Muse was the first one to wake up. She quietly left the cabin and walked out on the front deck just as the sun was colouring the horizon orange. She had been sleeping in the same clothes she wore the day before, minus her coat, socks and shoes, so she removed her camisole and took a deep breath of the morning breeze as she faced the dawn. It had been a long time since she was last out to sea, and even if she had some mixed feelings about it given her prior outings, she had always appreciated the mornings. The air was usually so much better out here than on a populated island.
This part, she could get used to if she were to stay on board along with Markus. Some others... she didn't think she could, but she wasn't entirely sure why.
"You're up early," came a voice from behind her. She turned towards the cabin and saw Rink come out and close the door behind her, still wearing only her nightgown, evidently not having done anything to her hair since yesterday morning, holding her pipe in her hand.
"Same to you," Muse replied.
"First time on this boat someone wakes up before me."
"With that snoring, I'm not surprised," Muse said.
"He's not actually snored like that before," Rink replied. "But he usually doesn't sleep on his back, either."
Muse sat down with her back against Cassandra's railing. Rink sat down to the left of her and lit her pipe. They watched the sun make its way over the horizon, with the only sounds coming from their breathing, from the water, and from the cabin.
"By the way..." Muse eventually started saying and turned her head to look at Rink, with her eyes turning upwards.
"Yes?" Rink replied and looked back at her, with her eye turning downwards.
"Your hair looks terrible."
"So? You're half naked."
"My point exactly," Rink said as she turned back and closed her eye. Leaning backwards, she took a drag on her pipe and exhaled a small cloud of smoke upwards. They fell silent for a while again, until the cabin door opened and Mirise stepped out, still in her pyjamas.
"Good morning," she said to the two of them. "Anything going on?"
"Not caring about our appearance," Rink said with a smirk and tapped the deck next to where she was sitting. "Wanna join?"
"Why not?" Mirise replied and sat down next to her. "Did you sleep well?"
"Yeah," Muse said.
"Like a log," Rink said. "Yesterday was nuts."
"You said it," Mirise replied. "I've... never done anything like that before."
"I've been in fights," Rink said. "But never been involved in... I guess that was more or less a coup d'état, except Markus didn't want to seize power."
"A liberation," Muse said. "I've... been part of something similar before."
"What were you even doing before you joined up with him?" Rink asked.
"I... don't like talking about it," Muse replied.
"That's fair," Rink said and resumed her smoking.
"Well, the sun's where I expected it, at least," Mirise said. "Still pretty sure we're headed the right way."
"Where are we going?" Rink asked.
"An island called Garlan," Mirise replied. "It was the best option."
"Hm..." Rink said. "Garlan, huh... that's..."
"You know of it?" Mirise asked.
"I know it's the location of one of West Blue's Marine strongholds," Rink explained. "But I've not been there personally."
"It shouldn't be a problem, right?" Mirise said.
"I hope not," Rink replied.
"We shouldn't have anything to worry about," Muse said.
"Yeah, you're probably right," Rink said. "So, Mirise..."
"Breakfast'll wait until everyone's awake, but... tea?"
"I can do that," Mirise replied and stood up. "Do you want a cup too, miss Muse?"
"Yeah, sure," Muse answered.
"Well then," Mirise said and entered the cabin, soon coming back out again with a pot to fill it with water.
"You can cook like that but can't make tea?" Muse asked Rink.
"I don't want to make tea, so I never learned how," Rink said.
"Yeah, I don't like tea," Rink replied.
"...so... then why-"
"Because I want to drink tea."
"I have my reasons."
"What about you?"
"Do you like tea?"
"Yes," Muse replied. "But I don't drink it that often."
"Also, I've been meaning to ask..."
"What's with that feather thing?" Rink asked and pointed at Muse's ear with her pipe. "You didn't even take that off when you went to sleep."
"It's a memento of my home," Muse replied. "And of... someone I knew."
"So you wear it in memory of a past that you make it sound like you don't even want to remember?"
"It's more complicated than that, but... more or less," Muse answered. "Where I come from, we call it a lifewing."
"Sounds nice," Rink replied. "So does it mean anything, or..."
"But nothing you want to talk about?"
"If a girl wears it a certain way it means she's promised herself to a boy," Muse said.
"So the way you have it..."
"Anyone in your life?"
"Not... not currently, no," Rink said. "During my time in Avasine, I had my share of one night stands, some more than once, but nothing more serious than that..."
"Sounds like you were popular," Muse noted.
"I had a lot of fans," Rink said. "I... had a reputation, I guess."
"Do you miss it?"
"Your popularity. Your fans."
"Eh," Rink said with a shrug. "I left because I needed something different. I mean, I haven't even been gone a week yet... pretty sure they miss me more than I miss them."
"But true," Rink said as Mirise came back out of the cabin.
"Well, the water's heating up," Mirise said. "What kind of tea do you want?"
"Surprise me," Rink replied.
"I don't care," Muse said.
"Sure thing," Mirise said and sat down next to them again. "Nice morning, isn't it?"
"I like it," Muse said.
"It's so calm... what we did yesterday feels so far away."
"I know what you mean," Rink replied.
"Yeah..." Mirise said and looked towards the rising sun.
Twenty minutes later, the tea had been consumed, and the three women were sitting on the deck in silence, looking out over the ocean. Rink was still puffing on her pipe, but other than that, not much was happening. Until...
"Well, I'd say they've slept enough," Rink said and turned to her right. "Muse, can you go wake up James?"
"Fine," Muse said and stood up.
"And now we wait," Rink said with a smirk and looked over at Mirise, who was looking at Rink with judgment on her face. "What?"
"Hey, I'm sending a topless girl to wake him up."
"Yeah, but-" Mirise said before Rink held up a finger in front of her face.
"Three... two... one..." she said before they heard a shout from the cabin.
"Gah!" exclaimed the exasperated voice of James, followed by a slightly more muffled but still highly audible exclamation of "Put some clothes on!"
"You have to admit," Rink said while snickering, "it's pretty funny how much of a prude he is."
"Still mean," Mirise said but couldn't help but let out a small giggle. "But okay, maybe a little funny."
"Thanks for the breakfast," Markus said as he ate the last of his bread. While James's exclamation had woken him up, he hadn't commented on it beyond telling Muse good morning as she had left the cabin. She had put a top back on, and Rink had gotten her hair a bit more under control (otherwise, she said, she'd get hair in her mouth while eating), but they hadn't done anything further about their appearance yet. Mirise was still in her pyjamas, but James and Markus were already dressed. Technically for James, at any rate - because of the leg, all he had done when going to sleep was take off his shirt. So, Markus was the only one who had changed into fresh clothes for the day.
"Thanks," Muse said and stood up. "It was... good."
"Well, that's that," Rink said and looked at the piled up bowls on the kitchen counter. "And I guess I should do something about the dishes..."
"I'll help you," Mirise said.
"That would be appreciated," Rink replied as she started clearing the table. "Should probably get dressed first, though."
"Could you please do that outside?" James asked.
"I'm going to wash off," Muse said and got a towel and some soap from her bag before following Rink and Mirise, carrying some clothes and the dishes, outside.
"You're lucky you can take a bath here," Rink said as Muse closed the door behind her.
"I can see it being a bother," Muse said and started undressing. Rink did the same, which is to say she took her nightgown off. Mirise quickly changed into her regular clothes, but Rink stopped at dressing herself on the lower body (and staying barefoot) for the time being. She filled up a bucket with water as Muse, now wearing nothing, walked up to the edge of the boat. She climbed over the railing and slowly submerged her body, while still holding on to the boat with one arm. She used her other hand to splash water on the parts of herself that were still above the surface, and switched arms after a short while. She climbed back up, seeing Mirise and Rink sitting on the deck with a bucket of water between them, Rink washing and Mirise drying the dishes off.
"How's the water?" Mirise asked.
"Cold," Muse replied as she picked up the soap from the deck and started scrubbing her body. "Like I want it."
"I prefer warm baths," Rink said. "Though a cold shower's good for waking up. And for hangovers."
"I wouldn't know," Muse said.
"Never had a hangover?"
"Never had problems waking up," Muse replied. "Or had hangovers... I don't drink alcohol."
"We didn't have it on the island where I grew up, so I'm not used to it... and I haven't liked the taste when I've tried it."
"I can understand that," Rink said. "I like drinking, but you kind of have to get used to it."
"Is that so," Muse said and got back into the water to rinse off. She still held on to the boat, and closed her eyes as she let the water envelop her and clean her body. Before she had had the time to get especially relaxed, however, she heard a splash close to her and felt some water hit her face right before the small wave that had been created. As she opened her eyes, she saw Mirise's head emerge from the water in front of her. "Are you sure you should-"
"No need to worry about her," Rink said from above Muse as she emptied the bucket. "It's kind of freaky how good she is at swimming."
"Huh," Muse said and looked at Mirise effortlessly moving through the water. "I see what you mean..."
"So no need to worry about drowning with her around," Rink said as she filled the bucket back up with water. "I'll borrow your soap."
"Go ahead," Muse replied and made sure to wash all the soap off her body before climbing back up. Rink was giving herself a quick upper body cleaning, and Mirise was still swimming alongside the boat.
The two of them were interesting people, Muse thought as she started drying herself off. She hadn't had much time to get to know them, but she already found herself enjoying their company. They weren't like anyone else she had known... in fact, the way they acted somewhat reminded her of herself in her younger years. She didn't know if they had been through anything like she had been, but if they had, they didn't show it or let it bother them.
For the last two years, Markus had been her only real friend... but these two had been so accepting of her, not making any demands, not expecting anything from her. They didn't know much about her, but they didn't seem to mind that she wouldn't tell them.
Maybe staying on this boat a bit longer would be worth it, she thought - and for the first time in two years, Muse briefly smiled.