Mmm all the speculation.
I won't confirm or deny anything, just have fun guessing.
Yuuyami: Awesome, I would love to see the pirates living large soon!
And oh yes, you got your wish with Ayaya's weapon.
I didn't have much of a chance to give it more action-time though, but I'll rectify that in the future *coughnextchaptercough*
I gave the rest of her crew rather varied weapons though, for various reasons. >_>
Hmm this chapter turned out pretty hard to write. Took me longer than usual. Heh. Hope you guys like.
Aya paced around endlessly in circles within her cabin, her forehead creased with thought as her hands wrung each other out behind her back.
It was late. Or specifically, it was early. Only an hour or two before dawn, by her estimation.
She had not had much sleep that night, having been roused from bed after a mere hour or two of shuteye, to deal with an unexpected incident.
Urgent knocks at the door, a painfully loud staccato that woke the young captain. Before she could even sit up properly, the door swung in to reveal her two officers with concerned expressions. Their looks immediately clued her in to the severity of the situation, and she was alert instantly, the last of her fatigue slipping away as she heard her officers out.
News of the 'mystery ship' had immediately gotten her full attention, of course. It had definitely been suspicious enough to warrant an investigation. Aya paced some more, this time coming closer to her desk, her lips drawn in a thin line as she considered the situation that now lay before her.It was a matter of some delicacy. Boarding another ship, especially in the dead of the night, was always considered a hostile move. If the other ship turned out to be innocent of any wrongdoing, there would be trouble for them. The only bright spot of the whole situation was that since they were ostensibly not part of the Navy now, so any actions wouldn't reflect on the official record. Aya just had to make sure no one figured out their real identities.
Nacchi had been called upon to steer the ship, as she knew the waters around the area better than anyone else did. The lamps had all been extinguished, her men roused and ready, their muskets all ready to fire. Aya believed in preparing for the worst, and the precious seconds taken to cock and load their weapons could place them at a disadvantage. Other sailors manned the cannons, and a few more of the sharpshooters among her troops had already readied their long rifles...just in case.
Aya drummed the top of her desk with her fingers, her eyes distant as she ran through the earlier events in her mind. She felt like she was missing something from the encounter...as if she had overlooked some miniscule detail that would help her to solve the many questions she had running through her head. Something felt off about the whole thing, and she was determined to figure out just what, even if that meant forgoing her sleep. Aya hated having these things hanging over her head.The Defiance had eased closer silently, almost invisible in the dark. Risa was by Natsumi's side, acting as the First Mate's eyes to keep a lock on their quarry. They had not been noticed just yet, or so it seemed.
It had seemed as if they were going to successfully launch a sneak attack on the ship. Aya had been watching the outline of the other ship carefully as they had approached, noting the slant of the masts and build of the ship, trying to classify what kind of vessel it was. It felt...foreign, just a little. But then again, it had been too dark to make out any details.There was a startled cry. "Look out!" It was Risa. The young soldier quickly tugged at Natsumi's arm, sending the older woman stumbling towards her, even as the sharp crack of a shot hit the deck where the First Mate would have been standing. Reacting on instinct, Risa shouldered her own long rifle, already cocked and loaded, all too aware at the same time that she had to be quick to pick out the enemy sniper, who had to be busily reloading his own weapon at that very same moment.
In the space of the 5 seconds after the first shot had been fired from the enemy side, Risa had picked up her weapon, aiming it at the place where she had seen the brief flicker of ignited gunpowder which had initially alerted her to the presence of a gunman, and took a deep breath. She had only one shot before the other man would return fire.
6, 7, 8, 9... Risa was unusually calm as she banished all other thought, except to count the ticking seconds in her head as she waited, rifle ready. 12, 13, 14, 15...
There. She let out the breath she couldn't even remember holding as she fired, 200 yards away from the enemy ship in the dark of the night.
Aya smiled to herself when she remembered that heartstopping moment. The subsequent outcry on the other ship, bringing with it the illumination of lamps as the other side roused to action, had shown that Risa's shot had been true. The girl had known, or at least estimated the time needed to reload the weapon, and waited till the very last moment, when the other party had had to come out of cover to shoot her, before dispatching him...and with a head shot, no less.
The resulting battle had been short-lived. The enemy ship had been aware of them, but this was the Royal Navy, and Aya had personally handpicked every single man on the ship. They had closed in easily, even as volley after volley of shots sprayed over the other ship. When they had gotten close enough, the grappling hooks were thrown to pull them the two ships together, and Aya had risen easily to the lead (somewhat to Gocchin's irritation, since captains weren't traditionally supposed to risk themselves in battle, at least not this early), her specially customised gunblade cutting down any and all resistance, the integrated revolver surprising and then dispatching of those who had managed to block her sword strikes.
It had been, as mentioned, a laughably easy fight as they had been the advantage and training and equipment. Aya had been surprised though, in retrospect, by the willingness of the other ship to start firing unprovoked at them first, even when they had not stated their intentions. But then again, the Defiance had been sneaking up on them, and they did have a right to be paranoid.
It was what they had discovered though, that had Aya concerned, and unable to sleep. Crates of firearms, bearing the mark of the royal armories. An illegal arms trade with stock from the royal armory? Shock could not even begin to cover her reaction. Military supplies were usually very strictly regulated, especially those for use by the corps. Individual noble clans might have their own supply of arms from their own forges, and the regulation within those clans were not as strict, so the probability of arms smuggling from that avenue might not have been that much of a surprise. But the stamp on those crates had been unmistakable...
Who then, had the temerity, the authority even, to access the royal armories and be trading them this way? Aya had questioned the master of that ship closely, but had been unable to get anything of worth. Not even under torture, which Maki had gleefully attended to, had managed to make him divulge anything, which left only the option that the man really
didn't know the big picture of what was going on. Nothing more than a pawn to transport the goods, she concluded. Whoever was masterminding the operation was certainly a smooth operator.
The young captain had then given orders to seize the arms, and imprisoning those who were still alive. She had also confiscated all the papers in the captain's cabin, intending to pore through them for clues to the severity of the problem. She had gone through all of them in the last 3 hours, and what little she had been able to glean from them had been profoundly disturbing. The goods had been bound for a pirate haven, and other records showed that earlier shipments had been going to assorted other pirate havens, or "black" ports, as well as to enemies of the Empire, the target consumer presumably being brigands and pirates, as well as the barbarian nations outside of the Empire. Worse yet, Aya had gotten the distinct impression that it had been going on for years. How could this have gone unnoticed for so long?
And that would certainly explain why the tradition of of piracy had been so strong in this region. Even when she was training in the academy, older seamen and officers had spoken of how well-armed and dangerous the pirates in the eastern seas had been. The area had traditionally been on the fringes of the Empire, so it wasn't as well-regulated, and being assigned there was usually considered a hazardous duty. "Someone must really hate you if they sent you to the east," or so the saying went at the academy.
Aya hadn't seen it that way of course. In fact, she had volunteered to come out to help suppress the pirates. Nowadays, the Royal Navy usually spent most of its resources guarding the western trade routes that were considered to be more "valuable", and neglecting the eastern frontier, since the barbarian nations that resided beyond the ocean there were loosely organised and were more inclined to fight each other than to band together to pose much of a threat to the Empire. The only real hazard in that area had been piracy, which targeted the gemstone trade between the core of the Empire and its vassal states in that region. Aya had simply felt that she should go where her help would have been more needed, and considering how under-patrolled the largely lawless outlying sea routes were, she had not had any reason to alter her initial opinion that she had been needed here.
Now, this. As if piracy wasn't a big enough headache to deal with in the first place. Now she had to deal with arms smuggling on top of it as well. Aya felt the throbbing in her head grow worse. She had to report her findings to someone, that's for sure. But to whom? The very fact that someone had been trading royal arms illegally for years and not get caught implied that whoever was at the top of the food chain was high up indeed, in a position to smuggle large shipments of arms without being noticed, and sneaky enough to cover their tracks to avoid anyone noticing the discrepancy back home. There was no guarantee that her report would make a difference, especially if the perpetrator was powerful and influential enough to intercept it before it could be made known to someone who could do something about it.
There was only one person she could trust. Her father. He was definitely incorruptible, his honor and integrity being his shield. She had to relay the information back to him somehow, and ask for his assistance to investigate matters back at the capital. Yes, that was the best course of action that was currently available to her.
Her decision made, Aya sat down at her cluttered desk, reaching for ink and paper to begin a letter detailing her discovery. By fast ship, the message would reach her father within 2 to 3 weeks. She would have to stop by at one of the Imperial-garrisoned ports to ask them to deliver the letter for her via courier ship. Mentally making a note to send someone along to guard the letter, she got down to work, ignoring the fact that it was already dawn and that she had had no sleep for the whole night, the only thought on her mind being that she had to do her duty. Nothing less than that.
The Red Dawn eased into the port town of Klashnik, one of the many pirate havens along the eastern rim of islands. It was a familiar place to Yuko's crew, since they usually stopped by here for repairs and resupply purposes. And as usual, whenever they made port, Yuko would pay them...or rather, Kaori did, since she was the one who handled the accounts. With their money on hand, the crew would all go off to find entertainment (read: get drunk) at the taverns, leaving behind Kei and Kaori to do the actual work of resupplying the ship and all the boring details. It was a pretty much time-honored ritual for the past few years.
Inevitably also, the majority of them ended up at the Sea Coconut tavern, since it was the only female-run tavern in town, and the crew of the Red Dawn felt perfectly at home there. For one thing, the rowdier crowds didn't bother to come in there. Well actually, they didn't dare to, at least not after the "demonstration" Yuko and her pirates had given to them about how dangerous it was to mess with their friends. From then onwards, the Sea Coconut was pretty much trouble-free, well at least as trouble-free as a tavern in a pirate haven could ever get. There were always fights between drunk patrons of course, but none of the all-out brawls that occurred so often at the seedier places.
The owner was grateful, naturally. Whenever the crew dropped by, she would usually close doors to other patrons and let them have the place to themselves. Not that she would be missing out on much business doing that, since Yuko alone could probably finish half her stock, and her crew would polish up the rest. They were good on their payments too, so they were excellent customers in Ayaka's view.
Today was almost no different. Yuko, Mari, Yossi, Reina and Makoto had banded together to drop by at the Sea Coconut, injuries be damned. Rum was the universal cure for all ailments anyway, according to Yuko. The twins had skipped off somewhere immediately after receiving their pay, no doubt up to some mischief again. They had a fearsome reputation in that town, those two. They could make grown men and hardened pirates quake in fear at the thought of being targeted by the devil twins. Innate sadism, fiendish creativity, and sheer resourcefulness made the two almost unstoppable when it came to picking on random victims whenever they made port.
As for Miki, she had defied all advice from Kei and snuck off the ship anyway, but instead of joining her shipmates for a drink, she decided to wander down the waterfront for a while first, just to see if any suckers would try and mug her. Miki loved the look on those pathetic men's faces when they realise that they had picked someone who was far from being helpless and vulnerable. She enjoyed turning the tables on other people, just to see their horror when she did it.
The Sea Coconut was bustling as usual when Yuko banged the doors open with excessive force, as she always did. The others fell in behind their captain, although Makoto cut forward when she saw a good friend of hers passing out alcohol to a ragtag group of sailors, one of them smirking up at the pretty barmaid and saying something that made her companion next to her laugh and slap her arm playfully.
"Ai-chan!" Makoto waved to the barmaid, who turned to her with a broad smile. "Mako-chan!" The two exchanged a brief hug, glad to see each other, before the other girl had to go back to work. Makoto beamed as she went back to rejoin her shipmates, happy to be back on shore for once. After all, Makoto loved the sea, but one of the few things that drew her back to land was the fact that she still had good friends who were onshore.
Kimura Ayaka, the operator of the Sea Coconut, came over personally to attend to her "special" customers. They were acquainted for several years by now, and were fairly familiar with each other. After chatting amiably with the group for a while, Ayaka decided to close early for the evening to let her favorite pirates have the place to themselves.
After personally informing most of the regular patrons of her decision, most of them left without a fight, since they knew the traditions of the place. Besides, no one wanted to pick a fight with Yuko and her crew, injured or not.
There was just one group left, an oddly assorted bunch of mostly female sailors, people that Ayaka had never seen before. She had had the nagging feeling that they were different somehow, but couldn't quite put a finger on what exactly. Shrugging inwardly, since it really wasn't any of her business who they were, she moved towards them to tell them to leave.
"Excuse me, but why should we leave? We only just got here." One of the women asked, not without justification. There were murmurs of assent from her companions.
"We're closing early for the evening, that's why." Ayaka explained patiently.
"Then what about them? Aren't you going to ask them to leave too?" Another young woman, the one who had made a pass at Ai earlier, pointed to Yuko's group.
Ayaka was beginning to feel mildly irritated, although she didn't show it. Running a tavern in a place such as this had taught her patience and tact. "They are friends of mine. Please understand. There are many other taverns out there, you can always move on to another place."
"But what if we don't want to?" The same young woman pressed, sounding rather belligerent as she stood up to glare at the slightly taller Ayaka. It was evident that she was slightly tipsy, which was fueling her aggressiveness.
Sensing trouble, Yossi stood up. Her ankle was mostly healed by now, although she still walked with a slight limp. Mari got up as well, as did Makoto and Reina, ready to throw out the new troublemakers, injury or no, if the chance presented itself. Yuko, in the meantime, was chugging down rum like nobody's business, completely ignoring the rising tensions in the tavern.
"Hey sis, cool it..." The only male in the group tugged at his sister's arm, hoping to get her to back down. As usual, he was ignored.
The rest of the newcomers stood up as well, probably also sensing the tension in the air as the pirates came closer. The two groups eyed each other, at a standoff with Ayaka standing awkwardly in the middle.
With a sigh, she declared, "If you people want to fight, please take it outside," before stepping out from between the two groups.
The tension was unbearable. The two groups stared at each other for a long, unbroken moment, neither side giving way in the glaring contest. The silence was broken when the tallest among the newcomers smirked and said in a highly offensive tone.
"That's all you got? A couple of cripples and a midget?"
That did it. Mari was the first to act, drawing her cutlass before anyone could even blink and rushing forward. The scene erupted into chaos, with Ayaka yelling "Outside, people! OUTSIDE!!!", but the proprietress was largely being ignored by the enthusiastic brawlers.
It got worse when Yuko decided to charge in halfway, breaking tables in her path as she swung her sword around erratically. Friend and foe alike got out of her way, trying not to have their head taken off by the huge broadsword. It added a whole new level of challenge to the fight, since while Yuko was capable of targeting the other side, her slashes were so unpredictable that her own crew had to give her a wide berth in order not to get hit themselves.
15 minutes later, they had managed to trash about half the tavern, and Ayaka and her workers were huddled behind the bar, the proprietress wanting to cry as the brawlers happily wrecked her place of business while fighting each other.
Yossi ended up fighting the tall female sailor who had instigated the fight. They were evenly matched, and both had a handicap which evened the odds out: Yossi was limping, while her opponent was tipsy (not everyone could fight drunk like Yuko). Even then, they put up a decent display of skill, each admiring the other's technique as they crossed swords.
The Second Mate of the Red Dawn couldn't help but feel a surge of excitement as she fought. Finally, a worthy opponent in battle! It had been a long time since she had found someone worth fighting at all. In fact, with the level of skill her opponent was displaying with her twin falcatas, quite the unlikely weapon a common sailor would use, Yossi was beginning to suspect that this was no ordinary sailor.
A startled male cry off to the side distracted her opponent, who turned slightly to see her younger brother being disarmed of his longsword by a grinning Reina. The boyish pirate took advantage of the momentary distraction and pressed the attack, catching her opponent offguard and managing to get a slash in across the left upper arm of the other woman, making her hiss in pain and loosening her grip on one of her swords.
However, it was Yossi's turn to be caught offguard when her opponent dropped her weapons and charged under the arc of Yossi's slash, tackling the startled pirate to the ground, her sabre knocked out of her hand. Before she knew it, the pirate found herself pinned down with a drawn dirk held across her throat.
Everyone froze in midstance at the turn in events. Reina had her harpoon to the male's throat, Makoto was brandishing her cleaver, Mari had locked weapons with her opponent, and Yuko was drinking in the corner again. There was a long moment of silence as each side considered the person who was being held hostage by the other group.
Yossi was looking up at the narrowed eyes of her captor. Neither of them said anything. One could practically hear a pin drop in the suddenly hushed tavern.
Then, unexpectedly, Yossi's captor began to laugh, as did Yossi herself. Everyone else gaped at the two, who had rolled apart and were laughing as if at some great joke. Were they mad or something?
Yossi looked over at her opponent, who grinned irreverently back. "Nice fight. You're good." The pirate remarked, smiling slightly.
"So are you." Was the quick reply, and the two laughed together some more. The rest of their friends lowered their weapons hesitantly and backed off, staring curiously at them.
"My name's Yossi." The boyish pirate introduced herself even as they both rolled up to a sitting position.
"Name's Maki. Just call me Gocchin." Maki got up to her feet, offering a hand to Yossi, hauling the pirate up as well.
"Thanks for the fight, haven't had so much fun for awhile." Maki commented, looking approvingly at Yossi, who smirked back. "My pleasure."
"Gocchin, really, I can't believe you. You picked a fight just for fun?" Natsumi complained, sheathing her falchion as she walked over to their side. "Aya-chan will kill you when she hears about it."
"Well we just have to make sure she doesn't then, isn't that so?" Maki winked at the older woman, who just sighed in exasperation, rolling her eyes even as Risa and Yuuki came to stand beside her.
Mari was looking apologetically at Ayaka, who had finally risen from her hiding place behind the bar. "Sorry about this Ayaka, we'll pay for the damages."
"Us too." Natsumi said. "Least we could do after this mess."
Ayaka took a deep breath before speaking. "I'll live." She said just a tad ironically. "Seen worse."
Yuko stumbled to the fore, smiling drunkenly. "Who's up for a drink then?"
The navy people-in-disguise looked at each other, then at the expectant pirates, before shrugging in unison. "Why not?"
And so, in the aftermath of a tavern brawl, two groups of people who should have been mortal enemies started drinking together in the middle of a wrecked tavern, laughing and making merry far into the night.
Tavern brawl yay. xD I've been dying to put that in for a while haha.
...and I just turned Takahashi Ai into a barmaid.
I planned it right from the start, and was laughing like crazy when I first thought of it...can you imagine Miki happily trying to grope her whenever the pirates came ashore to the tavern? Maybe I'll write a sidestory on that...hehe.
Well, this chapter came out half-serious and half-silly. I must have been deranged when I wrote it. Meh. Haha. Sleepy...
Credits to Yuuyami for Aya's gunblade. I'm tired now. Bedtime!
Hope you guys liked.