Chapter 6


Da thump da thump da tha tha tha - - - - Sheeta felt herself falling. Automatically, she twisted her head to look for anything that could save her. Before, when she had plunged from the castle's depths, she had the rope to grab, and to hold, but now, she realized she had nothing.

Her eyes blinked slowly, once, twice. The image of her castle flickered, the glasses of Muska shimmered, and the panting of a beagle's tongue met her ears. Her senses were at their highest; trying to catch everything they could, before she was finally imprisoned by the black reaper. Sheeta shook her head. No. It would her grandfather dressed in white, holding out her arms in greeting. A drawn-out cry from her left drew her attention, and in her dreamy, almost tranquil state, she was mildly surprised to find it was a boy her age. Falling - like her. Before she knew it, Sheeta had reached out, and gripped him by the waist. It was reflex. He was something she could clutch to, and hold, something that would bring her hope to be able to snatch life by it's sleeve, and live.

Sheeta eyes closed, as the winds began to whip against her mercilessly, and their fall together began to accelerate. I don't want to die. She subconsciously clenched Pazu even tighter. I want to live.

A bright light suddenly enveloped Sheeta in streaks of blue. Feelings of warmth and power rushed through her, and she felt as if she was floating. But that was impossible. She opened her eyes cautiously, to find her necklace glowing, and indeed, it was resting in mid air. In wonder, she turned to Pazu, only to see the undisguised awe in his eyes, "The necklace…" he murmured. However, she saw his awe quickly disappear into excitement, and she felt herself gulp at the burning light in his eyes. She pleaded to herself. Please don't let him do anything rash…

Pazu whooped with delight, throwing his hands into the air. Startled with the rocking motion he caused, Sheeta gripped his waist tighter, her eyes screwed shut. Hearing a chuckle, she looked up to find him smiling good-naturedly. She glared at his amusement, and slowly released her grip on his waist, although she made sure to keep a tight hold on his hand. Still finding him grinning, Sheeta warned him angrily that if she let go, he would go plummeting toward kingdom come. "You wouldn't." His confident air was slightly irritating, what did he know about her anyway? But when she looked at him, his brown eyes friendly and sure, she turned away quickly, her cheeks slightly pink. Gradually, they found themselves floating closer and closer to the ground.

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Muska stood shocked at the edge of the remains of the original cliff. He was shocked at what he had just seen. A bright light had suddenly enveloped his troublesome niece, and the slave boy, and for a moment, Muska had seen his future plummet along with Sheeta. He had needed her to ensure the satisfaction of the Laputans. Otherwise, there could have been a revolt. But…that light had appeared. Muska rubbed his eyes and looked again.

"Impossible…" But even as he uttered it, Muska knew it to be true.

Peering carefully over the ledge, he saw his niece and newly bought servant, floating gently down through the air, the blue light shining like hope, until the darkness finally swallowed them both. Growling in anger, he kicked his newly booted foot at a rock, and was soon hopping around in pain. They had escaped!

Through his teeth, Muska swore. "Curse that good-for-nothing niece of mine!" He was about to say more, but stopped when he saw the wide eyes of the palace guards. He tried to smile, and casually shrugged.

"I suppose we should begin the search at dawn." Laughing lightly, he walked off, but his eyes were smoldering in anger. Stalking off toward his study chamber, he ordered the manservant to bring him his nephew quickly. They had to plan their capture carefully.

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"Did you see?…."

"Amazing…"

"I want that stone Mama!" Three brightly clothed men and a woman were crowded behind a rock, so that they would be hidden from the view of the castle. The rough-looking woman suddenly started as though she had just heard the comment.

"Mama!" She sneered at her son viciously. "Kitchen duty for a month!" Under her threatening gaze, his protests wilted quickly.

"But, what about the stone, Captain? Should we go after it?" he asked weakly.

Dola nodded. "We're pirates aren't we? Pirates look for treasure - of course we should go after the stone! Back to the ship!" Her sons nodded and made a poor attempt of a brisk march to the ship.

"Not only that…" she muttered, "Muska is after the stone too. Getting to the stone before him will be sweet, sweet revenge."

After Dola had discovered the hooded stranger's trickery, she had wasted no time in tracking him down. Although, she admitted he had left a hard trail to follow, Dola was a crafty woman. She knew which leads were false, and which would lead to the prize. Dola smiled fondly at the memory And what a prize it was. The hooded stranger was a man under the orders of the new King of Laputa - Romuska. She had many crumpled papers of plans that she had discarded to raid the castle. She had decided gaining a victory in a battle with the fortress would be time-consuming and painful. She was about to take her revenge in a whole new direction, when the princess of Laputa climbing out of the castle had caught her eye. And with a boy no less!

Interested in this strange turn of events, Dola thought it would be a worthy venture to see how the escape would end, but never had she guessed that this venture would prove to be valuable from the start. A stone with powers of levitation! In the black market, such a stone would bring enough wealth and luxury to sustain her for the rest of her life. Pirating, Dola mused, would become a pleasurable way to spend the time, rather than as a living.

With such thoughts toward the future, Dola was in good spirits. With a perfect revenge set for Muska, and the success of the revenge bringing enormous profits - Dola nearly smiled.

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As the stone left the two on the ground, the light began to slowly recede, before disappearing altogether. Looking toward the river, Sheeta was relieved they didn't land in the water.

"Are you okay?" Sheeta looked up to find Pazu inspecting her hands. She fought a blush she felt rising in her cheeks, as his fingers carefully probed the areas around her rope burn.

"Not much." Pazu shook his head.

"Princess, I believe you are lying."

"Princess?" Sheeta was startled. "Since when have you called me a princess?" Pazu shrugged good-naturedly.

"Ever since I knew you saved my life." A comfortable silence fell between them, as he reached into his bag for cloth, and ripping it into pieces, gently wrapped her injured hands. She gazed at him, a slight frown on her face, angrily pushing the thought away that she was starting to like him. Not! Her head suddenly moved in compliance with her forceful thought, and Pazu ducked to avoid being slapped by her braids. Embarrassed, Sheeta looked away. "Anyhow, call me Sheeta."

She heard a chuckle. "Next time, if you want to say something, just tell me. Don't attack me." An outcropping of rock caught Sheeta's attention, and glad for the distraction, she stared to try to make it out. "A cave…" Pazu was pleased. He knew his way around caves, and he knew it could be used as hindrance from their pursuers, as well as a shelter. It would serve doubly well.

They had not walked more than a few meters toward the cave, when the whir of a flying machine announced its presence. Pazu's eyes widened.

"Let's go boys!" A throaty cackle split the air.

"Oh no." Avoiding her rope-burned hands, he grabbed Sheeta's wrist, and was able to feel her pulse increasing quickly. He realized she must be as scared as he was. "Don't worry. I'll protect you." They started to run as the droning of the engines rapidly increased. As they neared the cave, Pazu breathed a sigh of relief. They were going to make it -- he tripped over a root, and in seconds, he had scrambled to his feet, but at a time like this, a few seconds were costly.

A flying machine cut in front of him, blocking his path. He had to veer his course and take a roundabout way.

"Pazu!"

"Don't, Sheeta - get away!" Despite his protesting cries, Sheeta ran to try and help him. When an orange-suited man jumped down in front of him, Pazu managed to elbow him hard enough to get around, but now he was getting herded. There were too many in the pirate gang, and now he was going to get trapped. At least, he consoled himself, Sheeta got away.

"Are you okay?" Pazu turned around only to meet said girl head-on. He stared wide-eyed. No. He was not okay. He had told her to run, and now neither of them would be safe.

"Come on," growling, he pulled her away from the approaching pirates, and ran, although they both knew it was a futile attempt. The pirates pursued them casually, almost lazily; they also knew how it was going to end. They steadily corralled them into a U-shaped outcropping. It was too steep to climb up, and the pirates now filled the only way out.

Keeping himself between Sheeta and the pirates, Pazu glared at them.

"Don't you dare hurt her."

"I think you should worry about yourself, kid." Sheeta cried out as a heavily built woman slid down from behind, and used the butt of her gun to knock Pazu out. A wince colored his features momentarily, before he dropped onto the ground.

"On no! Pazu! Pazu!" Sheeta frantically pushed the woman aside, and disregarding the weapons surrounding her, dropped to her knees, and shook him desperately. "Pazu, are you okay?"

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For the second time, Pazu woke up as a prisoner of the Dola gang. As before, he woke up in the dark, his eyes blinking to adjust to the darkness, and as before he felt the back of his head tentatively where it was painfully throbbing. However, unlike before, he was not alone.

He froze when he heard someone breathing nearby, sleeping it seemed, since the sound was shallow and even. As he moved cautiously, the figure snapped her head up, rubbing her eyes tiredly.

"Pazu? You're finally awake." Her voice was filled with relief.

"Sheeta…" he slowly reached out with his hand, and slid his fingers across her cheek. His fingers came back wet. "Have you been crying?"

"Obviously not over you." Sheeta said shakily. It was unnerving how just now, he had randomly touched her face. And before, when he had grabbed her wrist, her pulse had quickened. Of course she knew why. She just wouldn't admit it.

Pazu laughed weakly. "Don't worry about me so much. My head is as hard as my boss's fist. Or so he says." Sheeta frowned.

"Didn't I just get over saying it wasn't about you?" Pazu laughed harder, and reached out to tug her braid teasingly, only to end up staring at it. Sheeta pulled her braid away. "What are you doing?"

Pazu fumbled for words. He had no idea what he was saying. "Your hair's really…soft," He finally squeaked. Pazu's eyes widened. What did he just say? He refused to meet Sheeta's eyes, which he knew were staring at him. He tried to mumble out an explanation. "I…just..I…"

At that moment, Dola stomped in, and told her sons to grab them and tie them up in her office. Sheeta and Pazu looked at each other worriedly. Pazu admittedly, was also relieved. When their hands were tied behind the backs of the chairs they were seated in, Dola walked in, eyeing them carefully. After a silence, she produced from her pocket, Sheeta's crystal.

She rounded on the girl. "What's your name?"

"Sheeta."

"Age?"

"Seventeen." My age, Pazu thought nervously.

"Now," Dola leaned in, her eyes dangerous, "How do you make the crystal activate?"

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Dola fumed. She had planned, she had persisted, she had attacked. When finally, she had captured both the crystal and its wearer, the girl, she did not know how to work it. Dola thought to herself mockingly at the girl's answer.

"Really, Dola. I don't know. I never knew it had such magical properties. I always thought of it as a good luck charm."

"Call me Captain!" she had shrieked.

Partly, it was because nobody called her Captain as she wanted. Mostly it was because she knew that the girl was telling the truth, and there was nobody who could do anything about it. She could never sell it now. She scoffed. Really. Who would pay such a large sum of money for something that could not be proved? A levitation stone was a thing of dreams anyhow. She sniffed as her dream of wealth and luxury fell through the tubes. That Muska! Lately, she blamed all her troubles on the Laputan king.

"That Muska!" Dola muttered under her breath angrily. Sheeta leaned forward as Dola cursed the man even more. Smiling, Sheeta decided to speak.

"Captain," Sheeta said, knowing the title pleased her, "I propose an alliance. In doing this, I get what I want, and you get revenge on Muska, and Laputa's treasure."

Pazu stared at her incredulously. She was going to give away Laputa's treasure to a pirate? Dola also found it hard to believe. But she was interested.

"What for?" She asked, too casually. "What would you want to do that for?"

Sheeta leaned forward, her hands folded together. "We want different things Captain, but if we work together we shall both obtain what we truly desire." Sheeta hesitated, before deciding to tell the whole truth. Her voice dropped its diplomacy.

"I want your help in overthrowing Muska. He as a king will further destroy the future of Laputa's people." Her voice became softer as she remembered the happiness she felt when she was a little girl talking to her grandmother. "My grandmother told me," she whispered, "That Laputa was falling apart. Although her great-great-grandmother and her great-great-grandfather came up with the technology to found Laputa and get away from the Earth, my grandmother realized that a people cannot live apart from the Earth forever. Eventually, Laputa had to be abandoned by its people.

My grandmother told me that she was old, and would not be able to lead the Laputans back to Earth. She also knew that many would not want to leave. I had to be the strength to lead the people out of the Castle in the Sky, and return to the Earth as simple farmers and laborers.

The treasure will have to be left, as well as the technology because we need to fit in with the Earth as we used to. Although there will be protest, everybody is beginning to realize that we cannot live apart from the Earth, no matter how much they do not want to admit it. They just need someone to lead them out from the world they have known forever, and Muska," Sheeta shook her head angrily, "will never do that.

He will never leave behind the power and glory and riches he has as a king. He will never leave all that behind and do what is right." Sheeta faced Dola. "When you help me overthrow Muska, you will finally get your revenge for whatever it is, and since I plan to leave the treasure behind, you might as well have it!" Sheeta's feet struck the floor in her passion, and her eyes blazed, as she asked, "Well?!"

Dola slapped her knee in delight. It was reckless, dangerous, and the rewards were worth it all. "Charles, Louis, Henri! Untie our guests!" Sheeta smiled at Pazu as they were being released. His eyes questioned her. Is this really what you want to do? Her eyes answered. Yes.

As Dola began planning their course of action, Sheeta watched Pazu as he listened intently. She knew it wasn't just for Laputa's people that she wanted Muska overthrown; it was for a selfish reason as well.

She never wanted to marry the Earl of Anemon, but with Muska on the throne, it would happen sooner or later, somehow. And now, watching Pazu, she knew she had found the most important reason why she couldn't marry the Earl. Sheeta ground her teeth, frowning. She just refused to admit it.