I woke up in the girls dorm early in the morning, a week after leaving The Galleon. Seara and Ushio were silently sleeping in their hammocks. I carefully crawled out of bed, as to not wake them, and slipped on my sandals. Outside, the early morning, salty air washed over me. I inhaled the fresh air and looked out to the water. Reflections of the stars and half moon glisend off of the waves. I turned and walked around to the front of the cabin and entered the kitchen.
I expected to find Sanji up and cooking breakfast. He and Shadow seemed to always be awake before everyone else. He would be finished cooking by the time we came in for breakfast. But when I entered the kitchen I found him lying on his side with his hands by his face and head on Shadow’s paw. Her head was around his and a wing laid over him like a blanket with his feet sticking out from under it.
I walked over to them, trying not to wake them. During the day I found him a little annoying at times, but right now, with him sleeping peacefully, he actually looked kind of cute. Just as I thought that I stepped on a loose floorboard. Shadow’s eyes popped open. Shit. She’s going to think I’m being some kind of creep! Her eyes turned in my direction.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you,” I whispered to her.
She huffed before lifting her head and licked Sanji on the forehead. These two are a bit hard to read. One minute they are acting really nice, the next they want nothing to do with anyone else. It’s strange really, sometimes when they’re in their ‘stay away from us’ mood, I could almost swear they really don’t want us to stay away. Although for Sanji, this mood seems to only be directed towards the guys for the most part. April was right though, they’re really hard to figure out. It really does makes them seem mysterious. It’s a bit intriguing really.
Shadow nudged Sanji with her nose, “Sanji. Time to get up.”
Sanji looked up at Shadow. “I’m up,” he replied, lightly pushing her snout away.
Shadow stretched before standing then shook out her coat.
“Sora! You’re up already?” he said stretching, with a hint of surprise in his voice.
“Yeah. I didn’t sleep well.”
“Really? If you want I could make you a tea that can help with that,” he replied with a hint of concern in his voice.
“No, it’s okay. Thank you for the offer though. Why were you sleeping on the floor in here? Wouldn’t the hammocks in the boys’ dorm be more comfortable?”
“Is that really any of your concern. If he wants to sleep in the kitchen then he can sleep in the kitchen,” Shadow looked at me with a cold, icy glare.
“Shadow, that’s not necessary,” Sanji said, beginning to get breakfast around. “Shadow and I have been together for as long as I can remember. It would be odd not having her by my side. So because she’s too big to sleep on a bed, I sleep on the floor with her.”
Shadow went to sit by Sanji as he cooked.
“You two really are inseparable. Aren’t you?” The longer these two sailed with us, the more I admired their friendship.
“More than anyone could ever know,” he replied scratching behind Shadow’s ear. Her eye’s closed in response and she leaned into his hand. I couldn’t help but smile.
I watched as Sanji cooked for about an hour. When he finished he took out six plates from the, now a bit too organized, cupboards. Using one hand, he tossed six over easy eggs in the air followed by the plates held in his other hand. They arced above his head as the eggs landed, unharmed, on each plate. Shadow caught the plates on her wing and walked them over to the table, allowing them to slowly slide off. Sanji put a nice stake of bacon and juicy sausage on two more plates and carried them to the table.
Shadow sniffed the sausage and bacon before wrinkling her nose, “You humans ruin perfectly good meat by cooking it.”
“You say that every day, Shadow.”
“Because it’s true. It’s so much better raw.”
Sanji chuckled, “For a wolf maybe.”
“Wolf Bat! I am a Wolf Bat! See the wings, Sanji! Bat Wings!”
“Yeah, yeah. I know, Shadow,” he replied with a laugh as he pushed her massive wings out of his face.
Shadow nuzzled against Sanji’s cheek, “I love you, though.”
“I know,” he replied petting the side of her head.
Just then the cabin door opened and the morning sun flooded in. Sirraco, Shiro and Seara were standing in the doorway.
Sirraco’s face turned almost as red as his hair as he looked back and forth from Sanji and I. He ran for Sanji while drawing a sword. Sanji jumped out of his way before the sword touched him. Sirraco pivoted on his heel and made another attempt at Sanji. Sanji stopped the sword with his foot.
“I thought I told you to stay away from my sister!”
“I have you know she was in here before I was even awake! Not to mention we’re on the same ship how do you expect me to stay away from her!”
This has become a common event over the past week. Sanji and I would be having an innocent conversation and next thing I know Sirraco is attacking him. Luckily for Sanji, he seems to rivle Sirraco in strength, despite their different body types and fighting styles. Sirraco has always been muscular, with his broad shoulders and thick arms, a perfect build for swordplay… Sanji on the other hand is tall, not quite as tall as Sirraco, and slim, great for speed.
Shadow shook her head. She flew over to them, picked Sirraco up by the scruff of his shirt and lightly tossed him.
“What the hell was that for you stupid mutt!” he said sitting up from hitting the wall on the other side of the room.
“If you want to fight Sanji, you’ll have to go through me first!” She growled.
“Insult her again and I’ll kick your lousy ass!” Sanji said as Shadow wrapped a wing around him in order to hold him back.
“Oh yeah! Cause that sounds real threatening!”
“Shadow let me go!”
“Stop trying to kill each other and maybe I will.”
“You guys are so weird! My crew is great!” Shiro laughed as he passed the three of them to take a seat at the table. “Sanji, this food looks and smells amazing!
“Hey, guys. The delivery seagull dropped off the newspaper,” Ushio said entering through the open door. “Wow, Sanji, this looks great!” She added sliding the paper to Seara. She slid it a bit too far and it fell off the table before Seara could catch it.
Seara reached down to pick it up. She froze mid reach. Her eyes widened, “What the hell is this?!”
“What’s the matter, Seara?” Ushio asked walking around the table. Everyone came to look at the sound of Ushio’s gasp.
On the floor did not just lay the newspaper but two wanted posters as well. One reading, WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE; BLACK STAR SHIRO: 20 MILLION GEMS. At the bottom corner, in fine print said, Issued by the navy for the kidnapping of a Noble girl and the attacking of the royal family of Legeon. The other read, WANTED: ALIVE ONLY; SEARA: 25 MILLION GEMS. Issued by the Navy. The daughter of a Noble family. Kidnapped by pirate Black Star Shiro. Apprehend, do not harm. Reminder that the harming of Nobles and Royals (criminals or not) is an act of high treason around the world and is punishable by death.
“ALL READY?!” The ship felt like it jumped out of the water, surprised by our unexpected yelling.
“Those bastards! What do they care where I’m at!” Seara said glaring at the posters.
“How is it you have a higher bounty then Shiro? He’s the captain!” Sirraco asked.
“My question is when did they get the chance to get pictures of the two of you,” Ushio replied, picking up the posters to get a better look.
“It looks like they took them when we set sail from Noberu,” I said taking the posters. “See if you hold them like this, the two pictures line up like a puzzle. Hey look they got a bit of Ushio in the background.”
“Where?” Sirraco asked looking over my shoulder.
“Right there.” I pointed to Ushio’s purple hair, leather Jacket and bow to the right of Shiro’s poster.
“Great, just what I needed.” Ushio complained. “I don’t even want to be a pirate and now people are going to know.”
“Who cares! I’m a wanted pirate now!” Shiro’s excitement about the situation was almost on real… I say almost because he gets excited over the oddest things. “These are going up on the wall by the condition board!” He added tacking the posters and running to the bulletin board in the far corner of the room. He grabbed two of the extra pins at the top of the board and hung the posters on the wall.
“Hey, swordsmen! Do you not know that wanted pirates who are also Royalty or Noble have to have a higher bounty then the captain by law.”
“Really?” All of us, except Seara, replied.
“I thought everyone knew that,” Sanji added with a blank expression.
“I thought only Nobles and Royals were allowed to know that. By law anyway,” Seara replied. “So commoners didn’t think people of higher class gets special treatment.”
“Why would they think it’s special treatment? That just means bounty hunters will target them first,” Ushio stated.
“Exactly, it’s special treatment for families of said Noble or Royal, so they can get the family member back as soon as possible. the publick already knows it’s a crime to kill or harm said Noble or Royal. So if they find out that they try to help return that family member as quickly as they can...”
“Yeah, I can see why they wouldn’t want people to know,” I replied. “But it’s still wrong.”
“Yeah. But that being said, my question now is… how did you know about that law?” Seara turned to Sanji. “No offence but you were just a cook at a famous restaurant. That hardly makes you a noble let allown royal, so how did you know?”
Sanji reached into his pockets and pulled something out of each one. He put the thing in his right hand in his mouth and lit the end of it with the silver object in his left hand, “I overheard some customers talking about it a long time ago… guess they were a couple of Nobles and I didn’t realize it,” he said taking the cigarette out of his mouth and returning the lighter to his pocket.
“You smoke?” I asked, never having seen him with a cigarette until now.
“Ah,” he glanced at the small white object between his index and middle finger before looking at me. “Y-yeah… I-i mean I-i guess… maybe… sometimes.” His words sounded distant as if he were deep in thought and didn’t want to admit his bad habit. “Shadow, we should go for a flight so you can stretch your wings,” He added grabbing some raw meat from the fridge and tossing it to Shadow, who caught it in her mouth and ate it. Sanji climbed onto her back, “We’ll be back in about an hour or two. Ushio, if you guys need us, shoot one of your flaming arrows into the sky. If we don’t see it, Shadow will smell it.”
“Will do,” She replied as they flew off out the door.
“That was odd,” Seara said.
“Why do I get a feeling they’re hiding something?” Sirraco said sitting down at the table and began eating.
“His tears,” I muttered in response to Sirraco’s question.
“Nothing,” I said staring at the door that Sanji and Shadow had just exited. What was that pain in his eye? Was I imagining it? I shook the image out of my mind and finished eating.
Later I went outside and watched the sky for any sign of the flying duo. I couldn’t keep the image of that pained expression out of my mind for very long. What was he thinking about. The fact that he was ashamed of smoking? His voice made that really obvious… but that’s something he could stop if he really wants too… so why doesn’t he? He’s clearly not addicted to cigarettes like most people because that was the first time any of us saw him have one this whole week of him being here. That said, I’m sure that wasn’t what he was thinking about. So what was on his mind?
Sanji arms were tightly wrapped around my neck, his face buried in my fur.
“Sanji, hey. Stop thinking about it. I know it’s hard to…”
“I know,” he said as he sat up, wiping tears from the eye that was not covered with his blond hair.
“Are you ready to head back? Or do you want to wait a while, maybe try to get a nap? I know sleeping on a wooden floor isn’t comfort-.”
“The floor is better than a hammock,” he said quick to interrupt.
“I never said anything about you sleeping in a hammock.”
“I know,” he sighed before turning to lay on my back with his head on my neck. I could feel him lift his head and cross his arms under it. “Hey, Shadow?”
“Do… do I have a right to be alive?”
“Should I have been born?”
“Of course you do. Everyone deserves a chance to live. Stop worrying about it.”
“But…” I could sense him holding his hand over his left eye.
“Sanji, you thank to much. Go to sleep, I’ll wake you when we get back.”
I could tell he listened because he went quiet and his breathing became light. Sanji has always slept better in the sky. He would live up here if he could. It was the one place he didn’t feel... trapped.
I didn’t wake him when I finally spotted the ship. Instead I landed as quietly and softly as I could. Sora was laying on the deck watching the sky.
“Shadow, Sanji! You’re…”
“Shhh…” I interrupted her not wanting Sanji to wake just yet.
“Oh. Sorry.” She stood up and waked over. “Does he always sleep like that?”
“Only when we’re flying.”
“He really enjoys it, doesn’t he?”
“Almost more than cooking. Now stop talking. I don’t want him woken up,” I said, glaring at her as we entered the cabin.
“Sorry… Do you know what was bothering him this morning?”
Shadow turned quickly to block my path. Her bright blue eyes colder than ice as she glared down at me. An angry growl deep in her chest. Her long teeth baring, threatening to pierce my skin. She took slow deliberate steps, backing me into the now closed cabin door. “Look girl, I don’t know why Sanji is so fond of you, but I swear, if I ever catch you or any of your other crew mates prying into his past I will not hesitate to kill you. Do I make myself clear? Do not misunderstand my reasonings for being here. I am not a member of this crew nor will I ever be. I am here for the soul peruse of keeping him safe. I do not consider any of you friends and I know full well he doesn’t either, I doubt that he even realizes his fondness in you. You can try to tell yourselves otherwise as much as you want but we are not obligated to answer any of you people’s questions about our past or personal lives. Do you understand?!” Her words were calm and collected yet at the same time extremely intimidating, feeling like each one pierced your very soul.
“Y-yes. I-i’m sorry. I was just trying to-”
“Well, stop trying. We don’t need or want friends.”
“You don’t mean that?”
“I never say anything I don’t mean.”
“Everyone needs friends,” I replied softly. My heart sank as I began to feel sorry for them. What could have happened to them that made Shadow act so bitter towards us?
“He and I are the only friend that the two of us need.” I felt her warm, angry breath on my face, blowing a few strands of my hair back before she turned and went to lay by the wall on the opposite side of the room. Sanji’s leg fell when she did, the tip of his shoe barely touching the floor.
I let out a heavy sigh. I hadn’t realized that I was holding my breath. I heard the sound of a sword being drawn. Sanji apparently heard it to because not even a second later he and Sirraco were in another fight. The rest of the crew were now standing in the doorway.
“Now what are those two fighting for?” Ushio walked up to me, standing with her arms folded.
“Sirraco! This isn’t necessary!” I tried to get his attention and reason with him.
I used my foot to rebounded off of the swordsman’s sword, doing a backward flip and landing in the corner of the room. Catching his balance from the impact, Sirraco charged at me before I had a chance to realize where I was and move out of the corner. His sword was at my throat in a matter of seconds.
Standing there, I could feel the walls closing in on me. The air felt like it was getting thin and became hard to breath. My vision began to blur, my lungs felt heavy.
“Enough,” I said out of breath. “Back off.”
“Then I suggest you keep that mutt of yours under control! If I ever hear her threatening my sister again..!”
“Swordsmen! Move! I don’t know what you are talking about! Just let… let… Ple…” My head spun, my mouth became dry and I couldn’t talk as I tried to plea with him. “I… I… ple…”
“Sirraco! Move!” Seara grabbed Sirraco by the shoulders and tried to pull him away before I had a chance to move. “Can’t you see he’s being serious! He can’t breath!”
I sprang to my feet and caught Sanji in my wing when Sirraco finally decided to back away. Sanji draped his arm over my neck for support.
Seara placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, “Are you okay?”
Sanji nodded trying to catch his breath.
“He’ll be fine in a few minutes,” I said hopefully.
Being at The Galleon, Sanji hadn’t had a claustrophobic attack in several years because everyone new to give him space, so I wasn’t sure anymore how long it would take him to fully recover. When they learnt about his claustrophobia, April had to beg Zedd to remodel our room a bit by removing the wall dividing it and the one next to it, so Sanji didn’t feel so closed in. He probably would sleep on the floor in the boys dorm if it weren’t such a small space and he refuses to sleep in a hammock because of how they wrap around the body making him feel like it’s binding him to it. He wasn’t always like this however… but that part really doesn’t matter.
“What is with this stupid cook?” I heard Sirraco whisper to Ushio.
“Pretty obvious that he’s claustrophobic,” Ushio replied at a normal volume.
“I am not!” Sanji denied through clenched teeth. His face turned a light shade of pink as he tried to hide his embarrassment.
“What the hell is that?”
“Sirraco, you could ask a bit nicer,” Sora said before turning to Ushio. “We were raised by our aunt and uncle… They never really paid any attention to us. I mean they cared about us and kept us feed and stuff but when it came to learning… we had to teach ourselves. Our parents were pirates so they were almost never around…
“Sirraco, you know Shiro has a ‘no secret rule’. We said we’d tell them when we were ready and I’m ready.”
“Fine, whatever, just do what you want.”
“I will. As I was saying, we’ve never been to fond of are parents because of it and we vowed to get revenge. So we trained ourselves in swordsmanship and became pirate thieves. But because we had to teach ourselves a lot of things we never thought to look up all the different phobias.”
“Claustrophobia is the fear of small spaces,” Seara explained to the siblings.
Sirraco snorted, “Your afraid of small areas! How pathetic! And yet you work in a kitchen!”
Sanji straitened up, now having full control of his breathing, “I am not afraid of small spaces. I just don’t like feeling trapped. A kitchen is a kitchen not a small, enclosed area with no way of escape. Having a sword to my throat, pinning me into a corner…That’s a small enclosed space with no way to escape… Now if you will excuse me, I have to get started on dinner,” He said casually brushing of his black jacket.
“I’m going to make sure we are still on course for The Grand Cross,” Seara said and turned for the exit.
“There’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you. Why did you so eagerly join us when you knew Shiro wanted to go to The Grand Cross? I know you are old friends and all but don’t you know how dangerous it is?”
“No. I don’t know anything about The Grand Cross really. Just that it divides the four oceans.”
Everyone turned to the Noble girl and stared at her. I had thought for sure that everyone new about the myth of The Grand Cross. Weather any of it was true or not, nobody really knew yet… but to thank that there was someone in this world that knew absolutely nothing about it! That was just absurd.
I rolled up my sleeves so they were just below my elbows as I began to prepare some curry and rice. “Well, if you want, I can tell you everything Shadow and I know. After all Zedd is the son of pirates and April the daughter of a Navy vice admiral and captain so they both had been there before they meant. Actually that’s were they meant.”
Shadow buried her ears under her paws trying to block out the sound of their yells.
“SHUT UP! SHADOW HAS SENSITIVE HEARING!”
“Sorry!” All of them, except Sirraco, replied.
“Zedd was a pirate apprentice and April was a Navy cadet under her parents command. Neither of them wanted to be where they were but they both had this dream of finding an island… The day they meant, Zedd had gotten caught by April’s parents… He was supposed to be imprisoned on the ship until they reached the prison. Curious about the life of a pirate, April snuck off to the ship’s holding cells at night to talk to him. Eventually they fell in love and April knew she had minimal time with him before they got to the prison. Unable to let go of her feelings, she stole the key to his cell and they escaped into the darkness of the night. They sailed to the Western Ocean using a small boat they stole, and got married at the first island the spotted. They worked multiple jobs until they got enough money to buy a ship and opened The Galleon, which eventually became a reward winning franchise all across the Western Ocean.”
“Aww, that’s such a sweet story,” the Noble girl said.
Watching her polish her sword at the table, I couldn’t help but notice that the hilt was sparkling in the light of the lanterns.
“Is there glitter on your sword?” I asked never knowing swords to be glittery.
Her hand paused for a moment as she looked up at me, “Diamonds actually. I like things that sparkle.”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed…” I replied, examining her outfit, before muttering, “typical Noble.”
Apparently she heard me because she added, “I wanted fake diamonds, figuring that someone else needed the real ones more than I did, but my parents wouldn’t allow it.”
I rolled my eyes to myself and continued cooking.
“So what is it that makes going to The Grand Cross such a big deal, anyway?” She said, changing the subject.
I sighed, “The Grand Cross, as we all know, is two seas that cross the center of the planet. They divide the ocean into four main sections: the Western Ocean, the Southern Ocean, the Eastern Ocean, and… the Northern Ocean. The first sea runs from the North Pole to the South Pole, creating a South to North current. The second sea run along the equator, creating a West to East current. Due to the two currents there is two massive whirlpools on either side of the earth were the two seas cross. Aside from the location of the two whirlpools, the two seas are surrounded by stillstreams making it almost impossible to enter.”
“Almost?” Replied the Noble. “stillstreams has no wind or currents so they are impossible to cross without a rowboat or something polling you.”
“Typically, yes this is true… but what most people don’t know is… once a month every month the stillstreams completely vanish for one day and only for an hour, making it possible to cross if you have a good navigator and the weather is right.”
“Well, we’re good on the ‘good navigator’ part,” Shiro said after a shockingly long time of him being silent. “Now to hope the weather is right!”
“We’ll see about that,” I added glancing at the Noble.
“Is that a challenge, Sanji?” She said placing her sword in its sheath on her back. I looked down at what I was cutting and shrugged. “I get you don’t trust me, but I’m not like most Nobles. I didn’t choose to be born a Noble. Believe me, if I could of chosen a different family, I would have.”
I ignored her, “Anyways, legend has it that if you enter through the right whirlpool, you can take a shortcut to the other side of the planet. However it has never been proven, hundreds of pirates has tried it… but none who did, was ever seen or heard from again.” I watched as Ushio and Sea-... the Noble appeared to get shivers down their spins. “But it’s just a legend made up to scare kids into not becoming pirates. I mean pirates have been known for going missing near the two locations but their ship’s where almost always found washed up on a nearby island completely destroyed. And that’s all I know about it.”
“So cool, I wanna try it!” Shiro said. I looked up to see stars in his eyes.
“Absolutely not!” Ushio said, knocking Shiro to the floor. “I swear you’ve got some kind of death wish!”
Shadow sat next to me while I washed the dishes after dinner. Her eyes were narrow as she watched the others, not taking her eyes off them for even a second as they sat at the table discussing what supplies to get at our first stop before entering The Grand Cross. I heard a low growl coming from the back of Shadow’s throat as Sora got up and came over to us.
“Would you like some help with those?” She asked, her voice soft and kind. Something about her voice made me feel at ease, despite my distrust for most humans.
“N-no, I got it.”
She sighed before grabbing a dish towel and began to dry the clean dishes. “I understand that you don’t trust us,” She said, while watching her hands, as if she had read my mind.
“But that don’t mean you need to deny yourself help when it’s offered to you. You’re a member of our crew now, that makes us friends,” I looked up at him, our eyes meating for no more than a second. I could see the surprise in his eyes, as if he had never heard the words before.
He looked down at his hands in soapy dish water, “I don’t have friends.” His eye were filled with the same pain and sadness from before. My heart tightened as I began to wonder if he even knew what it meant to have a friend.
“What about Shadow? I thought you said she was your best friend.”
“I meant humen friends.” Shadow wrapped a wing around him. He dried off his hands and reached into his pockets, pulling out a cigarette and placed it in his mouth.
He seemed surprised by my action as I grabbed the cigarette before he had a chance to light it and laid it on the counter next to me, “Well, why don’t we change that?”
“I don’t think anyone can,” he replied turning back to the sink.
“We can try, can’t we?”
He shrugged, not taking his eye off the water.
After a moment of silence, I began to feel a little awkward as I racked my mind for something to talk about. “So…”
“Hmm?” He finally looked at me.
“What’s flying like?”
At that, a small smile formed on his face, “How about I show you?”
“What? No, you don’t have…”
“Yes, I do. I-if you really want to know. It’s a feeling that can’t be explained. You have to experience it for yourself.”
“That won’t be necessary. Besides, I don’t thank Shadow likes me very much.” At that, her wing tightened around him as if to confirm my statement.
“She’ll be fine if I asked her,” he replied as if he forgot she was sitting there. “how about this? Tomorrow morning, after breakfast, meet us on the deck and you can come with us when we go for our morning flight.”
“A-all right. If you insist.”
His face light up before he reached down to drain the water. I dried the last plate and placed it on top of the others. I picked up the cigarette and handed it back to him. He took it but instead of lighting it, he placed it back in his pocket.
I walked back to the table with a smile, feeling that I may have finally broke down his walls, if even just a little. Sirraco apparently just noticed where I had been because he stood up while grabbing a sword.
I pushed him back into the chair, “cool it.”