A/N: Ugh, I'm so bad. So, so bad. There are so many better things I could be doing with my time than starting a new story (the least of these working on my old stories), yet here I am, posting the first chapter of what will most likely be another longfic. Apologies to anyone who's waiting for me to update my other works; it WILL happen sometime in the near future, I promise. This idea's been floating around for a while and I just started writing one night and... well, you know how it is. Anyway, enjoy! :D


"Like a ghost on the wind / He comes from the sea / And trembles the foe / Like a storm on the lee."

-Alfred H. Lockamy

When Kai first arrived at Mineral Town, he wasn't sure exactly how to go about the execution of his plan.

Though kidnapping someone seemed like a relatively easy task considering his crime-riddled history, there was the issue of who to choose as his victim. Of course there was the bubbly pink-haired girl who practically threw herself at him whenever he visited, but Kai didn't know if he could put up with that for the next few weeks. He even contemplated going after the young children that came to the beach and begged him to make them snow cones, but quickly decided against it. Even he couldn't find it in his heart to steal such little ones from their homes.

And then there was the issue of figuring out just how to go about doing it. Kai knew that most of the villagers kept their doors unlocked at night due to the fact that nothing exciting ever happened in this small town, so breaking in itself wouldn't pose too much of a problem.

However, seeing as he had only been here once or twice before under the guise of a traveling cook looking for a place to set up shop, he wasn't nearly familiar enough with the housing layout to know who lived where. Knowing his luck, he would end up barging into the home of the menacing blacksmith or the lumberjack who owned eight different kinds of axes.

Besides knowing basic martial arts, Kai had no way to defend himself against attackers. He scoffed at the idea of carrying around a sword- way too tacky and about a century out of style- so his only weapon was the pistol that dangled from his belt, and he had vowed to himself long ago that he would only use it on an exceptionally life-threatening occasion.

He may have been a pirate, a thief, a liar, a scoundrel, a low-life, and was about to become a kidnapper- but Kai was not a murderer. Not yet, anyway, and he prayed to the Goddess that he never would be. He did what he needed to survive and that was all.

Deciding that the pink-haired girl was his best option, Kai began to head in what he thought was the direction of her house when he heard a muffled sob. Diving behind a nearby barrel, he peeked out and saw a thin figure stagger onto the beach with her head clutched in her hands. She was clearly in distress, and judging by the way she tripped and fell into the sand Kai thought perhaps a bit drunk as well.

Motioning for one of his crewmates who was still standing by the pier to follow behind him, Kai crept towards the girl's trembling frame. She seemed completely oblivious to his approach until he laid a gentle hand on her shoulder.

She looked up in fright, and he placed a finger over her lips.

"Shhh. There's no need to cry, my dear. I'm here to save you." Kai spoke in a soothing whisper, praying to the Goddess that the girl really was drunk or else she would surely take off running.

She gazed up at him through glazed eyes, an expression of wonder on her freckled face, and Kai knew his instincts were right. "Wh-who are you?" she slurred.

Kai smiled as he held his hand out to her. She hesitated for only a moment and then took it like a trusting child, not noticing that it was someone else who pulled her up from behind.

Clasping her in his arms, Kai stroked the girl's velvety hair back from her face as he began twirling her around in a slow waltz.

"I, my dear, am the one you've been waiting for your entire life."

The girl hiccupped and nestled her head into the crook of his shoulder. "Bu…but what about Cliff?" she asked with a weary sigh. "I think he really loves me."

Cliff. Something about the name rang a bell of familiarity in the back of Kai's mind, but he brushed it aside. He had been to lots of places, met lots of people. Surely he had come across a Cliff somewhere during his travels.

Besides, what did it matter? The girl was a puddle in his arms now.

Kai whispered something into her ear that made her giggle, and she sighed again. "Take me away from here, mister," she murmured, something of a plea in her drunken voice.

"It'll be my pleasure, love."

Kai grinned and released the girl just as his crewmate's arms closed around her. She cried and struggled for a few moments, then fell limp with exhaustion. The man tied a blindfold over her eyes and slung her over his shoulder before heading towards the ship docked at the end of the pier.

Kai trailed behind them, gazing up at the soft outline of the moon veiled behind wispy clouds. He shook his head to clear the image of the girl looking up at him with innocent blue eyes, her loose red hair streaming around her shoulders.

"Goddess, forgive me," he whispered as the ship set sail across dark waters.

Ann squinted against the glare of sunlight as she opened her eyes. The back of her head throbbed worse than it did the morning after a drinking competition with Karen, and her dry throat ached with thirst. Running her tongue along her bottom lip, she tasted salt and… was that rum?

Ann tried and failed to remember what had occurred the night before. She recalled a fight with her father that ended with her screaming that she would rather die than live with him, but what happened afterwards was fuzzy.

She vaguely remembered running somewhere, though where she was running to had been a mystery to her even at the time…stumbling onto a patch of sand in her path, tripping and falling…a dark, calloused hand reaching out to her, a pair of strong arms pulling her to her feet…crying into the chest of a stranger whose skin smelled like coconuts and suntan lotion, then dancing with him under the moonlight…a hand clamping over her mouth and yanking her away from the safety of the stranger's arms…a cloth wrapping around her eyes, a gruff voice giving commands, a bottle being forced between her lips…

…and then nothing but the sound of waves and the screams of seagulls in her ears.

Her head swimming with these newfound fragments of memory, Ann attempted to sit up but found that her movement was constricted by ropes that bound her hands and ankles behind her. Puzzled, Ann leaned back and shivered as cold metal greeted her bare skin.

Looking down, she realized with a jolt that she wasn't wearing the yellow shirt and faded pair of overalls she had worked in the night before. Instead she was clothed in a hideous vanilla-colored dress that looked like it came straight out of the Victorian age, complete with corset and petticoats.

Ann's cheeks began to burn as she wondered when her outfit had been changed… and, more importantly, who had done the undressing.

She nearly jumped through her skin as a silky smooth voice interrupted her thoughts.

"Good morning, fair maiden."