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Under Markus's watch, Muse soon recovered her strength. He let her sleep in his bed while he dutifully slept on the sofa, and made sure she had three full meals a day. She never went outside without Markus by her side again, and would never speak to anyone on her own. Upon asking, Markus found that she refused to talk about her past, and all he managed to wriggle out of her was that what she had mentioned that first day - "Zyklos" - was some kind of company or organization that she had once worked for and escaped from. Beyond that, he could see that the subject made her uncomfortable, so he never brought it up again. The threat from the thugs Muse had dealt with that first day did become reality when they were attacked while training on the beach one day, but with Markus and Muse working together - and Muse back her usual self with the bow - their assailants couldn't even come close to touching them. Both of them were good fighters in their own right, with Muse as a training/sparring partner Markus's skills with his swords increased even faster - and as a team, they were even more efficient.
While Muse was unwilling to speak of her past, Markus explained all that had happened to him, with his father, with Galt, with the clinic burning down. How he was training for a future confrontation, and how he was trying to track Galt down. Muse said she'd help Markus in any way she could, but remained apprehensive about doing things on her own. Following several leads that Markus dug up, some flimsier than others, they did some traveling in North Blue, and in general, their travels brought them closer to the point where the Grand and Red Lines met.
The years passed, until one day, while on an island not far from Reverse Mountain...
"Muse!" Markus exclaimed as he entered the room they were renting at an inn, holding a newspaper. "I've... I've finally found him!"
"You've... Galt?" Muse asked. "For real this time?"
"Yes!" Markus replied and held up the newspaper. "Look at this..."
"This is not from here..." Muse said as she read the headlines, one of them announcing 'Galt named new mayor'."
"It's a West Blue paper, from almost nine months ago... here, it says... 'Former Marine Hero Galt has been chosen as the new mayor of Kurita. After a highly successful tour in the North Blue force, Galt chose to retire, and returned to his home island one and a half years ago, where he pursued a political career'..."
"So... one and a half years, and nine months..."
"He left North Blue over two years ago, no wonder I could never find anything solid towards him..." Markus said. "But now, I know where he is... and where he'll stay. This island called Kurita... in West Blue..."
"So... what are you going to do?"
"I've... already made my choice," Markus said. "I asked around down at the docks..."
"I've... managed to secure a spot on a cargo transport ship to West Blue that leaves three days from now," Markus said. "It's a long and uncomfortable trip, but... there's room for one more. I made sure of that..."
"I know that you have your home here, even if I don't know where, and I don't know when, or... if we can ever return..." Markus said. "So I fully understand if you don't want to..."
"No," Muse said and shook her head. "There is... nothing left for me here any more. I owe you my life... I'll follow you anywhere."
"I can't put into words how much that means to me," Markus said and put his hand on Muse's. "We'll... have to start preparing right away."
"I was told we could bring with us one crate of no more than thirty kilos, plus whatever we can carry on our persons... they said to prioritize bringing food, water and money. They would provide some bread and water... but no guarantees it would last the whole trip."
"We don't have much..."
"We'll bring as many medical supplies, food, and water as we can," Markus said. "Anything we have that we can't bring, we sell for any price we can get, and bring as much cash we can carry... we have a few hundred thousand beli, and the trip costs thirty thousand per person, plus ten for the cargo."
"Okay," Muse replied.
"And then... we find our way to this island of Kurita, and..."
"What if he still has that big guy with him? Can we really..."
"I've waited this long," Markus said. "Once we're there... we'll gather as much information as we can without raising suspicion, and... wait for an opportunity to present itself. It's all we can do."
"I'll help in any way I can," Muse said.
"I know," Markus replied. "Without you, I don't know what I'd do."
The day of the departure arrived quickly. Markus and Muse stood in front of the ship that would take them to West Blue, a large cargo vessel. They were two of a group of twenty people making the trip, a trip that would be done in the ship's hold. Travel between the four seas was not an easy task for those outside the Marines, and they did not take any regular passengers. There were passenger ships, but they were considered luxury and few could hope to afford a such a comfortable way of travel. Thus, going on a cargo ship was by far the most common method. Technically it wasn't legal to bring people as cargo, but it was exceedingly rare to get in trouble for it, as even when thorough inspections did happen (and they could often be avoided by slipping the inspectors a few thousand beli), the only things they could get in trouble for was transporting cargo that in itself was dangerous or illegal, or outright smuggling. It was only if any of the passengers were wanted criminals that any harsher punishment came into play.
In that regard, it was considered safe travel - but long and boring, and not many people had any reason to leave their home Blue. The main danger of the trips was pirate attacks on the cargo ships - the common routes had gotten a greater Marine presence in the later years, and most cargo vessels were equipped with cannons and weaponry for the crew to defend their ship with. But a primary principle was that human life was worth more than whatever they were freighting, and most pirates that attacked had a far greater interest in the cargo than any passengers (any pirates that were of the opposite mindset were far more likely to target the actual passenger ships), even if they wouldn't pass up the opportunity to shake them down for their money as well. Travelers knew it was always a possibility - but the chances of getting where you were going alive while traveling by cargo ship was, on average, greater than any of the alternatives.
Markus and Muse watched as the last crates were hauled up to the ship and presumably into the cargo hold with a crane. The ship's captain checked off all the cargo on a list, then faced the group of travelers.
"Alright, that's all of it. Line up, and give me your name, age and home island as you board. Have your travel fee ready."
"Home island..." Muse said quietly and turned to Markus. "I don't want to tell him where I come from..."
"Just tell them the island where we met, then," Markus replied, holding a wad of bills in his hand. "It's not like they can check, and you're not using your real name either."
"Okay..." Muse replied. One by one, the people in front of them walked up the gangplank to the deck, until it was their turn.
"Markus Flint, twenty-four, Calbia," Markus said and handed the captain the money . "I'll be paying for myself, the lady after me, and one crate."
"Very good, proceed on board," the captain said and wrote down Markus's information on his list. "Next!"
"Um..." Muse said as she stepped up to the captain, looking down at the ground. "Muse... twenty-two... Midu."
"Alright, proceed on board. Next!"
Markus grabbed Muse's hand as she walked up to him. "See, that wasn't so bad, was it?"
"No..." Muse said. She still found unfamiliar people and crowds a little scary, even if she was starting to get a handle on it. She held on to Markus as they walked up on the deck, where another crewman was waiting for them, directing them to a ladder down into the cargo hold. They climbed down, watching some other of the ship's staff walk around to mark crates and write more things down on more lists. When all twenty passengers had found their way down, and all the cargo had been checked, the crewmembers started climbing up, with the last one turning to address the traveling group.
"Alright, welcome aboard the Crusty Hammer," he said. "We'll be leaving for West Blue momentarily, and once we've cast off, there's no changing your mind or leaving the boat. We will send down bread and water daily, but if you didn't bring any on your own, then you will likely go hungry. There's two toilets in the stern, if you need water for cleaning there's a small hatch by them where you can collect sea water if you have a container for it. Any questions?"
"No," was the collective response by the travelers.
"Well then, make yourselves comfortable!" the crewman said before starting to climb up the ladder. "When you see the sun next time we'll be in West Blue!"
As the cargo hatch closed, Markus and Muse sat down against one of the walls on a blanket they had brought. They put down all their bags, and Markus opened one to take out two bottles of water, handing one to Muse.
"I can't thank you enough for this," Markus said. "You have been a great help for me, and now... you even want to come with me to another part of the world."
"There is... nothing left for me here anyway..."
"I can't give you much in return, but... at least, I promise you..."
"I promise..." Markus started and grabbed Muse's hand. "I'll always..."
"...'protect you'. That's what you told me!" Muse said as she grabbed Markus's arm. "Now it's my turn..."
Markus looked down, closed his eyes and smiled. "You're right. I'm sorry. I appreciate that you've come, so..."
"Now come on," Muse said and handed him the bag she had brought. "You'll need these."
"What is..." Markus said and opened it, finding his swords inside. "Oh."
"Just hurry up," Muse said.
"You've definitely found your confidence again," Markus said with a chuckle. "You said you were with Rink... where is she?"
"Taking care of a problem downstairs," Muse replied. "She and..."
"Just... come on," Muse said, not answering.
"You didn't do anything dumb, did you?"
"I didn't," Muse replied.
"Should we help?" Markus asked as he made sure his swords were secure in their holders.
"They said to wait for them," Muse replied, sounding slightly less sure of herself than she had been a moment ago. "And I... trust her."
"Was this her idea?"
"She... I wanted to save you, and she... they..."
"James and Mirise are here, too?"
"No, they're... they're making sure we can escape," Muse said as several loud bangs were heard from under them. Screams, roars, clangs, sounds that couldn't come from anything but Rink.
"Are you sure we shouldn't help?" Markus asked as they went back into the main corridor of processing.
"Yes!" Muse said. "If they wanted us to help, they would let us know!"
A few sounds of heavy slams later, Muse and Markus heard footsteps rushing up the stairs. Markus thought it sounded like more than two pairs of feet, a surprise that only lasted until he saw Allen in full beast form enter the room.
"Are you alright?" Muse asked.
"For now," Rink said, sporting a couple bruises, but nothing that appeared too serious. Allen was mostly the same, with a bit of blood trickling down from a small wound on his forehead. "But-"
"But she's still alive, so she'll be after us when she can walk again," Allen filled in as he changed back into a human - a naked one, as the prisoner's clothes he had been given hadn't been fitted to accommodate his transformations as well and had thusly been ripped to shreds from the recent action. "No time to chat."
"You're not wearing any-" Muse started.
"I know," Allen replied with a self-congratulatory grin. "If I have anything you haven't seen before, save the thanks for later."
"You wish," Rink quipped.
"So, how do we get out?" Markus asked to steer the conversation back into a direction more relevant to their current situation.
"Fire escape to the roof," Allen replied. "Nobody's coming from there, but..."
"They'll be coming from there soon," Rink said and pointed to the stairs behind them.
"So, where..." Markus started.
"End of the room," Allen said. "Go!"
The four of them quickly made their way to the end of the corridor (ignoring various cries from other inhabitants of processing to free them as well), finding to their left a ladder leading towards a hatch in the ceiling. Muse climbed up first, followed by Markus, Rink, and finally Allen. As they came out on the roof of W4's prison tower, they soon spotted a small group of Marine soldiers standing on the section connecting the towers, with one in the middle starting to walk towards them. He was sporting a brown mohawk and was wearing an open brown leather jacket on top of his Marine shirt, and brown leather pants.
"And there's the next one," Allen said, mostly to himself.
"I've been waiting for you," the Marine with the mohawk said.
"Who are you?" Rink asked.
"W4's finest," he replied.
"That's Carime," Allen said. "Figured we'd run into him as well..."
"So he's another one like that Cagizo," Rink said.
"I hear you've met my sister," Carime said. "And that you're still alive means..."
"She's fine," Allen said. "Look, there's four of us, and just two of us dealt with Cagizo, you don't-"
"You think I can't take all four of you?" Carime said with a laugh and grabbed on to the handles of something he was wearing at his hips, one in each hand. "I wouldn't be a knight of W4 if I couldn't even handle four simple ruffians!"
" 'Simple ruffians', he says," Rink said. "He knows who you are, right?"
"Dude's got an ego," Allen replied. "But make no mistake, he's good..."
"Of course I am," Carime replied and snapped his hands out to the sides, revealing him to be holding a thorned whip in each hand. He ran a few steps towards them before jumping and raising his hands.
"Watch out!" Muse exclaimed as he came down, smashing both whips into the ground where they had just been standing. Muse and Allen had stepped to the left, Rink and Markus to the right, and they were all now looking at this new opponent.
"At least you get to meet new people when you do things like this," Markus said as he drew his swords.
Rink looked at him with a critical eye for a moment before holding up her left arm, and on the other side of Carime's whips, Muse had pulled out an arrow and Allen was shifting into half-beast form.
Nobody had ever said getting Markus out would be easy...