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Sunrise

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Being lonely out at sea was never the problem, it was the being lonely when you returned to the land that was the worst possible feeling. At least when you were out at sea, there was an excuse for it, but on land when you're surrounded by people, folk tended to question why you would ever feel isolated. That was how Yang felt at least.

In truth, life for Yang couldn't be any lonelier. Most people at least had some friends or a family to return to after a long few months on the ocean, or at least were old enough to head to the bar and have a social drink with friends they hadn't met yet. Not her. The most social interaction she tended to have was a word with the inns for her next room for the night or rant from the barman about being too young to ask for a beer. Sometimes people would ask for the tale of her lost arm, or even how the metal one that replaced it was made; but when she began to answer, they really they weren't interested at all. The land held nothing of value for her anymore, other than an office to visit to tell her what the next ship she was boarding would be.

"Yang Sheng Qi?"

That time had come to find out for her next voyage. Approaching the taller dockkeep, she used her metal arm to haul her bag of belongings onto her shoulder and stood up straight to look as professional as possible. Good impressions could sometimes mean being put on the better ships, and Yang had her eye on one in particular. A brand new ship that had only returned from its maiden voyage a few days ago, boasting it's speed and comfort for its passengers.

"The Ember Celica."

Yang had to double check she heard that right. Blinking and tilting her head, she asked; "I'm sorry?"

"That's right." The dockkeep replied, looking down at his list once more to confirm. "Yang Sheng Qi, scheduled for the Ember Celica's two pm voyage to Menagerie and back. You'll be escorting a very valuable cargo under the guidance of the King's equerry, Captain Peach."

Yang's curiosity piqued. Lesser goods were her usual cargo, transporting beer to the local inns or taking wools to the closer markets. None of those were classed as valuable. And for it to be lead by someone so close to the king as well... "Huh... How valuable we talkin'?"

"Not a clue, but Vale Palace commissioned us to fetch it. But looking at where you're going, I got a feeling of what it is though..." The dockkeep looked up from his paperwork, asking; "You know what Menagerie is, right?"

"Nope! Never heard of it." Regardless, she said it gleefully. It was hard to be concerned or confused about where she was going when it meant traveling on a ship she adored from the day it was shown in the papers. It meant adventure, excitement. And if this cargo was valuable, it meant she really was moving up in the world.

"Still, not too shabby for an orphan with a tin can arm, huh?" Yang asked, shrugging the metal arm holding her belongings. "Delivering for royalty, traveling on the best new boat... This is gonna be a hell of a ride." Realising at this point she was talking to herself, she quickly snapped back to reality, beginning to walk away with a cheery expression. "Thanks again!"

Such an expression was not shared by the dockkeep, who could only sigh sadly as he looked back down at his paperwork, ticking off the name and staring at the same word again. Menagerie.

"Poor kid... Won't be so cheery if she sees that cargo I bet."


The journey was long and tiring. Six weeks on, and the Ember Celica was finally there. The seas hadn't been all too rough, but it was all hands on deck to man the sails and keep the ship up to speed. Not to mention the scrubbing and cleaning, among other lesser tasks she was asked to do.

It didn't matter. The longer the journey went on, the more excited she was getting. She was delivering to royalty ! This was a huge honour and a tremendous opportunity, the very least she could do was be willing to keep it clean for her captain and the more experienced sailors. The huge payment at the end was another bonus. Maybe now she'd finally have enough to afford a place of her own for when she got back and wouldn't have to rely on inns generosity. That would be a big achievement at the young age of fourteen.

The time at Menagerie seemed more like a holiday than a job. The Captain Peach's insistence on loading up the cargo with his first mate and the veterans sailors meant she got an evening of luxury. Higher class sleeping arrangements, good food, and excellent service. Everyone was so friendly in the barracks at the coast, Yang could only wish she could see more of the island. Yet every time she asked to see more, the subject was either changed, or she was talked out of it. Perhaps on a second journey, she'd see more of the island.

After a well-earned rest, the Celica was back on its six-week journey once more to return to Vale's shores. Cargo safely loaded below deck, and smooth seas all around; Yang really couldn't have asked for an easier job. The crewmen were just her type; loud and brash, but overall friendly people eager to have fun, but what she really fell for was the ship. It was something of beauty. As she stood against the railings and watched the sun touching the horizon, that was all she could think about. How it glided through the seas at high speeds as though the waves were never there, how it shone like the sun after a good scrub, how easy it seemed to maneuver... She knew this was where she wanted to be more than anywhere else...

"Hey, Sheng Qi!"

By now Yang had gotten to know most of the crewmembers by the sound of their voice, so she turned toward this one with a smile, leaning against the railing. "Yo Dove! I'm just enjoyin' the view."

"Well you've been enjoying the view for nearly an hour now, it's kinda freakin' me out." He chuckled a little to ease the tension, however, he reached into his pocket to pull out a small piece of parchment paper, handing it toward her. "Can you do me a favour and give this to Cardin on the orlop deck? Peach put me on Crow's Nest and I forgot to give him this earlier."

"Yeah sure." Although she took it from him straight away, she had to take a moment to pause, raising an eyebrow. "The... orlop deck?"

"Yep, orlop deck." But when Yang still looked confused, he rolled his eyes. "Bottom deck! God, did you lose some of your head as well as that arm?"

"A'right a'right! Jeez. Any more arm comments and you'll be gettin' a metal fist in your face." She chuckled to herself, making her way to the stairs to head lower. The Orlop deck... If there was anywhere they'd want to store valuable cargo, that would likely be it. She'd be seeing what all the fuss was about after all. Descending further into the ship, below the cabin decks and food storage, she continued to hum and chant quietly to herself to keep her good spirits.

"Yarr harr, fiddle de dee, sailor's life is a life for m-"

But as soon as she entered the lowest deck of the ship, those spirits were completely destroyed.

The valuable cargo wasn't some fine goods from a far off land, nor was it treasures that glimmered gold, or wines that were a century old. This valuable cargo wasn't even livestock, but it was certainly a living thing.

People.

Stepping out into the lower deck, Yang looked all around wide eyed, eyes unable to look away. Hundreds of people, all different ages, and sizes contained together in locked cages with barely enough room to sit comfortably, or chained to the wall to keep them running. Each person was different, but they had one thing in common; all of them had a unique animal trait somewhere on their body. While some had ears or tails, others had scales or feathers. But all of them appeared just as terrified as her.

"Hey hey, it's the tin can!"

But even the voice of Cardin didn't quite break her out of her trance. When she looked at him, it was still with a fearful expression. She didn't know what to think, or how to function. She could only focus on the horrendous cruelty she could see in the room... and right in front of her. Seemed while the newcomers were the subject of harsh jokes during their arrival journey, they voyage home meant they'd switched their attentions to torturing others...

A blonde boy, one who looked little more than a year older than her, was chained to one of the bars on the far end of the ship. Unable to defend himself, Yang could see the obvious lash marks across his back, red from where the skin was so close to breaking. The only thing that made him look different from her or Cardin was the long blonde tail poking out from his shorts, curled up in pain. Seemed she interrupted them from doing more damage.

"Um, earth to Yang?"

Snapping back to reality, she looked over to Cardin again and realised she hadn't heard a word he said. “H-huh?”

Rolling his eyes, he laughed. “Looks like you need to make some new ears! I just asked what you were doin’ down here, young’ins are on scrubbing duty.”

“U-uh… Oh, I-I had an um…” Still barely able to focus, it only just occurred to Yang that she had a job to do down here. Upon realising again, she quickly patted herself down, retrieving the parchment paper and passing it over to him. But she was barely focused on that. All her attentions were on the boy below, everyone around them. Hundreds of them, chained and treated as subhuman. Even if they weren't human, this wasn't right.

All that distracted her was Cardin’s chuckle to himself. “I gotta pick some out to go to Atlas, huh? Should be simple enough. That’ll be all, tin can.”

It couldn't be said sooner. Yang wasted no time backing away, continually staring at each and every captive as she made her way back to the stairwell. How on earth did she not know of this when she first got aboard? Or anyone for that matter? Either way, that was her job. To escort the ‘cargo’ to the royal kingdom of Vale.

The dream job had turned into a nightmare.

Chapter Text

“They’re just Faunus.”

“They’re barely even human, there’s no need to get yourself this worked up about them.”

“You’re only a kid, so you’ll understand when you’re older. But for now, just try to enjoy the rest of the journey. Think of the payout waiting for you back home.”


 

She’d lost count of how many times she’d been sick over the few hours left of the day. A few times overboard, a few times more in a bucket in her quarters. It was a relief that she could blame the ocean when anyone asked and simply get a snide remark or a chuckle from them, but such a relief wasn’t something the poor souls on the lowest decks had.

By far it was the guilt from seeing them that made her so ill. The guilt that not only could she do nothing to help them, but she would be contributing to whatever horrors lay ahead of them once they got back to Vale. She would be responsible by default for being one of many who would take them there.

What made it worse was that her emotions weren’t shared. Not by the captain when she asked about them, not the other crew members when they were made aware. No one. No one cared that there were hundreds of innocent people below that would be subjected to goodness knew what once they got back. How could they all be so cruel?

Such thoughts were keeping her up all night. She tried to sleep, but the mental image was burnt into the back of her mind forever. Even when she merely blinked, she could see it all over, and hear the voices.

Or perhaps that wasn’t just in her head.

It was the dead of night, no one else was awake other than the few people on the decks above, but Yang was sure she could hear threatening voices. And they weren’t coming from above. They were coming from below.

She couldn’t just ignore that. As quickly and quietly as she could, she made her way out of her cabin, and down to the orlop deck once more.

As she descended down the steps, the voices became clear. One was Cardin’s, easily detected by the foul temper and obnoxious attitude. Another she recognised as well, it was that same blonde Faunus they’d been harassing earlier, along with the familiar quiet chattering of other prisoners within. After all this time they were still eager to punish the poor boy for something ridiculous. When close enough, she waited at the top of the stairwell and listened.

“C’mon! I was just messing with you, you know it!”

“‘Just messin’! Just messin’’! You’ve been messing around long enough, lashes clearly ain’t cutting it for you no more.”

“What are you gonna do the- HEY! Let go of me! Just let me go back in my cell, I’ll knock it off!”

“No way. The rest of these freaks have to learn; you mess with your superiors, there’s gonna be consequences. You all watching this?!”

Unable to bear the guilt of listening any longer, Yang knew she had to do something. She couldn’t just allow the poor boy to just get even more punishment! She mustered up her courage and made her way down the rest of the stairs…

As it turned out, if she hadn’t, she’d have heard something far worse than a lashing. Cardin didn’t have the whip in his hand. He’d been loading something far worse and was about to aim it at the boy’s way. A flintlock pistol.

But she wasn’t as silent as she’d hoped walking down the stairs, as Cardin turned in her direction. She was met with his sickening smile. “Well well, it's Tin Can! Come to see the show?”

Stuttering and umming once more, Yang grew increasingly nervous with just the mere sight of a gun. But she had to force that fear away behind her own fake smile. “H-Hey, Cardin! Um, what’s going on? What are you doing down here?”

“Could ask you the same thing, but you know what? This is good timing you’re here!”

To her own horror, Cardin walked toward her and grasped her by the wrist, pulling her into the room with him. Once more she was being watched by the hundreds of eyes of the prisoners, no doubt awakened by the commotion they heard just outside the bars, out of reach for them to stop it. Despite being met with all their glares, it was the only other human in the room she feared most.

Especially so when he tugged her toward the boy, making sure she was facing him. He was helpless, hands shackled to the rear wall and forced to face his attackers, and clearly very weak. He barely even managed to look up toward the new addition to the room, managing only the tiniest of glares before his head sunk again.

Chuckling to himself, Cardin folded his arms. “This one here’s been trouble from the start. Little dirtbag keeps kicking, spitting, tripping people up with his tail… I just caught said tail around my belt, thinking he was trying to grab the keys off me.”

Seemed the boy at least had the strength to ask; “Can you blame me?”

“Shut it,” Cardin growled, before looking back at Yang again. How stiff she was from the nerves was obvious to everyone in the room, and to those that knew her like Cardin, fear was completely out of character before today. Something that needed to be solved. Taking the gun into his hands again, he looked at it for a moment as he asked;

“Sheng Qi, y’ever killed something before?”

The mere question had her eyes wide. Yang did not like where this was heading. “S-Sorry?”

“You look pent up, like you need to relax. Let off a little steam.”

The way he was so calm about such things in the gaze of hundreds of horrified faces sent a chill down her spine. This man was treating it as an activity of leisure. And now he was trying to talk her into it. An intent that became clear when he grasped her wrist again and placed the gun into her hand. She was right in hating where this was heading.

Ignoring the increasingly horrified expression on her face, he stepped behind her, leaning in close to her ear as they both looked at the helpless boy ahead. “That boy there? He’s no good. Wasted room for all the good ones here. You get rid of him, not only are you gonna do everyone on this boat a favour, but you’re gonna loosen yourself off too. Give yourself that break you deserve…”

Just when Yang thought the nightmare couldn’t get any worse, she was faced with a haunting command. To take a life. She’d never even managed to hunt before and keep her stomach down, only just managing to go fishing back in the days when her father was still alive. This was nothing like hunting though. This was no animal, this was a person. A person who had no escape, no way to defend himself, no choice. Hunted for the mere fact he was different. They all were.

The more Yang looked at him, the worse she was starting to feel. Tears were forming in the corners of her eyes as she barely managed to squeak;

“I can’t.”

“Of course you can.” Taking a few steps backward, Cardin watched with a sadistic smirk. “It’s easy, just pull the hammer back, aim, then pull the trigger.”

How easy it would be was what made Yang’s stomach turn the most. Just a simple flick of her thumb and finger, that was all that was needed to take away the rest of someone’s life. It was wrong, and she knew it entirely.

But what choice did she have? She was trapped in a situation as well. It was either kill the boy herself or have Cardin do it right in front of her. But no matter what she’d be stuck on a boat for weeks longer transporting slaves to the royal kingdom, trapped with the guilt that she helped aid it for the rest of her life. While it was nothing compared to the suffering they’d go through, it was something she could never escape without breaking the law.

“Listen to your heart, and you’ll know what to do.”

Something twigged in the back of her mind. Time seemed to slow down as she thought more clearly than she had for the entire day. She could hear her father’s words echoing in her head, telling her over and over;

“Sometimes, you’ll have really hard decisions. You’ll be forced to choose between what’s easy for you, or what’s right. But you always have a choice. I hope you girls will grow up to know in your heart what one is the right one. Heck… even if it's not legal; if you feel it in your heart, trust it.”

When she opened her eyes again, the nervous girl that was holding her back had disappeared. A new Yang was in her place, one who was absolutely sure of what was right stood there instead, no longer mumbling or shaking, no longer indecisive. A fearless dragon. She knew exactly what to do. Eyes narrowing, she took her aim...

But not at the boy. She turned and aimed at Cardin instead.

The sadistic smile vanished, and the fear that once held the poor girl back had been transferred to him instead. Such a fear that he attempted to mask with a laugh. “H-Hey, don’t mess around with that thing, Tin-can! It really is loaded Y’know!”

There was constant murmuring among their Faunus witnesses, including the boy who’d managed to look up at what was going on and see the girl instead aiming the gun at his captor rather than him. A small smile formed, one that grew even more as he watched Yang make her demands.

“Keys.” She held out her metal hand to him, gesturing her fingers. “Hand’em over.”

“... You cannot be serious?” Yang never answered, but the clicking sound as she pulled back the hammer sent a clear enough message. Raising one of his hands, he quickly patted himself down with the other. “Alright alright, take it easy! Here!”

Catching them in the metal hand, she kept the gun aimed at him all the while. Never once did she take her eyes off him when she stepped back toward the boy. When close enough, she held her hand out in his direction, close to his waist. “Free yourself then the others, I’ll keep him occupied.”

That mischievous tail Cardin talked about instantly flicked forward, pulling the ring of keys from her hand. “Can do.”

While the boy made quick work of the locks on the shackles, Yang stepped closer toward Cardin again, gesturing the gun whichever direction she wanted him to move in, and guiding him toward the only free cell in the corner. While she had no idea what she was doing, it was the only option she could think of to avoid any deaths full stop.

She locked up the cell door and turned to check on the progress. The boy was now free and had begun testing all the keys in the various locks to the cells, only just managing to free one. But they were patient, after all, there was no plan just yet.

Something Cardin himself could very easily see and made no haste in telling her. “So what’s your plan now, tin can? There’s guards on all the docks no matter where you go, you really think they’re just gonna let you steer this ship back to dry land?”

Even a glare from Yang didn't stop his teasing. Cardin visibly smirked to mask his fear. “A-and how would you even start? There’s dozens of people waiting for you above deck. You’re gonna have to throw us all off if you hope of getting any of them to shore alive and free.”

Oh, how he shouldn't have said that. Because that gave her a brilliant idea.

“Hey, Monkey dude?” She called up, “Fancy commitin’ a mutiny??”

Having unlocked a fair few cells already, Sun was smirking in delight as more of his kind walked free, all keeping as quiet as possible. But he answered her question with a still smug expression; “That sounds like a job I’d enjoy.”

“W-Wait, what?” Cardin could only watch in horror as more and more of the Faunus were released, each glaring over at him angrily while he stood helplessly in his cell. They would be beyond reason, after all he did he knew deep down he didn’t deserve any help from their kind whatsoever. The only one who he thought he had a chance with now to survive, was Yang. “C’mon, Sheng Qi… We’re sailor pals, right? You’d never throw your old buddy Cardin overboard for a bunch of sleazy animals, would you?”

Sheng Qi… The family name suddenly felt foreign to her. Perhaps throwing Cardin and the rest of the human crew overboard to commit mutiny wasn’t something Yang Sheng Qi would do, perhaps she’d have put up with it and just quit when she got on land. But that Yang disappeared as soon as she stood up for the Faunus. She needed something that would send a clear message that she was a force to be reckoned with, so when people knew whose side she was on, they think twice about striking. Something to remind them she had the force of a dragon.

That could be thought about later, once the deed was done.

The question was never answered in the end. Instead, she waited for everyone to be freed, watching as the boy approached her again. Giving a small nod in his direction, she pointed upstairs with her metal hand. “Weapons are the first door on the left. You’ll outnumber them if you take them while they’re asleep, but the instant you fire anything it's gonna wake’em up.”

“Thanks for the tip.” The boy seemed genuinely grateful, giving a small smile to her first before he signaled for the others to go ahead. One by one they all did, Faunus of every species, shape, and size. All of whom were now free from the horrendous life that would have laid ahead for them back on the shore.

But it was merely a bandage on a bullet wound. Not enough to gain the trust needed.

A fact that would become apparent when Yang turned to focus on Cardin once more but was met with a sharp strike to the back of her head, pushing her against the bars and knocking her out cold.

Chapter Text

……..

…………..

…………………

… oh god…..

… my head is…. pounding……

…… Did that monkey dude…… knock me out?.......

……………

It was a mixture of sounds that were bringing Yang back to consciousness. She could hear the waves lapping against the boat, disgruntled voices chattering among themselves, along with louder and harsher ones directing them. All she knew without opening her eyes was two things. She was outside, and her head was in immense pain.

When she tried to reach up to it, however, she was stopped. Upon tugging once again, once on her real arm and once on the metal, she realised her hands had been bound. Finally, she eased her eyes open, taking in her new surroundings.

The entirety of the crew had been defeated. All of them were being forced to board the rowboats, most bound with the exception of a rowman for each boat. As each boat was filled, it was gradually lowered into the sea below. The ship had only traveled for a day, it wasn’t too far for the crew to row back to Menagerie.

One thing Yang took to note when she just made out Cardin’s figure being pushed onto the next boat; they all appeared to be present. Present, and unharmed. Despite now being armed to the teeth, the Faunus managed to fight and win their freedom back and did so without a single death. No doubt when they’d end up back on the shores that would send a more powerful message than any bodies would have.

“That’s the last of the garbage.”

The gruff voice of a large Faunus, bigger than anyone Yang had ever seen, spoke up. He kicked the rowboat to signal for the others to haul it up to be cast into the water. Turning to observe their work, he gave a satisfied nod back to the group below. The new crew The Ember Celica rightly deserved. Holding his hands up, he called out to them all;

“My friends, thanks to everyone’s coordinated participation and patience, we have gained an immense victory tonight. We are but an ocean away from our freedom!”

The crew erupted with a roar of celebration. It was only now Yang could see the impact she’d really had from helping them. Now the mayhem was over, she could see the groups. Friends and families could embrace one another, parents kissed their children to celebrate, clearly holding their tears back. The fears of the future and any bounty she’d gain instantly melted away at the sight. No matter how much the price on her head was, no price could be put on these people’s freedom.

“Hey, Ghira! You missed one!”

Yang was then met with a harsh kick to her back, forcing her to roll forward toward the much larger Faunus. It was only now she could take note of his appearance. He was indeed large, his trait seeming to be the paw pads present on his bare feet, looking like that of a panther. As she stared up at him, it was obvious this man was used to the much heavier labour given his form, but the dense beard gave him the appearance of a lion. No wonder people looked to who she assumed was Ghira for leadership.

“Well spotted, Perry.” He complimented, stepping up close and frowning down at their last remaining hostage. Kneeling by her side, the glare of yellow pierced into Yang’s lilac eyes, sending a shiver down her spine. When she swallowed, all Ghira could do was narrow his eyes.

“Now then…” he growled lowly, being sure to display his fangs when doing so. “You can explain to me what you thought you’d gain by freeing us.”

Yang could only shrug her shoulders. For someone who’d just taken over a ship, she felt like the smallest thing in the world. “I was just trying to do the right thi-”

“Your kind doesn’t do the right thing,” He interrupted. “They connive, they enslave, they take pleasure in our suffering. And they have the gall to call us the monsters.”

“Damn, you got us down to a T.” She muttered under her breath. But such a joke was not met with positivity, given Ghira growled again.

“Why should we trust when one of you is ‘doing the right thing’?” He asked, gesturing out to the boat again. “Why should I endanger everyone here on a human’s word? What’s to say you weren’t going to sell us off in a different place once you took over, or enslave us all as a crew of your own.”

What could she say? They had no reason to believe her after everything the others had done. Sighing sadly, she looked outward instead, putting up no struggle whatsoever. She’d resigned to her fate.

“Nothing. If I was where you were, I wouldn’t trust me either. I mean, technically I just committed mutiny so that makes me a criminal anyways so that really makes me the least trustful-”

She was met with an annoyed glare. Taking this as a signal to stop, she laughed nervously. “Right… I’ll stop. But, either way; I’m not asking for your trust because I don’t deserve it. I’m happy knowing I’ve helped, that’s enough for me to be at peace.”

Ghira tilted his head for a moment, taking in everything the girl was saying. He expected begging, or bargaining, none of which came from her. She never asked for any trust or anything in return. She did a good deed, for the sake of doing a good deed, and was ready to take any kind of fall for it. But he still had to be sure. “Look me in the eyes, and tell me you mean my people no harm.”

It was difficult to maintain eye contact when he could very easily snap her in half and throw her overboard if she made the wrong move. But taking a deep breath in, she managed it. She looked up and met his eyes with her own, speaking truthfully, from the heart. “I promise you, I'll do everything I can to keep you all from harm’s way.”

Closing his eyes, Ghira took that in for himself and nodded. When he opened them again, he spared a small smile. “Very well. As it stands, we have a job for you.”

As she was rolled over and had the bindings removed, Yang looked confused. She raised an eyebrow as she finally brought her hands forward, rubbing her real wrist with the metallic hand. “A job?”

“We’re on route to Vale palace. And we all know that would be a death sentence for everyone on board. Including you.” He rose to his feet again, folding his arms as he watched her get up herself. “We need you to teach us to navigate and steer the ship to a better destination.”

“Me?!” Yang exclaimed, raising her eyebrows in disbelief. “I’m just a boat skivvy! I don’t know crap about how to sail, and this is the biggest boat I’ve ever stepped foot on!”

“Frankly, my dear, you’re the only one with experience on a boat deck full stop, so you’ll have to find a way,” He made clear, already beginning to make his way town toward the other groups on board.

Yang instantly followed, being wary not to step too close. She didn't want to overstep her boundaries too soon. “But I- Mr. Ghira, sir, the Ember Celica is a Guineamen ship, it needs at least six men to sail her. One on the wheel, one on the nest, two on each of the masts, probably more if the weather gets bad!”

“It’s Mr Belladonna to you, and you’ll have to make it work!” That was the last thing he shouted before heading into the crowds again, leaving Yang to her own devices.

If she was to stay on the right side of everyone on this ship, she’d need to figure out a way to cover all the posts needed on her own and to steer the course to safer waters. A difficult task for the most skilled of sailors, let alone a fourteen-year-old with one arm. Sighing out in frustration, Yang looked upward at what she’d be working with.

Thankfully nothing was damaged in the mutiny. The sails were fully extended, traveling with the wind to have them sailing in the smooth waters at a decent speed, but should they hit bad weather, she had no way of retracting them to slow down. But if she instead focused on that, who would steer the ship away from peril?

She sighed once again in frustration. There was no way she could man two stations at once. It wasn’t as if she could bring one of those stations closer to the other one either.

‘Wait… Could I do that?’

Right away she ran toward the wheel of the boat, gaining a few confused looks from the remaining folk on the deck. She ran up the stairs to the higher deck where the wheel stood, eyeing it up against the masts. Looking at the ropes that were holding up the sails, she looked to that in comparison to her location.

‘This… could work.’

Once more she eyed the space around the wheel. It could quite easily be adapted. If she extended the ropes for the sails and fitted some pulleys, and maybe created some smaller wheel handles to wind the rope up or down, one could easily control the sails and the wheel from the same station. Perhaps while she was building she could even fit a company's and a map within reading distance as well, if she could make a whole unit for everything.

‘Alright, Yang, you made your own arm before, how hard is this gonna be?’

With that thought in mind, she set straight to work.

------

A few hours later, the ship was smooth sailing at its top speed. With the wind picking up and the seas were calm, they were making good time. Good time no matter where their destination would be. The passengers were feeling the full benefit, with a new much more relaxed atmosphere now they’d been sailing a while.

Ghira was starting to feel at ease too. Now the atmosphere had calmed down, he could take time in himself to just enjoy the time of freedom. Finally, he could just lean against the railings of the ship and just… do nothing. Do nothing but watch the calm waters below, and the few birds that flew overhead in the sky.

The life ahead for him, for everyone on this ship, was now for the better. Whether or not they made it to shore or not, it didn’t matter. They had this moment, this time where they’d won against their captors. That was enough to bring joy to him.

But it was a joy that was sparse. While he was enjoying the freedom, something was missing. He stared back in the opposite direction the ship was sailing. They were far from Menagerie by now, but that didn’t stop him from looking back, and from thinking to himself. Or thinking of those who were left behind.

Such thoughts never stuck around for long, however, not when there was a frantic inventor at work. Each time Yang had to run across the deck for something else, Ghira was pulled back to the real world again. They were still going the same direction, they would still be in dangerous waters if something didn’t change soon. It had been hours, surely she must have done something by now!

Frustrated with the unknown, Ghira turned to inspect just what exactly she’d been doing. So far there hadn't been many changes, the sails were still fully extended, apart from some new ropes being attached to them with various pulleys. All of which seemed pointless at first, but they seemed to lead the role elsewhere. To the stern of the ship, where the wheel was located. Speaking of the wheel, that area had changed significantly.

The platform where the wheel rested had been extended. On one side there were two wheel cranks which the sail ropes were connected to. The other had both a map and a compass fitted into it, all of which were easy to see when one would be using the wheel. But the improvements still raised confusion.

Finally, the woman in question reappeared. She walked up the stairs, wiping the sweat from her brow at first, then focusing on Ghira. “O-Oh… Mr. Belladonna.”

“Miss ‘ Sheng Qi’,” Ghira was reluctant to give a smile just yet. He stepped back, gesturing to the platform and all her work, “Would you care to explain all this?”

“I… can just show you?”

Though it raised an eyebrow, Ghira allowed her to proceed.

“Ok, so, these were just some modifications I made to turn it from a six-man job to a two-man job,” The first thing Yang gestured to was the hand cranks, “You’d usually need two men to operate the sails, but with these…”

When Yang began to turn one of them, Ghira’s attention turned to the sails. As she turned, they began to ascend. The rope systems she’d put in place not only hoisted the sails much faster than any person alone could do but they also neatly tucked them in to avoid any damage to them. The response from the boat was nearly instant, now the wind couldn’t catch the sails, it began to slow right down.

“And that’s not all,” She could tell Ghira was impressed. Trying to keep up that good reaction, she grasped a small handle to the side of both cranks. “Oh… You may wanna hold onto something for this one.” That was an instant release. The instant she pulled it, both sails instantly dropped again, filling with wind and pushing the boat back up to full speed very quickly. Anyone on the deck stumbled, including Ghira himself.

“Good for fast getaways too!” Once the ship was at a stable speed, Yang then moved on to the other side, gesturing to it again. “And this was to just make the navigation bit easier. What’s the point of passing on a compass to the next person when you might as well have it right here for anyone who takes the wheel to see?”

It couldn’t be denied, Ghira was impressed. He gave a small nod in response to everything he saw, seeming to approve of all the modifications. But the more important question was raised; “I haven’t felt the ship turn yet, I trust we’re on course to safer lands?”

Scratching her head, Yang appeared to be knocked down a little by that question. Of everything, that was something she hadn’t quite figured out yet. “Mr. Belladonna, sir, I don’t know how to do that. Not just the navigation part, but, where do we go? Vale’s waiting for us, Atlas is even worse than Vale, Mistral’s usually a bloodbath-”

“Vacuo.”

Both Ghira and Yang turned toward the other voice, coming from the only familiar face left on the boat. The blonde boy she first rescued down on the orlop deck. “Vacuo’s a hidden kingdom. It's in the middle of the Sanus desert, in a dense oasis. No humans ever go there.”

Still slightly annoyed from the result of their earlier encounter, Yang rolled her eyes, unable to help remarking. “Maybe because it's in the middle of the desert.”

“There’s a river that runs to it, genius.” He then turned his attentions back to Ghira again, “It’s a safe settlement, set up to protect Faunus from the humans that intend to enslave them, and the few humans who are being killed for who they are. The river’s gonna be difficult to sail through in a boat this big but if you guys cover that part I can navigate you to it.”

“You can navigate, you say?” Ghira asked.

The boy shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not brilliant at it, but if we get in the right direction I’d recognise the shores.”

“Can you point it out on a map?” Yang gestured to the one beside the wheel.

Though still wary of Yang, the boy nodded. He stepped forward, examining the map of Remnant for a good while. Then finally he pointed to a specific spot, near a not far off a large river mouth.

Yang nodded, examining the map and to where he pointed. The route to that river mouth was across the vast open ocean, with very few small islands dotted between. But if they got the right direction, getting there would be easy. Grasping the wheel, she watched the direction of the compass as she began to turn the ship’s direction. Until eventually, it aligned with the correct way they needed to go.

Although it seemed the right thing to do, Yang shrugged her shoulders. “Let’s just hope this works. Either way, I don’t think we’ll be back in Vale at least.”

“Let’s hope so, Sun. No matter the outcome, we can’t say we haven’t tried.” It was an ominous message to leave with, but Ghira did just that. He headed back down to the lower decks again, presumably to rest his head after the long day. Long, but successful day.

The air between the boy and Yang, however, was still tense. There were a lot of questions to be had, a lot of emotions to vent out. But despite how much it initially hurt and how shocked Yang was at the start, she couldn’t bring herself to be angry at him. Annoyed, perhaps. But never angry. Still, she tried to clear the air.

“So uh… Your name’s Sun, huh?”

“What’s it to you?” It seemed he had no intentions of clearing the air just yet. He was already walking away toward the stairs but spared a moment to look back to her. “Let’s just be clear on somethin’, Blondie. You might have saved my life and started all this for us, but don’t think you can just do a basic deed and everyone will trust you instantly. You wanna get to know me? You’re gonna have to earn my friendship.”

Although she wanted to be just as annoyed in return, she decided it was better to swallow her pride. These people had been through far more than she ever would, of course, they were angry. After a resigned sigh, she merely went back to work.

“Then I hope to earn that someday.”