The End

A Terse Meeting

Rose and Leon were actually on deck at the same time, with Leon leaning on the railing, bored, awaiting Bo's return so they could move on to something exciting. After quite a while had passed, Leon could be heard lightly snickering. Rose looked up from the medical book she'd been reading and nervously moved to look over the railing; it had to be something horrible if it made Leon smile, but she didn't expect what she saw. Approaching the ship were Ray and Bo accompanied by two people she'd never seen before.

Rose's and Leon's reactions were completely different as they took in the full sight of Kayden's 8' frame, his hulking, muscled physique and the golden blonde hair that fell to his shoulders. He was wearing a dingy, heavily stained white tank top over a pair of worn jeans and heavy steel-plated boots. Rose actually found herself attempting to hide from view behind Leon while Leon donned a mischievous grin upon seeing the giant of a man.

When Bo's group got close enough, Leon greeted them by saying, "Please tell me he's here to destroy the ship." nodding his head towards Kayden.

"No; the opposite. Leon, this is Kayden; he's here to see if he can repair the ship. Kayden, that's Leon; he's here to... you know sometimes I wonder why I brought him along." Bo answered.

"Haha, very funny." Leon sarcastically remarked.

"Nice to meet you." Kayden said, bowing his head in greeting.

"Uh-huh."

"Leon, where's Rose?" Bo asked, not seeing her behind the swordsman.

"Oh, is that her name? Such a fitting name for a beautiful creature such as she. Please, allow me to see more of your beauty, my sweet." Kaleb blurted while moving around to get a better look at the hidden Rose before ultimately deciding to scale the ship in his pursuit, an action which, combined with the love struck look in the boy's eyes, greatly irritated Bo.

Before Kaleb could climb on board, though, Leon swung his sword on the railing right next to where the boy's hands were, causing him to fall all the way down to the ground below. He landed with a muffled thud on the coarse sand and when he opened his eyes he saw Leon standing in front of him, a menacing smirk on his lips and an unsheathed Maõ no Kiba in his hand. "'Ey brat, ya can't just do as ya please. Not 'round here anyway; got it." Leon growled to a downed Kaleb.

Kaleb just looked between Leon and the sword, and back, again and again without uttering a single intelligible word, only infrequent sounds, as he tried to formulate a coherent thought under the massive pressure of the killing intent emanating from Leon and the sword. "No answer?" Leon questioned as he swung his down only to have it stopped mid swing. "Aah, yer a tough skinned one, ain't ya, big fella?" Leon chided as he looked away from Kaleb and to Kayden, who had a hand wrapped around the blade of Maõ no Kiba, stopping it in its tracks. "I figga'd dat would get ya ta act, Goldilocks, but yer more interestin' than I anticipated."

The look in Kayden's eyes had changed from the gentle expression he'd had since Bo first met him to one of boiling rage at the apparent threat to his brother. That is, until Kaleb calmed him down and convinced him he was okay.

"And you're very strong... among other things." Kayden responded, refraining from listing the numerous negative qualities he saw in Leon- as that wouldn't be nice- since he'd reverted to his usual kind demeanor.

"Alright, that's enough. Stop fooling around, Leon." Bo called out while Ray helped Kaleb to his feet. Once Leon let up, Kayden released Leon's blade and wrapped up his bleeding palm with a rag he kept hanging from his back pocket. "Leon, that's Kaleb," Bo explained, "Kayden's little brother." Bo then turned to apologize to Kayden: "Sorry for that."

"And I apologize once again for my brother's actions."

Deciding to skip formal introductions for Rose, since everyone was already aware of who everyone else was at this point even if they hadn't been introduced, Bo moved on. "So, on to business. Can you fix our ship, Kayden?"

Without giving Kayden a chance to answer, or even surveying the damage- only sparing it a passing glance-, Kaleb answered, "Of course he can. I already told you my brother's the greatest shipwright in the world. A task as simple as this isn't even worth him wasting his time; he'd probably just let me handle it anyway. Matter of fact..."

Once again Kaleb was silenced by one of his brother's massive palms being pressed over his mouth. That seemed to be the only way to shut him up. Kayden then stated, "My brother's right when he says it's a simple job, but there's one problem: the materials we need are in the city."

"And 'ow's dat a problem?" Leon called. "We go in; we get wha' we need. Simple."

Kaleb had a large grin as Kayden tried to process the gall of such suicidal words. Bo, though, didn't worry about either reaction as he responded, "While that is an option, we may be better off waiting until the next island. Until then, I'd like some insight into this island." Bo then turned to Kayden, who was visibly anxious about the exchange, and asked, "Your brother mentioned an old man that may be able to answer some questions. Can you take me to him?"

"It would be best if you left the island and didn't interfere in our situation. But, since I can't repair your ship for you, I will introduce you to Andreas."

"Aight then, leggo." stated Leon, before being stopped by Bo.

"No. You're going to stay here. Rose, Ray, and I will be the only ones going."

"Oh, hell naw. Ya got me f'ed up if ya think I'm stayin' on dis borin' ass ship any longer." Leon complained.

Bo was going to stand his ground and reiterate his command, but at that moment Mage dropped in behind the group, stepping slowly out of the trees' shadows. "Perfect timing." Bo commented without turning around. "Mage, you're going to stay here with Leon while the rest of us go into the Slums. Got it?"

"I understand. But, I have news to report." He stated in his usual, emotionless tone.

"Can't it wait; I'd like to get going, now."

"I don't think it can." Mage answered, now shoulder to shoulder with Bo and whispering between them. "It's about Alexander and Mino."

"They're in the city. We know that already." Bo responded.

"Then you know they've been taken prisoner?" Mage questioned.

Bo tried in vain to keep the shock from showing on his face as he quietly exclaimed, "What? I never would've let them go in there if I'd known this would happen. Tell me everything." As Mage opened his mouth to relay what he'd seen, Bo momentarily stopped him, saying, "Not out here." before addressing the others. "Something's just come up; I'm going to need a moment. You all get to know each other. And Rose, prepare some medical equipment for the trip." He then turned and walked with Mage into the captain's quarters, the room formerly occupied by Vice Admiral Tokage.

Once there, Mage told Bo everything he'd seen in the city... minus a particular green-eyed man he'd convinced himself wasn't actually there, though deep down he knew he was just fooling himself. After Mage finished his tale, Bo asked what he figured their chances were if they attacked the city, to which Mage replied, "I'd say we have about a 40% chance of success if we sneak in and a 0% chance of success if we just barge in fighting."

"Thank you for your insight. Those are interesting estimates, though I think you're hiding something that would account for such a drastic drop. Nevertheless, only 40% with stealth; does that have to do with their strength and organization or the chance Leon may get us caught?"

"Both."

Bo just chuckled at the stoic, straightforward way in which Mage answered before requesting that Mage spar with Leon while the rest of the crew was away, adding, "And, feel free to use as much of that paralytic poison as you want or feel necessary; we may need him healthy and rested for future objectives." before leaving to rejoin the others on the coast.

After explaining the situation to Leon, leaving out all the pertinent information and primarily stressing the free-for-all with Mage, Bo turned to leave with the others, leaving Leon with a nearly sadistic smirk as he bounced Mao no Kiba on his shoulder and Mage standing on the ship's rail checking his twin daggers.

The trip to meet up with Andreas was surprisingly lengthy, showing the island to in fact be quite large. Along the way, Bo relayed every detail of Mage's report to Ray and the two discussed their next move, of which Ray liked none of the options. Meanwhile, Kaleb constantly pestered Rose with his aggressively flirtatious actions and lovey-dovey words. Rose tried hiding by Bo and behind Kayden, but no matter what she tried, Kaleb just kept popping up. It got to the point that Kayden actually interfered in the tug-of-war between the two, grabbing his little brother by the back of the shirt and hoisting the boy up on to one of his wide shoulders.

Kaleb still struggled briefly against his brother's grip until Kayden whispered something unintelligible into his ear, at which point he sat quietly on his perch, only casting the occasional adoring glance to Rose till the end of their trip.

Once the group finally arrived at where they were headed, they were met by the sight of a single man training what had to be almost a thousand other fit and able-bodied men, though Ray and Bo could both immediately tell that only a few of them had much in the way of combat experience. As they got closer, Kaleb pointed out that the one overseeing the training was the old man they were looking for. Andreas cut an imposing physique despite his age, his rippling biceps on full display in his sleeveless grey shirt. Plus, his mane of grey hair and full beard tied into five loose braids at the ends took little away from the fierce look of his eyes accompanied by the two scars over his right eye and the one running over his lips which altogether gave him a rather intimidating appearance.

As soon as Andreas caught sight of Kayden, he handed the instruction of the class over to a slightly younger man and came over to speak. "Aah, brother Kayden, have you come to join us?" he happily asked, arms outspread in welcoming.

"No, Sir Andreas, I do not desire to fight. I have come because these newcomers would like to speak with you."

Andreas then turned his attention to the trio of Bo, Ray, and Rose, noting that Rose was the only one who didn't have a fighter's air about her. "Oh; and who might you three be?"

"They're the pirates that came here on the Marine battleship." Kaleb blurted out. His statement earned looks of ire and caution from those who overhead it, and even Andreas instinctively took a preparatory step backwards just in case.

Andreas quickly regained his composure, and though he didn't let up in his stance, he ordered the men training behind him to "Get back to work," before asking the trio, "How may I help you?"

"My name's Bo. This is Ray, and she's our doctor, Rose." Bo introduced, motioning to each in turn. "I'd like to discuss the situation of this island with you, if possible."

Andreas pondered the request for a moment before answering, "I'm sorry, but I'm very busy right now. I don't have time to waste; you should just gather up and move on to the next island." and turning around to go back to overseeing the training of his men.

Bo grabbed Andreas' wrist, before the old man moved out of reach, and forcefully declared, "Right about now, I would like little more than to leave this island, but I came here for a reason and now I have something to do before I leave." After finishing his statement, Bo loosened his hold on Andreas' wrist and Andreas removed himself from Bo's grip, a scowl settled on his face as he studied the youngster.

After almost a full minute of tense silence, Andreas said, "You have a minute; what do you want to know?" in a frustrated tone.

"First, some of your men look a bit scratched up." Bo noted, leaving Andreas wondering what his point was. "You should let Rose give them each a quick once over while we talk."

"A few scratches are nothing to a man."

"But, a man should be 100% when preparing for a fight."

"Who says we're preparing for a fight."

"That much is obvious, Mr. Andreas. What I want to know is why."

Andreas stood motionless for the next several seconds, mulling over everything that had transpired since his and Bo's meeting and the fact that it was Kayden who first introduced them. Ultimately, after a full minute of silence, Andreas made up his mind and with the words, "Okay. I'll tell you everything," unstoppable wheels were set in motion. "Let me start from the beginning."

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