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I woke to the feeling of ice-cold water being dumped on my head. With a gasp, my eyes opened, and I immediately began to feel the aches and pains, not the least of which was a throbbing pain in the back of my head. It could have been a lot worse if I didn’t have the fast healing ability. In fact, many of the wounds were already itchy as they quickly mended themselves. Regrettably, I wasn’t in a situation where I could celebrate that fact.

I was in a room that looked to be some factory on the docks. They hadn’t bothered to drag me through the city. Perhaps there were too many eyes. The magistrate didn’t want any of the wrong eyes seeing me being dragged across town. As a result, I was in a musty little room with poor lighting, tied to a wooden chair. As soon as my eyes opened, someone grabbed my chin and looked at me carefully before letting go. My eyed hadn’t adjusted yet, so it took a few moments before I realized it was the governor, the magistrate, and various street toughs who had me tied up.

“Tell us, boy, how do you control the ship?” The one who spoke was the governor.

He wasn’t a fat man like the magistrate. Rather, he had a wiry frame. He was a thin, ugly man who didn’t like he had much in the way of strength. In a fair fight, I felt like even I could take him, and I was just a teenager. Unfortunately, there were another dozen toughs there that said that this would never be a fair fight.

“What are you doing? Where is Uncle?” I demanded as soon as I could work moisture back into my mouth.

“Your uncle is none of your concern, boy.” The man sneered. “That ship you came to port in. That’s an ancient ship from the Citadel. It has technology on it like you could never dream.”

I clenched my teeth, trying to focus better. “What of it?

“Don’t be smart with me, boy. Your island is already nothing but ash. The same fate could happen to our island at any moment. The Citadel would hardly give two shits if pirates wiped us out. They wouldn’t even send a ship to investigate.”

His words caused my resolve to waiver for a second. I was nearly certain that he was just making it up. There was no way that the Citadel would abandon its own people like this. Unfortunately, the governor seemed to catch my expression. He put on an ugly smile and leaned forward with a grin.

“Hehe… what? You thought the citadel would save you? Bring back your family? The North and West Islands practically hold nothing of value. They only really care about East Island. They might move for South if they felt it threatened their own position. Our Islands are 100% expendable. They’d consider us worthless.”

“We have to try!”

He frowned, straightening back up. “You’ve already gotten your answer. No one cares about others in this world. It is every man for themselves. That’s why you must tell us how to control that ship. With its power, we can protect this island. We can keep it from following the same fate as your island.”

“Th-the ship?” I shook my head, trying to think more clearly. “How did you know about it?”

“Hmph… when we offered those pirates information on your island in exchange for sparing our own, I never would have imagined you were hiding such a secret. However, the pirates knew you were heading here, so they called us ahead of a time on the radio.”

A surge of anger and frustration exploded inside me, but I fought to keep it from showing on my face. It wasn’t enough that they simply wanted that technology, but this man had been partially responsible for the slaughter that North island faced. However, my skills told me not to call him on it. Rather, I pushed forward with questioning.

“R-radio? What’s a radio?”

“It’s a communication device that allows people to communicate at a…” The governor stopped talking, his smile turning to a grimace like he just at some bad eggs. “Why am I telling you this?”

I didn’t respond, but still felt frustrated that I hadn’t been able to get more information out of him. He must be someone who really thinks about what they say. If it wasn’t for my skills, he never would have told me about the pirates. Had I not had {Glibed Tongue}, he might have even been able to convince me to help him for the betterment of the islands. Now I knew the truth.

“I think I remember something. The Dock Master said he had an ability called {Glibed Tongue}.” The magistrate spoke up.

“Glibed…” His expression turned bitter. “You should have told me this before I let the boy talk to me, fool!”

The magistrate wiped some sweat away from his brow. “Apologies, sir, I didn’t think a child…”

That only caused the governor to grow angrier. The Magistrate shut his mouth with an audible click. The governor spun back to me.

“You’re going to regret that I told you that.” He responded. “You can either help me with the ship, or you can die.”

Although he made that offer, I was already certain he’d kill me the second he didn’t need me anymore. I had to get out of here. If I could just get out of these restraints, I could use {Flee} and hope for the best. As I was thinking, the governor pulled out a knife which he carefully held in his hands. I didn’t think he planned to give me a shave though. As he started moving it to my face, I jumped.

“I can help! I know how to get the ship going! What about the other two crew? What about the girls?”

His hand stopped, and he watched me for a moment through narrowed eyes. “Dead. The creatures your brought onto our dock, the weird one was shot to death and then fell into the ocean. It’s gone. As for the other, it also jumped into the ocean. We found it on shore and my best trackers are hunting it. The little cat freak will be dead shortly.”

I bit my lip. “That… the person you killed, she had the memories of someone from the citadel. She knew how to fix the ship.”

His mouth twisted. “You don’t need to worry about that. I’ve already heard what the ship is capable of. A beam that can rip apart a skiff in a single shot? Tell me, how often can it be used?”

“Daily!” I lied. “Twice a day if you have the sails up.”

“The sails?”

I winced, realizing I had spoke too far. I wanted to tell him as little as I could about the ship. I definitely didn’t want him to know its weaknesses and strengths.

“It charges faster with wind on it, uses wind power.” I came up with another lie.

I would have preferred to tell him nothing about the sails. I wasn’t sure whether if he knew it was wind or sun that it mattered all that much. I just hoped to spread as many lies as possible to the point that he couldn’t separate truth from lies. After all, if you couldn’t trust a fact to be true, then it was no better than a lie.

The governor grinned. “With that power, even the Citadel couldn’t defy us! The West Island will become the seat of power in the Heavenly Islands!”

“But the Citadel built it?” I asked, with just a bit of confusion.

“The Citadel built the ship… from itself. It was able to create four in all. They were called the four Dreadnaughts. It allowed them to conquer the Heavenly Islands. Yes… they were once populated by another race before we came. You’ll only find the original residents on East Island though, all slaves now. The Heavenly Islands could have grown, yet for some reason, after stepping into the endless sea, the order came to sink all the dreadnaughts and purge all data of their existence.

“Apparently, one of the captains wasn’t willing to follow orders. He hid the ship in North Island instead of sinking it. That is the ship that you found. The Citadel can’t rebuild it, even if they had the schematics. No one can. However, its power can’t be matched. Whoever has the ship, has the power to control the Heaven’s Sky Archipelago.  

“This technology cannot fall into the hands of pirates! Do you understand? They are on their way here! In a week or so, their ship will arrive. We can either watch as they steal our greatest weapon and use it against us, or we can use it on them, and send these pirates out of the Heaven’s Sky Archipelago!”

That speech would have been much more moving had I not already learned that they had been the ones that sent the pirates to North Island. The Governor was a greedy man who only saw power. I didn’t know if the things he had said about the Citadel were true, but I knew the things he was saying couldn’t be trusted at all.

“I will help you.” I said, but just as he was about to say something I continued. “But please let me talk to my Uncle first! In private!”

He looked at me, his eyes narrowed, an expression like he was going to forbid me this. Come on, this was a Barter! I had Glibbed Tongue and Barter now! If there was ever a time when both of these would work at once, please let that time be now!

“Please!” I spoke up desperately. “His daughter… I have to tell him… about Rosaline.”

His expression lightened a bit, “You promise… after you see him, you’ll tell us how to control the ship?”

I lowered my head with a defeated look. “I’ll tell you everything I know.”

After another moment of staring at me, he slowly nodded. “Very well. But be quick!”

I breathed easier as he walked out of the room. Most of the toughs went with him, but two remained to watch. I sat in darkness for a bit. Uncle must have been close, as I didn’t have to wait long before he was brought in. He wasn’t handcuffed, but he had several bruises on his face, and was walking with a limp. There were two guards escorting him on each side as he entered. When his eyes landed on me, he looked down shamefully before grabbing a nearby chair, putting it in front of me, and sitting down. I looked up at him, and in the light, I could see he had a black eye and several cuts and scratches. He still had his tricorn hat on his head, though.

“Are you alright?” I asked.

“Don’t worry about me, lad. I’ve been through worse.” He said, looking at me worriedly. “What about you?”

I smirked. “The same.”

Looking at him with one eye, it was clear what I had been through. He could only nod.

“I’m sorry lad, those two have teamed up and completely overridden my power. Perhaps I’d been slipping for a while. You never really how much power you’ve lost until the day you need it. By that point, it’s too late. I’ve heard bits and pieces of it, but I don’t have the whole story.”

“Your governor betrayed us.” I said. “He negotiated with the pirates, sent them to North Island. Dad’s dead. My family, they’re all captured.”

He bit his lip. “And… my Rosey?”

“The woman we thought was Rosaline was a pirate imposter. I never met Cousin.”

He nodded, his eyes starting to tear up. “It was the magistrate who escorted by daughter to North Island. He had been acting strange ever since he returned from that journey. They must have captured their ship to find out about West Island, and he managed to broker a deal with them.”

“She might not be dead.” I licked my lips and moved forward. “They don’t seem to like killing women. They enslave them instead. She might be a slave, just like my… my mother and sister.”

A glimmer of hope appeared in his eyes, but then died just as quickly. “I see.”

“I’m sorry… I tried… I really tried.” I suddenly was surprised to find tears in my own eyes too.

Without being able to wipe them away, I could only feel the hot drops fall down my cheeks. I used to think crying was for women. Yet, lately, I had found myself in tears too many times. Uncle reached out with a handkerchief in his hand and wiped my cheeks.

“I’m sorry lad, I failed you… and my daughter.” He said bitterly. “Likely, by the end of the day, I will no longer be Dock Master. I’ll be lucky if I’m allowed to escape with my life. As for you, if you cooperate, and I try to suck up to them, they might let the pair of us leave to East island to live out the rest of our days. Your {Glibed Tongue} might be able to help with that too.”

“Yeah….” I couldn’t prevent the disappointment from appearing on my face.

“Yeah…” He repeated, looking just as defeated.

“Time…” One of the guards barked.

“Just one more minute…” He asked, before leaning toward me once again. “I want to ask you a question. This might be the most important answer you ever have to give. I need an answer that comes straight from your heart, do you understand?”

I peeked slightly, glancing over at the guards before giving a slight nod. “Okay.”

“If you did manage to get back on your ship. If you did find a crew. What would you do?” Just when I was about to answer, he raised his hand. “Think carefully…”

I stopped, biting my lip for a second, but my answer didn’t change. “I’d sail away from West Island, double around back behind it, wait for that pirate ship to come, blow it out of the water, interrogate the survivors, find out where my family is, and then kill every pirate I see until every single member of my mansion has been returned to me! Then I will sail away from the Heaven’s Sky Archipelago and find a place where my family can live in peace.”

That last part even surprised me. Saying I planned to leave Heaven’s Sky Archipelago was a ridiculous notion only a week ago. However, after learning about the Great Armada and new places away from the Archipelago, I had thoughts of going there. I didn’t want to leave this world, like that pirate was talking about. I didn’t even know what leaving this world meant. What was beyond this world? Other worlds? What was the point? If I could just see the world a little, and then settle down and living comfortably and safely with my family, that was what I wanted.

“You don’t want vengeance?” He asked in surprise.

I blinked and then nodded. “I don’t see the point. Not really.”

I realized that was something different about me now. A few weeks ago, I would have happily said I’d want vengeance on every pirate and person who wronged me. However, when compared next to actually being able to get my family back, it seemed like a trivial thing. Vengeance just felt like a waste. It had only been a little while, but my entire outlook on life had seemed to change without me realizing it.

Uncle nodded one last time. “Thank you for telling me these things.”

“Time up!” The guard said, even though he clearly saw my uncle standing back up.

He took a step toward the guards, but then looked back at me, “Lad, my Rosey… she’s family to you? If you managed to find her, you’d save her as well?”

“I would.” I said, my voice and eyes not wavering an inch.

He smiled and turned away. “Ah… what the hell. That’s good enough for me!”

He reached into his pants and pulled out two items, one in each hand. The guards didn’t react at all, not taking his motions as threatening, until they saw in his hand, two devices that resembled my flintlock, although they were much small. He pressed the triggers, and both shot off, taking each of his guards down. They were surprisingly quiet, only letting out small pops.

He dropped the guns and then pulled out two knives from his belt. He lunged at and stabbed a third guard who was a bit slow. The fourth, unfortunately, moved faster.

Before he could kick the last guard away, the other had pulled a large machete and swung it at him. I let out a cry as it struck my Uncle in the back of the neck. Uncle let out a roar, slamming into the other man and stabbing him. However, while my uncle shoved the blade into him and tossed him into a wall, he kept hacking down at my uncle’s back. Blood kept spattering until my uncle collapsed to the ground.

The guard was still standing, but he had a knife in his gut. He seemed dazed for a moment, but then his eyes snapped to me.

“Help…” he said quietly. “I need help!”

Uncle had just given his life to try to help me, and now he was dead. One guard had survived, and he was about to call for reinforcements. Just as he reached the door, two legs swung down and kicked him. He flew back and landed next to my uncle. My Uncle jerked at the movement, and with a roar, he pulled out his free knife and slammed it into the guard chest. He stabbed him three times until the man stopped moving.

The small form walked into the room, and I recognized it as Kate. She looked at the blood mess that was the four guards and my Uncle, and then ran around it, coming up behind my chair. Without saying anything, she used a claw and cut the binding my hand. Since I only had one, it came off pretty easily, and I was freed just like that. I immediately fell forward and then half crawled to my uncle, turning him over.

He had taken his cap  and was holding it to his chest. His back had dozens of long gashes on it, and he was losing a ton of blood. His fat body was pale and cold, and it sounded like he was having trouble breathing.

“Uncle… no!” I cried out.

“Y-you’re free…” He gurgled. “I guess…. I managed to do something right.”

“No, don’t be like that. You’re coming with me. I can…. I mean…”

I was going to say I’d give him rapid healing and he’d live. Except, I didn’t have any of those orbs left I had used them all greedily on myself. If I had even kept one of them rather than trying to max my levels, there was a chance I could have used it on him, and perhaps he’d live. Now, even if I wanted it, there weren’t any slimes nearby. Furthermore, Zoe… well, I didn’t want to think about that at the moment.

“I put… together a crew. Go to the dock. They’ll help you get to the ship. Save… everyone….” He reached up and put his tricorn hat on my head. “You’re… the captain… now…”

His eyes turned dull, and his breath stopped with that. He had the faintest hint of a smile on his face. I reached out and closed his eyes, then stood up. Kate walked next. She was using two feet now, but she had a wide stance, ready to fall on her hands at any moment. She was licking the back of her hand casually, like the blood and violence meant nothing to her.

“If you help me, Kate… I’ll give you lots of fish.” I promised.

“Mraa!” She answered, although it wasn’t clear if she understood or was just agreeing with the tone in my voice.

I took one last look at my Uncle, and then I wiped the tears from eyes. I didn’t have time to cry right now, I had a promise to keep.

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