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Chapter 24 – Side Story – Blue’s Escapades IV

On a raid of a vessel, a nobleman was captured and brought aboard.

The appraisers were having difficulty figuring out what his price would be. His background seemed unknown, like he was hiding it, but it was clear he had some influence from the intelligence that they had collected.

The Noble was brought to Blue’s cabin.

She had decided that she should handle this herself, as it seemed rather suspicious and she was good at seeing through the deceit of nobles.

The man was brought, his hands bound, to her cabin.

There was Blue, the man, and Blue’s assistant.

When the door closed and the footsteps walked away, the man greeted her.

With his hands in front of him, unbound. Blue had no idea when that had happened, and the assistant moved to act.

Before she could do so, she was stopped by Blue, who was staring at his hands.

In his hands was a Slave Key.

He said he was glad she understood. Blue went to motion her attendant to leave them, but the man called the attendant by name and told her she may stay.

He obviously knew a lot about them.

Blue bit her lip.

What now.

Is control over her worth the damage The Fleet would take?

The man sat back in his chair, and looked at Blue with a curious look.

It reminded her of the way that her father had looked at her mother. A look of control over her, and desire for her. She felt shaken.

This must be her older brother. How else would he have the slave key. Though she couldn’t believe that the mistress had not killed her after all these years. Had she died?

The man looked at her and started talking.

He had come as the representative of an interested party.

So he was sent.

This was a set up.

He said that things would be changing now, and that much of The Fleet would be under new management now.

That the employees of The Fleet for those business lines would be taken over by his organization.

Blue was pissed.

That he could think he could make such demands just because he had her Slave Key.

She motioned her attendant, but she stopped after he held up the key.

Her attendant valued Blue over all else.

The man continued talking, and started laying out his.. would you call them demands or terms?

1. He said that his organization would be taking over all The Fleet vessels, and all of it’s sailors, that had any offensive or military capability. (What? Is he trying to start a war or something? And how do we protect ourselves? And why would the sailors not just mutiny?)

2. All Fleet vessels that remained would be under the control of The Fleet, but that they would be restricted to operating as Fishing, Shipping or Passenger vessels. They could not carry nor ship any weaponry. (So we’d have some ships left, but no means to defend ourselves, so we’ll be the raiding victims now…)

3. The Fleet would have to pay a tax to his organization when trading with foreign countries. (What? How are you going to even enforce that?)

4. The Bandit division would be disbanded, and would be rolled over into the Escort division. (I am confused. Aren’t they needed to go hand in hand? Why would you only keep one? The Escort division is useless without the presence of the Bandit division! Is he trying to bankrupt us?)

5. The Escort Division would be taken over by his organization. (Of course. Wait, correction, is he trying to bankrupt us AND his organisation?)

6. The Covert Intelligence division would be taken over by his organization. (How does he know about that?)

7. They could continue the Prostitution division, but that it would be regulated by his organization. (That’s generous, I think… huh? Just how powerful must his organization be to have all these demands, and enforce such rules on them, when not even the country could touch them. Wait. There is something there. On the tip of…)

8. All Slaves that were illegally acquired will be turned over to his organization. (Wait, why just the illegal ones?)

9. The Fleet will continue operating their Black Market Goods, Black Sales Front, and their Legitimate Sales Front. (That’s generous, but will we have any products left to sell?)

He stopped. Blue looked at him. She scoffed at him, as if to say ‘is that all?’

No, he said. There are two more demands.

What are they, Blue asked?

First, he said, Blue will be resigning as the head of The Fleet, and will no longer be concerned with the running of this enterprise.

‘What?’ Blue said. She glared at him with eyes of hatred. Her own brother, treating her as his slave, all over again, making her live in fear all her life, then trying to rip apart all that she had built. Would that family never let her be free. Hadn’t it been enough when they killed mother?

And finally, he said, about Blue, herself, and her next role.

‘My next role?’, Blue replied.

‘Yes, Blue Testarossa, you shall become my wife.’ said the man.

‘WHAT?’ Blue screamed. She was furious. Exactly what had been done to her mother. What had tormented her all those years. She was to suffer the same fate?

She looked at the Slave Key. Could he get it from him? Wasn’t her life, her future, on the line? Fuck this family. And it’s her own Brother! That’s incest. That’s disgusting. She said as much to the man.

‘What?’ He said. He stared right into her eyes. Blue couldn’t read the expression. There were too many things in there at the same time.

‘Blue’, he said.

‘Don’t call me Blue. Who gave you the right to call me by my first name? I don’t remember ever giving YOU the right to call me that?’

‘Oh?’ He said. ‘Do you not remember at all? We used to be quite close, you know? And even if you resist now, I am afraid that I will not let you go. Not after all these years.’ He reached over to her. ‘I knew you would surface. I knew I could find you. I’ve been waiting all these years, I will not let this go.’

Blue was angry. This was just like her mother all over again.

‘I did do it properly, you know.’ He said.

‘Properly?’ Blue asked.

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Prior to his death, I had already gotten your fathers approval for your hand in marriage, you know? Though we kept the engagement a secret.’

‘What…. how could that even be, that’s disgusting, to think that man would do that… and to even try to control me as he did mother….’

‘You know,’ he said,’ I did do it properly, I told you. I got your mothers approval as well.’

Blue’s thoughts stopped. ‘What… are..’

‘They both agreed that it would be by far the best way to protect you. Not just from the Mistress, you know. Many nobles were out to kill you.’

‘What? Why? Why would anyone want to kill me then? I mean, well, besides the mistress, I mean. Was it the Kidnappers thing?’

‘No, I am not familiar with ‘The Kidnapping thing’, but I will have you tell me all about that episode.’ He smiled an angry smile. ‘No, as a matter of fact, the reason they wanted to kill you, was it not for the very reason that I am having this conversation with you? The topic of our engagement, of course.’

‘Whh….. how would they know… or did father talk with…. what… even so… who the hell would marry their own brother?’

His face stopped. It looked like his brain had temporarily stopped working. He put his face in both of his palms.

‘Ungh… I can’t believe you.. seriously, how dense can you even be. Why wasn’t I the first one to come to mind, you know? You didn’t even interact with him that much. When I get back, I am going to have to find a way to punish him… what division generates the most paperwork to deal with… heheheh…’

‘You lost me… If you’re not Brother, why do you even have the Key. The only one with access to that would be the head of the family. I know all about it. You don’t think I’ve tried since I left to acquire it?’

‘You know, Blue.’ He said. ‘I was there, you know.’ He stared at Blue with heavy eyes. Sobering eyes. ‘Your mother and I were having our afternoon chat….’

‘Afternoon chat???’

‘Yes. It was an important thing to me to speak with her. We would discuss you, her worries, you, the mistress, you….’

‘I get it… point being?’

‘As I said, I was there, you know. We heard the roaring and the footsteps. Your mother urged me to leave before I was found, and the guard tried to head her off and grab help. I picked the lock on the door, and hid inside. The mistresses anger raged so much that she completely didn’t realize that the door was already unlocked when she opened it.’

He looked down.

‘Once she entered, she went right for the cabinet. As the master had just died, and your brother was not yet of age, she had become the family head, and could undo the seal. I watched,’ his voice shook, ‘as she reached in, and grabbed the key, and I watched,’ his voice choked, and tears ran down his face, ‘as she commanded her.. your mother… to choke the neck with both hands, to swallow the tongue, to vomit, to stop breathing.’

Blue was appalled and her emotions were in a swirl, tears ran down her cheek.

‘And she died, horribly, slowly, I couldn’t stand it, I wanted to kill that bitch, that is my life’s greatest regret that at that moment, I lacked the power to smite her.’ Tears of fury now were falling down his face instead of sadness, I could tell.

‘The mistress was so overjoyed. I guess that was a good thing, in the end.’

‘A good thing?’ Blue raged.

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘She didn’t lock the cabinet, after all.’ He held out the key in the palm of his hand, and presented it to Blue. What was he doing. Wasn’t this his leverage?

‘Before she could remember, I grabbed your Key, and ran out. I ran into the guard, and when he saw what happened, and saw me coming out, he told me to leave immediately, and to not tell anyone what I saw. That he would try and catch you and warn you to flee before the Mistress came to her senses.’

‘Yes, I met him. He pressed his wallet to me, and sent me away before I could run into the Mistress. What happened to him?’ Blue said with concern. The key was in her palm now.

‘Dead. The mistress used her power to frame him, and have him executed for killing your mother. I can never forgive her no matter how long I live, no matter how many lives.’

He was shaking.

Blue felt that if anything, he seemed to have loved her mother more than she had herself. She thought back-she didn’t like thinking about those days-and remembered her mothers behavior.

When she was young, she had always been treated coldly. But hadn’t she been treating her warmly before she… passed away. Was it the talks with him that did it? She wondered.

He looked up at her face and into her eyes. His tears has stopped falling, and now in them was look of determination.

‘I thought, I hoped, that I had been able to convey to you this entire time. With all the time we had been together. You may not realize it, but you were, truly, the only one I could say I was close to, you know? It is a lonely position, being at the bottom of the top. Even so,’he reached out his hand to grab hers. She reflexively pulled back the hand with the key inside, but he was grasping the other one instead.. curious…

‘I ask again, he said. Please, will you not join me, and become Blue Testarossa Astrania?’

Blue paused, and took in his face. It did seem kind of familiar, now that she thought about it. Her attendant gave an audible gasp at his last word though.

Why? It was like she realized something. Wait. I think he said something very important right now…

‘Um… can you repeat that one more time, I think my brain stopped working just now…’

He smiled. ‘I will repeat it as many times as you want. Would you not become joined with me, Blue Testarossa Astrania?’

Astrania… Astrania… this is the country of Astrania… the King is Astrania right?….. wasn’t there that kid I used to hang out with named Astrania… I think he was…

And everything hit her.

Why he knew about the Intelligence division.

Why he could arrange to be on that ship.

To be brought to her, alone with only a close attendant present.

To make demands to hand over whole divisions of their ‘criminal’ empire.

Why all the parts that he listed in his demands coincided with either military protection, taxes or regulation.

There was only one ‘Organization’ that would be concerned with that. And only one that everyone in the organization, at least if given a pardon, would probably still keep working for in return.

At least, if she endorsed it, and was no longer there to lead them, right?

And thinking back, with all of what he said, she remembered who he was.

‘I guess that is true. From those days, though I had a lot of ‘friends’, there was really only one who would have gone this far for me. Who would have the power to protect me from the shadows, the authority to force father to hand over a contract slave, the understanding to bond with mother. Really, there was only one from that time, right?’

Blue looked down at her hand, at the Slave Key.

I mean, the choice is mine, she thought.

He handed over his power over me without me even realizing it.

Everything is in my hands. And isn’t this what I’ve been, ultimately, building for my entire life? To legitimize those who were illegitimate? To get redemption for those who society would not even allow redemption for? To, myself, to be seen as a person and not as a slave, or a boss, or a legend, but as myself?

Blue swallowed her saliva.

The Fourth Prince, sitting across from her, looked back, with a bit of worry line forming between his eyes.

She reached over, and took his head in both of her hands. And then slapped him hard with her left hand.

‘THAT IS FOR THREATENING MY ORGANIZATION WITH THIS RUSE!’ she yelled.

Slap, hard, with the right hand this time. ‘THAT IS FOR HOLDING MY SLAVE KEY OVER ME FOR THE ENTIRE DAMN SHAM OF A NEGOTIATION!’

His eyes were shocked, and he looked dismayed.

That look, huhuhu, I kind of like it.

She grabbed his head again with both hands, and started to yank his head, violently, towards her.

‘And This is my answer.’

She pulled him back over her, and they both fell onto the bed together.

Her attendant was already out the door before they landed.

A little while later, or maybe a long while later, the ‘negotiations’ seemed to have finished by the sounds from inside the cabin.

The attendant sighed.

She had stood guard, of course, outside, just to make sure they were not disturbed, and she had to glare away several busy bodies wanting signatures for paperwork, or wondering how the ‘appraisal’ had gone.

She wondered if her master and best friend really had been that dense.

Hadn’t she talked, repeatedly, incessantly, the entire, damn, time, about that guy from the time we separated from the merchant twins at the highway till becoming the ‘Cabin Tomboy’ for the Captain?

Hell, even after that. Sigh… I mean, I didn’t realize that he was royalty, but I knew pretty quickly who he had to have been from the behavior of both of them.

He knew how to poke and prod her. Blue’s face had always been a mirror into her soul and made her rather transparent so to speak, but he was certainly practiced at making her change expressions at a rapid, and amusing I have to admit, pace. Well, sigh… I wonder where I will be following her next, I guess…

She walked over to the window and stuck her head out.

There was something going on up in the sky. Lightning was dancing around, like a ball in the sky.

Suddenly there was a huge banging sound.

A flaming meteor seemed to appear right out of the sky.

She, Amelia, could see two bodies separating from it.

One had a lightning bolt embedded in her chest, as she turned towards the other figure, and a flash of fire burst through and destroyed the other figure. The other figure fell down into the sea, and Amelia lost sight of it.

From the other, only smoke and ash remained… or so I thought.

There was something.

A small blew meteor had flung itself from the debris, coming right towards Amelia.

She stood in shock and awe, as the orb burst through the ship and into the cabin that she had been standing guard over.

There was a scream, and a few seconds later, the door was kicked open.

There stood a man, in scant clothes, holding Blue wrapped up in a sheet.

He called Amelia by name, and said ‘Turn us around, we’re going home! I must consult with father right away, and then confirm the rituals, and then we must get the wedding done right away!.’

He was like a panicky, over doting father already, and it hasn’t even been a couple of minutes yet.

Eh? So quickly? But…

‘We can’t wait, you know? Fufufu a I can’t believe it, a father already? But… ah… but that means I don’t have much time left for the honeymoon phase before Blue gets too big, right?’

‘What are you talking about?’ asks Blue

We both look at her.

‘Blue,’ says Amelia, ‘what just happened with that blue meteor just now?’

‘Um… it broke through the wall, and scared the crap out of me, and then hit me in the stomach. ‘

Amelia sighs. So dense. She lived in the capital, in a noble house.. did she completely ignore her lessons? Even Amelia knew about it, and she was only part of a lesser noble family.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘you’re pregnant after all. Congratulations.’ He, Sander, was beaming, stupid couple mode already?

‘Eh? Pregnant? But we just did… does it always happen that fast?’ said Blue.

‘You… I say. For someone who managed to create a world class criminal enterprise, why are you so dim? Do you really not know? The legend of your own damn kingdom? The Blue Star of Astrania? I mean come on, you’re named after the damn thing!’ said Amelia.

That day, Amelia was able to see an amazing expression that she had never seen on Blue’s face before. She should have learned to draw, Amelia thought to herself, and swore to definitely keep a scrap book from then on.

Nine months later, after the Asatrania government announced the absorption of The Fleet Organization, the creation of The Royal Navy, and the Pardon and Freeing of all members of The Fleet, in a quiet little countryside village, Ashen Testarossa Astrania was born.

But that’s a different story.

By the way, Blue still has her slave crest because it was decided between her and her husband as a symbol of their relationship, their trust in each other, and because the presence of high quality slave crest meant that it would protect her from others who would wish to kidnap her and try and enslave her themselves since you can only have one crest at a time.

Another reason, of course, was that to remove a high quality slave crest requires a certain level of power and knowledge, and there are few people that are able to do so. The issue is not that they cannot find someone, but more that they cannot find someone that they would deem trusty enough to confide in that would not either willingly or forcibly have that knowledge taken from him.

Thus, they decided to just keep with the status quo, and simply secure the slave key in as secure a place as possible.

Also totally not because Ashen accidentally found the slave key and, not knowing what it was, accidentally turned it into a completely different magic tool that causes the person who has the slave crest on them to be boosted with combat power equal to the power of the one who was in control of the slave key.

Nope, not that reason. Nope.

Also the Captain referred to Blue’s Shipboard Combat style as the strongest fighting style in the world that nobody can actually use.

 

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