"All I`m saying is that you need to discuss these things with me before making a decision that will affect the entire crew!" said Ensei, clearly frustrated.
"There was no other choice, she`s the only one who can identify them. And since when have I ever asked for your opinion on anything?" Seiran asked irritably.
"That`s exactly my point!" Ensei exclaimed in exasperation, "I`m the Captain!"
Seiran simply shrugged. "It had to be done, and we didn`t have time to debate the matter."
Shuurei followed a few steps behind them, lost in thought. For better or worse she was bound to the bargain that she had struck with that irritating man called Seiran. The additional weight added to her money pouch did little to assuage her feelings of uncertainty and apprehension. On the one hand, she would now have enough money to search for her father in relative comfort for an extended period of time. That eased her mind greatly. On the other hand, she would need to be on the same ship as these barbaric males for an unknown period of time...
Shuurei was so engrossed in her thoughts that she didn`t even notice when they arrived at the docks.
"Where the hell have you been?" an impatient voice shouted down from the ship that now towered over them.
Shurei looked up to see a young man with a shoulder length blue-green ponytail, glaring down at them. Ensei didn`t seem to be worried. "Why are you so upset Kouyu? You knew it would take a while to find some leads."
"Did something happen while we were gone?" Seiran asked the angry young man.
"It`s that damn musician! I sent him to get some provisions for the journey, and he returned 1 hour later with a radish. A radish! He left with enough money to buy a small cow, and he comes back with a single vegetable that can`t even feed a two-year-old!"
"I thought Shuuei had been assigned to buy provisions yesterday," said Ensei, sounding puzzled.
"That`s beside the point! If you had arrived four hours earlier, like you were supposed to, we could have left before that idiot returned!" Kouyu raged.
"That idiot, as you so call him, happens to be smarter than this entire crew put together." A second man appeared next to Kouyu, his long black hair also happened to be tied back in a ponytail.
"You! This is all your fault!" Kouyu pointed an accusing finger, almost stabbing the dark haired man in the eye.
"Watch it Kouyu, do you want me to end-up wearing an eye-patch like Kijin?"
"If you hadn`t joined this crew, your brother wouldn`t have had a reason to tag along! It`s because of you that he took it upon himself to haunt this ship and torture the crew with the most irritating instrument in the world!"
"Keep it down. Pillow talk should take place in your quarters, not on deck. " Ensei called up to them, effectively stopping Kouyu in mid-rant. The blue-green haired young man looked to be at a loss of words and if his red face was any indication, he was most likely considering strangling them both.
Ensei made his way up the plank that led up to the ship. Seiran and Shuurei followed.
"What is that?" Kouyu demanded, pointing at Shuurei in a threatening manner.
"This is Shuurei and she will be accompanying us on our search for the slavers` ship." Ensei cheerfully replied, ignoring Kouyu`s darkening expression.
"No, absolutely not!" Kouyu stared at Seiran and Ensei in horror. "Women curse ships! You let her aboard my vessel and it will be at the bottom of the ocean in less than a week!"
"This ship belongs to all of us." Shuuei pointed out, earning a glare in return.
"It belonged to me before you thieving bastards stole her from me!"
"Actually we saved your life from those pirates who were set on slitting your throat. Then we simply encouraged you to join us so that you wouldn`t be parted from your lovely vessel."
"Stop acting so innocent Shuuei, you were pointing a knife at my throat when you asked me to join." Kouyu growled.
"Alright! Let`s put it to a vote then." Ensei raised his voice to be heard over the argument that was taking place in front of him.
Seiran looked as if he were about to argue. "No, Seiran. This is a decision that cannot be made solely by you. A Captain who goes against the wishes of the crew is one who doesn`t last long. We need everyone`s cooperation in order to run the ship."
Ignoring Seiran`s frustrated glare, Ensei turned to Kouyu and Shuuei. "Gather the men and tell them to meet in the Galley. We`re going to put it to a vote."
Kouyu looked at Ensei with bewilderment. "Nobody will agree! There is nothing in the world that would cause any of us to allow a woman to send us to our deaths!"
"Shuuei?" Ensei looked pointedly at the black-haired man.
"Aye aye, Captain." With a last amused glance in Kouyu`s direction, Shuuei turned around and called out the orders while heading down the wooden steps that led below decks.
"Seiran, I know where your vote stands. You stay here with the girl and keep her out of trouble. I`ll be back with the crew`s decision and we`ll work from there." With a reassuring smile at Shuurei, who now looked worried, Ensei turned away from the two of them and headed below decks, followed closely by Kouyu who was determined to get his vote counted.
Suddenly the situation didn`t look too good. Shuurei hadn`t known that sailors were scared so easily by silly superstitions. Women cursing ships, really. How could grown men be so worried about something that made absolutely no logical sense?
Seiran stood next to her, brooding darkly in a way that she was starting to get used to.
* * *
Not even ten minutes had passed before the Captain returned, followed closely by the rest of the crew.
Shuurei could count over twenty crew members, some looking fierce and sporting various battle scars or tattoos, while others were eyeing her in a way that set off warning bells. She would especially have to watch out for that pink-haired one; the look he was giving her raised the hair on the back of her neck.
Ensei looked at Seiran and shook his head. "I`m sorry Seiran, but you were outvoted. Although, surprisingly it wasn`t a complete landslide..." Ensei glanced back at the pink-haired man who continued to stare at Suure intently. The six men that stood next to him also eyed her hungrily. Without even realizing what she was doing, Shuurei moved closer to Seiran until she was almost touching his arm. For some reason she felt safer with him than anyone else aboard this ship. Shuurei instinctively felt that if it came down to it he`d protect her. Seiran glanced down at her in surprise and following her unblinking stare to the group of men. He glared at them.
Ensei caught the exchange and turned to Shuurei. "We`ll discuss this at a later time. Seiran will accompany you back and make sure that you get home safely. I will join you after completing preparations. No one else is to leave the ship, understood? Good, man your stations."
Just as everyone started to turn away Shuurei stepped forward and raised her hand toward Ensei. "Wait!" She called out, knowing that she sounded desperate yet not being able to do anything about it. She couldn`t allow this opportunity to slip away, not without even trying.
Ensei spared her a glance over his shoulder, but his mind had clearly moved on to other matters.
"I can be useful, I can cook! You have many men on board, I`m sure you could use another pair of hands to help." Shuurei called to him desperately.
Some of the men turned around and looked at her with interest. "What kind of things can you cook?" one of them asked doubtfully.
"Anything! Although my specialty is dumplings, I have never had any problems following recipes."
"Dumplings?" A chorus of voices repeated, faces filled with hope and determination turned towards the Captain. Ensei raised his eyebrow in surprise at the sudden change that had come over his crew.
One of the men called out "Captain, let`s put it to a vote again!" This pronouncement was met with cheers and yells as the men began shouting over themselves to be heard. Shuurei looked up at Ensei hopefully. The Captain looked at her in amusement and wondered whether she knew what she had gotten herself into.
One minute later her fate was decided. All votes except one were in her favour. Kouyu was busy banging his head onto the wooden railing of his beloved ship in frustration. The vessel`s final days were swiftly approaching, he could feel it.
Here is the second chapter to the Saiunkoku Monogatari Pirates Challange called "The Search"