A/N-- Heyla. Wednesday February 7th, and I'm finally going through the earlier chapters and fixing things. They make me flinch at times, so...
I had this idea stuck in my head, so I decided to write it out. I can't hold a candle to any of the really great stories, but I hope this keeps you amused.
Disclaimer- I own Mai HiME. No, really. ...-stares at lawyers- Fine... I do not, in any shape or form, own Mai HiME. Or the Navy, though I don't think I should have to add that.
It was a dark and stormy night. At least, it should have been. The dark-haired girl sulking in the Victoria's dungeon would have felt considerably better if there had been dark clouds and pouring rain in acknowledgement of her capture. A flash of lightening or two wouldn't have gone unappreciated either. However, it insisted on defying her by being as bright and sunny as possible. Feh. Stupid sky.
She gave a wry grin before moaning as her handcuffs continued to rub her wrists raw.
Damned navy... How could I let myself be so stupid?
The day had started out like any other- Their captain had been excitedly waving a map in their faces and telling them all that this time it was definitely treasure and not some old person's recipe for meatloaf, or, heaven forbid, another carefully detailed map that led you to some very valuable gold hidden under about two-hundred years of what Midori had assured them were very valuable marshlands. That had been a bit of a fiasco, as Mikoto had rushed right in before anyone had the chance to explain that, funny thing about marshes, you sank in them. After she was pulled out, they'd had to return to the ship to give their foul-smelling friend a bath. By the time they managed to finish, (Mai had had to bribe her with an extra meal) it was well past sunset. Far too dark to be wandering around in a marsh where all the gold had probably already sunk anyway. At least, that's what they told themselves as they left.
So, their captain had had a map. She'd been sitting on a stool in the ship's galley, hoping lunch would be ready soon. She couldn't remember all the details very clearly, as she'd been very carefully ignoring her. At least until she got thwacked on the head for her troubles.
"Oi, Natsuki, pay attention for once. Honestly, you're getting as bad as Nao."
The dark-haired girl blew her hair out of her eyes and fixed Midori with a glare.
"If that's the case, why don't you go pick on her?"
Their captain was unaffected. "Because I know she won't listen to me, of course."
"That doesn't make any sense at-"
"It doesn't have to. I'm your captain."
"Oh for the love of-"
"Natsuki," a slightly shorter redhead interrupted "can you please just pretend to listen so we can find out about the map?"
Nothing daunted by the temporary interruption, Midori plowed onward.
"So, this map. I bought it at our last stop, using some recently acquired money."
Natsuki raised her eyebrows, but chose not to ask.
"I'd been searching for a while, since I had to make it up to my crew after that disaster with the marsh." Here she flashed a brilliant grin.
All she received for her efforts were some mumbles and a 'Just get on with it.'
She narrowed her eyes, but continued. "So, I heard this thing leads to quite the prize. Once we find it, I'm sure we'll all like it."
Natsuki's left eye was beginning to twitch. There was an audible pause. Then-
"So, let me get this straight. You went and spent your money on a map, and you don't know what it's for?"
"That sounds about right, yeah. Except, well, it wasn't exactly my money."
Mai chose that moment to speak up. "Well if it wasn't yours, where'd it come from?"
Midori took a few steps backwards, then said in one breath, "I-kind-of-borrowed-it-from-all-of-you-but-don't-worry-I'll-pay-you-back-someday!" With that, she leapt for the door and slammed it. One of Mai's pans nearly found her head.
Lunch had been simple- bread, some coffee that had too little actual coffee and too much water, and some beans. It seemed it was always beans, but they knew better then to complain. After all, Mai was handy with a ladle.
Natsuki had barely sat down when Mikoto charged through the door in a black and green blur and began scoffing down everything she could reach.
The twitch was coming back. "Mai, get her away from the food! She always eats everything…"
"That's not Mikoto's fault!" Mai defended. "She's a growing girl." Mikoto paused in her eating to beam up at Mai before continuing her meal. Natsuki sighed and grabbed part of a loaf before it could fall victim to the other girl's hunger. No use arguing with the cook.
Shortly after, Chie had come walking through the door with her customary sketchpad. She nodded a greeting to Mai, then sat herself down and leaned over to Mikoto.
"Hey, Mikoto. If you eat all the food, you'll get fat." Then she added, almost as an afterthought, "Mai won't like you if you get fat."
Mikoto dropped her bowl in horror, then looked at Mai. Then to the bowl, then to Mai, then finally, "I'll never eat again!" Natsuki snorted. Mai stopped setting up the plates to bop Chie on the head with her ladle. "Don't tease her like that. She'll believe anything you say, you know." Chie grinned. "That's what makes it so fun."
"I give up," the cook sighed. Between the lot of you, I'll go insane."
The door swung open again, announcing Nao's arrival. "What's this? Does that mean you're not already insane? Oh dear, I guess I had the wrong idea." She giggled, but the sound wasn't at all pleasant.
Mai twitched. "Nao, do you want lunch or not?"
"Fine, fine." The green-eyed girl sat down across from Chie and stuffed a role in her mouth.
Natsuki decided to eat more food before Nao and Mikoto devoured it all between them, so she snatched her bread and began eating it as quickly as possible. Mealtimes aboard the Gakutenou were battles. Just as Mai finished setting up and sat down on the other side of Mikoto, Nao chose to comment on Natsuki's eating habits.
"Well well. Seems your manners are even worse than usual today."
Natsuki responded by eating faster and trying to ignore the barb.
Nao snickered. "What's wrong, cat got your tongue? Or did you just forget how to speak?"
That was too much. "That's the pot calling the kettle black. Seems your only skills are stuffing your face and seducing men."
Chie was ignoring it all, her pencil sketching out some random object.
"I never let them touch me, I just knock them out and take their money. And at least I have skills, you pirate-wannabe."
"Wannabe? I could take you on anytime!"
"Then let's go!"
Both girls stood up, only to both get dealt blows by Mai's fearsome ladle. "No fighting in my kitchen! If you have to do it, do it where you won't knock over everything."
Before either one of them could protest, the door banged open and Midori swept in.
"That's right, that's right! We shouldn't attack each other. After all, we're all friends here, right?"
Nao and Natsuki both sat down, but not before glaring at each other, then at Midori.
Midori had the grace to look slightly uncomfortable before recovering her usual cheer.
"Mai, this looks good. Let's dig in!" That said, she flung herself into a seat and began chewing away with gusto. Mai took a bite of her own role before turning to Midori.
"So, do you know anything about this map?"
Chie stopped sketching and looked up, interested.
Midori took a long sip up coffee, then grinned. "Well actually, I did some research. At the last port one of my old contacts told me the Navy was looking for this, so when I found out where it was I bought it."
By now everyone, even Nao, was listening.
Mai dropped her spoon and turned to Midori. "The Navy? You took something you knew the Navy wanted? Isn't the whole point to avoid them?"
"Don't be so worried, Mai. How are they going to know I bought it? The man I got it from'll keep quiet."
Chie speared the last role with her fork. "So, what's this mystery map lead to? Any clues?"
"Well, no. But I do know the Navy was desperate to get it, and that whatever it is should make us all as rich as kings. Not bad, huh?"
The artist laughed. "Not bad indeed. As long as you're sure they don't know we've got it."
In her cell, Natsuki frowned. How had they known? Surely, the former owner of the map hadn't had that much of a loose tongue…? It had seemed to be going alright. Of course, it may have been foolish to hug the coast, but they'd needed to stock up on provisions. Fruit in particular. How were they supposed to be prepared for something like that? Looking back, they might have been a bit more suspiscious, but...
Up in the crow's nest, Chie narrowed her eyes and frowned. "Oi, captain! There's a speck in the distance! It looks like a pretty big ship, and it's bearing down on us."
Midori scrambled for the binoculars. "What do you mean there's a ship? It can't be anyone we know, could it?" She searched the horizon for any sign of movement. Nothing, no- wait. Oh, damn. She whirled around and yelled to her crew. "All hands on deck! That's the Navy!"
Natsuki barged out of her cabin and looked around wildly. "What? Where are they?"
"Over there!" yelled Midori, gesturing wildly. "Speed, we need speed! Pull in the sail! Yes Nao, that means you!" She ran to the wheel and began turning it as quickly as she could. Natsuki remembered being angry at the sudden announcement, but more confused than anything. Hadn't the captain said they wouldn't be followed? She frowned, then began working on the sail with Chie and Nao.
In the confusion of the moment, no one noticed Mikoto walking along the rail. She was humming to herself and wondering what Mai was going to make for dinner. She hoped it was chicken, if Midori had picked any up at their last stop. Chicken was good. All Mai's food was good.
Natsuki thought she should have done something then, something like hauling the girl off and telling her to go somewhere she wouldn't be in the way. But there hadn't been time, not then.
The fast approaching ship was now close enough that Midori could see its name through her binoculars. "Victoria, huh? Let's see how fast you are…" She spared a glance at the sails, then yelled her orders. "Pull them in even further! We have to make it a little farther before we can catch the wind. When we do, let them out as far as you think we can. And Nao, go change, just in case."
Nao smirked. "Aye aye, captain."
Meanwhile, aboard the Victoria, people were moving around relatively calmly. All save one.
"Faster, they're going to get away! Gah, you're all useless! I provoke your privileges!"
"That's 'revoke', Haruka," piped up a mousey-haired woman standing anxiously near her.
Her words fell on deaf ears as the loud blonde woman ran over to the mainmast and tried to pull in the sail herself, much to the dismay of the sailors.
In the captain's cabin, an annoyed looking man pounded his fist on the desk in a rare display of emotion. "Those damned pirates… The Duke said specifically to bring back that map; how will he react when we tell him a bunch of ignorant pirates got hold of it?"
"He won't," spoke up a calm voice. "We're going to get it back. At this rate, we'll catch them before they catch the wind."
The man grinned. "Always the logical one, Shizuru."
The tea-haired girl matched his expression perfectly. "Always the flatterer, Reito."
Back on their own ship, things weren't going well at all.
"Damn it, can't we go any faster?" The now civilian-dressed girl made as if to kick the boat.
Midori shook her head. "Not until we hit the wind, Nao."
Natsuki tossed her hair back. "That's taking too long. At this rate, they'll have-"
A scream interrupted her, followed by a splash. They ran to the side of the boat, where they saw Mikoto floundering in the water. With the sudden movements of the boat, she'd lost her balance and fallen off the rail.
Mai's face turned white. "Chie, let out the sail!"
"Mai, are you insane? They'll catch-"
"Mikoto's fallen off, now let out the sail!" Her voice had risen to something akin to a screech.
Midori threw her a rope, but she wasn't grabbing on. Either her hands were already too numb, or she'd been knocked unconscious before she'd hit the water. Seeing no other option, Natsuki muttered a curse under her breath and jumped overboard. The water was as cold as ice, and it felt like knives on her skin. She rose to the surface, gasping and rubbing the water from her eyes. Making her way over to Mikoto, she threw an arm around her and gestured to Midori.
"Will you hurry up with the rope? This water's bloody cold!" When Midori threw it down, she grabbed hold and waited to be pulled up.
Mai, Midori, and Nao all grabbed hold, and signaled Chie to pull in the sail again. Even by herself, it would speed them up until Natsuki and Mikoto were back on board. They pulled, but with the water adding weight to Natsuki and Mikoto's clothing, they weren't going anywhere. At this rate… Natsuki, grasping the situation, tied the rope around Mikoto's waist and let go.
Mai, realizing what she'd done, shouted, "Natsuki, what the hell are you doing!"
Natsuki struggled to keep above the waves while retorting, "They'll catch you if you don't get moving, idiot!"
As Mikoto was pulled up, Natsuki felt her limbs beginning to go numb.
Well damn. Stupid ocean with its stupid cold…ness. It really sucked to be dying like this. She was wondering who Nao would argue with. Maybe the mast. Or Midori. But Midori would steal Mai's ladle and hit her. She had to get back as soon as possible or else Mikoto would eat all her food. Her food and Chie's sketch pad, and why was everything going fuzzy? Fuzzy was bad, she was sure of it. Fuzzy was cold and dark and bad and she could taste salt and why couldn't she breathe…
Natsuki had felt arms around her before the darkness took her.
And now she was here, in this stupid cell that smelled like mold and dust and other things better left unmentioned. Was this even allowed? Surely the Navy had some sort of rule involving captives. Even though they were probably taking her to be hung after they captured the rest of the crew. If they did, that is. The Gakutenou was pretty darn fast. She allowed herself a smile before shivering and trying to curl up into a ball. Could they at least have given her some dry clothes? So much for common courtesy.
She heard steps coming gradually closer and uncurled herself. She wouldn't let her captors see her like this, trying desperately to find some lingering remnant of warmth. Whoever it was lit a wall-torch, and she squinted her eyes against the sudden brightness.
She glared defiantly at the silhouette standing in front of her cell. As her eyes became accustomed to the light, the person became more detailed. It was a woman, that much was certain. Long-ish brown hair, a Navy uniform, and…red eyes. She stared at them, trying to figure out exactly what kind of red they were. Not bright red, but not really that dark either. A voice snapped her out of her musing, and made her realize she'd been staring. She blushed and focused her eyes on a point near the woman's head instead. Seeming to realize the defiant girl hadn't heard her the first time, the woman smiled.
"My name is Fujino Shizuru. You're aboard the Victoria. I'm sorry about the condition of your cell, but we haven't had any prisoners in a while. Your name is…?"