He stared up at May, his open mouth showing his red-stained teeth. He rasped something, guttural and pained, and May reached behind her. For a moment Robin was concerned that May was about to cut him down with her machete, but he belatedly realized that she was grabbing her canteen, and also that her machete was laying across her leg, perfectly visible.
Feeling foolish, he watched her reach down slowly, tipping the canteen lightly over his mouth. She did not let her arm come within the reach of the man, and she moved it back quickly when he reached out for it.
“No, you can’t have my canteen. I’ll give you more in a little bit, but I don’t want you to get sick from drinking water too fast.” May let the man drink a little bit more water, pouring it directly into his mouth, and he sucked on his lips, forcing liquid into the cracks. After a moment, he croaked again, shaking his head when May gestured questioningly with the canteen.
Robin and May nodded, giving him a moment.
His lips were too chapped to allow him to make the lip-popping motions necessary to make the “p” sound, but he was still able to be understood. “They came… shot the guards… threw us... in here… told us… eat… or die.” The man rasped out his last few words and gestured for the canteen, leaning back to open his mouth for May.
To the surprise of both Robin and May, the man gargled the water and spat it out, the liquid a brown-red color.
“That’s… a lot better.” The man licked his lips a little bit, grimacing at the pain, and looked up at the odd pair above him.
“Are you here to save us?” The man spoke bluntly, resignation being consumed by hope in his eyes.
“Yes. No. Not exactly, but sure.”
The man stared at May, uncertain about what to think, the fire in his eyes dimming.
“We aren’t here to save you, but we will, anyway. We’re just here to try and go back to the mainland. Y’know, we saw a boat, headed this way… Then we saw the pirates, and…”
May shrugged. “Here we are.”
The man started to sit up, and May did not object. He pushed himself up fully, sitting for a moment, seemingly dizzy from the way he was clutching the edge of the metal box. After a moment he composed himself, looking up at May and silently asking permission to stand up from the box.
May nodded and moved back, picking her machete up from her lap. Robin moved back as well, keeping his eyes on the man.
The man clambered slowly out of the metal box, his bones creaking loud enough that Robin could hear them from two meters away. After looking down both sides for a bit, the former prisoner elected to climb down the more staircase-like side of the pile, rather than following the more direct path Robin and May had taken.
“How long were you in there?”, May called, gesturing at the box.
“I couldn’t tell ya… Could have been weeks or months, but… Maybe a week?” He scratched his beard while he was talking, causing some of the dried blood to dry and flake off.
May nodded. “Are all these boxes full of victims?”
There was no answer, and Robin turned to glance at May when the seconds dragged on. She was already looking at him from the corner of her eye, and she nodded, jerking her head to one side of the pile in a very pointed way. Robin nodded, snapping his left am blade out.
Just in case.
May darted for the opposite side of the container stack from the way she had pointed to Robin, who in turn jumped at his queue, literally leaping towards his side of the obstacle.
The old man was nowhere to be seen. In his place stood Tao, dripping wet and looking angry. He lifted his hand and shook his finger, wagging it like he was speaking to a child that had been naughty.
“You should not try to take a captain from his ship. I, Tao, the Lion of the Sea, will stand for no such thing!” He gestured with am index finger pointed straight up, his waggle stopping before lifting, pointing to the sky like a hero at his moment of triumph.
“Luckily, I, Tao, have the most powerful abilities this world has ever seen! I can switch places with any member of my crew. The poor, unfortunate cadet would have given his life for that of his hero, I am certain!” His scowl instantly darkened, and he looked at Robin, staring him down.
“I would not have had to resort to such measures were my men stronger, more creative, or even just in general most skilled! What is a captain supposed to do if he cannot get a good crew?!”
Tao was raving now, his eyes wild, small droplets of spittle occasionally flying from his mouth. His hair was wet, soaked, and partially burned, his blue-scaled vest had a huge, burnt hole directly in the center of it, and he had several bruises forming on his chest.
Why is he still so good-looking? I definitely like girls. I think? Robin shook his head, trying to shake the thoughts. He took a step forward without thinking, and Tao turned directly towards him, his right hand slapping into the air oddly, like he was trying to shake water off of it with short, jerking motions. With each jerking motion, a tattoo of something long and crosslike was slithering further down his arm towards his hand.
After another couple of quick air-slaps, a twenty-centimeter long handle sprouted in Tao’s hand, springing outwards from his clutched hand.. He slapped the handle out, and a blade suddenly sprouted from it, extending to the full length of what appeared to be a fairly large scimitar. It was just barely curved towards the tip, a full ninety centimeters long from the tip of the pommel to the tip of the blade. The metal was a milky cross between powder blue and royal blue, the colors intermingling on the blade. It brought to mind for Robin the patterns on the metal of cheaply-made knives that mall hawkers had tried to claim was actual Damascus steel rather than just the pattern.
As much as it had extended exactly like a department store pop-out Star Wars lightsaber, Robin could not see any pieces where it looked anything less than solid.
Tao grinned, all traces of anger gone from his movie-star face. He held up the blade proudly, staring at it through intensely glowing eyes.
“I see you like my sword! You should learn to keep your eyes to yourself, little boy; she and I have more intimacy than any marriage you have ever known!” He looked at his blade lovingly, somehow managing to still look at Robin while he did so. “After all, boy, have I stared overlong at your woman, as child-like and uninteresting as she is?”
Robin sputtered, unsure of what to protest first from that monologue or whatever that had been. “She is not my…! I was not staring at…!”
Without looking at him, May waved a hand at Robin, cutting him off.
“Don’t let him get under your skin, Robin. He’s just trying to goad us.” May grinned suddenly, breaking the stoic expression she had held for the last several minutes.
“Besides… Do you really think I was going to let a man who was eating a human leg just walk around freely with no contingencies in place for him being a psycho-pirate like you?” May snorted derisively, shaking her head slightly. The sound was out of place coming from the petite woman, and it seemed to break the weird embarrassment-daze that Robin had found himself in.
Tao’s smile fell away, and he nodded. “I knew you would do something. You would not be worthy to set foot on the ship of the Lion of the Sea if you were the type to meekly surrender and lay down your lives, even in the face of a far superior foe, such as myself. Your preparations will come to nought, though!”
Tao lifted the blade, preparing to slash.
His arms didn’t move. He struggled for a moment, his eyes widening and his motions growing more frantic. After struggling in vain for ten seconds or so, he relaxed, hatred burning in his eyes as he glared at May.
She smiled back at him.
“What did you do, you Cūṉiyakkāri whore!?”
May pretended to be shocked, covering her face with her hands.
“Is this my preparations coming to nought?”
Tao clamped his mouth shut, though he was still glaring at her. Robin shifted, feeling incredibly awkward, like he was witnessing something he was not supposed to see. He glanced over at May, lifting an eyebrow. She ignored him, focusing on Tao, suspended in the Webs of Starlight she had laid around the containers that had originally contained the prisoner Tao had teleported to… somewhere, hopefully not somewhere too deep.
“You think you have beaten the great Lion of the Sea?”, Tao spat out suddenly, seemingly unable to contain his vitriol any longer. “You have beaten nothing! You will not leave this ship alive or dead! YOU ARE MEAT!”, he screamed, rearing his head back to unleash his rage skyward.
He took a deep breath, inhaling so quickly that to Robin it looked painful, and screamed again, but this time… It seemed like he was screaming to something, rather than just screaming.
“I accept! I accept the damn offer, so do it and do it now!”
Tao seemed to pause for a moment, his eyes going wild, darting from left to right and back again. After a few seconds he screamed again, the rawness of his throat beginning to become audible.
“Yes! Fine! I don’t care! DO IT!”
Robin was moving back, putting some distance between himself and the screaming man.
Crap, is he glowing more than he was a second ago? Robin snapped a glance at May. She was already moving back, angling towards him. The wind was picking up suddenly, increasing the noise level of the area.
Robin drew the ΔU-Revenant as he scurried backwards. The pirate captain was definitely glowing brighter now, and had become painful to look at directly.
“We have to go, now”, May yelled at him, the scream barely cutting over the still-growing wind. Robin nodded, turning to point at the railing on the side of the ship towards the shore.
“Let’s go!” She was already running in that direction, easily clearing half the ship in a split-second.
May reached the railing about four meters ahead of him, leaping over the edge in a dive. Robin pumped his legs faster, the muscles burning. Peak Human or not, he was still using his body to its absolute limit, and he could feel the strain as he ran faster than any natural human ever had or would.
The glow behind him was becoming bright enough that his eyes were burning as he ran away from it, facing the opposite direction. Robin was a two-thirds of a meter away from the railing when the light behind him seemed to pulse, expanding outwards like a balloon. The light washed over him just as he leapt, turning his world into a searingly bright void.
A notification came to him through the all-consuming light. Robin found he had no difficulty reading it, as it was still visible even when his eyes were closed.
|YOU HAVE ENTERED THE DUNGEON PRIDE OF THE PIRATE LORD.|