Chapter 4: Tainted Skies and the Angel of Death

Vyse found his spirit cold and ill as he helped Don remove all of the deceased pirates off of Aika's ship. Body after body, they were forced to hoist them over the sides of the ship, grimacing at the horrid aftermath of a pointless battle.

"So, Vyse, what're you gonna do now that you found someone you know? Certainly you won't a useless drunk like me around," Don asked, helping Vyse with one of the heavier ones. Vyse sighed, his eyes staring down at the floor as they finally managed to get it overboard.

"I...don't really know. I've never killed anyone before for better or worse so I'm still in shock from that. I know I haven't shown it but I am happy beyond words to have found Aika, in finding her I feel as if I now have hope. What about you Don? I still don't feel that I'm experienced enough to be without guidance just yet...Will you still fly with us?" Vyse asked, wiping the sweat from his brow. Don smiled and leaned back to pop his back before gazing back into Vyse's eyes.

"So you know I am a terrible role model, if I'm honestly the best guidance you've got you'll certainly find yourself in trouble. However, I would be honored to continue to be your guidance. Besides, from what I hear there are no more free skies, so I will probably stay with the both of you for my own safety for awile, that and to help," Don replied as they turned to face the inside of the ship, Vyse's gaze glancing over to Don in confusion.

" you mean there are no free skies?" Vyse asked as strong shock of uneasiness struck his mind. Don sighed, turning back towards the steps that lead back into the main cabin at the top of the ship.

"I mean Valua controls nearly every inch of the sky. The results of the Valuan-Nasr War from many years ago were catastrophic, leaving less than a handful of areas out of their reach. Of course, all of those places are pretty much considered a loft for those who want to remain from view so their locations are quite tight lipped. That's why I went to Esparanza, because I wanted to escape Valua's tyrany," Don said with a stern feeling of remorse buried within its core. Vyse couldn't believe what he was hearing. He thought he knew that the skies were so vast and grand, far too much for any one ruling force to control, but then again, it was all just a glamorous dream. Stepping up into the main cabin, Aika had tightened up her emotions and was already at the helm, stearing away back towards familiar skies.

"I'm charting a course for Sailor's Island, we need supplies, Don's ship will need repairs and I want to check the wanted list to see who is still fighting against Valua. I've found it a handy list for finding other black pirates to join and to sail the sky with. In fact, this ship used to belong to Baltor the Black Bearded before he was captured.

The ship was found wrecked and abandoned along the some of the floating islands around Nasr's territory, so when I managed to steal enough materials in a little raft that I had, I was able to to fix it with the help of other pirates that caravaned with me. We never really liked each other but respected one another. Fortunately I've been able to stay under the radar of that list, however, its a matter of time before I show up on it as Valua destroys and captures more and more of us. but hey, I see it more as a compliment than a threat," Aika said with a sigh and a vague smile as she turned to Vyse.

"Aika...I find it tragic that you've become a black pirate, but...I'm really impressed you've made it so far on your own. I would've never imagined that you would be the captain of your own ship way before I would," Vyse said, trying to raise the moods morale. Aika's smile grew warm as she left the wheel, walking over to Vyse to grasp around him, shaking as her memories flashed before her eyes.

"All of the terrible things I have done...the stealing...the killing...the guilt...I now know that they were all worth it now that I've found you...Captain Dyne and the others never doubted that you were alive, but your father...he...he became obsessed with finding you, so much that he eventually led the crew to their doom. It was on patrol near the Dark Rift in fact when one of Valua's Armada generals found them. It was a well fought battle but the Albatross couldn't handle its might. That's when I was shoved out into a life boat and was forced to run..." Aika began to pout, putting a fire in Vyse's stomach that began to burn wildly. Vyse gave her a strong squeeze before releasing her, now make his way over to the helm.

"If that's the case, then I am going to restore my family's name, and once again bring the Blue Rogue's flag back to the skies! My father showed me all of North Skies, so I know exactly where we can begin our operations. Now, let's head to Sailor's Island for supplies and then I'll show you the way!" Vyse shouted, moving the helm and spinning the wheel as Sailor's Island came into view. Aika always liked how Vyse would declare large and almost impossible dreams when they were back on Pirate's Island; there was always a charismatic gleam in his eyes that screamed out that his dreams would become a reality. In this moment, Aika saw that gleam once again, which helped snap her from her depressing state of mind and slowly filling her with a new hope.

"I would like that Vyse, let's do it! Oh and by the way, you look really handsome in the uniform. I think I'm beginning to like it," Aika replied, planting a kiss on Vyse's cheek as she walked by. Vyse's face grew warm as he watched a now excited Aika pointing out the docking point for Sailor's Island. Don stepped out the cabin and onto the deck, snagging one of the grappling hooks that was sprawled about it. Swinging it carefully, he tossed it and latched it onto the side of the Magdelin.

He then swung over back to his ship, climbing back up onto the deck then into his cabin to fire the engine back up. He knew that if they were going to port with a giant chain connecting their ships, they'd have to be steady and careful. Don quickly rose his altitude to match Aika's ship, allowing them to smoothly slide right into two docking spaces next to one another. Aika then quickly ran out onto the back deck, grabbing some rope on a pole to bring down the black pirate banner that would certainly get them into some hot water if seen.

"I didn't know we were alowed to port full scale ships instead of just transportation boats, are you sure that's a good idea?" Vyse asked as Aika folded up the flag and carefully placed it in a chest that sat within the main cabin.

"It's always been that way, don't you remember?" Aika said, hopping off onto the dock. Vyse shrugged his shoulders and followed suit with Don meeting them at the door to the town.

"I guess so. I have so much to catch up on," Vyse said, shrugging off the small details. Opening the doors and gazing upon Sailor's Island was quite nostalgic; just like in his dream everything was laid out exactly the same, down to the little river and store placements. He couldn't remember if his father had brought him here at one point, but all the same it didn't really matter. Don wasted no time in entering the tavern, ready to liquor up without a second thought. Aika shook her head and Vyse smirked as they walked further in. Aika grabbed a hold of Vyse's arm, quickly dragging him over to the board of dread, or as Aika liked to call it, the board of fame.

"So this is the bounty list...its surprisingly long," Vyse commented, running his finger along the edge of the name grid.

"It goes to show you how many people have managed to piss off Valua, its pretty amazing right?" Aika said, also looking over the list carefully. Suddenly, Vyse was grabbed and yanked from the rear and onto the ground, a cutlass now being thrust at his face.

"Valuan trash! How dare you show up in this neutral zone!" the man shouted aggressively, glaring at Vyse with intense eyes. Aika immediately sprung into action pushing herself in-between them.

"He's not a Valuan, he's a black pirate like me. He's been wearing the outfit to get undercover to learn more about the Valuan armada from the inside. In fact, he just got done escaping from the Armada Flagship Cygnus. So show him a little respect!" Aika shouted. Vyse was amazed at how freely Aika was able to lie through her teeth. Before in the past, she could never get away with lying to anyone because she were so poor at it, but looking at her now, she had certainly changed a lot. The man re-sheathed his sword, replacing it with a hand to help Vyse to his feet.

"Sorry about that pal, around here we don't take kindly to Valuans comin' around. You definitely look mighty convincing, you even have a sword with a hand guard like that of an armada captain," the man said as Vyse grabbed his hand. The strong sailor easily dragged Vyse off the ground and onto his feet, giving him a complimentary dust off of his uniform.

"Its not a problem, but you certainly scared the crap out of me," Vyse said with a laugh, the man then offered out his hand once more as a friendly gesture.

"My name is Khazim, I'm a former gunner for the Nasrian army. What's your name kiddo?" Khazim asked. For some reason the name sounded awfully familiar to Vyse, but it was such awhile ago it could just be him.

"I'm Vyse, its nice to meet you. I'm glad to see someone looking over this place, I could only imagine how easily Valua could take control of this island," Vyse replied. Aika laughed and gave him a pat on the back.

"There's no profitting them in attacking and seizing Sailor's Island since its just a small port, so they just leave it be. Most places that aren't under Valua's rule are places that haven't provoked them in any way, thus why seeing a Valuan here kind of provoked them. This is a small sanctuary now a days as well as a basic port," Aika replied. Her knowledge of everything in the world was so vast compared to his own, it almost made him question if this was the same Aika he knew when they were kids.

"Oh! I didn't realize that the infamous lady pirate Aika was with you, that's definitely my mistake then," Khazim laughed, causing Aika to blush and sigh while Vyse turned and stared in disbelief.

"Are you really that well known Aika?" Vyse said, more amazed than anything. Aika smirked and turned to him, throwing her arm over his shoulder.

"In North Sky I am, I told you that I'm a captain Vyse. The black pirates, even though we're always butting heads, always have respect for one another like a really dysfunctional family that ends up in bloodshed every now and then. Recently however all the black pirates have been banding together to fight for our freedom in the skies," Aika said with a wink. Vyse's words failed him; not only was Aika alive, not only was she a black pirate, but she was actually well known. It made him wonder what kind of adventures she had to have gone on to make a name for herself. At the same time however, it saddened Vyse, knowing that the cheerful, loving Aika he once knew was forced into thievary and violence. It was right there when Vyse truly realized how tainted the skies were.

"Well enjoy a little freedom you two, I'm off to the lighthouse to keep watch," Khazim said, giving Vyse a firm pat on the back before turning away.

"You've become one heck of a pirate Aika, you lie, cheat, and steal just like the best of them..." Vyse said with sadness in his voice. Aika smiled and shrugged, returning to the board to scan the list further.

"I didn't have a choice Vyse...I was all alone with nowhere to go. You know me, if I do something, I give it my all, for better or worse. So becoming a black pirate, I wasn't going to be looked down upon by the others, so I had to make a name for myself. Speaking of...I finally made it onto the board of fame!" Aika said with excitement, pointing to the very bottom of the 20 person list. Vyse stooped down to get a better look at the description.

"Wanted: Aika the Lady Pirate. Real name: Aika Thompson. Wanted for pillaging Valuan merchant ships and being a member of the Black Resistance. Recent activities have been reported in North Sky zones. Known to be hostile and aggressive, it is best not to approach her ship, the Orange Swallow, unless on the initiative attack. Bounty: 5,000 Gold. Wow Aika, that's crazy," Vyse said, proud of Aika that she's making a name for herself one way or another. Aika groaned and looked down at the listing with disappointment.

"5,000 Gold...that's insulting! Is that really all they're offering for my capture...?!" Aika's angry scowl made a smile grow on Vyse's face, it seems the Aika he once knew was clearly in there after all.

"Well you are at the bottom of the list, and you said you weren't on the list before so that's an accomplishment right? I mean, it means you really are making a name for yourself and a difference for this dark skies we are finding outselves in," Vyse filled Aika's ears with a sick sense of encouragement. Growing up the two of them learned that black pirates were the lowest of the low, but from the way Vyse saw it at this point, they were the new Blue Rogues.

"I guess your right, I mean, that means that the other Black Pirates will have to respect me a little bit more so that's nice. You know...I really have missed you and that amazing positive attitude of yours. And you am really impressed with how you've turned out considering what happened to you. I always knew you were going to be the handsome boy you were as a kid. Very rarely have I seen too many attractive Black Pirates so...this is perfect. You know I've always like you...right?" Aika said, swooning and swaying with a red face. Vyse was shocked how bold Aika had become, much like how she couldn't get away with lying, she always put up a good front, keeping her feelings guarded. But right now, it was clearly the complete opposit. Not that he minded of course, he's always like Aika as she had liked him, it was just so...strange.

"I uh...thanks Aika, you've really grown into more of a lady, I...I also find that very attractive," Vyse stumbled over his words hard enough to ram his head into a wall, which made Aika release a small giggle as a retort.

"We can talk about that more later, we need to shop for supplies. Wait...CRAP! I forgot my gold!" Aika groaned, feeling around her coat desperately to find her money container. Panicing, she threw off her coat, shaking it up and down to try and see if anything would fall out. Vyse watched in amusement as she began to stomp the ground in frustration.

"Yep, definitely the same old Aika," Vyse said to himself with a smile.

"Craaaaaap I guess I gotta walk back out to the ship...stay here Vyse this will only take a second," Aika said, dropping her head in defeat. Before she had a chance to step away, Vyse blocked her path, shaking his jacket to reveal the hand fulls of gold that he kept from his time in the Dark Rift.

"Don't worry Aika, I'll pay for whatever it is. Trust me, I have more than enough," Vyse said patting her head like she was a child. Aika batted his hand off of his head and laughed.

"Hey cut that out, I'm more of a lady now you said so yourself!" Aika scoffed, walking away towards the small shopping area for supplies. Vyse just laughed and stayed at her side as they walked further in. Shopping seemed to go by quickly, as if it were nothing more than a passing day dream. Although it took them hours, to Vyse it felt like minutes, as if stepping back into his dream that he missed so much. Upon return to the central square, he noticed that Aika had gone deathly quiet, not to mention that she wasn't at his side. In fact, Vyse turned around to see that he was all alone as the doors to the port opened up.

"Aika?" Vyse called, immediately turning back around to see in incredibly strange person walking in. Her hair was wild, she had three stiff ponytails protruding from the rear, every shade a brilliant shimmering saphire blue while her bangs in the front hung just above her eyes, with their color being as white as snow. Her eyes matched the brilliant blue just like her hair with their gaze being as cold as ice. Her outfit was a mesh work of black leather and straps with curved blades resting on the top of her boots. What really caused Vyse to feel nervous was the wicked scythe that was strapped to her back that easily looked that it could shred through anything with ease.

She removed what appeared to be a seal of some sort, like the kind a captain would keep in his coat as a sign of his position as she reached the door. Her eyes wandered over to catch Vyse in the eyes before walking in through the guild doors. Suddenly, Aika re-appeared like a magician behind him, looking cautiously as the guild doors shut.

"We need to get out of here, like now," Aika said with a voice filled with fear. It was another new experience with Vyse seeing Aika scared for her life.

"What's wrong Aika? You look like you got a glimpse of death or something," Vyse inquired. Aika took a steadying breath to regain her wits before walking up to Vyse's side.

"That's exactly what I got a glimpse of. That girl that just came in...her nickname is "The Angel of Death", she earned that nickname because she hunts down and kills any and every air pirate that meets your gaze. She would only show up here if she had bounty to obtain for killing a pirate on the list or to follow one that she may have spotted. So right now, we are in GRAVE danger," Aika said shaking ever so slightly as she grasped onto Vyse's arm.

"She looked familiar for some reason, I think we've met her before," Vyse said, trying to piece together the fuzzy memory that was floating around in his mind. It when he went to rub and itch from his face that he realised who she was. Tracing his fingers along his scar, it was like opening a door with a key that was long lost to time.

"Yeah we have met her! It was that girl that was aboard the Aquila, remember? That ship that we tried to help way back? She was the one that gave me the scar on my cheek..." Vyse said, sighing heavily.

"Wait...wouldn't that mean she'd recognize us if she saw us?" Aika asked, turning pale as the guild door opened. Fortunately it was nothing more than a man leaving from the port.

"I don't think so, I mean, its been an incredibly long time since then, around 10 years right? You and I have both changed a lot since then," Vyse said, grasping onto to Aika's wrist. They quickly dashed into the tavern, shifting their sights around to try and find Don. Sure enough, Don was sitting in the middle of the bar, his face red and cheery as he chatted it up with the young bartender. The two of them decided to sneak on by, sitting at the far end of the bar to try and hide just in case she may enter. Don turned to notice the two of them at the end laughing and waving for them to come over, clearly unaware of their situation.

"Aika! Vyse! Get over here, have a drink with me!" Don shouted out obnoxiously. Vyse and Aika tried to ignore the drunken cry of their comrade but with another shout they came over anyway.

"You do realize we are too young to drink right?" Aika said, with Don waving his hand in front of his face.

"Nah don't worry 'bout that, they don't care here, so come on, drink up!" Don said handing Vyse a mug of liquor. He sighed and looked over at Aika, raising it to his lips.

"I'm doing this so he'll quiet down," Vyse said, tilting the mug back along with his head. To his surprise, the taste of the curious smelling elixir was rather pleseant; it was a mixure of a light liquor with moonberries with a little cream stirred in. Before Vyse knew it, the mug was empty.

"Wow...that was actually really good," Vyse said wiping his lips with his sleeve. Don grinned wide and gave him a big pat on the back.

"See? I'm not totally crazy, so come on, lighten up!" Don laughed, knocking on the table to refill Vyse's mug. Vyse couldn't help but to smile at the fool, plopping down next to him while Aika kept watch. Normally Aika would scold Vyse for doing something like this, but only knowing a sliver about the horrors Vyse had been through, he honestly needed something to help make his troubles go away.

"I guess it can't hurt...after all if anyone were to get attacked it'd be me..." Aika said with a sigh, now sitting down next to Vyse. Time seemed to stand still as the three of them enjoyed themselves at the bar. It was if it were a small little world that kept them safe from lifes hardships. However, the small safe haven was soon to become a battleground. Vyse, red in the face turned his head to noticed something rather unsettling; slowly stepping into the bar was the girl known as "The Angel of Death". Trying to maintain his cool, he jabbed Aika in the waist, tilting his head to get her attention as she chatted it up with the bartender.

"Oh crap," Aika said facing forward, trying to appear casual. Don had no problems since he was quite clearly a regular sailor while Vyse appeared to be a Valuan officer, thus leaving Aika as the odd girl out in the situation. Taking slow, steady steps inward, Vyse shifted his eyes to see her looking about the room, as if she could smell the fear rising within the room.

"Everyone...I noticed that the notorious pirate ship, the Orange Swallow, is sitting in the port...if anyone has any information on the whereabouts of Aika the Lady Pirate, please speak now," the girl said. Aika began shaking in her seat with immense fear, now planting her face on the table and covering her head. Vyse gently gave her upper thigh a firm squeeze of assurance, his eyes still following her every move. Suddenly Don burst into laughter, turning to the girl completely unaware of her status.

"Well aren't you a pretty girly, come on over here sweet heart and have a drink with me, I can tell ya' all about where Aika the Lady Pirate is," Don spouted, his eyes quickly shifting to Vyse's.

"Watch this," Don said under his breath, quickly returning his attention to the girl. The girl stared at him with her intimidating blue eyes, as if she were ready to take off his head for being a crude individual. But to their surprise she moved on to the bar. She sighed heavily, sitting at the bar and immediately turning her gaze to Don.

"Tell me what you know," she said. Don smirked and tapped the table, a mug of liquor being placed in front of her. She glared at it and back at dawn, showing that she was in no mood for small talk.

"Well ya' see, last I saw her she was wandering the shoppin' area. Why do ya' ask sweet heart?" Don inquired, only to see that she was already back on her feet and headed out the door. He turned to Vyse and Aika, who were both as pale as ghosts before smiling at them.

"See? That was easy, no need to panic," Don laughed. He then stood up onto his feet, stumbling as he tried to maintain his balance before placing gold on the table to pay for the drinks.

"However, when she finds out you aren't there she'll come stompin' back. I say we go ahead to the dock and unhook your ship from mine. Don' worry is reaaaal easy," Don said, his speech turning more into barely tolerable rambling. As aggrivating as it was to see Don in this state, Vyse knew he meant no harm, nor was he going to slow them down. Much like himself, Don had seen unspeakable horrors and committed any other attrocities. Giving him a nod, he acted as Don's crutch to help him out the tavern, then helping themselves out of Sailor Island's scary grasp.

To Be Continued