Narukami Yu couldn’t see the appeal in sailing. Sailors and poets all described the ocean as vast and free, a place of opportunity and adventure. So far most of his trip had been holed up in his cabin since the crew didn’t seem to like him getting in the way on deck. Although the vessel was considered a bit larger as far as merchant ships went, the area above deck was narrow with crew rushing about keeping the ship moving, while the space below deck was taken up by the items being shipped to the colonies. Furthermore, while Yu was ostensibly going to Inaba to visit his uncle and cousin, he knew the real reason his parents were sending him over is the fact a rich heiress lived in town, and they were thinking of potential marriage prospects for their son.
Yu let out a sigh as he sat back in his chair, rubbing his eyes that were sore from reading in the candlelight. His family were landed gentry, but not actually part of the aristocracy, so they were often looked down upon by the nobility even though they had more wealth than most of them. Since many that lived around them were aristocrats and not really looking to marry outside of their station, his parents were betting on him making a good match with this heiress that would at least bring a large dowry with her. Yu, on the other hand, had little interest in marriage and was honestly only going out of expectations. Thus, while most may see the ocean as vast and free, he couldn’t help but view this boat as a prison.
Yu drummed his fingers on the small desk in his cabin, while getting even further lost in thought. His parents were also worried about his lack of interest in the women out in society in their area. Yu never danced with the same girl twice nor did he ever show interest in any of the ladies beyond being polite and cordial. While there were several women who had showed interest in him back home, he tended to shy away when they seemed to have any expectation for his attention. He stuck to gentlemanly pursuits such as hunting, fencing, and spending time at the gentleman’s club in town, and while he was still young he could tell it was starting to worry his parents. This rich heiress of the Kujikawa family was supposed to be very pretty, and he was sure his parents were hoping she would cure him of his abnormal disinterest in women.
Yu highly doubted that, but knew at the end of the day regardless of his interests he would be expected to marry and produce an heir. He was an only child and a male at that so all of his family’s expectations were on his shoulders. Yu’s thoughts were interrupted by a sudden loud noise outside that was followed up by a violent rocking motion. He had to grab hold of the desk in order to steady himself (the desk was bolted to the ground), and he quickly put out his candle that had knocked onto the floor before it could start a fire. There was a lot of commotion above deck, and he could hear shouting and the sounds of people running around outside. There was second loud sound, and Yu suddenly realized what it sounded like. “Cannon fire?” he said to himself, almost getting knocked off his feet by a second violent tremor in the vessel.
Yu quickly opened his door and dashed upstairs, realizing that all of the crew had already made their way to the deck when he didn’t run into any of them on the way to the ladder. When he popped his head out from below deck, the first thing he noticed was that another ship had pulled alongside theirs and was the one firing cannons at them. He looked up toward the mast and his heart stopped when he saw a Jolly Roger flapping in the wind; it was distinct because the skull was shaped like a frog instead of the usual skull and crossbones. He had heard vague stories about Captain Jiraiya, but he had been too caught up in his own situation to pay attention to the tall tales the sailors liked to share.
The crew was desperately trying to return the cannon fire, but it appeared that the pirate ship had come up upon them unexpectedly – it was a fast moving ship, and there was a heavy fog making it difficult to see very far. It somehow made the other ship look even more ominous. Another cannon shot fired from the enemy vessel, and there was a large crack as it cut through the mast, causing it to lean over dangerously which also made the boat begin to lean in the water. Yu didn’t know a lot about ships, but he did understand that without a working mast and with the ship listing like it was, they would probably soon start taking on water and would basically be stranded.
Moments later, the pirates began to board their ship, guns blazing as they fired at the crew as they crossed over by various means from their vessel. Most of the crew desperately fought back, and Yu felt his adrenaline began to kick in as he watched men he had been traveling with for the past few days fall to the ground with the deck soon becoming slick with their blood. Some of the pirates and crew used swords and the clanging sound of their blades could be heard around him as Yu finally stepped up on deck and desperately looked around for something he could use for defense. He spotted a sword that had tumbled to the ground after one of the pirates had been shot moments after setting foot on the ship, and he dashed between a member of the crew and another pirate as he dove for it, sliding to pick it up before backing up further on deck and away from the main mayhem. Thus, he was able to clearly watch as Captain Jiraiya crossed over, sword in one hand and gun in the other, a long red cloth tied around his mouth and a long white coat trimmed with green on his shoulders. His hat was large and black with red slits that resembled a frog’s eyes decorated on it and gold metallic stars along the brim. Even his boots were a forest green, and Yu couldn’t help but think he looked a bit impressive, if not terrifying.
The pirate captain immediately shot the merchant captain upon stepping on the deck, knocking his weapon out of his hand as he grasped it in pain, and quickly put an end to the fighting as the pirates began to round up the remaining crew, taking away their weapons and tying them together. Two of them approached him, and although he momentarily put up a struggle, he soon had his weapon forcefully removed as he was also dragged forward. He was surprised when he was brought closer to Jiraiya to realize how young his face uncovered by the cloth looked – the man looked to be about his age and yet already had such a reputation!
Jiraiya glanced at him before looking at the rest of the merchant crew. “Gather up some of their supplies and merchandise from the hold,” he snapped out his instructions. “Leave them tied up here – the ship will hold for several hours and there are plenty of other merchants in the area to find them. Except for this one,” he said, pointing at Yu. “Bring him with us.”
Yu’s eyes widened in fear as he was dragged across the gangplank that had been dropped from the pirate ship, looking back desperately at the resigned crew as a few pirates kept watch over them while the rest pillaged the ship. He was soon taken on board the pirate ship, surprised by the fact it looked just as neat and clean as the merchant vessel had, before he was soon brought below deck to the brig and tossed inside, the door clanging and locking shut as the pirates who had dragged him in left him alone. There was no one else down there with him, and Yu didn’t know whether or not to consider himself lucky for that. He briefly tried to see if he could break out, but soon realized that not only did it seem to be impossible, it would be a waste of time since he would encounter nothing but pirates once he got out.
Yu slowly slid to the ground, back against the wall as he listened to the sound of footsteps above him as the pirates started bringing their stolen goods aboard. After an indeterminant amount of time, the noises above him seemed to finally settle down, and he soon began to feel movement in the ship as it set sail again. Now that Yu’s adrenaline from earlier was beginning to wear off, he was suddenly hit with a plethora of emotion. First, he felt pity for the merchants that had been killed during the attack and worry for the ones left stranded on the ship; he hoped that they would be picked up as Jiraiya had said and felt sorry for the families that had lost someone that day. Next, he was beginning to feel real panic as he realized he was now captive on a pirate ship and had no clue what they would do to him. He didn’t know why the pirate captain had singled him out, but now he felt his hands tremble slightly as his anxiety increased. ‘What am I going to do?’ he thought desperately.
He soon began to pick up on the sound of footsteps that were steadily growing closer, and moments later his solitude was interrupted by a young woman wearing a simple black dress with an elegant red coat over it and flanked on either side by two of the pirates. One had messy brown hair, a loose fitting white shirt, a red cloth loosely tied around his neck, and a rather plain looking jacket, while the other was an intimidating looking tall man with a scar above his left eye and bleached hair. His jacket looked incredibly heavy and hung on his shoulders like some of the admirals Yu had seen in the royal navy. Yu silently watched them, especially as the woman stepped toward the lock on the enclosure and pulled out a key. “Don’ try anythin’,” the intimidating one threatened, and Yu immediately nodded, unable to hide the tense fear on his face.
The woman sighed as she unlocked the door and slid it open, before stepping inside. “Ignore them,” she said pleasantly, before flicking her long dark hair over her shoulder. Yu’s eyes widened - he thought sailors were superstitious about having women on board so this was surprising. “I am here to check you for any injuries and to ensure you’re in good health,” she explained pleasantly. She then reached forward with her hand, surprising him. “My name is Amagi Yukiko, and I’m the doctor on board.”
Yu hesitantly reached out and shook her hand, surprised by her confident grip and her steady gaze as she did a quick check for any injuries. Yu hadn’t actually gotten anything beyond a few bruises from his brief skirmish when the pirates took him captive, so he knew that she probably wouldn’t find anything that needed treatment. He was also surprised that a pirate ship would have a doctor on board – not even the merchant vessel he was on had a real doctor, just a few crew that were decent at first aid. Jiraiya seemed to be running a tight ship.
“Can you stand for me?” Yukiko asked, and Yu nodded, carefully keeping an eye on the other two pirates as he stood unsteadily on his feet. Yukiko motioned him forward before carefully going through an examination, thoroughly checking for any injury as she went. “You appear to be in excellent condition,” she finally concluded before stepping back. “Someone will be down soon to provide you nourishment. It may be difficult, but I do encourage you to try to eat. You’ll need the strength for your nerves,” she explained matter-of-factly. “We will also provide you bedding so you will be more comfortable. I’m sure the captain will be down to speak with you once he’s done managing everything above as well.”
She looked him carefully in the eyes, and he stared back at her straightforwardly. He always found it helped to appear fearless even when scared. “Things are not as bad here as you probably think,” she explained, eyes soft for a moment as she regarded him. “I recommend you carefully think over what the captain will tell you when he finally comes.”
She then bowed her head slightly before stepping back out and locking the door behind her. She swept out from the brig, the two pirates following her quietly, the brunet one glancing back at him as they left. Yu thought he may have detected a slight sneer on his face but decided it wasn’t his biggest worry and to ignore it for now. His biggest concern was how he was going to survive on this ship and what the captain would be coming to speak to him about. Yu slid back down against the wall with a sigh, his head hitting it with a dull thud as he stared up at the ceiling above him. This was going to be the longest wait of his life.