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"Mom, dad... it's been a while," Rink said and took off her hat. "I'm sorry that I ran away like that... I'm sorry about Jack. He took care of me while we were gone... I owe him so much. I owe you so much. It wasn't your fault what happened, but then I... I let it lead to you losing both of your children like that. I can't imagine how it must have been for you. I've done so much since. I'm a famous singer now. I've got sound powers, it's pretty cool. I've met many new friends, and recently I've been busy with a lot of things. Saved an island, supposedly... broke into a Marine base to save a friend... a lot of crazy stuff, really."
Rink's voice started to waver as she looked down at the stone plate in the ground. As this was the first time she had been to Gondol since it had been placed, it was the first time she read the inscription.
Cornelius Wrejk and Sonya Kazai
Not that the words came as any surprise to her - it was the traditional inscription on Gondol for graves where a married couple had been buried together. It also told Rink that her father had been the one to pass first, as the names were always written in the order they had died. She took an orange headscarf out of her pocket and put it on the stone together with a few flowers she had picked along the path to the cemetery.
"This is all I have left of him... one of his scarves that he gave me while we were traveling. I hope you can forgive me, and I wish I could have done more... give him a better resting place than the bottom of the sea." She put her hat back on, closed her eye and clasped her hands. "With the grace of Gaia, be at peace."
She smiled a little as a few tears started trickling down her cheek. The only time she had actually said that prayer before was when she had learnt it in school. Back then, she had never expected that her first time speaking it sincerely would be in a situation like this. She wandered around the cemetery a little, reading names of people who had been buried here. It came as no surprise that she recognized a fair number, some of people who were old and expected to pass soon already when she had left, but also a few that she had not expected would have wound up here by now. One in particular was a name she knew well, someone that had been a friend of hers, only one year older than her.
"Kari... what happened to you?" The inscription on the grave gave her no clue, as it also was a traditional inscription. In general, graves on Gondol gave little information on what had actually happened to the person lying in them, not even how old they had been when they had passed away. It wasn't considered information anyone would actually need, as anyone who knew the deceased was expected to know what had happened within a day anyway, and visitors to the island usually had no reason to care. Rink, being someone who had returned to the island after being away from it for over ten years, was a rare exception to the expectation. Taking one last look at the grave of her parents, Rink left the cemetery behind her. She still had some things to take care of, before...
While Allen had forgotten to ask Rink where he could find somewhere to get clothes, the people of Gondol were helpful enough that it hadn't taken him long to get directions to a tailor (and get a cigarette - he had considered buying some, but wasn't exactly keen on paying for just some smokes with a bill for five thousand). While he had never been one to care overly much about how he dressed, all of his belongings were still at W4, as the opportunity to get them back had never appeared during the escape. So all his clothes, money, and other things he had picked up during his travels were now, for all intents and purposes, gone. The money had probably gone straight into W4's coffers before Allen was even out of processing, and Allen wouldn't be surprised if Roth had, after the escape of his prized prisoner, destroyed the rest of his stuff in a fit of anger. So at the moment, his belongings consisted of the clothes he had been given by his rescuers - a vest and a pair of shorts. So at the very least, Allen was looking to get a few changes of clothes, and some footwear. The tailor he had been pointed to was situated further into the island, beyond the inn, so he took the opportunity of a relaxing stroll towards his destination. The last two islands he had been on hadn't really provided any real opportunities to relax, and while he didn't exactly have anything against Cassandra, there wasn't much room to stretch his legs while on board.
Eventually he did reach his goal, a single story cottage with its back to a forest. He took a final puff on his cigarette before crushing what was left of it in his hand, threw it away and knocked on the door, which was soon opened by a middle-aged man with a light brown beard reaching his chest, dressed in a gray long-sleeved shirt and black pants.
"Yes, what is it?" he asked.
"Yeah, hello... I need clothes, and were told you're a tailor."
"That I am, that I certainly am," the man replied. "I am definitely the tailor. What do you need?"
"All I've got is what I've got on right now. I'd like some more clothes, at least."
"Do come on in, I'll see what we can find," the tailor said and stepped inside. Allen followed, closing the door after him. It didn't take a genius to see this was a tailor's place - there were fabric and all sorts of clothes hanging and lying around everywhere. "Let's see what we can find."
"How do you find anything in this mess?"
"I know where they are, I know where I can find it. I have a system, yes."
"Stand here, stand still and we'll see," the tailor said and took out a tape measure from his shirt pocket. Allen stood still while the tailor measured him in several ways, hm-ing to himself and writing numbers down on a paper. Allen stood there in silence for several minutes, before the tailor stood up, tossed the tape measure on a pile of fabric on the floor and held out the paper in front of him. "Yes, absolutely! There are clothes. I have clothes for you to wear. I can also make clothes for you. What do you like?"
"Uh, well... I have ten thousand beli. I don't need anything expensive or fancy, just... regular clothes. Preferably ones that don't break easily, preferably sleeveless... kind of loose fitting clothes in general, you know," Allen explained, without mentioning that it was his devil fruit power that made him prefer that kind of clothes. He didn't always had the time to take things off when transforming, and he wanted to avoid having to buy new clothes every time.
"Yes, yes! I can sew clothes like that. I can definitely do that."
"O... kay..." Allen said, starting to have some doubts from seeing the tailor's somewhat erratic behaviour. "Though I'd like something right away."
"Yes, I have clothes," he said and started walking around the cottage, picking up various garments from here and there. He returned to Allen with an armful of clothes and put them down on the floor in front of him. "You can wear these, surely you can. Try them."
"Alright," Allen replied and started going through the pile that had been laid in front of him. It was quite the assortment of clothes to go through - including some pieces that were clearly meant for women. To the tailor's credit, Allen thought, even those at least looked like they would actually fit him. He went through the pile, picking out a number of garments that he thought were good enough for now before turning to the tailor again. "Sooo... you have a room where I can change, or...?"
"I'll go out, let me know when you have chosen. I'll wait," the tailor said and left through the front door. Allen simply shrugged, took off the clothes he was wearing and started trying out his selection. Most of them fit, and from among them, Allen picked out two tank tops, two vests, two pairs of shorts and a pair of denim work pants. He changed back into the clothes he arrived in, and opened the front door to find the tailor sitting on a stool next to the door.
"Alright, I'm done with these."
"Good, very good," the tailor replied and walked in. Allen had put the pile of clothes he wanted to buy on a table, and pointed at it.
"I'll take these for now, but I also want to make that order..."
"Very good," the tailor said and looked at Allen's selection. "These clothes, all together... I will give for seven thousand."
"Hm... okay," Allen said and held out the two ฿5000 bills that made up his budget. "That's most of the money I have, but I'll take it. Guess I'll have to get more..."
"Money, maybe," the tailor said. "You are big, you are strong, correct?"
"I'm strong, yes. Why?"
"If you help carry some things to town and back here, I will give for five thousand."
"Sounds good to me," Allen answered. "And by the way... you know where I could get some boots around here?"
It wasn't entirely without hesitation that Markus brought his two patients with him to the clinic Rink had pointed out to him. James was one thing, but there was no telling how they'd react to a fishman. Charon had been wearing a cloak with a hood shadowing his face since they arrived, but hiding wasn't exactly going to be an option if he was going to receive treatment. But this wasn't something that could wait - Charon's wounds absolutely needed a closer inspection, and it was probably time to take another look at James's leg as well.
"Hello?" Markus asked as he entered, with James and Charon following. The ground floor seemed to consist mostly of a single large room, with a lot of tables, desks, cabinets and bookshelves a little bit of everywhere.
"Coming," a female voice from behind a bookshelf replied. A moment later, a brown-haired woman appeared from behind the same, indicating for them to come over to a desk standing against the wall. "How can I help you?"
"So, I have two patients here... I'm actually a doctor myself, but I have been traveling and I'm very low on medical supplies. But these two need to be looked at first."
"I'll see what we can do."
"I'd be glad to be of assistance as well, miss... Glass, perhaps?"
"What?" the woman replied while stifling a small laugh.
"Since it's the name of the clinic, I assumed... is doctor Glass not in?"
"You're... not from around here, are you?"
"That's doctor Gabriel Glass," the woman said and pointed at a portrait hanging on the wall, depicting a man appearing to be in his late sixties, wearing an old doctor's outfit. "He founded this clinic 113 years ago. He had no children, but my father was one of his apprentices."
"Oh... I understand."
"Including me, there's four of us doctors working here these days, and we've got six apprentices in all. Right now there's only me and one apprentice here, though... but let's take a look at your patients, shall we?"
"Oh! My name's Helga Gregori."
"Nice to meet you, miss Gregori. I'm Markus Flint, by the way." He looked back at James and Charon, who hadn't felt any need to join the conversation. "And... okay, there's no other way to put it... one of my patients is not human."
"What do you mean?"
"Charon, if you'd come over here..."
"Most certainly," Charon replied and walked up to the desk. "I apologize in advance if my appearance causes you any discomfort," he said and removed his hood.
"I don't under- oh. Oh! I'm... I'm sorry, I've never seen anything... anyone like you before..."
"I am a fishman," Charon said. "As it happens, I too am of the medical profession, being a medic and apothecary... but I am aware that I do not quite belong in the human world. But I... humbly request medical assistance."
"Oh, uh... I'll... see what I can do... what's ailing you?"
"He had necrotizing fasciitis from what we guess was a spider bite," Markus replied. "I cut away all the affected skin I could find and sealed the wounds, but we were in the middle of a forest so I was kind of limited in what I had to work with... I think I got it all, but I just want to make sure it'll be okay."
"Well, I've... never operated on someone who wasn't human before, but... okay. And you..." she said and looked at James. "Quite obvious what's up with you, at least. How badly broken is it?"
"Luckily it's just a stable fracture, and it's been about ten days since I put the cast on... so just taking another look at that, and getting him some crutches."
"I've been taking Charon's pills, too," James added. "It does feel better, but... still stings."
"What pills? Medicine?" Helga asked.
"As I said, I am an apothecary... as a token of my gratitude for their help in saving my life, I provided him with a medicine to promote bone growth, to quicken the healing process."
"Oh... huh. I haven't heard of any medicine like that before."
"It is a mixture of my own creation," Charon replied.
"I see... well, anyway. Let's get the two of you checked out, and I'll be happy to accept your assistance, doctor... Flynn, was it?"
"Flint. Markus Flint."
"Ah, sorry. Doctor Flint. I've got no idea when my colleagues will come back, so having someone else here who actually knows what they're doing will be helpful."
"You have any other patients here?"
"Only two at the moment. Nothing serious. We mostly do house calls, so we have space to spare."
"Well, just let me know what I can do. I'll be happy to help out while we're here... and I don't know how long that's going to be."
"Okay, so what needs to be done with her?" Mirise asked Muse as they approached Cassandra.
"Repairs... I don't know how much needs to be done, I could patch up what I saw, but... I don't know much about fixing boats."
"So we need a real carpenter," Mirise said. "Don't you think we should ask over there?" she continued and pointed at the red building at the far end of the docks - it was quite large, seemed to be partly in the water itself, and had an opening leading out into the ocean. At the side of the building facing them, just a few steps from the edge of the docks, there was a door - but nothing that actually indicated what the place was. Still, with that location, there weren't a lot of things it could be.
"Yeah, probably," Muse replied. They headed over and Muse gave the door a few good knocks. The reply didn't take long to arrive.
As they entered, it didn't take long to see that they had found the right place - it was essentially a small drydock built into the rest of docks, the walls of the workshop surrounding it clearly having been put up after the docks had been constructed. It wouldn't hold more than one boat at a time, and no really big ones - but Cassandra was small enough that there'd be no problem. A variety of planks and carpentry tools were scattered around the place, and Muse soon spotted a man sitting on a chair across from where they entered, carving some wood with a knife. He was large, had a full black beard, and was wearing a blue shirt and black pants.
"Excuse me, we need some assistance with our boat..." Muse said. The only reply she got was a grunt from the man. "Uh..."
"Here I am," came another voice from the right of them. It was a considerably younger man, with short blonde curly hair, wearing a white shirt and a denim overall. "Now, you needed help?"
"Oh... yeah. We just arrived here, and our boat's taken a bit of a beating... I've patched it up but it needs to be taken care of by someone who knows these things."
"Okay, you have the boat outside?"
"Well, I'll come take a look. See what needs to be done." He turned to the older man. "I'll be right back!" He was acknowledged only with a grunt and a nod before Muse, Mirise and the blonde man went back outside.
"So, you're a shipwright?" Mirise asked.
"Well, I'm Hans's apprentice."
"He seemed... agreeable," Muse said.
"He can be a bit gruff, but make no mistake, nobody knows more about boats on this island than him."
"So what's your name?"
"Oh! I'm Tag."
"Muse," Muse said.
"Mirise Lake," Mirise added as they reached their goal. "And this is the boat. Cassandra."
"No, it was built by another one of our companions... but he's kind of indisposed at the moment, so he won't be much help."
"So, what's the issue?"
"Well. We've been getting into some things, things that this boat wasn't quite built to handle. So there's cracks. Leaks. I've done what I can, but... just take a look for yourself," Muse said, stepped onto the deck and opened the hatch into the storage. "Down here."
"Sure," Tag said and followed Muse. He inspected Muse's makeshift repairs, knocking on the inner hull of the boat. "You did this?"
"Yes," Muse replied. "I did what I could with what we had, but we were short on materials. The outside looks even worse."
"I see," Tag said and went back outside. "We're going to have to take her in to take a closer look, but something definitely needs to be done about this if you're planning on traveling further. Can you bring her over to the workshop?"
"Sure," Muse said and grabbed one of the oars, one of the few things left on the boat that wasn't nailed down. Tag picked up the other one as Mirise undid the mooring rope and joined them on deck. Together they steered Cassandra through the large opening of the workshop and into the drydock. Tag jumped off and looked up at Hans.
"So?" Hans grunted.
"I think we might be looking at a full frontal hull replacement," Tag said. "We're going to have to do a dry diagnosis on it."
"Hm," Hans replied.
"I'll schedule it," Tag said as he went over to a table and opened a book. "Let's see. We should have a full assessment of the damages and what needs to be done in about a week."
"...and the repairs?" Muse asked.
"Well, that obviously depends on the extent of the damage and the procedure that has to be done," Tag replied. "It's a pretty small boat, but we have other things to work on as well, it's only me and Hans and I'm still learning... should be another three weeks, maybe four, just to make a guess."
"Oh, that's just lovely..." Muse whispered to herself. "And the cost?"
"Also depends. I don't dare guess that."
"Well, if we're stuck here for a month anyway... I'm no carpenter and I don't know much about boats, but I have experience with tools, making smaller things at least... maybe I can be of help, if it'll make things go faster..."
"That would be Hans's call..." Tag said and looked over at his teacher in the trade.
"Mm," Hans uttered with a nod, seemingly approving of Muse's offer.
"I guess we'll be back later, then," Muse said and left the workshop.
"Thanks for the help!" Mirise added before following her.
"A month, huh..." Muse sighed. "And I'm sure James is going to want to have a say too."
"Definitely." Mirise smiled and looked around. "Still... this doesn't seem like the worst place to stay for a while."
Rink walked down the path she had walked more times than any other on Gondol. With an open field on the other side of the road, there it was still standing... the house she had grown up in. A farmhouse, a cottage with seven rooms on the ground floor and a connected storage building. The house of the Kazai family. The home of Cornelius, Sonya, Jack and Rink, where she had spent the first seventeen years of her life. Her grandfather, Cornelius's father, had lived there before them, giving the house to Cornelius and Sonya as a wedding gift.
With both Cornelius and Sonya gone, and with Jack and Rink having left the island, it was likely that the question of what to do with the house, and Cornelius's fields, had been given to their closest living relative. Rink obviously had no idea exactly what had been done with it, but it was at least still standing, and someone was evidently living there, though nobody was home at the moment. Rink had no real interest in finding out, either... to her it would always be her family home. Whatever it was now had nothing to do with her, but she still wanted to see it, one more time...
She looked down and sighed. Gondol was still in so many ways the same as when she had left it... but it still felt unfamiliar. In the years she had been gone, the one thing from Gondol that had changed by far the most was none other than herself. Even if the people of Gondol she had encountered so far that had recognized her had accepted her without any comment, it was only the opinion of one person she could care about. The only thing going on in her head was the question of what Aniara would think of her.
She knew how bad an idea it was to get that answer, but she absolutely had to find out. Now that she was here, she wouldn't be able to avoid her anyway... so she wanted to get it over with. Starting to walk back towards the town, she knew there was one thing she absolutely had to do before she could even think about getting that answer - and that was taking a shower.