Chapter 002: The singer at the Veranda Hotel

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"Let her go!"
"James!"
"I said, LET MY SISTER GO!"
James pulled his fist back and started running towards the...
 
A clang woke James up from his dream. With a small grunt, he looked towards the direction the sound had come from. Another person, clearly one of the others staying in the room, had dropped a mug on the floor.
"Did I wake you up?" he asked. "Sorry, mate!"
James looked at the other person. He looked a bit older, maybe around forty, with a thick beard.
"No worries," James said. "I shouldn't sleep any more now if I want to be able to sleep tonight. What time is it?"
"Almost five o' clock," the other man replied. "Everyone's gathering in the bar for the show."
"Oh yeah, I heard about that," James replied. "Have you seen it before?"
"'course I have," he said. "You're new here, I take it? Trust me, you don't wanna miss this. I was just heading down, so you should come too."
James stood up and nodded. "Alright, I'll check it out," he said as the other man walked up to him. James held out his hand. "I'm James, by the way."
The other man shook his hand and smiled. "Name's Wick. You staying for long?"
"Wasn't planning on it. A week or so."
"On the move, then?"
"Well, I set sail five days ago, this was my first destination... but if I want to continue sailing, it turns out that I need to partner up with someone better at navigation than me."
Wick nodded. "Ah, young people who think they can handle everything themselves. At least you survived!"
"Well, yeah, but-" James protested.
"Now, let's not dawdle around, the show should start soon! C'mon!" With that, Wick grabbed James's hand and dragged him to the lobby area.
 
While the few things James had heard about the entertainment he was about to witness had made him figure there'd be a lot of people in the audience, he had not quite expected the entire combined lobby and bar to be packed. This had to be something extra. Wick insisted on buying him a beer, and the lobby was full of sounds of people talking and the clinking of glasses. It was hard to hear yourself think, and carrying on a conversation seemed nearly impossible. As James had downed half his glass, the lighting in the room lowered slightly and a spotlight turned on at the stage, making James notice that the only thing on there was a piano with a bottle of water standing on top of it. A piano performance? That couldn't be all. But the whole room quieted down as a dark-skinned man with short black hair, dressed in a black suit, walked onto the stage. He bowed before starting to speak.
"Welcome, everyone, for tonight's performance. Amazing to see so many of you here again, and I'm sure we have some new faces. I'm Ricky, and here is who you all came to see - Avasine's magic voice, Rink!"
The whole room applauded as the man took place behind the piano and a woman walked to the center of the stage. She had shoulder-length, curly red-brown hair, an eyepatch over her right eye, wore a simple, short-sleeved white buttoned shirt and a knee-length dark blue skirt. James figured she looked kind of rough, was probably about his age, and people wouldn't come here just to look at her. This really had to be something extra.
"Good evening, everyone," the singer apparently called Rink spoke, "nice to see so many of you here again." James couldn't put his finger on it, but there was something about her voice - something pleasant. Maybe there actually was more to this.
"Why don't we start with a short classic tune, that I'm sure you all know..."
She started humming a tune, the piano player soon starting to play to it. A lot of the audience started clapping to the rhythm for a bit, before she started on the first verse.
 
Every day, we bet our life
Every day, we toil and strife
Yo ho ho, and ye he he
A sailor's life for me!
 
Most of the audience joined in on the two last lines, followed by a single hand clap before Rink started on the next verse.
 
Every day, we face the waves
Every day, we all stand brave
Yo ho ho, and ye he he
A sailor's life for me!
 
"I've heard this song before," James said to Wick as the pianist played a short solo.
"Not surprising, it's a pretty well-known one," came the reply, "but I doubt you've heard it like this."
 
Every day, the sky is blue
Every day, I'm missing you
Yo ho ho, and ye he he
A sailor's life for me!
 
Every day, we will go on
Every day, until we're done
Yo ho ho, and ye he he
A sailor's life for me!
 
The room once again joined in the chorus before the song silenced and was replaced by a roaring applause.
 
"So, what did you think?" Wick asked James.
"Well, it was... nice, I guess. I mean, she has a nice voice, but... it was kind of a simple song," James noted.
"Well, the crowd likes the classic shanties," Wick replied. "But just wait until she gets going with her own stuff."
"She writes songs herself, too?" James asked.
"Well... writes might not really be the word," Wick said. "Most of her fans find it more accurate to say that she creates them."
"What's the difference?"
"You'll see what I mean."
As the applause died out, she had already started humming again. This time, James didn't recognize the tune at all. The piano player started playing a few notes, and soon Rink opened her mouth to let out an escalating sound.
 
No - it was more accurate to say it was several intertwined sounds. James perked up and started listening more carefully. The song did not seem to contain any words, and even with the piano accompaniment, James was a bit confused. He had never heard anything like this before, and it seemed like it shouldn't be possible for one person to create all that sound at once. After a short while, he turned back to Wick, who had finished his glass.
"How does she do that?" he asked.
Wick shrugged. "No one knows. She just... does," he replied. "There's a reason she's called the magic voice. None of us have heard this song before. She never explains anything, but she has said that some of her pieces are made up on the spot."
"That's kinda impressive," James noted.
"But no matter what, Ricky can follow her," Wick said. "All credit to him, too."
James nodded and finished his glass as the music ended, and soon another song filled the room. This one, at least, had words, but James didn't recognize it either.
"Oh, this one's good," Wick told James. "She created it a few weeks ago."
 
Every lifetime that I've spent
Chasing after you
Every night that I have dreamt
It would be us two
 
But each time it all repeats no matter what I do
Reaching out for what I had, just to be told "no"
 
I'll come back, I'll come back
for that fleeting moment
I'll come back, I'll come back
if I can see you
I'll come back, I'll come back
just to hold your hand again
I'll come back, I'll come back
once more in my head...
 
"I see what you mean," James said with a nod as the song continued.
 
When I feel I should give up
I still see your face
When I feel I've been locked up
Trapped inside a maze
 
All the tears that I have shed
Over what I lost
All the tears inside my head
Is the only cost
 
But each time it all repeats no matter what I do
Reaching out for what I had, just to be told "no"
 
I'll come back, I'll come back
for that fleeting moment
I'll come back, I'll come back
if I can see you
I'll come back, I'll come back
just to hold your hand again
I'll come back, I'll come back
once more in my head...
 
Two rounds of the chorus later, the song died out, and Rink took a swig from the water bottle.
"Do we have any requests tonight?" Rink shouted. "What do you want to hear?"
Many different shouts came from the audience.
"The one with the rabbit!"
"Starlight!"
"The ballad of old Santiago!"
"Bink's!"
"Something about Gold Roger!"
"Drinking song!"
"Memories!"
"One at a time, one at a time," Rink laughed. "But let's go with Memories, shall we?"
 
The crowd cheered and applauded as Ricky started playing a slow tune. Rink hummed along for a bit before she started singing with a slightly melancholic voice, and the crowd quieted down again.
 
When I was young, living so free
I was chasing my own dream
Reading the map only I could see
Leading to my treasure
 
I kept it with me, each single day
Searching my place of wonder
Nobody could take away
My own limitless dream
 
So long ago
 
And now it's nothing but a dusty picture
 
But it's still with me
every day
And it's in everything I ever dream of
 
One of these days I will find what I have been looking for
Everything might collapse but I'll never close the door
I am still a dreamer, I am not afraid
That my memories will fade
 
When I was young, I sang a song
With the heart of a dreamer
The melody that would keep it strong
And would bring me closer
 
Everyone sang it with me
Everyone with their own dreams
I wondered if they could see
Their own treasures as well
 
So long ago
 
And now it's nothing but a distant whisper
 
But I still believe
in everyone
And everything that they could ever dream of
 
One of these days I will know what I have been singing for
Everyone might be gone but I'll never close the door
I am still a dreamer, I am not afraid
That my lonely song will fade
 
I am still a dreamer, I am not afraid
That my memories will fade...
 

Memories
piano arrangement by GabrielxCrescendo

As the piano player finished up the song, a few sniffs could be heard from the audience before the applauses picked up. James wasn't surprised - the song had made him think back to his own home, his own childhood, and everything since... but it was soon drowned by another, happier melody as the show continued.
 
Fourteen songs and three rounds of beer for James later, Rink took a bow.
"Thank you for tonight," she said. "It has been lovely as usual, and I hope to see you again tomorrow." Applause and cheers filled the room as flowers were thrown onto the stage by admirers in the front rows. Rink stopped to pick up a yellow rose, then left the stage. Ricky remained in his place, and as the cheering quieted down, started playing some background music. Some people left the hotel, having only come to listen to Rink, some returned to their drinking, some went back to their rooms. James looked at Wick.
"So... who is she?" he asked.
"I don't know that much about her," Wick replied. "I've only been here two months. I'm told she's been working here for a year, and she used to mingle after performances, but lately she just wanders off. Some people have said they've seen her leaving the hotel, but there's not any talk of her going anywhere. She's not seen around very much, especially not at night."
"Hm..."
"Speaking of which, Avasine has a bustling nightlife," Wick said with a laugh and put his hand on James's shoulder. "You're still young, you should go out and have some fun while you're here!"
"Maybe I will," James replied thoughtfully while glancing at the now half-empty stage. "Maybe I will."
 

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