Olivier heaved a heavy sigh, leaning a bit harder on the rail, finally able to relax. The others had warned she would be annoying; she wasn’t anywhere near as bad as Fili, but she suffered heavily from what his father called “foot-in-mouth disease”. She had an uncanny knack to say the worst possible thing, start the worst possible topics, at the worst possible times. Olivier only ever heard rumors of such people, but now that he had... he found it rather comical. He felt a bit guilty for it, but the fact she tries her best to be friendly only for it to fail so spectacularly and miff and irk so many people without any true malice (at least, none that he could tell).
Really, between her and Fili, he would hang out with Gale any day. She wasn’t anywhere near as clingy, and wasn’t afraid to be abrasive. He meant no offense to Fili, but he was feeling a bit relieved to be away from her and the others. At least, for now. The fact his cheek was able to heal was a boon in of itself, no longer raw and stinging... However, he couldn’t ignore the situation he was in.
The Powderfish were here. Not only that, they had allied with Tarjen and this ship, as well as, in a show of good faith, were sending over Raina. There was no doubt in his mind; if she even caught a single glance at him, she would know who he was. She would tell Tarjen, alert the entire ship, and do all that she could to eliminate him... So why was he considering going right into the lair of the beast? Why would he willingly go over to their ship?
First off, and most importantly, he wouldn’t be alone. Gale was trying so hard to be his friend. If it was for her own ends, which she did let slip, or was plotting against him, she would do what she could to get close to him. Second, she also let slip that she knew the vessel, knew places they could skulk off to and remain out of sight. Even if it was a futile attempt, that he would be spotted in time, at least he had a better chance hiding with another person instead of said person pulling attention his way.
Lastly, he could use his Power as he saw fit on that ship.
He looked down at his right hand, grimacing as it once more pulsed, the sphere on its back wide and watchful. He hated it, loathed it so... but he couldn’t lie. It was handy, and has helped him so much already. If he were to be cornered on that vessel, outnumbered, he could repeat what happened on the island... At least, he hoped he could, and that hope was also lined with dread. Those monsters didn’t show favor, didn’t prioritize nor care. With Gale there... Olivier shook his head, sighing again.
No, he thought, hands shaking, gripping the railing even harder. That was simply because I had no control. That was blind fury... I’m... I’m better than that now... I am.
Once more, hope laced with dread... The ocean slapped softly against the hull, it and the wind gently rocking the ship, making it creak and softly groan. The sun was a bit a ways up in the sky, no longer extending crimson digits across the soft, cool body of the sea, sparkling under its gaze. Clouds were starting to gather in the sky, another sign of the changing seasons. Gone were the soft, fluffy clouds that carried a shower, replaced by thick, gray ones, filled to the brim with snow. They didn’t get much near the coast, barely an inch the best of times, but Olivier could recall a blanket of it falling in one night on Terra.
He would sneak out as the sun broke, already brighter than most days from it burning like fire on that sea of white, and join the other children, pelting them with snowballs and helping make snowmen and Faun... He would try to make a Snow-Cephamorian, but it would always fail, the snow unable to be crafted into tentacles. Olivier got so frustrated one time he knocked over what he had started, which accidentally hit into a snowman beside it, toppling it, too. The children would be angry with him and all team up to bombard him, chasing him all the way home where Lady Naomei would take over, whipping his back for his disobedience.
It wasn’t like I did anything wrong, he thought, looking away from those clouds, from that tranquil sea, and back to the city. Red still clung to his eyes, sneering at it as he pushed off the railing, stretching. I never really do, but everyone is just looking for a way to punish me.
He shook his head, clearing his vision of that red, but it was soon replaced with yellow. There were people, stevedores coming to the ship. He pulled his robe tighter against, raised it up to cover his mouth, leaving only his eyes to see as he watched them. None of them seemed to notice him, though, carrying kegs, crates, and pulling wagons laden with food. A few in the back even carried rags and buckets, all lost to their chatter.
Olivier, however, on the safe side, decided to head back downstairs- at least, started to. The three from yesterday grumbled among themselves, growing louder as they approached the steps, forgotten as Olivier headed for the stairs to the captain’s quarters instead. He hopped up them two at a time, trying the door waiting in between the two sets and the wheel in front of it, but found it “locked”. Though the handle was broken, its hinges unable to fully shut it, somehow it was sealed enough that Olivier couldn’t simply push it. Not without making the metal bands through it groan, at least.
The chattering, the droning only grew closer. He wheeled around, seeing that the three had ascended to the deck, blissfully unaware of the stevedores making their way up the barge. He could hope that the two groups would make a scene, but that would draw unneeded attention, more eyes, and possibly more problems, to this area. Olivier had to think quick –and, if he couldn’t avoid attention, why not create it himself?
He leaned over the rail by the wheel, waving at the three. With his left hand, of course
“Oi! How are you guys today?” He called out, making sure his mouth was still covered, that his eyes were the only thing that could be seen of him.
That gave them pause, giving him a dirty look, but they also heard the ramblings of the stevedores. They stepped out of the way of the gangplank, leaning against the rail Olivier had used, while the workers went about their business. Olivier eased himself away from the bar and seemed to slither sinfully smooth down the steps, weaving his way through the line, surprisingly ignored as he approached the trio. They had looked away, trying their best to look nonchalant but only came off as more bitter, sour of what must have transpired.
“That bad, huh?” Olivier said.
Harmon scoffed, red filling his diamond eyes.
“It was a long night of hearing about the same thing in every single tavern,” he said.
“‘The Dread Pirate has returned. He attacked our town; all was bloodshed’,” Hale continued, his voice mocking, squeaky, wavering as his teeth slurped out of his long, thin jowls. He blew, spraying a bit of blood out towards the pier, and shook his head. “With that kind of attitude going around, how could any of us have a ‘good’ night?”
“Even the Shack was a let-down.” Klauwitz stated. “Did you know that the woman had become celibate? Overnight! Turns out she found her true love –who turned out to be this... ‘Dread Pirate’.”
“If I ever find the bastard, I’ll wring his neck myself,” Harmon said. “Has all the women wrapped around his suckers.”
“So what are you guys going to do today, then?” Olivier said.
“At this rate, I’m thinking we’re better off heading out to Narvaal... Say, you’ve been in town the longest. Has any word reached from there?”
“N... not really... There was an incident a bit back, but that was because of a crazed Itchyoman-”
“More crazed, you mean,” Harmon said, winking at Hale, and rolled one of his arms towards Olivier. “Say, want to tag along? You’ll probably grow bored around here-”
“It depends, actually,” Klauwitz interjected. “When did Gale go to bed?”
Hale hissed, shushing him. “Don’t say her name too loud. ’Tis a bad omen, it is.”
“Right. Sorry... Take it you got to meet her?”
“Yeah,” Olivier said, rubbing his head... and had to do a double-take, looking after one of the workers. He thought he saw something, rather someone, somebody he knew, but the worker had descended the steps. He leaned over it, hoping to catch another glimpse, but his hood almost shifted, the cloth almost fell from his mouth, both straightened and firm again as he focused on the three. “Okay. She’s not coming up... Really, I didn’t find her that bad.”
“Ah,” Harmon said. “She must have been depressed.”
“Can’t say I blame her,” Klauwitz said. “They stood out like a swollen tendril in town all night, and the captain was having a blast with Roe. Must be one helluva sting to the heart to know your crush is falling for another woman.”
“The skipper-in-waiting likes the captain?” Olivier said.
“Like you wouldn’t believe –and, in truth, she’s lying about that ‘skipper-in-waiting’ crap.”
“We all know, after Plu goes, he’s going to make Roe or Ella the next skipper,” Hale added. “For good reason. They actually help around the ship, do more than the minimum... Gale? She’s lucky to get her rear out of bed most days, but it’s the fact she demands praise for it.”
“She makes Klauwitz look downright hyper in compari- it’s a lovely day isn’t it?”
“Yeah! Plain lovely!” Harmon said, laughing as he pointed towards the steps. Olivier slowly turned around to see Gale. She wasn’t climbing the steps, no; her claws were dug into the wood just before Olivier’s feet, anchoring her, while she looked over the lip.
“I thought I heard my name,” she grumbled, voice still heavy with sleep. “What are you guys talking a- Ollie? Why are you talking to them?”
“We were just inviting him to come along to visit Narvaal,” Hale said, smacking Olivier’s shoulder. “Thought he could use a bit of time away from the ship.”
“Wh-” Olivier began, and reached for his blade as she pulled herself up. Every part of him fought not to draw it, to bring it down upon the tired, haggard Itchyoman before him. Her eyes were still heavy with sleep, rather the need for it, but her growl was clear, rippling through the soft morning air.
“In fact, no one should consider leaving the ship until the captain returns,” she continued. “Help the stevedores clean and prep the ship. Aid them in stocking and checking the stocks, but DO NOT leave this ship... Are we clear?”
“O-of course,” Hale said, scratching his head. “That makes sense, so I guess we’ll agree with you on this-”
“What if the captain doesn’t come back today?” Olivier blurted. “What if he stays out all week?”
“Then we make do,” Gale said, voice hard, as if pained by his statement. Her eyes showed her real feelings, tears welling up, scowl wavering. “We will make do... The captain won’t be gone that long.”
“But what i-”
“He. Will not. Be gone that long... I’m going back to bed a touch... Ollie, how are you with heights?”
“I don’t hate them-”
“Good. You’re in charge of cleaning the crow’s nests. Make sure that they are done before I wake up.”
The air between them was left heavy, the question passed but left unanswered without either of them saying anything. She eased herself down onto the steps again, and Olivier hurried to get some rags and a bucket-
Stopped by Hale.
“What do you think you’re doing?” He said.
“I was ordered to clean the c-”
“Trust us, bud,” Harmon said, chuckling. “There’s an entire story behind those crow’s nests, but simply know she’s making you do it out of spite –and ‘making’ is a strong term.”
“She’s not the skipper,” Klauwitz said. “She’s not even a Striker. She is like any of us, and can’t tell you or us what to do.”
Hale hooked an arm around Olivier, goading him towards the gangplank.
“Come on! Let’s go live it up in Narvaal. The Natorei are always friendly, and the Faun are going to be quite perky this time of year.”
“Guess it’s a good time as any,” Harmon said, chortling, but the sound was almost tawdry, bordering on lascivious. “Tell us, Ollie: Have you ever dipped your quill?”
“I can assure you I have. Multiple occasions,” Hale said.
“Me, too. Only Klauwitz hasn’t-”
“Just because I have a designated lover doesn’t mean I haven’t done my fair sh-”
“‘Dip my quill’?” Olivier said, giving them all pause. “What does that mean?”
“W-well...” Hale mulled, rubbing his head, and the other’s weren’t any better. They had all gone rather quiet, the air around all of them incredibly uncomfortable. “Y... you know... I mean, you know... right? When a man loves a woman-”
“Oh! That... No. Never.”
“Really?” Harmon said. “Just... going to come out and say it, huh?”
“I mean, I never thought it was that big a deal. Someday, I’ll find somebody I truly love and then have a family, but I don’t see the draw to it. Why not enjoy your life then worry about settling down?”
“Who said anything about settling?” Hale exclaimed, chuckling. “You can enjoy it as much as you like, you know?”
“Y... you can?”
“Don’t tell me you only thought that sort of activity was between married couples,” Harmon said, cackling. “That’s just naive... Y... you really did... didn’t you?”
Their laughter died, seeing the blue overtaking Olivier’s vision... Did his father and mother really not love each other, like the Church taught? Was everything that he was taught a lie... Did his mom really love him? Lady Naomei?
Hale sighed, patting Olivier’s shoulder.
“Look. We’re sorry, man,” he said, and shook his head as he fanned his arms, holding his hands up to the air. “If that’s what you want to believe, then believe in it if it makes you happy... To be honest, I talk big. I’ve never been with anyone.”
“Same,” Harmon said. “Not from lack of trying, though.”
“I mean, you tried to hit on Terra missionaries. Count yourself lucky you’re still alive.”
“That was only once, and that was three years ago.”
“Well, I wasn’t lying,” Klauwitz grumbled. “She’s waiting for me back in Carapai. Sweet, caring Typo.”
Olivier... shook his head, and stopped, pushing their hands away as they kept trying to pull him further down the port.
“I think I’m just going to go back to the ship,” he mumbled, shaking his head. “Sorry... I... I think I’ll feel better once I clean those crow’s nests.”
“Alright. You do you,” Harmon said, and the three left, leaving him to trudge back to the gangplank. Though it was still early, he felt like he just went through a full bout with Squall, every part of him aching... more parts than a bit of training ever would have... He simply hoped now that time would be merciful, swift, deliver him from this waiting and out to sea, where his journey could truly unfold once more.