.

Once she spotted Sid clinging to the wall, floating up with the torrent, she turned her attention to upward to the trapdoor. She performed her disappearing act repeatedly to reach platform to platform, using them to elevate her position at a fat rate. At each one, she paused to assess Cedric’s position. Occasionally she wait until he was closer before moving on. Still, she became impatient and reached the trapdoor in record time.

Scampering up a knotted rope, hand over hand, feet over feet, in quick succession got her eye-level to the beam that paralleled to their exit. Her form blurred once more -- and she was balancing on the beam, lightly walking over to the trapdoor. She reached up with one hand to graze fingertips across the ceiling. They came away perfectly clean. Adelaide gave a small smile, a glimpse of satisfaction, then gripped the trapdoor and gave a pull.

Nothing.

The smile fell. She yanked at the door, and it didn’t budge. Adelaide frowned. Squinting in the glum, her fingers felt around until she touched a wrought iron keyhole. “Always one more thing,” Adelaide muttered.

She looked around, teetering casually on the beam as she first examined the ceiling, then turned downwards. They stopped on the rising waters.

“Tomcat,” her breathy voice tickled at his ear. They were so far apart but he could hear her clearly as Cecilia’s disembodied voice except at an intimate distance. If the waters didn’t block it, Sid would feel the kiss of a cold breeze against his cheek. “We need a key. For the door. It must be close to you, can you see it?”

“Preuve? I don’t doubt you conclusion but backtracking is en’yeux.” (trans. “Evidence?” and “tiring”)

Cedric rubbed his ear to warm up. The tickling sensation wasn’t appreciated in the slightest. A small shiver wrecked his body reminding how about the uphill battle to the top. He rubbed a hand down the length of his right arm. Some sensation returned. He repeated the action on his left arm. Glancing down, he quirked an eyebrow. The water appeared to be slowing down. He felt apprehensive. Were they being watched? Or was this the calm before the storm? Whatever that saying was. He remembered Jack always raving about storms and trouble but he never really paid attention to the actual saying.

He chose to capitalise on their supposed windfall. Crouching down onto the beam to lower his center of gravity, Sid focused on finding the key. His mind flitted back to the bottle repeatedly. Logically, a bottle would be easier to find compared to an actual key. He closed his eyes. Snapping them open, he hazard a glance down again.

The calmer waters shimmered like a rising mirror. He managed to peer into their depths. It was surprisingly clear. Reminiscent of the shallow waters hugging the beach. A mermaid’s treasure trove decorated the bottom. Broken chests, the skeletal remains of a small boat, scattered trinkets and bottles upon bottles. The details appeared superfluous. A message was carved into stone floor. He bent forward to get a better look.

Why does the sun rise in east?
A better path lies in opposition.
The beguiling waters have no answers.
Look heavenward.
The key is never far from the door.


Scrawled below were several strings of musical notes. Cedric drummed his fingers according to the inscribed tempo. An embarrassing reaction, but who could resist? He paused. He repeated the tempo again. A hidden message within a hidden message? So much theatrics. He wondered how it fitted with what they saw. He heeded the advice and looked heavenward.

Oh!

The spatial arrangement hadn’t been recognisable earlier when he was fighting to stay above the water. Now, though, he realised the beams hadn’t been arranged haphazardly. They were built to resemble a set of spiralling piano keys. That’s the reason why some were shorter than others. They were the black keys; the flats and the sharps.

Piano keys worked in octaves. The set get higher or lower but the keys repeat nonetheless. He counted the notes again starting on the left side. West. Feeling confident that the final note would be close to the key, he started counting the beams upwards. Adelaide’s eyes were following his finger. She seemed to have come to the same conclusion. It was a piece meant for her.

On an actual piano, he won’t have any difficulty stretching from one key to the other. Here he’d need Adelaide’s effortless agility to cross some of these … yeah, his music education had been sketchy at best. Mostly due to a lack of interest on his part. Technical terms aside, he was glad he remembered enough to figure it out.

“How much do you know about the piano?” he asked.

His finger pointing to the undisputed start of Adelaide’s journey back to the top. He wouldn’t mind explaining the route to her, but he’d rather save the effort. He sensed he’d need every last lungful of air to scramble up. The water had reached the bottom of the beam he was standing on. He really wanted to just float on the surface at this point. Let the water carry him up. He suppressed the urge to smirk. The action would be mocking Adelaide in some sense too. Bonus! She would float as well as a rock.

He’d rather not risk it. As far as he was concerned, they had two more doors to go. There was no telling whether the time squandered here would have hefty consequences. He preferred having more on his side if the puzzles become even more challenging.

“Is that all? Se rencontrer au sommet. Shout if you need me. It’s easier to hear you now that the water isn’t gushing.” (trans. “Meet you at the top”)

“Sweet little kitty cat. Worried about the lioness?” she mocked and patted Cedric’s cheek with her hand. The water lapped at her feet, and she looked down, nose wrinkling. “I think I’m done with this charade.”

Turning her gaze upward once more, Adelaide tracked the path the poem indicated. There-- a speck of something other than cobblestone, flickering on a rope. Standing up on the beam, she jumped onto one its ropes and shimmied up and past the water until she was high enough for her leap/vanish from it to the platform on the far side of the tower. It landed her close to the beams of her designated path. She didn’t waste time hopping to each one, occasionally shifting past one and hopping the other, to quicken her pace. The farther she got, the easier it became to pinpoint the key for the trapdoor. Smirking, Adelaide performed one last somersault - vanished - and reappeared on the key’s rope. It dangled above the water in an empty wine bottle. Manipulating the rope around her ankle, she hung upside down to grab the key. Curiously, she turned the bottle in her hand and smirked at the label: the same as what they’d drunk in the kitchen. She tipped the bottle upside down, and the key fell into her palm.

She left the bottle and returned to the trapdoor. No using the obstacle course this time - or, what was left of it. The water caught up quick; Adelaide spotted Sid mere meters down, treading as best as he could. She gave him away then turned and put the key in the door’s lock. It fell open. Not wasting another second, Adelaide leapt for the edge of the doorway, and vaulted herself into the room beyond.

“Égoïste.” Cedric muttered under his breath. (trans. “Selfish”; though he also meant that she was being egotistical hence the choice of word)

His resolve crumbled. He wasn’t going to waste energy up the last two flights if an insurmountable leap was his reward. He lowered himself gingerly onto the beam then lay flat in surrender. He should have just done this from the start. Merde! That hope for nothing. As punishment, Adelaide could start figuring out the next puzzle by herself. He closed his eyes. He was going to recuperate. Be that lazy cat Jack always accused him of being.

Sometimes, the lazy prosper.

He always wanted to tell Jack that. Not really. It would only prolong the nagging. Cold wetness pressed against his back. The sensation crept up his sides like a cocoon. Sid refused to budge. He planned to keep calm and float. Eventually, he’d reach the door. The resulting mess be damned. It wasn’t his problem!

xxxxxxxxxx

O Monochrome World

The world fell silent; it deafened her ears to the point of oppression. Adelaide winced and rubbed at them once she was on her feet, and found herself on a street of pure gray scale. Dark with soft silver lighting. Color was voided here. She looked around: they seemed to be in a whole new place. A whole village, perhaps. She was on a clay roof, the trapdoor nestled behind her, attached to a house much to small to house the tower they were originally in. Familiar structures of houses and stone streets sprawled around her. They varied in tones of white and black; the very absence of color hurt her eyes. As a very wet Sid pulled himself up, she reached into the satchel strapped around her chest. A hand slipped beneath the flap, and pulled a tiny daisy no bigger than her thumbnail. She twirled the stem between two fingers, then placed it behind her ear. Amidst the dullness, the whiteness of the flower seemed coloured.

“Have you made any progress?”

“Pas encore.” (Not yet.) Even a whisper rendered the air.

Their voices were oddly loud. The sound expanded and filled the room. It felt almost tangible. Cedric shifted uncomfortably as the words died. Not only were his ears empty post mortem, he no longer felt cold and wet. Sensory deprivation was one of the crueler ways to torture someone. He never witnessed it before but this was close to what he imagined it to be like. Absolute stillness. A near absence of sound, smell and sensation. Sight greatly compromised. He was beginning to realise how much he relied on colours for visual cues. Even in the darkest night, there was some colour. They shouldn’t linger here or risk going insane.

Distinguishing between close shades of grey slowed their eyes down considerably. There was no getting accustomed to it. Worst yet, they had no clue what they were searching for in this void. The only feature Sid felt noteworthy was the huge clock tower two streets away. He saw an opened birdcage perched at the top. Were they supposed to find a bird?

He felt a tap. He turned his head to the side and blinked. Adelaide devoid of colour appeared even more dead than when she was covered in reddish wine stains. He shoved his morbid thoughts away long enough to spot the self-satisfied smirk on her face. He wrinkled his nose in distaste before looking in the direction she pointed to. A banner hanging just up ahead, stark white with abyssal writing.

Dance to Nightingale Song
Down a Road of Blazing Yellow
Behind the Door is Your Journey’s End


Right. This explained everything. Not. He understood the part relating to the bird. It was most likely linked to that opened cage. What was the link between song and colour?

Again the sensation of being tossed into a befuddled dreamland returned in full force. His mind had to go there! Fairy tales! Back in Trovale, there was story how the goddess Etouffant created the first Gris in a fit of mania. A magnificent song bird with feathers so dark that it absorbed all the colour from the world. It was also the origin story for the day and night cycle. He didn’t remember the full story. Just the bird itself. He recalled that by absorbing all the colour its feathers blazed with rainbow hues.

Fairy tales actually made sense. The Court were performers. Tellers of tales. It shouldn’t be surprising that they knew even the most most obscure story. He tried to remember what the bird looked like. Being in the city made it nearly impossible to encounter one aside from the occasional pet or references in books. Oh right, he forgot. He had Adelaide to rely on.

“We are looking for Gemini’s bird. A Gris. Do you remember that story? It was the bird that absorbed all the colours. Quite a fashionable pet say five years back. Twilight was always filled with its song. The princess had one. She was so fond of it that she joked that it would be her chosen familiar if she was une Reveuse.” (trans. “Reveuse” means dreamer but in Trovalian it also means “summoner”. Reveuse, f. Reveur, m. often shortened to Reveu in colloquial speech)

“I do,” replied Adelaide as she turned in a slow circle, “I spoke of it to Sergi once.”

“That explains a lot. This scene,” he said as his hand swept outwards in a dramatic arc. “It’s so eerily similar to Fresnel. The place where it supposedly happened.”

He chuckled as the other pieces snapped into place. “Twilight is also the time when the sun is almost gone. The reddish rays would make any yellow road look like it’s burning.”

Another pause. “What’s the time now? I think we have to make sure the bird sings at the correct time. Meaning we need to get it to sit long enough to start singing. Any ideas?”

Sunset had been at six past seven yesterday in the evening. He recalled asking Kadi for the time when the man passed him on deck. He glanced at the clock while waiting for Adelaide’s reply. Quarter past five. He doubted that was the actually time in the real world. Just the time for this world.

Great! Another time based puzzle! He couldn’t help the sarcasm. He wondered briefly how the others would fare. A fair few struck him as the sort who wouldn’t have the patience to work their way through these mind games. That or he and Adelaide were simply too obedient. Two obedient disobedients. More irony! He decided he would discuss this insight with Jack tonight if the man wasn’t too preoccupied.

“Fifty-one minutes,” he stated. “A minute give or take. Shouldn’t matter too much. Sunset was at six past seven yesterday. About ten past seven a day or so before that.”

He began walking towards the edge of the roof. “Don’t you love how flexible they are with time?”

Two fingers tapped his forehead. “You think too much.”

“Hardly. I happen to be more vocal than you due to our circumstance. Mon Zebby, you remain far too proud to share your thoughts. This is supposed to be teamwork.”

Adelaide smirked. Like in the tower, her form blurred. A breeze picked up, whistling through the stillness that leveled to a screech. It became more powerful - a small gale - and the large it became the less of Adelaide existed. The wind itself seemed to sweep through, and from, herself. Her body shift and whispered on the currents, whole limbs and parts appeared missing one moment then reappeared the next. She raised her arms, which were constantly warping in and out of existence, and made a flicking motion. The winds swept out. They blew Cedric’s hair and clothes, passing through the homes and rooftops, kicking up graytoned debris from the streets.

Towards the east, an indignant squawk followed up the first thing of true color in this monochrome. A bird: bright and blue, with a shining underbelly. It flew up and up… then plummeted, ten feet straight. It spiraled, corrected its course, only to get knocked to one side. It flew around erratically. Trying to find wind currents that made sense.

Beside Cedric, Adelaide solidified- for the most part. Her hands were gone, and the edges of her arms continued to waver. “What do you wait for?” Adelaide’s voice came from her, yet sounded far off too. It lilted with amusement. “Go fetch.”

Sid turned towards the clock. Five-twenty. His uneasiness grew. This was too easy. The wine bottle had been easy too. Non, there had to be a twist. His eyes narrowed as he took in the coloured Gris.

“You sure?” he questioned.

Adelaide rolled her eyes and gestured with a non-existent hand. Wind blasted against Sid, thrusting him off his feet, and he went sailing several meters. He landed on a rooftop, tiles cascading off to shatter on the street below, and the bird chirped somewhere to his right.

“What’s the worst that will happen?” Adelaide whispered into his ear with a breeze.

As if on cue, the blue-backed bird flitted across Sid’s line of vision. Its song chittered and chirped high above as it stopped to hover above his head. Its tiny twitched left and right, observing this anomaly in its territory, then opened its mouth and released an ear-bleeding, wretched scream straight at Sid.

The blast of colour hurt him more than the screech. Cedric stood there dazed as the feathered Fury targeted him. He drew his arms up a fraction of second too late. A stream of searing flame smashed into him. His cheek stung then numbed. His arms fared a little better thanks to his ruined sleeves. For a moment, he had a distinct impression that colour returned to the world. He was disoriented.

The bird’s beak snapped shut. It did a backflip and rocketed skyward. Fanning its wings, it watched Adelaide attempting to haul Cedric to his feet. The Gris let out another metallic screech. Steam hissed from unseen vents. There was a slight prickling of heat in the air causing a breeze to kick in. They heard more pneumonic hissing. The warning came a little too late. Fast, almost solid, streams of wind raced towards them. The sheer force was enough to cave in the roof. Thankfully, Adelaide had been a lot of swifter.

The two made it in time. They panted heavily several rooves away. Cedric gritted his teeth as some pain registered in his mind. The protection of adrenaline not as effective as he’d like. He had a hard time distinguishing his blood from damp. He had no idea how badly injured he was.

“Adelaide,” he murmured.

He dropped down on the roof. He didn’t want to be dramatic but he doubted he came away with superficial wounds from the earlier encounter. He felt the tail end of the wind blade carve his right shin. That had been his better leg too! So much for relying more on agility here.

“I’m tempted to snipe ce connard!” he gritted as he felt his injured leg being straightened. (trans. “that bastard”)

They both knew it was an empty threat. Shattering their means of escape was foolish in the extreme. They just needed a workaround. He tried not to gasp as he felt the area around his shin constrict. The sensation alone spoke volumes. It was bad enough for Adelaide to decide to tend to it. Merde!

“It’s searching,” he commented.

The bird appeared quite blind to their existence. He wondered what was the maximum distance it could see. Therein was their advantage. Both he and Adelaide were just as skilled from the distance. Him more so when his familiars were present. He sighed. No, he didn’t want to go that route yet. A second no to really attacking that thing. He believed the real solution was to get the bird into the cage. Why else would the door be open?

“When you told Sergi the story, was there a cage?” he asked. Her honesty was vital to confirming his theory. He believed the same thoughts had crossed her mind the moment they discussed the Gris. Everything had a purpose so far.

She glanced at him, then the bird, then the cage. “Did you ever hear another version?” she asked him. “The story went the Gris had its freedom at nighttime, granted by our King of Gods. It would sing at twilight to rejoice its freedom, while trapped by day in the cage.”

Patting his cheek, Adelaide told him to stay put. She then walked out of their cover. The Gris spotted her immediately and screamed, sending another fireball directly at Adelaide. She raised her arms, not making another movement. It hit -- and went right through her. She blurred, just for a moment, her body re-assimilating from the blast. She then flicked her wrists. The wind caught the bird once more, and this time in a far more aggressive state. It blasted the thing towards the cage. Blue feathers cascaded around them as it went over their heads, screeching, caught up in its own personal whirlwind. Adelaide thrust it into the cage, and used the wind to slam it shut.

Dusting her hands, she turned to Sid with a wide smirk.

“Show off.” he teased.

He was glad she tackled that half of the puzzle. They had to deal with the clock next. The hands showed that it was half past five. He wondered if moving the hands forward would hasten their departure. It didn’t seem very practical to wait another forty or so minutes.

“Please,” he stated simply gesturing towards the clock with an open palm.

He remained seated where she left him earlier. The less he moved the better, he figured. He didn’t want to aggravate his injury. Not without good reason, at least. He felt a light breeze sweep past him. Relaxing a little, he watched the Gris flying around the cage. It would sit on the perch occasionally, but it wouldn’t remain still long enough to begin singing.

Adelaide moved her hands in a circular pattern. With each circuit, her skin grew more transparent. A concentrated whirlwind swirled from her and hit the clock tower. It took several minutes for Adelaide to thread her currents around the hands of the clock, and maneuver them to her desired time. At last, she hit the top of the hour. The tower gonged across the monochrome world.

The bird stopped fluttering around so energetically once the clock chimes for the sixth time. As the minute hand reached seven, the Gris hopped onto the perch and tilted its head up. A hauntingly beautiful tune, so different from the usual bird song, issued from its beak. The soothing song reminded Sid of a music box. Belle Folie, he recalled. Beautiful Madness. This song was one of the highlights of their opera performance a few years back. Another production he missed. He allowed himself a few minutes to enjoy the music.

Colour ebbed back into the world. The gentle rebirth was kind to their deprived eyes. Cedric blinked slowly several times before finally inspecting his wounds. Long blackened patches appeared sporadically. Some parts were starting to peel open to reveal semi congealing blood. He suspected the prolonged numbness of his right cheek indicated a similar blackening of the skin. The bandages around his shin was dyed wine red. He guessed he and Adelaide really look like a pair now. Her stained shirt and his bloodied leg. He staggered to his feet with a slight wince.

As the rays reddened to a rich ruby, the path beneath them glowed. Cedric squinted slightly not appreciating the sudden sharpness contrasting harshly with the soothing twilight palette. His eyes began to water but it didn’t hamper his vision. He managed to locate their exit without much effort. It was a simple wooden door that served as the entrance into a music shop. Based on the display in the window, the place specialised in music boxes. How fitting, he thought snidely.

“The Court recruits people of many talents, don’t they? It’s rare to see a skilled tinkerer so far from Brass Cape. Is this person among your many acquaintances here? This person who made the Gris.”

Adelaide’s head tilted. “I did meet a tinkerer once. He liked wearing funny hats.” She smiled at Sid and walked into their last room, saying no more on the matter.

“They always wear funny hats. A more imaginative answer would have been appreciated.”

Adelaide was being frustrating as usual, but the sting wasn’t there anymore. It wasn’t like he shared his thoughts that openly either. He ambled behind taking care not to put too much pressure on his leg. He guessed this would be his first lengthy conversation with Ms. Vilimar. He’d appreciate it immensely if she could prevent unneeded scarring. Not just for vanity’s sake but for more practical reasons. Scars made identifying someone a little too easy. It was something he could do without.

As they passed through the shop into the open cupboard, one of the music boxes began playing. Sid’s thoughts were brief. They heard it recently but he forgot where. He decided it didn’t matter for now and he stepped in after Adelaide.

xxxxxxxxxx

The Curtain Falls

Cloak and daggers seemed to be the theme of their homestretch. Adelaide and Cedric found themselves in a cramp alcove created by tall hedges once they stepped through the second door. A masked messenger greeted them and passed them a sealed envelope. Adelaide took it, her head cocked to one side as she met exuberant, fuchsia eyes shining from behind the mask. She popped open the wax seal once the woman pranced out of sight. Inside was a single leaf of parchment.

Checkmate. You win?

Cedric’s eyes blazed with curiosity behind his glittery satin mask. A chess game during a masquerade ball? His only guess was that they were here to assassinate someone. A royal. Possibly a king. That was the only way the word checkmate would make any sense. He bowed elegantly and held out a white gloved hand to Adelaide who took it after a moment’s pause. Whatever this puzzle entailed, he figured they should enjoy the moment. The dance here would be a lot less tense than the one earlier. Here he knew he had to play to win. There was simply too nebulous.

“Warm hues suit you, Nightingale,” he flattered. “That waterfall of green peeking beneath heady gold and heart throb reds. You look like an exotic Bird of Paradise than a dull Trovalian Nightingale. So vivid.”

His compliments prompted a chuckle from Adelaide. “Do you wish to earn something from these gracious remarks?”

He allowed her to thread her hand through his arms. Practiced farce. They were a little too good at this, he thought uncomfortably. He let the thoughts flow away like the music sweeping towards them from the lit dance hall in the distance. Their feet already on the path towards it.

Even in the weak glimmer of fairy lights adorning the shrubbery, Adelaide glowed. Her figure hugging dress hung off shoulder enough to toe the thin line between seductive and explicit. The long skirt folded like tulip petals down her legs splitting off mid-thigh to make dancing so much easier. A design choice too many noble women overlook in their eagerness to flaunt their wealth. This simplicity breathed elegance. The jewellery, a lacey gold and pearl choker, complimented the gown without overwhelming it. Cedric didn’t know which look he preferred. The vapid butterfly suited her just as well. Maybe even better. He never thought of her as a nightingale before. She came across as more fiery. More tropical.

Slowly, his eyes trailed back to the pearly white and gold mask adorning her face. Stray curls artfully arranged fell over the edge. The longest strand fell close but not touching her mauve lips. “I wish I could see how I look and show you how you look,” he commented.

He was skeptical about his appearance. He had a distinct impression that they went with a raven theme for him. Deep purples that verged on black. He could feel the cutting but seeing it was necessary to solidify the image in his head. At the very least, he was glad they didn’t cloth him in black and white. The starkness reminded him of funerals and death. Nothing remotely delightful about that. Certainly not on the dance floor. It bordered on disrespect in his opinion. If your host invited you into a beautiful ballroom, you should do your best to fit in. Be dramatic but tastefully so.

She tilted her head back to get a good look at the man, eyes trailing up his outfit from the amethyst-buckled loafers to the tips of his feathered collar. “Lush,” she said simply, “You look lush.

“Why haven’t you asked me yet?”

“I don’t want to be accused of being vain. You and Jack always always remind me to be more humble,” he replied in a mock suffering tone.

It was clear from his voice that he really wanted to know. He allowed his eyes to drop from her gaze. Another attempt at false modesty, one which both Adelaide and Jack were familiar with having lived with him for years. “You know I don’t let it get to my head. It’s people who can’t stop staring.”

Adelaide’s mouth opened, as if she was about to say something. She closed it after a second thought.

Sounds of laughter started mingling with the music. They were close. Masked doormen held jewelled crusted lanterns aloft waving them forward. Both of them passed the servants without the slightest nod of acknowledgement. Again according to script. Even with her cool, weightlessness on his arm, Cedric noticed a slight tensing. A similar thrill was racing through him. It was starting soon.

Polished glass and oak doors greeted them at the top of the marble stairs. They were each presented with a white rose surrounded by baby’s breath plated in gold. A corsage for Adelaide and a boutonniere for Cedric. He quirked a thin eyebrow. White meant that they should make the first move. They had to be strategic about it, because defending was always easier.

“White offers a slight advantage. Say fifty-two to fifty-six percent if the Mathematicians are to be believed. It’s a knife’s edge when it comes to chess. Depends on our skill and theirs.”

He leaned closers His voice dropping into a purring whisper. “Dev’nous parler dans notre langue? Comms’ pas drôle.” (trans. “Shall we speak in our own language? Common is boring.”)

Adelaide turned to face him without moving away, their faces inches apart. Her bright brown eyes seemed to absorb Cedric’s own. The sense of her reading him with a glance, formulating, coming up with her own conclusions. Her head cocked to the side. “Bien.” (Alright.)

She shifted her eyes away to reevaluate the “chess board”. Her eyes flickered for the identifying markers of the black pieces, their adversaries, and the king and queen of each side.

Sid wasn’t in that much of a hurry. He believed that they needed more information about the “battlefield” first. Information about their actual opponents were incidental. He wanted to give them as thick a knife’s edge as possible. Picking up two flutes of champagne, he passed one to Adelaide.

“Ne soy’z pas si impatient,” he tutted. “Nous attendous.” (trans. (not literally) “Don’t be too hasty. Let’s wait.”)

She scoffed, “ Dit le petit à sa mère.” (Says the cub to its mother.)

Supplementing his words was a dance card he picked up earlier. There were only two more dances in this set. It meant that they needed to wait for the start of the next set to join in. He swirled the glass between his gloved fingers.

He tilted his head to the side. “Pas d’amis ici.” (trans. “No friends here”; implied “We can only rely on ourselves to win”)

Every card emblazoned with a red rose was completely filled. The two cards emblazoned with a white rose were empty. Fun. He never recalled ever playing chess with such a disadvantage. He guessed that made one of them the King. It was the condition for a checkmate. Probably their identities didn’t matter much. The two of them had to take down the enemy King to win.

Or try to... He watched a graceful couple dance in the center of the dance floor. A woman with flaming red hair twirled in her partner’s arms. Her dress just as seductive as Adelaide’s with hints of a Feian elements intermixed into a slim silhouette. Probably for concealed weapons, he concluded. He watched the flowing sleeves a little suspiciously. A tiny tiara sat on her head. The phoenix feather filigree on it mirrored that of her choker. Aside from the scarlet rose corsage, those were the only hints of warmth. Her outfit was bathed in cool colours. It brought back memories of the black and white world.

He watched long enough to see a flash of her silver stiletto heels peek beneath the hem of her skirt. She was laughing as she gazed into her partner’s masked face. The man had strong arms. Cedric’s eyes lingered on the outlines beneath the sleeves. Solid. Someone who might prefer brawling not unlike Sara. The woman’s fighting style wasn’t hinted at all. One known and one unknown, nice.

Metal threads sparkled amidst the earthy bronze of the man’s top. Cedric imagined a very sinewy beast prowling protectively around the woman. Hm? He wondered. Was she the King perhaps and the man the Queen? His suspicions were confirmed the longer he watched them. The man was indeed her knight in shining armour.

Okay, so they target the woman.

The other pieces, he didn’t know what to make of them. The dancing figures had nothing distinct about them. Their outfits of the same colour palette, reds with black and burnt greens. Subdued and meant to confuse. A bit like a school of fish. You can’t tell one from the other once you get sucked in.

“Garde tes y’ouverts.” (trans. “Keep your eyes peeled”; implied don’t get deceived by what you see.)

“Do you even see beyond your nose?” Adelaide asked, continuing to speak in the Trovalian tongue. “Or does the thrill of the hunt blind you?”

“Je suis blessé.” (trans. “I’m hurt”; Sid meant it more literally indicating he prefers being more cautious)

The corners of her lips pulled. She’d been more admonishing, and the vaguest tell of frustration revealed itself to Cedric. Those who’d known her less wouldn’t pick up on the way her body poised like a panther casually prepping its lunge on a prey. Her eyes flicked ceaselessly over the ballroom; her arms folded loosely across her chest. When it was finally their turn to dance, she took Sid by the wrist and lead the way. She swung him around, hand on his waist, the other on his shoulder, and let the music carry them forth.

“Why do you think this needs to be so planned?” A cocked head and glassy voice questioned him behind the glittering mask. “Do you imagine it a real mission? It’s not. The target is set where you chose. Where will you strike, tomcat?”

“Who has the advantage between the two of us?” he shot back.

He was never good at close combat. They both knew it but between an agile woman and her muscled partner he had to pick the latter this time. His leg was barely cooperating at this point. He felt the urge to call Chester or Chaos to him. It was overwhelmly strong. Still he didn’t want to do so. He could manage without them. Charlotte wouldn’t let him have such a weakness.

“l’Chats pas ici.” he added a little more apprehensively. (trans. “My cats aren’t here”; implied do you want to take this risk? It’s the actual answer to Adelaide’s earlier question)

He sucked in his breath. “I don’t know if I’m desensitized yet. I could try pushing on. You should take the lead.”

He spoke whatever came easier to him at this point. His language repertoire was mingling at an alarming rate. Fatigue was close. He should conserve as much energy as he could from this round in case they need it at the end. He had no idea if the rest of the Stardusk were in better shape.

Adelaide’s hands guided him. He appreciated the fact that she tried her best to lessen the pressure on his right side while concealing the weakness. He knew the injuries on his arms were hidden by the sleeves but what of his face. He had tried to forget all of them earlier. It had been so easy when the pain wasn’t registering in his consciousness.

“l’Roi and l’pion. What se q’on fait?” (trans. “The king and the pawn. What do we do?”)

He better stop talking soon. His grammar was going to be a bigger distraction than their enemies. One he can’t have Adelaide suffer now that they were so close to victory. For second, his mind flitted with the idea of double indemnity. Their possible safety net. He wondered if their enemies were so kind. It wasn’t explicit who was their designated King. So much confusion.

From the moment they appeared in the ballroom, he’d sensed an odd warmth coming from. A mounting displeasure that accumulated below the surface of her skin. Her features remained unreadable, and her body relaxed, always poised for action but never tense. But when before she’d taken their challenges in stride, now she seemed to be… bored. Adelaide shook her head at him, as if disappointed he hadn’t grasped what she wanted him to. “Little tomcat. It doesn’t matter.”

In one single motion, Adelaide released Cedric, spun on her heel, and released a slice of wind from her hand. It cut through the ballroom - felling pawn dancers with one bloody strike - and headed straight for the supposed King and Queen.

The couple broke apart in an instance. The man threw himself in front of the woman to shield her from the attack. The redhead appeared quite amused. She simply leaped away before Adelaide could materialise fully behind her partner.

“Oh my,” came a husky purr.

The owner of the voice raised her hand to her mouth and laughed in amusement. “Why so impatient, Adelaide darling? We did our best to keep you oh so entertained.”

The man growled. He drew his fist back. He didn’t get a chance to step forward when a silver bolt bounced off his leg. Kiril’s focus shifted to Adelaide’s partner. His efforts were met with a wide-eyed stare. Sid’s look of surprise morphed into nonchalance. His purple eyes barely betrayed the inner workings of his mind. The right side of Kiril’s lips tugged upwards in anticipation. This fight was over before it began. His prissy opponent didn’t look like he’d stand a chance in a fist fight.

“Kiril, love, Adelaide’s mine. The other’s yours. He shouldn’t be a problem since he’s injured.”

Kiril grunted. He straightened up to his full height. He cracked his neck from side to side before squaring his shoulders. Tearing at his right arm, the man revealed the mechanical prosthetic beneath. Steam hissed from the elbow as the man drew his hand back to strike again. He roared and leaped into the air.

Sid raised an eyebrow. Okay, the tailor thought. This was interesting. But a brawler is still a brawler …

Or so he thought.

Kiril released his punch. Rather than a fist slamming against his flesh, Cedric was knocked downwards and backwards at the same time; he came to a skull-ringing halt when his head smashed against the wall. Sid groaned. The attack reminded him of a powered up version of Adelaide’s wind blasts. One that felt like an ton of invisible bricks. He sputtered and groped for his crossbow. It had fallen at the place he stood earlier.

“Not too bright are you?” Kiril barked.

His foot landed on the crossbow as he kicked it into the crowd. He walked over towards the fallen man and kicked up. His steel clad foot jerking Cedric’s chin upwards. There was a loud thud when head met wall again. Purple eyes glazed over.

Kiril hauled Sid up and threw him even further away from the crossbow. The smaller man was completely swallowed by another group of puppets. Kiril’s shoulders dipped. Target almost neutralised. He paused to consider his chances of winning. A good chance as the tailor looked close to collapsing. Sergi said if either fell it was game over. Victory was so close! Kiril didn’t know whether he was happy or disappointed. He expected a lot more from a member of the Stardusk.

“You’re too slow, darling.”

Mirren twisted to the left. Adelaide’s wind met emptiness. Leaping further away, the graceful belle thrust her arms forward. Her long sleeves shot out towards the she-devil. She missed the woman by the smallest of margin. She smirked. There had been the smallest of ripple where her sleeves tagged her slippery foe. Not so invincible, eh?

She skipped to the right immediately afterwards. Shimmering string springing from her fingers. They latched onto the fallen dancers as she pulled them back up. En masse the puppets started crowding around their fight. The free space between the women started disappearing.

“How long do you want to play this game of tag? Your stamina won’t last forever. Neither would your partner.”

Adelaide’s head tilted to one side. “So. You have been paying attention.” Something in the way her gaze drifted lazily around gave the distinct impression she wasn’t talking to Mirren. Adelaide turned her head up to the ceiling. “Listen. My mood’s beginning to thin. I’m not even a part of this crew. Would you constitute this as a little unfair?”

“No,” Mirren replied in proxy.

The first puppet made its move as Mirren’s mounting irritation became known. Adelaide ducked, but the skirt of her dress caught beneath her foot. She stumbled, then hit the floor hard as the puppet ran into her. Gripping its wrist, Adelaide over onto her back and pulled. His arm cracked and popped as she broke the wrist and dislocated the shoulder. She kicked his face to render unconsciousness and then scrambled back to her feet.

“My real clothes would be nice right about now,” she commented.

She looked down at her hand, as suddenly the familiar weight and shape of her whip rested in her palm. “Hm. Alright.”

If Mirren made any retorts, they deafened to Adelaide as she whipped into action. She targeted the second closest puppet, and manipulated her weapon around the target’s throat. She yanked the puppet forward, causing them to fall into the person in front of them. More came forward, and introduce a game of whip-the-puppet. Adelaide mixed her windly prowess with the whip, quickly establishing a berth around her. She was quick to react to the puppets sent her way with a crack the rendered necks broken, faces bruised, chests spliced. Those who managed to get past her guard either passed through her entirely, or were attacked directly by wind.

They kept it up for long minutes. Adelaide panted under her breath, the only sign of her energy waning. Then her reactions began to slow.

Mirren twitched a finger, and a puppet dancer lunged for Adelaide from her blind side.

A tug on Adelaide’s whip stopped her short. Her body jerked back. Leaning into it, she bent at the waist and watched a blade bleeding black pass over her face. She felt its tip dig into her face, whipping her head to the side as droplets of blood splattered the floor. Adelaide dropped onto her back. Pain stinged enough for her eyes to water but she ignored it. She leveraged her whole body weight against the mass holding her whip. It loosened, the enemy stumbling forward. She vaulted onto her feet, spun, and directed a razor-edge wind at him. It cut him across the chest. He flew back from the force, crashing into a pillar. He crumpled, limbs splayed, one blank golden eye peering through dreadlocks.

Mirren’s red lips curled into a feral grin. She heard that panting. She took that unguarded opening to tag the woman’s clothed shoulder. Green and gold threads heeded her call as they began weaving around the tanned neck.

“Do your clothes become part of your fleshless body or does it take effort to keep them on you?”

She didn’t wait for an answer before jumping backwards. She took a second leap; this one to the left. There was a brief glimpse of icy grey before Mirren melded with her puppets. She was perfectly camouflaged and the puppets continued encroaching on the abandoned battle ground.

The threads tightened, and Adelaide gasped. Her eyes hadn’t left the newest corpse she created, and as such, she watched it meld and blur into another puppet. Her jaw clenched. Phasing into wind, Adelaide pivoted on a heel to escape the King’s threads. Her clothes transformed too and left the threads drifting uselessly. For the first time, Adelaide met Mirren’s eyes. They were wide; wide and blank as the puppets she controlled. All emotion seeped away, all trace of the natural warmth of humanity. A predator replaced the she-devil in a glittering gown.

Winds picked up around them. All at once, they collected around Adelaide and expanded outward, knocking everything backwards. The dolls fell away, momentarily breaking the King’s protection. Adelaide herself disappeared a fraction of a second. She re-appeared several feet closer and cracked her whip out. It snaked around Mirren’s neck with a flaming vice. Adelaide yanked it, bringing Mirren to her knees. She quickly wrapped the whip between her palm and elbow, making her arm into an anchor that prevented Mirren from using her end of the weapon against its owner. Adelaide tugged it again when the King made to stand. Wrap, tug. Wrap, tug. Bit by bit, Adelaide dragged Mirren closer until they were close enough for her to walk to without incident. Adelaide knelt down, her skirts splaying around her. She put two fingers to the King’s chin and lifted it up so their eyes met. She looked into them, searching.

Adelaide sighed with disappointment. “If only you were real.”

Leaning down, Adelaide kissed the woman, and sucked the air out of her lungs. She was a breath away from the killing blow when teeth clamped down on her tongue. Blood filled Adelaide’s mouth. Dazed eyes curled with feline mischievousness. Two hands pushed Adelaide off.

Mirren panted. Colour slowly returning to her face. “Who is real and who is not? Who’s to say? I’m real in my mind and that’s all that matters.”

Adelaide’s skirt ripped from the waist and turned into weighted manacles. Mirren had disappeared before Adelaide could fully free herself. There were too many groups of puppets to pick from. Where was Mirren hiding?

The puppets aiding Kiril parted to form a clear path for him. Cedric was still flat on his stomach. One arm blocking his face and the other appeared to be crushed under his own weight. Steam rolled off Kiril cloaking him in a hazy cloud. The cogs in his legs began turning as he focused on speeding up. Two more hits for safe measure, he planned.

His fingers dug into the back of Cedric’s shirt and he dropped into a crouch. He was about to take to the air when the man threw a card in his face. Kiril blinked but it didn’t help. A burst of heat and light hit him between the eyes and he staggered away. His bundle fell to the wayside. He clutched at his face yelling gutturally.

The darkness and static dots cleared after he calmed down. Vision in his biological eye remained blurred and grey tinged. A quick assessment told him that it was mostly likely inflamed. Kiril sucked in his breath. Damn his overconfidence! He scanned the area for his prey. Lo, the man was headed towards the crowd ahead. Most likely aiming for the crossbow.

Steam flooded the area as Kiril closed the gap in half a heartbeat. He aimed a punch at the retreating head. The mirage vanished leaving the brawler dumbfounded. His own heartbeat echoed inside his ears. Fuck!

Out loud he spat, “How?”

His lips had become nonexistent as his face morphed into a mask of rage. He was so done with this. The fight would have been over if he snapped that thin neck. Mistakes. Far too many mistakes. Mirren had better not let Adelaide win in the meantime.

His enhanced eye caught a slight flicker of something. He shifted his body away from the direct line of fire. He saw the beat up man looking smug. A decent sized flame danced in his open palm. Kiril’s mind overloaded. Really, what fruit was that? First fire then illusions and now fire again.

Their roles were reversed. Kiril’s hesitation didn’t give him time to escape. Shadows lengthened and pulled away from the puppets on the dance floor. They darted towards him. Never quite merging, they rose taking form of ravens. Dozens of birds pelted every exposed inch. Kiril bit back a hiss, as the inky bodies met real flesh. He could hear his clothes rendering at places where metal was beneath thread.

The sounds made by the flock drowned out the other battle completely. The birds cried loudly as they split off into two groups and rounded back onto the dance floor. Their frenzied wings tore through thread, wood and cloth. Some of the puppets lay irreparably destroyed. Mirren barely had time to dart into a different set of puppets as the birds sped pass her.

Kiril’s surprise blossomed in her. She gave up hiding and met Adelaide head on. Her mind noting that the shadow onslaught wasn’t diminishing. It continued growing in strength as shadows from the nearby pillars were recruited into the fold. She had no doubt that it would soon consume the remaining shadows in the room. Their advantage was getting slimmer.

“How’s he doing this? A devil fruit user?” she asked the tight-lipped Adelaide.

She doubted the answer would be handed to them so easily. Fine, play it that way. She pulled several puppets out of harm’s way and brought both groups speeding towards her smug adversary. She didn’t really care now. Even if Adelaide won, they managed to goad the two into revealing their abilities. The information would be useful for Cecilia.

Kiril dodged the returning wave. He calculated the time lapse before the birds came his way again. Realising it was just enough, he leaned forward and ran. He was going to tackle the man and finally wring that pale neck. He did his best to ignore the flicker of black at his sides figuring it was just the puppets.

Cedric let out a small huff. His respect for the brawler dipped a little. The man had been so alert and calculating. He guessed the two wanted to end it with or without a victory. Their willingness to surrender their lives was a bit unnerving. Unless …

He didn’t bother to finish that thought. He held out his left hand and beckoned with his fingers. The action a mirror of Mirren’s when she manipulated thread. Several birds hiding beneath the puppets flew out. They smashed into Kiril from behind forming snaking chains. The hulking man crashed face first onto the marble floor. He trashed around to no avail. Cedric clenched his fist making the bindings constrict faster.

A bored look played on his unmasked face. Sid raised his hand up into the air. His birds gathered overhead. Throwing his hand down, they turned into needles. He watched unblinkingly as a flash of grey and white appeared out of nowhere. Mirren’s sleeves expanded and hardened; she blocked off most of the attack. Just enough to keep both her and Kiril alive. Barely. She was panting. Her partner was gasping.

Inky puddles coagulated at their feet. The shadows still pliable for the man before them. The two members of the Court didn’t flinch in the face of the inevitable. Cedric glanced towards Adelaide wondering if she wanted to claim the killing blow. He didn’t crave the glory.

“They are waiting for you,” Mirren stated.

Kiril grunted in agreement. “Don’t keep them waiting.”

Adelaide walked up. She hadn’t uttered a word for the rest of her fight with Mirren, though the transformation of her clothes had slowed her again. A bruised formed on her cheek and splatters of blood stained the dress. She stared blankly at the pair. In one swift motion, she raised an arm and split their necks with the wind.

Cedric fell to the floor. The only sensation he felt was pain. Endless waves radiating from his limbs and back. He dry heaved. His arms wrapping around his stomach. He gathered the blood in his mouth and spat. He didn’t want to actually vomit. It would be the final blow to his fraying dignity. He sucked in three laboured breaths.

“Either you find Ms. Vilimar or a little help would be appreciated.”

He gave Adelaide a strained smile. His face paling rapidly. He wasn’t done, though. They just finished and their exit was within walking distance. To hell with this weakness! Adelaide, damn that woman, was more unscathed than he was. He was embarrassed. His first fight as one of the crew and he took a real beating. He hoped the Captain wouldn’t hold this weakness against him. He regretted not taking Jack’s advice long ago. He should incorporate more close quarter combat into his skillset.

He allowed his eyes to fall on his crossbow as they passed by. Indicating that he would like to retrieve it. He wasn’t keen to lose it so soon after he crafted it. Call it pride or what not, he didn’t care.

He sucked in his breath as a familiar weight rested on his less tender shoulder. Heavy as it was it was good to be reunited with his crossbow.

“Merci, Zebby. If fate permits, tonight we share the chocolates Belvedere gifted me. You were awfully fond of them. Never found someone else who had that much of a sweet tooth.”

He allowed his mind to stray. Distracting himself always worked. The door was so close. “I’m a poor man out at sea. It feels strange not to have much to my name. I hope the situation won’t last.”

Adelaide sighed, dragging Sid to the door and pulling them both through. “Vous parlez trop de tomcat.” (You talk too much tomcat.) The next moment they both awoke on the deck with the rest of the crew.
 

SilentxChaos

Vivid Imaginings
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A Few Posts a Week, One Post a Week, Slow As Molasses
Writing Levels
Intermediate, Adept, Advanced, Adaptable
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Male, Female, Primarily Prefer Female, No Preferences
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
I'm willing to do either, but may lean more towards the passive side.
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Fantasy, magical, modern, medieval, horror, dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, adventure, action, anime
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Collab bet’w Capt. and Silent

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Valhalla

Jack woke with a start.

The clamminess of the deck’s wood coated his cheek with damp chills, snapping his memory to the room of ghosts. He jerked up, shaking, and looked around. They were back on Vahalla’s deck. Stardusk were all there, safe and sound, and his head turned slowly until he came to his other side. Adelaide sat beside him.

Jack swallowed hard. “I… saw their faces, Ade.” His voice cracked in a faint whisper. “All of them, in that room...tell me please. Were they buried?”

Adelaide’s silence said it all. Jack squeezed his eyes shut and lowered his face into his hands.

A cool, gentle touch wrapped around his wrist. He pulled his hands away to look at the woman who’d come to find him. Come to take him back. She stared, her face unreadable. “We shouldn’t talk about this here,” she said.

Jack nodded. They helped each other up, and left Stardusk to finish their business with the Court. When Jack returned, Adelaide was nowhere in sight. He hurried onto the deck of Lady Luck, mute, not pausing to talk to anyone. But when he passed Runali, she saw his eyes, cold as solid gold. His jaw clenched, his lips thinned, his stride rigid. He passed Stardusk by as if they were no more than a crowd to wade through, beelining for the crew’s quarters.

The ship was silent. It may not have been silent for long after Valhalla disappeared, but it was silent long enough for everyone to settle back into the normalcy of being on Lady Luck. Although, some didn’t settle as easily as others.



While Valhalla was nothing more than tricks and mirrors for her crew, Runali could only think of the conversation that echoed in her mind. It struck a noticeable chord in her that made her stand at the edge of the ship for awhile, staring where the ship had made its exit. She noticed everyone around her, some walking by, some going about whatever assigned chore Alicia had given them for the day. She also noticed the crew that had slipped away to their quarters. At first, Runali contemplated checking in on them right after the Court left, but she couldn’t. Not so soon at least.

It had been a few hours, but the tense and practically fearful look in Jack’s eyes passed through her mind while she stood leaning against the ship in thought. She closed her fist around two single pieces of confetti that landed on their ship, one green and one blue. A sigh followed and she straightened up and went to hunt down Jack. He wasn’t okay and as the captain and his friend she had to at least try and help. Fortunately, it didn’t take much to find anyone on the ship since it was no man-o-war, so with a warning knock against a wall she spoke up. “Hiding out below deck probably won’t last as long as you hope.”

Jack sat on his hammock in the semi-darkness. His chest of belongings was open with clothing strewn across the floor; a bulging pack nested at his side as the knife bandolier hung on the hammock’s hook with his leather coat. He ignored the mess around him. Instead, Jack stared listless at the elephant pin gifted to him by Daya, and a tiny yellow flower between his fingers. He blinked, startled out of his reverie when Runali appeared.

“Captain. I didn’t hear you.” he said in way of apology. He straightened and wiped at his cheeks then turned his attention to her. His eyes flicked over her. “The Court captains… Paris and Pierre… what did they say to you? I can tell you’re still thinking about it.” As he spoke, Jack moved his pack to make room for Runali to sit.

The captain leaned against the doorway despite Jack’s response. She stood for a moment, taking the time to examine the state of the room. It lasted for a long few moments before Runali took steps inside to sit next to him as he offered. “I don’t suppose you were looking for something?” She hadn’t met his eyes while she purposely ignored his question. “Unless the kitchen space isn’t much of a reflection of how you handle your own space. Which, I won’t judge. I’ve seen worse.”

Jack gave a small smile. “No. No, this isn’t how I keep my room normally.”

He pocketed the flower and pin into his waistcoat. He gestured for Runali to come in and sit beside him on the hammock. There was a second stretch of silence before he cleared his throat. “I, uh, know about the illusions.” he smirked. “Adelaide told me. Not that is it wasn’t that hard to guess after….” his voice dropped off as he recalled the last room he encountered with Alicia. He clenched the edge of the hammock. “Is that what they told you about? Did they say why they do it?”

“Hm.” Runali leaned forward, resting an arm on her leg. She opened her hand, looking down at the confetti she was still holding before finally slipping it into her breast pocket. “Much too easy and much too obvious of a trick for them to take the time to explain it. Especially during the maze. The illusions were just there as… illusions. And they told everyone why they did it, Jack. It was for entertainment.” She gave a somewhat simple yet empty answer to his question since he danced around her own. After another moment, Runali finally looked at Jack now a little more curious. “Whatever happened to that one- Adelaide, anyway? You two disappeared and then only one of you came back before we left?” Runali sat up and gave a small laugh that didn’t amount to much. “I’d suspect foul play but something tells me that’s not the… relationship you two have… or had for that matter.”

"She's gone."

Jack's teeth worked against each other. He couldn't meet Runali's eyes, so he stared straight ahead as he forced out what he needed to say. Every word caused a grimace. "I need to.... I'm.... leaving too. Soon as we hit the next port.” His fingers laced together and his knuckles protruded ghost white under his skin. She could see his jaw clenching and unclenching, but he never reached for a smoke to calm his nerves. His breath rattled in his chest. “It's finally caught up with me. Adelaide-- that’s why she was there with the Court. To warn me. If we leave, perhaps we can… stop it.”

There was a silent intensity to what he said. His expression read more than the words he gave her and Runali could only watch for a moment until she sighed. “You’re such a troubled soul, you know? ...Is this decision really your choice, or a choice that you think is the only one you can make?” Her fingers tapped against her knee. “More importantly, what makes you think we wouldn’t help? These… things or people that have been haunting you, that you’ve ran from for so long- wouldn’t it be better to have help keeping them at bay for good?”

Jack scoffed when she mentioned his soul. He shook his head. “It’s not about keeping them at bay. Turns out, that was never the case,” he muttered under his breath. “I know who Stardusk is. I know you’d be there if I asked. But this isn’t a matter of vengeance, like it was for Kadi. And people haven’t targeted you simply because you are involved with me. Not yet, at least.”

His eyes closed. He drew in a deep inhale, then turned to Runali. He stared at her for a long moment before speaking. “Have you…. Have you ever felt like a marionette? Do you know how it feels for a high power to pull your strings? To dictate your every move and… manipulate your heart? Do you know what that feels like?”

“Of course I haven’t, Jack. And of course I don’t.” Runali’s voice was matter of fact. Her expression matched it. “I’ve never had to deal with the dead till I died- till Kadi needed help. Never had to deal with a group of people hunting me down since childhood. Never had to go to war for my family and my home. Hell, I still have them.” As she listed them off, she straightened up to sit as properly as she could on the hammock. “And you know what Jack, I never will.” There was a ‘hopefully’ that rattled in her brain after saying that, but she pushed on. “I’m never going to know how it truly feels to be burdened with such a thing like that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t feel. Doesn’t mean I don’t sympathize and want to help.” She paused for a moment and ran fingers through her hair. “But I do know what it’s like to feel… trapped. To feel like after so long, there’s no hope left. And everything you built is taken from you.” Her mind echoed back to the Court and she frowned a little. “If you focus solely on survival… you’ll start to forget how to live.” It was something she told the Court. Something that seemed to stick close to her enough to make her brow furrow.

“Pirate? Spy? It doesn’t matter…No matter how much you say it does. If all you do is look over shoulder, you’ll never see what’s in front of you, you know?” She sighed. “I suppose I can’t convince you to let others watch your back. And I don’t know the weight of what keeps your heart tied to whatever it is you won’t tell me, but I’ve learned a hell of a lot while I’ve been fighting.” Her fist clenched. “There’s going to be a lot of people that will try to tell you what you can’t do, and if it’s not your mom- or moms in your case, you can tell them no… Even if you have to use a little force.” She cracked a small smirk saying that, easing her earlier thoughts.

“I hear you,” Jack replied seriously. “I never meant to imply you couldn’t empathize….I’m trying to make you understand. There is… someone who needs me. To complete a plan I want nothing a part of. She will go to the ends of the earth to find me. I thought I was hiding from her at first, but,” he moistened cracked lips, and passed a hand over his jawline. “It turns out she was keeping my enemies off of me. She has that power, Runali. You once felt the wrath of the World Government when they threw you into Kane Arteum. If they caught you, wrapped up in what I am in, you’re going somewhere far worse. And she will make sure of it.”

Suddenly he stood up, hard enough for the hammock to swing and nearly tip Runali off her feet. Jack appeared oblivious as he paced small, tiny circles in front of her. His eyes were to the floor, moving rapidly with his thoughts. “I don’t want to leave. I don’t. But Runali I’m-- I am terrified. This is not an enemy Stardusk can fight on the frontlines. She will see you coming miles off. She will predict our every move. And by the gods, if the day comes when she finds me with you and my brother….we’d be buried. Doesn’t matter if we somehow won -- whatever those consequences are -- they’d strike Stardusk out of the Worst Gen. The Government would hunt us down, quietly, sufficiently, and throw us into some dark hole. If not kill us outright. You’d never be Pirate Lord. My brother would become a puppet again. And Ade--”

Stumbling, Jack’s back hit the wall and he slid down. His hands gestured uselessly, the totality of his fear etched into his face. He looked at the captain, lost. “That’s the future I see. But if I leave….then only two of us will lose. Adelaide and I have been at this a long time. She has a plan. It might be our best shot. Or our only shot….

“What else would you have me do?”

The hammock rocked. Runali planted her feet so she wouldn’t fall. Jack started pacing, but Runali never moved out of her seat. Instead, she watched. But she watched with a matched seriousness with her hands on her knees. The only other obvious indication she was reacting to Jack was the occasional grip that tightened and untightened. But for the most part, she waited. Runali listened and kept her eyes on the cook as he paced around and up until he fell to the floor across from her.

And for a moment, Runali left him with the silence filling the air. Her eye closed and she let his words echo in her head, trying to come up with something that she could say to calm him down. But this was bigger than just a captain or a pirate problem. This was much bigger than Jack just being a spy as well. As a captain and as a friend, Runali couldn’t guarantee she could help him. And she knew that. Every now and then Kane’Artem sent cold chills down her spine when she remembered it, so the threat of something worse didn’t sound very believable.

The faint sound of the floorboard creaking was heard when Runali stood to her feet. She took slow steps towards him, stopping at arms distance. “What the Court captains told… no, showed me…” She crouched down in front of him, fiddling with her eyepatch, her gaze on the floor for a brief moment. “It… It didn’t have a happy ending.” The tearful feeling she felt the first time started to resurge but she took a steadying breath and continued. “It’s not my place to tell about the loss of others… But the only dark hole they faced were graves. Too many of them… There are people with too much power all around us Jack. Some tracking pirates, others tracking specific people. With the lives we’ve all chosen, it’ll be a constant to look over our shoulders.” Runali ran her hands across her face and stood to her feet. “One day you will be face to face with whatever saw fit to let you exist in this universe and you’ll have to justify the space you’ve filled.” The words echoed in her head as something the captains of the Court told her. It was near chilling even remembering it, but she held her resolve. Her look was softer as she put her hand out towards Jack. “Sacrificing hurts more than it heals… And I don’t want to see you become what they did. Not for my or this crew’s sake.”

Somewhere in her one eye, Jack witnessed pain that struck him to the core. She evaded telling the whole truth about the Court of Miracles but Jack didn’t need to hear it. He didn’t feel the silent tears streaking down his cheeks while he listened to her, but the understanding slowly unraveled across his face. That’s why they felt so....

“Familiar,” Jack finished beneath his breath.

His eyes followed her as she approached with an offered hand. His look was glassy, but oddly unreadable; fear and grief remained, covering up what thoughts turned in his head. Hesitant, he took the captain’s hand and stood.

“I would lay down my life for you, and Stardusk. You’re the first glimpse I’ve had for a future in...a long time. I just want to protect it for as long as I can. Please… give me a reason to stay.” He could think of a hundred reasons to stay, and a hundred to leave. He felt himself on a tipping point, ready to fall one way or the other. His voice came out strained as he begged Runali to offer a decision he didn’t know how to make.

Runali squeezed his hand. “That’s just it Jack, you don’t need a reason to stay. You have plenty of reason already, you’re just ignoring it because you’re afraid.” She let go of his hand and gestured at the door. “And it’s okay to be scared. I can’t count how many times I was afraid of the unknown or of some danger we faced. But, you can’t see a future with the Stardusk if you’re dead. Can’t see a future with us either if you go running off to play hero and go off on your own. You want your brother to be safe and your- and Adelaide too, but you said it yourself. You two have been doing this for a long time and nothing’s changed. Well, now it’s time to change it up with an entire crew at your side willing to fight with and for you.”

Jack placed his other hand over hers. A small smile graced his face. It didn’t diminish the shine in his eyes, or the haggard lines that’d creased into his skin over the past few hours. But it did show an inch of relief. Maybe of hope. It grew the longer he looked at Runali. “Captain, I--”

Suddenly, he stiffened. His head snapped to the doorway to witness Adelaide, of all people, standing there, innocently munching on jerky. Chaos nestled in her arms purring so loud it was a wonder the whole ship didn’t start shaking. Jack guffawed in disgust. He released Runali to turn his back to the intruder. “How long have you been there?” he asked, his tone dictating his aggravation.

She ignored his question, directing her attention to Runali instead. “Turns out I can’t fly across an ocean--”

“--you don’t say--”

“--so I’ve come to beseech you, Captain Runali, for safe passage to the next port. Considering the Court has left and,” her eyes slides over to Jack, “You’ve clearly made up your mind.”

Jack walked over to her. He held out his hands, and gently took Chaos, stroking the kitten’s fur. There was a moment of unspoken conversation between the two former spies before Jack nodded his head in confirmation. “Captain? I second her request. I would… appreciate it. If you truly meant what you said, we-- I need her.”

She wasn’t sure if she should have been startled or confused by the sudden intrusion. Staring at Adelaide for a moment, Runali settled with confusion. “Implying that you can fly from ship to ship?” She ignored the request being made, taking a step towards the two spies. She looked between them as if trying to find an answer to a question she only knew, but stopped eventually and waved a hand in front of her face. “How are supplies looking for you Jack?” She leaned against the wall and pointed her thumb at Adelaide. “If we’re planning on being hosts for your lady friend here, it’s best we make sure one extra body doesn’t take up too much of what we have.” Her arms crossed for a moment before she straightened up. “Of course I mean what I say Jack. I have little reason to lie to anyone on my crew.”

“Our supplies will hold for now,” he replied.

With that, she turned to Adelaide with her hand out to her. “I s’pose it’s a good thing you didn’t decide to surprise anyone else because I doubt they’d take kindly to stowaways. Not that I do either, but,” The captain gave a pleasant smile. “If you’ll be staying here try to at least be useful, yeah? I’d also appreciate if you not take what isn’t yours. And more importantly,” Her expression did get a little serious, but nothing that proposed a threat. Instead, her brow raised as she spoke. “Don’t attack my crew. That does in fact include Jack here.” Once more the smile was there again. “Just play nice and I won’t have to ignore Jack’s plea not to toss you overboard. Easy to follow, yeah?”

The smile that split Adelaide’s face, didn’t quite reach her eyes, but she seemed to gain great amusement from Runali. Her body bent forward so she could stretch without stepping away from the door frame, and grasped Runali’s hand. The captain would find it weightless and void of texture. “I did not sail with the Court without proving myself useful. You have my word, Captain, I won’t attack your people unprovoked.”

“Hmm, I’m gonna trust you’re not lying to me. Only because I trust Jack.” She gave a light laugh. “If you’re anything like him, then you’ll fit in fine.” With her hand still holding Adelaide, she turned her around. “Best to introduce you to the rest of the crew now and save these… other surprises for later. One thing at a time. Welcome aboard Adelaide, you’re officially a… tagalong of the Stardusk crew. An ally at best at the moment. Unless of course, proven otherwise.” She looked over her shoulder at Jack while she ushered Adelaide along. “Well don’t stand there, you’ve got a lot of explaining to do for the ones that ask questions.”

Adelaide demurred at the captain, willingly being tugged along by her hand, wondering aloud what possible questions the crew could have. She was but a friend of a friend, needing transit to a new destination. Jack followed. He clutched Chaos close to his chest despite the kitten’s protesting mewls. When they met with the rest of the crew, Jack kept it short and sweet, seeming tense. His eyes kept fidgeting back to Adelaide like he was worried she’d try something. Jack explained: Adelaide came aboard Lady Luck at his request, and had been waiting in the kitchen for Stardusk to finish their business with the Court. She desired passage with them for a time; the captain saw fit to give it. He only glanced at Runali once-- a silent plea to keep their discussion to herself.


xxxxx​

Valhalla, few hours prior

"We should be far enough away now," Jack murmured, glancing at his crew as they made their farewells- if it was anything of that kind- to Sergi and Cecilia. He couldn't see the twin captains.

Finally, his full attention focused on the woman before him. They stared at each other. Cautiously, Jack lifted a finger to brush a curl from her face. "I don't hold it against you, you know?" Wide, blank eyes looked up at him. "You were right. I shouldn't have trusted the Marauders. But--"

"Charlotte is going to kill the royal family."

He froze with his hand on her hair. "What?"

"The first draft of their treaty came through. The deal with the World Government is moving forward."

Jack's knees went weak. He reached out, reflexively gripping the banister as he sat down heavy on a crate. His breath rushed out as if he'd forgotten how to breathe. All at once, his body collapsed on itself. He slouched and with his face in his hands. "That's what she wants me for."

Adelaide perched next to him on the edge of another crate. "Well, you are a mass murder. It's not a stretch with the right words."

An anxious laugh escaped. It died in his throat. "You never did answer me. What are you here for, Ade? Is it to drag me back? Ensure I... see this through? Or..." his face lifted up to stare into her eyes. "Do you finally see the truth too?"

She leaned back ever so slightly. Her silence stretched so long, Jack scoffed and started turning away, his shaking hands smoothing back his hair. Adelaide looked down at her feet.

"There is a vulnerability."

Her hand slipped into her bag, pulling out a flower as big as her thumbnail. The petals were bright as the sun and when looking at it, she realized it was the same one she'd picked when her and Sid transversed the Gray World. She twirled it once between her fingers while Jack watched, waiting for her to explain.

"Daneah liked these," she commented.

Jack's eyes burned. "I remember."

Adelaide smiled. Her hand lifted towards Jack. His body flinched but he didn’t pull away as she placed the flower in his hair. She pinned it into one of his locks then tilted her head to examine it. "There's a port, three days’ sailing from here. Monterey Isla. We can leave from there."

She got up and started walking towards the helm. Jack was a beat behind her; his mind catching up briefly to what his counterpart was thinking. "Adelaide. Adelaide, wait!" he called. He could see her shape beginning to fade. He jogged and grasped her wrist that'd unfurled into wind. He tugged Adelaide back. She stumbled, vaguely surprised, and blinked down as her wrist re-solidified under his black grip. Her body remained facing the helm as an eyebrow angled up at Jack, bemused by why he kept her from departing. There was a curl to her lip almost like she was irked by the delay.

If Jack noticed, he ignored it. "I'm not just leaving Stardusk. I need to--"

"Cedric's cover is ruined. Nice as it was for you to protect him," Adelaide cut him off. He jerked like she'd slapped him and released her. "I have to return to Charlotte. I cannot keep this information hidden. She's going to know about him. She already knows about Stardusk."

Jack clenched his jaw. "Then... if they're already involved..."

"They're not. Not yet. I can confirm they don’t know anything. Don't you see? You and I made contact. If we talked, and you stayed, not only have I failed my job, she will assume you told your captain everything that’s happened. To protect yourself. But if you leave--"

"There’s a chance they’ll never get involved," Jack finished. His eyes cast down to his feet.

"And you can bargain for Cedric's freedom." A cool hand lifted up Jack’s chin. “This is the best way. Trust me.”

His eyes closed and he drew in a long, decisive breath. “You know we only say that when….” he opened them. She was gone. He turned around once, noticing Stardusk taking their leave, then looked back out to the sea. “When we lie.”
 

Mizos

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177245


He should have moved.
Something in his gut told him to step forward the moment he saw the light. He should have focused on the gleam and not their conversation but such regrets meant little now, he caught the Captain as she fell back his eyes falling on the arrow imbedded in her chest. He wanted to speak and say something, to joke how mad Zilia was going to be, that this would be the last room, or that he could wait till the end of time but he only stared in silence, a small smile still resting on his face. The Captain of all people wouldn’t die from something like this but Luro recognized a good hit, and something in his mind told him this was a bad thing, whether it was his own thoughts or Imposter’s he couldn’t tell anymore. There was no lying anymore, he could hear the strain in her voice, feel the strength leaving her body and all he could do was stare back at her.

The sweet scent of flowers suddenly filled the room tickling his nose; he could feel the brush of the silk curtains against his body as he knelt down, the gentle glow of the sun through the broken wall carried a comforting warmth that filled him with pain. The familiar weight on his head was as familiar as the glint of sunlight off the broken windows; the ignominious crown coated in a splatter of red that hung askew off his skull.
Returning to that familiar throne room didn’t bother him, it appeared enough in his dreams that he was used to it, the throne was without Imposter this time but he knew why and it hurt him; laughter echoed in his head and the comforting nonexistant grip around his neck had loosened slightly. He could feel his reason slowly slipping away, his existence slowly fading back inside his being as the laughter only grew louder with each passing moment, it was to a point where he was forcefully holding it in, trying not to let a stifle escape from him. He didn’t feel joy at this, he knew that…at least he believed he didn’t.
Luro shut his eyes tight for a moment forcing that world away and returned to the false one once again, trying to ignore the broken crown that had appeared on Runali’s head back then.
“Come on Captain I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, well unless I die or something but that’d be breaking the rule right? No rush in answering.”

Though Luro said this something black ran across his body erratically, only for a brief moment a black object slithered over his form like a retreating snake, a strange invisible force surrounded his body slowly expanding outwards, something curved out of his hunched over form and lashed at the wood breaking it apart as if reacting to the inner turmoil of the man it originated from. When Sergi spoke parts of the area surrounding the two broke apart, bits of wood flying up around them the pieces floating in the air, filling the space around them with a strange volatile energy.
“I really liked you guys too, even with all this weird stuff,” Luro said sighing as Sergi spoke. “I get to return the favor now and you’ve attacked my Captain so no complaints about what happens next.”
The floating wood disintegrated into ash as Luro raised his eyes to the masked man, whatever was coming off him it was clearly rejected the world around them, lashing out at anything physical around them, no flames surrounded his hand but a strange heat filled the area threatening to consume everything not in Luro’s grip. At Sergi’s snap however the energy faded and Luro found his consciousness fade.

Imposter was dressed in his normal regal garb, sitting sideways on their throne a malicious grin on his expression as he adjusted the tilted crown on his head. Ultimately it remained off center but he knew that was on purpose, he twirled a spare broken crown around his finger and with a small laugh tossed it onto the top of the chair.
“One day she’ll join us in here, we’ll have to get another chair though,” Imposter said bringing a hand to his chin. “I’m thinking of a blue one.”
“…The Captain will not join us here.”
“Yeah she will, they all will eventually right? Cause we’re friends. This world is perfect for all of us.”
Imposter swung his legs back around sitting properly and tossed his crown at Luro who caught it before staring down at the strange language written on the edges of the crown.
“It’s just a matter of when ya know. So long as we stay by their side…inevitably they’ll end up here.”
Luro raised his head to see the throne empty once more, and the clothing adorning his own body once again, his grip tightening on the crown causing it to crack slightly.

Luro blinked only to find himself back on the Valhalla; slowly sitting up he rubbed the side of his head before a small yawn escaped from him. He took a look around at the others his brow arching as he noticed the Captain, his eyes scanned her and his shoulders relaxed a bit seeing her wounds were gone, taking a moment he noticed the poison in his body seemed gone too. While he was inspecting his arm the Captain woke up drawing his attention.
“Hm? I’m fine Captain. A little poison won’t kill me. Pretty sure I’ve been stabbed with it before. You’re the one who had an arrow sticking out of you. I’m kind of jealous actually, I only got poisoned you got shot, it seems like you had way more fun.”


177244


Zilia stood on the deck of the Valhalla with an expression stuck between vexation and confusion, her face switching between the emotions as she looked around. There was makeup plastered on her face which wouldn’t have been too bad except that she was completely soaked from head to toe. The makeup ran down her face as if she was a clown with smeared makeup. Raising her arms slightly she quickly brought them down trying to throw a bit of the water off, when she did however it hissed upon hitting the wood causing her eyes to twitch. Blowing a wet bang out of her face she looked over at Kadi and after a bit of searching managed to find her notebook, which had somehow avoiding getting wet at all. She had a plethora of questions as to how considering her current state but put it aside and instead just grabbed her pen holding the note out to Kadi.
“Kadi…we are to never talk about what happened in there. Especially when we had to run from that thing, it never happened…agreed?”
Zilia lowered her arm only for a fish to fall out and after a bit of flopping fall back into the ocean, putting the strange instance aside she took out a handkerchief, which was somehow also dry and started removing the makeup.

After getting her bearings straight she turned to take a good look at the others, happy to see everyone was still accounted for.
“I’m glad everyone’s okay, no one’s injured right?”
She focused on Luro at this causing him to look at the others before pointing at him.
“Why are you just looking at me?”
“Because you leap into danger. The question is for everyone…but I know you got yourself hurt without a second thought.”
“Well I did get hurt but that was completely on purpose.”
Zilia shook her head only to see Jack pass by, her brows narrowed a bit at how quick he moved away from everyone, she looked up at Luro who also noticed Jack’s sudden departure. She couldn’t tell what the look in his eyes was, it certainly wasn’t his usual look, but whatever it was faded quickly and he looked away stretching before making his way back onto the ship.
“All right I’m going to walk through the ship and make sure everything’s okay.”

Zilia never thought she would enjoy stepping on the Lady as much as she did, it felt comforting to be off the Valhalla, she pat the mast having sincerely missed the ship and it’s normalcy. Luro was hugging the mast as if he had reunited with a long lost lover and started to go below deck. At the Court’s final trick however he turned to look, Zilia lowering her body expecting them to shoot at them once again, when they vanished however she blinked a few times and slowly relaxed her body.
“Whoa…pretty good,” Luro said clapping his hands. “I should add some stuff so the Lady can do that…maybe if I add-”
Luro started naming possibilities making his way below deck, Zilia walking around to make sure everyone was okay once more before going to her room, finding everything still in place especially her combs she fully relaxed for the first time since they met the court.
That feeling faded however when Jack brought Adelaide forward later, the book in Zilia’s hand almost slipping out of her grip seeing the woman again.
“Welcome aboard Adelide!” Luro said raising his arm up. “Jack you don’t gotta be shy, she’s not a bad catch. You’re given Kadi some competition I like it.”
Luro grinned before a hand slapped him across the back of his head, Zilia having climbed onto a barrel and jumped up to reach him. She handed him a note which he read before pointing over at Adelaide.
“I said it wrong? Really?”
Luro looked back at Adelaide.
“I’m calling her Ali then.”
“That’s rude she’s a guest on this ship and clearly she has a weird past with Jack that’s nowhere near what you think it is,”
“Z…it’s pretty obvious they shared the same harbor a few times. Nothing wrong with that, being on the same ship and all.”
“I have no idea what you’re saying but it’s probably offensive so please stop talking.”
 
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SilentxChaos

Vivid Imaginings
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177681
177680

Making Port, pre-The Court of Miracles

Jack stood on the boardwalk with arms crossed his long black coat, surveying the last of the workers leaving Lady Luck after transporting his purchased stock for their stores. The town they docked in was a pirate’s hold, Crossbone Cape, and Jack studied each man leaving their ship for bulging pockets or oddly lumped shirts as they left. His dealings with the shopkeeper had been long and aggravating; constant haggling and arguing as the keeper tried to sell him everything for double its deserved price, and even then the sight of his stores had been less than ideal. Jack questioned how much of it had already been corrupted. Sourly tipping the lead worker, he watched until the group shuffled back onto solid land before pinching the bridge of his nose. I need a drink.

Footsteps caught Jack’s attention. He looked up, irritation flashing across his face as he prepared a strong reprimand for some straggling worker who thought he could slip by. He blinked and deflated when the person came into clarity.

“Oh, Kadi. It’s just you,” the cook sighed with relief. A smile flitted across his face as he gestured to the town. “I was just about to head back in. Fancy a drink?”

“A drink?” the Navigator asked back. “Yeah… yeah, a drink would be nice, actually. You see, I’m grieving today, Jack. A dear, dear friend of mine has met an untimely and most brutal of ends.” Jack could notice Kadi’s hand was wrapped in bandages. He reached into one of his coat pockets, and shown Jack a mangled, broken mass of sharp glass shards, brass pieces and scraps of photographic paper. The paper was so soaked in blood any semblance of the original image was impossible to see. “A faithful comrade. A loyal friends. A trustworthy assistant. Forsooth and witness the dead carcass of Kadi’s old compass with saucy Belen picture stuffed behind the direction rose.”

The Navigator put it back into his pocket, sighed and solemnly turned to look at the sea. “Some asshole in Zaorakonizal shot my pocket and broke it. Now I will need to get a new compass, and even saucier Belen picture when I get to meet her again.”

He slowly nodded. “So… so yeah. Lets drink. A parting glass. Lead the way.”

The cook’s brow furrowed in concern, at first, when he noticed Kadi’s condition. He bent to inspect the compass closer before Kadi pocketed it, a smile growing as he pieced together what happened. He straightened and past a hand over his mouth.

“A true tragedy,” he said, nodding gravely. He made a gesture to follow. “Come. First drinks on me, in memoriam.”

He made way back into town, rolling a cigarillo as they went. The place itself bustled with late afternoon business. The Stardusk mates had to fight through the teeming activity at the fish market. A throng mass of ragged linen, sweaty bodies, and fuming cacophony as people rushed last-minute bargains. Jack gently pushed and moved through the crowd, creating a path for them as he shouted over his shoulder to Kadi. “Your Belen sounds quite the catch! It’s a pity I missed the opportunity to know her.”

The local tavern was right next to the market. After pushing their way through a gaggle of children waiting for their parents- Jack blocking those expressing an untamable curiosity for what laid within his and Kadi’s pockets- the cook tossed a bag of candy off his belt to them, and held the door opened to Kadi. “After you.”

Inside, the stench of fish perforated through the wooden walls. Incense burned thin wisps from spread out sconces, their scent lost beneath a heavier, tobacco haze that rose to the ceiling. The bar rested at the center: a circular space already crowded by drunken pirates and tipsy merchants, much to the tender’s contempt as he hustled about cleaning more messes than serving. Jack led the way a quarter counterclockwise, skirting the central ruckus, to a corner in the back that was thankfully vacant. He plopped down with a grateful sigh. As he lit their table’s candle by the tip of his cigarillo, a mistress of voluptuous curves strutted towards their table. She smiled winningly at the two, setting down tankards filled with the house’s rum, her eyes straying up and down Kadi as she straightened.

“Can I provide anymore for ya loves?” she purred with a flick of her curly red locks.

Kadi gave her a look and a sly grin. “Not now, but i'm quite sure our plans do not end on the first tankard of rum.” He waited until she'd saunter off past hearing distance, and he looked at Jack. He raised the mug for a toast. “To fallen comrades, then!”

He'd take a hearty swig, before setting the mug down and wiping his mouth clear. A shiver ran through him. “Oh… oh. You could fix hull holes with this… Jack, you know a fancy place when you see it, don't you?” he said, examining the liquid while rolling the tankard. “Then again… we do get to see all kind of places, don't we?”

“We do,” Jack agreed.

He looked into his mug, part of his mind branching out to the countless places he’d ended up over the years, another wondering if something living drowned at the bottom of his drink. He took a sip- shuddered- and carefully set it back on the table.

“I’ve been meaning to ask, for quite some time, about one particular place. Zoarikonza.” He frowned as a finger tapped the rim of his mug. That’s not exactly how he wanted to come about this, but there it was. He wasn’t even sure where to start. The events of the Undersea were, to an extent, things he placed in the recesses of his mind. The god of that realm, the chessboard, the Dreamscape (or what he pictured it to be), all equated to the grotesque arcane Jack rather would forget. That left a plethora of questions to go. The so-called Free City, a place of an ever-changing name and face, both fascinated and cautioned Jack. What he, Kadi, Zilia and Ray experienced there suggested they’d been dumped into a scheming plot that rapidly disintegrated when the third unknown party arrived. Or, that’s as far as Jack reasonably hypothesized. He recognized the signs in the shadows- of things they didn’t see that happened and furthered their journey- and he was curious to know what they’d been. His eyes raised to Kadi, waiting.

Kadi's eyes smiled at him over the rim of his tankard. “Dangerous question to ask. The sort of question that should not be discussed in shadows or around mirrors. If you value ownership of your body, that is.”

Lips twitched to meet Kadi’s grin. “How are you sure? I’ve yet to ask the question.” Jack teased. He grew serious after another sip. “If you wish to relocate, I’ll happily oblige. I hope you’ll indulge me however. I am...quite curious about your story and I feel we barely scratched the surface.” He remained open and friendly, but a sharp glint glittered in his eyes as he watched his crew mate. “For instance… the Mademoiselle. How did you come to know each other?”

“No need to relocate, I think. Actually, better stay here, all the minds and ruckus around makes for a… smoke screen. The voiced words do not have time to fully develop before being absorbed into the murmur around us. I think we are safe.” He noticed the glint in Jack’s eyes. The Navigator was curious. Jack was a slimy bastard by trade, if not by personality. Was this a bait to make Arc talk more, or perhaps he had some ulterior motives and he let out more than he planned for?

Regardless, Kadi thought humoring him might not hurt. Just some piecewise information, to probe the field. “Macropulos? She… shall we say, employed me. Invested in me might be a better word, actually. She has a vested interest in getting good cartographical maps of certain dreamscapes, for her work. She… acquisitioned my sadly lost soul from its original acquisitor, and offered me the surveying job. Unfortunately, her original plan assumed less… explosive turn of events. We were supposed to steal my soul, yes, but she just wanted to collect the insurance money as a repayment for her services.”

As Kadi talked, Jack leaned forward and rested his chin on the heel of his palm. He tapped their table; a second later, their waitress appeared. She set down a plate of appetizers-- local fruits and nuts mostly, accompanied by warm, freshly baked bread rolls with seasoned olive oil-- and hovered. Her eyes slipped over Kadi again as she hesitated. Jack frowned but made a polite thanks. She ducked her head, a red tint hinting her round cheeks, and quickly went on her way. The cook’s eyes followed her briefly before returning to back to his crew mate.

Jack made an emphatic grunt at the mention of their “turn of events”, guessing as much himself. He tapped the cigarillo in an ashtray before taking another long drag. “Mapping the dreamscapes? What was that like?” he asked. Being saved from traveling to that realm himself, Jack only had the account of those who did to construct an idea of what it was. No one could pay him enough to make that trek-- but it didn’t stop curiosity getting the better of him.

Kadi's eyes went distant as he tried to think up words that would sum up the experience. “Fluid,” he said after some time. “Things in there always want to… consume… you see, basically, they envy us that we get to leave that place. That we're just visitors and tourists. They want to have a taste of what it is like being real. Sans few of the lucky dreamsnakes and parasites, they can't really hurt you. Dreamers are like gods to them, we can sort shape the land and sort of make the rules there, and even if they just… attack and kill you, you wake up with vague thoughts of dread. It’s basically what constitutes a nightmare. You are banished from your godhood there. Anyway, despite all of this, there are certain places that are “locked”, sort of. Remnants from avid dreamers with strong wills, that would require similarly exceptional person to change them. Additionally, there is locality to the land. The Dreamscape spatial metric is locally unified with real world. If you find a center of a dream, and then you tunnel through to the real world, the pathway would be somewhere around the dreamer.”

Jack’s brow knitted together as he mulled over this. “So, it’s possible to appear in the world through another’s dreams? Appearing in their locale?” He waited for Kadi to confirm or deny his short iteration. “Fascinating,” he murmured.

Taking a roll, he broke it up and dipped into it the oil. “But you said this was part of Marcopulos’s work. What was that, exactly? And why did she need your lost soul to help her?”

Kadi looked at the remaining rolls, contemplating which one pick. “Well… simply put, yes. Kinda. You don’t just burst out of someone’s head or some such. Nothing so grotesque. Essentially, you need to… in layman’s words, you need to wake up in the right place in the right way.”

“When you dream, you are basically… your soul sort of forgets it has a body. But when the body wakes up, the soul suddenly realizes it and returns. Soul and body are like two sides of a coin. They can’t see each other on the other side’s, but they know they have something connected to their butt, so to say. When dreaming, the soul is no longer forced to stay inside your body, but the link between the two is almost impossibly strong. The soul entering Dreamscape is something similar to the body being asleep, it can create and make freely there, let all of its thoughts out and make sense of the day. The Dreamscape sees corporeal as something akin to a disease, and only allows free souls to stay there. When the body wakes up, it essentially yanks the soul back. The soul is pulled somewhere into the corporeal world, and the body almost instantly pulls it back into itself. That’s the brief confusion you get after waking up from a deep sleep, the whole affair is kinda hasty and the plates that got knocked off shelves need to be placed back.”

“As for Macropulos, well, I was a lucky hit for her. She’s from Wisegrad nobility too. She could use someone who was known to her from before, and who really had no option of turning down cooperation with her. Win win for both sides, but especially for her. She could keep me supplied with provisions and equipment to keep me alive. Don’t ask how she managed to pull real items to Dreamscape without creating a huge explosion. Company secret, none of my business, the stuff. I guess she also has process from doing it backwards. That’s the plan, anyway. Push things and people into Wisegrad, pull them out on the other end of the world one hour later. She just needs to have the maps.”

“That’s...definitely a useful option to have,” Jack mused, tapping his cheek. The possibilities of what one could do, especially situated in the Undersea, filtered through his mind. “Hm… Wisegrad, you say? I don’t believe I’m familiar with that name. Where are they from?”
“You mean where I am from. It’s… home. With all the good and bad connotations, I suppose. It’s one of the League of Essetia’s merchant kingdoms, of that says anything to you. Interestingly, Essetia is not particularly well known in these parts, yet I can easily name two dozen items in this room that were partially or completely manufactured there. Macropulos hoped to capitalize on this. We have issues with shipping. There are no large shipyards in Essetia, so making proper seafaring shipping vessel is expensive, and it is cheaper to just contract Virgarien’s commerce fleet to move cargo around. Macropulos can just burn all of this down and place herself as the queen of the logistics. Hence why I was handy. I knew all I needed to know and more, I was one of her countrymen and my loyalty was of no question.”

He took a long drink from his mug, emptying it and gesturing for one more. “Anyway, I guess this is why we met Marghuela in Zaporozerakozanat. Her mobile industrial fleet will be obsolete if Macropulos pulls this off. And the metal bitch has no qualms ending lives of anyone opposing her.”

Their waitress was quick to meet Kadi’s call for more drink. She gave him a warm smile as she bent down, bouncing locks brushing on his shoulder as she leaned over. If he looked down, he’d get clear line of sight of her low-cut blouse pinched further down by a tight corset. Across from them, Jack resisted the urge to roll his eyes. But it gave him a moment of reprieve.

Jack’s attention seem to sharpen when Kadi brought up Essetia. The League, as Kadi iterated, was not well known in their current piece of the ocean. The name, however, crossed Jack’s path once before. Fingers drummed the tabletop as Jack readjusted his seat. An idea formed behind his eyes while his gaze flickered across the tavern, guessing which pieces were manufactured by Essetia.

Their waitress straightened, placing a well-manicured hand on Kadi’s shoulder. She beamed at him with a flirtatious flick of her eye lashes. “Can get you sweeties anythin’ else?” she purred at Kadi before giving Jack a polite glance acknowledgement.

The Pathfinder flashed the woman a cheeky grin. “No. Not... right now,” hoping she’d get the idea, whatever that was. He was quite keen to find out later…

Another customer waved at her, and she left them alone for the moment. “Awfully nice nails for someone who works with her hands all day and night. No visible stains or calluses. Always was told working at a bar is hard stuff. I suppose people bullshit a lot, don’t they, Jack?” he asked, looking at Jack across the table. There was something in his eyes, Jack would see. Barely a dark speck in the centers of his pupils, and when the Navigator blinked, it was gone, but when it was there, Jack would feel hard to define unease that something distant, indescribably huge and blasphemously wrong was staring at him, like a cat watching a goldfish trying to desperately escape the feline, only to find out its round fishbowl eachever way.

The brief glimpse of otherness chilled the back of Jack’s neck. Thoughts of the chessboard threatened to emerge as he stared at his companion. Hastily shaking them off, his attention snapped when the sound of breaking glass cracked the air behind them. He looked to the bar, where a pirate stumbled amongst broken bottle shards, more sticking from his hair, his assailant likely the man out cold on the ground, holding the spout in one hand and bank notes in the other. The tavern paid only a split moment to the pair before returning to its business. Their waitress stood off to the side among crowded tables, contempt written along her wrinkled, pudgy nose.

“You’re not wrong. She does have fine nails, doesn’t she? Perhaps she’s on lend from next door’s brothel. I hear the mistress of the place owns this tavern. Mayhap she has a wealthy benefactor, infatuated enough to lavish her with fine paints and oils. Or she’s a spy? If so she’s not doing very well, is she?”

Leaning over, Jack plucked an apple from the bowl, and a knife from his belt, and set to peeling the fruit as he peered from his brow at his companion. “Do you think I bullshit too?”

“I imagine you’d be long dead if you didn’t, Jack. And maybe, maybe. Maybe she’s here to get used to information gathering in this kind of places. Or maybe she’s just really bad at her job, yes. Or perhaps it is fully intentional. See the obvious bad spy in front of you, and perhaps you will be so occupied by your smug feeling of victory over them you won’t bother to look for the other one. Shiny blade in one arm, derringer hidden in the sleeve of the other.” He looked at a bar. The sailor started to pull shards stuck in his bleeding face out with a knife. “Had a bosun like that once. His face met a floor full of glass bottle shards. He was ugly afterwards, all scarred across his face. Improvement, actually. He was ugly before that too, but those scars gave him panáche of a tuff sunuvabitch. Well, tuffer one anyway. He used to make booze money by letting young medics, barely fresh out of school, cut out the leftover shards out from under his face’s skin. Had a cross tattooed on his biceps for each of those poor kids he got to faint during the procedure. Miss that guy.”

Jack laughed. He rubbed his nose, glancing at Kadi with amusement. “Sounds like a fascinating man.”

Standing up, he picked up the remaining roll in his hand and tossed it once as he stepped around the table. “I think I’ve gotten enough for today. The crew will be wanting dinner shortly, and it’s getting dark out. We could… continue this discussion later? If you like. Oh and, thank you.” Jack patted his arm with a smile. “I liked this. We should do it again.”

As he walked away, Jack met up with their waitress again. His head bowed to her for just a moment. Her eyes widened and she laughed. The cook walked away, tossing the roll of bread, as their waitress sidled back up to Kadi, practically forcing her way on his lap.

“So, handsome. Got any plans tonight?”
 
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Fox of Hearts

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Light twisted around Cedric’s fingers. Coloured streams blended into a solid orb. Fissures appeared. Soon a tiny head emerged. The newborn grew rapidly. It transformed into a replica of the coloured Gris they encountered. Just more brightly coloured. Gemini’s bird opened its beak. Its natural song filling the the dark, pre-dawn sky. Feathered wings spread wide, as the bird, a she in Sid’s opinion, launched herself up.

Warm streaks of light began fighting back the cold. Coral had taken to the air as well. The two flew in circles around each other. Their feathers glowed as the sun clawed up the sky. The Gris’ rainbow hues shimmering a lot brighter than the falcon’s burnt bronze. Cedric leaned back to admire his handiwork. Chester scrunched up his face.

“It’s been three days, mon cheri! Poor Chaos hasn’t been able to come close to me without you chasing her away,” he admonished.

His gloved fingers were given a sharp nip. Chester’s fur bristling before he shifted further away. His watchful eyes shone in the remaining darkness. Sid let his hand slip back into rest. His back pushed even harder against the railing. Remembering that time hadn’t run out, he stretched out an open palm. More bright orbs sprung from it. They drifted lazily from him like technicoloured fireflies. Each orb split in the middle and turned into miniature robins. The birds danced around the person approaching Sid before bursting into coloured smoke. The colours faded away into the nothingness from which they came.

A lazy smile graced his face as he recognised the person by her scent. Her posture was another good giveaway. “Bon jour, Capitaine. That’s a good morning to you, Captain,” he spoke switching between Trovalian and Common with practised ease.

It was rare for them to find themselves in each other’s company without the rest of the crew around. Sid was never as social as his brother. He spent a lot of time engaged in some project or other in the quietest parts of the ship. He considered breaking that pattern multiple times the past three days. Those lingering questions about their recent encounter refused to be put to rest; only the Captain and Adelaide seem to have any idea what was happening. His heliotrope eyes remained slightly averted, as he watched her join him out of the corner of his eyes. He was torn. He simply didn’t know the Captain well enough to judge if she’d be offended by his questions.

“Time for Coral’s breakfast?” he asked politely.

He paused before adding. “And yes, we have new curtains. Most rooms on the ship except Ms. Tashigi’s. I value my life far too much to test the sharpness of her blade.”

He wasn’t sure why else she’d seek him out. It was either the orange and gold curtains in her room or he happened to be at the right place at the right time. Realising her eyes were staring at the carved up railing, he moved in front of it to hide the fact that he started another “unauthorised” project.

He ran out of paint yesterday evening so his mural in the dining room was left unfinished. He had ideas for the kitchen as well, but not the colours he wanted. All he had to work with were his knives. Wood was everywhere on board the ship. Just not all wood was allowed to used. Jack had practically yelled after him to leave the mast alone. There were other places too. The railing wasn’t one of them. Nor the crows nest, now that he thought about it. He guessed his brother’s foul mood stemmed from the fact that Jack didn’t appreciate him carving the crew’s faces into the carrots. Again out of boredom. Sid thought the vegetable portraits were very accurate.

Until they were diced up and tossed into the curry pot…

He had gotten a nasty glare from said brother at dinner time when someone exclaimed about an orange eye appearing in the vegetarian curry. A remark to which he retorted. “Potatoes have eyes, as you say in Common. I think it’s crying from the heat.”

His words had been followed by a (playful) slap to the back of his head. He wasn’t sure if that had been Jack or Adelaide. He suspected it was his brother’s amour.

Carrot Luro was the only survivor of the great purge. The real Luro took a shine to it and they’d been inseparable ever since. He heard … well, he heard a lot (from Jack) ... about the said carrot. There was something about bananas too. It was a weird conversation overall since Luro (and Carrot Luro) decided to join in. Sid was confident Luro would be a great novelist or puppeteer if the man put any effort into those endeavours. That or he should have a semi permanent bed in the asylum. Sid preferred believing in the mad genius theory. It was a good persona to have for anyone wishing for patronage.
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It was a subtle change but mornings weren’t as quiet as Runali remembered. Besides the chef up and rustling through the kitchens, the others could be heard training or simply starting their days early. It filled the silence that once was Raymond’s music. This particular morning, all was quiet save for Jack getting to work so Runali decided to head above deck and watch as the sun rose with the rest of her crew. Oddly enough, one of them had already been up.

’Must be a spy thing.’ Runali thought to herself as she approached Cedric. She caught the tail end of colorful smoke disappearing, started to say something, but stopped when he spoke. When he greeted her in the odd way, switching between languages as he usually did, she nodded in return and started to speak again- only for Cedric to continue. As if on cue, the moment Coral was mentioned, she soared over and landed comfortably on the captain’s shoulder, making a soft ‘coo’ noise. Runali cracked a smile and scratched her chest feathers. “Cor-” Runali paused and chuckled a bit as Cedric finalized his last thought. As a courtesy, she waited just a little longer before finally giving a nod.

“Good morning to you to Cedric. I see you’ve been keeping yourself busy.” Her gaze went to the carvings he tried to hide. “So long as Luro’s okay with it, I don’t mind the decoration.” Runali continued to pet Coral. “Coral can fish and hunt on her own. She doesn’t need anyone to feed her. Unless of course it’s Jack making special meals for her.” There was a pause and the look on her face showed she was going through the list of topics Cedric went through. “Oh, and the curtains are nice. I’m a little unsure of what they’re for, but it is a nice addition.”

“So our meeting is a coincidence?” he asked. Amusement was evident in his voice although his face remained as still as ever. He doubted it was really a coincidence. Their captain was far too sharp and calculating beneath that laxed facade.

He allowed the silence to trickle back into their conversation. There was always a too much pausing when they talked. He thought it was a little odd but he guessed they hadn’t found the perfect rhythm yet. Her conversation sounded a lot less abrupt with Jack.

“I’m glad you don’t mind the decorating. These projects are soothing.”

He almost told her he felt cooped up on the ship. He was glad he caught himself in time. He didn’t want to offend her nor call his decision to sail with the crew into question. Truthfully speaking, he needed a project that could sustain his interest for longer periods of time. The amusing projects he undertook so far never lasted more than a day or two.

“As for the curtains, I didn’t know what to do with twelve sets. I figured putting them up in your rooms made the most sense.” He shrugged.

His first impulse was to set the finished curtains on fire. He was carting them to the deck when he caught sight of his older brother walking pass in the opposite direction. A quick conversation, wherein he avoided answering questions about the curtains, led him to abort his initial plan. Jack had that weird dampening effect on him always. He started running his fingers along the edge of his etching blade.

“I wouldn’t consider it a coincidence. We live on the same ship, there doesn’t need to be a reason to make friendly conversation.” Eventually, Runali made her way to the edge of the ship to lean and watch the sunrise. Coral jumped off, flying into the air and circling around to catch fish for herself. Runali basked in the silence for a the moment before her head tilted towards Cedric. She raised a brow and asked, “How are you handling this new pirate life? It’s been a few weeks, yeah? Figured it’s about time I asked.” She glanced over at Chester. “And the cats are okay with sailing?”

As Runali talked, the Gris perched on the railing. She flared her wings several times before stilling. Melodic notes poured from her once again. The gentle song blended well with the morning air. Cedric turned away from the sun. The golden light was beginning to hurt his eyes. He watched Chester slink slowly towards Runali. His cat’s uncharacteristic mischievousness only seemed to surface when the Captain was around. He considered intervening but felt it would be more interesting to observe.

Chester leaped. Sid didn’t see the outcome of the assault. His attention was pulled away by Runali’s question. “It’s peaceful.”

He wanted to add a small disclaimer behind his initial answer but he pursued his lips instead. His dislike for the noise Luro and Sara brought was an idiosyncrasy. They needn’t be disturbed by it. The same could be said about this endless boredom. There were chores assigned to him and he volunteered to take up more than he was allocated. He just finished them too quickly. That was the problem with routine. He wasn’t used to it.

“Cats are restless creatures,” he finally replied without looking up. He watched as the blade almost split skin. “They are good at entertaining themselves but nothing really holds their attention for long. Danger happens when they get bored. They tend to become impulsive.”

He realised his answer described him almost as accurately as it did his cats. He doubted Runali would have caught onto it, though. Only Adelaide and Jack were familiar with his habit of implying a lot more than what he said out loud. He guessed that’s what it means to be a “family”.

He pressed harder against the railing as impatience and boredom fought for his attention. “Say Captain, would you like me to show you something?”

He figured this was the best way to lead into his questions. All he needed was her consent. If she said no this time, he would offer again another time.

“It isn’t a chakram but you may find it as interesting. Let’s say it’s a secret that few people in my homeland know about. Hardly anyone knows about it outside of Trovale,” he tempted.

Thank you, Jack, for that wonderful bit of storytelling. He had never been so glad he paid attention during dinner preparation. It was through those stories that he learned how the Captain interacted with the rest of the Stardusk. He wondered if Jack shared such stories intentionally or did so out of boredom.

While waiting for Runali’s answer, he drew out two cards from his pouch. He waved them faced up in front of her face. He knew from experience that most people would be intrigued by the symbols drawn on them. He watched to see if she’d reach for them. He didn’t mind her taking them. The slackening of his grip indicated as much.

“Peaceful and a bit restless, I see.” She watched Cedric shuffle about ever so slightly and smiled. From what she was gathering, from the decorated rooms to the carvings on the railing he had moved away from (but only slightly), Cedric was feeling a bit confined with little to do. It happened. Especially for those who weren’t used to being tied down and surrounded by water for days or even weeks on end. However, she decided not to comment on it, opting to turn her attention to the bird that she had seen before. “A peculiar thing you are. And a man of many talents you must be.” Directing that last bit towards Cedric, she turned completely to see just what he was up to now.

“Sure? I mean, I don’t see why not at least?” The way he jumped from subject to subject was fairly confusing, but the more she watched the more Runali began to compare him to those restless cats that he had mentioned before. Sure he may have wanted something to do, but Runali took it as there needed to be another adventure had. Something exciting to shake him out of the stupor he was in.

She filed it for something to figure out later.

The cards being waved in front of her made her blink and for a moment she stared at them and then at Cedric. “I wasn’t expecting cards, but if you want to play a game that’s perfectly fine with me. We have time.” Runali took the cards out of his hand and examined them. “Though card games usually have more than two cards from what I’ve learned.”

“This isn’t a card game.”

Cedric smiled and leaned forward. His breath tickled Runali’s ear as he posed with a hand cupped near her ear. He lowered his voice. “S’endormir.” (trans. “sleep”)

Fire sparked suddenly. The cards turned to burning ash before Runali had the chance to let go. She might have caught a glimpse of Chester’s eyes just before their surroundings unraveled into a vortex of coloured threads. The lines sped up, collided and faded to white. A strange buzzing sound filled their ears before the world reformed.

They weren’t aboard Lady Luck anymore.

The two found themselves standing in the middle of a crowded market square. The smell of freshly baked croissants washed over them, as the buzzing sound was replaced with cries from the shop keepers touting their wares. On either side of the cobbled road, white washed shop houses rose. The dust-coloured rooftops were fashioned into symmetrical triangles. Wood detailing, sometimes painted sometimes bare, decorated the walls and the window frames. Occasionally, they would spot planter boxes overflowing with pastel flowers and vines. Elegant iron railings ran along the second and fourth storeys. These balconies stood in front of ceiling-to-floor bay windows. The lack of curtains invited passers-by to try and catch a glimpse of the domestic world on the other side.

“What do you think, Captain?” he teased.

He ambled after her at a more relaxed pace. Every single detail was playing out exactly as he remembered. No matter how hard she tried she wouldn’t be able to find any flaws. He wondered whether the strange situation would remind her of their experiences onboard the Valhalla. He kept his face serene to prevent her from suspecting too quickly. Occasionally, he’d talk to the shop keepers or passers-by. Most of time he spoke Trovalian, but there were some who spoke Commons.

“Do you want to sample anything? That shop over has the best éclairs. And that shop in front, the owner sells a very decadent chocolat chaud. Jack calls the drink hot chocolate.”

He waved jauntily. “Up ahead and around the corner, there is a confiseur filled with candy of all colours imaginable. Jack loves their chocolate and caramel.”

It didn’t take long for realization to hit that things were changing around her. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling knowing she couldn’t stop it either. Unlike on the Valhalla, she didn’t see it happening. She was just trapped. Runali visibly tensed and she reached out to grab one of her chakram, but remembered she left them back in the training room. Runali tried to relax as the scenery around them changed to something more relaxing and… not as ghostly. But Runali could only think back to the Valhalla.

She stayed in one spot for an uncomfortable amount of time, looking around and avoiding touching the people that passed. Unlike the Valhalla, everything seemed almost too real. “Uh, I-” She started when Cedric spoke to her. Her senses slowly came back to her. Cedric was creating this which meant she wasn’t in any real danger- but that didn’t stop her confusion. “It’s… How’d you do this?” The offer to sample things made her slowly start to walk around, still more cautious than she probably needed to be. “And why… this place in particular?” It was obvious at first that she was uncomfortable with the sudden change, but it slowly drifted into confusion and curiosity.

“So many questions, Captain,” Cedric laughed. “I suggest we enjoy what this place has to offer before we talk. Where would you like to go first?”

“I don’t suppose you remember that we were just tossed in illusions not too long ago…” It was more muttered than anything. Runali didn’t want to dampen his cheery mood considering it wasn’t often she had seen him like it before- not that he had been there that long. But Cedric seemed pretty guarded, almost as Jack was. So she straightened up and tried to relax a little.

“I didn’t forget.” Sid didn’t feel like ending the illusion so quickly. Seeing the familiar streets of the capital made him a little homesick. It had been more than three years since he walked around this particular street. He used to live in a small apartment not too far from here. Their first home after leaving Hoshi’s crew.

“Why did I bring you here?” he mused out loud as he observed Runali. “I thought you’d appreciate leaving the ship for awhile.”

He decided to keep things vague for now. As they neared the end of the market square, Cedric led Runali down a side road. “There’s one place I’d like to take you. It’s not too far from here,” he explained.

Their fifteen-minute walk ended at the top of a hill overlooking the city. Sid motioned for Runali to make herself comfortable. He disappeared for about five minutes before returning with a white box decorated with a pink silk ribbon. He handed it to her before he sat down beside her on the parapet.

“I hope you enjoy the macarons, captain. We can talk while you eat.” He ran his fingers through his hair and pushed his fringe out of his eyes. “I’ll answer your questions if you promise to answer some of mine.”

“Ah, I’m actually okay with being on the ship. Being out at sea is fairly relaxing.” She started and raised a brow. “I don’t suppose this was more for you than it was for me.” Runali left the comment in the air, deciding to follow Cedric around and humor him in the illusion. She was still hesitant to touch anything, but the moment they stopped she decided to oblige and take a seat. The white box he handed her, sat on her lap for a few moments while she examined it. It felt as real as it looked, and when she opened it, sure enough there were macarons inside… at least that’s what she thought they were considering she knew nothing about macarons.

“Ah, that’s why you’re doing this?” She picked one up, but looked over at him. “Cedric if you wanted answers from me, you didn’t have to bargain for them. You could have just asked. But, sure. I’ll answer as best I can.”

He smiled and leaned back. His eyes gazed at the clear sky overhead. “I needed context, I guess. A way to explain what I can do and what I felt back there.”

“I thought what we experienced was an illusion back in the ballroom. I knew at the back of my mind that it was impossible for us to have changed clothes so quickly,” he began. “I could still accept the strange mirrors as an illusion but …”

Sid hesitated. He considered what was the best way to explain what was troubling him. It didn’t help that most of these thoughts were in Trovalian. “It’s not easy casting a very detailed illusion on a large group. Maintaining it tires you physically and mentally. Add the fact that you keep changing what they see and … well, no one I’ve met could pull off such a feat. I mean all of us went through different trials.”

He narrowed his eyes in Runali’s direction. The gaze held no malice. Sid was merely watching to see whether the woman would lie to him. A habit from old days. Better to be suspicious at the beginning than to trust and regret.

“I saw you crying, Captain. I figured that they might have told you the truth. A sad truth maybe.” He allowed his words to trail off. His gaze strayed from her face for a fraction of a second. It returned as intense as ever. “The only other person who might know what happened is Adelaide.”

He shrugged. “I’d have more luck getting answers out of you. My brother’s amour was always selective in what she chooses to share. Jack probably doesn’t know as much about her as you’d expect.”

“Do have a taste, Captain,” he said suddenly. The watchful expression disappearing under a friendlier mask. “You can’t tell the limits of this world without at least smelling and tasting something. I hope you are fonder of sweets than me. Macaroons are —- just have a bite and tell me what you think.” He stopped long enough to point to a random one. “The pink ones are framboise or raspberry as they call them in Common. The greens are pistachio and the whites are vanilla. The yellows I believe are caramel.”

Runali noticed Cedric’s staring, but kept her eye on the scenery ahead. The moment he brought up the illusions, she could practically guess what he wanted to ask. Frankly, she was surprised that all of them hadn’t asked by now. “Forever needing to know information. Never patient enough to wait. Sounds familiar enough.” The mention of her crying didn’t seem to phase her all that much. It did, however, make her turn to glance in Cedric’s direction. “You’ve heard of those fruits that give mysterious powers to those that eat them, yes? Well, that’s how one of them did it. Your magic mystery is solved. As for how you managed to do it? That I’m still unsure- and I would be interested in getting an answer. You know so much about us, but you’re very particular on what you share with the crew.” There was no malice or contempt behind her voice. It was pretty flat and matter of fact. Though that changed with a sigh as she continued, not bothering to wait for an answer.

He tilted his head still not entirely convinced that a devil fruit user could have accomplished that much alone. He frowned lightly. “I spent a good number of years with Adelaide. I’m quite familiar with devil fruits and their weaknesses. Ah well, I guess it’s a question I’d save for this mysterious person next time.”

Sid didn’t explain his powers. He figured it would be better to discuss it another time. He reached down and picked up a macaron. He didn’t really need to eat one since he created this world and he could leave whenever he wanted. Runali couldn’t. Not without a key. He guessed she’d figure this out after she woke up. He was only joining her out of politeness.

“Yes, they shared a sad truth. As I told Jack before… It’s not my place to tell about the loss of others… But their loss resulted in a lot of graves that had to be dug. Too many in a short amount of time for it to sit well in anyone’s mind for as long as it has been for them.” Runali studied the macarons again. “I’m sure Adelaide knows plenty of what was happening on that ship. She seems like that type of person. Though I wouldn’t put it past her to want to keep it to herself. It’s not something that should be shared so freely.”

“A tantalising answer. One with a bit too many hints, but I’ll take what I can. Merci, Captain.” He took one last look at the city below them. He raised his macaroon and mouthed the word “cheers”. Grimacing slightly, he took a bite.

Runali raised a macaron to her mouth, wrinkling her nose just a little at the mention of it being sweet. “Tell me, why is it so important to you anyway?” She ate one of the raspberry ones, still suspicious. It tasted like actual food. It wasn’t that bad either, but sweets were still sweets and she figured one would be enough.

The sweetness hung heavy on Runali’s tongue. Her mind drifted between wakefulness and this dreamworld. She could see flashes of Trovale’s capital, but it was fading away. The sea bathed in sunlight appeared almost solid in contrast. Her ears were slowly picking up sounds made by the crew. Sid leaned forward and peered into her face. His face being the only constant in both worlds.

“Good morning, Captain!” he greeted cheerily. “I’m glad you’re awake. It’s amazing how taste always lingers the longest when you dream you ate something.”

He leaned back against the railing again. “I wouldn’t have invited you to taste the macarons without reason. It was the key to leaving. Not always, but that’s what makes it fun.”

Cedric refused to say more not unless she asked very specific questions. She’d probably get more answers out of Jack or at least the little his brother understood. He wasn’t lying earlier when he said his ability was a secret in Trovale. Only a select few truly understood it. The Royal family and the nobles being amongst those privy to l’Pour d’Reveux.

“Shall we head down for breakfast? I hope to finish before Luro or Sara show up.” He hoped she would take his suggestion. She didn’t strike him as the persistent sort although she could be stubborn when she wanted to be.

He allowed Chester to appear on his shoulders. His cat’s eyes were back to their normal colour. “You must be hungry too, no? I mentioned breakfast and you appeared.”

It was a little more than off putting with how suddenly she was thrown back to reality. It was even weirder with how cheerily Cedric greeted her compared to before. For a moment Runali could only stare at Cedric with a confused expression. Confusion turned into a furrowed brow, not out of anger, simply her trying to make sense of it all. "I don't understand why you send me somewhere and not explain your reason- besides showing off a skill but," She straightened up. "Please spare me the experience unless I ask for it. I've had… enough of illusions and tricks for a while. I’d much rather like to know where I am and that it is in fact real.And you’ve danced around the questions I've asked.” Runali leaned against the railing again, taking in the refreshing breeze. “You wanted to know what happened. Why you saw me tear up for them. I told you. You wanted to know about the illusions and,” Runali shrugged. “Have you considered that his power may just give him that ability? Worst Gen pirates are usually known for doing something momentous in order to claim the spot. Who’s to say those captains don’t have more dangerous tricks up their sleeves? I’ve never heard of the phenomena of two of the same of those fruit powers and seeing as you’re keeping that a secret, maybe he just trained differently.”

“Two, hmm? I guess that explains a lot. Twins are interesting.” Sid was deep in thought. He had heard of theories of how twins could amplify each other’s powers. He was curious to see if there were twin summoners before. That would be something Belvedere would have to research on his behalf.

Cedric was hard to figure out. He kept to himself for the most part and yet there were subtle things that reminded her of how Jack acted before he was comfortable. “You know Cedric,” She looked out at the early morning sky until Coral flew by and caught her attention. “I’m not telling you to trust me so soon. You’ve just gotten here. But I am asking that you not hide behind a… mask or... personality that isn’t yours.”

“Mask?” Sid was genuinely surprised and it was evident in his tone; his face remained impassive. The summoner wondered why the good captain thought he was hiding behind a mask. He was the most honest person he knew. Well, as honest as it was safe to be. Jack was better at explaining these things. He believed his brother mentioned that he was a … was it an introvert? Such terms were foreign to him. “Jack would be the person to ask. I guarantee I’m not that different when I’m with him. As a child I didn’t trust him much.”

Seeing that he didn’t realize what she was saying, Runali simply shrugged. “Could be mistaken.” And she left it be.

He was happy Runali revealed a tidbit he had forgotten. The captains of the Valhalla were twins! Merde! He had been too preoccupied with Adelaide lately. Sid didn’t like the fact that she could influence his older brother so easily. It made Jack even more unpredictable than usual. So much so, that he found it truly vexing! Sid couldn’t stop worrying that Jack would just disappear one day and he’d need to start searching for his brother all over again. Shoving all thoughts of the troublesome two from his mind, Cedric turned back to Runali. He gave her a pained smile. “I … well, I guess I owe you something and it helps that you don’t seem like the sort to gossip.”

He leaned against the railing once more. “You’ve proven to be discreet when needed.” He allowed her to draw her own conclusions about what he was referring to. It wasn’t hard since they were discussing The Court moments ago.

“Let’s say if this secret gets out I could be arrested and executed. Hard to say if it would happen so quickly, but I know for certain there will be some important people demanding it.” He laughed darkly. “I’d rather avoid the hangman’s noose, Captain. Such a death is undignified…”

He stared behind Runali. He wanted to be certain they were truly alone. He didn’t want anyone - Luro in particular - to know his secret. “Before I begin, I’d like to ask you a question.”

He leaned forward and lowered his voice. “How well do you know Ms. Belen Erlide? You know, the princess turned pirate.” He smirked and allowed his question to sink in. He suspected she’d know quite a bit considering that her navigator had an ongoing affair with Ms. Erlide. “The more you know the easier it would be for me to explain that illusion.”

The moment he began, she lazily rested her head in one hand. It felt like an all too familiar story. Not saying the problem would protect others- or themselves. It was a noble and sacrificial act! They only wanted what was best for the crew- or in Sid’s case, himself. She could have laughed at the thought. A smile did tug at the corner of her lips but she remained calm and attentive. “Not to worry Cedric. We’ve dabbled in dealing with important and tough people chasing after us. Or at least, certain members of the crew.” She waved a hand in front of her, indicating it was a frivolous detail and that he could keep talking. The mention of Belen did catch her attention- not in any manner of suspicion but definitely in a way that read ‘oh boy, here we go.’

She didn’t straighten up, in fact, she shut her one eye as she spoke. “Ah Belen the Cutthroat navigator. I didn’t bother to delve too deep into her backstory seeing as she likes to delve a little too deep in her personal… escapades. I’d rather keep my relationship with her as on the surface… and as clothed as possible.” Runali nodded over at him, opening her eyes again. “And I don’t know what she and Kadi have in common besides the lack of clothes when they see each other, but I’m happy Kadi is happy.” She couldn’t help the small laugh that came after. “We were also in prison together for awhile. So, I think I know enough.”

“What of her abilities? I’m sure you must have heard that she is able to create and manipulate flames despite never consuming the devil fruit.” He arched an eyebrow. Runali’s comment about Belen wasn’t unexpected but it was not the answer he hoped for. He elaborated. “She’s rumoured to be the first to have the ability in hundreds of years. It used to be common amongst her people.”

“Rare and few. Passed down from her family. Very fiery. That’s about all I got.” She answered before letting him continue.

“There many other abilities besides haki and devil fruits. I believe Ms. Tashigi and her amour fall into this category.” His eyes kept glancing behind Runali. He would break off the moment he saw someone walk pass.

He waited until they were gone. “A handful of people in my home country are like Belen. They inherited their abilities through blood. For a small sacrifier, they are able channel spiritual energy and affect the physical world. Some scholars believe the powers come from a divine origin. I’m skeptical but the entire system was built around that assumption.”

Cedric produced another card from his pouch. It had the same symbol drawn on it as the previous two cards. “Sacrifier translates to offering or sacrifice in Common. This is why I mentioned divine origins. Our sacrifiere are our offerings to the Gods in exchange for power. There are many types of offerings, but this is my chosen medium.”

He allowed her to take the card. “What I do with light is what Belen does with fire. Illusions are part of it.” He retrieved his card and stashed it again. He was very careful not to reveal the other rune he wielded.

“Belen’s people focus exclusively on manipulating fire. We don’t. We can choose from fourteen elements. Some specialise in one, but many would pick two or three. There are some who can go beyond that.” He trailed off. His mind reviewed what he shared so far. Thankfully, he kept everything vague enough. “It takes years to master this craft and I’m but a novice.”

“I hope that answers your question, Captain.” He smiled lazily. It was clear he didn’t plan to say more. He dug his hands into his pocket as Chester reappeared with a piece of toast in his mouth. The cat plopped itself down on the railing with a muffled meow. Cedric reached down and petted the furry head. “Toast for breakfast would be nice. Don’t you agree, Captain?”

“So…” Runali pushed back against the railing of the ship, leaning back as far as she could. “Magic like Belen. Except instead of fire it’s a whole bunch of them.” She clicked her tongue in thought. “And if word got out about it, you’d be a dead man. Hm.” When she noticed Coral flying towards her, she straightened up to let the large bird perch on her. Every time the bird did so, she was glad Coral was trained not to immediately dig her claws into people she knew because Runali’s shoulder and arm would have been shredded to ribbons with how often Coral wanted to perch on her. “Well, this is a… new bit of, uh, worldly information that is good to know.” She fumbled for the right words before giving a small smile. “I appreciate your trust in me enough to give me that.” Seeing Chester appear out of nowhere, Runali raised a curious brow. Surely the cat had something to do with all that magic too…

“Information is always good to have,” Sid commented. He didn’t say much after that. He figured Runali knew what he meant. After all, she seemed to be getting better at understanding him; he got away with saying less as their conversation dragged on. He liked that.

Breakfast was mentioned and Runali left the cat mystery alone. “I’d sure hope Jack made more than just toast. That’d be unlike him- well, unless he was upset with us about messing up his kitchen.” Runali turned to head in that direction. “But if we messed up something there, toast would probably be much too generous.” Looking up to see the sky getting brighter, she continued. “And by the looks of it, everyone should be making their way to breakfast now. Best to get there before Luro and Sara get first dibs on anything or you’ll only get small portions.”

“Jack will always make sure you get breakfast. He isn’t the sort to let anyone go hungry,” Cedric reminded Runali. “Let’s go.” He caught her staring at Chester but ignored it. He didn’t want to start explaining about familiars. It would take too long and he was hungry.

“I hope we don’t have curry this morning,” he commented randomly hoping to really distract her from the topic of his cats. “Just bread and butter would be nice. No offence, but I think we have it a bit too often...”
 
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