Dun dun duuuunnn...
This, my friends. Is the final chapter.
DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN SOUL EATER
"Makaaaaaaaa," she was drawn into a bone crushing hug without much warning. She disentangled herself from her father with a grimace. His eyes shone with unshed tears and she had to suppress a groan as she smoothed her now rumpled uniform. The room was a small one, with a single wide window against one wall and shelves of books lining the other three. It appeared to be someone's study, with a desk near the window and a fireplace in one of the corners, a cushy chair in front of it.
"Papa what are you doing here?" She asked in a low voice. Maka had not seen her father in years. The last time had been at a formal occasion to celebrate the Admiral's birthday. Spirit had been invited to the Admiral's manor as had all the officer's and sailors. She had spent the evening avoiding him and hiding out with Sam in one of the many empty rooms of the manor.
Spirit flicked his flaming red hair from his eyes and gave her an unreadable expression. It was as though he were elated but also distressed. He could not seem to make up his mind how to feel. "I needed to speak with you Maka."
"We haven't spoken for years and now out of the blue you wish to talk to me?" She glowered at him. "And why the secrecy? You couldn't just come to call on me at the barracks instead of luring me here?" He frowned, now uncommonly serious.
"I had Blair bring you to me because I knew you would turn me away at the barracks if I came to call. Not to mention you have not been back very long. Blair only managed to find me a day ago and you've been back for three."
Maka turned her glare on the cat who was sitting at her fathers feet. Blair shrugged. "Blair, where is the Demon Scythe?" She asked, deciding to ignore her father. "I thought you were on board the ship." She nodded.
"I was, but I left. I had to get here."
"Do you know where the Demon Scythe is?" She titled her head.
"They were spotted nearby not more than an hour ago. The whole base has been in an uproar about it. It was a ballsy move to come so close to Shibusen. I suppose you wouldn't have heard about it being in your meeting with the council." Spirit interjected.
She turned to look out the window with a frown, chewing her lip in thought. The crew had not left which meant they were still harbouring some hope they could rescue their Captain. Though the impossibility of it was looming up behind her. They could not come to shore, they would be immediately overwhelmed and captured too.
She whirled to face her father again. "How do you know Blair?" she asked suddenly, as though this had just occurred to her. Spirit smiled a little.
"She has been working on my orders. She was told to wait for you on the Demon Scythe."
Maka's lips parted in surprised. For a moment she stood in silence. Unsure what to say about this revelation. Her father had sent Blair? He'd known about deal between the pirates and officers, known about her being sent to her death on her last mission. And he had sent… a cat?
"You knew…and all you did was send Blair?" Blair made a noise of protest for this but Spirit only grimaced.
"I couldn't do much more. Nobody would have believed me Maka…would you have even believed me?"
"Yes!" She snapped. She paused and pinched the bridge of her nose. "No." She huffed on second thought. "I wouldn't have believed you." He nodded.
"They were watching me Maka. They knew I knew and wanted to see what I would do. I couldn't act without putting you or myself in danger. So I sent Blair. Who would suspect a cat?" He smiled bitterly. "I'm just a drunken leach. Disgraced. Nobody would take me seriously if I started spouting off about officer's being traitors."
Spirit had once been in line to be promoted to an officer. After Kami was taken though he had fallen into a spiral of despair and guilt. Drinking away his sorrow and eventually losing his position with the Navy for his behaviour. He was something of a running joke now. Maka had always ignored it. It was just another reason to become the best; living up to her mother's name, outshining her father's poor reputation.
"Do you have anything that could be given as proof to the high council?" she asked him hopefully. "If you could testify too and provide them something concrete we would have them." Spirit nodded.
"I don't have much but just enough condemning evidence against some of them. The corruption runs deep though Maka. The Governor is involved." Her eyes widened. "I don't have anything on him though, he covers his tracks too well." He ruffled his hair with a sigh. "I want you to be careful. I've set for the condemning paperwork to be delivered to the Admiral tonight, once he takes action against those it proves guilty the Governor will become paranoid. He will want to remove you from sight."
"He can't do anything though. If his fellow conspirators are arrested he won't be able to make a move without drawing attention to himself." Spirit shook his head.
"He has other ways of removing those he thinks know too much, its why I've been laying low and why I won't provide the paperwork in person." He slipped into the armchair, head in his hands.
"Maka I know you hate me but I'm begging you to listen to me this once. Resign. You have to leave here. Come with me, I have somewhere we can go. I promise you I've changed." Her brow furrowed.
"I can't do that."
"Why not? I swear to you Maka I'm a changed man." She shook her head.
"It isn't that. Its…" she hesitated. Unsure how she felt about bringing up this next piece of information with him. She swallowed, her eyes trained on him and unable to move away as she spoke next, gauging his reaction. "I know where Mama is…"
The words hung suspended in the silence for a moment. His shoulders stiffened and his face contorted into a pained expression for a moment before wiping clean. Her father had always worn his heart on his sleeve. He had been easy to read since she was a child.
"I can't leave now. I have to petition for an expedition to rescue her." His shoulders slumped.
"Then I'll come with you." He told her in a resolute tone. Her heart sank.
"You can't. Its like you said. If they know you know you'll be in danger. You have to go into hiding, without me." He looked suddenly angry for a moment but it was gone as quick as it had come. The expression was replaced with one that suggested he might burst into tears at any moment.
He stood and drew her into a hug, she could feel him shaking as he pressed her head against his chest. She tried to pull away when she realized the shaking was from him crying. He held her more tightly though, a small sob escaping him.
"You are the most amazing girl in the world. I will never understand how I managed to create something so beautiful. Maka, my beautiful Maka." He wept. She sighed heavily as she felt herself flush.
"Papa, please." She mumbled in irritation as she managed to pull him off of her. She stood awkwardly for a moment as he sniffled and blew his nose into a hanky loudly.
Another thought occurred to her as her father collected himself. "They're going to hang Soul, they've sentenced him to death. I begged mercy on his behalf but they wouldn't accept it. I-I need help. How can I help him?"
He sighed, looking sad. "He's a pirate Maka, there isn't anything you can do." She felt a flash of anger. What did his being a pirate have to do with it? She glared but then wilted a little. What a hypocrite she was. She had felt the same way a year ago. She wouldn't have cared what happened to him because he was a pirate.
Now that she knew him though, respected him even. It seemed wholly unfair that nothing could be done. That it didn't matter how much she vouched for him. She grit her teeth.
"I can't just sit back and let him hang. I have to do something." Her father smiled a small, crooked smile.
"If anyone can do something about it, it would be you." He chuckled a little. "You'll have to break some rules though." She sighed.
"I've broken enough these past months, why should I stop now?"
She approached Iago in the morning, she found him in the training yard throwing knives at targets. A massive crowed surrounded him, all cheering him on. It appeared Iago had a hidden skill for knives. He could strike a target's center with his eyes closed.
A cheer went up as he split an apple perched on a panicking sailor's head. Clutching his heart the sailor dropped to his knees, two halves of the apple on the ground beside him and the knife quivering in the wall behind. Maka paused to clap as well, catching Iago's eye. He flashed her his brilliantly white smile before politely excusing himself from the crowd.
"I didn't realize you were so skilled," she commented as they fell into step with one another, heading in the direction of the armoury. Iago had to return the knives he had borrowed to practice with. He grinned sheepishly.
"Just so, Iago has a few skills he must hold onto now and again." Upon reaching the armoury Maka slid inside after him. Iago went about putting the knives back as Maka leaned herself up against the wall.
"I need your help." She said softly, she figured dancing around the issue would get her nowhere. Iago nodded, not seeming surprised.
"Iago knows little Spark, though truly it is the red-eyed one needing help, yes?" She nodded slightly in response. "Just so," he smiled. "You risked your own life to save mine, Iago Vidal Baldemero the Fourth owes you an eternal debt for your courage."
"You owe me nothing. I was only repaying my own debt to you in kind."
"Dear little spark, all I did was write some words on a paper, and with selfish motives I might add. I had hoped you would rescue me in turn. You had no motive other than the bravery and kindness of your heart." He touched her chest softly. Maka opened her mouth to speak again but the alchemist hushed her while pressing a finger to her lips. "All debts aside, Iago will help you. As a friend with no other motive than the joy that comes with helping a friend."
The pressure on her chest lifted. This would make things so much easier. She didn't even have much to ask of him. Just a few small things. They had to work quickly, Soul's hanging was only a day away now.
"First, I need you to send this letter." She handed him the small rolled up parchment. Iago touched it to his lips before flourishing his hands and tossing powder in the air that caught fire, enveloping the scroll then disappearing.
"Done." She smiled tremulously, one step complete and no way for anybody to know it had happened. A small success, but a step in the right direction. "Next?" he asked her.
She reached into her pocket and produced a second slip of parchment. This one had two words scrawled across it. She did not want to speak it out loud, in case her father was right and somebody was already watching her. Meeting his black, shining eyes she saw him nod almost imperceptibly. "You can make this within a day?"
"Iago can do it in half. Once done I will deliver it to your room little spark?"
"No, I have someone who can come pick it up."
"Just so. I shall await your messenger once I finish then."
Setting the parchment aflame he turned and left the armoury. Maka remained for a moment, mentally checking off her list of things to do, then slipped out of the room herself.
"Gonna hang tomorrow Soul Eater!" one of the guards taunted. Pig was what Soul liked to refer to him as. Privately of course, he wasn't stupid enough to provoke the man now. He'd prefer to go to his death looking as handsome and cool as he always did. Not covered in bruises and cuts from the beatings he could potentially take.
He was sure at some point that the other guard had stated Pig's name but his mind seemed to have just banished it from memory. Pig was a more fitting name for him anyways with his upturned nose, wide nostrils and sagging jowls. The man snorted when he laughed too, to top it all off.
The second guard was quiet most of the time. Gruff when he did speak. Soul liked to refer to him as Goat. Due to his wild unruly hair that looked about the consistency of a goats fur and his heavy under bite that gave the constant impression of anger. His eyes had an odd sort of way about them where one would slide off in one direction paying no mind to where the other was looking.
Pig and Goat. His personal guards. They rarely went anywhere else. He was a little offended that the two had been assigned to him. He had hoped his reputation would have warranted more intelligent guards that were perhaps in better shape and not so dreadfully ugly.
Goat scratched his beard and mumbled something. He rarely talked so Soul always made himself pay special attention when he did just in case he said something important. One would think if a person withheld their words it would be because they treasured them and only spoke when they had something important to say.
"Looks like rain."
Soul suspected this was not the case with Goat and that perhaps, his lack of speech was just because he was not the brightest of men.
He peered out between the bars of his cell window. It did, in fact, look like rain. The sky was grey as gun metal and he could hear the rumblings of thunder in the distance. Soul stood to peer out the tiny window more closely. He clutched the bars tightly, feeling the salty breeze press against his fingertips tentatively. Boosting himself up a little on the wall he saw the waves were choppy. No ships.
About a day and a half before he had been pleasantly informed by Pig that his ship had been spotted off the mainland. His captor had proceeded to inform him that it wouldn't be long before the Navy had all his crew to hang as well as he 'filthy' pirate ship to burn.
The information about the ship had both delighted and angered him. Delight that his crew had not forgotten him and anger that they would be foolish enough to get themselves seen. The whole base would be on high alert now. Not to mention he would kill them himself if they managed to get themselves caught and sentenced to hang as well.
There was a clamour outside as Pig and Goat's lunch was delivered. Soul waited patiently for them to shove his own bowl of lumpy grey gruel and stale bread through a small hole in the bottom of the bars. He scarfed it down hungrily, wondering if it would be his last meal. With a sigh he leaned up against the wall on the dirty pallet of straw and closed his eyes. Miraculously, he managed to sleep.
He woke to darkness. Night had stolen up on them quickly and he felt a brief moment of panic, wondering if he had slept away his last few hours. The mocking jeers he knew would come from Pig did not follow though.
The two guards were seated outside his door still, chatting quietly. Well, Pig was chatting, Goat was grunting. The soft glow of their lamplight touched a portion of Soul's cell and he longed for a moment to get closer to it. Every one of his extremities felt like they were encased in ice. He tried to move them to regain some feeling.
As he rubbed the frozen tip of his nose the clatter of the tower door opening caught his attention. He crawled forward to peer down the short hallway to the door, forgetting whenever he neared the bars what would happen.
Stars exploded behind his eyes as Pig reached through the bars to clobber him over the head. Soul hissed and sat back, clutching his skull. Before all this happened though he managed to catch sight of a cloaked figured standing at the end of the hall, a basket clutched in hand.
"That's enough of that," the hooded figure chastised. Pig sniffed haughtily.
"Just givin' the pirate bastard what's been comin' to 'im." Goat brandished his bayonet in the figure's direction.
"Who goes?" he growled.
They paused, standing still for a beat and then pulling down their hood. Still Soul could not see the newcomer's face. Not with them standing out of the light of the oil lamp and him forced to press against the wall to avoid being clocked on the head again.
"Your dinner." The voice told them crisply. That voice. Soul realized. He knew it, though could hardly believe it.
Maka strode forward purposefully, basket slung over her arm. Soul could only wonder what game she was playing. Had she come to say goodbye to him? See him one last time before his hanging in the morning? Or perhaps she had come to tell him every moment she had ever been with him had been an act and that it was all working towards the goal of capturing him.
The guards were only too fond of telling him he was a fool for trusting anyone in the Navy. Not with him being a pirate. Apparently the story of their adventures together had somehow made their way around the base, though accuracy in the tales were lacking from what he had gathered of what Pig told him.
"Captain Maka Albarn," she stated clearly, glaring at Goat. "Now would you please put that thing away Master Jacoby." Soul felt a moment of confusion when Maka referred to Goat by his real name. Goat lowered his bayonet and Maka nodded stiffly, appearing satisfied. "I was ordered to bring you both supper."
"Why you?" Pig asked suspiciously. She shrugged.
"My name was drawn for the duty. Simple enough." She glowered for a moment. "If you don't want any supper I can take it away." She turned to go.
"No, no!" Pig said hastily, Goat shook his head profusely. "We want it, we just have to ask, doing our jobs is all."
"Yes, yes," she said impatiently.
Opening the basket she produced a two soft pieces of bread, a lump of cheese and an apple a piece. Along with these she also brought out a flask of something. The sound of the liquid sloshing around inside made Soul's mouth feel even drier he was so thirsty.
Upon handing them their meal she turned and headed towards the door. She drew up her hood as she walked. She had not laid eyes on him since she entered the room and he was beginning to feel extremely confused. Why come if not for some final goodbye to him? Perhaps she had decided it would be too much for her?
She was walking awfully slowly towards the door.
Thunk. Thump. His eyes tore away from her to the floor in front of his case. Both of his guards were out cold on the flagstones before him. Neither moving an inch, just laying prone on the floor. His gaze flicked back up and found Maka striding towards him once more, her hood still drawn up but her face visible now with the angle she was facing.
"Are they dead?" he asked, breaking the silence. She said nothing for a moment, only shook her head and bent down to begin feeling her way through their pockets. "Pig keeps it in his left breast pocket, inside his coat." He told her helpfully. She did not need to clarify which was Pig, somehow already knowing. Removing the key she stood to unlock the door.
He clasped her wrist through the bars and she was forced to look at him. He felt as if somebody had struck him upon meeting her eyes. Her left eye was black and her nose bruised and a little bloody. In the dark of the cell tower he had not seen it at first. Now, with the moonlight coming through his cell window it was painfully obvious.
"What happened to you?" he asked quietly. She shook her head and gently pulled away from his grip to finish unlocking the door. There was a small click and the door swung open easily. He stepped closer to her, reaching out to touch her face. "Who did this to you?" She smiled weakly.
"I was attacked."
"By who?" he asked sharply, feeling an anger like none he had ever known swell inside him.
"I don't know actually. It was so quick. I didn't see it coming. I fought back of course and he ended up leaving our altercation wounded as well." Ah, Maka's version of 'you should see the other guy' he wanted to laugh and shout all at once. "Papa thinks it was one of the Governor's hirelings. They're trying to scare me into silence, they don't want me to go digging any deeper into the conspiracy."
She pulled away from him and began dragging the limp bodies of the guards up and into seated positions. She puffed at how heavy they were and glanced over her shoulder at him. "Would you help me? I'm trying to make it look like they fell asleep on the job, rather than they were knocked out by a sleeping draught." He hurried over to assist her. He had about a thousand questions swirling about inside him. The first one he chose to ask surprised him though.
"Your Papa? You saw him?" She nodded as she tried to make Goat's arm fall in a way that didn't look so unnatural.
"He met me after my hearing with the high council. I'm not completely sure how I feel about it yet." He adjusted Pig so he was slumped against Goats back.
"How did you do this?" He didn't need to elaborate, she understood.
"Iago, he made me a sleeping draught. I managed to convince the serving girl on duty to give me her job for the evening. She won't give me away, she's taken the time off to visit her lover her parents don't approve of."
She quirked a smile as they stood back, admiring their work. The two guards sat back to back, slumped against one another. Close enough to the bars that Soul could have easily reached through and stolen their keys. They left the cell door wide open.
Maka gathered up the rest of the their dinner and they stole out of the prison tower.
They travelled through the fortress halls in silence. Maka had had the sense to bring a cloak for Soul so he could shroud himself from any prying eyes. They didn't seem to come across anyone for ages though, Maka having meticulously planned their path to avoid the guards rounds.
Ducking around a corner and into an empty room as the first guard they had encountered passed, Soul took the opportunity to ask the question that had burning inside him since they left his cell tower.
"Where are we going?" he whispered. She shook her head and only beckoned him to follow her as she determined the coast was clear.
Making their way down a spiralled staircase they emerged outside on the battlements. The salt air was cool on his face and he felt overwhelmingly grateful that this would not be the last time he got to experience it. "Only a little further now," she murmured, taking him by the hand and leading him onward.
The walkway lined the rocky coast, directly up against the water that crashed against the outer walls of the fortress noisily. They walked for several minutes before reaching a deserted curve of the wall, shadowed and silent for the distance it was from everything else. Maka held out her hand for him to stop. She then proceeded to produce a rope that had been stored for just this purpose.
"No light?" he asked her from his place nearby in the dark. The cloud covered sky was doing nothing for their visibility.
"I'm afraid not. I didn't want to draw too much attention to this spot."
"How are they going to find us?" She sighed, suddenly sounding close.
"Can't you just trust me?" He felt her move away from him to stand at the ledge. "Right on time," she murmured.
Out on the water a small light was bobbing its way towards the wall. Such a small light, it wouldn't be noticed unless someone were purposely looking for it already knowing it was there. The sounds of bickering echoed back to them. "Don't shove me." A voice hissed.
"Stop taking all of the room then!"
"Will you two stop! You'll tip the boat."
"I don't like it out here in the dark, its creepy. How are we even supposed to know we are going in the right direction?"
"You don't trust my judgement? I'm offended. I know where we're going."
Maka turned to him with an irrepressible grin. His eyes adjusting to the dark he was able to make out the shape of it, the expression on her face. "Your rescue party arrives," she announced softly. The arguing voices all shushed one another in that moment.
"Did you hear that?"
"Do you think its them?"
"Stop shoving me!"
The sounds of oars dipping into the water reached them before the rowboat came into sight. When the boat did appear it took a moment for his eyes to adjust, the figures seated in it only blurry shadows before materializing. Kid and both Thompson sisters. They peered up at him with smiling faces as he leaned over the wall.
"Come on then Cap'n," Patti called up to him.
"Give him a minute Patti," Liz told her, annoyed. Kid nodded at Maka who smiled wistfully back.
Maka and Soul drew back. They worked together to tie the rope securely, tossing it over the side of the wall. Soul stood back and gestured forward. "After you," he said in a mock gentleman fashion.
She did not move, the light from the rescue parties lantern glowing behind her, ringing her in a halo of soft light. There was a beat of silence, only the sound of murmured conversation between the rescuers and the lapping of the water below filtered its way through the air. Her lips parted quietly.
"Soul, I'm not coming."
Again, silence. It was as if his mind couldn't properly process the words she had spoken. He had just assumed she would be coming with him. He didn't know why but for the life of him he couldn't properly imagine leaving without her. It just made sense for her to come too.
His mind recalled prior conversation and action. Adjusting the guards to look like they had just fallen asleep on the job instead of being knocked out, making it appear that he had escaped instead of being set free, mentioning how the serving girl would not give her away, bringing the remains of the sleep draught filled dinner to hide any trace of her treacherous behaviour.
She really didn't plan on coming with them. Unable to remove his confused expression he attempted to express his thoughts. "But…why?" he asked lamely.
"I have to stay here. I'm not a pirate." He laughed a little.
"They attacked you Maka, the Governor is out to make sure you are silenced forever…but you want to stay? Did they even believe you when you told them about the corruption or did they scorn you like they do to anyone who speaks the truth?" his tone was incredulous.
"I don't belong on a pirate ship, Soul." She said with an edge to her voice.
"It's not about being a pirate, Maka!" he snapped, his temper flaring. "Its about being free!" He stepped towards her, clutching her arms tightly as he spoke. "It isn't about looting or fighting or sacking ships and ports. Its about the freedom. About being able to go wherever you want to go and do whatever you want to do and damning the consequences." Her eyes were wide, she swallowed tightly.
"I have responsibili-"
"You aren't meant to be caged." He interrupted, not wanting to hear about her responsibilities. "If there was anybody I ever met who needed to be free its you. You flourished during the time you sailed with us." He told her earnestly. "Come with us, I know you won't-"
Pressing her finger to his lips, he fell quiet. She pulled away from him. "I'm not coming Soul," she told him firmly.
"They'll know it was you," he told her in a last effort to convince her. "They'll know you helped me to escape. They will kill you Maka." She shook her head.
"But they won't have any proof and without proof they can't do anything to me." A small sigh escaped her at his expression. "I cannot just run away, there are things I have left to do." The rescue party in the rowboat below were calling up to them now to hurry. Maka smiled sadly.
"You have to go now."
He moved to the edge, clutching the rope. Tensing, he whirled around and pulled her in against him, embracing her tightly. She relaxed against him and let go of a shaky breath. He placed a firm kiss on the top of her head and then went back to the rope. He could not look back, if he did he might do something drastic like try to kidnap her. He knew that would not go over well.
"Goodbye you pirate bastard," she whispered. He thought he heard her voice crack a little but it could have been his imagination. He chuckled at her endearing tone.
"Goodbye flat-chested wench." And he climbed down over the side of the wall and out of sight.
Maka stood alone in the dark long after the little rowboat had disappeared into the night.
The gavel hammered down on the desk loudly, echoing into the room.
"Request declined." The voice rang out with an unmistakable finality
Her heart dropped like a stone. She had been so sure they would approve it…how could they not? The Governor smirked at her from his place at the end of the table. Her fist clenched at her side, he was why. Whatever had happened was a result of the Governor's hatred for her.
She should have known, she told herself. Why they had even made her wait the three days was beyond her, perhaps to make her wonder and get her hopes up. Just to be cruel.
Three days. She had put in her request the day following Soul's escape. The base had been in an uproar and then under complete lockdown as every inch was searched for signs of him or where he might have gone. She had been interrogated, as she suspected she would be, though it had amounted to nothing. The two guards that had been caught sleeping outside Soul's cell had been promptly dismissed. Maka only felt a little bad for them, they were not a pleasant pair.
During the time she was waiting for the result of her request, her father left. She had seen him off at the northern gate to the base. He left by land, only himself on a horse with his pack. He had begged her to come with him but she had again refused.
"You are dismissed Captain," the Admiral said with a frown, not taking his eyes off of the papers in front of him as he read. She breathed deeply to calm herself. Losing her temper here would get her nowhere. She attempted to loosen her clenched fists.
"My Lord Admiral," she called out. The Admiral finally tore his eyes away from the papers in front of him, eyebrows raised. "Permission to speak?"
He put down the papers with a sigh. After staring her down for a moment he waved his hand to indicate her to go on.
"I would ask you why my request was declined?" She tried to remain polite but she knew her tone was biting. He folded his hands in front of him as he shifted forward in his seat.
"You had claimed to know the location of one Captain Kami Albarn and were requesting we send an expedition to retrieve her, yes?" Maka nodded tightly. "The place you claimed she might be." He made sure to emphasize the word might. "Is in the farlands and way outside of Shibusen navies jurisdiction. We don't have the authority to go in there guns blazing, Captain Albarn."
"She was the best! She was loyal to you to the end and you are just going to let her rot in some foreign land because it isn't in your jurisdiction?" she burst out furiously.
"Captain," one of the high council reprimanded sharply.
"It isn't realistic," the Admiral went on. "An expedition like that could take months, if not years. We cannot justify the expense or the manpower to run such a thing. Not for one person."
"I don't want a massive group. All I ask is for one ship and a crew. We can sail in and rescue her then come back."
"You don't even know her exact location. There are too many variables."
"Not to mention, you've been reassigned." The Governor interjected with a sly smile.
It felt as though someone had punched her in the gut. Her eyes snapped to the Governor to gauge his expression. The man was smiling quietly. His dark piercing eyes gleaming out at her from beneath his heavy brow. He was not just smiling, but smirking. Her floored expression had shown him she had not been expecting to be reassigned.
"Reassigned?" Maka managed in a breathy voice, trying to place her emotions on lock down. The Admiral cocked his head in the Governor's direction, clearly revealing that piece of information now had not been planned on. The Governor waived his hand lazily.
"What does it matter? She had might as well know now. Perhaps it will help to convince her she needs to drop the issue of sailing on a pointless expedition to the Farlands." The Admiral's jaw was visibly tight, he was clearly not pleased with being forced into this moment. He swallowed a sigh.
"Yes, we have reassigned you to assist with facilitating training. Its an excellent opportunity, you showed great aptitude and organizational skills in your own training. We thought it would be a nice change for you after recent-" he continued to drone on but his empty explanations buzzed away in Maka's ears.
Reassigned. To assist with facilitating training. They were taking her out of action. No ship. No sea. No crew. She would be dealing with paperwork and snot-nosed recruits. Not that she didn't appreciate what training was, in fact she had considered it for when she began to advance in her years. At such a time she would have embraced the ability to teach with open arms. But not now, not when she had so much more time ahead of her.
Something in her broke. Quick and sharp, it snapped like a frayed rope pulled too tight.
She became aware of the Admiral still droning on. It didn't matter. Nothing he said mattered. None of this entire meeting mattered. It never had. She felt like an idiot for allowing it go on, for dragging it on as she had. Her gaze snapped up to the high council's table.
Her proclamation interrupted the Admiral's droning. He looked confused, the whole council looked baffled. As if they could not comprehend what she had just said. Her words echoed off the rafters.
"Now, Captain Albarn, you are not really of an age to retire yet and-"
"I don't retire. I resign. I no longer wish to be a sailor in Shibusen Navy."
"This is a serious decision and I think perhaps you should-"
"I will not sleep on it." She told him firmly, cutting him off. "I don't need to think about my decision." She strode towards the desk, removing her medals from her chest as she went. She tossed them on the desk, a clatter of metal on wood. "And I don't want these."
She stepped back and gave a slight bow, perhaps a little mocking. "I am finished with your navy sir." She whirled and began to make her way towards the double doors as the buzzing of conversation broke over her like a wave.
A chair scraped loudly across the marble floor. "Miss Albarn." Already they dropped her title of Captain while addressing her. She hesitated, hand on the door handle. She considered ignoring the caller but turned slightly to see.
The Governor stood behind the table, his cunning face arranged artfully to appear indifferent, perhaps in what he believed was a noble expression. She knew she had stunned him though, could almost see his emotions writhing beneath the surface of his mask of a face.
"As you resign allow me to issue a warning. Despite your history with us here; if you are caught in any act of piracy, in the company of pirates, or passing valued information to pirates, we will not hesitate with the appropriate…discipline." His lip quirked a little. "To match said crime."
Her face hardened at his words but she nodded and bowed again, this time the bow was clearly mocking. She then turned and exited. Severing her career with Shibusen Navy.
Where to go? She wondered as she finished packing the remainder of her things. Away, that was certain, but to where? Her heart was still set on finding her mother but she could not do so on her own without a ship or crew. Thoughts of the Demon Scythe crossed her mind on several occasions but she had no way to contact them and the Governor's warning echoed ever in he back of her mind since she left the council room.
She didn't have a lot on the base, most of her things were home still.
She slung her pack over her shoulder. She had one last thing to do before she left. Iago was leaving. He had bought passage on one of the merchant ships that had come to the harbour to take him home. She had promised him she would see him off.
She felt as though she blinked and was suddenly there. She didn't even register making her way to the harbour. Her mind was blank. She was racing through pages of her mind like the pages of a book but each page was blank with no more concrete decision written on it than the last. Where to go?
Iago's brilliant smile greeted her. He embraced her tightly, a short laugh escaping him. Maka couldn't help but smile too as she pulled away, pushing her windblown hair from her eyes.
"You seem happy," she said as she tucked a wayward strand behind her ear. He threw his hands up towards the sky and boomed out a laugh in response.
"Iago is going home!" he chuckled, "Little Spark, I have not been this happy in years." His demeanour was infectious. She grinned at him.
"I am happy for you." Iago paused, his expression turning soft and a little sad.
"Just so. Such a decision you've made," just a comment, no prying questions, simply an observation. She chewed her lip.
"Do you think I've made the right one?" she asked in a small voice.
"That is not an answer I can give you." He gestured to her pack. "Where will you go?"
"Home, I think." She shielded her eyes from the sun. "For a little while anyways. After that. I don't really know."
"You will figure it out, Little Spark." He ruffled her hair affectionately. One of the crew began shouting for the passengers to board and Iago smiled ruefully, turning towards the ship.
"Why do you call me that?" Maka asked, her curiosity peaked. "Little Spark, I mean." Iago glanced at her over his shoulder.
"It is what you are. You are a small spark, but the smallest of embers can be just as dangerous. You burn bright. You are fire. Iago would have thought it was obvious?" He smiled and embraced her once more before heading up the ramp onto the ship.
"Farewell, Little Spark!" He called to her from the railing as the sails unfurled. "I pray the gods will smile on us and let us meet again!"
Maka turned as the ship pulled out of port, pushing her way through the milling crowds and away from the harbour. There was nobody to see her off, everyone who she truly cared for and cared about her in return were elsewhere.
You aren't meant to be caged. Her lip quirked in a smile.
"I'm not anymore," She murmured to herself as she reached the stables and mounted her horse. She turned it towards the east gate, cantering out onto the path and away from Shibusen Naval base.
First she would go home. It was a start.
END OF PART ONE
A/N: Yes, this means what you all think it means. Sequel! I have been planning to break this up into parts for awhile now but wanted to save my decision as a surprise! I had a completely different ending mapped out before but then was like...no...I want to take this further! And so my plans for a sequel were born!
So, if you have enjoyed this tale, watch out for its continuation!
And as always, I appreciate reviews! They make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside :D