The Dragon's Sanctum

By Keiko Oda

Inspired by Pirates of the Caribbean

A Gakuen Alice "Pirates" Rendition

CHAPTER THREE

Natsume sat on the figurehead of the ship, a massive, elaborate statuette of a silver scaled dragon. As the boat sailed smoothly with the silky current of the sea, he silently picked at the piece of bread and chewed over the captain's new prisoner – the girl, Mikan – and how they had been searching years on end for this "Mystical Woman" (as the rest of the crew called it) only to find a damsel no more than sixteen or seventeen years old, innocent and naive as a rabbit, but nevertheless beautiful.

He had only been with her for a few moments, but he had already learned by heart every detail of her appearance. She had long, sandy hair that coiled down her shoulders in flimsy tendrils, deep sombre eyes and thick, dark eyelashes that glistened when she wept, and smooth milky skin that he had already touched – but not in the way he wished to, he thought troublingly, for she was weak and wounded and absolutely terrified of him.

And in the end, he thought, what was good in fancying a stranger who it yet to be murdered?

ooooo

As the days progressed, each seemed longer and more terrifying than the next. After Natsume had tended to my wound and I had fallen back to sleep, I woke with a tight blindfold so intricately knotted that it was impossible to disentangle, especially with my mouth and arms bounded just the same. I was only removed of them when a robust, black man would come into the prison ward and give us our sparse meals of bread and dried fish, and then forced back into the bondage afterwards.. I wondered how much longer I was going to be kept in this wet, dirty cell. I was feeling sicker and sicker each day, and I felt like every ounce of strength I had left in my bones were being sucked out by the pain in my leg , that despite having been considerably subdued, still sent out excruciating waves of pain whenever I moved it.

It was doubtless my third day onboard when Natsume returned again. He unlocked my cell and crouched next to me, with the same medical reliefs he had aided me with when I had arrived. He released me and unwrapped my bandage, and I saw that my wound had already scabbed, but had a thick, yellow crust mottled around the wound. I felt sicker as he started peeling it out, slowly but painfully, and I saw that the skin below it had become flawless as it was when I had come on the ship.

"Why do you do this?" I asked him, as he ran more ice over the wound. It was alleviating.

"Don't get any ideas, little girl," he said, "It's the Captain's orders"

I scoffed, finding the idea utterly preposterous. "He wounds me and then heals me? Who is he, the Good Samaritan?"

He glowered at me. "Look, kid, I don't know how much brattier you can get, but you should keep your filthy mouth shut! Persona is a ruthless pirate and will cut your heart open if he loses his patience with you"

That honestly frightened me, but I wanted to show him I was not. "Why? What's it to you?"

That was when he lost his temper. He pinned me to the wall; his blood red eyes shooting daggers at me. "You want to be left to die, you insufferable little –

"I'm not scared of you!" I shouted with my voice so shrill that it shook the chains and the cargo in the ward.

He grabbed a dagger from his pocket and pressed it against my cheek. I could feel my skin tearing. "You have no idea what danger you're in every second"

In fear, I shut my eyes. When I opened them again, he was gone. I put my hand to my cheek and realized that he had not harmed me. And when I looked at my leg, my wound had completely vanished.

ooooo

Early that evening, I was expecting the dinner. As I heard the door creak open, I expected it to be the usual man to enter with our rations, but it was not. Instead, someone had come for me. My cell was unbolted, and I presumed it was Natsume once again. But when my blindfold was undone, I found a young girl with long, hair the colour of indigo. I was desperate enough to trust her, for she had a gentle expression in her eyes and undid my bound without force or any hint of evil.

"The Captain wants to have dinner with you tonight, Madame," she said, "You have to look presentable"

"But I don't want to have dinner with him," I replied, with a matter-of-fact tone, and then added, "Don't call me Madame"

She smiled. "My name is Nonoko," she said, "And I'm afraid he might kill both of us if you don't obey his orders"

In spite of the ludicrousness of the situation, I felt at ease with this girl. "Listen, Nonoko-chan, I'm in no position to have dinner right now. Look at me! I'm...grimy!"

"Luckily for you, we will be stopping over at Cape Isakawa. You may bathe there"

I turned bright red. "I...You can't make me take a bath with dozens of pirates just around the corner!"

She caressed my cheek. "Mikan-chan," Nonoko said, gently but with a hint of sadness, "We must survive"

ooooo

In all my years in high school studying Japanese geography, I have never heard of Cape Isakawa. As Nonoko and a few other "maidens" – that's what they call themselves – lead me out of the prison cell, I found a vast island standing before the ship. It was almost nightfall, and the sky had turned into a majestic symphony of violet, orange and yellow, as it beamed over the lush greenery and turquoise waters. The beach was gray and rocky, speckled with driftwood and moss. As we ambled down the ship, none of the crew members were in sight. When I asked Nonoko, she said, "Nobody comes out when Persona is awake"

In spite of the fear of Persona that everybody obviously beheld, I could not bring myself to cower at his feet. He seemed like a joke, and even if it was menacing one, to me he seemed nothing more than a ridiculous man with a ridiculous ambition for power.

As we passed the shore, I was brought to a remote cove that was sparse with light. The cove was surrounded by massive boulders and they assured me that nobody would see me here. A girl named Anna, with fluffy light hair, appeared with a spare change of clothes. They instructed that I was to remain by the shore until they come to fetch me, and when I was begging for them to stay and keep me company (for I did not want to be alone in this strange place), they simply departed solemnly.

Strangely after they had left, my body suddenly felt significantly exhausted and painful. I never realized the gravity of discomfort that I had endured in that shipwreck. I then admitted that a bath would do me well, and I slowly – as I surveyed the surroundings for any peeping toms or wild beasts – I stripped my clothes, and, realizing that the air was bitter and freezing, jumped into the water, relieved to discover that it was of warm currents.

My tired body at once soothed into the sands. As I perched myself on a half-submerged rock, I let the water massage my throbbing bones and weary muscles. Lifting my leg, I was still amazed at how Natsume healed my lesion so speedily. Its skin was smooth and supple, and once could have never guessed that it was viciously injured less than a week prior.

I was no more than ten minutes in my bath when suddenly, my eyes affixed themselves on a dark figure alighted on one of the giant boulders about ten paces from where I sat. I immediately submerged my body in water and gripped the sand in fright. I could not bring myself to move.

Suddenly, the figure emerged from the light and I saw that it was Natsume.

"What are you doing here?" I yelled, feeling more violated than frightened.

"Relax," he said, sliding from the rock and jumping onto the shore. "I'm not here to look at those flatlands"

I crossed my arms over my chest. "You pervert! How dare you dishonour me like this!"

He sat on the sand coolly and took out his sword. It glimmered in the light as he took out a piece of cloth and ran it over the metal. "Persona just told me to keep an eye on you – you know, kill you just in case you decide to swim off with the sharks"

"There are sharks here?" I gasped, still uncomfortable at the fact that a boy was just a few feet from where my naked body bathed.

He rolled his eyes and continued cleaning his weapon. "Tell me the truth, little girl"

"Yes?"

"Do you speak lies when you say that you have no idea about the book?"

I was about to throw my arms in the air in exasperation, only to realize that it would reveal more than I should. "No, I don't. I don't know what any of you are talking about"

Before he could reply, the maidens returned. When they saw Natsume, they stopped in their tracks and started giggling like a bunch of gaggling geese. "H-Hyuuga-sama," they fawned, "What are you doing here?"

Natsume flipped his sword and slid it to his side. He didn't look at any of them, but his eyes lingered at me for a moment. He stood up and disappeared into the trees.

ooooo

I was dressed in an embroidered, white dress with long sleeves that draped below my shoulders. Anna tied a rope-belt around my waist while Sumire, a maiden with dark, curly hair and cat-like eyes, ran a tooth-comb through my hair. They gave me these wooden sandals that were far from comfortable, but I was forced to wear anyway. After they braided my hair, they brought me to a clearing in the jungle where the crew had set camp. There were tall, burning torches surrounding a long, elaborate table with delicious smelling platters lined up on it. Two golden chairs stood on either end of the table, and one of them was occupied by the Captain himself. He was wearing his mask again, but his teeth looked sharper than ever.

As I approached the table, I saw the rest of the crew members peering from atop the trees. They themselves were munching on fruit, staring at me as if I were some deer ready to be consumed by a lion. I had to admit that I truly felt like one once Nonoko pulled back the chair and beckoned me to sit while the rest of the maidens lifted the tops of the platters, revealing all these mouth-watering dishes: smoked ham glazed in honey-nut syrup, stuffed lamb and roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy, an enormous bowl of salad and exotic looking fruits. I wanted to stuff every plate into my mouth, but I resisted, knowing that Persona had other plans in mind.

But he said, "Eat! Feast on this magnanimous meal concocted just for you!"

The servants quickly filled my plate and stared at me expectantly as I, resisting the urge to glance at the plate, took my fork and stabbed a piece of sirloin. "I'm not convinced," I said defiantly.

Even though I was starving, I pushed my plate back. The maidens gasped in horror.

"I'm not convinced," Persona laughed, "I purposely starved you for days just so you can enjoy dinner with me" His voice mocked affection.

"If that's your strategy in getting a woman, mister, I'm not surprised you're still single!"

Persona forced a laugh and beckoned Anna to serve him. She responded quickly and soon enough, he was eating heartily from his plate. I stared at him hungrily.

"Will you just eat?"

I stared at my fork, where the chunk of meat was still stabbed through it. I bit into it. It was tender and delicious.

"Delicious, isn't it?"

Silence

"You see, Mikan – er, Sakura-san," he continued, when I shot him death-glares, "You have something that I really, really need"

"I know. The book. I've heard it ten trillion times" I stared at the goblet in front of me and decided it was not safe to drink whatever wine they served.

He swallowed a chunk of ham and pointed his fork at me jokingly. "My dear, you do not know what you are toying with. If you hand over the book, then I will release you right here and right now! If you want, I will even call Captain Nogi and tell him to fetch you. The government," He laughed at this, "Offers quite a bounty of wealth for those that need to be protected"

"I don't need to be protected. I don't need any of your offers!"

Without warning, Persona leaped from the other end of the table and tore through the plates and silverware. In seconds he was an inch away from my faith, and I could feel his sword against my chest.

"I am done with playing your little game of bravery," he said, his voice turning serpentine. He pushed my chair back and I immediately fell onto the ground. He pressed his boot against my neck and as my yelps were drowned out by my loss of breath, he rammed his sword through the fabric of my dress. It did not go any deeper than my skin, but he carved something onto my chest. As I felt the blood trickle out, he spoke once more, "you will tell me now, will you? I will end your misery"

All of a sudden, his attention was averted and he turned around, threatening his sword at somebody else. As I sat up, I saw that it was Natsume.

"You threaten your own Captain, you imbecile?"

"She's telling the truth!" Natsume spoke up.

Persona's grinned widened as he stopped and put his sword down. "You fancy this little whore, don't you?"

When Natsume did not reply, Persona lifted his sword and sliced through his shirt, revealing dozens of scars imprinted on Natsume's body. He pushed Natsume against a tree and in seconds, had his sword slicing his shoulder blade. Natsume winced in pain but thrust his leg onto Persona's chest and kicked him down. Persona fell onto his knees and lifted his sword to strike Natsume again a second time. But he was too quick. It was the second time I had seen that sword of his turn blood crimson, and Natsume forced his weapon onto the ground. Persona shouted something, but the entire camp had already burst into the dark, voracious flames. The entire crew was now retreating and screaming in panic. Persona stood up and stabbed Natsume, cutting open his stomach and twisting the weapon as he did so. As Natsume's eyes widened in pain, he sank to his knees while Persona pulled out his sword, which was now soaked in blood. He now turned to me, who was crawled up by a tree trunk and sobbing at the horror I had just witnessed. Persona removed his mask, his eyes glistening in the dark light of the flames that was engulfing the wood.

My mind was turning numb with the smell of burning metal and wood. As I felt a sharp piecing pain knife through my body, I blacked out in a heartbeat.

To Be Updated