AUTHOR: Jos Mous
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own any of the characters, nor am I making any kind of money out of writing this.
RATING: PG, maybe PG-13
NOTE: This story is based on the game “Skies of Arcadia Legends” for the GameCube and, to a lesser extent, “Skies of Arcadia” for the Dreamcast. For those of you haven’t finished the game, this fic takes place after the game’s end, so *spoilers* are scattered throughout. For those of you who have finished the game, or possibly don’t even own it, I just hope you enjoy.
Enrique the First, the young ruler of the Valuan Empire looked at the reports littering his desk and sighed. He had thought that the most difficult period in his reign would have been the rebuilding of his country. And for the longest time, it had certainly looked that way. Building materials had been scarce, food supplies non-existent, most of the gold deposits destroyed and to top it all off none of Valua’s neighbours had been feeling particularly inclined to help out the struggling nation.
If it hadn’t been for Vyse and his group of Air Pirates occasionally sending in aid, everyone in Valua would have probably starved instead of being “merely” malnourished.
But now, six years after the Rains had fallen, things were starting to look up again. Everybody was once again housed, agriculture had recovered enough to support the populace and, thanks to a very generous trading arrangement with the young city-state Esparanza, there was even money coming in.
And now the noblemen were starting to complain.
There hadn’t been many noble families in Valua to begin with, and the Rains of Destruction had washed away most of them, but there were still some. They were no longer influential, they were no longer rich, they no longer owned huge tracts of land, but they were still very much convinced of their own superiority. So much so, that they had barely helped with the reconstruction. At first they had insisted that their villas be rebuilt in all their splendour at once, although that sentiment had waned somewhat after the first several thunder storms, opting instead for a simple roof above their heads. They also did not have any real understanding of “famine”. To most of the nobles, food was something that got given to them by the servants whenever they wanted. They couldn’t comprehend the concept of there not being enough.
In the end, though, the nobles had got the message, or at least had got tired of Enrique yelling at them, and had kept quiet.
But now that Valua was more or less pulling itself together again, the nobles were back and they were as demanding as ever. Now that there was housing and there was food, the first things that needed to be done in their opinion was to tax the workers and tradesmen, who actually did something to make money, so that said money could go back to the noble families where it belonged. When all that had been sorted out, the villas and palaces needed to be rebuilt, because now that the nobles were rich again, they could not, under any circumstances, live in the same conditions as everybody else. And finally, there needed to be a military again. All those soldiers out there ploughing fields and building walls needed to put their armour back on and take up their swords once again. Not because the nobles were planning to go to war yet, but because they wanted to be In Command again. Leading military forces was what the nobility did and therefore there had to be a military.
Enrique picked up the latest letter of complaint and stared at it. This one had come from the entire family of the late Admiral Alfonso. Of course, after the Rains, the entire family of the late Admiral Alfonso consisted of his sister-in-law, but she was good at making it look like there were plenty of them. She insisted on a statue being constructed in Alfonso’s honour and that his flagship, the Cygnus, had to be rebuilt as well so that it could lead the New and Glorious Armada.
Enrique shook his head. Valua didn’t have a fleet, much less something like the old Armada and even if there was one Alfonso had been the worst admiral Valua had ever had. He had had about as much strategic insight as a looper with a concussion, had always blamed others for his many shortcomings and had missed most major battles on account of him always running the other way. Why such a man had to be honoured was completely beyond Enrique, but he quite suspected that it all made perfect sense to someone without any.
The door to Enrique’s small office opened and his wife stepped inside. She quickly hurried over to the window and closed it. The tannery next door was having a particularly busy day today and the Yafutoman princess couldn’t bear the stench.
“Hello dear,” Enrique said with a faint smile.
“Enrique, we are leaving in about five minutes,” Moegi said sternly.
“Leaving? Where to?” Enrique asked.
Moegi gave him a blank stare. “Crescent Island, remember?”
The far reaches of Enrique’s memory produced a file that quickly cleared out the rest of his thoughts.
“Oh,” he said. “Oh yes, of course. Of course.”
“We are going Enrique. Now, I might add.”
Enrique half stood up, gesturing towards his cluttered desk. “But…”
“The country can run itself for a few days, Enrique.” Moegi glanced at the accumulated papers on the desk and uttered a small noise of disapproval. “And those people can certainly wait.”
Enrique gave up. “Give me a few moments to change clothes. I’ll be right along.”
“Well hurry then,” said Moegi. “We’re going to make a detour past Sailor’s Island to pick up Polly and Robinson and we promised Osman to pick her up in Nasrad.”
“Yes, yes, I’ll hurry,” Enrique said apologetically as he hastily retreated from his office.
Most nobles merely annoyed Enrique, but Moegi was a very effective siege weapon against any defence he could put up.
Enrique sat in the captain’s chair of the Delphinus, overlooking the bridge. The chair hadn’t been used much. When Vyse had been captain of the ship, he had insisted to take the wheel himself most of the time and after the ship had officially been returned to Enrique’s care it simply hadn’t been used much because there had always been more pressing matters that couldn’t be solved with a warship.
“We’re approaching Crescent Isle,” said Lawrence, from his place at the steering wheel.
“Very well,” said Enrique, standing up. “Is anybody else already present?”
“Everyone,” Lawrence reported calmly. “Apart from Baltor,” he added.
“Well, we didn’t really expect him to turn up, did we?” Enrique said, with a faint smile. And mentally added that he hadn’t counted on Lawrence showing up either. The mercenary had never seemed to care about anything but his pay. Yet here he was, along with the others.
“Umm… someone sent us a message,” Urala said quietly from her place at the communications controls. She would’ve been happier if she’d simply stayed in the galley, but Polly had taken over as soon as she boarded the ship.
“Well, what is it?” Enrique asked.
Urala blushed. “Umm… It’s Captain Vyse. He says we should dock the Delphinus in the underground port. You know, just like in the… umm… old days. He says he’s already anchored his ship somewhere else, so we might as well.”
Enrique nodded. “You heard her Lawrence,” he said.
“Aye, aye,” Lawrence said.
Not for the first time, Enrique noted that none of the old crew called him “captain” or even “sir”. It didn’t really surprise Enrique. To the crew, Vyse was the only real captain of the Delphinus and Enrique had simply been allowed to borrow it for some time.
If he didn’t pay attention to it, Enrique tended to think the same.
Enrique, with Moegi at his side, stepped out onto Crescent Isle’s main -and only- square. The rest of the Delphinus crew was already fanning out across those already present. There were tables set up all around the central fountain and someone had got a few fires going. The skies were already turning a dark blue and the Red Moon shone brightly above them.
“Well, hello there.”
Enrique turned around and noticed the smiling man who had crept up beside him.
“Hello Centime,” Enrique said, nodding. “And how are you?”
Centime’s faint smile widened somewhat. “Fine as ever. And I hear you are doing quite well.”
“Yes, the rebuilding is proceeding smoothly,” Enrique said.
Centime nodded. “Yes, I heard that was also going quite well. Hello there Moegi.”
“Hello Centime,” Moegi said. “I heard you adopted some more children.”
“I have, as a matter of fact. All children should have a family,” Centime said. He tilted his head slightly. “Well now, there’s a thing,” he muttered.
“Pardon?” Enrique said.
“I suppose congratulations are in order. When are you expecting, if you don’t mind my asking?”
For a moment, both Enrique and Moegi were completely dumbfounded and merely looked at the smiling man.
“How…?” Moegi managed.
“Oh, I have an eye for such things,” Centime said.
“But…” Enrique stammered.
“Or perhaps I just know how to look,” Centime said, still smiling friendly. “Well, I won’t breathe a word until you are both ready.”
“You are most kind,” Enrique said, still a little uneasy. How did Centime know? They only knew for about, what, four days?
Centime nodded. “Ah, it seems Captain Vyse has joined us.”
And indeed, there he was, standing on one of the tables. Enrique noticed that he hadn’t aged. Oh, his body had grown and matured some more, but his eyes hadn’t. He was still the optimistic dreamer he’d always been. Standing on the ground behind him were Aika and Fina. They hadn’t changed much either. Aika still looked as cheerful as ever and, even dressed in the clothes of an Air Pirate, Fina radiated innocence.
It was good to see some things never really changed.
“OK, guys, can I have all of your attention!” Vyse yelled over the rumour. The clamour quickly quieted down. “Thanks,” he said. He cleared his throat. “Well, we all know why we’re here. Six years ago today we all gathered here to go up against Galcian’s Armada. And, as we all know, we kicked his butt. So here we all are again to commemorate that day and to strengthen the bonds of our friendship. But before the festivities can begin, I’d like to take a moment to remember the man who should be here but isn’t and not because he hates my guts.” Vyse raised his glass. Those that were holding a glass raised it as well, those that didn’t tried frantically to make a similar gesture. “Here’s to Cap’n Drachma, may he still be sailing the skies wherever he is.”
There was a chorus of “To Drachma” and then a general relaxation once people realised that the appropriate moment was over.
“OK guys,” Vyse said, “Gordo has lent me some of his chefs for the occasion, so I’d say, let the feast begin!”
Vyse jumped off the table again. Conversations were starting up again everywhere and food was being brought out. The celebrations had begun.
Enrique stepped off the small elevator and onto the balcony protruding from the rock wall. Vyse was leaning on the balcony rail, seemingly staring into nothing.
“Hello Vyse,” said Enrique, moving to stand next to him.
“Hey,” said Vyse.
“A very successful night,” said Enrique, looking down towards the main square.
“Yep,” said Vyse.
“Is there something on your mind?”
Vyse shrugged. “Not really. So how’ve you been?”
“More than fine, all things considered. And you?”
“I’m OK,” said Vyse. He looked up. “And for my next expedition, I’m going to set foot on the moon.”
“Doesn’t matter. All of them, eventually.”
Enrique smiled. “You should ask Hans to help you modify your ship. He’s quite a gifted young man.”
“Heh, maybe I will,” said Vyse.
“Aika and Fina seem to be doing well,” Enrique said.
A smile crept across Vyse’s face. “You could say that again.”
“Is there something I should know?” Enrique asked.
Vyse said nothing for a while. Then, “Look down. See if you can locate Aika.”
Enrique dutifully looked down onto the square. They were quite some way above the ground and the square was pretty crowded. Nevertheless, Aika should have been easy to spot. She was the only one with bright red hair. And, come to that, the only one who tied her hair into nearly horizontal pigtails.
Enrique looked closer.
On the other hand, they really were very high above the ground and it was getting dark.
“No, I can’t say I can spot her,” said Enrique after some time.
“That’s because she probably sneaked off somewhere with Fina,” Vyse said. “The two of them… value their privacy.”
It took a moment for Vyse’s words to sink in. “Are you saying they are romantically involved?”
“Well now, that’s… surprising. Well, not Aika, not really. But Fina never really struck me as the type.”
Vyse grinned. “Fina never really knew what love is.”
“And I take it Aika showed her?”
“In a way.”
“How do you mean?”
“It’s a bit of a story, really,” Vyse said.
“I’ve got the time,” said Enrique.
“OK then. It started a couple of months ago, I think. After Baltor challenged me to another ship-to-ship duel.”
* * * * *
“Curse you Vyse! Curse you to the depths of the seven skies!”
Vyse sighed and looked at the burning deck of the ship sailing right next to his. Baltor was standing on it, hopping up and down with rage, practically foaming at the mouth.
“I never thought I’d say this, but… why won’t you just give up already,” Vyse said.
“Never!” Baltor roared. “I won’t rest until I’ve killed you!”
“Why won’t you just admit we’re better than you!” Aika yelled exasperated.
“This isn’t over Vyse!” Baltor barked as his crewmembers tried to douse most of the flames.
“No, I guess not,” said Vyse. “Well then, see you around Baltor.”
And with those words, the Blue Angel accelerated, leaving the burning Blackbeard IV behind.
“Why does that guy persist in following us?” Aika asked to the air in general as she, Vyse and Fina made their way back to the bridge. “I mean, even Vigoro got the hint eventually and he has the brain capacity of a wet sponge.”
“I think it’s like with Captain Drachma and Rhaknam,” said Fina. “Baltor just doesn’t know any better any more.”
“Not really a comparison I’d like to hear,” said Vyse, “but I guess you’re right.”
“I’m sorry,” said Fina.
Aika put a comforting hand on the Silvite’s shoulder. “Hey, don’t worry about it. Vyse is just a sentimental softie and he still misses ole Cap’n Drachma more than either of us.”
“He was a good man, when all is said and done, and that’s more than I can say about Baltor,” said Vyse in a tone of voice suggesting very firmly that this particular conversation was over.
“So, where to next Vyse?” Aika asked.
“I think it’s about time we’d head back home,” said Vyse. “Unless you got a better idea, of course,” he added.
“Oh, I dunno,” said Aika. “I thought maybe we could go to Yafutoma. You know, give Kirala a chance to visit her family or something.”
Vyse groaned. “Aika, we’ve been sailing for months now. I don’t really like the idea of going through the Dark Rift right now.”
Fina giggled. “She was joking Vyse.”
“Oh,” said Vyse. “I knew that.”
“Uh-huh,” said Aika. “You know, maybe Vyse’s been overdoing it lately. I think I should take the bridge right now, don’t you?” she said, turning pointedly to Fina.
“Maybe that is for the best,” Fina said. “He’s not getting any younger after all.”
Vyse theatrically threw his arms up into the air. “You two are too much sometimes. Fine Aika, you go take the bridge. I’ll go get some sleep in the meantime.”
Aika performed a perfect salute. “Aye, aye, Captain,” she said, winking.
“Just… try to get us to Crescent Isle in one piece, will you?” Vyse said. “And wake me up when we get there.”
“You can count on us, Vyse,” said Aika.
“I sure hope so.”
Vyse woke up at the sound of giggling. It was coming from the other side of the door leading out into the hallway and, while the Blue Angel came with several female crewmembers, Vyse had a feeling it were Aika and Fina doing the giggling. They were probably giggling over some sort of girl thing. They were doing that a lot lately. Vyse figured this was probably to make up for lost time. Growing up, Aika’s only friend and had been Vyse and the only girl Fina had known before leaving the Silver Shrine had been the one she saw in the mirror.
Vyse lay in his hammock, staring at the ceiling, waiting for the girls to come in and proudly announce that Crescent Isle had been reached without a hitch. The door, however, wasn’t being opened and the giggling went on, albeit somewhat more erratic. Frowning, Vyse struggled his way out of the hammock, opened the door and stepped out into the hallway.
* * * * *
“And…?” Enrique asked.
“And I found Fina pinned against the wall being kissed by Aika,” said Vyse. “And that’s how I found out.”
“And how did you react to that?”
“I was speechless, frankly,” said Vyse. “And when those two finally noticed me, Fina started blushing like mad, but Aika just calmly informed me we were home.”
“But this still doesn’t explain how they…” Enrique trailed off, making helpless gestures in the air and trying to come up with the proper words.
“Hooked up?” Vyse said.
“Not the phrase I would use,” said Enrique.
“Well, I did say it was only a bit of the story.”
“You said it was a bit of a story,” Enrique pointed out.
“Details, details,” said Vyse, grinning. “But if you want my opinion, Vigoro simply put Aika off men forever.” He shrugged. “Don’t know about Fina, though.”
“And of course, you never bothered to ask.”
Enrique and Vyse turned around. Standing just in front of the door of the meeting room were Aika and Fina. They were both looking rather amused. And a tad dishevelled, which Enrique tried his best to ignore.
“How long have you been listening?” Vyse asked.
“Not that long. There were other noises that got in the way while we were in there,” said Aika, nodding at the meeting room door.
Fina started blushing furiously, making Enrique cough and Vyse scratch the back of his neck.
“But… ah… long enough, I suppose,” Enrique said, mostly to clear certain visuals out of his mind.
“You could say that,” said Aika.
“So? How did you two hook up?” Vyse asked.
“Uhm… it was when we were in Nasrad together and you were stuck here,” said Fina.
“What?” said Vyse. “That was six years ago!”
“Seven if we’re being technical,” said Aika.
“Why didn’t you ever tell me?”
“We were acting under the assumption that you weren’t dense,” said Aika. “Were we wrong?” she added, smiling impishly.
“You had a lot on your mind,” said Fina. “Seeing the world, saving the world, Galcian, the Gigas, what happened to Captain Drachma. It’s no wonder you didn’t notice.”
“Yeah… that’s right,” said Vyse.
“And afterwards, I guess, you didn’t think much of our affection,” Fina concluded.
“Right,” said Vyse. “Right.”
“Wow, I think we broke him,” said Aika.
“He’s just stunned,” said Enrique. “So tell me, what did happen Nasrad?”
Aika shrugged. “Not much, really.”
“Perhaps. But I’d still like to know.”
“Sure,” said Aika. “Let’s see… so, here we were, in Nasrad, with no ship and no money other than what Clara gave us, so we started working as waitresses in the local tavern. And, I think it was after our first or second day of work.”
* * * * *
Aika gratefully let herself fall onto her bed.
“Feeling tired?” Fina asked, as she sat down on hers.
“Pooped,” said Aika. “And here I was thinking pirating was exhausting.”
Fina giggled. “I had fun, actually.”
“Me too,” Aika admitted. “If you don’t count the drunks.”
“Drunks?” Fina asked.
“You know… people who drink too much loqua and start acting stupid.”
“Oh,” said Fina, not really understanding. “And how does loqua make them act stupid?”
“Cuz it’s alcoholic,” said Aika. “And don’t ask me how alcohol does that, because I don’t know either.”
Fina nodded and then looked out the open window. The sky was already dark and littered with stars, yet it was still warm. Everywhere she went it got cold as it got dark, but not in Nasr. She knew that this was because of the Red Moon or, to be more precise, because of the red moonstones that kept falling onto the Nasrian islands, but she realised that until now she had never actually known what it meant. She didn’t even know what “cold” and “warm” was before she came down here. They had just been terms that hadn’t really meant anything.
A lot of thing had only been meaningless terms back then.
“What’re you thinking of?”
“Hmm?” said Fina, returning from her thoughts.
“I asked what you were thinking of,” Aika repeated. “You seemed really distant just now.”
“I was just thinking,” said Fina, “about things I don’t know.”
“Oh,” said Aika. “Hey, if it helps, there’s a lot of things I don’t know either. I mean, I never even knew there was a country across South Ocean until you showed up. And I bet there’s a lot of other stuff I don’t know anything about, but you do.”
Fina smiled weakly. “I know that the people of Glacia tended to be contemplative and that they built their cities inside the ice.”
“See? There you go. I had no idea about that. I hadn’t even heard of Glacia,” Aika said, sounding cheerful.
“But I don’t know what contemplative means,” said Fina, “and I don’t know what ice is either.”
“Oh,” said Aika, suddenly a lot less cheerful. “But… well… you cast Crystali a couple of times. Those hard transparent things that sort of impale the enemy? That’s ice. It’s just frozen water.”
“And what does frozen mean?” Fina asked sadly.
“It’s… it’s when something liquid, in this case water, becomes solid because it’s cooled down a lot,” said Aika.
“Oh,” said Fina.
“But that wasn’t really the point you were trying to make,” the redhead added.
“Not really, no.” Fina sighed. “I like it here, I really do. And I like seeing all those new things and experiencing them, but sometimes I feel so… ignorant.”
“Hey come on, you’re a quick study,” said Aika. “We’re saving up to buy a ship and I know that you know what that sentence means while you didn’t know it when we found you.”
“I guess that’s true.”
“You’ll get used to it. Everybody starts out not knowing a thing and most people go through life not learning anything either,” Aika continued. “So if there’s anything you don’t know just ask and you’ll probably learn even more. Unless I don’t know the answer either, of course.”
“All right then,” said Fina. “What’s a kiss?”
Aika’s eyes, which had been starting to close, flew open again. “Sorry?”
“A kiss. Is it a sort of drink?” Fina asked. “Because one of the customers asked for some bottles of loqua and a kiss, but when I told the bartender about it he told me not to give him the kiss and if anyone else would ask me for one I was allowed to slap them,” she said. “Is a kiss something bad?”
“No, not usually,” said Aika. “But it’s not a drink either.”
“Oh,” said Fina, managing to put a lot of confusion into the single syllable. “Then what is it?”
“It’s… it’s when one person presses his or her lips onto any part of another person’s body, usually the lips. Although mothers are notorious for kissing their children’s cheeks or forehead.”
“But… why do people do that?”
“Because it’s nice,” said Aika. “And because it shows that two people like each other.”
“Would you show me then?” Fina asked.
“What, kiss you?”
“Sure. I mean, we like each other and you said it’s nice, so, why not?”
Aika had to admit Fina had a point. But unfortunately, she only had that point because she probably didn’t know about how “friendship like”, “romantic like”, “familial like” and, come to that, “erotic like” all differed from each other and Aika was pretty damn sure that difference was one she couldn’t explain to Fina.
“Uhm… well…” Aika stammered, wondering what to say. “It’s just that… look…”
What could she say? “We shouldn’t kiss?” Why not? There was nothing wrong with it was there? “Girls don’t kiss each other?” Then what about those two girls they had seen at the bazaar today? “I’m too tired?” That was probably the lamest of all excuses and it wasn’t even true.
In the end, Aika settled for, “Sure, let’s do it.”
Fina smiled. “OK. On the lips, right?”
Aika silently cursed her own words. Why hadn’t she said that people mostly kissed other people’s hands?
Because it was a lie, that’s why. And, while she had no qualms with lying to Vyse or even Dyne, lying to Fina was just… wrong somehow.
Oh well, how bad could it be, Aika considered. Just a quick peck on the lips and that’d be it, right? Right. No problem.
Aika sat up straight and turned to face Fina, who was waiting patiently for her.
Just a peck. No problem.
Aika leaned forward, closed her eyes, brushed her lips against Fina’s and discovered something.
Fina was naturally good at kissing.
It wasn’t a peck. Pecks never last that long and the lips generally don’t move that much. And it was nice, so nice that Aika saw no immediate reason to stop.
After a while, something lightly pressed against Aika’s lips. Her mind being firmly elsewhere, it took her a while to instinctively figure out that it was Fina’s tongue. Without giving it a second thought, indeed without thinking about it at all, Aika opened her mouth further.
It was some time later and It was sort of over, although neither Aika or Fina really knew what It was, apart from the fact that It was there and It was big.
“That was nice,” said Fina, smiling.
“Very,” said Aika.
“Would you like to do it again?” Fina asked.
Aika didn’t answer. That is, not in any way involving spoken words.
* * * * *
“And that’s it,” said Aika, concluding her story.
“What, that’s it?” said Vyse. “That’s all? What happened next?”
“We went to bed,” said Fina and, noticing the choking sounds Enrique was suddenly making, added, “separately.”
“But… but…” Vyse stammered.
“Oh come on, Vyse, what did you expect? Fireworks? Declarations of undying love?” Aika said.
“It wasn’t love at first sight you know,” said Fina. “We were friends when we met and we are lovers now. And somewhere between then and now our relationship changed. Aika and I decided later on it happened that night.”
“Come on Vyse,” said Aika, planting her hand on the young man’s shoulder, “we still have a party going on so what’s say we go down there.”
Aika and Vyse took the small lift down again, leaving Enrique and Fina alone on the balcony for a moment.
“Well then, not love at first sight, was it?” said Enrique.
“No. Not from her part in any case.”
Enrique nodded. “And not from your part either?”
“I didn’t know what love was,” said Fina.
“Hmm,” said Enrique. “Frankly I’m not quite sure if I believe that part. And the part concerning your ignorance on kissing.”
Fina smiled and winked at him. “Let’s call it our little secret, shall we?”