It is only much later that Sho realises what Captain Matsumoto actually offered him. And the outrageousness of it, considering Sho’s station, Sho’s position.
Before that, he needs to speak with Nino, with Aiba, make sure they are unhurt.
Matsumoto offers Sho a bath before anything, but Sho refuses – there are more important matters at hand right now than smelling and looking nice.
If anything, it will have even more of an impact if he shows up in front of that stinking traitor when he looks like this. Sho wonders how much luxury Nino has had compared to him, for 5 days.
Ueda is the one who shows up at the captain’s door to take Sho back on deck and not First Mate Matsuda who is apparently busy – something which Sho is quite grateful for. He is not sure how much more of looking at Matsuda’s sulky face he can take.
The sun is still beating down from a cloudless sky, when they return to the main deck, and Sho suddenly notices the small figure near the railing, arms crossed as he looks up at one of the masts,
“What are you doing you DUMB OLD MAN!? Do you want to die?!” he yells and Sho’s eyes immediately shoot up too, running over the sails, the spars, before he finally spots a small man, walking – yes walking – along the ropes. Then he has to remove his gaze, momentarily blinded, but his heart is beating wildly. Is that not dangerous!?
“Well yes ok then clearly go ahead be my guest, break your neck, I don’t care."
The man removes his eyes only when Ueda calls his name, and Sho feels somewhat satisfied when Nino’s eyes widen, his smile instantly vanishing.
But Sho’s brief satisfaction is bittersweet.
“Third Mate Ueda-san, how are you,” Nino greets, curiously avoiding looking at Sho.
And Sho does not blame him. Had he been in Ninomiya’s situation, he would have been embarrassed too.
It is no wonder that Sho did not recognise Nino in the crowd when he first went across deck; his friend has removed his navy jacket, wearing just a white shirt with the first few – or more than just a few – buttons opened and his navy blue pants, rolled up to show his skins. There is a piece of cloth around his waist, dangling by his leg, and Sho’s heart falls when he realises how much this look suits Nino.
Nino never really wanted to be a navy officer anyway, did it mainly for Sho’s sake. So maybe it is not so strange that Sho’s childhood friend was easy to persuade to join this pirate crew. As far as Sho’s impression goes for now, Nino could have had it worse – this is a very nice ship.
“You can return to your previous work, Third Mate,” Nino says then, voice firm, but slick, “As second mate, I am sure I can handle myself just fine with this one.”
There is an underlying meaning to Ninomiya’s words, this cunning way of dismissing someone he does not want to listen in, to look at what the two of them are about to do. Sho understands Nino’s way of thinking, instantly recognises this way of speaking, and for a brief moment, he allows himself to hope, if only because his heart wants to believe that his friend has not fully committed to this piracy thing.
Ueda does not leave before glancing between the two of them, but Nino just smiles; that meaningful, slim, feline curl of his lips so familiar, and Ueda is forced to step back with a brief bow.
As soon as he is gone, Nino turns to Sho, and there is a lump in the officer’s throat at the sudden, sad look in his friend’s eyes. And Sho knows, just knows, that Ninomiya has not done this to betray him. He would never,
“Sho-chan, you look terrible.” He says, but there is not that usual jest with which he would normally say something like that, “How long did you stay in that cell?”
“It is of no important,” Sho does not even want to think about it, he can breathe fresh air now and that is what is important. That, and why Ninomiya has become second mate, “Why are you here?”
Ninomiya does not answer right away, and to his credit, Sho can see in his eyes how he ponders his words, throat moving when he swallows,
“You don’t know, do you?” this causes Sho to raise an eyebrow.
He is close to saying that of course he knows nothing, he has been locked away for a bloody week, but then Nino continues: “They threatened to kill you.”
Sho lets that line sink in, quickly understanding everything, Nino does not even need to elaborate, but Sho lets him anyway. He needs to hear it,
“When they had locked us all away in separate cells, they came to me quite early. Said ‘You are his quartermaster aren’t you? His right-hand man.’ Of course, I refused to answer anything at first, those dicks knocked me out in that cell! Guess they couldn’t handle someone telling them exactly what they are and what they deserve. Anyway, a while later that menacing-looking first mate came along – Matsuda Shota-san – and no I am not scared of the bastard, but I just could not read him in that darkness. He says to me, voice as cold as usual: ‘Quartermaster, the captain will give you a choice.’…” Ninomiya trails off, biting his lip, shaking his head.
They forced him into this, most likely just to see Sho squirm. For a captain to learn of his close comrade’s betrayal; did they expect he would give in then? Become infuriated and saddened? Losing his composure and his will?
Sho’s hands ball into fists at his sides. He is about to say something, something which could most likely get them both in trouble, should anyone hear them, but Nino stops him by raising a hand,
“But you know what? It is not so bad. Far less of these people are as rotten as I thought,” there is a smile playing at Nino’s lips, and he is obviously trying to reason with the stubborn, prideful Sho whom he is facing right now, trying to keep him calm. When Sho gives no indication of understanding, he sighs, “Let us talk later ok? I have ropes to tie, men to put to work, and a scout who does not follow orders at all. And you need a bath. If my gut feeling serves me right, I do not think Captain Matsumoto will put you back in that cell, but you will be a prisoner. I hope you can behave though,” Sho’s eyes narrow dangerously, and Nino’s hands instantly fly up in a surrendering gesture, “Please! Don’t get me wrong, I just hope to see you around, so please… Please try and be calm.”
And then he leaves surprisingly fast, nodding his head to Sho – a weaker version of the bow he always got as Ninomiya’s captain – before he whisks away with a yell upwards of “I will make you crawl down from there, you lunatic!”
For the short while he is left alone, Sho scolds himself for ever doubting his friend. The choice Ninomiya made was no easy one; he ended up sacrificing his own pride and goals to get Sho out of that cell, to make sure they kept him alive.
There is just so much Nino has done for Sho over the years, for most of their lives actually. Nino is simultaneously the most selfish and the most selfless person, Sho has ever known. And Sho does not know how he can ever repay him.
Jun inspects the inside of the hull with a tightly drawn expression.
There are cracks and holes in the bow, damages to the main deck where they usually keep the lighter weapons, and to the gun deck, where most of their cannons are, polished and ready for a fight any time. They have had to move a lot of the artillery to the lower decks, in order to get a clearer view of the damage, of how severe it is.
The pirate captain had Tatsuya Yamaguchi, his boatswain, check it earlier today to come up with an overall calculation of the cost for the repair – which is very much necessary. The Remarkable is in no state to fight another ship right now, should they be unlucky enough to come across a fast navy ship or one certain pirate who steals from other pirates.
Just thinking about that son of a bitch and his Glamour has Jun seething with anger.
Luckily, there is no heavy damage to be found on the lower decks where they keep their stores and supplies. Had Sakurai and his crew managed to hit them there, Remarkable and her crew would have seen quite harsh days from now on. The most vital thing of all on Jun’s ship, what he values the most and knows the importance of is their supplies; their water, their food and most of all, their haul to bring them money. In this case, a lot of the goods from Sakurai’s ship will be sold to pay for the repairing of Remarkable.
If Ohno had not shot that one crewmember of Sakurai’s who had the wheel at that time, Remarkable would have sunk, pirates and ballast and all.
Just seeing how much his dear ship is hurting like this makes Jun snappy and very curt towards the crew – he is in a foul mood, and it will not get better until they reach Singapore.
The city is the main place for pirates to sell their stolen goods, to restock on provisions, to buy what they need and also what they do not need. Jun knows there might very well be a couple of women waiting for him as well. Being at sea for months on end, chasing ships he is unsure whether he can catch, can make a pirate very needy for specific things, ways of loosening all his tightly-drawn muscles, transfer his aggression and stocked up energy as well as relax afterwards.
This time, after such a fight, they all deserve a few days off. Yes, and they probably all need that visit to the women once they reach port.
But they will not see land for a month. Remarkable will just have to stay above water, while Jun tries his best to control his temper until then.
Earlier this morning he met with Sakurai, fetched from his cell by Matsuda, on Jun’s own command. Jun wanted to see whether he had broken the handsome navy captain and his stubbornness.
But the man had looked as fierce as when Jun destroyed his ship, his back as straight as a board when he walked in, remaining so, right until Jun told him about his quartermaster, Ninomiya, and how he had joined Jun’s crew.
Oh, Jun cannot deny the slight joy he felt at seeing how such a thing could make Sakurai falter, lose his composure slightly. The pirate almost felt bad when he had realised what a close friend Ninomiya was to Sakurai, and how he himself had been the one to tear them apart. It had been part of his plan from the second he saw the three of them together, the only survivors from Daylight. Though of course, they were only alive because Jun wanted them to be. Usually, a captain went down with his ship, but in this case, Jun had wanted to see exactly what kind of character the famous Sakurai was – The Sakurai and his Daylight no pirate had ever caught before – and whether Jun was the man to break him.
Oh, and just to spite the officer and his spotless reputation, Jun let him live. But then, in Jun’s quarters, the colour had returned to Sakurai’s face while Jun gave him the option of joining his crew too, and it made Jun feel opposed, challenged, when Sakurai clearly had no intention whatsoever of changing side.
Jun does not like to feel inferior in his own quarters, where he is supposed to be in control and command, so when Sakurai’s black eyes shone with determination and inner strength, it had almost made Jun regret his offer, wanting to throw the damn officer to the sharks. Or shoot him right above his nose.
Despite it all, even now Jun realises what an asset Sakurai could turn out to be, if Jun can convince him to join, to become Jun’s pilot – his navigator.
For the past three years, Jun has acted as his own navigator, being forced to be busier than ever, since his close friend betrayed him and left it all on Jun’s shoulders. Had it not been for Shota, Jun would probably never have gotten back on his own feet, regaining his strength like that. Deep down, Jun is plotting how to best show Toma exactly how far he has come on his own.
Maybe he will even present Captain Sakurai to him, should the cold officer remain stiff and stubborn. Jun will have to visit said person’s master gunner later, see whether Sakurai has had enough guts to visit him. Funny how that Aiba should be the one to refuse to leave Sakurai’s side, to remain loyal like that.
Jun chuckles to himself, shakes his head when Tatsuya shoots him a questioning look.
The captain cannot wait to see what fate awaits those three. In its simplicity, it all comes down to Sakurai and the choice he will make.
Compared to the baking sun above deck, the cell is cool and clammy, much like the one Sho found himself in. But compared to his, this cell has a few small portholes, leading out to the sea, bringing in a small breeze, and most importantly; light. Sho cannot quite decide whether this small difference is a blessing or a curse, whether it is crueller to leave the prisoner with or without light. Because with the light, he can see himself, he can see the walls and the moss and the snails which inhabit the cell, he can see from where the horrid smells come, and he can see what he has to lie in for days on end. He is forced to lie in, not only his own dirt, on the icy planks, but in his own embarrassment too.
For a navy officer, these are very indecent conditions. Sho’s heart bleeds for his close friend, and it only becomes worse once he finds his sunken frame in the dim light.
“Aiba-san,” he says gently, but he may as well have yelled with the way Aiba’s head snaps up.
There is darkness in those usually bright eyes, but once Sho’s friend recognizes him, his face lights up in a smile, as if he is not currently bound to that bloody cell-post, hands and feet tied together.
It makes Sho feel insanely guilty. He is the one to have landed Masaki in this position, he was the one to decide the fate for all of them. To think that the gunman would go as far as to accept to be put here, to be treated like an animal, just to make sure Sho stays alive; Sho has a very hard time accepting that. The captain is certain he does not deserve a friend who is so steadfast and willing to go this far.
“Why are you down here?”
Sho cannot think of anything else to ask, how else to phrase it. He got little info from Ninomiya, had to guess most of it himself. Not that he wants to blame Masaki for his choice; the younger man saw his way as the rightest one, never wanting to betray Sho.
Aiba smiles sadly, moves his lower half a bit, trying to sit up straighter, to appear more decent in front of his captain. And Sho just feels shame,
“Those pirates gave me no choice, Sho-chan, I know you would not like me to ever join them. I did not want to betray you.”
Sho’s master gunner is a lot simpler than Ninomiya, and does perhaps not think as far as the younger man. To Aiba, this is the way to remain loyal – Ninomiya believed his way to be the rightest one.
It takes a lot for Sho not to break down then, ashamed of what he has indirectly made his two best friends do. He never wished for them to go through something like this. He only wanted them by his side, when he hired them to his crew – no, he did not hire them, he left them with no choice.
Out of the three of them, Sho was always the one to make the decisions, to steer the course and navigate. It is not right that he should be the one to choose their paths for them. How they spend their lives.
“And hey, this is not so bad. I bet it is damn hot up there on deck. You know, I prefer to stay below deck, though of course I like when I have my cannons around me. It gets quite lonely down here.”
Sho’s friend blabbers, while Sho does not listen. Instead, he runs his eyes over Aiba’s dirty face, sees the bruise above his eye, his cracked lip, his swollen cheekbone.
They have not treated him right. They did not have to hit him! Knowing Aiba, he would go down without a fight, he would have followed them obediently after making his choice. Not like Nino, who is constantly close to getting into trouble.
Sho is furious at the pirates, furious at their captain for letting them do these things to Aiba. And for what reason? Because they have pent up frustrations and are bored?! That simply will not do. Sho swallows his anger, clenches his jaw before gritting out an answer,
“Aiba-kun, this is not ok. These conditions are not ok. I will speak to the captain right away,” Aiba turns quiet for a second, eyes big. Then Aiba smiles again, albeit half-heartedly, “I will get you out of here.”
Whether he does not have the heart to look at Masaki’s slim frame – thinner than ever – any longer, or whether he wants to vent all of this anger out on a particular pirate captain as soon as possible, Sho is not sure, but he turns around abruptly, pace so fast that he does not have time to consider, least of all answer Aiba’s quiet words,
“I am very relieved to see you unharmed, Sho-san.”
Their history goes back many years; Sho’s, Aiba’s and Nino’s.
When Sho had no one, when he felt lost at who he was supposed to be, what his right path was, what he wanted for himself, Aiba and Nino were there to support him, to calm him when he was angry, when he was sad. It was not – and is not – easy being the eldest son of Sakurai Shun, lord and daimyo. The expectations are huge, the rules very strict. More oft than not, teenager-Sho would run away from home, try to escape the prison he felt around him. As he got older, getting closer to accept the harsh conditions, Ninomiya was there to smack him in the head and make him realise how wrong it really was, while Aiba would always come running with cold water after Sho got into fights. There was a period, when Sho was around 18, where he was constantly fighting. It was his way of helping himself, instead of smoking, of drinking. And should he come running home, bloody and beaten, his father would slam the door in his face, refuse to let him in. So he stayed over at Ninomiya’s house, sometimes Aiba came along too. Now that Sho is grown up, he realises how much of a burden he must have been on Ninomiya’s mother. She, who worked 18 hours a day to feed her family, and sometimes him too. But Sho still remembers her as always smiling, never one to turn him down when he was in trouble.
So Sho owes everything to his friends. Without them, he never would have become the man he is, he would never have made his own way, never found his way to a ship of his own.
Sho still finds himself confused, more often than not, but that is ok when he has people to support him, be patient with him.
“I demand to speak with your captain. Now.”
Sho is surprised at the calm in his voice. Given the circumstances, he should either be aflame with anger or trembling with fear.
Matsuda is a head taller than him, seemingly towering above Sho in his dark grey coat and unbuttoned shirt. His arms are crossed in front of him and he has, as usual, got that menacing look in his eyes, mouth a hard line,
“The Captain is busy, come back later.”
“Fuck you, the hell I will come back later. Get out of my way!”
When Sho moves to push the first mate away, he grabs Sho’s arm, hard, twisting it around, and pain burns its way up Sho’s arm, gets to his head, makes him dizzy. The next second, he finds himself with his cheek pressed against the floor, the smell of leather in his nostrils when he eyes Matsuda’s boot only a centimetre from his face. He grunts in pain, tasting blood on his lips when he refused to yell in pain. His face is flushed, in annoyance at how weak he is. Had it not been for that damn cell, he could have shown this son of a bitch-.
A very firm voice has the man above him letting go instantly, making Sho groan indecently again as he rolls around on the floor, wanting to get up.
Matsumoto is standing in the door to his office, one hand on the wooden frame, and his face is slightly twisted in anger.
Sho finds himself staring at those perfectly trimmed, big eyebrows, furrowing above the captain’s nose,
“Stand down, first mate. I will thank you to not treat the Navy officer this recklessly again, understand? Now remove yourself, your sour mug annoys me.”
The first mate is intimidating, but it does somehow not confuse Sho as to why the man so quickly backs down, bows his head briefly and stomps down the hallway, leaving Sho to get up, hands and knees first before he wobbles to a standing position. Matsumoto sure looks and sounds equally intimidating, his low growl only evaporating when Sho gets into his line of vision.
Man, he could really use something to eat. Those crackers are worth less than shit. Now he really wants to get this over with.
“Sorry about that,” Matsumoto does not sound sorry at all, “It is not like I can concentrate anyway, when you stand out here, yelling. Come in.”
Had it not been for that small taste of the dirt, Sho would have been close to blowing up in anger – at least he had felt like that after leaving Aiba. Now, he feels thin and drained, not quite as ready as he was before to fight someone. He really hates that first mate, but maybe it is for the better.
Sho feels calmer now; it is never a bad idea to seem cool and collected when making important negotiations. And maybe even more so when it is with a pirate captain. Sho has to admit that despite his experience with these negotiations, he has never once attempted to do so with a pirate before, but so far, his impression of Matsumoto is a lot better than his initiate prejudice of a pirate. Sho thus has to rely on that impression, on his hunch that Matsumoto is an intelligent man – cunning yes, but intelligent – and that he will listen to Sho.
Despite the two of them being enemies, as different as they can be, and from two completely different worlds.
Jun is impressed. He would never admit it to anyone, but he is utterly impressed by this navy man.
Despite all of what Jun and his crew has put him through, he remains standing, albeit dirty and smelly, he hides his exhaustion and hunger. The fire still burns in his eyes, and now he has even made his way back to Jun’s office to negotiate.
Jun just has to give it to him: This one is strong, determined. Jun cannot remember having met one as stubborn as Sakurai. And maybe that is exactly why he wants the man on board even more now.
Jun waltzes around his big, oaken table, running his fingers over his maps just to feel them under his fingertips, eyes moving over his open books and charts, pens and dividers lined up neatly alongside them. The captain is never not prepared, going over his plans and calculations again and again, both to make sure he was right the first time but also to see whether he needs to add new aspects, new variables. In his years of learning, math has never been one of Jun’s strong suits, and thus he struggles with navigating sometimes. Not that he is not thorough, but he knows someone else could do it faster, more elaborately, perhaps coming up with various scenarios and alternatives, so as to not only have one plan. A lot of Jun’s success, he thinks he owes to luck – though of course, he would never tell anyone this – luck and recklessness perhaps.
The crew of Remarkable is famous for being cunning and fearless, and their captain’s personality has to reflect such as well. Jun knows that when he caught Sakurai’s ship, it was not only because Jun was sly enough to sail swiftly through the night, but because he caught Sakurai off guard.
This close to Japan, the navy captain must have loosened up enough for Jun to surprise him. Unprofessional, yes, but human.
“Please, come closer, do not stand in the doorway like a shy maiden,”
Small specks of red bloom on Sakurai’s neck, visible now that he is just wearing his dirty white shirt, his jacket taken from him. Jun does not need him to flash those golden navy buttons on board, it would only enrage his crew.
The officer is most likely politer than he is shy, but Jun does not have much patience for formalities. Once he steps closer, Jun lets his eyes shamelessly trail from the gaping opening of his shirt, the sweaty skin of his collarbones to his face, slightly withdrawn and unreadable. But he looks tired and thus, Jun decides, should he continue to impress and pique Jun’s interest, he will let him have that bath after all. Along with something to eat. Jun thinks he prefers him strong.
Jun leans back in his heavy chair, crossing his legs and resting his underarms on his thighs, “Well then, Sakurai-san, what had you cause such a ruckus in front of my door? It must be urgent.”
Credits to Sakurai for not fidgeting, being thrown off by Jun’s seemingly disinterest and impoliteness, like so many others before him. He has done this before, Jun observes.
“I demand you let Aiba-san out of the cell he is in, he did not deserve to be put there,” Sakurai answers him firmly, fists balling at his sides.
Jun lets his eyes move downwards, before moving them back to Sakurai’s face, taking his time to answer, for no purpose but to be annoying, “I am sorry, Sakurai-san, but given your circumstances, I do not think you have the right to demand anything,” there is movement under the skin of Sakurai’s jaw, “The fact that you are standing here, being allowed to freely walk around my ship, do you not think you are more than privileged to be able to do so?”
He observes how Sakurai’s eyes narrow, but the man does not answer, waits for Jun to finish, and it makes the pirate smile, albeit wickedly, “Of course, you being let out of your cell, given reigns to speak with your friends has all been for a purpose. Have you considered what I offered you earlier?”
“I will not join a pirate crew. Ever.”
Jun’s face falls. He should have known Sakurai would shut the door like this, without hesitation. He sighs,
“Well that is indeed a shame, Sakurai-san.”
“Do not give me that. Why would you even want a navy captain joining your crew? Or do you not consider risk at all, Matsumoto-san?”
“Ah, so you are declining for my sake. Well that is very considerate of you, officer.”
Again, Jun takes pleasure in the way Sakurai’s face blushes a light pink,
“You cannot trust me.” Sakurai growls, jaw clenched.
Of course, Jun knows this. But he also knows that Sakurai Sho has the reputation of being reliable, steadfast, honest. He is not the type to join a crew in order to sabotage it. He is bold, not sly. He would rather fight fairly and lose, than to cheat. Much unlike his former quartermaster, Ninomiya Kazunari, which may be why they make such a great team. It would be a major asset to have them both on board, to have their trust. But Jun knows such a thing might never happen, unless they change their way of thinking.
Jun rises from the chair, makes a show out of pushing himself out of it, to rest his hands on his table and lean slightly forward,
“I cannot trust you,” he agrees, serious, “But maybe you can learn to see things from my perspective, Sakurai-san, if, of course, you stop being so bloody conservative and stubborn,”
“Until then,” Jun holds up a hand and effectively stops Sakurai from interrupting him, “I will let Aiba-san out of the cell, if he sees to my cannons in the hold, and if you promise to consider my offer.”
It does not leave Sakurai with easy decisions to make, but for Jun it is the only way to get an excuse to keep the three navy men on board. For a pirate, even letting a navy captain live is an outrage, and had it not been for the crew’s faith in Jun, had it not been for Shota and his support, Sakurai would have been shot before he even set foot on Remarkable. Jun controls Shota and Shota controls the crew as his first mate and quartermaster of sorts.
The pirate captain wants to give Sakurai as much time as possible to consider his position, to consider Japan’s situation, the living conditions there, what the man thinks he wants and what he really wants. Jun cannot possibly know how Sakurai’s mind ticks, what his desires are, but he knows his own, and wants to obtain them. Once the ship reaches Singapore, Sakurai’s time will be up, and the man needs to have made a decision by then. Which will ultimately decide the future of Remarkable.
Sakurai still has not answered Jun, so with an exaggerated sigh, the pirate rounds the table again, steps closer to the officer and surprises himself by offering a sympathetic smile,
“I will have Shota-san show you an unoccupied cabin where you can stay. You have my word that I will not send any of you back down to the cells.”
Sakurai’s lips part slightly, and Jun finds himself glancing down to his mouth when the man opens and then closes it again, deciding against whatever he considered saying.
Then Sakurai nods, his eyebrows trembling slightly in confusion, in thought before they move down.
He is surprised, taken aback, which somehow pleases Jun. To be able to divert from the way Sakurai thought Jun would act, the pirate likes the thought of it, wants do to it again.
For now, he walks past Sakurai to the door, and when he opens it, he is not surprised to find Shota a few metres down the hallway, arms crossed, leaning against the wall.
Saving the test to see whether his first mate listened in for later, Jun gestures for him to come forth,
“I want Sakurai situated in the cabin beside yours, so make sure he does not run off,” For once, Shota is surprised, an emotion Jun does not often see expressed on his stern face, “And please, Matsuda-san, convince him to take a bath, those cells did nothing good for his body odour.”
When Jun turns around again, Sakurai is blushing.
Sho has to admit that after a scalding bath and plenty of soap – maybe a bit too perfumed for his taste – he feels a lot better. His room is very small, nothing more than a bed to one side, a small table beside it, and a bathtub along the wall to the right. There is a curtain drawn up in front of the bath, so there will be some kind of privacy, which Sho found himself appreciating when he got up and found a tray on the small table. Whoever walked in with it, has at least not seen him naked.
The small porthole above the table is dirty, making it difficult to see anything beyond the glass, but Sho appreciates the light coming through more than he could have imagined. The fact that he can follow day and night is a relief to him; he wants to be able to keep track of time, to know how long he has been gone, how long behind schedule Daylight is becoming, probably increasing the worry in the hearts of the people waiting for them, more so with each passing day, no sight of them on the horizon. And there never will be.
There is no desk for Sho in this room, but he will not be needing one. He knows he needs to be up on deck as much as possible, to gather information, to observe the pirates, talk to Nino and to Aiba, make sure they are not harmed in any way, as well as to figure out a possible way for them to escape.
Sho needs to return to Japan. He is not the type to run, and though he knows there is no way for him to bring back the cargo from Daylight, to bring any form of value with him, he knows he needs to face the punishment for losing face like that, losing people’s money and trust. There will be humiliation to face, responsibility to take, but Sho knows he has got no choice. There is no other way.
On the tray he finds fruit and rice, some dried beef and a flask of water. Briefly, he allows himself to consider how the pirates are able to store these things without them turning bad, but he does not need to think for very long.
As opposed to cargo ships, to navy ships in general, pirates plunder; they take what they need when they need it, and thus it is easier for them to live in this kind of luxury.
If Sho had not been this famished, he would have refused to eat stolen food. Now, it is for the sole purpose of surviving that he gulps down the water, swallows the rice and beef perhaps a bit too fast, before being able to slow down with the fruit. He cannot remember the last time he ate this well, and once more, he finds himself wondering what Captain Matsumoto’s plan is exactly.
Why does he continue to treat Sho like this? Why is Sho – as prisoner – given these luxuries? Is it only to butter him up to convince him to become a pirate? An outlaw? It is so much against all that Sho stands for, it is almost laughable that Matsumoto thinks there is any chance of persuading Sho.
He is not Nino. Not Aiba. Despite their friendship, they think so very differently. They come from different backgrounds, have different pasts, different bloodlines. Different fates.
As Sho slowly chews on a grape, he discovers that he feels as bound on his hands and feet as he was down in the cell. There is no difference.
Eyes always burning into the back of his skull. Footsteps echo his own. Shallow breathing down his neck and Sho is turning insane. Whenever he thinks he has a moment alone to think, just when he moves to try and speak with one of the pirates, Matsuda will show up. That nasty first mate is constantly making Sho’s hairs stand on end, and more so because of his menacing eyes, not his towering frame or that earring shining in his ear. He allows Sho no possibilities of gathering intel without him knowing.
Damn it all. Damn that Matsumoto.
There is little hope to be found, and Sho can only watch as his plan of escaping becomes less and less likely to happen.
One small relief does find Sho today when Aiba comes running up on deck from below, face a whole other colour than it was when Sho visited him a couple of days ago. He must have spent a lot of time greasing the cannons, because not only his hands but his face too, is covered in soot and sticky oil.
“Sho-chan!” he yells and waves enthusiastically as soon as his eyes meet Sho’s.
The day is grey, the sun mercifully hiding behind a thick layer of low-hanging clouds so Sho has stalked his way up on deck again, sneaking out and hoping that Matsuda would not notice, at least for a few hours. So far, he has been lucky, and catching Aiba seems to signal that this day may just turn out to be ok.
One would not guess that the man has been a captive for more than a week with the way he beams and runs over to Sho, a spring to his step,
“These pirates have awesome guns!”
Perhaps this guy is just happy when he has got a weapon to work on, Sho speculates, forcing out a smile,
“Glad to see you up on deck for once.”
There is a split meaning to Sho’s words, but he tries to cover his own bitterness, now that Aiba looks so happy. There is no reason to make his friend miserable, that would only make two of them,
“I have been very busy with Matsumoto-san’s cannons. Really, compared to yours down there, they are in awful condition.”
Mine… That are not mine anymore,
“I will personally hunt down the one who did not care well enough for his babies here. But! I promise I will take care of them, as if they were my own.”
From a very young age, Masaki always seemed to personify the items he played with, worked on, surrounded himself with. Sho once suspected it had something to do with the loneliness Aiba sometimes felt as a child, but now he is no longer sure. Maybe the man is just weird that way.
“You are happy on Remarkable?” Sho surprises himself by asking such an honest question, but Aiba does not seem to notice anything weird about it.
“Some of the pirates are a bit strange,” he twirls his finger beside his temple, “But I guess we all get like that with too much rum and sun. Really, stay away from those flasks if they offer you, it is horrible stuff.”
Then he suddenly seems to be distracted by something behind Sho, because his eyes flicker away from Sho and he gets up on his tiptoes to wave, “Shota-san! Hi!”
Well. So much for that.
Despite Matsuda’s presence moving closer, Sho does not turn around to greet him. He has no reason nor wish to.
The sound of the man’s low grumble reaches Sho’s ears – the only response Aiba gets to all of his waving.
“Well, Sho-kun, I better get back to work. Come visit me on the gun deck, if you are bored.”
And then he is off, and Sho already misses him, despite the endless flow of blabbering from his mouth.
If Matsuda came for a reason, he does not voice it out. Instead, he remains standing behind Sho like a looming statue, causing displeasure to emit in heavy waves around the both of them.
Sho takes a deep breath and lets his shoulders slump further down. Another long day ahead…
The majority of a day, he spends bathing. There is a small fireplace in one of the larger collective quarters where Sho can heat up water in big pots for the oval, wooden tub in his room. It takes time to heave up the salty water in big buckets, takes time to heat it up and prepare the bath to the right temperature, but it keeps Sho occupied, keeps the muscles in his arms at work. Often, he does various exercises on the floor of his quarters before he cleans himself up, as he so often did on Daylight, just to keep himself in shape. Perhaps it also scares him to know how Matsuda brought him moaning in pain to the floor so easily – he does not want that to happen again. Next time, he is determined to bring the first mate to his knees. Preferably right in front of his captain.
The captain himself is often to be found on deck, leaning over the railing, his expressive eyes wide while he talks with one of the mates or cabin boys, a smile on his face, or barking orders at the riggers, snarling and cursing when they are too slow to furl or release the sails of Remarkable. He seems to be everywhere, hands on his hips, a different expression worn depending on whom he is talking to and what he wants the person to do for him.
Sho spends a lot of time watching him, as the shadow behind Sho cannot possibly catch where Sho is looking, or when. And this way, Sho also ends up finding a way to harvest information without actually asking for it. In the end, Matsuda becomes his navigator, his enabler to listen in on conversations, to watch the crew work, how they do things.
Because whenever Matsuda is near, the pirates all seem to relax a bit; they put trust in the fact that it is Matsuda coming along. And as the days pass by, they seem to almost forget Sho’s presence, that Sho is actually the one taking Matsuda out for a walk and not the other way around, because Sho always keeps quiet. And none of those pirates notice how his eyes continue to keenly observe.
The only one never loosening up is the captain.
Not that Sho gives him a chance to either, since he feels a burning inside his stomach every time he lays eyes on the pirate.
Matsumoto is the incarnation of everything Sho despises: Thievery, crime, disorder, recklessness, unwillingness to be a part of a working society, to follow the rules.
But as much as he tries to forget it, Sho cannot ignore that Matsumoto definitely is more than that. The trust his crew has in him is hard to deny, and his inner strength and determination is something Sho knows is mirrored in himself, though some of the things Sho is aware that he lacks, he can see in Matsumoto; the joy of what he does, his confidence and lack of confusion, and deep down, it is probably something Sho envies. Which most likely just makes him dislike Matsumoto even more.
He rarely greets the man, except for the occasional nod when he walks by, refusing to maintain eye contact for too long when Matsumoto looks back.
Sometimes, Matsuda stops and talks with him and has to catch up to Sho afterwards, because Sho just continues walking.
Occasionally, Sho is lucky enough to sneak off to have a chat with Nino or hide down below with Aiba. When he does the latter, he always has a bit more time before he is detected, and those rare times are the blessed moments where Sho allows himself to relax, to stop being so on guard and on his toes. With Aiba, he can breathe out and just listen to his friend blabber about Matsumoto’s weapons and the occasional gossip on board.
But the only useful information is what Ninomiya gathers, and should Sho end up there, it does not take long for Matsuda to find him – the first mate is clearly aware of whom he needs to keep an eye on. Though Sho suspects Matsuda’s every move is decided by Matsumoto.
It has been a chilly day on board, though the sun is still shining down on them from above, and Sho is leaning on the railing, gazing over the almost motionless waters while Matsuda exchanges a word with his captain. He allows himself a moment to close his eyes, inhales the scents around him, realising how fresh the wind still feels on his skin, despite him being on a pirate ship.
It is still the same. The waters have not changed, neither has the air around him, the weather. He himself has not changed either, or at least he believes so.
For a minute, eyes closed, he imagines he is back on Daylight, the sails above him white, the smoothness beneath his fingertips well-kept and shining because of him, because the wood belongs to his ship, his precious ship he fought so hard to obtain. His Daylight.
When he opens his eyes again, the sun is sinking on the horizon, casting various colours over the sea, encasing him in sleepy, red light. There is movement to his left,
“We never tire of this view, do we?”
If Sho is surprised by Matsumoto’s presence, he does not show it, he does not want to. But neither does he answer the statement, instead casting a brief glance in the pirate’s direction,
“Where is your first mate?”
“I sent him off on a break for a while. He is not needed when I can keep an eye on you.” Matsumoto attempts a crooked smile, but Sho is not impressed, so he drops it quite fast, “And I figured you were tired of being on such a short leash. Since you have behaved so well, I think you deserve just a few hours for yourself.”
Then why are you here? Sho does not voice this out loud. For some reason he is not entirely sure of, it just does not feel right. Not when Matsumoto is not doing anything particularly mean-spirited to him. In fact, it is quite the contrary.
So he just hums deep in his throat, turning his gaze back to the waters, feeling how Remarkable easily cuts through the miniscule waves beneath them. He has to admit that she is a very light and comfortable ship. There is speed in her.
After a while of silence, Sho finds himself speaking,
"You pirates are not as filthy as I expected."
Out of the corner of his eye, Sho sees Matsumoto smiling softly, eyes on the setting sun before them,
"I like to smell nice while stealing. And I like my crew to smell nice while stealing. Can’t have our enemies being able to sniff us out because we do not know personal hygiene."
It makes Sho smile. But as quickly as he realises this, mortified, he wipes it off his face, humming again.
Then, Matsumoto turns to him, though Sho does not have the courage to look back,
“Your friends like it here.”
The statement in itself is innocent enough, but there are insinuations and meanings underneath it, a reality Sho does not want to react to, since he cannot face it. It is too soon. He opts to remain silent, mostly because he has no idea what kind of answer Matsumoto expects.
A seagull cries in the distance, before Matsumoto removes his eyes from Sho, giving up.
“You have an hour without Matsuda. Then you are expected to be back in your quarters.”
When Sho finally looks up, the pirate is moving away, walking towards the stern, or perhaps the captain’s quarters. And Sho gives him a few minutes, before he steps back, turning around to walk in the opposite direction, into the darkness. He is going to make the best of that hour of freedom.
Follow the link for part 3