The Pirate and the Lady: A Tale of Minako and Hotaru
Part One of Two
The rocking of the ship and the sounds of combat gradually came to a close as the two figures crouched there in the darkness. All around them rope and musty cloth were stacked, barely leaving them enough room to hide.
"Do you think it's over, father?" Hotaru Tomoe asked, looking up at her parent with her unusual violet eyes. Hair as black as night, coupled with her white skin gave her a look of delicacy, but the intensity in her eyes contradicted that.
Doctor Tomoe, often simply called Doc, smiled wryly, his brown hair falling into his one eye, the other concealed beneath a simple patch. "I think so," the much older man answered thoughtfully, "but I wonder who won?"
Before Hotaru could try to form an answer there was a knocking on the door of the rope locker, then it suddenly swung open to reveal a young woman. Black hair fell in a mane down her back, her smile oddly warm as the stranger offered her hand and gently asked, "Dr. Tomoe? The captain sent me to find you."
Squinting from the bright sunlight they were lead out onto the deck of the battered ship, Hotaru looking around them worriedly. The newcomers were cleaner than the pirates that had captured her and her father months ago, but they were all dressed much the same. 'More pirates,' she thought to herself despairingly as she carefully picked her way across the now debris cluttered ship's deck, 'what do they want of us?'
The dead pirates littered the ship, even as the other vessel floated alongside, grappling hooks and planks firmly connecting the two ships. The difference between the two vessels was remarkable, the new ship well maintained with crisp sails and a clean look, unlike the shabbiness of the ship they had been captured by months ago.
A willowy blonde waited by one of the planks, her long hair tied in two streams down her back. She wore a billowy blouse and tight leather pants light many of the pirates, but somehow she seemed softer, kinder almost. "So you found our prize, Rei?" she asked as they approached.
"The Captain was right, Usagi," Rei answered with a shrug, "they ducked for cover once the trouble started." Gesturing to the plank connecting the ships Rei addressed Hotaru and her father, "Watch your step, please, I'd hate to have to try and fish you out of the sea."
"I'd hate that too," Hotaru muttered as she hiked up her ruined black dress and picked her way across the rough board. Her father in his tunic and pants crossed easier, then Rei followed them over to where a brown haired young man waited.
"Haruka," Rei nodded, "could you bring them to the captain? I'd like to stay aboard with the crew trying to get this hulk shipshape."
With a surprisingly feminine voice Haruka laughed, "You just want to be where Usagi is." More seriously she continued, "I think she's been waiting for them."
'A woman captain,' Hotaru thought as they followed Haruka towards the stern of the ship where a raised forecastle waited, looking around eagerly, 'and most of the crew seem to be women, too? What kind of ship is this?'
An almost amazon looking brown haired woman held the wheel, her muscles rippling her arms, while others climbed the rigging, tightened the ropes and did the hundreds of other jobs a ship at sea needed to do. Standing guard by the door were a tall, black haired woman on one side and a lady with oddly green hair on the other.
"Michiru," Haruka's voice was oddly tender, "I'm glad to see you're all right." Looking to the other lady, "So how impatient is the old lady, Setsuna?"
""Not so bad," Setsuna said with amusement, "but you'd better not let her catch you calling her that, Tenoh. I'd hate to see you walk the plank."
"She hasn't done that to anyone in months," Haruka scoffed.
"Then I suspect she's overdue," Michiru teased.
A bit apologetically to Dr. Tomoe Setsuna said, "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to pat you both down for weapons."
"Is that necessary?" Haruka frowned, "I thought they were the captain's friends."
"Zoisite got far too close to her a few months back," Michiru reminded her, "if we didn't at least check the others would never forgive us."
'What sort of crew is this,' Hotaru wondered, 'on that other ship, most of the sailors would have gladly allowed their captain's death, the bastard.' Seeing how careful Setsuna was in her search of her father Hotaru reluctantly produced the slim knife she had squirreled away weeks ago, passing it over to the tall woman.
"Go on inside" Setsuna said once she had searched Hotaru, "the captain is waiting."
The door swung open smoothly, revealing a blonde haired young woman sitting at the desk, ledgers and papers roughly scattered about, a heavy log book nearby. Blue eyes looked up then she stood with a smile, "Dr. Tomoe, Hotaru, it's been a long time."
"Minako?" Hotaru blurted in surprise, recognizing their friend from London, a young lady they had last seen more than two years ago.
"You look a bit the worst for wear," Minako went around the desk to reach up to Tomoe's eyepatch, "but I'm glad to see you alive."
A though was forming in Hotaru's brain as she took in her father's oddly serene acceptance of Minako's presence, despite her own sense of shock. "You knew about this," she breathed out then demanded of them both, "what is going on?"
"I'm sorry," Dr. Tomoe started but Minako shushed him.
"No, I'm sorry," Minako said softly, "I should explain." She gestured them to chairs even as she sat back down, "Wine, ale? This is going to take a while."
"No, thank you," Hotaru shook her head, impatient for her to begin.
Drinking from a mug at her side Minako began, "When I first met your father in London, he helped save my life. In a little... escapade involving the police I had been hurt, and though I had evaded them I needed help badly."
"Father treated you, of course," Hotaru noted.
"Yes," Minako nodded, "even though I was in costume as the adventurer Sailor V."
Hotaru felt her eyes widened on hearing that piece of news. Sailor V had been the most wanted criminal in London for awhile, a daring thief who had stolen treasures right out from under the noses of the city's various police forces. The artist conceptions had always been of a masked, blonde woman, and she could easily imagine Minako in that role.
"Minako thought she owed me a debt," Dr. Tomoe continued, "but I've never really agreed. She helped fund my free clinic for awhile, but eventually she had to go."
"Despite getting to know you and your father at that time," Minako smiled fondly, "the police were getting a little too close to me." She hesitated, "One of the things I regret was not being able to say good-bye to you, Hotaru."
A flush colored her cheeks as she remembered her teenaged crush on the lovely older woman who had visited their home so regularly. "So after you left London," she asked her curiously, "what happened to you?"
Minako seemed to have noted the blush, but she didn't comment on it. "I had heard that there were opportunities to be had for a brave woman at sea, and eventually signed aboard a pirate ship under Captain Haruna," she said. "I worked my way up to first officer, then when she was killed in battle became the captain."
There was silence in the room, then Dr. Tomoe sighed. "Guess it's my turn," he said, "I eventually helped the wrong person at my clinic, and the Lords decided I needed to be taught a lesson. Thankfully a grateful citizen told me in time to flee, and we escaped to sea."
Hotaru smiled grimly, "Unluckily, our ship was taken by pirates a week out from port. Lord Diamond, as the captain liked to be called, found out father was a doctor and made him help them, using me as a hostage."
"An' the eye?" Minako asked softly.
Dr. Tomoe made a face, "I failed to save one of Diamond's favorites, Emerald. He thought losing my eye would convince me not to fail again."
"Bastard," Minako hissed. She shook her head, "Pirates are gossips, and when the tale reached my ears of Diamond's new doctor I was surprised to hear your name. Immediately I set out to find him, an' hopefully bargain you free, but it didn't work out that way."
"You came after us?" Hotaru looked at Minako in surprise.
Minako met her eyes gently and said, "I couldn't leave my very dear friends in the hands of scum such as these." Clearing her throat after a moment she said, "I can ferry you two to wherever you wish, or you can stay aboard."
"I can't go to anywhere ruled by the British empire," Tomoe shook his head, "I may have been forced to help, but the police and navy won't make that distinction."
"And so we are exiles," Hotaru murmured in a sudden moment of despair.
Gently Minako placed her hand over Hotaru's, squeezing gently. "Not exactly," she said, I have another alternative to offer. On a island in the Caribbean we have established a small town, and we could offer you shelter there.. it's not too civilized just yet, but we're getting there."
A blush colored Hotaru's cheeks once more, and even more oddly she could feel her heart skip a beat. Even before she had found Minako attractive, but now dressed in the leathers and silks of a pirate she looked even more beautiful.
"An what is this town called?" Tomoe asked curiously.
"Crystal Tokyo," Minako answered simply.
To be continued...