Episode Forty Four - Kings of Fortune
One Week Later
The warm rays seep through the hovering branches and delicately tap their faces. This long gravel road is dull and grey, but the sunlight brings an irresistible cheer to this grim walk.
Just as they pass over the ascending hill, the familiar little cottage comes to view. The cherry blossom leaves are gone, cleansed from the roof by the graceful wind ages ago.
Even without a caretaker, the flower beds and grass fields remain healthy and spirited. The fine colors of the stained glass windows and mahogany wood sparkle lively from the sun.
“Is this a good spot?” Juniper stands on the grass beside the flower beds.
“It’s perfect.” Kitsune stabs a long wooden plank neatly into the dirt. Standing vertical and straight, the plank is engraved with the words, ‘Vetus Fei, the Last’.
Another plank plugs into the dirt beside it, reading, ‘Bull, the Almighty’.
“We’ll miss you, big guy,” mutters Xin. He calmly walks toward Fia with hands tucked in his pockets and the bill of his cap pulled down over his watering eyes.
Jacks and Elza stand beside them, arms linked like a loving couple, and together they plant the grave for their crewmate. ‘Rolly, the Bravest Friend’.
“Don’t cry, Starlet, don’t cry!” Tears stream from Marina’s eyes as she reminisces her fond memories. “I said DON’T CRY!”
Starlet plants a rose into the dirt beside Cecile’s grave, but quickly turns away before her emotions overwhelm her.
Numerous crews plant their wooden monuments in memory of the hunters that died fighting King Kuro. By the end, a long row of wooden planks line the side of the path beside Vetus Fei’s old cottage, forever a memorial for Baya’s unfortunate few.
Standing and watching from behind, Zylo closes his eyes in silence for this solemn day. He listens to the sound of the wind rustling the leaves, branches, and the endless blades of grass. The breeze lifts his hair and taps his face, and he inhales the calm serene air. Somewhere in the world, their spirits live on.
Steady footsteps crunch along the gravel and Zylo opens his eyes. Kitsune stands beside him, hands in his pockets, sunglasses dark and pompadour heftier than ever.
“I should’ve told you about your contract, and I’m sorry. You’re only protected now because of your Baya Soul,” Kitsune says. “But I meant it when I said I’d get you a life you’d enjoy.”
“This is the life I enjoy.”
“I know, which is why you and Juniper can remain hunters for as long as you wish,” he smiles.
“That’s the plan? How am I ever gonna pass the time?”
“Do whatever you want. Live your lives, build a house or something, travel the world, whatever. Nothing is stopping you now.”
A sudden rush of emotion takes over and Zylo finds himself lunging toward Kitsune with a grateful hug. “Thank you, Kitsune.”
Kitsune hugs back, and mumbles through Zylo’s tight, grasping arms, “Yeah, yeah. Don’t get all wet on me.”
Zylo holds for a few seconds longer, then releases before the moment grows awkward. “I would never.”
Their public display of friendship doesn’t go unnoticed, and Juniper and Renzo approach with light smiles.
She hops over and lands between Zylo and Kitsune, and asks, “So, what happens now that you’re King?”
A look of stressful tension replaces Kitsune’s usual composed façade. He sighs and anxiously scratches his forehead. “Well, I’ll have to fix up the Citadel, sort everything out with the Baya…and recreate the Council.” He pauses for a second, and glances to Zylo and Juniper, “Are you guys gonna keep hunting?”
Zylo nods, “Juniper and I have decided to hunt when we feel like it. It’d probably do the city some good to get rid of a few criminals anyway.” He smiles and delicately holds Juniper’s waist.
She adds, “Yeah, but not for a little bit. I want a break from all this. Maybe travel.”
Kitsune understands, “Oh, okay. Yeah, take a break. We’ll just start hunting again when everyone’s ready.”
“Wait,” Renzo says. “You’re going to remain on the crew with us? Even though you have the responsibilities of King?”
“Well…yeah,” replies Kitsune. “Just because I’m King doesn’t mean I’m out of the New Pirates.”
“Aww…” Juniper playfully steps closer to Kitsune, “you miss us. You like hanging around with us, don’t you?” Her voice sounds almost mocking, each word trying to force Kitsune to respond with an affectionate gesture.
He smiles, “Of course. Where would I be without you guys?”
Some Time Later
’One year as Zylo and I lived more than twenty-six years as Leon. In many ways, Kitsune opened my eyes. Looking back now, I don’t understand how I could’ve hated that man for changing my life. That man with a pompadour.
I was stubborn, blind, and foolish to not see my life in the shambles that I created. It took a number of painful experiences, both physical and mental, and help from a number of people before I could see it.
I understand my life now. There is nothing in this world that I can’t do. The only thing that has ever stopped me has been myself. This world is mine to tread, mine to live, and mine to love, and I would only be defeated if I allow it.
Life has never looked more beautiful.’
Overhead is a beautiful clear sky with the majestic sun slowly setting toward the horizon. The resplendent rays shine its brightest goodbyes to the great metropolis, ready to be replaced by the equally splendid moon.
The soft breeze combs through Zylo’s hair and taps his face as if nature meant to say, ’Good Evening’. The noise from the streets below is stifled by the height, and he hears nothing but the calm wind brushing against his hair.
A beautiful life to live.
The Pirates ascend the twenty story building with nothing to grasp but the rain pipe, short ledges, and protruding advertisement signs. Kitsune effortlessly scales ahead, leaping up yards at a time but also trying to pace himself for the crew. He’s nice enough to slow down for them.
“Well, this is fun!” Juniper shouts sarcastically, panting from the exhausting climb.
“Enjoy the fresh air, folks.” Kitsune stands gallantly over the edge of the roof as the rest of his crew struggles to reach the top.
Zylo scales the last section, pulling himself up before sitting on the ledge overlooking the grand city, hoping vertigo doesn’t overpower him. He inhales the cool air and exhales peacefully with the gentle wind. The sight is beautiful.
The crew gazes down at the bustling street swarming with movement. As usual, the city is flooded with performers, food stands, and a street fair off in the distance. Over the colorful rooftops and intricate buildings, the bright lights and lanterns glow vibrant at the festive heart of the metropolis.
Kitsune passes each of them a beer, not to enjoy the moment, but to enhance it. “Not sure if I should’ve asked you guys first but…I changed the name of the crew.”
“You changed the New Pirates?!” Juniper exclaims as she throws her tired body down beside Zylo.
“To what?” Renzo is more curious, bearing no sentimental attachment at all.
Kitsune smiles with the light of the sun reflecting from his sunglasses. He runs his hand through the bulk of his hair and says, “From here on, the New Pirates will be known as…” He pauses for suspense.
“…The Pirate Kings.”
“I like it,” Renzo quickly responds.
“Does that mean we finally get uniforms?” Zylo gently leans against Juniper’s arm, and she leans back.
“Up to you, but let’s not worry about that.” Kitsune stands straight, and looks toward the crimson horizon, “For now, kanpai. To the Pirate Kings.”
They follow his gaze and raise their drinks to the occasion, celebrating the future, and celebrating life.
“The Pirate Kings!”
Before, they walked like warriors. Now, they strut like Kings.
Zylo’s life is just beginning. He feels it now. The world is vast, and there is nothing keeping him from exploring every inch of it. Life is the greatest gift he could’ve received, and to not discover what there is to discover, would be a horrible injustice.
He understands that now.
There are so many ways to live, and so much life to do it with.
Zylo hugs Juniper close and softly kisses her lips. He embraces her warm loving presence, and together, they stare into the beautiful urban jungle stretched gloriously around them.
This is the City of Fortune, and this is their city.
Zylo’s soft hair rustles gently with the breeze.
“So, what should the Kings do tonight?”
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