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"No, seriously, run that by me again. You're a wanted criminal, you were in a maximum security prison, and your bounty is how much?"
"Forty-three mil- so, just tell me..."
"Why the hell are you on my ship?" James turned to Muse in exasperation. "Muse. Explain."
"That was all Rink," Muse replied.
"Your friends helped me, so I helped them," Allen said.
"We wouldn't have gotten Markus out without him," Muse said. "Not the way things went."
"I'm starting to have second thoughts about this entire trip," James said as the cabin door opened and Mirise walked in.
"Well, it doesn't seem like anybody's following us," she said. "I'll see if I can plot a course in the morning."
"Sorry about before, miss," Allen said. They didn't have any clothes that fit him, so for the time being he had been given an empty sack and fashioned the world's shoddiest underpants to at least cover that part. "There wasn't much time to think about clothes while we were escaping."
"It's... it's alright," Mirise replied with just a hint of embarrassment remaining in her voice. She turned to Markus, who was sitting next to the mattress that they had laid Rink on, next to the wall of the far corner of the cabin. She had been quite warm and sweaty, so Markus and Muse had gotten her out of most of the clothes she had been wearing, leaving her only in her panties and one of Muse's sleeping t-shirts before pulling a blanket over her. It looked like she was sleeping, but her breathing was irregular. "Is... is she alright?"
"She got hit with some poison, but..." Markus replied. "We'll keep an eye on her, but right now I think she needs rest more than anything. I believe Allen was right, it's not lethal poison, but running around and fighting like we did probably didn't help. She's passed out, but I don't think there's any imminent danger."
"I'm quite tired myself," Allen agreed and yawned.
"I think we all need rest after tonight," Markus said.
"Alright... but don't think I'm done with you," James told Allen. "We'll continue tomorrow."
"Gladly," Allen replied with a grin. Muse walked over to her corner with her own blanket, while Mirise rolled out the other mattress next to Rink's. "So, where do I sleep?" he asked Markus.
"Well, we're... kind of out of beds..." Markus replied. "James definitely needs a mattress with that leg of his, we're not moving Rink, and I don't think you'd fit in the hammock."
"Hah! I just spent four months in a prison, and you think not getting to sleep in a bed is going to bother me?" Allen asked with a laugh. "I didn't even get to lie down to sleep in that cell! Hell, four walls and a ceiling over my head is more than I've had at times. I'll make do with the floor."
"Not sure we have any more blankets, either..."
"I have my own," Allen said and changed into a hyena. "Literally."
"Oh, well... that's convenient," Markus said. "Could you help me get James into bed?"
"What happened to your leg, anyway?" Allen asked and assumed half-beast form.
"Got stepped on by this huge guy on Kurita," James replied.
"He's got a fracture, it's not too bad but he can't put any weight on that leg," Markus said.
"Kurita. Is that where you killed that mayor?"
"They told you, huh," Markus replied. "Yeah. He was kind of... bad for the island."
"I know the type," Allen said and walked up to James. "So, on the mattress, right?"
"Yeah, let me help-"
"No need," Allen said and easily lifted James down into his bed, being, James noted, surprisingly gentle about it. Maybe he just looked like a brute.
"Oh," Markus said and started taking off his shoes and pants. Allen turned back into his hyena form, discarded his single piece of clothing and curled up in the middle of the cabin. With how exhausted the majority of them were after the adventure on Garlan, it wasn't long before the only sounds coming from Cassandra were the water gently splashing against its hull, and the occasional snore from within.
For once, Rink was the last one to wake up. She had been out cold for the better part of ten hours before she started hearing sounds around her again, sounds that snapped her back to reality as she remembered their escape from Garlan.
"Bwuh," was the first sound she made after opening her eyes. "Wuzzat... weh... huh?"
"Rink!" Mirise exclaimed. "Thank goodness you're awake."
"You slept through breakfast," James added.
"Urgh... what... happened?" Rink asked and raised her head to look up at the rest of them, sitting around Cassandra's table. "We... got away?"
"Yeah, they don't seem to have tried to follow us, strangely enough..." Markus replied.
"I wouldn't feel safe yet," Allen said. Since Rink last saw him, he had shaved off the beard that four months of prison had resulted in, and while his hair was still quite unkempt, it had clearly been washed and trimmed since yesterday, still reaching his shoulders but not much more. On his upper body, he was wearing one of the Marine shirts Muse and Rink had used yesterday, with the sleeves cut off to make it more of a vest, though he was too large to close it. James had begrudgingly donated a pair of pants to him, pants that had been converted into shorts and had the waistband removed. Allen was not too much taller than James, but with a bulkier frame mostly consisting of muscle - though four months of prison food and lack of exercise had taken its toll. "Roth's definitely planning something. He's like that."
"How are you?" Markus asked Rink.
"Let's see..." she said and held her left hand to her forehead. "I'm... alive, at least? I have a headache the size of a sea king and it feels like there's a lump of seastone in my arm."
"You're going to need to take it easy, but the poison shouldn't be in your system for much longer," Markus continued. "Do you want anything? Food, water?"
"I want..." Rink said, before sinking into what appeared to be deep thought for a second or two before declaring, "I want a coffee and a smoke."
"I think there's some coffee left from the breakfast, I'll heat it up for you," Mirise said and walked over to the kitchen corner.
"You are an absolute sweetheart," Rink said with a smile before closing her eye and lowering her head to her pillow again, face-first. "Ow."
"Yeah, yeah, just my head," Rink said into the pillow. "That must have been the, like, third wildest night I've ever had."
"What were you even doing before we met?" James asked.
"I've been around," Rink replied before rolling her head as to no longer speak to her pillow. "You already knew I was on a ship before."
"Yeah, but... have all journeys you've been on become stuff like this?"
"I've really only been on one before," Rink said. "Ow."
"Was that one like this one?"
"It was... different," Rink replied. "Bigger ship. More people. More of everything, really... more..."
"More what?" James asked.
"More good stuff and more bad stuff. We haven't been on this one for that long, though. Ow."
"We've already made ourselves complicit in murder, and now... this."
"It's the world we live in," Rink stated.
"You always have to be ready to stand up for yourself," Allen added. "Because if you don't, nobody else will."
"Isn't that what the Marines are for?" Markus asked. "Well... technically."
"The Marines are the ones you should trust the least," Allen replied with a snarl. "They really don't care."
"That seems a bit harsh," Rink said. "Not that there's any love lost between me and them, but..."
"You won't find any more corrupt organization anywhere," Allen said. "They've figured out that it's easier to be selfish if you have the support of the public."
"I'll take your word for that for now," Rink said and looked up. "For now, I have more important matters to attend."
"What?" Allen asked as Mirise returned with a hot cup of coffee. "Oh."
"Here you go," Mirise said and handed the cup towards Rink, who sat up on her mattress with her back against the wall before taking it.
"Thanks." The contents were too hot to drink at the moment, so Rink took the time to look down, noticing what she was wearing, something she hadn't paid much attention to before now. "Oh, huh... this your shirt, Muse?"
"You were sweating a lot, so we wanted to get you into something light," Markus responded.
"That makes sense," Rink said and started blowing at her beverage. She drank it without saying much more, finishing it in a couple large gulps, before standing up and putting the cup on the table. She got one of her skirts out of her bag and put it on, at the same time taking out her pipe box. "Alright, time for a smoke."
"You have cigarettes? Mind if I bum one?" Allen asked.
"Just loose tobacco," Rink replied and put her pipe in her mouth. "Shredded."
"I can roll one with that. What kind?"
"Courtesan's Hair," Rink answered and held up a pack of the tobacco.
"That weak stuff? Not even Seven Treasures, if you use shredded?"
"I don't like Seven Treasures," Rink said. "I use it in a blend... I usually use Style but they were out of that, and any I had left I've already used for mixing."
"Oh, well," Allen said with a shrug. "I haven't had a smoke since I got thrown in there, so could I..."
"Help yourself," Rink said and tossed the opened pack of Courtesan's Hair in front of Allen.
"Anyone have any paper?" Allen asked as he picked it up.
"We... have a newspaper, I guess?" James said and pointed towards the hammock, underneath which the newspaper they had acquired the day before lay.
"Not ideal, but... you take what you can get," Allen said and picked it up. He tore off some strips of the paper, flattening them into a stack on the table, then put some tobacco in the middle and rolled it up as best as he could. He held it up in front of his face, looking at what he had just produced.
"So?" Rink asked.
"This is, without a doubt, the saddest cigarette I have ever rolled," Allen said with a chuckle. "Got a light?"
"Not in here, you don't," James said.
"What?" Allen asked in response.
"The rule is no smoking inside the cabin," Rink replied while pointing at the cabin door with her thumb. "So..."
"Fine with me," Allen said and followed Rink outside.
It was a bright day, with the sun still climbing in the sky. Rink sat down in the front of the deck, looking out over the bow, and lit her pipe. Allen sat down to her left with his newly rolled cigarette in hand, and held it out for Rink to light (before throwing the match into the sea). Kind of predictably, Allen's cigarette didn't quite burn as regularly as a normal one would. He got a few puffs in before most of it was gone, and flicked the burning butt into the water before the fire reached his fingers.
"Well, at least that was something," he said with a grin. "Going to need to get some real cigarettes, though... or something better to roll with."
"Cigarettes, huh..." Rink said as she kept puffing on her pipe.
"Didn't you ever smoke cigs?" Allen asked.
"No... only this," Rink replied and held up her pipe to look at it. "Was one of my old... friends that introduced me, after I lost my eye. Was to help me relax."
"So what's in that, anyway?" Allen asked as he took a few whiffs of the smoke. "You said you mix it?"
"It's half tobacco, half... well, herbs. A blend. You know, dried leaves and petals and stuff... some rose..."
"Do I smell... lavender?"
"And a pinch of that for taste. Want to try?" Rink asked, holding the pipe in Allen's direction.
"Eh... sure," he replied, accepted the pipe and put it in his mouth for a puff. He took it out, exhaled a small cloud of smoke and handed the pipe back with a look of doubt on his face. "I think I'll stick to cigarettes."
"You do that," Rink said and resumed her smoking. "So what do you think of the gang?"
"They seem... alright," Allen replied. "Is this really blondie's ship? He doesn't seem the captain type."
"We haven't really got a captain, and he didn't really expect anything like this to happen," Rink replied. "It's definitely his boat, though. He built it."
"He built it, even? That's actually kind of impressive."
"There's more to James than you'd think," Rink said. "Still inexperienced, though."
"But he's driven, y'know? He wants to learn. That's the entire reason he set out on his trip in the first place, to become less inexperienced. I respect that. It was a big reason I even came with him."
"So what did he learn by breaking his leg?"
"That helping people isn't always painless."
"True that," Allen replied. "So, well... we did come to an agreement, at least..."
"Let me guess. He begrudgingly allowed you to stay on the ship until we get to some island where you'll be fine on your own, because now that you're here it would feel wrong to just throw you off."
"That's pretty much it exactly."
"I really need to teach him to be less predictable," Rink said and stood up. "Okay, I should probably eat something... and speaking of which..." she continued and looked at the storage hatch.
"Gotta check something. You head back in."
"Well, sure," Allen said and went back in the cabin as Rink opened the storage hatch and lowered herself through it.
She rejoined the others in the cabin a few minutes later. Most of them were sitting around the table, but Muse was sitting in the corner where she had been sleeping with some jars and bowls in front of her. As Rink came in, she stood up and walked up to her.
"Rink, um..." Muse started.
"I just... I wanted to say... I'm glad you're fine. And..."
"And... thank you. Thank you for helping me get Markus out... you got hurt, and poisoned, just to help me..."
"Don't worry about it," Rink said with an exaggerated smile and sarcastic hand wave. "You know I'll do anything for my dear little sister."
"Whatever you say, Sonya," Muse replied with a giggle and a playful fist bump on Rink's shoulder.
"You know, that's the first time I've seen you smile," Rink said. "You should smile more. You're pretty when you do."
"I don't have many reasons to smile," Muse replied.
"You keep telling yourself that," Rink retorted. "Anyway, come with me for a moment... I want your opinion on something."
"I would ask James, but he's not mobile enough," Rink said.
"I can hear you," James said from the back of the cabin.
"Sure, whatever," Rink said and pointed with her thumb at the door. "C'mon."
"Um... okay," Muse replied and followed Rink outside. James watched the door close and then turned to Markus.
"Who's Sonya and since when are they sisters?" he asked.
"I have no idea what's going on anymore," Markus replied. "But... it's great."
"She's smiling, she's joking... she's even laughing," Markus said and smiled. "I've never heard her laugh before. Almost makes it worth being thrown in jail."
James cast an incredulous glance at Markus, but elected to not say anything and instead just shook his head. Nobody started up the conversation again, so the cabin stayed silent until Rink and Muse returned after a short while. Markus looked at them as they approached the table.
"You two seem to be getting along well."
"Oh, you know, there's nothing quite like risking your lives by doing something incredibly stupid to bring people together," Rink said with a grin. "So, anyway... we've inspected the storage, and I hope you like rice."
"Because that's more or less what we have," Rink replied. "We didn't exactly have time to stock up on Garlan."
"Don't we have anything left from what we got on Kurita?" James asked.
"A bit," Rink said. "But that was calculated for three people, not five, definitely not six, and since we don't have a cold storage, anything not dry, or salted, or dry and salted is going to spoil."
"So, on a quick check, apart from what we keep in the kitchen, we have reasonable amounts of rice, salt, and sugar. A bit of flour. Scraps of some other stuff that would maybe make one meal if put together."
"I don't mind rice," Markus said.
"But with six people, even if we limit ourselves to only two meals a day, we're going to run out of that too," Rink said. "Better get to fishing... but we're really going to have to land somewhere to stock up. Soon."
"I feel like we should maybe avoid populated islands for a bit," James said.
"I agree," Rink replied, "but I don't know if we can. We didn't only look at what actually was in the storage. Muse."
"That escape wasn't as painless as we might have thought," Muse said. "Rink's poisoning aside, we got out mostly unharmed... but that's more than I can say about Cassandra."
"What? What's wrong with her?" James asked, clearly worried.
"You if anyone should know she wasn't built for that... I don't know what it was that did it, but the escape, Rink's scream... all the stress on her... she's damaged," Muse said. "There's noticeable cracks even on the inside. There's no leaks yet, but..."
"So... what do we..." Markus said.
"We do what we can for now," Muse said. "I'm no carpenter, but I know how to build stuff," she said and glanced at her bow.
"I built her, I should be doing it," James said.
"You're not doing anything while your leg is still like that," Muse replied. "Just hope she holds together until we can give her some real repairs, but I don't think we have the materials and tools for that right now, and we can't do it while she's in the water anyway. We'll patch her up as we go until then."
"Ugh... fine," James said and put a hand over his mouth. "Sis..."
"So that's our situation," Rink said. "Not an ideal one to be in, but we're not in immediate danger, so that's something, at least."
"That we know of," Allen added.
"Well, yes," Rink said. "But we can at least try to stay positive about it. That includes you, Muse."
Muse chose to not reply, instead returning to her corner. Rink stepped over to the kitchen to get herself some late breakfast, and the rest of Cassandra's inhabitants stayed around the table. Mirise looked over the map she had rolled out on the table, trying to figure out their course. She knew where they were - but with the latest revelations, had even less of an idea where they were going to go...