When Maya collapsed, hurt and broken in Harlock’s arms, it felt like the world broke with her.
‘Let’s go together, to the Sea of Stars’, he said, hoping that she wouldn’t hear the fear in his voice.
‘I’ve been dreaming… all along… to go to the Sea of Stars with you… Like Heiligenstadt… our Arcadia… where we ran… together…’
Harlock turned his scarred face to the sky, remembering the eden where he would take her sometimes when they were younger, hidden in between hills beside the city of Heiligenstadt. It became their sanctuary, away from everything, where they could be free. Be together.
But he could think of their youth only for one second, as Tochiro’s cry urged him back to reality. When he turned back to Maya, he saw that her eyes were closed, her face, more pale than before. He couldn’t feel her breathing so Harlock held her tightly, as panic and despair seeped into his heart:
‘Maya? Maya! I had so many things to say to you… so many things to ask you! Maya!’
He was aware of Tochiro speaking beside him, but the words wouldn’t register in his numbed mind. Kind and sensible words, no doubt.
‘It’s all right, Tochiro. If Earth says it’s exiling us, then let’s leave!’ he spoke with anger.
At this moment, the fate of Earth didn’t matter to him anymore. After all these years of hardship and war, Maya had been the only person he still would have come back for… If she were gone, then he had no reason to do so.
La Miime, who was still carrying the body of Maya, watched as the Arcadia left Earth to enter the Sea of Stars, through a window near the bridge. Even though the blue planet was not her home, she felt the same sadness as when she had left her original world.
But it was not the time to dwell on the past: an Illumidas ship was following the Arcadia and was rapidly catching up.
Every crew that was not already on the bridge to help the captain was running down the corridors of the ship. La Miime’s eyes fell on Maya, her unmoving form a contrast with the restlessness around them.
The mortuary pods had been secured on the floor in a corner behind her. Maya’s had also been prepared, placed beside their fallen friend Zoll and his little sister. La Miime’s heart sank, and the alien tried not to cry as she delicately put Maya’s body in her pod.
‘Do not worry, poor Maya. As soon as this fight is finished, we will take care of you. Harlock will be there for you’, she said, as she caressed her pale cheeks…
Just as the Illumidas’ ship passed the Arcadia, La Miime stilled her hand on Maya’s face, and she felt it : a very short, shallow breath.
La Miime reacted without hesitation and took Maya back into her arms, as if the woman weighted nothing, and ran to the infirmary. Fortunately, it wasn’t far from the bridge. The room was empty, so La Miime put Maya on the nearest bed. She quickly rummaged through medical supplies until she found an oxygen mask. Since she didn’t have real medical knowledge, it seemed the only logical thing to do for now to help the Voice of free Arcadia. Once she was sure that the device was secured and working properly, she strapped Maya’s body to the bed, and left the infirmary.
La Miime ran to the bridge, and arrived just in time to hear the end of Zeda’s message. She took place in her seat beside Tochiro’s and proceeded to announce what was on her screen. There was no time to tell Harlock, or anyone, that Maya was still living, as their captain was deciding his strategy, and the fight with the Illumidas was about to start.
There would be plenty of time after to mourn the dead and tend to Maya, should they all survive.
The course to Tokarga was set and engineers were already busy repairing the damages from the battle with Zeda, so Harlock allowed himself to leave the helm. He was tired and sad, and the black cloak on his back felt heavier than anything…
As he was about to exit the bridge, La Miime approached him and placed a caring hand on his shoulder. For a second, he thought that she would try to comfort him.
- Please, La Miime. I beg you, don’t say anything. I don’t think I can take it’, he answered softly.
But instead of leaving the pirate be, La Miime tightened her grip and said:
‘Listen, Harlock. It’s Maya, she… I felt her breathe.’
Harlock turned to face the alien. His mind was confused, struggling to believe what he had just heard, and his heartbeat quickened its pace so much it hurt.
‘Are you saying…
- I took her to the infirmary. She was alive when I left her. Harlock, if she still is, you have to find a doctor. She needs you!’
It took him a couple of seconds to actually realise what La Miime was saying, but as soon as he did, a foolish hope filled him, and he ran as fast as he could.
Harlock felt like he couldn’t reach the infirmary fast enough, but when he finally arrived at the door, he froze, suddenly very afraid. When he had thought that Maya had died in his arms, it had been sudden and fast. But now that there was hope, Harlock didn’t dare to open the only obstacle between him and Maya. He didn’t think he could handle her death a second time.
As he stood there, unable to decide what to do, he got shoved back by a man in a black space suit.
‘Sorry, Captain, very important mission!’ the man said while opening the door to the infirmary.
Stunned, Harlock watched the door automatically close, separating him from Maya again, just as La Miime stepped beside him.
‘How is she?
- I don’t know, I…I couldn’t see. This man... He’s wearing the resistance’s uniform.’
Now, Harlock felt like a fool, like he hesitated too long and another person took the step he couldn’t, so he didn’t have the right to enter the dreaded room. He took his face into his hands, despair making its way into his heart once again.
‘Yes. I figured I should ask for help. He said he had medical knowledge, that he could try.
- How didn’t I see that she was still…
- Don’t beat yourself. You were shocked, and angry.’
She didn’t have the time to say anything else, as the man stepped out of the infirmary and said with great urgency:
‘Ah, Captain! She’s got internal bleeding. I can save her, but I need help. Anyone would do!'
Harlock straightened immediately:
‘I’ll help! Just tell me what to do.’
Someone knocked on his cabin’s door, but Harlock ignored it.
Arms crossed over his chest, he was deep in his thoughts, staring into the endless Sea of Stars behind the glass of his giant window. He couldn’t stop thinking of Maya, of her very pale form, of the blood leaking from her wounds. Of her labored breathing, once they managed to stabilize her...
‘Harlock? Please open, it’s me.’
Tochiro’s voice was muffled through the door, but Harlock could easily hear the worry in it. But while understanding his friend’s feelings, he just couldn’t tear himself from the window.
‘You can come in’, he answered simply.
The door slid open with a soft sound, then slid back close.
‘How are you doing?’ Tochiro asked after a pause. Harlock could feel his friend’s concern and hesitation.
‘Don’t worry, I’m fine. I’m just tired, that’s all.
- Hmmm, are you sure?
- You don’t believe me?’
Tochiro paused again, but for so long that Harlock had to turn. His friend was watching where his desk was. It was covered with empty bottles of wine, and his black cloak had been discarded on the floor.
‘Ah… Don’t worry, Tochiro. La Miime drank most of it.
- I am just worried about you. You’ve been stuck in here since Zoll’s funeral.
- I understand.’
After they sent Zoll and his little sister’s pods in space, near the rests of their planet Tokarga, where they would rest forever, Harlock had set course for another system and had silently left the bridge. Between the unhoped survival of the Voice of free Arcadia and the sad funeral event, everyone knew better than stopping him from disappearing for a while. Only La Miime, who had probably saved Maya’s life, had remained with him.
She had talked to him about her dear friend Zoll, about how they met, and who he was, while Harlock listened solemnly. But they didn’t talk a lot about Maya. Although he wanted to, his throat constricted with emotions every time he tried to, so they just drank in silence.
Another knock interrupted Harlock and Tochiro, and Emeraldas’ voice came through the closed door:
‘Harlock, I’ve been told you were in there. I’ve got news for you.’
The pirate sighed but went to open the door anyway. Tochiro followed him, adjusting his red uniform a little bit. Emeraldas stood about a meter away from the door, her cloak draped elegantly over her shoulders.
‘Maya woke up’, she said simply when Harlock opened.
Although Tochiro and Emeraldas had followed him, they let him enter alone and stayed out of the infirmary. When he saw the captain, the man who saved Maya, who was now the new doctor of the Arcadia, stepped out as well.
Maya’s golden hair was tangled, and her once pristine white dress had been replaced by a gown that probably belonged to either La Miime or Emeralas. Harlock wondered what she would say when she realised they burned her dress, as it was covered in blood and ripped from the earlier surgery to stop her internal bleeding. She looked impossibly weak and tired, but she smiled brightly at him.
‘Harlock…’ whispered the Voice of free Arcadia.
Harlock tried not to let his emotions crush him in front of his love and walked to her, barely refraining himself from running. When he reached her bed, he took one of her hands, that wasn’t connected to liquids and medical machinery, into his stronger ones.
‘Maya… How are you feeling?’ Harlock asked. His voice was trembling.
‘I’m feeling much better now that you’re here.’
A heavy silence fell between them for several minutes, as neither of them really knew what to say first.
‘... so, how do you find the outfit I gave you?’ she tried, caressing his gloves clad hands. Harlock couldn’t help but smile.
‘I like it. And the flag is incredible. How did you manage to make them?’
Maya shrugged as if it was nothing, but she looked away when she answered:
‘I sew when I can. I have had the materials for some years now… I got them after that night, when you came to see me broadcast the very first live of free Arcadia . You told me that you wished you could escape the Earth one day, and be as free as a pirate. Do you remember?’
Harlock’s smile widened:
- How could I forget…’ he answered dreamily, for it had been a very special night for him in many ways.
From the day they met, Harlock had been captivated by Maya’s inner strength, and he couldn’t stop his heart from racing each time they would spend time together. As his passion for her grew more and more, the Illumidas invasion forced them to go separate ways. They tried to make the most of every moment they could meet, as few and short as they were.
When Maya became the Voice of free Arcadia, a very important part of the resistance, Harlock knew their time together would be even more limited. So, after years of yearning, he had mustered all the courage he was capable of, and finally asked her if she wanted to be his lover...
‘Maya, I… I listened to your last message’, he hesitated, gently squeezing her fingers.
She sent him a confused look at first, but she quickly realised that he was talking about the tape she had left in the case containing the pirate suit. The message was a goodbye, because she knew he would leave Earth, and she didn’t know if she would be able to come with him, or see him again… It was also a clear declaration of the burning love she had for Harlock.
The pirate sat on the edge of her bed. When he had heard the message, when they were leaving Earth’s atmosphere, he’d been devastated, as he thought he would never have the chance to say it back. Now everything had changed, as she was lying before him. She was hurt and weakened, yes, but very alive.
Harlock leaned forward and pressed his forehead to hers. A shaky breath left him.
‘Maya, I know I never said it to you, and I’m sorry’, he whispered, for his words were only for her.
She closed her eyes, a wide smile spreading on her pale face, and he could feel her weakened heart pounding in her chest, just as hard as his. The words left his mouth with frightening ease, as if they had been trying to escape for too long:
‘I love you, my sweet Maya.’
Her body shook with delighted giggles, and finally, for the first time in what felt like eternity, Harlock closed the distance between them so he could taste her lips, in a chaste but delicious kiss. They would have time later for more heated gestures…
When they parted, Maya caressed his scarred cheek with her free hand, and simply said: