160 Just a Game
Belowdecks, a group of 4 sat around a card table. Barza Keith, the Lone Shadowdark, kept tabs on everything that was going on. A dozen other Sea Wolves sat around, resting, lightly conversing. He didn't know why they were on the Unfortunate... but the Sea Wolves were good people.
The dim light of a lantern hung above gleamed on Marine Sergeant Garret's bald, dark-skinned head. He narrowed his eyes at the sandy-haired boy across the table, \"Your turn, kid.\"
Pale's cloth armor was adorned by dangling bones and bells, and was covered with enough ribbons, feathers, and painted stones to rival a peacock. In contrast to his garish coloring, the half-elf boy reservedly revealed his cards, \"So with these... I take all the cards in the middle.\"
\"Ughhh... I suck at this gaaaame! Can we play something else?\" Lone bit his upper lip, \" Maybe Red Snake, Black Snake?\"
Once Pale had been loaded with enough charms and trinkets to ward off the sea god's wrath, the boy returned to being way too good at everything, including card games.
Garret let his cards fall to the barrel they were using as a table, \"Ergh, we'd have a chance at winning if you didn't keep mucking everything up!!\"
\"Oh, *I'm* the one mucking things up?\" Lone placed his fists on the side of his thighs, his voice dripping with sarcasm, \"That's reeeallll funny, Garret.\"
Shao Ran laughed, reaching across the table and patting Pale's shoulders.
Upon meeting the boy, the Lieutenant immediately took a liking to him. They looked almost like brothers-- they had similar colored hair, similar weapons, and he'd even heard that they were similar in using fire-element attacks.
\"Ahaha! You fella's should just quit! Losers! FAILURES, even! Spear Team wins AGAIN!!\"
Lone and Garret had lost three times in a row playing Spades against Lieutenant Shao Ran and the young boy, Pale.
A short set of armor with a helmet shaped like a shark's head stepped out of the shadows, \"False. Lieutenant Shao Ran, your naginata-halberd functions more as a hafted sword than it does a stabbing spear.\"
Shao Ran rolled his eyes, \"Is that right, you bunch of sea rocks? How about I break off one of your functioning arms and stab it right up your arse?\"
The group, as well as a few onlookers, looked to Eleven of Seven for his response.
Slowly the shark-helmet turned to face him. The inset gem lit up, emanating Eleven's voice, \"I have concluded that your experience at finding a hole in the dark is nonexistent.\"
The entirety of the belowdecks erupted in laughter, causing Shao Ran's neck and face to flush red, \"Why you...\"
Eleven of Seven held out a metal-gloved hand to interrupt him, \"Stand by-- Good morning, Captain!\"
A shirtless and lithe teenage boy descended the stairs, accompanied by a slime-woman and a transparent ghost... Everyone belowdecks on the Unfortunate knew who they were: High-Captain Lang Hai and Lieutenants Eilean and Monet.
The boy-Captain let his glare drift over the collected gaggle, \"What the hells is going on here?\"
High-Captain Lang Hai felt his mouth twitch.
Several crewmembers of the Elizabeth Dare were lazing around on the Unfortunate, including Sergeant Garret who he had specifically remembered was on latrine duty. The idiot managed to accidentally gut himself on a set of stairs and left without cleaning it up. For his negligence, the crew had suffered half a dozen impalements and one sprained ankle.
Hai's gaze especially smoldered over Shao Ran and Eleven of Seven, the Captains of the Spear of Selena and the Thalia Grace, First Lieutenants by Marine rank.
He glanced at his two adjacent female Lieutenants, \"Eilean, Monet... head back. I might be a while, dealing with... our subordinates.\"
\"Aye aye, Cap'n.\" \"AaAayye, CapitaAaine.\" --The girls turned and headed back up to the top deck.
Hai crossed his arms, \"Lieutenant Eleven of Seven.\"
Eleven of Seven was an anomaly similar to Rico, a non-human.
Beneath the armor was a mass of sentient coral that joined the crew through Eilean's powers of sluttery. It took a two-armed, two-legged form because it fit a set of metal armor that proved stronger than its brittle exterior. Its three-pronged sharpened coral claws cut painfully through enemies and it could regenerate its parts when exposed to seawater. It was practically a Sea Wolf.
It couldn't speak on its own, only communicating through Sea Witch Eilean. After two failed attempts at finding it a familiar to translate, the Sea Wolves came across a magical gem that spoke surface thoughts aloud in a weird, echoey voice.
It was cursed. Eilean was able to buy it for cheap.
\"Captain Lang,\" the shark-helmeted Eleven pointed at Ran, \"I am here to observe Lieutenant Shao Ran and prevent him from dereliction of duty.\"
Hai glowered up at Lieutenant Shao Ran. He was an interesting addition to the fleet. Similar to him, Shao Ran was in line for the patriarchy of the Golden Crow Hidden Sect. But where Hai was the last descendant, Ran had plenty of siblings and cousins to take the mantle when he left.
The golden-eyed Ran slackened his jaw, pointing back at Eleven angrily, \"I'm only here because this rusty scrap heap wanted to have sexual relations with growth on the bottom of the Unfortunate!\"
Shark-helm looked back to Lang Hai, \"The growth identifies as female. And I am Coraline's lover.\"
Ran was livid, his eyes glowing dangerously bright in the ship's dim hold. \"You're making that up!! You even put CORAL in the name, you lazy hunk of junk!!\"
\"Forget it, you two.\" Hai ignored the bickering Lieutenants as he turned to Garret, \"And what's your excuse, Sergeant?\"
\"I uh... I'm here to... keep Lone out of trouble,\" Sweat dripped down the bald man's face. \"He uh... he can't win a game without me.\"
\"Ohhhh, really?\" Lone rolled his eyes. After a curious second glance, he cleared his throat, \"I mean... Yes, Captain. I asked for Sergeant Garret's help.\"
Hai crossed his arms, \"And what makes you think that's okay?\"
\"My mercenaries can do as they please, Captain Lang...\" Baron Tycondrius emerged from the shadows into the dim lamplight.
Sea god's socks... Hai didn't even notice the green-haired bastard approach. Did that nerd develop a new movement technique in the fight against Liber?
\"Good morning, Captain,\" Tycon nodded, his beady yellow eyes narrowed.
\"Tch,\" Hai scoffed. \"Good morning.\"
He had more choice words to say, but he wouldn't say it in front of his men and Tycon's subordinates.
The noble turned to the Invictus half-elf, \"Mister Pale. Report.\"
Hai raised an eyebrow. He hadn't guessed that the 9-year-old boy was more trustworthy than the adult Lone Shadowdark.
\"Uh... Lone and I were playing Spades and the uh... the Sea Wolves were doing a routine inspection.\"
\"Yee! That's right, kid!!\" \"Routine inspection! Totally normal, you could say!\" \"Affirmative.\" --Garret, Ran, and Eleven were suspiciously quick to agree with the boy.
\"Do you... do you want to play, Sir Tycon?\" Pale asked.
Tycon frowned, \"I'd rather not. I am unskilled at these types of games.\"
Hai's eyes widened. That noble prick was bad at cards? He'd been itching to one-up the bastard at something.
He kicked Garret in the chest, forcing the bald man out of his way. He immediately took the open seat, \"Alright. Deal me and the Baron in.\"
Tycon furrowed his brows, \"No, I just--\"
\"Come on! Don't be a wuss!!\" Hai goaded.
Ran chimed in, eager to talk as usual, \"Yeah, what're you scared of-- it's just a game! Haha!\"
Hai glared up at the man, \"How about you carry on with your 'routine inspection', Ran?\"
The sandy-brown-haired Martialist held the back of his head and laughed, \"Oh... oh yeah, haha... hah.\"
Pale smiled weakly, \"I think... I'll sit this one out.\"