Chapter Eleven- Postlude/The New Mission
Before the final chapter, I wanted to get my gabbing out of the way. First, and most important of all to me, I want to thank all my reviewers- Lord Elecian, Cloud-821, Desert Lynx, ar-ranma, Arcon1, tony, and TheJesusGoatMan (listed in the order they first reviewed)- without all of your support and feedback, I might not have finished. As I always say- reviews are like crack for an aspiring author, and my incredible pace of updates should reflect this. Also, anyone who author/story alerted Strange Clothes, or just simply to anyone reading this. Review in the future, dangit! XP
My future plans- I'm going to chronicle all of Skies Of Arcadia: Legends. I will be dividing the epic into 'books', such as this one. If you'd like, consider Strange Clothes merely a prologue for the Skies Of Arcadia Series. .
Notification- the story will be FinaxAikaxVyse. Yes, he gets both of them, and they will all love each other. My aim is to open people's minds a bit to non-'traditional' and unauthorized love. It just seems to me to fit so well. ) Other pairings will come as they go, but I'll try and stick with the cannon for most of them.
Um… yeah. I guess that's all. Thank you for reading this, and when I put up the next book, make sure to Alert and/or read that one too. –bows- Arigato, mi Amigos.
Final Chapter Starts Now!
"…that's when we told him about the Harpoon Cannon, and wouldn't you know it, he suddenly became a lot more willing to assist us to your rescue." Sailor's Island seemed more astounding since the last time they were there, although perhaps it was just because Vyse had defeated an infamous black pirate and escaped Valuan clutches, making the history books already. It was noon, the sun was up, and a pleasant breeze blew from the West.
Aika, Fina and Vyse were walking down the street, relaxing and talking. The two pirates were taking turns relaying the saga of their winding adventures since they were separated. They had no need for sleep- they had grabbed plenty of rest on the ten-hour journey from Valua, which proved infinitely more peaceful than their stay in the imperial city.
Fina giggled. "Drachma seems very… determined."
"Determined, you say!" Vyse said, staring into the clear blue skies and dramatically batting a chocolate-colored bang on hair from his eyes. "Like a dyslexic Looper on moondust, say I!" The girls giggled. Moondust was a grainy powder made when loqua was frozen and then ground intensely. It had amazing effects on the mind, and it was a well-known hallucinogen that was outlawed in Valua and a few other countries. Nasr, by contrast, endorsed it's sale.
"But… but he did help us, so he has to be a nice person," Fina objected quietly.
"Whaat? Nice person? Fina, are you on the dust as well?" Vyse cocked a bemused eyebrow at the timid girl. She blushed and held her hands behind her back, looking down ashamedly.
Aika frowned. "Vyse, don't be a jackass." He put an arm around Fina's slumped shoulders. "Fina's very high-strung, with absolutely no sense of humor or fun." She barely suppressed her own giggle fits as Fina continued to mock-pout.
"Maybe we could both teach her some 'fun'," Vyse suggested lewdly, grinning widely. Fina turned a unique shade of pure scarlet that made the Blue Rogues wonder if she had swallowed a Red Moonstone on accident.
Aika, by contrast, merely winked and put her other arm around her, leaning closer. "Oh, that's such a good idea… oh, Fina…" Vyse was amused by this imagery, and also found it suddenly to be very interesting. They're both beautiful girls, I'd love to see…
Damn these hormones. If there's a place lower than Deep Sky, damn them to there.
"Guys," Fina whined, shaking loose of her grip and ducking, standing up again while she laughed. "You two are so weird."
"Ah, she laughs!" Vyse declared, striking another heroic pose. They had entered the north side of the island, and a large sign caught his attention. He looked over and broke the pose, reading it intently. "By Order Of The Empress Of Valua, Her Royal Majesty Teodora X, oh this should be rich, The Following Persons Are Wanted For Direct Violation Of Imperial Anti-Piracy Laws. Hey, we're on here!"
Aika's face brightened up slightly as she and Aika joined Vyse right in front of the long list. "Really? Where? Oh, I see it. All three of us, down there near the bottom… only one star?"
"That means we're worth 200 gold apiece," Vyse reflected, unable to contain his laughter. "600 gold for the crazy teenagers that kicked the Valuan Empire's ass and stole a horde of prisoners right out under that old witch's withered nose. We're gonna have small-time small-minded smelly bounty hunters after us now, in wooden dinghies stolen from some old lady's island. Hey, I got a nickname. Vyse… the Unimpressive." He deflated visibly as the girls laughed.
"Fitting," Aika noted. "The Sailors' Guild is right there, let's check in and see if the bounties we've collected have come in yet." They all walked for the large, sturdy brick structure, but she paused at the inscription, still sitting on the archway. "Hey Fina. Look."
Fina did, and gasped. Silvite! Moons Alive, where did Arcadians get this language? "W-wow."
"That writing on the mantle looks just like some of the symbols on your clothes," Vyse noted idly. Fina had changed back into her elegant native clothing, which only served to enhance her exotic beauty.
"What a coincidence," She said, nervousness causing her voice to waver considerably.
"Fina, is something wrong-"
"It's nothing," She interrupted with more than her usual zest, still quite unnerved by all this, "Um, let's get going, then shall we? Good." The Air Pirates exchanged significant glances in which they silently agreed that they would further investigate this later, then followed their relatively new companion into the Guild building.
The Valuan looked up from his book as they entered this time. "Welcome back to the Sailor's Guild," He said professionally. "Your information was good on the Discovery, sir. It was right where you recorded it. As such, you earned the right to carry home the bounty for Pirate's Grave." Fina watched curiously as he handed Vyse a bag of money. The young man eagerly accepted this boon, and slid the scroll with the Signpost's location onto the deck. "Ah, another one? Most excellent. Next time you're around, swing by to pick up this one as well."
"Anything else to report?" Aika asked. "Any recent news about events?"
The man snorted quietly. "Ma'am, news travels quicker than ships do. Valua is in the most almighty furor about you and your companions and shipmates. Don't worry, just because I'm afraid of them doesn't mean I'll turn you over. After all, I'm safe down here on this island, protected like always with our explosives network."
"Hey, I've been meaning to ask, is that thing real?" Vyse inquired, truly curious. "There's some tell that it's all just a fabrication to keep the Valuans from conquering your island, or that they're duds or something."
"I can assure you," He replied coldly, "All the weapons we have laced to seal our destiny, and those of any invasion force, are quite real, sir. Real as death."
"Alright," Vyse said, backing off. "Thanks for the money. See you around."
"Oh, I almost forgot, blast it all," He said, reaching into his book and pulling out a small circular piece of black paper. "I'm sorry, sir, but angering Valua has risks as well as rewards. You've been Marked."
"I've been what now?" Vyse asked, examining the paper. It was completely blank.
"Marked. By the Angel of Death. She's a bounty hunter that usually stalks a bit east from here. And now, she wants your head."
"What was that about bounty hunters, Aika?" Vyse asked, grinning confidently. "This is so sweet!"
"Vyse, it's not a good thing when someone called the Angel of Death wants after you," She retorted, impatient tone better suited to a thwarted three-year-old than her lifelong friend. Sometimes she wondered.
"We'll handle her if she's got the chutzpah to back up her threats," He said dismissively. "Is that all?" The Guildmaster nodded, although he looked more dubious than Aika about his chances with the Angel of Death, the bounty huntress Piastol. "Then we'll just be leaving now. They're probably ready to fly back at the Little Jack by now."
As they passed out the door, a man who was leaning on the side of the building was observing. He had long hair that covered most of his mysterious, gloomy eyes and a purple piloting coat, and leaned with his arms crossed. He was obviously not an inviting individual. Hm. Probably just another cocky kid, but I might want to keep my eyes open… that blonde girl looks interesting enough.
The Blue Storm had been working with his crew to load an enormous amount of building supplies and tools into the now mostly-empty cargo holds of Drachma's fishing sloop. Rebuilding their entire town would take resources, but luckily Dyne could foot the bill by asking each crewman to chip in a little. The civic spirit was alive and well, especially amongst one band of ruffians.
Vyse, Aika and Fina appeared on deck, going up the loading ramp quickly. "Hey, Dad. We ready to fly or what?"
Dyne was about to lecture him again about not calling him 'dad', but squelched his remark at the last moment. It wouldn't do any good anyway, and he might as well let his kid bask a while in the shine of his own swelled ego. "Yeah, we've just loaded the last of the materiel. Too bad the work ethic wasn't stronger or we'd be done an hour ago."
Briggs replied with a traditional pirate string of words. These words do not bear repeating, as this story is rated T, and many people of faith might find great offense in some of the more sexual implications. Fina gasped, blushing and putting her hands to her mouth again.
Vyse chuckled. "Yeesh, Briggs. You're scaring Fina, and I think Dad could have you hung for treason about that."
"The only thing she's scared off is how ugly you are," He retorted, sitting tiredly on one of the crates. "You know, Vyse, now I know how you felt when Drachma slave-drove you. No offense," He added to the old man.
"None taken," He rumbled, as usual.
'All hands aboard! Man your general stations," Dyne bellowed. "Let's get the ball rolling."
"Where are we moving, Dad?" Several times in the past the Valuans had come close to discovering the Blue Storm's island base, and each time they relocated to a different part of Mid Ocean. There were millions of small islands all around and landmasses of every shape and size, and it was near-impossible to chart them all. No map existed with even half of all the islands precisely plotted.
"We aren't, son. They'll have every reason to expect us to move-"
"Cause they ain't insane," Briggs interjected.
"-you know, that 'hanging for treason' thing is sounding better and better, which is why we'll be safest if we stay put on Pirate Isle. The closer we are to danger, the father we are from harm."
"Hey, that's a good line, you should have used that back during the execution," Landis chirped, sitting at a small table and working some of his instruments, charting the quickest course through the island-masses and to home.
"I think he did," Rodgers said, emerging from the staircase. Her black coat was still clinging to her mysterious figure, her silver moonstone weapons holstered within their night expanse.
"Either that or having staring competitions with Prince Enrique," Briggs piled on yet again. "I wonder how Martha will feel about that, eh?" Everyone chuckled.
"Ay, this is what I have to work with," He mock-confided to Drachma, skillfully feigning a tired old man who's fuel for life had been worn thin by his bunch of misfit family-like Blue Rogues. "Mutiny, I say. You'll all walk the plank on the morn."
"So long as I don't have to walk Vyse's plank first," Aika replied without missing a beat. Fina once again found occasion to change colors, putting Briggs in mind of a chameleon… who only ever had to hide in an active volcano.
"That reminds me of something." Everyone groaned in expectation of another joke, but Vyse merely said, "Aika, what was the name of that free-ship doctor?"
"Doc," She replied. "His ship was the Sacres. I remember that well."
"Maybe he's around here. This gun still squirms occasionally with the moonfish, and it's not a comfortable experience at all." Everyone else looked confused, so he quickly and distractedly filled them in on his side-quest to find Moonfish as he utilized his skyglass to examine each ship. He finally found the right one. "Hove to and come about, Briggs. Someone raise the hailing flags." He went out onto the deck of the ship that slowed from cruising speed, nearing the stationary medical frigate.
"Ahoy," Doc hollered once they were within verbal range, waving and tossing a line across. Vyse tossed it back. "What's with that?" He asked as they came closer- within meters of bumping sides.
"Sorry, can't board to talk," He replied. "We were just stopping by. Here," He said, tossing him the gun. He dexterously caught it, twirling it a little then putting it in a custom-made holster on his white coat. "We got two so far. We'll pick up more later when we pass you again, alright?"
"Alright," He nodded. "Thank you for your help! Next time you're around these parts I'll find some way to reward you!"
"No offense, but I hope we don't need the services of a doctor anytime soon," He replied as they started off again, engines rumbling from below decks. The ship turned back towards the South, and soon they were resuming a brisk pace towards home.
The next time Vyse awoke, it was in a bed. The soft covers contoured around his sleeping form, unlike the Lower City Inn's bed, which worked the other way around (and causing severe cramps in places he preferred not to disclose) He was in his own bed, in his own home, on a small chunk of pockmarked rock in an uneventful corner of the Mid Ocean.
There was a large whole in his roof, and the Valuan cannonball still rested next to his bed. He intentionally kept it, as a memory of the tribulations that had until so recently caused him so much worry. He sighed, yawned and stretched out, various strange and satisfying popping noises being the only direct result to this.
The smell of cooking food wafted up from the hole in the floor with attached ladder that he used to get down into the main part of his house from his room. A rumbling in his stomach reminded him that he hadn't bothered to eat since… a long time ago.
He sprang up and slid down the ladder, landing smoothly on the newly paneled wooden floor. A lot of work had been accomplished in the hours he had spent in REM, he decided. "Hey, family," He greeted jovially, walking to the table and rubbing some more of the sleepy blur from his eyes.
"We're family now, Vyse?" Aika giggled. "How nice of you."
"Huh?" He asked dumbly, then his brain cycled into action. "Hey, Aika, Fina." Fina smiled timidly and nodded to him in a formal manner of greeting. They ate in nearly total silence, except for the rattling of cutlery and the mashing of several sets of teeth.
"Um," Fina spoke up. "Vyse, Aika… can I have a word with you for a moment? Outside?"
"Sure, Fina," Vyse said amicably. Maybe she's finally going to open up a little more and tell us why the Valuans hunt her as if she's rare game fish. Aika nodded her assent as well, and the three teenagers stood and excused themselves, going outside.
Outside was still a wreck. Most of the obvious potholes and impact craters had been roughly filled in with dirt, and fallen timbres removed from their resting places, but every single building showed signs of wear, tear and battle. The grass was stained red in a few disturbing patches, and their dojo and armory aboveground was nothing but smoldering ruins now. The Windmill was conspicuously missing, and it somehow felt very empty without it.
She took them to the newly repaired ladder to Lookout Isle, and climbed up it. Aika chuckled. "I'll go next, so you get to watch my ass instead of hers." Before a blushing Vyse could snap off a counter-retort, she started to climb, giggling.
Fina reached the top, waiting for her friends and nervously pressing her hands together. The two Air Pirates took a seat next to each other on the small bench. "This is just like before," Vyse noted idly, glancing from the sky back to Fina. He decided that he liked Fina better.
"I thought it was finally time I was honest with both of you," Fina said quietly. She took a deep breath, and by their silence they urged her to continue. "I am a Silvite, a descendant of the Silver Civilization, and I was born on the Silver Moon."
Vyse blinked. A lot.
"I suppose you both have heard of the Old World and their six component nations, yes? There were six, one under the domain of each of the moons of Arcadia. They were powerful beyond measure, with advanced technology in a prosperous age spanning millennia. Their most pitiful advancements could outpace Valua's best technology. With ease.
No one was sure who started it first. Whatever the causes, the War ended such a vast Golden Age. One of the civilizations managed to create a living weapon… with apocalyptic power. It was called a Gigas, and the amount of energy required to control it means that a special moonstone, distilled absolutely to it's most refined and powerful form, is the only means of wielding it's command.
Do you know how the other civilizations responded to this reckless and thoughtless abuse of power and technology? They responded by building their own Gigas and joining the War.
This war lasted for a hundred years. And it wasn't just the Gigas, but a thousand more powerful weapons of war that killed without mercy. The bloodshed was unthinkable, and unstoppable.
One day, something happened. The Rains of Destruction came, and wiped out all six of the civilizations. For an entire year, moonstones fell from every moon onto Arcadia, bombarding every surviving population center and military outpost into craters of smoldering dust. Millions died, and the landscapes of the planet were forever altered by this holocaust event.
My people managed to get to safety by traveling to the Silver Moon and making our home there, but most were not so lucky. Now, we take it as our self-appointed duty to watch over all of Arcadia, and ensure the Rains never happen again. We act as a peacekeeping force from above, ensuring that no group hordes too much power and becomes aggressive with it, like Valua is doing right now."
"That's why they want you," Vyse said, stunned. "They want these… Gigas?"
"Correct," Fina nodded. "They sought to compel my aid in searching for the Moon Crystals but I resisted. My mission is to find each crystal before the Valuans do and ensure they can never be used for their ultimate purpose."
She looked down, staring at the gently swaying grass on the small rocky island as her two new friends processed all this information. The prospect of a Valuan superweapon was not heartening to the Blue Rogues.
"That is why I hate to ask it of you but… will you join me? Aid me on my quest to secure the Crystals and prevent the Rains again?" She looked to both of them pleadingly.
Vyse nodded, standing up. "Of course we will! We're not going to let Valua blow up the whole god-damned world. There's still so much to explore, and I want to see it all." He gave her a thumbs-up. "I'm with you all the way, Fina."
Fina blushed slightly and nodded. "Thank you very much, Vyse. Aika?"
"Hells yeah," Aika replied. "You're our friend, Fina, remember? You couldn't get rid of us if you had the personality of Cap'n Drachma."
"Maybe I should just leave you all here on this island," Drachma rumbled. They all looked over; how he had gotten on the small island seemed unimportant now compared with his sneaky he was becoming altogether. "Well? What're ya'll looking at? I already know the story, otherwise I wouldn't be helping you at all. Can't hunt Rhaknam if the world is being destroyed."
Fina giggled. All of them are my friends, and they'll stay by my side… an odd, squeaking noise began to float through the air. Vyse squinted, trying to identify the source. Aika looked puzzled, while Drachma didn't react to it originally. Fina's bracelet suddenly detached itself from her hand and floated into the air, forming the shape of a small balloon with a short tail and a face. It's skin was a smooth-looking surface, and it made little chirping noises.
"What is that?" Aika demanded, astonished.
"This is Cupil," Fina said simply. "Cupil, say hello to everyone." The creature chirped and did a back-flip in the air. "He's been my companion for all of my life, and he was assigned to help me on this mission. I had kept him secret before now because no one could be trusted to know of the powerful Silvite technologies that enabled his existence."
"Aww," Aika cooed. "He's kinda cute!"
Vyse rolled his eyes and said, "Yeah, nice to meet you too Cupil. So, Captain, when do we set sail, and where for?"
"From what I'm hearin, we could either go after the Yellow or Red Crystals first, they're the closest, boy. Now I'm sure the already warm Valuan hospitality will be heated up even more if we fly anywhere near there for a while, so we're marking our course for Nasr. We sail in two hours. Say your goodbyes, and load up."
"Yes, sir," All three of his new shipmates replied as one.
Pirate Isle's hollow underground port was empty. The Pirates all remarked how odd it was, that the Albatross was finally gone, and how many years it had been there. An equally old ship replaced it temporarily- Little Jack sat moored to the stony face of the Blue Storm base.
All the inhabitants of the island had come to see off Vyse, Aika, Fina and Drachma. A crowd was developing on the docks, with the women and men alike rowdily cheering them on. Dyne shook his head. "There's nothing I could say that would talk you out of this, son, and frankly I don't want to try. It's time for you to leave the nest, strike out on your own, and make yourself a legend. Good luck, Vyse. As of this moment, you are a man, and my equal." He offered his hand, but Vyse declined the more formal route, just giving his Dad a hug like always.
"Thanks," He replied with a big grin. "I'll come visit when I can."
His mother hugged him fiercely again. "You better, young man. I'll be out here worried about you just like I'm worried about your father, so make sure to take care of yourself, and the girls."
"Oh, he'll be 'taking care' of the girls, alright, I betcha," Someone in back was luckily hidden from a parental glare of wrath from Dyne and Martha.
Landis stepped forward. "Quiet down, you guys," He said, and some of the more rowdy noises did decline slightly. "Ugh. Inbred dough brains. Vyse, Aika, I just wanted to thank you." He grinned. "Without you I'd still be here, wallowing in my own self-pity. It was an honor to accompany you."
"Hey, why don't you come with us again?" Vyse asked.
Landis chuckled. "My adventuring days are somewhat in the past-"
"Before the Rains?"
"- Quiet in the front row, Briggs! Anyway, the Captain needs all the help he can get rebuilding the isle and getting a new flagship so we can get back to doing what we do best."
"Robbery, looting, attacking random rich people?" Aika asked.
"Yep," The navigator replied, beaming with a pride that some felt was ill-earned.
"Well, we'd best get going," Drachma said, walking quietly up the loading ramp. The other three waved as they walked up to the deck of their new temporary home. The crowd roared out a final farewell, and the engines on the ship started. Blue Rogues cut the mooring lines for them, and the island opened up.
The Little Jack was on course for Nasr, and for the destiny that awaited everyone.
TO BE CONTINUED.