1st Treasure: The Pirate Lord
In all the world, these seas are mine. I take what I want, whatever it may be. Gold or women, it's all my harvest.
Arthur sat in his lavishly decorated cabin, pouring over maps and scraps of paper. Sitting near his jar of fancy quills was his latest bounty; an emerald the size of a walnut. The last raid had been particularly successful, not only because he had captured what he came for, but he had not lost any one of his men in the attack. That was good; he hated having to replace the dead, and those willing to work for pirates were scarce.
Arthur picked up the emerald and rubbed his thumb across its cut polished surface. It was so shiny he could see his reflection in it. He turned his gaze back at his maps. They were variants of most the known world, with one or two of the more recently discovered lands. His ship, The Regent, was sailing off the coast of Italy, keeping an eye on the trade ships coming in from China and Turkey. So far they had been only meager merchant ships, with no real valuable cargo.
In truth, the life of a pirate was becoming somewhat of a bore for Arthur. He had everything he could ever need, or want for that matter. But because of this, piracy had lost its glam. Arthur was so infamous, ships he attacked simply gave up once they spotted The Regent on their tail. No, what he needed was something that would give him a worthwhile fight.
Arthur suddenly became aware that he was not alone in the room. Instinctively, his hand reached for his sword, a reflex that proved to be life saving. As soon as his fingers touched the hilt of his blade, another came flying toward him. Its sharp point embedded itself in the cherry wood writing desk he had been working at. Arthur quickly drew his blade and faced his attacker. Who would have the gall to attack him on his own ship?!
He didn't have to wait long for his answer. His blade clashed with that of a youth dressed in all black. His face was obscured by a mask, but Arthur could see the intense look in his eyes. It was like looking into pools of liquid fire, the fierceness with which they burned was not hate; rather determination. Arthur pushed the assassin back and steadied himself.
"Who are you?!" he demanded.
The youth recomposed himself and glared back at Arthur. "I have no name," he answered in monotone before coming at Arthur again.
The pair spun and exchanged blows back and forth. The youth managed to cut Arthur's cheek, but wasn't so lucky himself. He let his guard down and Arthur sliced right though his thin clothes. His blade cut deep into the assassin's gut. The door to Arthur's cabin slammed open and several of his crew appeared, weapons drawn.
The youth, despite his wound, swiftly ran to the open window and leapt into the ocean. A few crew members rushed to catch him, but he was already gone. Arthur's first mate approached him.
"Captain, you're bleeding…"
Arthur waved his concern away. "It's only a scratch. Tell me, how did an assassin manage to get onto the ship, let alone into my private cabin?"
The lieutenant shook his head. "I don't know, Captain…"
Someone shouted out on deck, drawing the attention of both Arthur and his present crew members. Arthur sheathed his sword, crossing the room and stepping out on deck. He craned his neck upward towards the crow's nest.
"What have you?" he shouted up.
"Imperial ship, Captain!" the crowman shouted back. "Looks like an ambassadorial ship!"
"Now that is odd…must be carrying something important…" Arthur turned to his men. "Alright, you know the drill! Get that ship cornered!"
There was a great deal of movement on the deck of The Regent as men scrambled to get into position. Arthur climbed the stairs that lead up to the navigation deck, his thoughts on the small spar he and his attacker had had. His hand touched the cut on his cheek. It had been many years since he'd felt that elated, not since he had taken on the whole Spanish armada with only one ship and a few men. He had finally felt the old thrill again and those eyes…those oh so determined eyes like fire. He'd never seen anything like that before. He wanted those eyes.
Arthur twiddled the helm, pointing the ship in the direction of his target. They were gaining speed on it and it was quickly coming into view.
"Alright, men! Fire the warning shot!"
Three men loaded up one of the cannons, set the fuse and lit it, all in under a minute. The cannon went off with a tremendous blast of noise and smoke, sending the cannonball inside hurtling toward the target ship. It made contact, knocking over one of the masts of the Chinese ship. The Regent was now within boarding distance. Arthur gave the command and the Three Wishes were lowered onto the other ship. Men poured onto the imperial ship, weapons at the ready. They met little resistance; after all, this was an ambassadorial ship, not an armed cargo sloop.
Arthur strode onto the ship, the very image of a pirate lord. His studded belt held both sword and pistol and sunlight danced off the bejeweled rings on his fingers. He scanned the crew of his captured ship, his face empty.
"Where is your captain?" he asked. "I have business with him."
The crew remained silent. Either they didn't understand English, or they were choosing to ignore him. Arthur paced a few times in front of them.
"I warn you, my patience is not endless. Do you have a captain?"
"They do indeed," answered a young voice. Emerging from the galley was a young man in his early twenties. He wore a sleeveless white China shirt with black and gold trim and his black hair was cut short and practical.
"I am their captain. My name is Honda Kiku, brother to the Chinese emperor, Yao." Kiku's voice had a certain lilt to it, making it quite pleasing to listen to. It was also deeper than Arthur had anticipated coming from such a young man. But that's not what had Arthur momentarily speechless. This boy had the same eyes has his attacker, the same liquid fire set in brown.
Arthur cleared his throat, trying to hide his surprise. "You're Japanese, yes? I thought your homeland was closed off to the world."
"Not to China," Kiku answered matter of factly. "But yes, to the West we are. I am on an important mission for my brother about that and if he finds out you have delayed me- what?"
"Oh, nothing," Arthur said, who had approached the younger man while he was talking. He leaned down and stared right into his face. "Your eyes…they're quite unique, like nothing I've ever seen before. I want those eyes."
Kiku took a step back, repulsed by this man's sudden interest. "My eyes…? But you surely cannot…"
Arthur straightened and sighed. "I'm not going to pluck them from your head, if that's what you mean. I don't do that kind of thing, rather too nasty for my taste. But since I can't do that, I'll just take the whole body. Men! Kindly escort Mr. Honda here to my cabin."
Two of Arthur's men grabbed Kiku's arms. He resisted their touch quite vehemently. "You cannot do this! I am the brother of the Emperor! He will send men for me!"
Arthur only smiled and stroked Kiku's head. Kiku tried to bite his hand and spat something in Chinese, which sounded like it was quite nasty. Arthur tsked him for the foul language.
"Lucky me I don't understand Chinese…that sounded mean."
Kiku was still shouting in Chinese and some mixed Japanese as he was dragged away. Arthur's lieutenant came up beside him.
"Are you sure about this, Captain? I mean, if he really is the Emperor's brother…"
"You worry too much," Arthur scoffed. "I don't plan on keeping him forever. Just long enough to get a little ransom from his dear brother. Besides he…"
Arthur shook his head. "Nevermind, it's nothing. I'll leave the cleaning up to you then. Oh, and send a change of clothes for my guest later."
The first mate gave him a strange look, but nodded his head anyway. "Aye, Captain."
The sun was setting on the wreckage of the Imperial ship, burned to hide its existence. The Regent was already miles from it, sailing southward further into the Mediterranean. These were dangerous waters here; one had to watch out for the Greek raiders. But Arthur's mind was hardly on the dangers of the water around him. He was far too occupied watching his "guest" eat dinner.
Kiku hadn't spoken a word since he'd been locked in Arthur's cabin. He had refused the clothes given to him by the first mate, throwing them back in his face and screaming at him in full Japanese. He'd even tried to make a run for the door, but that was thwarted and he'd been locked in. His face remained stoic and expressionless as he silently ate his food.
Arthur played with his own food, not very hungry and more interested in his dining partner. The room was only filled with the sounds of clinking china and the slosh of the waves outside. Finally, Arthur broke the silence.
"You were the one, weren't you?" he asked quietly. Kiku didn't pause in his eating but he did look up at Arthur. He pressed further.
"You must be quite the fighter, to make it into my cabin and ship completely undetected. Not only that, but you managed to cut me. Tell me, how is your wound?"
Kiku put his fork down on the table. "I do not know what you are talking about."
"Ah, he speaks! I was afraid you'd lost your voice from shock. It's so beautiful to listen to." Arthur leaned closer to Kiku, staring up into his eyes. "You're quite beautiful yourself, even for a boy."
Kiku's porcelain face flushed red and his thin eyebrows knitted themselves. He scooted further back into his chair. "W-what are you suggesting?!"
"I'm saying that you're pretty, that's all." Arthur stood, stretching his shoulders. "You're free to move about the ship as you please, but my crew will be keeping an eye on you, so don't try anything funny. We're more than two days from the nearest port. It doesn't matter how good of a sneak you are, you don't have anywhere to go."
"Why are you being so nice to me?" Kiku asked suddenly.
Arthur smiled. "You're not a prisoner here, you're a guest. It's as simple as that."
With a sweep of his red frock, Arthur exited the main cabin and walked out on deck. Kiku put his hands on his cheeks, feeling the heat underneath. Why did that impertinent man's smile make his face so hot? He slapped them briskly and shook his head.
"I must be just tired…" he muttered to himself. His eyes drifted around the room. For being a pirate lord's private cabins, they were decorated only with the basics, even if they were lavish basics. The tall windows were curtained with blood red velvet, rather than the pitch black of most ships. Several dozen candelabras made of brass, silver, and even a couple gold ones lined the wraparound tabletops. A plain looking door led into the bedchamber. Kiku tried the handle and found it unlocked. He pushed it open.
This room had more rich décor, proof of Arthur's immense wealth. The same blood red curtains lined the windows in this room. At the back of the rightside wall was a four poster bed, fitted in red sheets as well. Sitting on the bed were the clothes Kiku had been offered before.
Kiku picked up the silk spun shirt and breeches. A pair of boots was even there for him. The clothes were too big for him, but judging from the materials they were made from, they belonged to the Captain. The boots, however, fit perfectly, if not a little too roomy in the toe.
"My old clothes look good on you," said a voice from the doorway.
Kiku jumped a foot in the air at the voice. How had he managed to sneak up on him without Kiku noticing? He hesitantly turned around, clutching his hands to his chest.
"Ah! Umm…they were just lying there, so I assumed…"
"It's alright," Arthur said, smiling again. He took off his hat and tossed expertly onto a bust standing near the window. "I had those left there for you. You stick out too much dressed the way you were. You'd look prettier in fitted clothes, but oh well."
Arthur crossed the room and flopped down on the four poster. His shirt was halfway open, exposing his chest. In the glow of the candles, the scars there seemed to dance. He yawned widely, tucking his hands behind his head.
"You never answered my question, you know. Did I cut you deep?"
Kiku's head dropped, his bangs obscuring his face. "N-no…it…was only shallow…"
"Why did you try to kill me? Wanted the bounty, eh?"
Kiku shook his head. "No! It is because you were causing trouble for my brother! Raiding and sinking every silk ship that crossed into the Mediterranean! You had no concern for what it did to the countries they belonged to!"
Arthur sat up, making the bed creak. "I'm a pirate. I take what I want, whatever it is. And I take out those who stand in my way of what I want."
"That is horrible! You could at least be a little…"
"Little what? Let the scumbags live so they can come back for my head, like you tried to? The world isn't all paper and word, Mr. Honda. Actions are what speak, and blood is the currency of the seas. You'd best get used to it."
"You are despicable!" Kiku said, his voice rising. "Once my brother finds out you have taken me hostage, he will send ships for your head, as you have said!"
"Ah, well, you see, there's something funny about that. The thing is your dear brother, the Emperor, thinks you're dead."
Kiku's face paled. "What?"
Arthur was smiling again, but this time it was sinister. "Ooo, you're cute when you're scared! I think I'm in love!"
Kiku grabbed the lapels of Arthur's coat, pulling him closer. "What did you say?!"
"I said, your brother thinks you're dead. Your ship sank, and every person on it drowned. Including you."
"No…how…how could you…?" Kiku's grip loosened and he fell to his knees, tears beginning to form in his eyes. "How could you?"
Arthur seized Kiku's chin and forced his head upward. "I decided I just don't want your eyes. I want all of you. And whatever I want, I get."