Chapter 1: The Boy and the Barrels
“Mother! Mother!” I hollered, pulling and pushing, trying to break free of the men.
The sun had already almost disappeared behind a building. Two men had a hold of me, walking as quickly as they could without anyone getting suspicious.
I was four years old. The streets were rather crowded for a weekday. Everyone bumped into each other as they walked, their shoes kicking up and scuffing the red dirt. The small town was filled with loud chatter as men and women did their shopping. The annual fireworks festival was the next day and everyone was bustling to finish their preparations. I could see my mother shoving her way through the crowd. She was looking for me, frantically. She was so far away, I could scarcely hear her holler, “Shiro! Shiro, where are you?” She turned in the direction of my voice. Finally, she spotted me, but it was too late. The men dragged me down the dark street and Mother faded from my vision.
I jumped out of my sleep, covered in a cold sweet and breathing heavily.
“Just a dream,” I breathed.
Still somewhat incoherent from exhaustion, I looked around to see where I was. I was in a small boat in the middle of the ocean, the sun shining radiantly, making the gentle waves on the water glisten like billions of little diamonds. The soft breeze of salty air dried the cold sweet from my body. Birds chirped as they flew overhead, casting elegant shadows on the rippling water. “Hmm?”
I spotted two barrels floating near my small sailboat. My curiosity took over and I reached into the water to pull them into my boat. But when I went to open the larger of the two barrels, I fell backwards in surprise. The lid of the barrel was thrown off and landed in the water near the boat. Next thing I knew, a girl was standing in front of me, in the barrel.
Her hair was cut to her nape at the back, but longer hair hung down at the front and a few strands fell down just past her eyes. It was dark purple with two strips of orange on the right side. She wore a khaki green leather jacket with a zipper and hood, as well as pants, and gloves with the fingertips cut off, all of which brought out her carmel eyes. The shirt under her jacket, though I could only see a little, also appeared to be leather.
The girl looked down at me, an expression of surprise on her face. “Oh, sorry to bother you, but would you mind taking me home?”
“WHAAAT?!” I hollered in disbelief, as she opened the smaller barrel. “You can’t just pop out of a barrel on a stranger’s ship and ask them to take you home!”
She reached into the barrel to take something out of it. “You’re right! I’m sorry! I’m Ushio. What’s your name?
I could tell where this was going. I began to get rather irritated but reluctantly answered anyway, “S-shiro.”
Standing up, she threw a bag of arrows onto her back. She turned back to me. Placing her hands on her hips and an “as a matter of fact” expression on her face, she replied, “There, now we’re not strangers.” She looked around the sailboat and added after a moment of silence, “…..You call this a ship?”
“THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT!” I yelled in annoyance, my teeth like a jagged knife.
“So will you take me home?” She repeated.
Curious, I pointed to the barrels and asked, “Why were you floating around in a barrel?”
“Hmm? Oh… long story. I was trying to get some information about something and stowed away on a pirate ship. But then I got caught and had to escape quickly.”
“So you jumped in a barrel... that wasn’t a very long story.”
“It’s longer than it sounds…. Anyway, could you take me home?”
“Fine. But only because you’re weird.”
Irritation spread across her face and saturated her voice, “YOU’RE THE WEIRD ONE!”
“Hey! I’m not the one traveling by barrel in the middle of the ocean…. Where am I taking you anyway?
“Turtle Cove Island.”
“You wouldn’t happen to have any navigating skills would you?” I asked, hopefully.
“Are you telling me that you’re in the middle of the ocean but… YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO NAVIGATE!”
I looked at her, starting slowly but finishing in a hurry, “Yeaaah, pretty much.”
I stared wide eyed at him, lips slightly parted, I could not believe this guy. Finally, all I could do was sigh. I put my hand to my head and said, “Yes, but only a little and I have no idea where we’re at right now. Nor do I have a map and compass.”
Shiro was about an inch shorter than me. He was thin and did not look very tough. He wore a red sleeveless shirt under a black jean jacket and blue jeans. He had a white fabric tied around his waist like a belt. His messy black and red hair went down just past his maroon eyes.
At that, he just grinned at me, “I guess we’ll just float around until we see an island and get a map and compass from there.”
My annoyance with him began to grow a little more. “Did you plan anything out when you set sail?”
He turned to pick up a bag stuffed full of something and held it open for me to see. “I brought food.”
The contents of the bag consisted of various types of cooked meats, bread, cheese, and more.
“Money?” I asked, getting more annoyed by the second.
“I spent it all before I left home.”
He grinned widely, “This boat…. and food.”
“Are you kidding me?!”
His grin widened even more, then his expression changed. He seemed a little more serious. “You’re an archer?” he asked as if he had just spotted my bow.