Disclaimer: I do not own Last Exile.
The Man Called Freedom- The Mysterious Man
He didn't know how it came to be that he was floating. He didn't know how he could feel so numb and be in so much pain at the same time. He didn't know why he couldn't feel the rush of the wind or see everything blurring by or feel the final agony as his body crushed against land before his light would forever go out. He didn't know. He didn't understand. It should all be over now…
2 Years Later
"They say it is a ship called Saoirse captained by a man who calls himself Freedom who has been stopping all these attacks," grunted Vincent.
Sophia sighed. "It was foolish to think that we would remain in peace forever. Not all people of the Guild were filled with malice and not all others are filled with goodwill. There was bound to be someone who would want to take the place of power that the Guild left behind."
Vincent was silent for a moment and then smiled fondly. "All of the mystery surrounding this guy… it kind of reminds me of Alex."
Sophia looked down, smiling sadly. "I suppose it would," she whispered.
Vincent frowned. She's still not over his death… "Sophia… did you ever… did anyone ever find his body?" He had hoped there would be something; something to give her some closure.
"You were there." Her voice was tight and barely restrained. "You saw the explosion. I shot him out of the sky. If Delphine didn't kill him, the explosion did. He would have been disintegrated either way."
"I know. I guess I just hoped. I shot him out of the sky once, too, but I guess that was a little different." He hadn't died that time. There had been no way to be sure that time.
"It was." Sophia quickly got control of her emotions and said, "But this isn't about him. This is about this Saoirse you were saying has been aiding us the past few months. I know I shouldn't mess with things that are a great help to us, but… for all we know, he could simply be another contender for the power. The fact that he hasn't contacted us worries me."
"I know what you mean. After all we've been through, I would love to believe that all we have here is an eccentric pilot with a desire to do good deeds, but considering our experience…" He sighed. "I think we need to make a move."
Finally, a small smile returned to Sophia's face. "Perhaps Tatiana and Alister would be willing to transport a message."
"The Saoirse, huh?" said Tatiana.
"That is correct. Have you heard of it?" asked Sophia, a little surprised.
"Of course," Tatiana said with a soft laugh. "That ship's gained an amount of popularity that rivals the Silvana back when… well, back when." Tatiana shifted her gaze to the empty space beside Sophia.
"Except in the Saoirse's case, both ship and captain are seen as heroes among the public rather than legendary nightmares," said Alister.
Sophia blinked in confusion. "Then how is it I haven't heard of it until recently?"
Tatiana shrugged. "It's been a busy year, ma'am."
"And as the Empress, you wouldn't exactly go where one might find this information," Alister added quietly.
Sophia looked out the window. "That is true. Well then, Tatiana, Alister. Will you accept this mission?"
The two girls glanced at each other and then back at their old vice captain. "Yes, ma'am!" Tatiana said, saluting.
"Of course we will," Alister added with a smile.
"Good. You must make haste and be very careful. Despite the rumors, we know very little about the captain of the Saoirse and even less about his feelings about guests. So I repeat: be careful."
Something was around him. It was circular and had a strange sheen to it. Like a giant, all-encasing bubble. But the bubble wasn't encasing everything. It was only holding him. Him and…
"I don't know how we did it, Alice, but we finally did it."
It had taken a month. A month of traveling from dock pub to port to fuel station and prying for any and all information they could get on the ship captained by Freedom. They found very little on its location, but finally, finally, they had gotten the one tip that would lead them in the right direction.
I suppose even mysteriously appearing legend ships need to refuel sometimes. Once that kid pointed out the direction they went…
It had been easy to guess where the ship was headed. She knew it was a very good place to lay low, as long as nobody knew you were there. And though she also knew that any captain deserving of the title would also realize this, she knew very few who were willing to risk it.
The Dragon's Fangs.
The place brought back so many memories, so many good ones, so many painful ones, and so many that she could never think on without feeling her heart sink just a little. Captain…
"Approaching Dragon's Fangs dead ahead." Alister saw Tatiana cringe slightly, and she felt her stomach squirm. "Sorry," she said. "That was a bad choice of words."
"It's alright, Alister. Let's get in there and find this Saoirse."
"And hope he likes vanships."
The jagged, jutting cliffs of the Dragon's Fangs sliced through the fog like old broken bones, forming a natural defense against other ships. The fog cloaked them, and would keep them hidden until they came closer to their target. Of course, that meant that the Saoirse was also hidden.
"Captain, a vanship is approaching on our starboard side."
"Allow them to approach far enough to see their message."
"The vanship is signaling. 'Tatiana, pilot under the good Empress Sophia, comes with a message from Her Majesty.' She is requesting permission to land."
There was silence a moment. "Give it."
"Looks like they aren't going to shoot us down just yet," Tatiana muttered.
"We have permission to come aboard," said Alister.
The Saoirse was a beautiful ship. But that didn't put the vanship pilot and her navi at ease as they hopped to the floor of the dock and were met by four members of the crew.
"We'll take you to the captain to deliver your message, and then escort you back here. You will not linger."
Tatiana's chin jutted forward slightly. "What if our message requires a response?"
The man frowned, but it seemed he did so to suppress a smirk. "Then the captain can change his orders if he feels like it."
Who had it been protecting? Was it possible that she had been wrong? Could it be that this was payment for his part in the whole thing?
When they entered the bridge, they saw a white-clad back taking up the space before the captain's chair. Tatiana's eyes followed the navy-edged cloak to the tightly bound black hair dangling in one mid-length bunch. The small amount of skin that was exposed on his neck was covered in a strange curling, twisting black pattern. As she peered closer at the markings, she thought she could just make out the form of a rose peeking from beneath his collar. He didn't turn.
"Are you the captain of this vessel?" Tatiana asked.
The head nodded. "I am," he said softly, just above a whisper, though it hinted at a rumbling voice.
"I have a message…"
The captain raised his left hand, the skin design stretching out from under the sleeve as well. One of the men who had led them to the command center stepped forward and took the message tube from Tatiana's fingers. She opened her mouth in protest before the crewman simply walked to the captain and placed it in his waiting hand. She pressed her lips together in irritation.
"It would appear…" came the barely audible voice of the captain, "… that you must remain while I make my reply. Please return to your vanship. I will have one of my men deliver the response when it is complete."
"I hardly think that's…" Tatiana said, her annoyance growing to anger at this new dismissal.
"I assure you that the captain will not make you wait any longer than absolutely necessary."
Tatiana glared at the man who spoke, but simply turned and walked from the bridge, mumbling something harsh under her breath. As Alister turned and followed her friend, the man called Freedom smiled.
Freedom kept his back rigidly toward the door until he had finished writing his reply and had safely sealed it. Even then, he didn't move until the report came that the vanship was out of his hold and flying steadily away. But at those words, he whipped the white cloak from his shoulders to reveal a simple black uniform. He reached up to the back of his head and tugged the leather tie impatiently from his hair, letting it fall in gentle waves around his face. He sighed as he sat back in his chair, closing his eyes for a moment as he let his back relax.
"Sir… was that completely necessary? We do not want to insult…"
"I understand, Morwey, but I simply did not wish to reveal my face so soon." The captain's voice was no longer soft, but rich and strong. He opened his eyes and smiled casually. "Let's keep them guessing for a while."
The crewman chuckled. "Aye, Captain!"
The bubble was shrinking, tightening around him with every passing second. It was going to crush him. The space he was confined to was shrinking smaller and smaller, pushing him closer and closer to his only company… fifteen red roses.
Author's Note: Thank you so much for reading this story. As always, reviews are greatly appreciated. Best wishes to you all, A.P.