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Winds in Sails

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The boat creaks quietly as it steadily navigates the nighttime waters east of Hoshido and Izumo. The passages between the eastern isles are foggy more often than not, but the shallow inland sea the Silent Scale traverses is one it travels frequently. The eastern isles are a haven the crew of the Silent Scale cherishes; the Hoshidan navy is far less apt to go so far from its home shores, putting the Silent Scale and its pirates just safely out of reach. Hanging lazily in a hammock lashed between the fore- and mainmast, a pirate girl sleepily sings a sea shanty about her love ashore. Her dark curly hair spills over her crown and the edge of the canvas hammock, leaving it to play in the air as the boat swings her side to side. The pirate's singing is soft, barely audible over the creaking wood, groaning rigging, and lapping waves, but the navigator's accompanying humming is softer still as he quietly navigates the misty seas with a firm hand on the wheel.

Though tamed by his violet headband, his verdant green hair bristles in the wind, a feeling he’s grown used to after three years on the sea with his liege. Though raised a ninja and a ninja he would be until the day he died, much of his ninja armor is traded for a simple leather sash and belt lashed around his waist. Pirate outlaws he and his comrades may be, but a greater safety than he’d ever known awaited him on the deck of the Silent Scale. His fiery brother would have scolded him harshly for being unprepared, but his brother was just that: fiery.

His brother didn’t know the safety of the Silent Scale on the ocean waters and the power of the Dragon Princess of the Seas, sleeping just below the navigator’s feet.

 


 

Below deck, the majority of the Silent Scale’s pirates sleep comfortably, lulled to sleep by the navigator’s gentle control and the calm inland seas. Though the crew rests, the Dragon Princess of the Seas finds sleep evades her tonight. A solitary candle is lit in her quarters, casting its dim light upon her desk where the old text she is reading lies open. The dark, aged pages and the fading ink make the book difficult to read even in the midday sun, but it’s the only task left for her to do. In the hours since darkness fell, she’d balanced the ledgers, polished her swords and armor, fletched some leftover arrows, combed and braided her dove gray hair, and written in the journal she’d received as a present for her birthday a scant few days ago.

She squints at the fading text in front of her harshly, intent on the ancient language she’d painstakingly been teaching herself to read. So strong is her focus on deciphering the text that she doesn't hear the subtle creaks of the floorboards beneath her fiancé's feet as he crosses the room to her from their bed. His warm, calloused hands descend on her shoulders and gently begin purging the stress from her shoulders.

“You should be resting; not straining your eyes over that silly heap of paper,” he tells her softly. Her chuckle turns into a breathy groan as he coaxes away a knot in her shoulder. As her shoulders loosen in his hands, he leans carefully over her simple wooden desk chair to kiss the top of her head. “Come to bed, love.” She complies readily, drawn to the warmth of his arms, and as they gently fall back into bed, she caresses his wild white hair, splotched with remnants of black.

 


 

Over a hundred miles away, past the distant Hoshidan shores and behind fortified castle walls, a family—now consisting of only four—sits for their evening tea together. Tonight, like many other nights, the four siblings around the table are somber, but none more so than the eldest who sits left of the head of the table. Their family table, meant for eight, bears only four—a poignant reminder of the eldest’s perceived failures: his father, whose wild, long, and dark hair he’d inherited; his stepmother, as dear as his birthmother; his sister, whom he’d failed not once, but twiceand whose dire fate was unclear; and finally, the adopted sister he’d come to love like his own family, but who no longer felt welcome amongst them. A failure on his part, each and every one, his heart screamed.

Lost in his own world, the sudden immediacy of his failures brings him back to the quiet conversation his sisters engage in: the archery training the youngest had recently started with their brother. The discussion is short and quiet, and their brother doesn't add anything to the conversation—instead grimacing churlishly over his own tea and hiding behind his curtain of dove gray hair. The conversation dies almost as quick as it started and the silence saturates the room uncomfortably.

The youngest clears her throat and sweeps her lengthening pink hair behind her ear before she speaks. “I was wondering, that is I wanted to, um, I mean”— she grimaces, and with a shuddering breath, she careens to a stop, then quickly blurts—“IwanttogoseetheWindTribeelders.”

“Why the Wind Tribe, specifically?” the eldest asks, though he thinks he already knows the answer. While not the Archduke of Izumo, the diviners from the Wind Tribe are often accurate.

“A-after Mother, they are the best diviners outside Izumo. I wanted to have—wanted to ask if the diviners could see anything about Big Sister.” Their brother scoffs, a snarl marring his lip.

“Just let it rest already,” he says. “If she died, then better for all of us.” He stands and leaves without another word, leaving his siblings stunned and the youngest visibly wavering on tears. The eldest drops his head into his hands with a sigh.

“You may go to the Wind Tribe,” the eldest says, not looking at his sister. “But if they have no answers, then no more.” She nods and stands from the table with a quiet “thank you” before leaving the royal sitting room.

 


 

Farther inland still, the halls of Castle Krakenburg bustle despite the time of night. Guards in the castle barracks train feverishly, and the staff hurriedly gather supplies and cart them off to the preparing caravan. Within his quarters, the blonde prince signs away the last of the required paperwork for the transfer of guards from the castle to the garrison at the border between Hoshido and Nohr. The war rages on, though not at the fever pitch of three years ago, and though the prince is duty-bound to see the war through, it’s the last thing in the world he wants to be doing. Three years has seen his sister's trail go cold, but even so, he has a destination in mind.

Izumo.

With nothing else to go by and the border with the neutral country so close at the time, he suspects that his sister could have made it there, even in her ghastly condition. And, if all else fails, then perhaps the Archduke can give him the truth. If it’s to be the latter, he reasons, he’d rather know and have the closure for his family. They search for her between their other duties, but more often than not clues end up at dead ends and despair draws them in a little closer. No more. At the bottom corner of the final requisition, the blonde prince dribbles burgundy wax and stamps the Nohrian royal seal next to the signature that reads, “Crown Prince Xander of Nohr.”