Chapter 1: Prologue
Lotor narrowed his eyes as Allura lead Lance out to the dance floor again.
This is his birthday, his celebration, Lance should be by his side, not hers. It doesn’t matter that she’s his fiancé — it’s only political anyway — Lance is his little brother.
Well…not by blood, but that’s beside the point.
Being the sole heir to a kingdom can be lonely. He never realized it until Lance referred to him as 'big brother' when they first met. The boy had been reprimanded by his father for it but Lotor hadn’t mind — he even encouraged Lance to continue.
He insisted Earl McClain bring Lance with him when he comes to the castle every morning and let him accompany Lotor during the day. Lance became known as the Prince’s Playmate, and Lotor doted on him insistently.
Many believed that Lance was just a nuisance to Lotor, an excitable child distracting their Prince from his duties. There were whispers in the corners of the castle about how inept the Prince was for giving into the childish fantasies of the boy. Ha! If only they knew that it was Lotor who craved Lance’s company and not the reverse!
But can you blame him? Lance is an adorable kid, okay?
His mother had also taken a liking to the cheerful boy and became quite good friends with Aisha McClain, Lance’s mother. The queen often invites the woman over for afternoon tea.
When Earl McClain status got elevated to Marquess rumors began to spread about how he’s using his son to further his career. Lotor has his people put an end to those rumors as discreetly as possible.
Everything was going fine until King Alfor brought her long on his visit to Diabazaal. Princess Allura Arusia, sole heir to the kingdom of Altea.
Lotor regrets the day he let Lance met her. The moment the brunette gave her a sweet smile and called her 'big sister', the girl was hooked.
Now a year later her adoration for the boy continue to grow to the point it gets on Lotor’s nerve. It starts off small like sitting between himself and Lance and insisting on holding Lance’s hand whenever they take a walk. Then before he knows it she’s occupied all of Lance’s time and push him off to the side.
When he had enough he took hold of Lance’s other hand during their stroll and give a small tug so the brunette gravitates to his side. The princess gives him this wide-eyed look as if seeing him for the first time.
After that it’s war.
In his opinion, she should know her place as second place and back down.
Seriously, he knows that their kingdom is close –only a three days ship ride- but it’s not that close. How can she make that many visits? By how much time she spent here she might as well live here to save herself the trouble.
No way he’s letting her stay here.
Even now, while he and Lance were having a pleasant conversation, she had to intervene and ask the boy to dance for the fifth time that night. How rude.
A snigger caught his attention and he turned to glare at Diego standing beside him. He’s usually quite polite towards the man since he’s Lance’s oldest brother but right now he’s not in the mood to do so.
“By how much your Highness is glaring people will start having the idea that you’re jealous of your fiancé favoring my brother over you.”
Lotor’s blanched. Him getting jealous over Allura? The possibility of Zethrid wearing a ball gown is more likely to happen.
“Don’t tease His Highness, brother, or Narti might not be so kind.” A beautiful woman walked up to them giving the woman standing beside him a smile. With her form-fitting royal blue dress and heels, no one would even suspect Narti to once be the most notorious assassin in the kingdom.
After Commander Kolivan took down her organization he personally requests for her. She’s now one of his personal guards.
Narti signed that she didn’t mind and that her prince indeed was making a scary face. The three giggled as he makes an effort of ignoring them.
A man approached them all red-faced and stuttering asking if Mia would honor him with a dance. He’s practically floating, soaking up all the jealous glare with a triumph smile, as he led the second oldest McClain onto the dance floor.
Even Lotor have to admit that Mia is a beautiful woman. Mild-mannered with a brain that rival top-class scholars, she’ll make a fine governess in the future.
Diego, spotting Commander Kolivan at the other end of the room, swiftly excused himself. After entering the 2nd Brigade the man quickly gains recognition and was now personally trained by the commander himself.
“These are delicious, you should have some, Your Highness.” He accepted the plate of finger food from Rosa who’s happily devouring from her own. He could see Ezor harassing Luca nearby.
Rosa and Luca are twins and the third oldest of the McClain children.
Rosa is brash and energetic with an appetite that could put an elephant to shame. It’s good that she constantly join Zethrid with her morning workout or the chubby girl would be a lot bigger. Interestingly, when it comes to Rosa, her size add to her charms more than subtract from it.
Luca, on the other hand, likes to keep to himself and favor the company of books more than people. Maybe that’s why Ezor like teasing him so much since the man rarely gets worked up about anything.
Despite their opposite personality, the twins were as close as two siblings can be and were able to understand each other perfectly without talking.
Finally, Lance came back moaning about how hungry he is, Allura trailing behind him smirking at Lotor. He pretended he didn’t see her and offer the plate Rosa gave him to the brunette. Lance’s face brightens as he shoves the bite-sized cakes and sandwiches into his mouth.
“You eat too, Lotor,” Lance said holding a cocktail shrimp near his mouth. He happily closed his mouth around the offered food feeling it taste better than usual as he watches the princess’s face turned green.
Hah, take that, Allura.
In a private study, a group of grim-faced men gathers around a table.
The rumor that the King is thinking of elevating Alexis McClain from Marquess to Duke is making its way around the social circle.
Ever since Alexis became Marquess and was more active in the treasury department many of the budgets were cut. Budgets that were benefitting them. With the leftover finds he encouraged the King to set up a warehouse in rural areas that’ll stock up dried food and wood that can then be distributed to aid the people when winter comes.
People were hailing the King as magnanimous which in turn make the King start confining in the Marquess on various issues.
The youngest son also gain the crown prince’s favor and recently, the crown princess of Altea’s. This family is gaining more power, becoming a bigger thorn in their side as time goes on. If they let this continue who knows how long before the king cast them aside.
Sendak observed the distress of the men in the room and scoff inwardly. These imbeciles who came from old money and only know how to grovel and lick their king’s feet would, of course, be shaken when someone competent came along. He, unlike these men, gain his title of Duke and Commander of the 1st Brigade by his own two hands.
Even though the thought of a simple man like Alexis standing on the same ground as him is quite irritating he can let it slide. The one he has a problem with is the oldest son.
Not long ago Diego McClain accused one of his soldier of molesting a woman. The action called into question the integrity of his men and his own method of disciplining them. His soldier challenged him to a duel to clear his name but got take over in a matter of minutes. Does it mean that Kolivan is a better commander than him?
In one afternoon Diego McClain had tarnished his name and humiliate him. For that Sendak could not let him go.
Queen Honerva had fallen ill for sometimes now and from the inside source, recovery is unlikely. Everyone in the kingdom knows how much King Zarkon love his queen and was not surprised when the king moves his workspace next to the queens’ chamber. Day and night he stayed by her side only receiving the most important of guests. The lesser duties were handed off to various officials to take care of in his steed.
Officials who are mostly sitting in this room.
Sendak smile coldly.
If they want to strike, now is the time.
Chapter 2: Death of McClain
The day Lance will never forgets.
“DON’T TOUCH ME!”
“WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?”
“WE’VE DONE NOTHING WRONG, LET US GO!”
Lance don’t understand what’s going on. One moment he’s having breakfast with his family then suddenly soldiers are breaking down their mansion’s door and swarming the place shouting about things he doesn’t understand.
His family is selling secrets?
The kingdom’s traitors?
What are they talking about?
The servants that tried to help them all got cut down spraying blood all over the floor. Dear lord, there’s so much blood. The smell hit him like a bludgeon and he emptied his breakfast onto the red-stained floor.
Everything happened in a blur. Too much noise and hands surrounded him, pleading and pulling. His arms were bounds behind his back as a soldier forced him down on his knees, his family kneels beside him all as frightened and confused.
He looked around and realized that they’re on a raised podium in the city central. The crowd below look at them anxiously.
Duke Sendak stands before them addressing the people with loud angry voice.
“PEOPLE OF DIABAZAAL, I PRESENT TO YOU THE MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF MCCLAIN, TRAITORS OF OUR KINGDOM.”
Lance felt blood drained from his face as a burly man with a black cloth covering his face stepped onto the podium with a larger cleaver.
This is a public execution.
They’re getting executed without trial.
He could barely hear his mother’s scream over his own harsh breathing.
They’re going to die? Why? They’re good people. They donate funds to the poor, they never mistreat their staffs. Dad and Diego work diligently for the good of the kingdom, so why are they’re branded, traitors? There must be some misunderstanding.
A group of people dressed in staff uniform with their family’s crest crowded on the podium saying how cruel his family describing the harsh treatment they’re given. How they were sent to deliver documents to secret locations. How lavish inside the mansion is and their frivolous spending habits.
His father was roaring his protest while Diego tried to reason with the Duke. Rosa was screaming about how these servants were not theirs, that they have never seen these people before.
But the crowd was not listening. This past winter was harsh and many succumb to the unforgiving cold. To hear that a noble family is living a lavish life undeservingly only fuel their hatred and bitterness.
A deafening roar erupts from the crown demanding they pay for their crimes in blood. Lance look at the people, their faces twisted into hideous snarls, and tears drip down his face.
Lotor. Where is Lotor?
Diego is the first to be dragged to the forefront, struggling futilely as he insists that they’ve done nothing wrong and for the commander to investigate again. Sendak ignored him and announced his name and crimes with a hint of glee.
The changed in the tone caught Diego’s attention and he stares at the commander as pieces clicked into place. The hopelessness in his eyes transformed into rage and his mouth pulled into a snarl.
“YOU BASTARD, IT WAS-” but before he could finish the cleaver came down and his life was no more.
Lance thinks he’ll never be able to forget the sound of his brother’s head hitting the ground or the way the body crumpled into a graceless heap. Time stood still as silence engulfed the area, entranced by the decapitated body splattered in deep red.
Then like a spell being life, everything starts back all at once.
Mia’s shrill scream pierced his eardrums. Sendak motion for her next. His parents were pleading for her life while Luca hyperventilates and Rosa was on the verge of throwing up. Lance couldn’t utter a word, his eye follow the soldiers as they dragged his brother’s headless body down the stairs, the thumping constant like a heartbeat.
He wants to be horrified when he saw Mia being held down, wanted to scream when her sobs were forever silenced. But he was so numb.
Another thud, another disgraceful heap.
The brunette stared at the crowd cheering at the death of his sister and demanding more.
To him these people are no longer human, their entire being morphing into revolting creatures frothing at the mouth clawed hands outstretch trying to drag his beloved family down into the abyss.
The soldiers came for his father but his mother throws herself in front of him begging for them to see reason. They took her instead. She was shaking so much she couldn’t speak coherently. His father crawls forward, his head lowered in defeat at the Duke’s feet knocking against the ground over and over as he begged for the life of his family.
He only stopped when he heard the sound of his mother’s head hit the floor.
They hauled him to the front easily, all the fight in him lost. Lance stared at his father’s hunched shoulders. He grows up riding on those shoulders. His father was always so strong and proud and Lance has no doubt he’s able to do anything. His father is his hero. Those broad shoulders are now hunched over making his father looked so small and pitiful. The sight squeezed Lance’s heart painfully slowly clearing away his numbness.
A flash of silver and his hero is gone.
His father’s smile, his mother’s hug, Diego’s teasing and Mia’s songs. All gone.
Gone. Gone. Gone. Gone. Gone. Gone. GONE!
And he screamed.
Luca threw himself atop his hysteric brother, yelling at him to be quiet. His whole body trembles as the Duke looked over at them. He pleads for Lance to stop…because if he didn’t…if they took him away too. He can’t. Watching your older siblings was one thing but if he has to look at his baby brother being killed in front of his eyes. Diego always told him that older siblings were born first so they could protect the ones that came after. He’s Lance’s older brother, he has to protect him.
Rosa saw the soldiers moved closer to her brothers and felt her sanity slowly slipped through her fingers. They can’t kill Luca and Lance. They can’t, they can’t, THEY CAN’T! She glared at Sendak knowing the man was the main reason for their suffering, Diego’s last words were proof enough. She spat at the Duke calling him names and loudly declaring him of framing them.
Sendak narrowed his eyes at her and the soldiers seized her instead.
The girl’s venomous words turned into fearful shrills calling for her twin to save her.
“LUCA! HELP ME, LUCA!”
Luca lunged toward his sister pulling the two soldiers by his side along. It took another three to be able to hold him down.
“ROSA. LET HER GO, TAKE ME, TAKE ME INSTEAD, PLEASE!”
Lance was screaming again, writhing under the soldier’s hold calling for his sister.
The explosion came a second too late.
His last reminding sister’s head was already separated from her body when the vibration shook the ground making the podium sway dangerously. Another three went off around the square and all hell break loose. People pushed and trampled over each other trying to get away and the soldiers were caught in the waves as they tried to make way to where the sounds came from.
Sendak got escorted away quickly leaving behind the order to finish the remaining two off. Lance’s heart dropped when the executor trudged over to him, the clever scrapping the floor behind him leaving behind a garish red trail.
“Hey ugly, take on someone your own size.”
The man whirled around but was immediately struck down before he can see his own executor. He falls with a heavy wet plop, skull deformed. Zethrid spit on the corpse.
“Lance,” blinking away the haze the brunette realized the prince is kneeling in front of him. The moment Acxa released the ropes around his wrist he flung himself into the older boy’s arms.
“Lotor, Lotor, big brother.” The boy clings to the prince like a lifeline and Lotor felt his heart breaks with each sob.
“My deepest apologies for being so late, Lance. This execution was kept secret even to the royal family. The nobles who organized it was all of high-ranks, that’s why it’s so swift. If Narti hadn’t found out…I wouldn’t…you would have.” Lotor tighten his arms around the brunette trying to chase away the fear still active inside him when he saw Lance atop the podium. If he was a little bit too slow he’d have seen Lance’s death with his own eyes.
“I tried to organize everything as fast as I can, but there’s only so much I could do.” He lowered his head in guilt.
“This is not the time, Your Highness.” Acxa’s hand on his shoulder was soft but firm and he takes a deep breath, reeling in his emotions. Mourning can wait, right now he has things to do.
“ZETHRID,” the prince bellowed at his general who’s swinging around her mace with vigor. Zethrid too is mourning. Rosa was her friend, that’s why he let her be the one who takes out the executor. At the call of her name the large woman tsk and swap place with Acxa who pulled out her twin blades.
“Zethrid will take you to the port. A ship is scheduled for Altea in 20 minutes, Ezor is already there waiting for you.”
“WAIT,” the boy shouted as the woman scoop him up with one arm. “Luca, we need to take Luca too.” He looked over at his only remaining family member and felt tears brimming at his eyes. Luca was kneeling by Rosa’s body cradling her head against his chest. His lifeless eyes stare far away into the fire and chaos as tears cascade down his face in steady streams.
His brother is dead.
The body might still be breathing but his heart had already died along with his twin.
Lotor gritted his teeth. He loves Lance dearly, nobody can argue with that, but he also loves the McClain. He might not be close to Alexis and Aisha McClain but their children had become his somewhat pseudo-siblings. He wishes he was faster. He wishes his older siblings didn’t have to die. He wishes he could tell Zethrid to take Luca away too.
But he can’t.
It doesn’t have to take Zethrid’s sharp glare to tell him that he doesn’t have the luxury of going with his heart right now.
Because this Luca is a burden and taking him means risking both siblings being captured. But if it’s only Lance…at least just Lance.
So he steeled his heart and squeezed the brunette’s hand for the last time.
“Please forgive me.” He saw Lance’s eyes widen and before the boy could say anything more her screamed for Zethrid to go. His guard took off running, swinging her mace creating a clear path to the port.
Lance’s pleas still ring in his ears days after.
“LUCA! GO BACK ZETHRID, PLEASE. I CAN’T LEAVE-I NEED MY BROTHER.”
“QUIET.” She swipes away the soldier running up to them. “Do you know what we went through to organize this rescue? Do you know how many people died in that chaos!? Even though unjust but the sensible thing to do, as the prince, was let it go. But he didn’t. He chooses you over his own citizens. Do you even know how he feels!?”
The boy had gone still and she tightens her arms around his small frame, half in protection and half in comfort.
“There’s no hope left for your brother but you need to hold on. Stay alive, keep the McClain name going. You owe your family that much.”
When Zethrid hands the boy over to Ezor his eyes had gone dull. Like Luca McClain, Rosa’s twin.
There’re aching in her chest, constant, empty. Seems like she’ll be working out alone from now on.
“Watch him,” she said with uncharacteristic softness. She keeps watch until the both of them disappear into the ship then swiftly turn on her heels and race back to the castle.
He’ll be fine, she told herself, eventually.
The ship tips sharply to the side, the huge wave washes over the deck taking a few crew members along with it. The rest that manages to hold on quickly rush back into action. The heavy rain had come out of nowhere and now the ship is slowly sinking from the holes caused by sharp rocks.
“ABANDON SHIP! ALL PASSENGERS NEED TO LEAVE BEHIND THEIR BELONGINGS AND COME UP TO THE DECK NOW!” Staffs are running around yelling the command. Ezor scoops Lance into her arms and joins the fray in the hallway.
“Are we going to die, Ezor?” The mumbled beside her ears made her hugged him closer, both from happiness and grief. It’s a shame that these are the first thing he said to her for the past three days.
“No we’re not,” she said with conviction, “we’re going to get through this. Princess Allura is waiting for you. She loves you. Prince Lotor loves you. They’ll help you get through this. You’ll be happy again, I promise.”
Lance buried his face further into the crook of her neck, silently doubting her words. Be happy again. The concept sounds ridiculous. How could he be when his whole family, his heart, is dead? He doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to be happy again in this life.
He shivered when Ezor hands him over to the crew member on the lifeboat, the rain soaking him from head to toe. His arms warm around her waist seeking for warmth the moment she settles beside him.
The waves rock the boat from side to side and he watches the girl across from him clung to her mother crying noisily.
For the past three days he felt nothing, his body numbed and mind blank. The sound and sight from the podium haunt his dreams and every waking moment, but he didn’t cry anymore. Couldn’t. It’s like all the tears had dried up from his body, taking with it all his emotions leaving behind a hollow husk.
Ezor said they’ll survive.
He hopes at least she would.
Ezor felt the hair on the back of her head prickled before even turning back to see the looming wave behind. The force submerges the boat, drowning out the sound of rain and ripping Lance out of her arms. She breaks the surface spluttering the boy’s name.
She turned and turned but couldn’t pinpoint where the sound had come from.
“LANCE!” she screamed back but none answered back.
A strong pulled lift her up into another boat and she scampers up scanning the faces. Cold dread settles in her stomach when she couldn’t find who she hopes to see.
“That’s all of them. We need to move now.” The man that hauled her up said to another man.
Her eyes widen in horror. They can’t leave yet. Lance is not here. He’s not here!
“A boy,” she grabbed at his shirt, “brown hair and skin, around ten, dark blue shirt and black shorts.”
The man gave her a sympathetic look and pat her hand in comfort. “You’re the last one floating around here, I’m sorry.”
Her body jerked in response and if the man wasn’t already holding her hand she would have already dived back into the water. She struggled against his hold and, when it seems she’s getting away, the men around hold onto her legs and waist.
“LANCE,” she screamed out into the raging sea, wishing for something, anything.
None came and the boat drifts further and further away from the last place Ezor had held him, promising him that they’re getting out alive, together.
Lance wake up to the ache of his body and sunlight on his face.
He’s still floating in the sea, lower half submerged while the upper hung loosely on a stray wooden plank.
“Ezor,” he said weakly, his throat felt like it’s filled with sawdust.
He closed his eyes when no one reply. Lance is not worried. Ezor is a strong woman, he has no doubt that she’s safe.
He’s alone now
Truly and utterly
What’s the point of struggling? Why continue to cling on? Who’s left to stop him from letting go?
Lance’s body slips further into the water as his remaining strength slowly fade away.
Chapter 3: Voltron
Lotor and Allura finally got the bad news. Lance struggle to move forward from his traumatic past with a little help from a helpful stranger.
It took all of Allura’s resolve not to crumple to the ground when Ezor told her she lost Lance at sea. Her lips tremble and her eyes took on a vicious glare when she strikes the red-hair woman across the face.
How could she lose him? How dare she? She should have protected him with her life! Why? Why didn’t she hold on? Why…why…
Tears spilled from the corner of her eyes and the last of her strength leave her. Knees on the floor, crying into her hands the princess took comfort in the embrace of the woman she just hit.
What is she going to do now? Lance is now a traitor of Diabazaal, neither she nor Lotor can send out soldiers to look for him. Their little brother is taken by the sea and they can’t do anything to get him back.
What would he do if he knows?
Three days later she got her answer. When the prince heard the news his lack of reaction nearly make her slap him too. Then his voice cracked when he told her to go away and she knows how much this is hurting him too.
She refused because no one should grieve alone.
Arms around his waist, head between his shoulder blades she held him tight as his body trembles. Warm droplets landed on her arms and muffled sobs filled the room. Soft and heartbreaking. She bites her lips as her despair raise up anew causing her eyes to brim with tears.
It took them a week before either is willing to leave the room and another before Allura went back to Altea.
Lotor looks after the ship well into the night.
Lance blinked open his eyes, the action left him perplexed. He didn’t expect to ever open them again. Everything seems to be swaying and the smell of salt hung heavy in the air.
Is this heaven? Kinda small though.
Echo of footsteps makes his eyes landed on a door which is then swung open. A man with bright blue hair saunter in, the various bangle and trinkets on his body jingle with every movement. When he saw Lance awake his face brighten.
“Hey kiddo, awake at last I see.”
He settles himself at the end of the bed still smiling brightly and Lance looks down not in the mood to talk.
“It’s rude to ignore people you know?” The voice took on more of a teasing tone than annoyed. Lance conclude that he’s not getting out for now.
The weight disappeared and Lance glace at the man walking towards the door.
“I’ll go get Trigel, she’ll be glad to know you’re up.”
He came back with a woman with sharp eyes who get right to do a check-up on him.
“We found you floating alone yesterday, at a good time too since a minute or two too late you would have slipped right off the plank.” She said and when the comment was met with silence she spared him a glance. The blank stare she got told her that the boy would have preferred they were late. Her whole demeanor softens as she pulled him into a hug. So young and already thought of dying, the lack of respond make her smile sadly.
“Except for being dehydrated and a little sunburned, there’s nothing to worry about. I’ll tell Gyrgan to make him something nourishing.”
Lance didn’t touch that meal, or the next one or any after it.
Content to waste away on the bed he ignores his body’s cry for food and water.
Trigel voiced her concern that if he didn’t start eating he won’t last much longer. Blaytz put on an act of indifference saying if that’s what the boy wants then he’s welcome to do so. He’s not fooling anyone. Everyone on the ship knows their captain is a softy at heart especially to small children.
On the third night since they’ve rescued the boy Blaytz had had enough. He barged into the infirmary and scooped the boy out of bed. Trigel gave him a warning look which he returns with a wink. With the two gone she slumped over her desk and hope her friend can talk some sense into the boy stubborn on dying.
The moon was high in the sky illuminating the figure of Blaytz as he climbs up to the crow’s nest with some difficulty. The boy a dead weight in his arms and gave no indication of being scared of getting dropped. He hefts both of them inside the cramped space and sighs in relief. Looking up at the sky he smiles at the sight and urged the boy to do the same.
Lance couldn’t care less what happened with his life, the man could drop him to his death from here and he would welcome it wholeheartedly. At the man’s persistence, he shifts his sight up to the sky and gasp. His eyes were no longer dull as he stares up at the large moon above him. Its glowing light so beautiful he forgot all of his sadness for a moment.
“Beautiful isn’t it. You can’t get a view like this in the city.” Judging by the clothes when they found him it’s easy to guess that the boy was quite well off. “My wife always looks at the moon when she gets sad, she said it reminds her that no matter how dark the situation seems there’s always a glimmer of hope.”
Lance's mouth pulled down into a sneer. He knows what the man is trying to imply but what would he know. Lance had lost his entire family in one day, all of them died in front of him while all he can do is watched. The man has no idea how he’s feeling right now.
“She was the optimistic one between the two of us.”
Lance twitch at the use of past tense.
The arms around him tighten, the man’s eyes still trained on the moon as if recalling a memory.
“I was too late and she died right here in my arms.” The sad tinge in the voice makes Lance dropped his head, shame etches clearly on his face.
“You think I don’t understand but I do. I don’t know how much you’ve lost but the pain of losing someone dear to your heart is the same for everyone. It’s enough to make you want to die.”
The man went silent and Lance glance up at him, his blue hair turned black under the night sky but his eyes still held the same vigor as the day he walked in through the door. How can he still smile? How can he keep going after losing his heart?
“I did try. Dying that’s it. If it’s not for Gyrgan and Trigel I would have. They stayed by my side and pulled me out of my misery. They’re my moon.”
Blaytz thinks of soft smile and the smell of salt mixed with copper, the warmth in his arms and the despair in his heart. He remembered two pairs of arms surrounding him and the wetness on his face and shoulders. He remembered the creeping of a smile and the ache in the stomach after a good laugh. Always beside him are the two familiar face since childhood.
He really is fortunate.
“When faced with hard times it’s easy to give up but no matter what you must carry on. It’s alright to take a break every once in a while and not shameful to grab onto someone’s hand when it’s offered. We’re humans and humans can’t survive on their own.” He takes his eyes off the moon to look down at the boy in his arms. Eyes wide and holding on to his every word.
“Those who are dearly loved will never be alone. As long as you continue to think about them and hold them in your heart they will always be with you. Death is not the end but merely a separation. You’ll meet them again when your time comes.”
“I will?! You’re not lying?” Small hand clutch at his shirt, eyes watery but full of hope.
“Yes, you will. But are you sure you want to meet them after starving yourself to death? They would want you to live a happy fulfilling life. Are you able to face them knowing you yourself did something foolish?”
Lance’s heart dropped. Would he? Diego and Mia would scold him and his mother would have cried. Could he take on his father’s disappointed look? What about Luca and Rosa who died saving him? Would he be disrespecting all their deaths by trying to throw his life away?
“Your time is not now but it’ll come. When you’re old and frail and had lived a life full of adventures you’ll be able to hold your head up high when you met them again. Telling them of all the wonderful things and people you’ve encountered…that would be a fun reunion don’t you think?”
Yes. Yes, it would. He would meet them again and told them of all the things he saw, the things they’ve missed. He’ll become a fine man worthy of their sacrifice. He’ll show them that he’s fine, he’s happy and tells them thank you…thank you so much for always loving him and he loves them too. So much so that the reality of living without them is too much to bear.
But it’s alright because this…this man had offered him his hand and Lance is going to latch on just so he can continue living till the day they can meet again.
He cried out the tears he thought had all dried up and woke up on the familiar bed.
The smell of the soup on the bedside table make his stomach growl and he sips down his first meal since he got rescued. The broth was light and well-seasoned and was so delicious it makes him regret not eating those meals before.
He stands up on shaky legs, his bare feet not making any sound as he walks towards the door.
Gingerly stepping out of the room on his own for the first time he was not ready for all the stares directed at him. Lance cursed internally. These people should oil their door more.
Before he could do anything next a mass of black caught his eyes and he took a step back in horror. In front of him fluttering in the wind is a black sail. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t recognize the insignia, a black sail can only mean one thing.
He’s on a pirate ship.
These people are pirates.
“HAHAHAHA LOOK AT HIS FACE. HE’S JUST REALIZING WHERE HE IS.” A dark-skin man point at him making his face colored.
“We’re quite near to Olnilus, we could drop him off there, stock up on our supplies too.” Another man said to a figure near the steering wheel blatantly ignoring Lance.
Lance saw the familiar blue hair and felt himself relax. Even without knowing his name Lance had already trust the man wholeheartedly. He smiles but the man did not smile back and Lance felt uneasy under the cold stare. Did he do something wrong? The man was always smiling seeing him with anything else is weird.
Is he going to send Lance away, leaving him at Olnilus like that one man suggest? No. He can’t do that. Lance doesn’t know the first thing about surviving on his own. He can’t go back to Diabazaal and going to Allura will only bring her trouble. His only hope is here, on this ship. It doesn’t matter if they’re pirate, he has nothing left to lose and weren’t they always so nice to him?
Making up his mind he straightens his back and bow down at the waist.
“Whatever work you have for me I’ll do it, please let me stay on this ship.”
His request was met with silence and a moment later he was hit with so much pressure his knees nearly buckle. His heart race as his lungs fight to take in more oxygen. Sweat drip down his nose as he fights to contain his panic.
Pirates. These people are pirates. What was he thinking? He’s just a stupid boy, they’re only nice to him for a bit and he let it gets to his head. They could kill him in a blink. They’re going to kill him.
Scared. He’s so scared. Mother.
His mother’s headless corpse flash before his eyes and it felt like a bucket of cold water was poured over him.
Scared? What a joke. This could not be compared to that moment on the podium. Nothing could ever be compared to it. Not even these pirates. They want to intimidate him? Bring it. He’s not backing down from this fight.
“Anything you say?” The same dark-skin man said, mouth stretch wide into a Cheshire grin.
Lance bow lower, “ANYTHING. PLEASE, LET ME STAY.”
He could literally feel the moment the atmosphere lighten.
“What’s your name boy?” He beamed at the familiar voice and stretch himself to full height, chest puffed up with pride as he said, “Lance. Lance McClain.”
“Welcome to Voltron, Lance.” The man is smiling again before shouting to one of the men near the sail.
“Get moving Gyrgan, we’re having a welcoming feast tonight.”
At that, all the crew cheer and the man’s comment of, “then we really need to make that stop to Olnilus cuz this is going to bleed us dry,” went unheard.
The man walked toward him and ruffled his hair. “So will my captain finally tell me what's his name?” Lance asks cheekily.
The man smirk at him, sharp teeth glinting in the sunlight, “Blaytz.”
“And I’m Pai,” the same dark-skin man cut in between them and bow mockingly poking fun at Lance’s previous action, “the ship’s musician at your service.” The man was lanky and nearly a head taller than Blaytz. His mop of choppy orange hair contrast harshly with his skin making him stand out even more.
“You’re one weird guy wanting to stay on a pirate ship,” he squints down at Lance and smile, “I like you.” Then suddenly the smile turn sharp and the yellow serpentine eyes boring into him from above give Lance the impression of a predator cornering its prey. “We’ll have so much fun together.”
“That’s enough, Pai, stop scaring the boy.”
The orange-hair man shrugged and walked away. Lance let out a huge breath. That man is scary!
“Don’t mind him, he’s just messing with you. Once you get a good grasp of his mannerism you’ll realize he’s very nice.” That put him at ease until Blaytz crouch down to his eye level and said in a serious tone. “But no matter how tempting he made it seems, do not, you hear me? DO. NOT. Play cards with him. You have no idea how it feels to lose something you don’t even know you could lose.”
Lance guess Blaytz already lose this ‘thing he didn’t even know he could lose’ to Pai. What it is he doesn’t want to know but trust him when he said he’ll be making a wide berth of the musician from now on.
Later that night among the rowdy banter and Pai’s ballad Lance sit beside Trigel enjoying his mug of warm tea. He looks at the smiling faces, at the vast blue sea beyond the ship then up at the moon.
It’ll be a while before I can meet all of you again but please wait for me. I’ll bring you the greatest stories ever.
And what better place to find them than on a pirate ship.
Chapter 4: Precious Boy
At the other side of the world....
He’s so cold
When was the last time he’s not cold? He’s too hungry to remember.
The boy mused as rain soaks into his clothes freezing his skin. He shivered, back against the wall arms held tightly to his knees trying to preserve as much warmth as possible. People shuffled around him hurriedly trying to get away from the rain. He wonders if they’re going home. The warm place with people that are always smiling. He doesn’t have a place like that.
His stomach growl and he look at it helplessly. What’s the point of it making a noise when it knows full well that he has no way of feeding it? It’s late and all the stalls are close, but even if they’re open he doesn’t think he has the energy to run if those owners give chase.
Maybe he’ll die of hunger. Such a painful way to go but it means he won't have to worry about tomorrow anymore.
The sound of the rain continues but no more droplets are hitting him.
Curious, he unfurled from his tight ball and saw a pair of shiny black leather shoes standing in front of him. He eyes trailed up the length of the silhouette to meet with kind eyes set upon a face wrinkled with age.
“What are you doing out here alone, young man?”
He’s so warm
When was the last time he’s ever this warm? He’s too full to remember.
The boy mused as his rain-soaked clothes were replaced with dry ones made from fabric so fine he could not dream it up even if he tries. The man is drying his hair for him, humming a melody he never heard but really like.
How did he end up here?
Under the cover of the umbrella, the man had held out his hand to him. Nobody ever offers their hand to him before, at least not in a way that makes it seems like he has a choice to refuse. So he took it and here he is warm, full, and the most content he’d ever been. He doesn’t know what the man wants from him, it’s not like he has anything to give.
Maybe he wants his body?
He’d seen many boys offer it up for strangers in exchange for food and comfort. He never tried but if it means he could continue having all of this then he guess it’s fine. It’s not like he’s worth much anyway.
“There, all dry.” The man put down the towel and walk out from behind him.
He suppose now’s the time. He hopes it won’t hurt too much.
But the man ignores him to start rummaging through the heavy trunk, “I remember putting it here. Where, oh where could it be? Aha!” Triumphantly he pulled out a set of rumpled clothes and open it up to check for defects. After deeming it alright he lay it on the chair.
“It’s my old work clothes, it might be too big for you but nothing a few pins couldn’t fix. I’ll have Naomi ironed it out for you tomorrow, seems like you’ll have to sleep in that bathrobe tonight. I already ask the masters for half a day off tomorrow. We can go into town to pick out your stuff. Do you have any preference, shorts, long sleeves, skirts?” The man keeps spouting things at him and he felt overwhelmed by the information.
Old clothes? Stay the night? His stuff? When does he have stuff? Skirt? The man prefer that kind of things?
He totally missed the playful twinkle in the man’s eyes and is already resigning to dressing up as a girl. Not like he has much of a choice if he wants to keep this new life.
“I have nothing to give in return for your kindness mister.” Not one to beat around the bush he decides to get right into things and see what the man want from him.
“I’m not asking for anything,” the man then pause a contemplative look on his face, “only for you to stay.”
Feel like that is as good an answer he’s going to get, he start untying his robe. The man’s hand quickly stop him.
“What are you doing? It’s cold tonight so at least bear with it until we get you suitable sleepwear tomorrow.”
He blinked, confused, “but I have nothing else to give you.”
Understanding the meaning the man’s face darken. “I’m not asking for such thing and if anyone ever make you that offer you come straight to me and I’ll deal with them accordingly.”
‘Come straight to me’ indicate that the man will continue to be part of his life from now on? A strange feeling rose up in his chest, hot and fluffy. He doesn’t understand it at all.
“Then what do you want? Everyone always wants something. If it’s something I can give I will, so please let me keep the robe. It’s really warm.”
The man smile turned sad and he gathers the boy into his arms. “I’m not asking for anything except for you to consider staying here with me.”
The boy lay his head on the man’s chest. The man is already old, face wrinkled and head full of silver but his hug is so warm and the hand brushing his hair is so gentle making the fluff in his chest increase in size.
“I’m a butler. My family had been serving the Kurogane lineage for generations. Unfortunately, I never have an heir that will carry on after me. Until I found you.” The man looks down at the boy in his arms whose grey eyes looked up at him and his adoration grew. “It must have been fate that made me walked down that street today.”
What is the man talking about? Found him? Fate? Why is he treating him like something precious? As if he’s wanted?
“Oh my, seems like my age is catching up to me, I forgot to ask you for your name. I’m Genjiro Shirogane.” The man looks at him expectantly and he ducks his head in embarrassment.
“Don’t have one,” he mumbled. Maybe he does once but with nobody to call him by he’d already forgotten it.
The man makes a disapproval noise, “that will not do. It’ll be hard to only call you by your surname since it’s what most people called me by. It’ll be so confusing for the both of us.”
The man looks at him surprised and said in a tone like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, “since you’re going to become my son it’s only proper for you to take on my surname.”
Son? Is the man taking him in as his son? He’s becoming someone’s son?
The fluff is filling up his lungs making it burn white hot and threatening to spill out. His lips quiver and his eyes sting something fierce.
“I got it. How about ‘Takashi’, written with the letter for ‘precious’ and ‘honor’, because you’re my precious son who’s going to grow up to be an honorable man. Takashi Shirogane, have a nice ring to it don’t you think?”
Sobs bubbled out his throat as the man, his father, wipe away his tears with gentle fingers.
He has a name now. Takashi Shirogane. Precious and honor.
A name his father gave him.
He doesn’t have to be alone anymore.
Chapter 5: Picking Up Strays
Or in another word, Lance is creating a cult.
Voltron replaced its black sail with the common white one before docking at Rygnirath kingdom’s port. They’re running low on supplies and this is the closest place. Gyrgan was ecstatic to be back at his home place and whisk Trigel and Blaytz to his favorite restaurant.
They’ll be here for a couple of days so after helping with the menial task he ducked out for some sightseeing. It felt strange as he looks at the price tags inside the windows and realized he can’t afford any of them. He remembers going out shopping with his sisters and never have to worry about the cost of anything because whatever he wants he always get. How useless and expensive are those things he once thinks worthy to waste his money on.
He was quite spoilt, wasn’t he?
A sound of jeering stood out from all the cheerful clamor around him and he followed it to a little clearing. He found a group of boys crowding around a boy who’s crying on his knees. They’re belittling him, calling him names and the boy just keep on crying telling them to stop.
The image overlapped with his mother on that accursed day and a surge of anger and protectiveness make him spring forward.
“Go away,” he looked at the blonde boy who seems to be the group leader and said in the most calming voice he could manage. There four of them. He’s not stupid enough to go into a fist fight with them.
Unbeknown to him his ‘calm’ voice came out more of a snarl and his pacifist demeanor he’s going for is downright terrifying. Feeling like getting stared down by a lion the boys took the command to heart and scatter the next instant.
When he turned back intending to ask if the crying boy is ok he was met with a terrified look. Taking a deep breath he tries to give the other a reassuring smile. It worked, somewhat, the boy took his offered hand but keep adverting his eyes.
“Thank you,” he said after a bit. “M-my name is Hunk, what’s yours?” He still looks afraid but hopeful. The boy is a full head taller than Lance, with the larger build which contrasts with his meek nature. He reminds Lance of a Labrador.
“Lance,” he tries the smile again which got a better reception this time. He asks about Hunk and those boys and found out that they’re from the same orphanage. Since he dislikes confrontation those boys always push him around. Today they told him to get the ball they lost yesterday but he refused because the place they lost it is in the backyard of Mr. Vanh.
“Can’t you just ask for it back?”
“You don’t understand! Mr. Vanh used to be a soldier. He has only one eye and always glare at people. The caretakers said he nearly shot a person because they ask for their things back once.”
Lance give him a blank stare and march up the steps and ring the doorbell. Hunk rush to pull the other boy away but the door swung open and he squeaks before hiding behind Lance.
The old man glare at them but Lance smile and said politely, “I’m sorry to interrupt your afternoon sir, but our ball went into your backyard. Would you be so kind as to give it back to us?”
Hunk stare at the smaller boy as he slightly bows to the old man, his conduct regal like royalty. Then he looks at the shabby clothes the boy sport and discards the thought.
The man squints at them and steps aside, “my eyesight is not so good you boys will have better luck finding it on your own.”
They found the ball easily along with various other toys the man told them to take since no one ever come to claim them. He even prepared tea and cookies for them and ask if they’ll be willing to keep an old man company.
Hunk found out that Mr. Vanh is not scary at all, just have a scary face and bad eyesight. He also looks really kind when he smiles.
Mr. Vanh told them the cookies is from the town’s famous bakery which belongs to his daughter. He told them of how he lost his eye and the time he fell in love with an oiran and saved up money to buy her. They’ve been happily married for 48 years before she passed away with a smile on her face.
Lance told them of his life on a pirate ship. How Trigel is the only woman on board but holds the most power, that even Blaytz, the captain, was scared of her. How Gyrgan’s food is the best. The pitiful state each crew member obtain after playing cards with Pai thinking that this time they would surely beat him.
They keep coming back day after day to talk over tea and snacks and each time Hunk found it harder to part ways. It’s so nice here with the two of them. They would never look at him in annoyance, they who always smile at him, they who shine so bright while retelling their adventures it makes him want to have one too.
But he never could.
He’s not strong like Mr. Vanh or brave like Lance.
He’s a coward and useless. Even the caretakers said so.
The next day he went to Mr.Vanh’s house with a heavy heart. This is Lance’s last day here. It’s only been four days but it felt like he knows Lance all his life. He doesn’t want to be separated, he wants the other boy to stay here…or maybe…no! He couldn’t never. He’s useless and a coward. They wouldn’t want him.
The front door was ajar and he felt a sense of dread. He enters with shaky footsteps and his heart nearly stopped beating when he saw Mr. Vanh face down on the floor. His voice stuck in his throat as he kneels by the man’s side, turning him over while internally chanting ‘please don’t die, please don’t die’.
The ex-soldier open his eyes and Hunk breathe a sigh of relieve.
“What happens here, Mr. Vanh?”
“Thieves,” the man wheezed out, “they got Lance.”
Hunk body went cold and he became aware of feet shuffling in the kitchen. He clamped his hands over his mouth muffling his shriek. Oh god, what is he going to do? He can’t fight them. He’s a coward. He should get someone, someone who’s not him, someone useful.
Hunk pauses in his steps and turns to face the kitchen.
There it is again. There it is again. He’s not imagining it.
Lance is crying.
Those people make Lance cry.
They’re hurting his friend.
With tears in his eyes, he grabs the nearest thing he could get his hands on and march towards the kitchen.
“S-STOP RIGHT THERE!” He holds the chair in front of him like a shield feeling ridiculously stupid, he’s shaking all over and wants to throw up but Lance is right there looking at him and for once he wants to be the brave one between the two of them.
“LET-LET MY FRIEND GO.”
“HUNK, GET OUT OF HERE!”
“NOT WITHOUT YOU!”
“Aww isn’t it cute, the kid is trying to save his friend.” The thieves are making fun of him and using that as fuel he charges forward, swinging blindly.
The chair got batted away easily and one came up behind him and hoist him up by the armpits. He flailed about telling them not to lay a hand on his friend. He only stops because Lance walked past all the thieves -who all make way for the boy- to come and hold his hand.
“A fine friend you got here.” The man holding him up said and put him down gently.
“Right?” Lance looked so proud and Hunk is so lost.
“Those are my friend’s sons that one is my son-in-law actually.” Mr.Vanh smile at them from the hallway and the man who was holding Hunk a moment ago give the boy a little wave. “I ask them to act as thieves, seems like they were a little too convincing.” The three men beam at the sarcastic praise.
“To make you see that you’re not a coward.” Lance smiled at him waring up Hunk’s chest. “You’re always doubting yourself and I know you want to come with me but thought yourself not good enough. This settles it. A coward would have run but you stay and fought. That’s brave enough to be a pirate.”
Hunk’s eyes sting.
“Like it or not I’m taking you with me.”
Hunk has no problem with that.
With Mr. Vanh’s blessing Hunk board Voltron and never look back.
Later that same day he found out that he’s very useful in the kitchen. Gyrgan was so happy to have a fellow Rygnirathian on board who’s also a good cook, he made a welcome feast. Lance whispered that these people will use any excuse to get drunk but Hunk just smiles.
He finally felt like he belongs.
“What are you two doing?”
Two figures whipped around in surprise, fear etched clearly on their faces.
Lance wanted to laugh. Did they think they’re quiet? Lance can hear their whisper even 15 feet away. After observing them for some time and made sure they’re not dangerous (even though they’re bigger than him, maybe even bigger than Hunk) then he called out to them. If he miscalculates and things went south it’s still Turil’s turn on the crow nest tonight. He’ll have no problem subduing two kids.
The pair, a boy and a girl (Sibling? Lovers? Lance can’t decide) look at each other and shift their bodies into position.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” the brunette said while taking out a whistle from inside his shirt. “See this? If I blow this it will alert the guy in the crow nest. He’s crazy strong, you two have no chance against him. So, what do you say? Think you can get to me before I blow this thing?”
The boy still looks hostile but the girl has fallen to her knees, tears streaming down her face.
“Please, my brother and I haven’t eaten anything for 2 days, just some scraps and we’ll be on our way.”
Lance look on as the boy console the girl and thought of all the time his siblings try to cheer him up when he cried. By how haggard they look he’s sure it’s been more than two days since they last had a proper meal.
“Stay here, I’ll go get some food for you. If I come back and don’t see you I’m blowing the whistle.” He could feel the boy eyeing him suspiciously but he shrugged it off.
He came back a while later with Hunk who hid behind him when he saw the glare the boy aimed their way. A bit miffed at seeing someone scaring his friend he hold out the whistle menacingly. The boy backed down but keep himself in front of the girl. Lance smiled at the sight.
Hunk hesitantly hands them the plate of sandwich he whips up at Lance’s request and the two immediately gobble it down.
“I-it’s s-so deli-cious,” the girl said between sniffle, mouth full of food and tears as she smiles at Hunk. Lance pretend he didn’t see the blush on both their faces.
“I thought-I thought we’re going to die.” The boy covers his eyes with his free hand trying to hide his tears, holding on to the half-eaten sandwich like it’s the most precious thing in the world. For them, right now, it is.
They learned that the siblings, Rax and Shay, were cabin boy and girl on a pirate ship. Unable to handle any more abuse they ran away. They’ve been drifting for a week and their food and water had run out two days ago. They came across Voltron by chance and since it’s so dark and their boat is so small they were able to escape Turil’s watchful eyes.
Lance frown as they tell their story. “You two are not going anywhere,” he said before walking away leaving the three looking after him in confusion.
“What is it you need me to see that it can’t wait till morning, kiddo.” Blaytz scratches his exposed belly, mouth open wide in a yawn. His long blue hair he usually kept tied up is sticking up everywhere. He blinks his eyes blearily and squints at the two new faces,
Hunk looks at his captain nervously. The man is usually laid back but he’s still a pirate and a captain at that. That one time he saw him angry is enough to instill fear in his heart. He glances at Lance who nodded at him and relaxes somewhat. It’s alright, Lance got this.
Rax by now had pushed Shay behind him again and was bristling like a spooked cat. He glared at Lance, betrayal clear in his eyes.
“Their name is Rax and Shay. They’re siblings.” Lance said getting Blaytz attention. “They ran away from a pirate ship, I found them. They’re starving so I ask Hunk to make them food.” After retelling the night to his captain the boy’s stance turn imposing. “They’re not going back out there.”
The captain’s eyes turned cold and Lance is glaring back not taking a no for an answer. It’s like that day he asked to stay. Blaytz is testing his resolved and he’s not going to back down.
The air around them turned heavy and Hunk is having a mini panic attack. Scary. These two are so scary. He sees that Rax and Shay are not doing much better than him. Cold sweat ran down his back and he nearly has a heart attack when the blue-hair man barked out a harsh laugh.
“When did you become such a brat,” Blaytz said and ruffle Lance’s head, messing up the boy’s hair on purpose. He can see the displeased on the boy’s face and grin. Good. Hold your tongue. You’re asking me for a favor right now.
He looked the siblings up and down. Nice build. Would be useful around the ship. “Fine, they can stay, but you’re responsible for them. Take them to the sleeping quarter I’m going back to bed.” He waves without looking back intending to get more shut-eye before Pai decides to bother him again.
Hunk let out a huge breathe. Thank god everything went well.
“Hunk, can you take them there? I’m still on night duty.”
The boy agreed and led the sibling below the deck, pointing things out here and there along the way.
The siblings, holding on the each other, only paid partial attention to what the younger boy is saying. Are they really going to stay here? Did they just run from a pirate ship to be on another pirate ship? But this boy gives them food and the other boy, Lance was it, also vouched for them.
Maybe just for a little while?
They could always run again if things are unpleasant.
Yeah. A little while sounds nice.
“It’s alright Hunk you can stay in the kitchen.”
“You-you sure? I mean I can help. I’m part of Voltron too.”
Lance heart melt at his friend’s determined look. It’ll be a lot more convincing if his hands weren’t shaking.
“It’s fine. The ship is not big and Gyrgan is only joining because he wants to see what they have in their pantry. We are running low on meat. I think everyone would appreciate it if we have something to eat when we come back.”
Understanding the message right away Hunk’s eyes brighten. “Then I’ll get started right away.” Without missing a beat the cook’s apprentice starts cracking eggs into a bowl. Don’t want to get in the way he quietly steps out and crosses path with Shay in the hallway. Sending him a smile she heads for the kitchen. Those two is spending an awful lot of time together recently. Lance grin mischievously.
He went up on deck to join the group getting ready for the raid. Rax came to stand beside him.
Slaves trading ship is one of their main targets. Illegal goods like slaves get low profit but aren’t under the protection of the military. They can’t complain to anyone when they get robbed. On the other hand, trading company ships are a big no-no. Their security is usually tight and the military will be on their tail if the mess with them.
Unlike other pirate ships and independent merchant, the amount of loot gotten from raiding a slaves trading ship is based on luck. If they’re back after a trade then the loot will be big if not, then, they take what they can get.
When Lance saw the small number of gaunt faces peering at him from behind cage bars he felt relieved. Seems like there’ll be money this time.
They went around opening up the cages letting out the slaves. One of their rules is always free the slaves and point them to the nearest land. After that, it’s their own luck if they survived or not. They’re pirates, not saints.
The slaves run off towards the lifeboat and sailed away in hope of starting a new life.
Lance followed his crew and was about to close the door when a feeble sound from the far corner caught his attention. Curious, he heads back in and was surprised to see another cage placed behind a pillar as if wanting to forget the content inside exist.
Two bodies so thin one could mistake them for a dried-up corpse sit inside. The bigger of the two was cradling a small unconscious girl in his arms and open his eyes to look at Lance when he opens the door.
“Please,” the boy (man? It’s too dark for Lance to make out any defining features) whispered. “My sister,” voice hoarse and eyes pleading he try to hold out the girl in his arms for Lance to take, “at least…just my sister…please.”
He toppled forward and Lance lunged to catch the both of them. The boy rests his chin on Lance’s shoulder, the girl snuggles comfortably between them. He could feel their bones protruding from under their skin. So thin, too thin.
“Please save her, please,” the boy continues pleading beside his ears and Lance tighten his arms around them. The boy, on the verge of dying, was only worried about his sister. He thought of Luca and felt overcome with a surge of protectiveness.
“You’re not going to die and neither is your sister. I’ll make sure of it.”
Matt clutch at the shirt of the boy in front of him as tears fall from his eyes. Tears he thought had dried up long ago. Life had been hard after their parent’s death. All of their relatives turned their back on them except one. Feeling grateful they do their best to help with the business only to get betrayed and sold off to the slave traders.
He was so angry. As times goes on the emotion died down and replaced with hopelessness. It’s fine if he dies but he wishes that his sister would live.
This boy is telling him he would help them with a voice so resolute Matt couldn’t help but believe him.
Katie, he looked down at his sister in the boy’s arm and his heart swelled, it’s alright now Katie. Mum and Dad hadn’t abandoned us they’d sent us an angel.
A week later after getting discharged by Trigel the new sibling duo quickly ingrate themselves into Voltron. Maybe a little too well in Katie’s case.
“Say that again you oversized seaweed!”
“I’ve found puddles deeper than you.”
Pai is too good at riling up his sister but it’s the most animated he’d seen her be in a long time. He’s, also, the most happy he’d be in a long time.
Mum, dad, we’re doing well. Please rest assured. Lance would never betray us.
“We could use another cabin boy”
That was the words that doomed Lance’s life. Well, his life for now.
After they got attack by another pirate ship and looted of all the treasure they own one of the attackers uttered those accursed words and took Lance with him.
“SIT TIGHT KIDDO! WE COMING TO GET YOU.” Blaytz bellows after the departing ship both hands busy putting out the fire on the sail. That was two weeks ago. Now he’s trying to lift up the rum barrel all on his own.
Those big-nose pirates (he don’t care what their real name is since their captain have a big nose that took up half his face Lance is calling them that) laugh at his plight. He’s only 12 years old, there’s no way he could lift this thing alone. Complaining is only going to get him beat up (firsthand experience) he kept his mouth shut. He hates all of them.
The barrel suddenly became lighter and when he saw a pair of pale hands holding up the other end he smile lightly. Correction, he hates all of them except one.
His fellow, the only other cabin boy on board, is Keith. It’s the first and last thing the boy said to him since he got kidnapped.
No matter what he said or do to start a conversation the only response is a steady look. Like he’s contemplating what he’s going to say but never say them out loud. One time he actually opens his mouth but then gets a hesitant look before walking away.
Lance is a people person, okay? He needs to talk to people. On Voltron there’re many who just wouldn’t shut up, there’re some here too, but unlike on Voltron Lance wish these big-nose pirate will just choke on their saliva. The only person he wishes would talk is playing mute.
He doesn’t understand why but he’s not giving up. He’ll have the boy talking up a storm by the time he got rescued.
That thought was abandoned the next day.
It’s Keith’s turn to mop the deck and one of the big-nose crew kicked over the bucket of dirty water, wanting to harass the boy. The captain was furious and when Keith tried to defend himself the man slapped him.
“Who told you could talk.”
The comment made the other crew member starts jeering, “nobody wants to hear your voice,” “so annoying,” “my ears are going to bleed.”
Keith was trembling all over trying to hold in his sniffles.
Lance was livid. He felt so disgusted he turned to leave. It’s cruel but he knows stepping in will only make everything worst. He couldn’t wait for Blaytz to come to get him and destroy these people along with it.
That night Keith enters back into their shared closet with a gloomy face.
Lance crawled into his space and hold up his hand, “this means hello,” he demonstrated the gesture.
“You don’t want to talk. It’s alright. There are other ways we can communicate. This is sign language, I have a friend who’s mute so I learned it to talk with her. My name is Lance.” He signs out the last sentence. Keith’s eyes followed his every move.
“K.E.I.T.H. Keith. My name is Keith.” Lance smile when the other boy tried to mimic his gestures. “Here, let me do that again slowly.”
Keith, Lance found out, is a fast learner. It only took him 3 days to memorize all the letters and simple phrases while being on top of his duties.
They talked a lot after that. Well, more like Lance talked and Keith signed back.
A month later Blaytz comes for him.
Voltron descend upon the ship like a vengeful death god and it was glorious. Even Hunk was participating, smashing his favorite iron pan into people left and right. He got Voltron more than the other side though since he got his eyes closed all the time.
Rax was not amused.
He looked at his sister who -even when punching a guy in the face- was looking at the cook with wide adoring eyes. He’ll have to give the boy some serious training. He’s not having a wimp for a brother-in-law.
Hearing all the commotion and Katie’s shrill laughter as she runs around pushing people overboard and Matt’s frantically running after her, Lance kicked open the closet door. Finally, he’s getting out of this damned ship.
A hand grips his wrist like a shackled and he turned back to see Keith looking at him with wide frightened eyes.
“Don’t-don’t go,” the boy mumbled out his first words in months and Lance's heart raced at the sound.
“Sorry Keith, but I’m leaving.”
Keith’s heart dropped and tears sting the back of his eyes. Lance didn’t even hit him but manage to hurt him than any of his crew and captain could. Lance is going. His, dare he say, friend is going back to his old crew and leaving him behind. Keith will have to go back to those lonely days, worst this time since he already knows how it feels to have someone to talk to and ask after his wellbeing.
Keith let go of the other’s wrist and was about to wish the brunette good luck when Lance hold out his hand for him.
“And you’re coming with me.”
Keith stares at him. Lance grin widen as he heard Nyma’s sweet voice calling out for him in the distance.
“Come on, Keith, our crew is waiting.”
Keith took the hand and never let go since.
The sound of laughter and clinking glasses could be heard on the ship’s deck.
It’s Balum’s turn on night duty and Pai’s in the crow nest. Feeling up for some moon viewing and good company Blaytz bring along Trigel and Gyrgan and called the other two to join them.
“We seem to be having a lot of kids on board nowadays,”Gyrgan said chucking down half a mug of rum, “first it’s only Lance but then suddenly BOOM kids everywhere.”
The crew laughs not minding the fact. It’s a lot livelier now and those kids are hard workers.
“Lance seems to have a knack for picking up strays. Sound like someone we know.” Trigel side-eye Blaytz making the man raised up his glass happily.
“A fine trait I must say. It brought us a lot of our family members, isn’t it? Blue eyes landed on the orange-hair man beside him. Pai glace at his captain and, a rare show of affection, smile at his captain softly. For it was this man that extended his hand toward him who’s on the brink of death that he’s able to be alive today. He vowed then to follow him to the end of the Earth.
Then the smile turn teasing, “careful, his little cult is so devoted to him that if he said he wants your hat they might actually start a coup for him.”
“BAH! I want to see them try!” The captain said and drown his drink in one go. Slamming his glass on the deck he asks for another round their laughter carrying on through the night.
Chapter 6: Blissful Days
One precious boy's struggles trying to survive in the Kurogane manor.
Takashi pulled at the collar of his shirt. Usually, the shirt was soft and fit him perfectly but today he felt the fabric was too itchy. His slacks too were too restricting and the shoes too small. He wants to take them off and never wear them again.
No Takashi. You’re being paranoid. Be grateful for these things. They’re expensive.
The shopping trip from last week still left him with anxiety whenever he thought about it. He remembers staring at a pair of shoes (Oxford, he father later told him, he never know shoes have names) in the window and thinking how nice it would be to have one so his feet won’t bleed so much before the owner shooed him away.
Who would think years later he’d be standing in an establishment grander than that shop with people calling him ‘young sir’. Clothing of all shapes and colors were brought out for him to choose each one pricier than the last.
He was so overwhelmed he nearly faint.
He broke down and hyperventilate in the fitting room when he saw the price tag on the socks. Why do people need such expensive socks?
He’s fine with cheaper stuff but one look at the man and he swallow down any words of protest. His father looked so happy as he flints around the shop picking out shirts and pants one after the other for him to try out.
He’s thankful when he saw no skirts in the pile.
By the time they had lunch Takashi have enough clothes to last him 10 days with more to be delivered to the mansion at a later date.
Now a week later with an intensive crash course on social conduct and mannerism, he’s ready to meet his future master, Isamu Kurogane.
Heart beating a mile a minute it brought him back to the moment in the fitting room. Oh god, don’t you dare puke Takashi Shirogane that will ruin your first impression.
A familiar hand landed on his head pulling him out of his panic.
“Calm down, Takashi. Breath.”
He took a deep breath as instructed.
“You always worry too much. Everything will be alright. I trained you myself so I know, you’re ready to meet Young master Isamu.”
“But what if he-young master Isamu doesn’t like me? What if I messed up and humiliate you?” Takashi pouted.
Genjiro suppresses his squeal and pulled at the soft cheeks adoringly. There’s no way the young master will not like him. How can anyone not like his son, he’s so cute.
A servant opens the door announcing that the masters are ready to meet them now. He pats his son’s head to reassure him one more time and lead him inside.
In the middle of the living room is a grand set of couch, armchairs and coffee table made out of oak decorated with gold trimming. On the couch sat the lord and lady of the Kurogane household with their son happily devouring his afternoon snack on the armchair nearby.
Ayato Kurogane is a man in his early late thirties with side sweep dark brown hair. His sharp black eyes behind thick frames and mouth set in a grim line can make anyone squirm with only a glance. Just and generous, he’s a fief lord beloved by the people.
Misaki Kurogane one the other hand gives off a completely different vibe than her husband. With light brown hair, petite frame and large emerald eyes no one can believe that she’s actually older than her husband and is now in her forties.
Isamu Kurogane takes after his father on looks but there is some femininity from his mother in his posture and mannerism. Hair color the mixture of both parents with sharp slanting eyes from his father and pouty from his mother.
Genjiro gently urges his son out from behind him, “master, mistress, young master, this is my son Takashi.” He bows and smiles when his son hastily copied his action.
“So this is Takashi. Come over here, sweetheart, let me have a look at you.” Misaki eagerly calls the boy over, a bright smile lighting up her whole face. Takashi walked closer to stand beside the couch letting the woman cradle his face turning it left and right.
“Oh my, Genjiro, he’s so adorable. No wonder you can’t stop talking about him.”
Genjiro stands up straighter at the compliment direct at his son. Oh dear, he’s going to be one of those overly proud parents, isn’t he?
“Our son can be quite a handful, in the future do not hesitate to reprimand him if he’s out of line.” Ayato Kurogane usually has a stern face but when he smiles it can be really inviting. It took Takashi by surprised that he nodded before catching himself and reply verbally.
“Isamu, come and greet Takashi, he’s going to take care of you in the future.”
The boy’s who’s in the middle of his second piece of cake abruptly stop and turn to face the newcomer. With the fork still in his mouth, he rudely looked at the other boy from head to toe.
Takashi gulped and bow at the waist, “greetings young master Isamu, I’m Takashi Shirogane, it’s a pleasure to meet you today.”
“You’re going to be my butler?”
“What if I say I don’t want you?”
Takashi’s heart skipped a beat. That’s what he’s afraid of the most. If Isamu doesn’t want him then there’s no point of his father adopting him. Will Genjiro disowned him? Does he have to wander the streets again? The thought of losing all of this, losing his father, brought tears to his eyes.
He clenched his jaw. He doesn’t want to go back to those cold hungry days. He has a home and a father now. He’ll be damn if he gives all of this up without a fight.
With a burst of determination, he answered, “then I’ll do everything in my power for you to change your mind no matter how long it takes.”
“Even if it takes you 10 years?”
The fire in those grey eyes said everything and Isamu find it harder and harder to keep a straight face. Genjiro’s son is so fun to tease.
He has no problem with Takashi whatsoever. On the contrary, he’s quite excited to meet the other boy since the old butler had been talking about him none stop. Everything no matter how small will be said in such adoring voice.
Last night Takashi hiccup while yawning, it was so adorable!
He didn’t mean to be mean. He just wants to fluster the boy a little but it proves to be too amusing and now he wants to see how much he can push him.
He picked up his plate of half-eaten cake, cut off a bite with his fork and hold it up for the other boy. Takashi looked so surprised he took a step back but Isamu follows. Blank black eyes bored into confused grey, curious how the black hair boy will handle the situation.
To his delight, Takashi, with his face bright pink softly said, “pardon me”, and close his mouth around the fork, with his eyes closed and all. The sight was so cute he let slip a smile. Wanting to carry on with the teasing he quickly schooled his face back to neutral before the other boy could see.
Ayato shook his head. His son is too mischievous. Not even 10 minutes in and he’s already teasing the poor boy. He would have to pull the boy aside and warn him of his son’s personality. Takashi has a long way to go before he can handle Isamu in the future.
“What’d you got there?”
“YOUNG MASTER ISAMU!” Takashi quickly stands up to bow. Isamu waves it off and gestures again to the book the other boy was focused on a minute ago. He can see the picture of a boy and a dog on the cover. He recognized the picture book to be one of the few he’d read a long time ago.
“Isn’t that for kids?” The other’s cheeks flushed at the comment.
“My father bought it for me, t-to help me get started on the easy words.”
Isamu blinked. “You don’t know how to read.” Not a question but a comment and the other boy’s head-bow down further in shame.
“I assume you don’t know how to write either.” Takashi shook his head no.
Isamu plopped down on the ground and pat the patch of grass beside him, “come on, read it to me, I want to hear if you pronounce the words correctly or not.”
Takashi inwardly sighs as a fork once again hover in front of his lips. Master Isamu seems to like feeding him for some reason.
It’s been nearly a year now since he starts shadowing his father as he attends to the masters. He helps around but his main job is to observe. Standing diligently to the side he watched his father served the breakfast with expert hands. He tried to memorize the man’s posture and mannerism for later practice.
That’s it until the source of his headache, the Kurogane household young master, beckon him over.
The first time was a surprise, so was the second and third, by the twelfth he was already expecting it. Doesn’t meant it get any less embarrassing though. His father, master, and mistress never said anything so who is he to speak up.
Today is sliced of buttered Portobello mushroom which melts in the mouth. Under different circumstance, he wouldn’t hesitate to eat the food.
Isamu’s mouth twitch. Takashi is closing his eyes again today, how cute. Making the boy flustered quickly became his favorite hobby and this is the easiest way to achieve that. Is he abusing his authority? Yes. Does he care? No. Who told the boy to be so fun to tease.
Opening his eyes again Takashi noticed the speck of sauce at the corner of the other boy’s mouth. Without thinking he took out his handkerchief and wipe away the speck.
The young master’s face suddenly turns pink.
Takashi’s eyes flash in triumph as a warm smile graced his lips. Somehow Isamu felt cold instead.
Maybe he shouldn’t have teased the other boy so much.
Takashi felt uncomfortable
Like really uncomfortable
The type you wish to be anywhere but here.
“The flowers are so beautiful, Ayato.”
“Not as beautiful as you, Misaki.”
He doesn’t understand how can someone said that with a straight face.
Springtime in Yamato brought with it the blossoming of the famous Sakura. People from everywhere flock to participate in the flower viewing festival that lasts for two weeks. This will be his second flower viewing since he got adopted.
A large Sakura tree stood proudly in the garden of the Kurogane estate where the lord and lady are enjoying their afternoon tea. He glanced at his father compose figure and felt inadequate. He has to try harder f he wants to be a butler of that caliber.
If anyone told him that Ayato Kurogane is a sappy romantic when he first met the man he would point them to the nearest hospital. Seeing it for the first time would have to be the most surreal thing in his life.
Every star in the sky represent the love I have for you, my dear Misaki.
He nearly did a spit take then. Thank god he managed to hold himself back.
He watches the man gather up the fallen pink petals on the rose bush nearby and throw them into the air. She laughs merrily as the flower rained down around them and reward him with a kiss on the cheek.
Ok. Takashi has to admit that was romantic. It was just the right amount of thoughtful and sweetness, now if they could keep it at this level…
“I have the best husband.”
“No, it is I who is lucky. Who would have thought I’ve caught myself a Sakura fairy.” With flowers tangled around the crown of her head, Ayato took a lock of his wife’s hair and kiss it lovingly.
Takashi pulled down the hem of his dress, face bright with embarrassment. Isamu circle around him cackling evilly as he clicked away on his camera. He remembered the dress to be longer on the maids, why is it so short on him? It’s barely reaching his knees now.
“Lift up your skirt a little Taka,” Isamu said grinning
‘Fuck you’ Takashi thought tears gathering at the corner of his eyes.
How long has it been now? Six? Seven? They’re no longer the 13 years old when they first met that’s for sure.
He can’t believe it’s already been two years since he starts serving Isamu. Following the man around, providing him with everything he needs. Isamu was always teasing him, treating him not like a servant but a friend. Apprehensive at the overly friendly treatment at first now it becomes more of exasperation. Sometimes he wants Isamu to behave more like a master.
A master wouldn’t treat him like this.
At least he never saw Master Ayato do this to his father.
Feeling suffocated in the tight maid dress Takashi couldn’t feel more pitiful. Why did he have to accept the challenge? He knows he could never win against Isamu, especially when he pulled out the fake tears. Oh, they’re fake alright but it doesn’t make it any different because Takashi is pathetic like that.
And now he’s in a maid dress with his ‘master’ merrily taking photos of him from every angle imaginable. He refuses to do any poses though. He’ll take that last shred of dignity with him to the grave.
“Oh, what do we have here?”
The sweet voice of the lady of the household makes Takashi’s heart froze. Misaki, Ayato and Genjiro walked into the clearing (why, oh why, did he let Isamu coerced him into taking the photos in the garden? Fake tears. Right.). Takashi turned his back to them too embarrassed to face the three.
“Taka lose to me so I make him dress up as punishment,” Isamu explained and point to the camera. “I’m taking pictures to commemorate this glorious day.” Nose up in the air and stretch to his full height Isamu act as if he accomplished something amazing. Takashi wants to wring his neck.
“You look so cute Takashi,” Misaki came up and circle around him. Takashi, even though wanted to die right then and there, still have his manners and thank her for the compliment.
She stopped in front of him with a contemplative look. With a bright smile, she said, “I bet Isamu would look adorable in this too.”
The mention man stiffened.
Takashi looked over at him and smile warmly. Suddenly he’s not embarrassed anymore.
A lot of photos were taken that day.
Misaki looked at the photos of her son and his butler and sigh happily. Since that time with the maid costume, she’d discovered her new hobby.
Dressing up the two boys in girl costumes.
It’s a hobby that Genjiro encouraged very much. Between the two of them, there must be more than a thousand photos by now.
“Aren’t they just so cute, Genjiro?” The woman gushed showing the two boys, now man, decked out in full-on traditional furisode, hair accessories and all.
“They sure are mistress.” The old butler replied back as happily.
Ayato sipped his tea silently watching the two converse. He doesn’t see what’s so cute about two grown men, both in their twenties, dressing up in dresses. But if it makes Misaki happy then he has no qualms about spending money on those clothes. Isamu has been glaring at him a lot lately though. Must be because of the tailor he called in for Misaki’s new batch of costumes.
He has to admit though that both of them in the black sailor fuku is rather adorable.
Chapter 7: One Fine Day
It's a fine day for a separation.
Nothing prepared him for the death of his mother. It’s not a surprise. No. She’s been bed-ridden for years and he thought he’d already come to terms with it. How preposterous. What kind of person is prepared for their own mother’s death?
He wanted to cry, break down and weep for all the past memories he had with her.
But he can’t.
Because, like the time with Lance, he doesn’t have the luxury of appearing weak. Especially not in front of all these vultures, waiting for the chance to use it against him.
The palace had stopped being his place of refuge since he known what sinister things the people inside can do. It took the death of the McClain for him to open his eyes to his surroundings and realized that the life of a prince is not sprinkled with roses. It’s in fact line with thorns and full of venomous creatures ready to strike at any small opening.
He learned how to fake a convincing smile and laugh at the double meaning jab aiming at him. He also learned never to take anyone at face value and always question their motive.
That’s why he can keep up a pleasant front during the meals with his aunt.
Since the death of his mother three months ago she had been staying at the castle. Coming to express her grievance for the passing of her twin sister and never left. Haggar, his mother’s older twin is a pleasant and lovely woman. He heard that back in the days she was the prime candidate for the queen position until his father fell in love with his mother and make her queen instead.
It’s funny how she never came to visit when his mother is alive but now that she’s gone decide to show up.
It must be so hard for you, Your Majesty. Honerva always confided in me when she has trouble so why don’t I help out in her stead until you got everything sorted out.
The officials were singing her praise and his father was too heartbroken to argue.
Lotor is not buying any of it.
His aunt is up to something, he just doesn’t know what yet.
He has Narti keeping an eye on her for the time being. He doesn’t trust that woman.
Allura clutch at the letter Lotor sent her. Since the time she left Diabazaal with the news of Lance, they’ve been constantly exchanging letters keeping tabs on each other well being.
His recent letters told her of his concern for his father’s health and his wariness of his aunt. It’s sad when one can’t even trust their own blood. Allura wants to tell him that’s he thinking too much just so he can stop worrying for a moment. He’s so stressed nowadays. But she knows her words will fall on deft ears, written or verbal.
She understands though.
Being in the same place having to constantly smile at those vile people must be exhausting. She doesn’t know how he did it. Just thinking of doing the same make her skin crawl.
She wants to go to him. At least together she can do something but she has her own duty to oversee. She sighs. They’re no longer the naïve 12 years old they were all those years ago. The thought saddens her so.
She looks at the picture by her bedside. One of the rare ones that have her, Lance and Lotor smiling together. She picked it up and trance the corner of her brother’s smile.
“If I’ve known things will become like this I’d have smiled with him along with you.” Her sad smile slowly diminished. “If only you were here, Lance, you would know what to do to cheer your brother up. You were always better at it than me.”
If someone asked Pai if he could go back in time and change one incident what would it be, he would say this day.
He would suggest they took a different route. He would say let’s stay in the port for one more day.
Or even better, go back 2 weeks ago and never raid that slaves trading ship at all.
Who would have thought those people would half their profit with one of the marine commanders of Dorche republic? Now the said commander had found them and, after a wild cat and mouse chase with cannons had caught up with them.
The marine soldiers rush onto Voltron intending to take them out swiftly with sheer numbers. Thankfully their skills are nowhere near his crews’ level and he took many of them out easily. Still, there are too many of them and if this fight stretch out the side that’s going to suffer is going to be them. By how they fight Pai can guess capture is not on their mind.
Blaytz’s mind is working on overdrive, eyes darting this way and that trying to find a way out for his crew. Even if they manage to open their sail without it getting damaged they would not get away. The marine vessel is too big, they’ve been caught again in no time. He has to prevent them from following somehow. If he can do that then there’s a chance they’d make it out of this alive.
A plan crossed his mind. A simple plan but effective. But the plan involves going on the marine vessel and a high chance of not making it back.
He’s the captain, isn’t he?
True there may be better ways if he just takes his time and thinks but unfortunately time in one thing they don’t have right now.
He looked around the chaos searching for that one person he needs to talk to. He nearly missed him with how well he blended into the shadow behind the stairs. With only the barrel of his rifle peeking through the steps he took down target after target. Those soldiers try to get to him painting him as a coward and an easy target. Every time one got near they either got cut down or flung overboard.
Nobody outside Voltron knows how highly guarded that ‘coward’ is.
And nobody outside Voltron knows how dangerous that ‘coward’ is either.
One single bullet is all he needs to take a person out. It doesn’t matter what the wind condition is. He will not miss. Lance is their most powerful rearguard but sadly he alone cannot look over all of them. If he has more time to hone his skill he would be unstoppable.
Blaytz has to create that time for him.
Blaytz voice surprised Lance making him lose focus on his aim on the marine creeping up behind Turil. Fortunately, Balum took him out the next instant. Miffed at getting pulled from his zone he glared back at the owner of the voice.
Blaytz stood there, amidst the chaos, with a calm look on his face. So calm that it makes dread stir inside Lance’s stomach. His captain is up to something and he’s sure he won’t like it.
Blaytz watched the boy calmly approached him unmindful of his surroundings. He thought Lance didn’t notice his throng of bodyguards, seems like he was mistaken. Pai’s words for that night years ago float up to the surface.
Careful, his little cult is so devoted to him that if he said he wants your hat they might actually start a coup for him
Yes. Yes, they would.
“What is it?” The boy looked him up and down checking for injuries. How cute. Ahh, but he’s not a boy anymore is he. How long has he been here? Six? The boy should be around 17 by now, he’s nearly as tall as Blaytz. Silver tongue with a shooting skill out of this world he’d charmed the whole crew. Even the stoic Kaim couldn’t help smiling in the boy’s presence.
A face flashed in his mind and he hesitates. Dark-skin, choppy orange hair and a sly smile. That smile can turn sweet sometimes, Blaytz like those smile the most. Always by his side within arm’s reach, Blaytz wonder if he’s being too hasty choosing Lance. Despite his mischievousness, Pai is level-headed and knows how to control the crew.
He shook his head. No. Pai would hate it. Too much responsibility. He would do much better supporting Lance like he did Blaytz.
Voltron will be fine under both of them.
Rapping his knuckle against Lance’s head he simply said, “I need you to get the crew out of here.”
“We’ve been trying to do that since the beginning remember?” Blue eyes are searching trying to find answers knowing he’s up to something. Blaytz laugh. The boy has good intuition.
Good skill for a captain.
Taking off his captain's hat he places it snugly on the brunette’s head.
“Do me proud, kiddo.”
Before Lance has the chance to comprehend the situation Blaytz was already running across the deck and launched himself onto the marine vessel. Seeing that some of the Voltron’s crew also jumped after their captain already anticipates his action. They didn’t follow this man for decades for nothing. Kaim and Nolan raced ahead cutting down the rope holding up the sail. The large cloth rolled down with a flourish flapping majestically in the wind.
Blaytz dodges the soldiers blocking his way. Gyrgan was already standing ready below the sail both hands overlapping preparing for launch.
Not the first time in his life Blaytz marvel at the awesomeness of his own crew. Not to toot his own horn but he really has a great eye for picking people.
Gyrgan let out a war cry and catapult the captain into the air. The blue-hair man whooped and bring his sword down creating a nice clean cut from top to bottom. The large cook caught him with an “oomph” in a princess carry and he blinks up at his savior flirtatiously.
“Will you two cut it out and be serious?” Trigel said bringing their attention to her. Blaytz’s heart tugged. He’d hope she would stay on the ship but he should know she’d never do that. Not with the two of them here. The knowledge brought forth a bittersweet feeling.
Around them Voltron and marine clash. Seems like most of the soldiers came back to their ship when they saw what had happened. Good. His crew will be able to handle the small amount still left on their side.
He looked back at Voltron. The watery blue eyes that stare back at him make his heart clenched. Lance was looking at him with fear clearly etched on his face, begging with his eyes for Blaytz to come back, to take the hat away from him.
He wants to tell the boy not to doubt himself, to stand tall and trust in the people around him. The ship is drifting apart taking away what little time he had.
“TAKE THEM AWAY LANCE!”
Lance eyes sting. What is the man saying? Is he planning to die? There still time, he knows that Blaytz is strong he could break through and come back. Please come back. He can’t do this. He couldn’t lose his family again.
“Lance,” Blaytz voice was softer then but Lance was able to hear him just fine, “this is not the end, kiddo.” Blaytz smile, proud and serene, “bring me a good story.”
Lance’s eyes widen and the tears finally fell. He wanted to scream that he can’t do this without him but Blaytz is still looking at him, confident in his own judgment. The brunette clenched his teeth caging in the sobs and nodded his head at the last order. With one final look, he turned away and took off barking orders for the crew to open up the sail hoping someone will heed it.
Trigel’s assistant, Rolo, who was the nearest looked at him in anger. He holds Lance up by the front of his shirt fear prominent in his voice. “Are you out of your mind? Doc and Cap are still on that ship. Who are you to order us to abandon them?” Then he realized what’s on top of the boy's head and let go, staggering back in horror.
Lance’s hair covered his eyes as he said in a watery voice, “we need to go Rolo, please, or else their sacrifice would have been for naught.”
Rolo felt hot around his eyes. The thought of leaving behind the woman who sees his potential when no one else did was heart-wrenching. There’re still so much he wants to learn from her. He still hasn’t made her proud yet.
He looked to the marine ship and saw his mentor was already watching him. Sharp grin telling him to take care of the crew in her stead. With a heavy heart he brought his hand up in a salute and smile back telling her not to worry, he got them.
The sound of the sail unfurling caught his attention. Rax and Keith already on the mast heeding Lance’s words without question. He smiles bitterly and set off to help secure the sail.
Voltron makes its steady depart from the marine vessel. Pai cut down his final opponent and rush toward the back of the ship intending to join his captain on the other ship. He’d made a vow that day to follow that man to the end of the Earth and he’s going to honor it.
“STOP THERE PAI!” Trigel’s scream made him lost his footing and slammed into the railings.
“YOU ARE NOT TO COME OVER!” Gyrgan voice followed.
Picking himself up he looks dejectedly at the other side. He wanted to help them so why are they forbidding him? He knows he’d die but if it’s with them then he’s fine with it, welcome it even.
Blaytz is looking at him, mouth set in a grim line and eyes telling Pai all he needs to know.
The musician’s felt cold as his knees shake and breath quicken.
No no no no no NO!
There must be a mistake. Pai must have read the meaning wrong because Blaytz couldn’t be asking that of him could he? Why him? He’s just a musician, the trickster, the liar. He would be better off being their cannon fodder than here on this ship.
Blaytz’s smile is back. As brilliant as the day he cradled Pai’s frail body in his arms and brought him onto the ship. He had picked up the child that’s abandoned by his own family and given him a new one, a better one, full of love and happiness. He was everything to Pai, his whole world, his…
“Protect our family, son, there's no one else better at it than you.”
Pai chokes on his sobs.
The ship is getting further away, a distance he could no longer jump across. Pai could fell his heart broke anew with every passing moment.
Blaytz had his back to him now and Pai knows this will be the last time he ever sees him.
‘Please turn back’, he pleads in his mind. He’s not ready to say goodbye. He still wants to be with him. Please, look at him again, please…
But his father did not look back and Pai crumpled to the ground as the sound of fighting got further and further away.
“I should have picked scissors,” Trigel laments her spear slicing down on a charging soldier.
“Really? You’re still on that?” Blaytz side-eyed her incredulously.
“Admit it, if I was captain none of this would have happened.”
“I failed to see how this situation relates to you not being captain.”
“Now, now stop it you two. Trigel, we’d agreed who won rock, paper, scissors get to be captain, no complaint, remember?” Gyrgan placate.
Blaytz grin smugly and the doctor harrumphed.
“Seems like you scoundrels don’t realize your own situation.” The commander’s nasally voice cut through their conversation.
Of course, they know what is happening, you buffoon, but this will be the last time they’ll ever get to talk like this. Can these people give them some time?
He smiled sadly as he looked around the blood-soaked deck. Bodies of Voltron pirates and marine soldiers strew about motionless. Balum over by the sail, Turil against the cannon, he remembered seeing Kaim by the steering wheel and Nolan must be around here somewhere.
It doesn’t matter anymore. All of them are dead now and they would soon follow.
“Seems like it’s back to only three of us, huh?”
Surprisingly, he was not scared at all. He’s the calmest he’d ever been in his life. Wonder why.
Blaytz knocks shoulder with him on the left while Trigel does so on the right, their backs against each other. Gyrgan smile. Ahh, must be because these two are with him. He can’t remember the time they’re not together.
“It’s been an honor fighting alongside you men,” Trigel said thinking back on all the hardships they’d shared. It was rough at first but they stick together and had created a wonderful family full of happy memories. “I could not ask for a more fulfilling life.” And she would do it all over again. Picking rock and all.
Blaytz laugh joyously, “I have the best moons.”
The two recipients puffed up with pride at the compliment and grip their weapons tighter.
Blaytz looked at them his heart nearly bursting with affection. He had a good life, didn’t he? Good friends, good wife, even though his time with her is short but it was nothing but bliss.
The only regret he has must be that boy. There’s still so much of the world he wants to show him. It took every ounce of his being not to turn back then because if he did Pai would have risked everything to cross over. His boy was troublesome like that. Still, it was nice to hear him call him that for the first and last time.
‘Protect our family, Pai, I know you can do it. You’re my son after all.’
Blaytz angle his sword and grin toothily to the other two, “bet I can take them out more than you.”
Without warning, Gyrgan smashed the nearest soldier to the ground cracking his skull while Trigel cleanly stabs one in the chest.
“One,” they said simultaneously
Blaytz burst out laughing.
Aboard Voltron, the remaining crew slumped down as they throw the last of the soldier’s corpse into the ocean.
Everyone was holding their tongue but keep shooting glances at the once cabin boy. Lance can feel their piercing gaze on him, the hat on his head kept getting heavier and heavier.
He doesn’t understand why Blaytz gave it to him. He’s just a cabin boy, he’s nothing special. There’re others who are more worthy of it than him, someone like…
He stood in front of Pai.
Pai looked up from his slumped position against the railings, not having moved since they got away. The trickster’s once twinkling eyes are now dull and lifeless. Lance knows those eyes well. Pai and Blaytz were closed. Despite how mischievous he was Pai always follow the blue-hair man’s orders and been acting as the captain’s right-hand man since Lance can remember.
He wishes he could say something but he’s just Lance, not Baytz. He could never be Blaytz.
So he took off the hat and hand it over to Pai.
He could hear the slap before feeling its sting on his cheek. The impact left him sprawling on the ground and he looked up dazedly through his hair at the furious man. Pai holds him up by the collar and brought their face close till Lance can feel his breath on his face.
“How dare you,” the orange-hair man snarled, “that was his last request of you and you’re not even going to honor it!”
“BUT WHAT CAN I DO!?” Lance screamed back, “I’m only 17. I can’t be captain. You know it. Everyone knows it. He only gave it to me because I was the nearest.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it.”
Lance looked away.
“Do you think Blaytz will just assign his position to you just because you’re nearby? You think he’s that shallow?”
“Then don’t doubt his decision.” He turns to the rest of the crew, “all of you too. Blaytz gave Lance the position because he believes it’s the best choice. Did he ever let us down?”
Lance’s heart dropped when he saw the crews' doubtful gazes turn lighter. He holds onto Pai’s hands on his collar and said in a voice only they could hear. “See? With only a few words from you and everything is fine again. You’d make a better captain.”
“No. He knows I’m not fit to lead that’s why he gave it to you.” Uncharacteristically he brought their forehead together. The gesture meant to sooth the brunette coincidentally also brought himself some comfort.
“Don’t worry, Lance. I’m here. We’re going to protect our family together.” Like Blaytz had asked him to.
Lance flung his arms around the older man’s shoulders and Pai holds on just as fierce.
Along the waves, Voltron drift forward and disappeared.
Chapter 8: Storm is brewing
Trouble is forming back in Daibazaal and Alfor fear for the worst
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“TAKE IT OFF!” Lotor screamed in rage.
Haggar narrowed her eyes at him but made no move to do what he said, the handmaid beside her cover in fear at his murderous glare.
His aunt stuck up her nose at him and he nearly lunged at her. This is the last straw. How dare she? Who does she think she is to have the audacity to-
“What is going on here?” Zarkon enters the room a frown marring his tired face.
Haggar’s prideful demeanor change as she rushed towards his father’s side. “Your Majesty,” she curtsied, “it’s my fault. I’ve angered the prince somehow…if only he would tell me I’ll gladly comply to his every wish…but he…”
A tear fell and she wipes it away looking pitiful.
Lotor wants to laugh at the act. Crying? Trembling? A haughty woman like her?
But his father is looking at him accusingly and he bristles. Is the man serious? Is he not seeing what Lotor is seeing? Fist clenched and mouth pulled back into an ugly snarl he jabs his finger at the pathetic looking woman clad in red.
“SHE’S WEARING MOTHER’S DRESS!” Her favorite dress, the one she always wears when having tea in the gazebo. Lotor loves spending his afternoon with her there as they talked away the day and later on tell it again to his father at the dinner table. That dress reminds him of the good time when his mother is always smiling and his father still kind.
Now the woman who bore her face but so different from her is wearing it, tarnishing his memories.
Zarkon looked back at her and she averts his eyes bashfully. Lotor wanted to puke.
“So she is,” the king simply said.
So she is?
So she is?
That’s it? That’s all his father have to say?
Unable to stand to be in the same room with these two anymore he give the detestable woman one last look and storm out. His teeth ache by how much he’s gnashing them the only way to relieve his anger under the eyes of the officials. His mind going over the ways he could get rid of the woman. Every plan came up short.
There’s no one else he could blame but himself.
He had left her alone for too long, underestimating her ability. Now she’d gain the support of those people and he could no longer touch her.
Always beside his father, she whispered things and put ideas in his brain. Many loyal subjects were let go making way for the corrupted ones to assert more power into their ranks. She’d successfully brought Sendak to her side when she convinced the king to demoted Kolivan, who had been speaking up against her, to a mere soldier and transfer him to a remote village.
His reputation is exceeding yours, Your Majesty. He’s plotting to dethrone you. See, his brigade doesn’t listen to you anymore.
Lies. All lies. There’s no one else as loyal as Kolivan. His father had chosen to heed the witch’s word than the commander who’s been by his side for more than 20 years. That’s what when he finally realized that something needs to be done.
His father is a wise king, for him to be unable to differential right from wrong means that woman must have done something. He could no longer trust the king to make the right decision.
Slamming shut the door to his room Narti materialized from the shadow to stand before him.
“What should we do?” She signed.
He paced in front of his dresser chewing on the nail of his thumb. A habit that emerged only when he’s extremely stressed. Allura would have chide him if she sees. Sadly, she’s not here, her presence would lift his mood greatly. How bizarre. Once, the thought of her would have made him scowl but now…
Now he wished she was here.
“Not yet. Tell Kolivan to keep looking, the time will come.” He signs back.
In a blink of an eye, she was gone and Lotor flop tiredly onto his bed. Not for the first time he laments at his lack of power. A prince only in name. None of the officials and soldiers have any respect for him. His father no longer listens to him.
His aunt, that witch, only a marchioness but her influence far surpass his.
Except for his five guards, there's no one in this castle who’s on his side. Laughing and mocking him behind his back.
Unbeknown to them Kolivan’s transfer is a blessing in disguise. Away from prying eyes the ex-commander and the few men that followed him were able to move freely.
All those made-up stories about the man trying to take power are only lies because it’s aimed at the wrong person. The one who’s plotting to dethrone Zarkon is not Kolivan.
Kolivan’s loyalty lies with the kingdom, not his father. Haggar’s action had forced him to pick a side and he’d chosen Lotor to pledge his abilities to. Now he’s out there gathering people for a rebellion.
If no one is going to listen to him then he’ll make them.
“How is he?”
Alfor glanced up from the letter to thank his advisor for the tea. Coran’s usual vigor is gone replaced with a weariness only stress could bring.
He sips his tea before answering, “it’s as we fear.”
The advisor’s shoulder sagged and seems to age a couple of years in seconds. “It’s to that point already I see.”
Alfor nodded. The prince is backed into a corner so far there’s no other way to survive except retaliate.
And what a retaliation it’s going to be.
From his internal source in Diabazaal, it seems it will take some times before anything happen. Despite the talented people on his side the prince’s force is still too small.
He leans back tiredly massaging the bridge of his nose. ‘Zarkon, what are you doing?’ He mused. They’re old friends but a matter of a kingdom is a delicate thing.
Since the death of Honerva, his friend had changed. His latest visit to Diabazaal was for the Queen’s funeral and that was 5 years ago. He’d meet her then, Haggar, a lovely lady who he never thought could be this toxic. No matter how many letters he sent requesting an audience it would always be rejected.
He’s not stupid. He knows she has a hand in it. He feared his friend never even know of those letters.
He’s worried for Lotor. He had come to see the prince as his own and wish he could do something to ease the weight on those shoulders. He can’t do anything though, not if he wants to risk a war.
Heartless as it is he’s a king and the safety and livelihood of his people come first.
Allura didn’t seem to know of what the prince is planning. He could not thank Lotor enough for concealing it from her.
A prince staging a coup d’état.
His daughter would have blown a gasket if she knows.
Rereading the letter again he sighs and Coran refills his cup. The best he could do was hope the boy look after himself and keep safe.
“Takashi Shirogane, will you do me the honor of accepting my feelings?”
In the Kurogane manor’s dining room squeals of flustered maids and chuckles from the male servants could be heard.
The young master of the manor is down on one knee holding out a small box toward his personal butler.
Isamu pastes on a dopey smile while Takashi massages his temple exasperatedly. Ayato sips his wine in the corner while Misaki and Genjiro were going wild with the camera shutter.
“Please get up master Isamu,” Takashi said tiredly
Isamu frown, “go with the flow, Taka, people are watching,” the young lord whispered loudly. The maids giggled.
Takashi looked around the room at all the expectant faces and sigh. Isn’t this his birthday, so then why does he still have to deal with Isamu’s shenanigans? Also, isn’t it others responsibility to entertain him not vice versa?
Taking a deep breath he plastered on a forced smile and said, “I’m so happy, I never thought this day would come.”
“You don’t have to wait anymore, my dear.”
A servant in the corner choke on his drink and one fell to the floor laughing hysterically. The maids swoon and he heard someone shout for them to kiss.
Takashi accepted the box and hesitantly open the lid. A cockroach launches itself at his face and he fell backward screaming (it’s a manly scream, he swear). The whole room erupts into laughter at his expense and Isamu was on the floor howling.
He looks at the cockroach. It’s a fake. Damn him.
The crowd dispersed after watching a great show going back to their previous conversations, already used to their young master’s mischievous antics. He could hear his father’s and mistress’s gushing about their new batch of photos and something about ‘scenarios’. He felt he shouldn’t listen in too much or risk traumatizing himself.
Isamu came to stand beside him with a shit-eating grin on his face. Takashi turned his back to him.
“Aww, come on Taka, don’t be mad. It’s just harmless fun.” Isamu nudges him.
Fun for you maybe
When Isamu sees that Takashi is not relenting this time he exhales while smiling and said, “here, take this and forgive me, alright?”
Something slip over his head and Takashi turn around startled. He looked down at his chest and back up at his friend. “What’s this?”
“Your real birthday present. I had it custom made, just so you know.”
Takashi picks up the metal pendant to inspect it. At first glance, it looked like a white dog tag but it’s actually in a shape of an omamori. The ribbon design at the top is black and scattered around the writing for good fortune down the middle are Sakura flowers. There are also blessings engraved on the back.
Isamu nudge him again, “you like?”
Yes. He likes it very much. It’s the right amount of simple and flashiness and he could wear it inside his shirt while he’s working. He’s touched by how much thought and effort went into the gift and he could feel his anger melt away into fondness.
He’s not going to tell Isamu though.
Takashi looked at his master deadpanned, “don’t people give a yakuyoke (to ward off evil) on the 25th birthday than a kaiun (good fortune)?”
“True, true, 25 is a critical age and one could use all the help they could get, but a yakuyoke is a no-no.”
“Then I can’t do this.” Isamu smashed Takashi’s face with a piece of cake and cackled evilly.
Takashi closed his eyes and count to ten in his mind. He swears that if Isamu is still there giving him that shit-eating grin when he opens his eyes he’ll sock him in the face. Master be damn.
When he opened his eyes Isamu was gone (probably sensing his doom, never mind he’ll get him later) and in front of him is the person he didn’t expect.
“Here, use this.” Hajime hand he a napkin and he thank the guy before whipping his face, grimacing at the stickiness left behind.
Hajime hand him a drink after he finishes and Takashi thank him again.
Hajime is the newest staff in the mansion having only been here for two months. The man is only a year or two younger than him but their appearance is on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Takashi always stands tall with pull-back shoulders and eyes staring straight ahead with trimmed hair that doesn’t obstruct his view. Hajime, on the other hand, was always seen with a hunched back and messy hair that falls over his eyes. The burned that cover almost one half of his face just make it harder to approach him so most of the staff left him alone.
Takashi felt bad for him though. The boy lost his parents and gain that injury from a house fire from what his father told him.
He can’t imagine how he’d feel if he lost Genjiro.
“How are you doing, Hajime? Gotten used to working here yet?”
“Not quite. I never have to do these things before but I’ll try my best so I won’t trouble other people.” The scarred boy mumbled not meeting his eyes. Takashi’s heart clenched. The other looked so pitiful that he wants to cheer him up.
He place his hand on the other’s shoulder and give him the most sincere smile, “listen to me, Hajime, I know life looks bleak now but if you hold on, good things will come your way,” he glanced at his father feeling warmth spread in his chest, “I promise.”
Hajime stared at him and slowly stretch his mouth into a beautiful smile that makes Takashi’s heart beat a little faster.
“I’ll take your word for it then.”
Allura flipped over the page of the newspaper as she sipped her morning coffee. Coran will be coming with the daily report later in the day and she likes to compare the two’s perspective.
Her eyes landed on the crime section, the name Voltron is written in bold letters. That name seems to pop up everywhere nowadays. Once a small unknown group they slowly make their way into fame, their activities during the past 5 years are impressive.
Robbing only slave traders and merchant selling illegal goods they make a name for themselves as the fighter of justice. There’re many slaves that hailed them as their savior. Since they don’t usually make problems their bounty are not high so pirate hunter don’t bother with them much.
They had some run-ins with her kingdom’s marine troops a while ago and the tales those marines spun were…creative. Flying knives, demonic laughter, and magic bullets. She questions her people’s sobriety when retelling their tale or even during the encounter.
A picture accompanied the article. A blurry sepia that shows a couple of unidentified faces and a back of a man. From the hat, she concluded that that must be the captain.
The watery yellow color could not hide the fact that the man has dark skin and an even darker shade of hair. She remembers a boy with bright eyes and the sweetest smile. A dull ache throb in her chest. How long was it already? Twelve years? Time passed so quickly. He would have grown up just like this.
She closes the newspaper and pushes it away from her.
What’s the point of comparing? Lance is gone.
That pirate has nothing to do with him anyway.
I decide to keep Shiro's name as Takashi throughout the story since I'm basing Yamato on Japanese culture it make more sense to call him by his name than a shorten version of his surname.
Pidge will also remain Katie since I saw no reason for her to change it.
Chapter 9: And Then There Were None
And he could do nothing but cry.
Takashi deems the best day of his life to be the day his father found him. It’s the start of his new life and all the happiness that came after.
As for the worst day of his life…
The worst day of his life starts off like any other normal day with him waking up at the crack of dawn to get ready to serve Isamu. Serving his young master is easy, Isamu was never one to be fussy about appropriate conduct so Takashi had a lot of leeway in his job. The most difficult thing has to be getting Isamu ready in the morning. The other will barter and threaten in order to squeeze in more sleep time. Ironically, getting him into bed at night was equally a daunting task.
He sticks close to Isamu as he went about doing his task for the day which is shadowing lord Ayato. Already 25 years of age nearly half a year ago, Isamu had finished his studies and is now working towards taking after his father.
Then supper time came and usually he’d be serving the food to Isamu while his father caters to master and mistress. Both of them will be having their dinner after all three turn in for the night. At first, it’s hard to conceal his growling stomach but now he’s accustomed to having late dinner. He just needs to eat a lot during lunch for it to last.
The dinner today differ from any other day when Hajime came up to his father and whisper something in his ears. Being head butler means all the problem in the household goes through him. Genjiro frown and turn to his son, “Some problem arise in the kitchen, you go take a look I’ll stay here to tend to the masters, be quick.”
Takashi nodded and excuse himself. He noticed that Hajime didn’t follow him out but think it as his father have him stay behind in his place. He felt that the hallway leading to the kitchen were too barren. Shouldn’t there still be someone working
When he arrived at the kitchen nothing seems to be out of the ordinary. The kitchen staffs, as well as the others who’re already finished with their work, were sitting around the table having dinner. He blinked and walked up to the head chef asking what the problem was. The man looked at him confusedly and said he didn’t call for any help then asked around if anyone had made such a request.
Met with dozens of blank stares he concludes that there must have been some mistake and turn to head back. Suddenly, a maid near his end of the table starts coughing. Someone pour her a glass of water but before they could pass it to her they too start coughing violently. Then the whole kitchen erupts into a coughing fit.
Then the blood came, pouring out of their mouth and nostrils turning their faces into ghastly messes. The servant near him flung himself into Takashi’s chest clinging to his shirt dying it red.
“He-help…mmmh..ee” he gasps then let go to claw at his own throat till it’s bloody. The others were all the same crying and clawing, begging for Takashi to save them.
He could do nothing but stare at the scene horrified as the bodies around turn silent one by one, each drowning in their own pool of blood eyes glaring at him even in death. He felt like he’s floating above his own body looking down at the bloody scene.
Then the smell came.
It hits him like a brick to the face, the stench of copper so thick he could taste the liquid in his mouth. He rushes to the sink and throws up what little is left in his stomach since lunch. Tears and snot drip down his face as his mind caught up with the situation. He slid down to the ground staining the leg of his pants with the chef’s blood.
What is happening? Why did they suddenly…
He whips back to look at the food on the table. Could it be? It started when everyone was eating so it must be the food, right? Then that means…
If the food really is poisoned then is Isamu alright? What about Lord Ayato and Lady Misaki? What about his father?
With great difficulty, he walked over the bodies on the floor praying for them in his mind. These people are his colleagues, people he’d been working with for the past 12 years. They’re his friends and now all of them lay dead on the floor while he did nothing.
‘I’m sorry, when this is over I’ll bury you all properly.’
All he wants to do was drop to his knees and weep but now is not the time. He has to make sure that his masters and father are well first. He wipes his face and runs to the dining room. The same empty hallway now gives off an ominous feeling and he prays to all the deities above that the five people in the dining room are alright.
It’s only been a couple of minutes that Takashi exited the room when the utensils in Misaki’s hands fell out of her grasp with a loud clang. Ayato felt something was wrong and was about to ask if she’s ok when he felt his head began to spin. He drops his knife to clutch at his head when he heard something breaking. He looked up to see Hajime standing over the fallen form of Genjiro, porcelain shards, and flowers scattered around him as the blood from his head mixed with the water.
He braced his hands on the table and push himself up, his whole body felt numbed and his legs were wobbling like jelly. At the corner of his eyes, he could see Isamu had fallen to the ground and was struggling to gain back his footing.
He staggered toward his wife who slumped back on her chair breathing heavily. Hajime appeared beside her, face devoid of any feeling. Ayato saw the glint of the knife in his hand and lunged forward shielding her from harm. The weapon lodged itself in his shoulder and he cried out in pain causing Misaki to scream in fright.
“Ahh so you can still move, good good, it won’t be as satisfying if you all die too easily,” Hajime said with a happy smile. This must be the most animated Ayato had ever seen him.
Hajime pulled out the knife from Ayato’s shoulder and kicked him to the ground.
The distressed in his son’s and wife’s voice pulled at his heartstring. He grits his teeth and climbed to his feet. Hajime was looking at him, twirling his knife leisurely as if all of this is just one good show.
“Why?” Ayato asked
Hajime stopped his hand and smile at him, “because I hate you that’s why.”
Ayato wants to continue asking but right now standing up is already taking everything he has. His head is killing him and he couldn't feel his legs anymore. He recognized his symptoms as being poisoned, a slow acting one that’ll slowly destroyed the consumer’s body from the inside.
Hajime disregard Misaki still sitting on the chair to stand in front of him. Good, at least he could pull his attention from her but with how pale her face is turning Ayato knew he had to get that antidote fast.
“Do you remember me?”
Ayato looked at him confusedly so Hajime uses his free hand to push back his bangs and turn his face sideways so only the unburned side face him. “How about now?”
Ayato racked his brain for an answer. He always thought the boy look familiar and now in this angle, the inkling that they’ve met before was solidified. He knows this boy, but where? How? Then his brain replaced the black hair with blond and the black eyes with green.
Cold sweat ran down his spine. “Baron Nishimura,” but no the baron is well in his forties and in jail. He hasn’t received any news of him breaking out so this younger version of him must be, “Naoto Nishimura. Did you come here for revenge?”
The boy clapped his hands, “good job or else it’ll be so sad if you die without knowing why.”
“What your father did was a crime. Embezzling royal funds are punishment by death, it’s because the king valued his past contributions to the kingdom that he got off with life imprisonment.”
A slap made his wobbling knees buckled and Naoto loomed over his kneeling form, face twisted into an ugly snarl, “it’s all because of you. If you had kept your mouth shut none of this would’ve happened.”
“I was doing what was required of me”
A swift kick to his stomach brought about a series of coughing and blood trickled down the corner of his mouth. Ayato looked at it in dismay, it seems like he doesn’t have much time left.
“Because of you, my father will never see the light of day again. My mother was so heartbroken and ashamed that she hanged herself. Everything I have, my family, my possessions were all gone all because you can’t keep your thoughts to yourself. I changed my name and disfigured my face so I can enter your house without any suspicion, everything for this moment. I can finally extract my revenge.”
Ayato pushed himself up, “then let it out on me, only me, my family have nothing to do with this, let them-”, before he could finish a sharp pain pierced through his chest.
Naoto’s hands held firm on the knife a saccharine smile on his face, “no can do. I’ll kill all of them, slowly,” he pushes the knife in a bit more, “painfully,” and twist it.
Ayato screams and spasms in pain on the floor looking up hopelessly at his maker.
“That’s it. That’s what I want to see. Despair even more. Don’t worry I’ll send your family right behind you.”
Isamu looked at the man as he laughs hysterically over his father’s body. He trembles on the floor as sobs wreak his body and increase the burning in his lungs. Why is this happening? His father is an upright man who performs his duty earnestly. So why? Why is his good deed repaid with death? He doesn't have any strength left, just breathing is already a chore.
Using the last of her strength Misaki slip out of her chair and crawl towards her husband.
“Ayato, Ayato,” she said breathlessly caressing his face with trembling fingers.
Ayato felt his heart clenched at the soft touch. He remembered his wedding vows to her.
I will cherish and protect you for the rest of my life
He wants to hold her, shielding her from any harm in the world, but now…now he couldn’t do that anymore.
“Don’t cry Misaki,” at least allow him to wipe away her tears for the last time. His eyes blurred and his tongue had turned to lead.
“Don’t cr-,” his voice ran out and Misaki could do nothing but cry as her husband’s life left his eyes and his hovering hand fell to the floor before reaching her.
“MOTHER!” Her son’s panic voice instilled a new sense of fear in her but it was too late, that malicious boy is now crouching in front of her his mouth stretch into a wide grin. He reached out and wipe her tears away with gentle fingers, so gentle she doubts it’s the same one that was used to stab her husband.
“Don’t be sad. You’ll go to him in a bit.”
He stood up and walk around her. “But before that, I’m going to get rid of your son first.”
Her eyes widen in horror and frost settle in her bones. Her son, her Isamu, she can’t let him, at least just her son…
A scorching pain shot through her shoulder blade right into her heart. Blood flow up in her mouth preventing her from saying anything more.
“Psych.” A singsong voice of the pitiful child mingled with her son’s brokenhearted scream.
She could hardly breathe now as she stares forlornly at her son. ‘Isamu, my dear Isamu, mother is sorry she made you sad like this, please forgive me.’
Isamu looked at her until he could bear it no longer. He squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his face into the floor screaming.
“How was it? Do you like the show?”
His crying abruptly stops as hatred consume him. With the last of his strength, he pushes himself up and lunged at the despicable man in front of him. Naoto slapped him away and kick him again for good measure. He coughs and wheeze but still continues to glare hatefully at the other.
Naoto, on the other hand, couldn’t contain the glee on his face as he giggled happily, face flushed with exhilaration. There's no trace of the once meek servant left in him. “What a good face you’re making. Cursed the world, cursed your own fate, hate me more.”
“If you want to kill me just do it.” Isamu spat
The smile vanishes instantly, replaced with an ugly sneer. Isamu is sure now that the other is unhinged. No one sane can change their mood at the drop of the hat like that. His face was pushed into the ground as Naoto came close to his face until Isamu can count all his freckles.
“Don’t you dare tell me what to do, I’m not your servant,” he then shoved Isamu’s face away. “I hate you. More than your father, I hate you the most.”
“Why?” He doesn’t understand the reason behind the hatred aiming at him. He’d never met Naoto before so, why is the other looked like he wants to ripped Isamu’s throat out with his teeth.
“Why? WHY? Because even though we’re the same you’re the only that get to have everything. Your father took everything from me but you…you don’t even know. You just went on with your wonderful life not caring that your happiness is built on top of other’s sorrow. Your parents dote on you, the staffs love you.
“All the things they said…young master is so kind, young master is so handsome…they make me sick. So I decide to shut them all up for good.”
Takashi’s face flashes in his mind and Isamu’s heart dropped. Taka. Is Taka alright?
“So I want you to know how it feels to lose everything,” the deranged smile is back and Isamu scooted away in fear. Naoto took his time cornering him, eyes dancing with mirth when the young master’s whole body curled into a ball as he coughs into his hands, crimson liquid splattered onto the ground.
“Ohh Isamu,” Naoto cooed, “Don’t die on me yet, I want to be the one that kills you. Now, how should I do it? Should I slit your throat or should I stab you in the heart like I did your father? Or maybe…”
Isamu gasped as Naoto plunged his knife, the knife that killed his parents, into his abdomen nonchalantly as if the act was as normal as talking about the weather. “I should let you bleed to death. Watching yourself die must be so scary isn’t it?”
Takashi flung the door open and froze in the doorway. His breath quicken as his head began to spin. He realized he’s going into a panic attack and slam his head into the door. Stars burst behind his eyes and he shook his head to clear away the dizziness. The throbbing anchor his mind and he hurriedly makes his way towards Isamu.
Hajime was crouching by his side tears streaming down his face.
“Young master Isamu, why?” The pale boy lament. Takashi’s face paled when he saw the state his friend was in. A large pool of blood was forming around Isamu and by the looks of it, his friend is beyond help. He dropped to his knees beside the dying body hand hovering uncertainly, “what happened?”
“There’s an intruder. He killed Mr. Genjiro, master and mistress and was about to kill me too but Young Master protects me and took the blow himself. Now young master…he’s…*hic*.” The boy broke down into hysterical sobs and Takashi buried his face into Isamu’s chest as tears soak into the other’s shirt.
Why are all this happening?
He looked toward master and mistress lying beside each other as they stare lifelessly into space. He saw his father’s body beside the table a pool of blood forming around his head. Hajime said he’s dead but Takashi needs to make sure if it’s true.
‘Please, God, I’ll give you anything, please don’t take that man away from me.’ He prayed in his mind.
A weak groan caught his attention and he whips his head back to look at his friend. Isamu blankly stares up at him his mouth moving so minutely Takashi doubt his eyes for a second. He shifts closer bringing his ear up to the other’s mouth.
“What? What are you saying Isamu?”
The warning makes the hair on his neck stand up and he suddenly realized that Hajime’s had stopped crying. Feeling someone standing behind him he looked over his shoulder to see the said man holding a knife over his head. Without warning, the pale boy brought down the weapon and Takashi rolled away. The knife plunged into Isamu’s chest but the body gave no reaction.
The brunette was already dead, using the last second of his life to warn his friend.
Takashi stares as Hajime yanked the knife out of the body. “And here I thought I have you for sure. Bastard has to ruin everything even in death.” He spits at Isamu’s corpse and Takashi felt his blood boiled.
“What’s the meaning of this?” He hissed and Hajime laughed at him.
“What? You still didn’t get it? My, you are stupid.” He sneers then puffed out his chest as if boasting, “I killed them, of course.”
“Because I hate them, and now I’m going to KILL YOU TOO!” He lunged before he even finishes talking catching Takashi by surprised he barely has time to react. He shifts back but was a second too late as Hajime slash the knife across his face.
Blood spurt from the bridge of his nose and his knees buckled as pain bombarded his senses. He clutches at his face, eyes squeeze shut.
He could hear Hajime’s taunting voice from above him, “Blame your own luck for choosing the wrong masters Takashi, but don’t be sad I’ll send you to serve them in the afterlife.”
He imagined Hajime raising his knife once again. Takashi thought about fighting back. He’s bigger and stronger than Hajime, overpowering the other will not be hard, but what’s the point? His father is dead. Isamu is dead. He might as well join them.
He waits for the pain to come but instead, he felt himself being pulled into a hug. Coldwater dropped into his wound and he hissed in pain.
“Sorry Takashi, does it hurt a lot?” His eyes flew open and he’s staring into his father’s kind eyes. Hope bloomed in his heart and he smiles back.
His father is alive.
But his newfound happiness was dashed away the next moment when Genjiro scream, his face twisted in agony when Hajime ripped the knife out of his back.
“FATHER!” He cradled Genjiro against his chest, the man’s body rapidly going cold in his arms.
“Tsk, if you’d just stay put you would have been fine,” Naoto mumbled annoyed. He liked Genjiro, the man remind him of his own butler, that’s why he decided the old man will be the one that won’t die by his hand. Now he has to change it to Takashi. Sigh. Why do people keep getting in his way?
Genjiro coughed and looked up at him, “Can you listen to this old man last wish and let my son go?” He’s smiling again. The old man is always smiling. Naoto couldn’t bring himself to be angry at the man. He shrugged, “my plan was to let you go but since you’re dying I guess I could change it up.”
“You have my deepest gratitude for that.” Naoto didn’t tell him of the ending of his plan. The man is dying, he should at least give him some peace of mind.
“Father,” tears sting the cut on his face but Takashi paid it no mind. His father is slipping through his grasp and he could do nothing but watch. This man has given him everything. There’s still so much he hasn’t done to repay him for this life.
Genjiro smiled up at him and hold up his hand. Takashi grasps it and held it tightly never wanting to let go. “I won’t be here to guide you anymore so you need to be strong, Takashi.”
“No, please don’t go, I can’t…not without you.”
“You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for. Live on my son. I wish for you to find happiness again one day.”
It’s a touching scene. Naoto would have been moved if his life wasn’t so crappy. Sounds of numerous footsteps echo from the hallway. He clicked his tongue annoyed. Those soldiers could never get their timing right. He looked back at the two father and son still saying their goodbye, for Genjiro’s sake he’d want to leave them on their own till the old man pass away. Guess he can’t do that now, he still has his old man to think about.
He pulled his shirt out of his pant and tousled up his hair creating a disheveled look then he let out an ear-piercing scream.
Takashi was shaken out of his grief and was promptly tackled by Hajime. When he got up he saw that Hajime is standing between him and his father. Genjiro is slowly closing his eyes and Takashi rushed back to him or tried to when Hajime stepped in to block his way.
He saw red. His father is slipping away and this bastard is preventing him from getting to him. Hajime brandished his knife swiping left and right. If Takashi was rational he would have noticed that those slashes were too slow to mean any harm or the hold on the weapon was too loose, but his grief-stricken mind is too hazy to register any of it.
Takashi took hold of both Hajime’s hand to stop the assault. In an instant, Hajime’s hand holding the knife loosen, slipped out of his grasp and enclosed around his hand instead. With the knife now in his hand, he tried to shake it off but Hajime holds stay firm.
Hajime smiled sharply at him and let out another scream, “DON’T DO THIS, TAKASHI!” Takashi pushed back with vigor at the words. What does he mean don’t do this, after everything he’d done is he now begging for his life?
“DROP YOUR WEAPON!” Takashi whipped around to see soldiers standing at the door each brandishing their swords menacingly. He opens his mouth to call for help but was beaten by Hajime.
“PLEASE, SIR, HELP ME. THIS MAN HAVE WENT INSANE AND POISON EVERYONE ONLY BECAUSE HE GOT FIRED, AND NOW HE’S GOING TO KILL ME.”
Takashi heart froze at the accusation and the lethal glares now aimed at him. He opens his mouth again, he needs to correct them or else…
“Come on now, Takashi, I went through a lot of trouble to get here, don’t destroy it.” Hajime chide in a soft voice only the two of them can hear. Takashi doesn’t understand what’s is Hajime’s motive for doing all of this.
“Why?” Why did he have to kill everyone? Weren’t they all getting along before today? It seems Hajime interpreted his question incorrectly because his answer makes Takashi confuse even more.
“I need a scapegoat. If they found out who I was they would link it back to my old man and pinned this on him. He’s already punished enough, no need to torture him anymore, you know? Since this is solely for my own satisfaction.”
“What are you talking about?”
Hajime’s smile suddenly turn mocking, “good things will come to you if you hold on, right Takashi?” He then changes from push to pull. The momentum brought the two chest to chest, “well then, good luck.”
Hajime took Takashi’s hand that was holding the knife and slit his own throat.
Crimson blurred his vision and the body that was pushing against him a moment ago slumped into his chest. Wide eyes Takashi stare at the gurgling man as blood flow from his mouth and eyes going dim.
Hajime’s lifeless body slid onto the ground at his feet and Takashi dropped to his knees eyes never leaving the other, a mocking smile still on his face.
Someone tackled him from behind, push his face into the ground and took the knife away. It’s not like he put up much of a fight, mind still to stun at the sudden turn of event.
He looked over at his father, the man’s eyes were already closed and calm look on his face.
He couldn’t utter a single word as they dragged him away.
Chapter 10: Atop the Ivory Tower
Is where I met you
Lance watch the first half of his crew rush down the ship and disappear into the crowd. As much as they love each other 2 whole months on a ship can drive them near insane. It’s amazing that Pai didn’t drive Katie insane yet.
After half a day the group that went out first came back to switch with the remaining people on the ship. The only two that are allowed to stay out all day are Hunk and Shay and a couple of few chosen people and that’s because they’re in charge of stocking up the food supplies. Also, Lance is a sucker when it came to Hunk’s puppy eyes and when the man asks for extra hours so he can have a date with Shay, Lance caved.
Everyone knows but no one minded. Hunk is already considered a saint with all the wonderful food he made for them daily.
Lance stretch out his cramped muscles, take a deep breath, and walk toward the town square. He hasn’t docked at Yamato in ages. He’s quite pleased to see that many things had stayed the same. It reminds him of the last time he’s here when Blaytz took him and Pai sightseeing.
He walked past a small alley and smile before walking through it. The path opens up to a side street with many quaint small shops. Lance heads towards one in particular.
The shop was deserted and the granny that brought him the menu looks like she prefers he not be there. Lance took it all in stride, giving her a huge grin, glad she’s still the same as before.
She placed down his order of daifuku and green tea, two of each, and leave him be.
He slid one set of order toward the seat opposite him before biting down on his own. He sighs happily, the sweets was still as good as he remembered.
The old lady clicked her tongue and said in a hoarse voice, “is it a trend these days to order for two when you came alone? How thriftless both you and that man.” Without waiting for his answer she hands him the bill.
I see, so Pai already made his visit in the morning
He paid for the two orders and make his way back towards the town square.
The further he walked in he noticed the crowd around him thickens. It’s there an event going on today? Then why do people look so stressed?
He was absentmindedly looking around when a huge roar from the people around him nearly gave him a heart attack. The crowd was screaming and jeering at the man who’s being pulled onto the wooden stage.
He stopped at the middle and the man who pulled him along slipped a noose around the man’s neck.
It’s a public execution.
Lance’s eyes widen in horror as the picture of his family flint across his vision, cold sweats slid down his forehead.
He jerked away from the contact, his whole body trembling. Keith’s hand hang in midair still stretch towards him, forehead wrinkled in concern. “You…alright?”
It’s a useless question. Anyone with eyes can see that Lance is not alright but Keith was never required to comfort anyone, that’s Lance’s fort, so he’s left with these awkward attempts. Lance give a weak smile but it slip when he noticed that Rolo and Nyma are making their way towards them, both sporting a look of concern.
Damn, how bad is he looking right now?
Another round of vicious cheers brought the groups attention back to their surroundings. The governor had finished announcing the man’s crime to the public, something about murdering the beloved fief lord, and they’re calling for his blood. People are becoming violent and more guards are being called in to contain the situation. It’s best they leave right now in case any of the guards recognized their faces.
“Come on,” Rolo pushed apart the crowd to make way for his captain whose face is still frighteningly pale. He hasn’t seen that look since Blaytz died.
Lance knows he shouldn’t look, the bile rising up his throat is a good enough reason. But something is calling out to him, begging him for only a glace.
So he looked.
Lifeless black eyes stared back at him leaving him breathless. It’s the eye of someone who has lost everything, someone who had given up hope.
He’d seen it on his father when he loses mother.
He’d seen it on Luca when he loses Rosa.
He’d seen it on himself when he loses all of them.
Before he knows it he’d raised his gun up in the air and pulled the trigger.
The resounding crack renders everyone silent. The next moment people were scrambling out of his way as he stalked towards the podium, eyes trained on the executioner, daring him to pull the lever.
Soldiers overseeing the event quickly make to intercept the man but was immediately blocked by a group of people, weapons drawn, blocking their paths.
Rolo heaved a huge sigh while Nyma giggled beside him –the soldier facing them give them a weird look- seems like they’re getting a new crewmate. More soldiers are trickling into the square arduously pushing their ways against the crowd who pushed back as fiercely.
The doctor’s eyes flicked worriedly to his captain and smirk when he saw the red swordsman trail dutifully behind the dark-skin man.
Keith won’t let anyone hurt Lance.
Lance murderous gaze sent the governor and executioner running for their lives. Keith looked down onto the commotion, standing guard as his captain talked with his possible-new-member. Lance always have the most unorthodox way of recruiting.
Takashi wonders at how fast his life can turn on its head. Two days ago he still has a father, a home and a friend. Two days ago he was happy.
Now all he wants to do is disappear.
His father and friend are dead and his home is no more. Everything and everyone he holds dear is gone leaving behind the acrid smell of blood and wide-eyed stares that haunt his dreams. He didn’t care that he’s wrongly accused and the real culprit had already killed himself. What’s the point? He’s so tired.
He just wants to sleep.
But the crack of the gunshot is too loud and the man marching toward him is too bright and when he lifts the noose over Takashi’s head, it’s like waking up from a dream.
Actually, the slap across his face is what brought him back to reality. The assault makes his knees buckle and he crumpled to the floor.
The man is glaring down at him, his mouth set in a grim line, “so you just going to give up, just like that. How pathetic.”
Anger bleed into his eyes and pulled his mouth into an ugly sneer. Who gave this man the right to criticized him? He has no idea what Takashi had been through, what he’d lost. He springs up to his feet, rage at the tip of his tongue ready to lash out.
The hand extends toward him made those words died in his throat.
“If you already intended to throw it away, might as well give it to me.”
Such pompous words full of ridiculous demands but it pulled at something in his heart. He reminds Takashi so much of Isamu that he wanted to cry.
The man was still looking at him, sharp eyes a deep blue –the color of melancholy and pride- coaxing him to take that offered hand.
He reaches his hand out, slowly, hesitantly.
The man surges forward and grabs it, pulling Takashi towards him a sharp smile adorning his face –all teeth and sharp edges reminding him of a shark; face glows in triumph as if he’d won a prize.
Takashi felt like he just got scammed.
Chapter 11: Out of the Pan
and into...the fire?
Katie’s heart jolt when the familiar high pitch noise accompanied with three consecutive pop rang out in the marketplace.
“What the hell is that?” The owner of the vendor she’s currently looking at pokes his head out to look at the sky. She shared a concerned look with Matt who’s at the nearby stall and both of them quickly head for the ship. Along the way they’re join with Rax who also heard the signal.
The product of her’s and Matt’s effort, the calling signal is used when they need to make an impromptu escape.
They just set foot on the deck when someone shouts to open up the sail. Rax make way towards his sister to help her with the food supplies. She could see crates scattered about but from experience knew they’re only enough to last for a week or two. What do you expect? The original plan was to stay for 3 days.
Hunk instructs the crew about where to stock the supplies under the deck when he heard the sound of commotion coming from the pier as throngs of civilians and soldiers came running. He wonders which one of his friends cause trouble this time. His bet in on either Pai or Lance.
When they’re far out of danger they close up the white sail and let down their black one. The sight of the eye-catching black contrast with the large white symbol brought him a sense of security.
Feeling safe from seeing a pirate flag, Mr. Vanh would have laughed at him. How is that man doing? Last time he and Lance visit him it seems he’s happily doting on his first granddaughter. They should bring some presents next time.
He finishes putting away a portion of the supplies in the kitchen and heads out only to witness the majority of his crew gathering around the infirmary door across the deck.
“What’s happening?” He came to stand beside Lance. The captain sent him a difficult look and Rolo grumbled out, annoyed at having been chased out of his territory, “Lance got a new recruit. Apparently, he didn’t realize what he got himself into and is freaking out.”
A crash sound from inside and Rolo angrily bang on the door, “Oi, if that is what I thought it is you’re in big trouble.”
Hunk could hear Pai’s high pitch cackle before he even sees the guy drape his sinewy arm over Lance’s shoulders. “You should see his face when we change the sail and realized where he is, hilarious. Remind me of someone.” The musician wiggles his eyebrows at the captain and Lance turn away blushing.
He’s going to bribe that story from Lance with cookies later.
Pai detaches himself from Lance and sauntered towards the door. Rolo’s angry face soften. If Pai is taking over then this will end quickly.
“Hey, you better open this up quickly before we decide to use the other passage. By then we won’t be so nice.”
Rolo would have laughed at the blatant lie if he’s not so annoyed with the smell of alcohol seeping through the slit under the door. He should have kept it in the cabinet and not on the table after he finishes tending to one of the crew. Now that scared-face bastard has gone and wasted their precious disinfectant. Those things are expensive damn it.
“What other passage?”
“The one under the floorboard.”
There's no such thing and if there is Rolo would have boarded it up ages ago. The infirmary is the most precious room on the ship, stocked full with herbs and tools ready for any situation. There’s only one way in and out and he’s the only who has the key to the medicine cabinet to prevent any stealing as some pills could be addicting.
“Want to try?” The musician’s smooth voice drop down an octave sending chills down the crew’s spine. Everyone knows not to mess with Pai when he uses that tone, not even Katie talk back to him then. The only one brave enough is Lance and that’s because Pai is lenient towards the brunette.
Dread settle in Takashi’s stomach at the warning in the man’s voice and he decides not to push his luck, there’s no way he could hold up in this room forever anyway. He cracks open the door only to be pushed aside by a white-hair man who stares at the broken bottle on the floor scratching his head in frustration.
Someone yank Takashi out by the collar and flung him to the ground. A weight settles on his back knocking the wind out of his lungs. He struggles to look up and saw the pirates standing in a circle around him, the man who brought him here is among them.
Why did he take his hand in the first place? Something in him said he could trust the man, guiding his feet along the cobblestone path as they make their escape from the authorities. The dark-skin man never once letting go of his hand.
Now, out of the pan and into the fire, he wants to tell that ‘something’ to go fuck itself.
That man crouch down and said, “calm down yet?”
The ex-butler takes note of all the cold glares and meekly nodded his head, knowing it’s best not to provoke these people. The weight left his back and he stands up not meeting anyone’s eyes. A sigh came from in front of him and he chance a look at the dark-skin man again.
“You don’t have to be that tense, we’re not going to hurt you if you behave yourself. Also, we only take willing recruits, no loyalty in the one forced to stay you know? We can’t go back to Yamato so you have to stick with us for a while till we can dock somewhere. Hunk didn’t finish his shopping yet anyway.”
The man glance at the one beside him who nodded.
“The closest and safest place from here would be Daerum which takes about 5-6 days.” A man with fair complexion and tied back brown hair spoke up. The friendly smile he shoots Takashi’s way make him relax slightly.
Right then the white-hair man from before knock his shoulder’s into his and pushed him aside to talk to the dark-skin man. Takashi refused to meet the man’s cold glare.
“We’re docking in Daerum? Good, that place has a good stock of medical supply and I know a guy so I should get a good price. It’s gonna cost a bit this time cuz this guy,” Rolo gesture at the new guy with his thumb, “Broke one bottle of our disinfectant. We only have a bottle left now so you lot better behave yourself.” He look around him when he said the last sentence, his gaze lingers longest on Keith and Rax.
Takashi bow at the waist, “I’m sorry.” Good manners never hurt, he reasoned, even with pirates.
He heard the man clicking his tongue and the dark-skin man suggesting he let Takashi clean up the mess and help in the infirmary as compensation.
“As if I’ll let him anywhere near my workplace again.”
Lance could only smile wryly at the blatant hostility and turn towards Matt. Apart from Hunk and Shay, the man have the friendliest friendliest personality on the ship. Hunk is constantly busy and would give him the stink eye if he assigns Shay to watch over some guy so the best choice would be their resident inventor.
“Can I trust you to keep him out of trouble till we get to our next destination, Matt?”
The older male smile and Lance clap his hand to call everyone’s attention, including Takashi’s.
“That settles it. For the time being Matt,” he points to the said man who waves at Takashi, “will look after you…you?”
Takashi thought of giving a fake name but then deem it ridiculous since…what’s the point, right? So he wet his chapped lips and said, “Takashi Shirogane.” Saying his surname again brought about a pang of grief. There's too much memory attached to it.
“Takashi,” the brunette said again loudly for everyone to hear, “I’m Lance, captain of this ship.”
Takashi sucks in his breath at the title not believing that this man, who’s a few years younger than him, could be the captain of the infamous pirate group. Are they messing with him?
“Let’s aim for a peaceful stay, shall we?” Those eyes are looking at him again, the same one he had on the gallows, sharp and dangerous. His doubt about the brunette’s position vanish. Takashi knows despite his friendly words and demeanor, Lance will not let him off easy if he makes trouble.
A week, you just need to survive a week, Takashi
Seeing the docile expression Lance knows that Takashi gets his message. He grins and gesture to the black sail with their insignia wanting to warn the man one last time.
“Welcome to Voltron.”
He laughs inwardly as handsome face twist uncomfortably. Feeling awfully gleeful as the man squirm when he give him a toothy grin.
Ahh, not good, he’s turning into Pai.
Matt sigh when the door slam in his face. At least Rolo took his duty seriously enough to give him the disinfectant-soaked cloth. He made his way back to Takashi who’s standing beside the railing with a forlorn look on his face.
Matt handed him the cloth…and wait.
He hides his laughter behind his hand when Takashi’s shriek the moment the cloth touch the edge of his scar. He felt a bit mean but a little entertainment never hurt, and isn’t he the reason they couldn’t enjoy themselves more on Yamato?
“Can’t handle a little alcohol big guy?” Katie walked over with a smirk. “The name is Katie by the way, Matt is my brother.”
Takashi can see the resemblance.
“Just so you know, the disinfectant we use are the cheap ones so they sting like a bitch”
“For god sake, Matt, I’m already 21.”
Letting the two bicker Takashi gritted his teeth and quickly clean the scar on his face. It stings real bad but it’s already been two days without any treatment so this is a must. He opens his eyes, his eyelashes wet with tears, to see that the two people had stopped their talk and are now looking at him.
“Aww, he whimpers like a puppy, how cute.” Katie cooed.
Matt couldn’t stop his laugh in time and Takashi want to hide in the nearby barrel.
“There’s actually a milder substitute but you really pissed off Rolo so that’s all you’re gonna get,” she pats his back comfortingly.
Takashi went to apologize to the doctor again but one look at his face and the door was slammed shut before he could get a word out. He hands the cloth back to Matt, “thank him for me.”
Katie give him a once over. She knows that one of the crews who’s similar in size lends the man his clothes in exchanging with Takashi taking up his deck cleaning shift for the duration of his stay. Seems like someone lends him some razors too.
“You clean up well,”
“Still, is it alright to let me use your water to bath, isn’t water precious when you’re at sea?” Takashi asked worriedly.
“No worries. You see that big tank beside the bathing area? That’s for processing the sea water. The water might not be clean enough for drinking but it’s alright for washing.” When Takashi’s eyes shine with an impressed look she stuck her nose in the air and place her hands on her hips, “Matt and I built that thing ourselves.”
Takashi knows that these two siblings are inventors but he never thought they can make something so impressive.
“Hey Keith, Rax” the girl waves a pair of boys over and introduces them. The two boys while similar in age was so different in size it sounds like a lie. Rax was big and burly while Keith is small and lithe. Rax says the normal greeting but Keith just looks at Takashi until Rax gives him a nudge.
“Keith,” he said in a hoarse voice and walked away, a difficult look on his face.
“Don’t mind him, he doesn’t like to talk much and usually communicate via sign language,” Katie said surprising Takashi.
“You can do sign language?”
“Yeah, all of us can.”
Sign language, while not new, are still uncommon. In Yamato, there’s only a handful of top scholars and aristocrats that can use it. Here is a ship full of pirates that have been using it for who knows how long. These people keep surprising him left and right.
Matt came back and take him to the galley for a late lunch. He didn’t realize how hungry he is until the smell hit him. The cook, Hunk, made the most amazing grilled fish he ever tasted.
“Is it enough? There’s more if you want seconds.”
Aren’t pirates supposed to be scary? An unruly bunch that fights and steal for the sake of their own greed? These pirates are nothing like that, true that they could be quite intimidating but they’re clean and civilized and…really nice.
They’re pirates Takashi, don’t be foolish
So he asked for seconds and stop trying to think any deeper.
Chapter 12: Red Blooming
Takashi get a glimpse into a life of a pirate.
It’s always advantageous to be the one to land the first hit. Your opponent were not expecting it and by the time they realized what’s going on you’re already rearing your arm back for another punch. But that’s only when your opponent is of the same or lower level of skills.
Sadly these pirates didn’t plan on their opponent falling into the other category.
They’d hide behind a large rock island with a scouting group perch on a vantage point to look for passing ship. One happen to came along and after seeing the black sail they deem it’s safe to raid. The captain seems uncertain, he felt like he saw that symbol somewhere before. But the ship is coming closer now and they need to prepare if they’re really planning to raid this ship. Their water supply is getting low and if he can’t remember it means it’s not important anyway.
They’ve been doing this for a long time and got their routine down pat. Fire the first shot then go around the island, the group scattered on the island will then descend onto the ship and take the crew out.
Who would have thought that the other side’s cannon would actually hit them?
Preparing a cannon takes time not to mention aiming it. How could they retaliate that fast? They’re going round the back now and the captain felt a sense of doom, like they’re walking towards the end of the plank. He push the feeling away. It’ll be alright, his people are well-trained not to mention they have the upper hand of being in their home turf. Those pirates are not their match.
Rax cursed when the ship went behind the rock, he’s so closed to landing that second hit but the wind are in the other’s favor. They went behind the rock so logically they would aim for a surprised attack from behind. Thinking that he and Shay relocate the cannon waiting for the other to pop back into their range.
Shay stuff the cannon ball inside and he hold the fuse at the ready. This time they’re taking down the mast.
Hunk was going over Gyrgan’s recipe book thinking what he’s going make for dinner when the cannon hit. He open the door to see the large metal ball a little way away from his galley door. A little more to the left and it would have damage his kitchen. Those bastard! The large man grab his trusty iron pan, locked up his galley, and join in on the fray.
Keith was facing off against an enemy when he heard Hunk’s angry roar. He quirk his eyebrow and look back. His opponent took offence but he paid no mind to the insults, not like the man can back up his words anyway. The swordsman spied the cannon ball near the galley door and know that these pirates are in a world of hurt. Their cook usually don’t participate in fights but when he does…let just say Keith don’t want to be on the other end of his iron pan.
Rolo, on the other hand, took one look at the scene outside and proceed to slam his door shut. He’s the only doctor here if something happen to him then who’s going to patched up those scoundrels out there when this finish.
Pai sauntered over to the dead body and pulled out his throwing knife from the man’s jugular. He walked over to the other two and do the same. All three’s heads are cracked open, must be because of how high they fell. Not his fault, they’re the one who choose to come from above. He threw one of the blood-soaked knife at the man who’s creeping up behind Katie. It hit him at the back of the throat and the man fell down, blood gurgling from his mouth. Ah, the neck is always the best place to hit.
Katie heard the sound of something wet falling and turned around to see one of the pirate glaring up at her. Oi, don’t’ look at her like that, she’s not the one that killed you. She looked at Pai who waved at her and she nodded at him. Even though they bicker daily doesn’t mean she’s ungrateful. She snap her whip and hit one of the pirate across the face causing him to shrieked and rolled around on the floor. She couldn’t help it and let out an amused laugh, they always look so pathetic.
Takashi hid behind the barrels by the kitchen as everything goes on. He had run over when the cannon hit thinking to hide out with Hunk but the cook had locked the door and went out fighting. He’s too far from the stairs so was left to hide pathetically on his own.
Matt was nearby fending off the pirates with a staff. The stick might look harmless but in Matt’s hand it’s deadlier than a sword. The inventor was doing quite well but he kept getting distracted by his sister.
“KATIE!” He called out when he notice a man coming up behind her. He tried to break free and go to his sister’s aid but they took advantage of his distraction and sweep his feet out from under him. From below he manage to stab the end of his staff into one man’s eye socket, he was dead before he even hit the ground.
One down three to go.
Takashi watched as Matt tried to back away and get back on his feet. This is not good, the inventor doesn’t realized he’s getting cornered. He bite his lips and when it seems like things will turn real bad he jumped out of his hiding place and shot forward to punch one of the man at the back of his head. He went down fast, his face smashed against the floorboard and went limp.
Takashi shield Matt allowing the latter to quickly get to his feet. He side-stepped his savior and smash his staff over the other two’s head who went down easily.
“Thanks,” Matt patted his shoulder and turn serious, “but you shouldn’t be out here.” The black-hair man nodded in agreement and watch the inventor dashed off toward the last place he saw his sister. Takashi tried to make himself invisible and make his way back towards his hiding place.
Matt is right, he shouldn’t be out here.
Lance was standing beside the steering wheel, his rifle’s stock against his shoulder, eyes trained at the chaos on the deck below. One by one he took down the people who tried to harm his family. Up here all alone he know he stood out like a sore thumb but it’s alright, like how he protect them they too are protecting him.
A man rush up the stairs trying to get to him, Hunk hit him hard sending him overboard. He could see one aiming his pistol at him from the corner of his eye, Pai dealt with him swiftly too.
From his vantage point he could see Takashi taking down one of the pirates and defend Matt. He whistled, impressed. He knew he made a good choice, too bad the guy want to leave. Oh, he’s walking towards the barrels, is he going to hide, how cute.
Lance frown when he see a man walking toward his new member. He position his rifle and aim for the head. Bullets are expensive so they can’t afford to waste much or risk giving up meat for a while.
Good thing he’s a good shot.
Takashi spun around in time to see a man toppling over sideway with blood pouring out from the wound in his head.
Oh no. He’s been trying to avoid seeing this type of scene but now with the man corpse at his feet he think he’s going to puke. He gulped in a big lungful of bloody air, the coppery taste hit his tongue and take him back to the memory of that night in the kitchen. His knees gave out and his face came closer to the dead man, eyes still open glaring up at him.
Like them. Dead, all dead. Blood is everywhere, on his hands, his face and his clothes, seeping into his bones dying his whole body the color of crimson.
He tried to breathe but no air is getting in his lungs, his eyes staring blankly at the fallen man who have the face of Isamu and his father.
Isamu is looking at him, mouth gaping as he tried to cling to life but failed.
His father eyes are closed now and will never open again.
He heard the sound of flesh hitting flesh, the world around him spin and when it came back into focus Lance is in front of him. He’s saying something but Takashi’s ears are full of cotton and he still can’t breathe.
The captain brought his face up close till their forehead touch, his hands cradling both side of Takashi’s face holding him still. He’s talking again, closer now, and the cottons are dispersing.
“Look at me, Takashi, and do as I say. Now, breathe in, here.” Lance place one hand on his stomach guiding Takashi through the process. “Slowly, now hold it.”
He did as told. The sound of firing cannon and clashing swords goes on around him but all he could see is Lance. Those blue eyes he found intimidating before is now what’s grounding him.
“Out.” They do it several time more each time Takashi felt like he could breathe a little easier, his tension slowly dissolving.
“Good boy.” Lance’s smile small but sincere. Takashi tried to smile back but couldn’t make it reach his eyes. Lance took him by the hand and personally escort him to the barrels. “I’m going back to my post, think you can stay alone? Don’t worry I’ll be right there, nobody can hurt you.”
He nodded and Lance walked away. He poke his head out from time to time, Lance was always within sight and the thought that the captain of Voltron is keeping an eye on him brought forth a sense of security. It’s stupid to take a pirate’s words to heart but he really believe that Lance will keep him safe.
The fight end with victory on Voltron’s side who suffer no lose at all. Takashi knows they’re famous, but isn’t this a bit ridiculous? There must be a limit to how strong one can be but these people make it looks so easy.
Half of the crew went over to the other ship to loot for valuables while the other half clean up the bodies.
Takashi want to help but every time he look at a dead body he have the sudden urge to puke and become light headed. In the end he can only help after all the bodies were cleared from the deck and the blood washed away, and by then there’re only heavy lifting here and there. He’s quite depressed. Pirate or not these people had helped him, for him to be this useless it really is depressing.
Katie came up to him, eyes avoiding his and face a light pink. “Heard you help Matt. Thank you…very much.”
“It’s not nothing.” She frown eyes looking straight at him, all shy demeanor gone. “He’s all I have left of our family so it’s not nothing.” She came closer and hold his hand in hers, eyes wide and moist, “so, thank you, so so much. From now on if you have any problem you come to me, alright?” She emphasize every word wanting him to know how sincere she is.
Warmth bloom in his chest chasing away the gloomy feeling. At least he did one thing right. “It’s my pleasure.”
After rolling the cannonball into the sea Hunk open up the galley and get to work. They got a lot of treasure, seems like those pirates are only looting and not using, they hit the jackpot this time. Well, more like the jackpot hit them. Lance was so satisfied he even leave behind three days’ worth of food for those pirates. Well, anyone that’s still alive that’s it.
Hunk look at the barrels of salted meat and potatoes and couldn’t help smiling. He rolled up his sleeves and open up Gyrgan’s recipe book.
Chapter 13: Counting Stars
Lately I've been losing sleep, dreaming about the things that...
Takashi busied himself with helping setting up the table and laying out the food. Feast on Voltron is a special common event and now he knows why there’s an extra folding table in the galley. The food will be laid out in the middle of the deck like a buffet and the keg of rum will be open nearby.
It’s like another raid is happening, this time more vicious but somehow less threatening.
It’s loud, rowdy and totally pirate.
Hunk hand Takashi a plate pile high with assorted food. “Here, since this is your first time I don’t think you have the skill to compete with them yet.”
Takashi looked at the fist fight going on over fried potatoes and sent the cook an appreciative smile. Who is this angel? “Thanks.”
The large man wink and head towards the captain handing him another plate. Takashi quirk his eyebrow.
“Lance is special so he never have to fight for food.” Matt came to stand beside him plate half full and no fried potatoes.
“Because he’s the captain?”
Matt shook his head, “he’d been getting special treatment from our angel since long before he’s captain,” he gesture to the two, captain and cook standing side by side laughing happily, “Lance scouted him out himself, best of friend, a blessing too since we would have starved to death with Gyrgan gone if he’s not here.”
“Our old cook, also best friend with our old captain,” Matt elaborated and when Takashi looks like he want to hear more he chuckled, “that, you have to ask them yourself, it’s not my story to tell. Also, thanks for today really appreciate it.” He walked off to join a group playing cards. Takashi wanted to see but decide to stay where he is.
He’s not one of them.
Keith came up to him next, staring at the party and silently eating his share of food. Takashi feel like he should talk to him, the atmosphere is getting cold, but the swordsman is so hard to read and he’s afraid he’s going to offend him.
Keith snap his finger to get his attention. Takashi felt a bit miffed, how rude, he’s not a dog. The swordsman starts gesturing with his hand and Takashi stared blankly at him.
At his lost look the other frown unhappily and open his mouth, “Thanks…for Matt.”
Wow, he’s really not being generous with his words. With that the red swordsman turn on his heels and walked away, already accomplished what he came for. Takashi looked after him and wonder if he should take up sign language but quickly discarded the thought.
You’re going to be gone in less than four days, what the point of learning it for?
The party carried on well into the night the crew getting rowdier the more alcohol they consume. By the end of it they’d emptied three barrels and most are on the floor out cold. Those who can still walk trudged slowly back to the sleeping quarter downstairs. The food can be clean up tomorrow, right now is sleep.
Takashi stood alone at the same spot near the railing, his plate empty and his mug of rum still full. He think of cleaning up by himself, it’s the least he could do and would also lessen Hunk’s work tomorrow morning.
“Here,” a new mug is handed to him this time filled with steaming tea. Lance smile at him and Takashi took it. He look at the captain taking a sip at his own mug and wondered why he’s here?
“I always take the patrol shift on feast night, since I don’t like drinking.”
Did he said that out loud, or is Lance a mind reader?
The captain laugh, “I’m not a mind reader but just that your thoughts are so easy to read.”
The ex-butler’s face flushed involuntarily and he hope the darkness can hid it for him.
“Seems like you don’t like drinking either,” the brunette nodded at the mug and Takashi felt guilty that they had waste it on him. They sip their tea in silence a relaxing atmosphere surround them.
“Lance,” Takashi said softly not wanting to destroy the moment, “thank you…for today.”
The captain didn’t answer but stare at him with a contemplative look, “you know…not many people break down like that in that situation. They’ll freak out, yes, but not hyperventilate.”
Takashi clutch his mug tight. He hold his breath and despite just taking a sip his throat felt parched.
Lance look at the other’s reaction and pat his shoulder wanting to defuse the situation. He shouldn’t have pried, it’s none of his business. “It’s alright, you don’t have to tell me.”
“The blood-,” the ex-butler said and stop himself, he wet his lips and glance at the captain. Should he tell him? Would he think it’s not his problem and feel that Takashi is annoying? Somehow the thought of the other man thinking negatively of him is upsetting.
Lance took his hand and pull him down to sit on the floor their backs rest against the railings. He briefly wonder if it’s alright, didn’t Lance said he’s on patrol duty, can he waste time listening to his problems?
“Don’t worry,” the brunette point to the crow’s nest, “Rolo is up there, he don’t like drinking too.”
Lance lean into him their shoulders touching, “go on, I’m all yours tonight.”
Takashi’s heart skip a beat at the words, his body filled with strange excitement. He calm himself searching for a good way to start. He don’t understands the eagerness himself but he felt it’s safe to tell Lance his story, he also want the brunette to know.
“I…used to live on the streets.” He paused to gauge the other’s reaction, Lance nodded for him to continue. “My father found me, not my real one, but he took me under his wings, give me a name and a home and became my family.” His voice soften as he talked about Genjiro telling the man beside him, this stranger, all his love and regret for his adoptive father.
And Lance just takes it all in quietly. When had he taken hold of Takashi’s hand? Caressing it softly, encouraging him to lay his heart bear; and he did. With shoulders against each other and their hands intertwined, in that moment something bloom in Takashi’s heart and simultaneously break down his wall.
Tears fall from his eyes one by one and his voice quivered till even he himself could barely made out the words, but Lance’s hands still stays, gentle and warm and, oh so comforting.
He told him of Lord Ayato’s love and Lady Misaki’s charm and the kindness of staffs that he’d worked with. He told him about Isamu antics and how they’re the best of friends.
Then he told him about Hajime.
He still don’t understands the reason why the man did what he did and he’d never will. And isn’t that the most frustrating thing of all? Getting everything taken away from you without even knowing why.
His story came to an abrupt halt when he could no longer carry on, his voice a watery mess and his head laying comfortably against the captain’s shoulder. His wariness of the man had completely disappeared. Gentle fingers card through his hair and he closed his stinging eyes tiredly, enjoying the comforting gesture.
The grief is still there and will stay there for the rest of his life but right now…right now his heart felt a bit lighter. When was the last time he cried like this? Everything been so hectic he didn’t have time to properly grieve them.
“You know?” Lance’s voice lured him out of his musing. He open his eyes taking in the captain’s side profile. “Blaytz, our old captain, told me that when he gets sad he’d looked at the moon. It reminds him that no matter how dark the situation is there will always be hope. For me that’s what he was, my hope, my moon.”
The hand that was caressing his stopped and that soft smile took on a bitter edge, “filling his shoes was not easy. He’s Blaytz, captain of Voltron, shining like the sun, larger than life. I messed up who knows how many times…I want to stop, to give it up, this hat, to someone else…but they won’t let me.”
The eyes that were looking up at the sky shift down to the drunken bodies strew about the deck, bitterness gone replaced with utter fondness. “My moon is gone but there’re still stars that will help light up the sky for me. My north stars…always guiding me not letting me lose my way.”
Lance voice is so soft and full of adoration it made Takashi felt itchy in his chest. For a brief moment he wish he was one of Lance’s stars too. Then those eyes turn to him, still soft and sweet, and it made Takashi forgot to breathe.
“Death is not the end, Takashi, just a brief separation. You’ll meet them again when your time comes.”
Meet them again? His father, Isamu, Lord Ayato and Lady Misaki? If it’s true…if only…how wonderful would that be.
“So before that time comes, you as the one still alive, have the duty to live your life to the fullest and collect as many wonderful stories as possible so you can tell them when you meet again. It’s better to tell a good life stories than a depressing one isn’t it?”
And Takashi was crying again as Lance’s arms circled around him, holding him close to his chest. Genjiro’s last words came back to him.
Live on my son. I wish for you to find happiness again one day.
How could I lived on without you? How could I be happy when all my happiness are gone? Takashi had mused over these words over and over during his time in the cells, his mentality deteriorated to the point he wanted to die. Everything was dark and cold and pointless.
Then Lance happen.
With his domineering ways and gentle words he had become the speck of light in Takashi’s dark world. Not his moon, for that will always be Genjiro, but his star perhaps.
His north star.
He woke up to the sun shining in his face. His eyes crusted over with tears and his back ache from sleeping sitting up. He looked around and was disappointed to see Lance nowhere in sight. Something fall from around his shoulder and his heart warm when he saw that it was Lance’s jacket.
Picking it up and stretching the crick out of his joints he went to wash his face. He found the captain dead asleep in the sleeping quarters and gently lay the jacket over him.
He thought back to their talk last night and harden his resolve, there’s one thing he absolutely must do before he leave this ship. But when the angry face of the sleep-deprived doctor stared back at him he think he might had chosen the wrong time.
Rolo have half a mind to slam the door in the other’s face. Didn’t Lance told the guy he was in the crow’s nest last night? He deserved sleep damn it. But after listening in on the conversation last night (yes he eavesdrop, no he’s not ashamed) he felt a sense of kinship with the man. After all, they’d lost someone important.
Sighing he stepped aside, the other’s surprised face looked so stupid he huff out a laugh. He accepted the apology this time. It’s been three days and the doctor’s ire is more or less gone. He tell the man to sit as he poured tea for the both of them.
He took a sip, Takashi left his alone.
“Our old doctor’s name was Trigel.” He said suddenly catching Takashi off guard. “She’s dead now, died fighting alongside our old captain and cook.” He took another sip. “I was a lackey of this guy who run the underground in Rirus, my job is to patch up the people after whatever they went out to do. Never appreciated, said they could replace me in a snap, always feels like I could die at any moment. Then she appeared.”
A smile appear, small and fond and Takashi marvel at how different it makes the doctor look.
“Ask me to come with her, said I have talent, no one ever said that to me before. She open up a whole new world for me, taught me many things, make me feel like I’m worth something, you know?”
Yes, he knows. It really is wonderful to know that someone had finally see you, to be treated like something precious.
“This,” the doctor wave his hand around the room, “this is where I learned from her, spent my time with her. So when you came in and messed it up I was so angry. You, a stranger, is intruding into our territory.”
Takashi never felt so guilty. He clutch at his chest, the corners of the necklace Isamu gave him dig into his palm. The only thing left of his life in Yamato, in the Kurogane manor. His eyes started to burn and he bit the inside of his cheeks to not make a fool of himself.
Thinking back Rolo was quite merciful with him. If it was him, if anyone damage this necklace…he would have done a lot worse than slamming the door in their face and giving them cheap disinfectant.
“The same goes for Hunk.” He nodded to the window on the door that face straight at the door to the galley on the other side of the deck. “That kitchen is his and Gyrgan’s place, god blessed those who harm it and don’t even think about touching the recipe book he always lugged around.”
Takashi made a mental note to not touch things carelessly when in the kitchen.
They talked for a while and found that he and Rolo were similar in age and shared a few interest. The doctor was an easy-going guy once he start opening up and Takashi enjoyed their conversations.
“Good morning,” the doctor gesture with his hand. Takashi blinked. “I saw Keith talking to you last night, the kid have some past issues so he really hate speaking with people he’s not accustomed with. He made an exception for you because of Matt but don’t expect him to do it again. At least this will show him you’re sincere.”
The doctor showed him a couple more phrases, clean up his cut, “there’s nothing I can do with a cut that size, at least you’ll look cool with a scar,” then kick him out.
People are starting to wake and are cleaning up outside so he rolled up his sleeves and help out too. Keith appeared a bit later and Takashi gather his courage and replay the signs Rolo taught him repeatedly in his head.
“Good morning,” he said as well as signing and wait for the other’s response. Keith stare at him then at his hand then back at him again. After forever (which is actually only about 5 seconds) the swordsman nodded his head at the greeting and Takashi let out his breath.
Then Keith starts signing.
The ex-butler recognized the ‘good morning’ gesture but draw a blank at the others that follow. Shit, he can’t tell Keith to explain because that would mean speaking so…writing? Are there any paper and pen on this ship? Why is communicating this hard?
“He’s asking where did you sleep last night and did you have breakfast yet?” A tall dark-skin man with choppy orange hair sauntered towards them. If he remembered correctly his name is, Pai, right? The one Matt tell him not to play cards with.
Hearing the meaning of the signs Takashi felt quite touched. Keith is a nice kid, just aloof and kind of awkward but he have a good heart. He made a mental note to ask Rolo to teach him more of those hand signs.
“I fell asleep outside last night and not yet but I’ll go to Hunk in a bit, thank you for asking.” He could feel those pair of serpentine eyes watching him. He swallowed. He didn’t associate with the man much these past 4 days but he still remember the voice that spoke to him through the door on his first day. Low and dangerous, like a coiled snake ready to strike. The man give him the creeps and Takashi quickly walked away to put some distance between them.
He looked back. The man is looking at him, mouth stretch wide into a Cheshire grin.
He walked faster.
Takashi turns in his hammock for the nth time that night but no matter what he does he couldn’t fall asleep. Giving up he walked up to the deck, maybe some fresh air will do him good.
He leans against the railing looking out to the pitch black sea. It’s not that he can’t sleep but he has too much on his mind to feel tired.
He’s having second thoughts about leaving.
It’s been 6 days now, tomorrow 7 and will be the last day for him on Voltron. 6 days ago he can’t wait to get out of this ship and away from these people. Now…now he doesn’t want to go. He looked up into the sky scattered with millions of stars.
He thought of Lance.
He wonders if he’ll think of the captain every time he looks up from now on.
“What’s troubling you, new guy? Wanna talk to me about it?”
Takashi’s back stiffens at the playful voice. He turns around and there it was those serpentine eyes and the Cheshire smile. His eye twitches, cursing himself at not knowing it’s the musician’s patrol shift tonight. The smile widens at seeing his discomfort and their owner invade into his personal space. “Come on, Takashi, you can trust me.” He said in a singsong voice which makes alarms blared inside his head.
But what choice did he have?
This man already had his hand clutch around his wrist and a smile that said he’s not letting Takashi go. Resigning to his fate he turns back to the sea, Pai came to lean beside him.
“Don’t want to leave?”
Takashi glance at the man and sigh. Is he really that easy to read? He nodded.
“Then don’t. Lance already recruited you, you’re already one of ours.”
“It’s not that simple.” Takashi wetted his lips, “My name is Takashi, my father give me this name so I can grow up to be an honorable man. No offense, but becoming a pirate is anything but honorable.”
Pai’a laugh is high-pitched and more innocent that Takashi imagines it to be. It eases the tension in his shoulders if not by a little.
“None taken, it’s not like we don’t know ourselves.” The lanky man wipes away the tears at the corner of his eye. “But in my opinion, not repaying your benefactor is also anything but honorable.”
Takashi sucks in his breath, the truth of the comment hit home conflicting him even more.
“What is your definition of honorable? Honest, righteous, ethical? For your information, there are some among us that don’t participate in raids and some that never killed at all.” Pai shrug at Takashi’s disbelieving expression.
“Good examples are Hunk, Katie and Shay. Hunk because he’s an angel and the girls are forbidden by their brothers. Point is you don’t have to do bad things just because you’re a pirate. There's plenty of other stuff you can do to help around.”
Those yellow eyes that Takashi found unnerving soften, “it’s just nice staying together, be a family, you know?” At that moment Takashi wonders why he’s so afraid of the man before him. That gentle look on his face and the tenderness as he talked about his crew shows how important they are to him. How much he loves them.
“And I think your father would place more importance on your happiness than the meaning of your name. So won’t it be better to just do what makes you happy?”
“OI PAI, WHERE IS THAT WATER I ASK YOU TO GET!”
The loud voice from the crow’s nest startled both men shattering the calm atmosphere around them.
“FOR GOD SAKE, MONROL, DON’T YOU SEE WE’RE HAVING A MOMENT HERE?”
“YOU CAN HAVE YOUR MOMENT WHEN I GET MY WATER.”
Pai clicked his tongue, “that man, age is making him cranky.”
Takashi stifled his laugh and Pai walked away, waving without looking back. He too heads back to the sleeping quarter, this time he falls straight to sleep.
Chapter 14: I want to be Yours
Not in that kind of sense but...oh well
Takashi thought about Pai’s words throughout breakfast. He flips it over, turned it this side and that and still, he found no flaw with the man’s logic. His father did wish him a happy life and Genjiro is not a man who fuss over small things.
“LAND AHEAD!” Matt shout from the crow’s nest and Takashi take a deep breath to calm himself down. The time is here.
He unconsciously glances over at Pai and found the musician already smirking his way.
“EVERYONE, TAKASHI HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY.” The orange-hair man suddenly screams catching everyone’s attention and instantly put Takashi on the spot. He gives Pai a dirty look, the man exaggeratedly winks back.
Whatever, it’s now or never.
He wet his lips and looked around, Lance is there, at the stirring wheel, looking down at him. Takashi felt nervous and excited at the same time.
“My name is Takashi Shirogane. I used to work at the Kurogane manor in Yamato as a butler to the young master. Due to an incident, I was framed for the murder of everyone in the manor and was sentenced to death by hanging. Lance…Captain Lance saved me.
“I know I was the one who wanted to leave, but after staying here…on Voltron…I came to consider all of you as friends. I know it’s rather capricious of me but I would like to continue staying here. Please.” He bows at the waist at the last sentence and hopes they would not push him away.
Everything was silent until a heavy feeling pushes down on him crawling inside his skin making him unable to look up. His heart beat erratically in his chest and he struggles to breathe. Cold sweat drip down his nose and he gritted his teeth enduring all of it.
Are they angry?
“Ho?” A chilling voice came from the man who had become his beacon of light. Takashi stomach drop.
“You want to stay now? What do you take us as, a bed and breakfast? You can’t even fight, what do you plan to do here anyway?”
He knows he’s useless during battle but Pai said there are other things he could do, and there are other things he wants to do. So he gritted his teeth and fight against the pressure.
“I WANT TO BE YOUR BUTLER.”
The heavy atmosphere instantly vanishes as everyone looked at him incredulously, including the captain himself.
“What did you say?” Lance asked
“I told you I used to be a butler, I liked my old job and want to continue doing it.”
“Soooooo you decide to be my butler?” Lance’s face was getting worse by the second but Takashi ignored it and nodded his head.
“Like hell-”, “He accepts” Pai interrupt Lance’s rejection and Takashi smile at him in gratitude.
“Come on, he has good intention and you’re the one who recruited him. He’s your responsibility now.”
Lance scowl heavily and look back at Takashi, the man was looking back at him with determined eyes that held a hint of pleading. Lance felt his heart soften. Shit, he’s going to give in to this man a lot in the future, isn’t he?
“Fine, do whatever you want.”
“Thank you, Master Lance”
“CALL ME THAT AGAIN AND I’LL KICK YOU OFF THE SHIP!”
Takashi held his tongue as the crew burst into laughter, repeating the title and teasing their captain. Pai came to swing his arm around Takashi’s shoulders, feeling thankful at the musician he let the man lean into him.
The others came to congratulate him and express their happiness that he decides to stay.
“What does a butler do?” Nyma, one of the few females aboard the ship, asked.
“Basically, whatever their master-” Takashi saw Lance’s eye twitch, “want them to do. They prepared the necessary things for them and look after their meals and belongings.”
“So, a slave,” Rax said. Takashi spluttered and tried to explain it better but saw Lance walking away while massaging his temple. He smiles wryly after him.
Someone demand a welcome feast and Hunk happily comply. Didn’t they just have a feast 3 nights ago? Not like he’s complaining, it’s for him, isn’t it? How long was it since he has a party thrown in his favor?
They change their sail from black to white and safely dock at Daerum. Lance was getting down and he made to follow as his first job as the butler. Rolo came to grab his wrist.
“You can do your butler stuff or whatever after, right now you’re coming with me. You’re going to carry my stuff as compensation for what you did on your first day.”
Takashi could do nothing but comply.
As the man of honor, Takashi was giving the first mug of rum and made to finish it in one go to get the party started. The rum went down with much trouble and burn his throat and stomach. The crew cheered and start for the food table.
He made his way back to Lance’s side who laugh when he sways on his feet. Somebody push another full mug into his hand and he blanched. Hunk came over with a plate piled high with food and his eyes brighten. The cook really is an angel sent from above.
The large man hand Lance the plate and turn to him, “Since you’re part of the crew now you have to scavenge your own food, it’s part of a bonding process.”
He looked at the fight breaking out at the table and look back at Hunk. The cook smile and make shooing motion with his hand. He turned to the captain for help but the man only shrugged. He felt so betrayed.
He stayed at the edge and only pick out things that people pay less attention to. He doesn’t want to get punched in the face over some meat. Even though that meat sautéed in butter and garlic looks and smell heavenly. Damn it.
Good thing no one is fighting over water.
Different from the party last time, this time Pai brought out a guitar and start to sing. Now he knows why the man is the musician. His nimble fingers glide over the strings while his voice drops down into a smooth velvety tone. It’s captivating and made the rowdy crew settle down into a gentle atmosphere.
Takashi saw Lance hung back near the railing, his body swaying along with the music. An idea came to him and he made his way toward his new master.
Lance quirk his eyebrow when his ‘butler’ extends his hand to him and bow.
“May I have this dance, my lord?”
Takashi had a teasing smile and Lance have the mind to show him up. He smirks when the older male jolt in surprise when Lance took his hand and spin him around before bringing their face close.
“I only do lead.” He whispers huskily into the other’s ears.
Takashi shivered involuntarily and think how perfect it is that he usually does follow as Isamu’s practice partner.
Pai’s melody shift into something that resembles a waltz and Lance spun Takashi around and lower him into a dip. Takashi took his chance and shift their position. Lance stared at him wide eyes from his position below and Takashi smile at him challengingly. The captain’s eyes turned sharp. Oh, it is on.
The two moved around the deck spinning and shifting trying to take control of the other, a playful smile on their faces.
Lance wondered how long it has been since he’d dance, good thing his mother drilled it into him that even now he can still remember the steps perfectly. Takashi is good, befitting of his job as a butler, it’s really easy to follow him.
The two didn’t notice the many pairs of eyes that watched them or that the music only consists of waltz or something similar.
Pai kept his voice steady and his songs constant as he watches the couple enjoy themselves. Do they even notice how they’re looking at each other? Probably not.
Things sure are going to get interesting around here. Don’t you think so, Blaytz?
Chapter 15: Brilliant Blue
Like the color of the sky, or the ocean, or my reflection in your eyes
A couple months past with Takashi constantly by Lance’s side helping him in his daily life and accompanying him whenever they’re on shore. He does odd jobs around the ship but mostly, when he’s not with Lance (“give me some space,” the captain would say before chasing him away), he’ll be in the infirmary with Rolo.
He’d pester the doctor for a while until the man agreed to teach him sign language. Others had offered to teach him but he was adamant on his teacher. After two months he now can communicate freely with Keith. Even though his lessons ended he still visit the infirmary constantly, he’d come to really like the doctor’s company.
He’d become wary of Pai again. Ignoring all the warnings he agreed to the musician’s challenge to a game of poker, after all the man is a good guy, how bad could it be.
He now understands what it felt like to face off against a demon.
It will lure you in with sweet words until it has you right where it wants then devour you whole without you even knowing what happens.
He’d lost something that day, something important, but what it was he’s not telling, it’s too embarrassing. Pai’s maniacal laughter still rang loud in his mind every time he went to the toilet.
There had been a couple of fights, five to be exact, during the past four months of his stay (not counting the first one). Every time Takashi will either holed up in the infirmary with Rolo or hyperventilate outside if he didn’t hide fast enough.
Every time Lance will be there to bring him back, make him breathe then guide him by the hand back to the safety that is the infirmary. He always felt guilty during the moment. Lance is the captain, he has the duty to oversee the safety of his crew not babysit Takashi. He wishes he was stronger. He wishes he could fight too but every time he saw the red liquid his body froze up and his mind went blank.
One day after his fifth break down Lance led him to the infirmary. He sits down facing the captain and the doctor who sport a serious look on their faces. Takashi searches his brain trying to remember if he did anything wrong.
“I know you’ve been through some traumatizing things and are suffering from PTSD,” the captain said gently, “but I can’t have you constantly breaking down every time a fight happens.”
Takashi looked down in shame and Lance kneel down to look up at him. “I’m not blaming you, Takashi, it’s not your fault you can’t control it. I’m just worried about you. What if one day we aren’t fast enough and you are heavily wounded. Katie would raise hell.” Takashi smile at his effort to lighten the mood.
“So Rolo and I talked and we’re going to have you undergo exposure therapy. We’re not going to strive for complete recovery but enough so you won’t be immobilized after you see blood. How does that sound?”
It sounds downright scary and he so much wanted to decline. What if it causes more damage than good? Won’t he be even bigger of a burden then?
Lance is still looking at him and Takashi wants to do everything in his power to make those worry lines disappeared. He just has to agree and Lance will be happy, right? Didn’t he already decide to trust this man? Had Lance ever disappoint him yet?
When Lance smile again Takashi knows he made the right decision.
It was hard.
It was really hard.
So hard he avoids going to the infirmary if not really necessary.
They kept the session to only twice a week so not to traumatize the butler too much. The first time Rolo show Takashi the used bandage the man became so dizzy Rolo ended it there and send him to Hunk for some tea.
The second and third session was no better but the worst one has to be the fourth. Before the bandages were already old and the blood was already dried. This time it was fresh. The vivid color and smell hit him hard and he’s once again back in the kitchen, his colleagues crawling towards him wailing for help.
Then the blood turns blue and he’s on Voltron again, looking into Lance’s worried eyes. The brunette tells him to breathe, the instruction he remembered by heart, as he caresses Takashi’s cheeks with his thumbs.
Rolo sent him to Hunk again, this time the cook also gave him something sweet to calm his nerve.
Since that time Rolo always uses fresh blood during their session.
In their latest session, Keith came to call Lance away saying they need his opinion about something. Lance was reluctant to leave, Takashi always has a bad reaction, even though it’s becoming milder he still worries. He made Rolo promise to come to get him right away if anything happens, only then he’s willing to leave.
Keith said he coddle the man too much and he has nothing to defend himself with. It’s not like he didn’t realize that he treats Takashi differently than others. It’s just…he don’t know. Since that first time he saw him on the gallows, eyes devoid of light and whole body shrouded in despair, he wanted to hold him and protect him from all the evilness in the world.
Which is ridiculous because Takashi is not a helpless maiden and Lance is definitely not a prince.
Lance had seen him work around the ship, overcoming his grief and carrying on with a smile. He caught the black-hair man looking at his necklace with melancholic eyes when he thought no one was looking. He doesn’t linger for long though and always springs back with more vigor.
Takashi is strong, but at the same time, he’s also fragile. The contrast is so jarring it makes Lance’s head spin.
He’s in the middle of conversing with the crew about their next plan when Rolo came running. Without having to hear what the doctor was going to say he already made a mad dash back to the infirmary.
Takashi was curled up on the floor breathing heavily and clutching at his head, clothes soaked with sweat.
“What happen!?” Lance ask kneeling down to get a better look.
“I don’t know. We did everything the same as normal and when his symptom starts to show I did what you always did but he didn’t get better.” The doctor came to kneel beside him.
“Takashi, Takashi, can you hear me?” Lance try tapping his cheeks but the butler was still locked up tight in his memory.
“He needs to breathe.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do.” Lance snarl, mad at his own helplessness.
He brought their forehead together, their nose touching, “Takashi, listen to me, you need to breathe.”
Shifting grey eyes suddenly stilled and focus on the person in front. “Lance?” Why is Lance here, isn’t he supposed to be with Keith, and why did it feel like he just got waterboarded. He’s soaking wet and his lungs are burning.
“In, Takashi,” Lance place one hand on his stomach, “hold it, like that, and out, good boy.” He repeats the same motion a couple more time until his breathing is back in rhythm. Meanwhile, Rolo had already chased away the spectators. Hunk came over with tea and Rolo thank him before locking the door.
“What happen?” Lance ask his butler when all of them were seated around the table.
“I don’t know, we’re doing what we always do and I start to have difficulty breathing and then…then you’re here.”
“You freaked out as always,” the doctor explained, “I tried calling out to you and instruct you on how to breathe, I even hold you.” The last part was said with a blushing face accompanied with a fierce glared like Takashi had wronged him. “I did everything Lance always did to calm you down but none of them worked so I went to get him.”
“Was there anything different this time, like more blood or did you make him touch it?”
Rolo insists that nothing was out of the ordinary. He took a sip of his tea and looked at the two over the rim of his glass.
“What bring you back?” He inquires with narrowed eyes
The two look at him quizzically.
“What did you see, hear, feel, when you regain your sense? What is the thing that calms you down when you were at your worst?”
“Blue,” Takashi reply without hesitation, “Lance’s eyes.” The color always bleeds into his nightmare dying it until no red is left. Blue, the color of the sky and the sea, the color of safety. It’s the first thing he sees when he comes back and always manage calms him down instantly.
“Ho?” The doctor quirk his eyebrows, a ghost of a smirk at the corner of his lips.
Takashi realized what he just said and his pale skin turned a pretty pink. “I-I mean, it’s the first thing I see and it’s unique-not in a bad way, it’s really pretty- I mean-I.” He decides to shut himself up in case he makes a bigger fool of himself. He shyly glances over at the captain and saw that he too was blushing.
“I-I see.” The brunette cough into his fist to hide his embarrassment.
Rolo gives them a deadpanned look. “Can you two please not flirt in my infirmary?”
Rolo swears he never see his captain run away so fast. The thin-face butler couldn’t withstand his stare and promptly left too.
Pai pops his head in a bit later, a mischievous grin on his face. The doctor sigh and wave him in. Good thing Hunk brought them tea cuz this is going to be long.
A couple of days later they resupply at Heliopus, a country rich in mineral and famous for its use in jewelry and decorations. Many near and far came to this place hoping to learn metal crafting and make a name for themselves.
They’ll be staying here for a week. It’s a big tourist place and some of the crew never been here before so many are really excited. Takashi was among one of them.
He kept looking left and right as they strolled down the streets and even drift away more than twice. If this was a normal butler and master pair Takashi would be heavily scolded and maybe even lose his job but Lance just finds the other’s curiosity adorable.
When Takashi drift away it was Lance that walked after him, when his gaze lingers on some local food or sweets it was Lance that paid with his own money. He was smooth about it though, saying it looks nice and he doesn’t want to eat alone.
They walked past a jewelry store and something caught Lance’s eyes. They walked inside and while Takashi was busy looking at all the delicate metal work and twinkling gems Lance talked to the owner. They came out a bit later and was joined by Pai who took them to a good restaurant.
A week pass by in a flash and now, on their last day there Takashi couldn’t find Lance anywhere. He remembered the brunette said he has business in the city, they should hurry or else they’ll delay the departing time. He asked around and found out that the captain had already left.
He felt disappointed. He thought they could spend the last day together again. Why did the brunette ditch him, did he do something inappropriate yesterday? Dejected he decides to help around on the ship instead of looking around the city one last time.
Lance came back long before departing time. Takashi hand him a wet cloth to wipe his face and help him put on his jacket and hat. Lance took this all in stride and none of the crew bat an eye at the actions anymore.
In the beginning, Lance was quite annoyed at the man’s constant presence hovering around him nearly 24/7. Even back at Diabazaal he never has a personal butler, still only 10 years of age he was too young to have one. It’s weird for Diego, who’s a soldier, to be wait on by a butler and Luca was never fond of people so Rosa, who was always by his side, didn’t have one either. So, apart from his parents the only one out of their siblings to have a personal maid is Mia.
Now, nearly half a year since they’ve met, Lance could imagine not having the black-hair man beside him anymore. Like today when he went out alone, he constantly glances behind him only to feel disappointed when he didn’t see his butler there. He’d planned to walk around and get something to eat before returning but changed his mind. He heads back right away after he already received what he wants.
Not wanting any prying eyes he took the older male’s hand and guide him to the kitchen. Hunk won’t be back for a while and apart from the infirmary, this is the only room with a lock.
Since he’s the captain he can roam around the ship anytime he wants but only in this two places that he was unable to do so. The lock symbolizes the shift in authority. It indicates that to enter the captain needed permission. This is the only two place on the ship that his command came after the room’s owner. It had been this way since Blaytz’s time. It his way of showing the crew the importance of his two best friends.
Takashi looked at him questioningly, tilting his head a little to the side. Lance sigh in his heart. How old is this man, 25? He’s three years older than him for god sake. Why does he find him more adorable than that barmaid with the rosy cheeks and doe eyes?
He scratches his neck and hands his butler the small cloth bag from his back pocket. “Open it.”
Takashi undoes the strings tying the bag and pulled out a stone bracelet. Rows of smooth round stones, cool to the touch, line up neatly and end with a silver clasp. The size seems to be bigger than the normal ones they sold in the shops that target women.
Takashi’s heart speeds up the moment he saw it. The stones…they’re the same color as Lance’s eyes!
“This-”, “For,” the captain and the butler said at the same time. Both stopped and when Takashi gesture for Lance to continue the brunette cough into his fist twice to compose himself.
“For when you start to panic. You said my…eyes…calm you down so…” he trailed off too embarrassed to continue. What guy give each other jewelry and a customized one at that? Would the other find him weird?
Takashi stared at the bracelet in his hand a complicated feeling rising in his chest. This is the second piece of jewelry he ever received and once again it was made especially for him. But unlike Isamu’s necklace, this one felt more…special…intimate. Just thinking that the brunette thought about him enough to get him this made him giddy.
He wants to hug him, spin him around and maybe kiss his cheeks a few times. He pressed down on his desire but was unable to stop the bright smile blooming on his face.
“Thank you, Lance, I promised to take good care of it.”
“Y-yeah” the captain stammered. Good god, now he’s even more alluring than that receptionist with the big boobs.
Trouble seems to follow Voltron around like a clingy ex-lover. The captain and butler were busy making an inventory of their assets that they failed to hear the ruckus above until the fight is well underway. With an order to stay put Lance raced upstairs leaving Takashi behind.
The butler hates himself during these times the most but knows he won’t be much help upstairs. Light seeps through the floorboard and hit the bracelet on his wrist reflecting its light on the wall. He gingerly touches the stones and makes up his mind. It’ll be alright, Lance gave him this so he could look after himself. He can’t be a burden any longer, he’s a part of Voltron too.
He slowly made his way upstairs keeping his calm and steeling his nerve. He emerges into the middle of the fray, fights burst out around him.
“What are you doing here!?” Keith flung away his opponent and came to stand beside him, sword at the ready.
“I want to help.”
The swordsman gives him an incredulous look and made to argue. Takashi rushes past him and knocks Keith’s previous opponent unconscious with a single punch. He looks back at the other and Keith just shook his head giving up.
Keith didn’t stick around for long and was replaced with Katie and Shay. He’d realized later on the reason was that these two aren't allowed to kill therefore have less chance of triggering Takashi’s blood phobia. These people are really good to him, too good sometimes.
He looks towards the steering wheel and found Lance in his usual place. The captain had his trusty rifle stock against his shoulder and eyes trained on the scope. He pulled the trigger one after another effortlessly taking down the enemy one by one. Pai was beside him flinging his knives left and right not allowing anyone to come within harming distance to the captain.
Lance's eyes are sharp, mouth set in a grim line as his coat bellow in the wind. Takashi swallowed feeling his heart speed up for no reason.
In his moment of distraction, he didn’t notice the enemy coming up beside him.
Lance’s gun suddenly turned in his direction and Takashi could feel something whizzing past his ear. Warmth splashes onto his face and he looked down to see a man covered in blood from the bullet hole on his forehead.
His vision became hazy and his lungs started to burn. No no no. This is not happening, he didn’t come up here to start panicking, he needs- he needs-
He clutches at his wrist and looked down at the stones. Blue. The color of Lance’s eyes, washing away the red leaving behind the feeling of safety. Breathe, Takashi, he told himself and direct the air into his abdomen instead of his lungs. He holds it till his lungs screamed then take in another mouthful of air. Around him the fight rage on but he concentrate on his task of breathing, his eyes never leaving the bracelet on his wrist.
He looks back up when he finally manages to calm down, still nauseous but no more on the verge of a breakdown. Lance is looking at him from his perch, face etched with worry.
Takashi gave him weak smile and hold up his wrist.
The captain looked relieved and when got scold by Pai about getting distracted he shoot down two guys without even aiming. The musician sneers at his cheeks and turned away.
He huffs out a tired laugh and felt the rest lodge in his throat when Lance gives him a debonair smile and a wink.
Suddenly his heart is speeding up again, his face flushes hot as he tried to go back to fighting. The picture of the smile and wink still prominent in his mind causing him to stumble more than twice.
Between Lance and the enemy, he feels the captain is the more dangerous one to his health.
Chapter 16: Today we lay you down to rest
Today we say goodbye for now but not forever
Lotor flung his arm across the table causing its content to crash loudly onto the floor. Unsatisfied, he kicked down the chair and flip over the table, he thrown the vase, ripped the painting and scream until his voice cut off. He dropped down to his knees, banged his fists on the floor and wept.
All the while his five guards stood by the wall, watching him quietly.
Truthfully, they’re quite glad the prince is having such a violent reaction, it means he still holds the king in his heart. The prince had restrained himself for a long time, since the time with the McClain and then with the queen. At least this time, out here, he can grief for his father’s death without fearing the stare of those nobles.
In the countryside of Diabazaal, the king sent the prince to govern a small fief with the task of making it prosper to prove his ability as the next ruler. Everyone knows it’s just an excuse to chase him away, place him somewhere he wouldn’t be able to cause trouble.
Lotor knows the order was Haggar’s idea, since he’d become more and more of a thorn in her side, but he complies without protest, playing the role of an obedient son. He has Narti sent words to Kolivan informing him of the new arrangement. The fief became the new headquarter of the Blade of Mamora, the rebel army led by Kolivan.
3 long years
Kolivan had been working hard and now the BoM have more than 10,000 members scattered throughout Diabazaal waiting for the right time to take down the evil king.
In order to curry favor with the nobles, Haggar, under the name of Zarkon, had been implementing a new tax cut throughout the land. One that side with her will prosper while the ones that don’t will fall. The ones that got the bad end of the stick were the citizens who have to suffer without knowing the political war going on inside the castle’s wall.
Having had enough many took the offer of the strange soldiers that came knocking at their doorsteps. They became the eyes and ears and those who have the skills became the sword and shield of the neglected prince who promised them a better life.
He wants to wait a bit more, 10,000 is nowhere near enough to fight the royal army, but that’s not possible anymore.
From Kolivan’s spy network he’d received news that his father is already dead, had been for two days now. How can that be possible? It’s only been a month since he’d last visit the capital and back then his father, while solemn, was still in good health.
It must be that witch, she did something to him!
He remembered their last encounter. They were arguing again, they always seem to argue even since his mother past away. Lotor had left in a huff and even cursed at his father.
I WISH MOTHER WAS ALIVE INSTEAD OF YOU!
That was the last words he said to his father. If only he could take it back. He didn’t mean that. They didn’t talk much nowadays and when they do it's just driving them further away but Lotor never hates him. He’s his father, he’s all he had left. He remembered their happy days when their family was still complete and when he looked up to his father.
He still does.
I love you. I’m sorry. He couldn’t tell him those words anymore.
The country doesn’t know that it’s now without a ruler, but it won’t stay that way for long.
Kolivan entered the study, ignoring the mess he knelt beside the shivering form of the prince. He gently placed his hands on the prince’s back and his sobs suddenly ceased. Kolivan’s heart clenched, to cover up their sadness so expertly, to abruptly stop feeling, how long had the prince been enduring in the castle.
He wants him to continue grieving, god knows how unhealthy this behavior is, but they don’t have that freedom. An entourage from the castle is here saying the king is sick and request the prince hurry back to his side.
If they didn’t have the inside source they would have fallen right into the trap. The king is dead, the prince is the only thing standing between her and the crown now. If he went back to the castle Haggar won’t let Lotor come out alive.
They need to run.
Having the disguised BoM member distract the entourage Kolivan, Lotor and the five guards slip out the back and made their way to the nearest pier. This country had become too dangerous and they need to get out quickly. They’ll wait for the right moment, gather up the members from around the country and then plan their attack.
Lotor looked back towards the capital and Kolivan sigh. At least his other piece of news will hopefully relieve some of the prince’s misery.
Coran support Alfor to his seat, the king’s face displayed a painful emotion. After all, Zarkon and he had been good friends for many years.
“What’s going to happen now?” The advisor pours him a cup of tea. Alfor doesn’t have the heart to drink it.
“War, Coran, between the prince and his aunt.”
“Are we going to do anything?” Are we going to help him? Was left unsaid but clearly heard. Alfor closed his eyes tiredly. He wanted to, believed him when he said he wanted nothing else but to help the prince in this calamity. If he was anything else but a king he would already be there beside him, aiding him in his friend’s stead.
But that’s wishful thinking and when he opened his eyes he’s still the same Alfor, king of Altea.
Supporting the prince means declaring war with Haggar. It’s too dangerous. That woman had become too dangerous.
Was it worth it for one person?
A person who’d become like a son to him?
“I don’t know, Coran,” he replies weakly, “I really don’t know.”
Allura paced back and forth in her study the newspaper clutch tight in her fist.
DIABAZAAL’S RULER DEAD FROM ILLNESS
What is going on? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? King Zarkon is dead, how could that be? Illness, was it the same as the queen? Why hasn’t Lotor told her the king was ill, why hasn’t he told her anything?
Actually, how long was it since he replied to her letters? Did he receive them at all?
She wants to go to Diabazaal, to go to him and demand some answers. To hold him in her arms and shield him from those people in his venerable moment. She wants to help shoulder his burden. She wants to wipe away his stress. She wants to-
She wants to see him.
She wants to see his face, hear his voice and hold his hands. She wants to see him smile not only in pictures and hear his laugh that’s not from her memories.
But she can’t.
She and her father weren’t allow access to Diabazaal for more than 7 years now. Without the king’s permission a royalty entering a foreign country, if discovered, would be seen as having impure intentions and could lead to peace treaty annulment.
Their only source of contact during these times were the letters.
And now it’s gone too.
She could do nothing except wallow in self-pity at her own powerlessness.
“Lance,” she called out. How many time had she said this name when alone, wishing he’s still with them.
Your big sister is so useless, if only you’re beside him, little brother, at least…at least he won’t have to fight them alone
Lance picked up the newspaper from the stall and frown at the headline his jaws clench tightly as he read the article.
Illness? Again? What are the chances?
He thought back to his time in Diabzaal, when his life was still simple.
Lotor would take him by the hand and sat him down beside him in the gazebo. Queen Honerva would smile at the two of them and push forward a plate of assorted sweets.
Lotor would sneak into the throne room when King Zarkon received his audience, hiding behind the curtains as they look at the dignitaries kneeling before the king. King Zarkon would catch sight of them and give them a warning look telling them to behave. It would have been intimidating if not for the lift up corner of his lips.
In his memories, Queen Honerva is a gentle loving mother while King Zarkon is the strict yet doting father. Lotor loved them very much and so does he.
He remembered crying in Gyrgan’s arms when he read that the queen has died. Hunk was running around trying to bring him things that might cheer him up. Everyone was worried and it took quite a while before he can start smiling again. It felt like he’d lose a family member all over again.
Now…now he’s worried about Lotor, the brother he hadn’t thought about in a long time.
How is he holding up, is he crying now, is he alone? No, he have Allura with him, she wouldn’t let him be alone. He’ll be alright, they’ll be alright. His brother is strong and an intelligent prince, he’d take on the responsibility of a king without any problems.
But he can’t shake off the ominous feeling when he reread the word ‘illness’.
It’ll be alright, he reassures himself once more and looks off into the direction of his once home, I wish you the best of luck brother, I know you’ll be a great king.
Chapter 17: Once Again
Lance's life took a turn for...
Thus far, there are three major turning points in Lance’s life. First, is the death of his family, second, is when he became part of the Voltron pirates and third, is the day he was made captain. Those are all big life-changing point and Lance thinks he’d had hit the marker for this lifetime.
Apparently, he had spoken too fast.
After leaving the port of Faltima for only four days Voltron was followed and caught up by a large ship. Their pure white sail stark against the black of Voltron brought forth a sense of foreboding.
Black means pirates and white with insignia indicate the country and affiliating of the ship. A plain white sail shows that the ship has no affiliation towards any country or sector and was mostly belong to traveling merchants.
Merchants and pirates were not the best of friends and many desperate pirates use this ploy to lure in their fellow peers.
Rax would have already open fired if not for the blue flag they hung up at the prow. Blue indicates they came in peace and wanted to talk.
It’s not uncommon for a merchant to request an audience with a pirate ship since there might be priceless artifacts strewing about from their previous lootings. But to have such a large ship beside them is still quite unnerving.
It’s not like they couldn’t get out of the situation if they really want, Matt and Katie had made sure they have all the things needed for a fast getaway. Once is enough, they won’t make the same mistake again.
The ship came close and Lance has the crew put out a blue flag of their own, agreeing to the meeting. Both ships close their sails and a ramp was put between them.
A group of hooded people came over to their side, Lance sweeps his eyes over them and concludes there’re about 10 in total. He relaxes a bit, the number is not too big, seem like the other side is sincere. His crew part ways for him when he strode forward, their demeanor of utmost respect not allowing the other side to look down on him.
He comes to stand in front of a pair of a duo who seems to be the leader of the group. His crew stands behind him all calm and aloof but he knows they’d spring into action at the first sign of offense.
“Long time no sees, Lance McClain, it’s good to see you’re still in good health.”
The taller of the duo step forward addressing him, Lance stepped back startled. “How do you know my name?” The figure lowered his hood revealing tan-skin wrinkled with age and long white hair tied into tight braid wrapped around his neck.
The face tickle his memory, Lance is positive he met him before, but where? Dalterion, Nalquod or maybe Olkarion?
Then the scene shift and he saw the man in shiny armor, face less daunting, looking powerful and regal. He’s standing beside Diego instructing him how to hold his stance and swing his sword, Diabazaal’s military insignia display proudly on his chest.
“Commander?” He remembers now. He’s Diego’s brigade commander, the one that trained him personally. His brother always talked about him, praising him to high heavens with stars in his eyes. Lance remembers his father always fell silent during these praising sessions, biting his tongue while green with envy.
His name was…what was his name again? This is ridiculous, Diego talked about him so much, how could he forget his name? In his defense, it’s already been 12 years since he last heard about the commander. What is he doing here anyway?
“The name is Kolivan, Lance, Commander Kolivan of the 2nd brigade. Ex-commander now actually.” The smaller one step forward a light note in his voice. Something about the voice stirred up a feeling of longing. Also, the way he said his name, slightly breathy and tight like he’s trying to hold in his emotions. Just hearing it sent shivers down his spine.
The hood fall and the brunette’s eyes widen at the sight. Pale white skin and hair the color of finest silver. He remembers the cheeks rounder and the eyes more bright but no matter how much he’d change Lance would never forget him.
He strode forward as if in a trance and cradle the man’s face in his hands. His thumbs brush along his cheeks, eyes drinking in the sight as if looking at the most precious thing in the world.
“I can’t believe it, Lotor, you’re here, you’re really here.” The brunette voice took on a watery note his eyes never leaving the man before him.
“It’s me, I’m here, I finally found you, Lance, sorry it took so long.” He took hold of one of the hands on his cheeks and kissed the palm lovingly. Who would have thought that after 12 years he would have the chance of meeting his baby brother again?
Then he thought of dark-skin, flowing white hair and a sweet smile and his heart ache that she’s not here with him. It’s been too long since he last heard from her. She must have been so mad by now and would give him an earful when they met. Hopefully, his gift would appease her enough to let him off.
I found our baby brother, Allura. He’d grow up well. I can’t wait for us three to be together again.
Unable to contain his happiness any longer Lance burst out laughing and wrap his arms around his brother. Lotor holds onto lithe waist and lifts the other off the ground, spinning him around, their laughter mixing together creating a heart-warming scene.
Kolivan watches the two, a small smile on his lips. Seems like he made the right choice of looking for the lost marquis’s son. True it had been a long journey and most of his leads were met with dead ends. Many times he thought of giving up, what are the odds of a small boy surviving that storm anyway? But he has a duty to his ex-subordinate. He’s always felt guilty at his own powerlessness that fateful day. If at least he can find the youngest brother he’ll be able to face Diego McClain’s grave.
Fortunately, it also brings a smile to the prince’s face. It’s been too long since their prince smile that happily.
The Voltron crew looked at the scene in confusion and apprehension. Who is the man Lance is so happy to see? What does he mean by ‘finally found him’, is he going to take Lance away? With how happy he is they’re not sure if their captain is going to stay.
Takashi grit his teeth and unconsciously clutch at the bracelet on his wrist. Lance and the stranger seem to be close. Too close. His chest felt hot and he has the urge to rip them away from each other. He shakes his head harshly chasing away the awful thoughts. He’s Lance’s butler, whatever his master’s relationship with the man is it’s none of his business.
“Come on, you can do that later,” a high-pitched voice disrupts the moment between the two men. “I know you’re anxious to see him so stop acting shy and man up.” Lotor let down Lance and turn him toward the new duo stepping down from the ramp. One has their hood up while the other one doesn’t bother covering herself from the harsh sun.
Lance could remember that long luxurious red hair anywhere.
“Ezor!” The captain cried happily and the woman stilled. She diverts her attention from trying to pull along the other to look at the direction of the voice instead.
“LANCE!” She exclaimed happily and rush forward to envelop him in a hug. She land kisses all over his face and the brunette giggled at the ticklish feeling. She pulled away to get a good look at him, her face soften considerably.
“Look at how you’ve grown…thank god…I was always so worried.” Her voice took on a tinge of sadness as her eyes brimmed with tears. “I’m so sorry, Lance, if only I’ve held you tighter you wouldn’t-”
He covers her mouth with his hand a fierce look on his face, “none of that you hear me? I’m here now, I’m fine, my life has been good so there’s nothing you have to blame yourself for, alright?” His face loses its fierceness at the end replaced with a small smile.
The red-hair guard felt sweetness spread inside her chest as tears threaten to spill, “Oh you silly boy. When had you grow into such fine young man?” She whips her eyes and put on a bright smile already back to her perky self. “There’s someone who really wants to see you.”
With that, she runs back to her previous companion who still stood at the same place she left them. She pushes them forward and when they're at a good distance she mischievously pulled back their's hood.
Sun shine against bronze skin highlighting the mop of wavy brown hair. Blue eyes the same shade as the captain start back at him and Lance forgot how to breathe.
He remembers the man to be smaller, more feeble from the lack of exercise, hair a bit longer in the front to shield himself from other people that are not his family. Lance remember eyes that always looked down into books and voice as soft as cotton. He remembered snuggling against warm body listening to soothing heartbeats whenever he has nightmares.
He also remembers voice hoarse from screaming, tear stricken face and lifeless eyes as blood and soot marred his once pristine body.
Now before him stood a man with broad shoulders tall and proud. His hair is now cut short no longer obscuring his view, his beautiful blue eyes easy to be seen.
He’s looking at Lance, an awkward smile on his lips.
Lance choke back his sobs, at least some things still haven’t changed, thank god.
The two stare at each other, both now quite believing what they’re seeing. It’s been so long that they’d lose all hope and now…now
“Hi, Lance.” The man said softly but the voice rang clear in Lance’s mind. There’s no way he’ll ever forget that voice. The voice that he last heard was full of despair and hidden anger.
Something breaks inside him and he’s already lunging forward throwing himself into the man’s chest like he always did when they’re young. His tears falling freely as he clings tightly to the person he never thought he’d be able to meet again.
“You’re alive, Luca, brother, you’re alive!”
The arms around him tighten and he felt something warm fell on his face. The droplets slide down his face mixing with his own.
“Yes, I’m here, my dear Lance, ”Luca's voice shook heavily as he held onto his last remaining family. His brother used to be so little, so small that Luca with his frail arms could lift him up easily. Now he’s stood nearly eye to eye with him. “We’re back together now and we’ll never separate again, I promise.”
He’s back father, mother, Diego, Mia, Rosa. I finally got our Lance back. This time I’ll protect him with everything I have, I swear.
Chapter 18: The Start of Agon
Haggar is plotting and troubles are happening on Voltron
Haggar throws the goblet in her hand towards the commander and it shattered on the wall behind him. Sendak narrowed his eyes at the ill-tempered woman.
After the death of the king, Haggar had become drunk on power, shedding her proper lady façade revealing a vile and ruthless woman with a superiority complex.
“How hard could it be to capture one person? Let me remind you that if he became king it’s not only me but all of you too who’ll have nowhere to run.” Her face twisted into an ugly snarl.
Sendak gritted his teeth. As unwilling as he was, he has to agree with the woman. He’s under no illusion that the prince knows full well of all the names behind the massacre of the McClain. The moment that crown descend upon his head all their heads will be separate from their shoulders. Just like what they did to the Marquis family.
Their plan had been good to this point. Create a dispute between the king and the prince, have the king drove the prince away, kill the king, kill the prince and crown Haggar as the new Queen. The woman gets what she wanted and her supporters basked in riches and glory.
Everything was going according to plan, even the part of having the king sign a decree bestowing the Marchioness the title of Grand Duchess before he died. Who would have thought that the neglected prince still has some tricks up his sleeves?
Haggar was livid when Sendak report to her of the prince’s escape and his stoic demeanor just succeed in making her angrier. She sweeps her hand across the table, porcelain and silverware create a cacophony of high-pitch ringing as they hit the floor. She racks a hand through her hair, strands falling out of her tidy bun highlighting the wildness in her eyes.
Where is he? Where the hell is that vermin? She’s so close now, the only thing left between her and the crown is that wretched thing her sister birthed.
Honerva, you took everything from me and now your son is keeping me from my dream. Curse you. CURSE YOU BOTH!
“You said they got away by the pier?” When the commander grunts his reply her anger flare.
Where can the prince go for help outside if not Altea?
King Alfor is shielding the prince!
That man again! If it’s not for him Zarkon would have never met Honerva and now this. Good. Very good. If this is how you want to play I’ll give it to you.
“Prepare all your military force, we’re going to declare war with Altea.” Her voice took on a tone so cold even the seasoned commander took a step back.
“War with Altea?” Had this woman gone mad? That had a peace treaty with Altea if they ignore it and invade how would the other countries view them?
“He’s at Altea. There's no other place for him to run to but there. It won’t be a problem. We can spread the news that they capture the prince as a bargaining chip for the borderland in the mountains, wanting to make use of our venerable state. We just released the news of the king’s death, the timing is too perfect, no one will suspect a thing, maybe they’ll even think Altea have a hand in Zarkon’s death.”
The commander listens as the woman rambled on not hearing how ridiculous her plan sound.
“When we got him back we can kill him and blame it on Altea. Yes, that’s good. Quickly go and ready your troop commander!”
He’ll not stand for this, the plan is full of holes and the possibility of invoking the wrath of other countries are too high. What if they shunned Diabazaal? Trade will cease and the economy will crash. All the riches they have now will vanish into thin air.
He needs to get rid of this woman.
If he’s not mistaken Grand Duke Calsilas have a young son. The Grand Duke is old and with him and the prince gone that son will be next in line for the throne. The boy is just naïve enough for them to manipulate at will.
He reached for the sword at his waist and stop short when he felt cool metal on his neck.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Commander. Don’t force my hand, you still have some use to our lady.” A hissing voice sound from beside his ear. Sendak felt frost settle inside his veins as the hooded figure slithered away from behind him to stand imposingly behind Haggar.
More hooded figures melted out from behind the shadows the eyes on their mask glowing, flocking to Haggar’s side, staring down as if he’s nothing but a worm.
Those masks. Those hoods with the purple emblem. It couldn’t be.
The assassins from the Drule Valley!
He thought Kolivan got rid of all of them, what are they doing here?
“You seems to be confused, Commander.” One of them said, voice squeaky and grating to the ears.
“You see after that hateful Kolivan took down our organization some of us escape with barely a breath left in our lungs. Lady Haggar took us in and nurse us back to health. We may be assassins but we abide by one strict rule. A life for a life. Lady Haggar saved our lives so now they belong to her. Kolivan killed our brethren so we’ll kill him too.”
Sendak swallow, it’s all he can do to keep himself from trembling.
Assassins from Drule Valley or Druids, as what they’re widely known, are notorious for their cold-bloodedness. If you pay them enough they’ll kill whoever, including babies. They are vicious and unparalleled in what they do.
Their biggest crime is kidnapping children to brainwash and raised them as the next generation. They don’t care whether the kid is a noble or a street rat as long as they show potential. After a series of mysterious disappearances of children from soldiers’ and commanders’ household Kolivan took it upon himself to organize a troop and razed the Valley.
All the captured members were executed and the disappeared children were returned back to their family. Not a smart move in his opinion since those kids can no longer lead a normal life. It’s better to finish them off to prevent future mishaps.
Now before him stood more than half a dozen Druids all at the command of one deranged woman.
He couldn’t fight them. One wrong move and he’ll be dead before he knows it.
“What are you waiting for, Sendak, I advise you not to make me angry,” Haggar said, voice drip with poisonous honey. Sendak cursed her in his mind.
“As you wish m’lady.” He bowed then promptly left, the killing intent those Druids leaked out nearly make him lose his footing. His nails dug into his palm as he makes his way towards his barrack, battle strategies already forming in his mind.
Crazy, that woman is crazy and she’s dragging us all down with her.
“And here is Pai, Pai this is Luca, my older brother,” Lance bring Luca to meet the musician, both men shook hands and Pai was impressed when Luca didn’t even flinch at his trademark creepy grin, “he might look evil but he’ll grow on you, eventually. Under no circumstance are you allowed to play cards with him, I just got you back can’t have you running away in fear.”
Despite the playful words, the hand intertwined with Luca’s own tighten, as if afraid his own words will come true. Luca uses his thumb to caress the back of his brother’s hand comfortingly. What a silly little brother he has as if there's anything in the world that can separate them ever again. If there is he’ll be the one to take it down, no matter who or what they are.
“You know I don’t gamble.”
Just a simple sentence can bring tears to the other’s eyes and Luca’s heart melt at the sight. No matter how old his baby brother is still a cry baby.
“Yeah, because Rosa hated it so you avoided it, I remember.”
Lance make a round around the deck showing off his brother for everyone to see, not once letting go of their hands.
Lotor looked at the scene feeling a little dejected, but he understands, the brothers need their time together and who is he to come in between them. It’s still sad to be forgotten so easily, he missed his little brother too.
A hand pats him gently on the head. He looked up to see the commander watching him with an emotionless face.
When he was little he always thought the commander was intimidating but after spending 3 years in constant contact with each other he started to understand the man more. Kolivan is not cold-hearted, just not used to display emotion openly. He’s actually a really caring man that placed the happiness of his treasured people above his own. Why else would he be looking for Lance all these years if not for Lotor and Diego McClain?
“You’ll have your moment again.” Knowing the commander want to comfort him make his previous gloomy mood disappear. That’s right, this is not the last time they’re going to meet, it’s the first of many after a long break. He’ll get Lance to himself again.
Many of Lance’s crew eyed him suspiciously and he decides that if Lance going to neglect him he might as well introduce his own self. He walked up to the nearest group and put on his friendliest smile, “Hello, I’m Lotor Lance’s…friend.” The words taste bitter in his mouth but he doesn’t want to overstep his bound.
In Diabazaal everyone knows who he is so despite him introducing himself as Lance brother people don’t take it seriously, but these people are different.
“What are you talking about?” Lance appeared beside him hands still holding Luca’s. Lotor eyed it jealously. Then Lance, sweet sweet Lance who always seems to know how he’s feeling, slipped his free hand into Lotor’s own.
With a loud voice, he holds up their joining hands for everyone to see, “listen, everyone, this man here is Lotor, he and I might not be connected by blood but he is my brother thorough and thorough.”
Lotor breathe in deep and shaky, feeling his heart swelled about to burst.
His little brother is the best.
But despite the gentle atmosphere settling around the three the rest of the Voltron are not. They don’t care what the men’s names are and what relationship they have with the brunette. What they want to know is what the hell is going on and what is going to happen in the future? They doubt the other party is going to join Voltron though. With their high-class ship and regal features no way they’ll become a pirate. So does it means Lance is going with them? Then what will become of Voltron?
Pai, being the unofficial vice-captain, took the duty upon himself and intrude into the three brothers’ conversation.
“Hey Lance, I’m happy about your reunion and all but would you mind filling us in on the detail?”
Lance was all smiles when he turns around to answer the familiar voice but it drops the moment he saw the looks his crew was giving him. Fear, distrust with a hint of anger. Why are they looking at him like that, even Pai is acting more menacing than normal?
Seeing their younger brother slowly losing his smile the prince and his guard step forward to put themselves between the captain and his crew.
The reaction was instantaneous. Voltron pulled out their weapons, murderous aura leaking out ready to strike and take back their captain. If it’s not for Pai holding out his hand telling them to stay put they might have already done so. Katie, Rax, and Keith were bristling while Shay and Matt hold them back but even both of them have a dangerous look.
The hooded people came to stand behind the three brothers while Kolivan walked forward to put himself in front of the prince. The ex-commander and vice-captain stare at each other both not backing down.
Hunk was the only one looking at Lance who has a heartbreaking looking on his face. The cook also wants to give in to his anger and demand the other party return his friend to him but he knows that at this moment if they fight the one who’s going to hurt the most is Lance.
Lance who’s brought him out of the orphanage and give him a purpose in life. Lance who always goes along with his spoilt request. Lance who's always protecting him.
Now it’s his time to protect him in return.
With a calm demeanor, he strode past his furious crew members and vice-captain to stand in front of the two protective older brothers.
“Lance,” he called gently and smile when he saw his friend peeking out from behind the two men. “It’s alright buddy, we’re not mad, but we’re kinda confused right now and it would be a great help if you explained to us what’s happening.”
Hunk’s voice was calm and gentle and make Lance relax despite the grim situation. The captain begins reviewing his actions and was ashamed to realize that the situation was caused by his own negligence. He was so happy to meet Lotor again and found out that Luca is still alive that he failed to act properly as a captain. He owes his crew an apology.
Stepping out from behind his brothers he took hold of Hunk’s hands, “I’m so sorry Hunk, I should have-,” but the cook shook his head and reply, “you were happy, you did nothing wrong.”
Lance give his friend a watery smile and hand in hand they walk back towards their crew. Seeing their captain coming back to them Voltron relax their stance and sheath their weapons. Pai grin smugly at the commander who narrowed his eyes at him.
Lance turned back to his brothers, both looked at him in betrayal. Please don’t look at him like that, he’s not choosing sides, both are equally as important but right now the side that has less information is Voltron.
“Luca, Lotor, please go back to your ship first,” when the two looked like they want to protest he steel his heart and tell them that he needs to speak with his crew and to respect his authority as the captain. The two left reluctantly and the rest follow. Ezor was the last and looked back at him worriedly, he nodded at her and she smiles encouragingly before leaving. The ramp was put away but the two ships still sail along together.
With the guests gone Voltron is plunged into silence as they wait for their captain to start his explanation. Lance look at all the stares aiming at him and grin widely to dispel the tension. “Why don’t you all take a seat, this might take a while.”
The brunette starts his story, part excited at the prospect of sharing his life with his crew and part scared of having to recall the event again.
“I was the youngest son of an Earl house in Diabazaal.” He told them about how his father was a hardworking man who was able to quickly elevate their family’s social status. He told them about his mother’s wonderful cooking and how her garlic knots is the best in the world. “I’m so sorry Hunk but for the life of me I don’t know her recipe.”
He told them of Diego’s prowess with the blade, Mia’s intelligence and skills in charming everyone around her, Rosa’s loved for all food and Luca’s ability to recall every book he’d ever read. He told them of his relationship with Lotor and Allura.
“Wait, that guy was a prince?” Rax exclaimed only for Shay to hit him in the arm for interrupting.
Then he told them of that fatal day.
How they were dragged away from the comfort of their home to be killed in broad daylight. Diego was the one to go first then Mia. His two prodigious siblings, their bright future cruelly snuff before it could begin. Then his mother and father, the two pillars in his life forever gone. Then Rosa, his dazzling sister, oh how the red clash with her favorite yellow dress.
Then finally Luca, the brother he left behind, the greatest sin he committed in this life.
“Then Voltron picked me up and you know the rest,” he looked at Pai who give him a mischievous smile, the scenario of their first meeting played in their minds.
“And now we’re here.” Lance said and look towards the direction of the other ship, “I thought he was dead, I thought I was the only one left but here he is, alive and well, and I could not ask for anything more.”
Pai closed his eyes. He understands Lance’s feeling very well, if Blaytz ever comes back…if only…he won’t even know what to do with himself. But that will never happen, Blaytz is truly dead, the disappearance of his bounty poster is the best proof.
So when he opened his eyes his mind is made up. The past is the past what really matters is now. Their captain just got his family back and he’ll be damn if they’re the ones who stand between the three of them.
“Hunk,” the cook turn his tears covered face towards him sniffing his nose loudly, “how much food do we have left in the pantry?”
“I-I think enough to last us another two to three weeks.”
“We could always stock up later, or maybe ask them to share their portion, Helce is only about a week away.” The musician mumbled to himself.
“Pai?” Lance said and was taken aback when the man whips around to him, “oi kiddo, go tell your brothers there’s an uninhibited island up ahead, we’re staying there for the night.”
At Lance questioning look Pai couldn’t help but ruffle the other’s head, “they’re your family aren’t they, which means they’re our family and we should show our new family members how we Voltron pirates party.”
At the word party, the brooding crew became animated again.
“Leave it to me!” Hunk exclaimed, determined to make this the best meal he ever cooks, “Shay, Matt, Takashi, you guys are helping me.” He called out to the other three who could actually cook and starts assigning them tasks. He’s not sure how many people are there but by the size of the ships there must be no less than a hundred, nearly twice their size. They have a lot of preparations to do.
“Oh and tell them to bring their share of food, there’s no way we can cook for all of them no matter how much our angel planned to do so.” Saying that the musician pushes the captain towards the edge of the ship and holler for the other side to lower the ramp.
Lance looked back at his musician, eyes soft and damp. Since that day this man had always been beside him, pushing and pulling, molding him into the captain that he is today. Without him, Lance would have been lost with the hole Blaytz left behind.
“Hey Pai, just so you know, you’re my older brother too.”
Lance laugh and walked over to the other ship, Pai’s eyes never leaving him a rare adoring smile on his lips.
Silly kid saying such embarrassing things
Chapter 19: The Other McClain
*Trigger Warning* mention of suicide.
Some focus on Lance's brother and introducing you guys a little bit more to my OC
“OH MY! WHERE’S THE COOK, THIS IS DELICIOUS!” Ezor exclaimed with food still in her mouth. Luca narrowed his eyes at the specks that landed on his shirt.
“Don’t speak with your mouth full,” he chides.
If you tell him 12 years ago that he would be working with the red-hair woman he would have scoffed and never talked to you again. To him 12 years ago Ezor was an obnoxious woman that likes to torment him for no reason except for her own amusement. He always dreads meeting her at social gatherings and tries to avoid her at all cost.
Then his family got killed.
His parents, older brother, and sister were gone in a span of minutes.
They also took Rosa.
His dear Rosa. The twin who was the opposite of him in every way but also the closest to his heart. Since little, she’s the one who protects him from all the people who looked down on his weak self. She’s always the one encouraging him, consoling him. His beloved sister shines brighter than anyone in his eyes.
Then she starts screaming, loud, broken and terrified. Calling out his name and begging him to help her.
The first time she ever asks for his protection.
And he failed.
Her blood stains his hand as she stares back at him blankly, condemning him of his uselessness.
He doesn’t remember how prince Lotor brought him back or how long he lay awake staring at the ceiling. He was unresponsive to anyone and his body became malnourish from the lack of nutrients. The scene of the moment they took his twin away from him playing in his head on an endless loop, his only thought is how much he missed her.
He wants to see her so much. To apologize for being a failure of a brother and for her to hug him again.
So he took off the bed cover and hang himself from the chandelier.
It was at that precise moment that Ezor came in with a tray of food. With a flash of her dagger, she cut away the cloth and his body hit the floor at the same time as the food tray.
Then not waiting for him to get his breathing back she took him by the collar and drag him towards the bathroom and dump a bucket of cold water on him. Then she was screaming, her face twisted and voice bouncing off the walls making his ears ring. She called him names, question his intelligence, venting out her frustration and disappointment in his action.
It might be because of the cold water making him more aware of her words because the moment she mentions Lance his dulled mind became active again.
Lance. His little brother. Those soldiers haven’t gotten to him yet.
He desperately clings to Ezor asking about his brother and when can he see him. Pain flashed across the woman’s face and she flung him away saying she lost his brother at sea.
“The boy is probably dead by now.” She said heartlessly.
He slapped her with all his might, his anger flaring to an all-time high. Thinking back she must have let him, with her skill she could have easily dodge.
“How dare you.” His voice was foreign to even himself, low and feral as he directs all his hate at the woman in front of him.
Without warning, she swings back her own hand and returns his slap. “How dare I? HOW DARE I? AT LEAST I DID SOMETHING. WHAT DID YOU DO APART FROM FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF?”
He lunged at her knocking her to the ground straddling her and use both his hands to pin down hers. She struggles and he pushes down with all his strength.
“HE’S BETTER OFF DEAD THAN HAVING TO PUT UP WITH A BROTHER LIKE YOU.”
“HE’S NOT DEAD!”
“HOW WOULD YOU KNOW?”
He was panting as he glared down at the suddenly quiet woman. His eyes had become blurry and he blinks rapidly. “I know,” he repeated again in a quivering voice, “Lance…he loved-love the sea. When we went to the beach he would spend all day in the water until Diego had to go drag him out. He can swim the best among all of us. Mother used…used to call him ocean child.” Tears fall down onto Ezor’s face but she didn’t move to evade them.
“The sea won’t abandon him. He’s not dead. My little brother is not dead.” He said it loud and clear as if doing so will make it true. He doesn’t want to think about other possibilities. He doesn’t want to be the only one left.
“I think so too,” the woman below him was calm, unlike her previous self.
“Seems like you finally got out of bed,” a voice came from behind him and he turns around to come face to face with Zethrid. The large woman easily lifts him off her co-worker and dump him unceremoniously back on the bed. Ezor plopped down beside him, face starting to swell, he’s sure his was no better.
“Sorry for shouting at you…and for saying those terrible things, but seeing you hanging like that is my last straw.” Zethrid gives the both of them a weird look at the last comment. She’d later give him another slap when she heard the full story, as well as Acxa, and Narti, and Lotor.
The last one must be the worst, full of disappointment and sadness and a hint of guilt. He made a vow to himself never to make his little brother look like that ever again.
“I too believe that Lance is not dead. He’s too strong to be taken out by a mere storm.” She gives him a lopsided smile. “We just have to find him.”
“Before that, we need to toughen you up first, can’t have you pulling us back during the search.” Zethrid looked down her nose at him, disparagement clear on her face. He knew she’s comparing him with Rosa and he turns away from her judging eyes.
“Give him a break Zet,” Ezor chide her friend from beside him, “don’t worry we’re on your side.” Her smile was sincere and her words shook his heart. Who would have thought that the woman he detests would be the one who pulled him out of his abyss?
So he took their offered hands and walked forward.
And here he is, 12 years later reunited with his brother and using his sleeve to clean off the sauce from the corner of Ezor’s mouth.
Zethrid is standing beside him letting him steal a bite or two from her plate. He has to agree with the woman though, the food is amazing. Does Lance get to eat like this every day?
Close by he could see Narti signing casually with a man, someone from Lance’s crew, seems like all of them know the language fluently.
He still couldn’t believe his crybaby brother became a pirate captain. Voltron pirate’s captain. Their family would’ve been so proud…well…not really, Mia would freak and mother would faint, Diego and father would go on a rampage trying to bring him back. The old him would be worried out of his mind and won’t be able to read a single page.
The only one who would find it amusing would be Rosa, she’d encourage him even. She’s wonderful like that.
Acxa is sitting nearby Lotor who’s immersed in Lance’s story of his pirate life. That woman is too protective, being the prince first guard and all. He heard that they were childhood friends, her father died protecting the young prince from an assassination attempt, so he took it upon himself to take care of his savior’s only daughter. The prince is always the most lenient towards Acxa.
On the log beside Lance, hidden behind his brother’s shadow is a black-hair man. He’s so gloomy that he blends right into the dark surrounding, if not for Luca’s keen eyes he would have missed the man completely. He’s focusing on eating the food on his plate but occasionally his eyes will shift to Lance. Luca thinks he looks like an abandoned puppy.
Then the forlorn look will turn lethal whenever the prince and his brother touch.
Ahh, he knows that behavior. He’d observed Mia’s suitors enough to be familiar with it.
Chuckling he makes his way towards the group, “hey Lance.”
It’s so adorable how his brother brightens up at his appearance, “Luca! Are you joining us? Come sit.” Lance and Lotor shift apart creating a space for him between them. Ok, now that’s too much, these two need to stop being so cute or he might develop a brother complex. Now that’s a scary thought.
“Later, mind if I borrow him for a bit?” He points to the gloomy man who jolts when everyone directs their attention to him. Lance looked hesitant but agreed. He could feel his brother’s gaze as he leads the man away. He coughs into his fist to hide his laughter, these two really is interesting.
To tease Lance further he led the man behind the large rocks on the beach hiding both of them from view.
“Sorry to bring you here but I have something to talk to you…Takashi was it?” The man nodded.
To tell the truth, there’s no way Luca can forget Takashi’s name since Lance introduce him as his butler. A pirate captain with a butler, now that’s something you don’t see every day. Also, his brother has this twinkle in his eyes that’s absent when he introduced the rest of his crew.
“I’m not one for small talks so I’m going to get right to the point. What’s your intention with my brother?”
The blush was immediate and so prominent that even the night could not hide it. Luca’s nails dig into his palms as he tries to control himself not to laugh. This man is adorable. So transparent and sincere that one would be hard press not to think positively of him. He could see why Lance likes him so much.
“I-I don’t understand what you’re implying. Lance is my master and I’m his butler, that’s all.”
Luca knows it won’t be easy to get the truth out, he’s not good at coaxing people so he uses the method that always gets the result for him. Intimidation. Letting loose a bit of killing intent he put on a chilling smile and said, “I’ve been beside the prince long enough to distinguish when someone is lying, so I’ll ask you again, and this time answer truthfully. What is your intention with my little brother?”
Takashi’s face went white and he clutches at the bracelet on his wrist. He look so pitiful that it makes Luca feels guilty so he put a stop to his interrogation and guide the panic man to sit down.
“Sorry,” the guard said sheepishly, “I might have overdone it.”
Getting his breathing back under control Takashi shook his head, “you’re only worried about your brother, I understand.”
They drift into silence and Luca deems the talked to be a failure. He was about to get up and tell Takashi to head back to the others when the butler opens his mouth, “I-I don’t know what my intention with Lance is…yet, but I know he’s very important to me.”
Luca blinked and when Takashi seems hesitant he urges the other to go on. “Lance…he’s not like the others, he’s…special. At least to me. He saves me from death many times, he’s always so kind and gentle. He’s patient with my issues and even went out of his way to get me this.” Takashi held up his wrist.
“What is it?”
“It a stone bracelet, to help me with my haemophobia.”
Luca don’t understands what a bracelet got to do with panic attacks but it must have its own special meaning. Also, he felt that stones looks familiar to a certain shade of blue.
“He’d given me so many things, so much that I have no way of repaying him.” The butler’s eyes became gentle as he gazes at the gift, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips.
Pieces are falling into places and to further confirm his conclusion Luca decide to probe a little more, “what about Lotor?”
The smile instantly vanish and the soft look became hard and blank, “what about him?”
“What do you think of him?”
“Why do you want to know?”
Luca shrugged, “Curiosity?”
Takashi huff and after a bit said in a miffed voice, “I think he’s being overly friendly with Lance.”
Luca masked his laughter with a cough, “how so?”
“He…he keeps on touching him, even when it’s not necessary, and he has this…this look whenever he looks at Lance.”
“I don’t know…it just seems…inappropriate, yes that’s it, inappropriate, he’s a prince isn’t he, he should act more-more dignified not clinging to him like that.”
Luca’s mouth is pressed tightly shut and twisted into a weird line, with great difficulty he said, “They’re childhood friends.”
And with that, the guard let out a hearty laugh that makes tears gather at the corner of his eyes. Takashi’s pout only makes him laugh harder. The butler was giving him a flat look as he sobers up.
“It seems to me like you’re jealous.”
“What!?” The blush is back with a vengeance and the pale man was looking over his shoulders to see if anyone overheard their conversation.
“Why did you say that?”
“Because that’s what you are, jealous.”
“No, I’m not!”
The guard quirk his eyebrow and the butler fell into silence. He’s jealous of Lotor for being close to Lance? That’s preposterous, because if that’s true then doesn’t it means that he…
“You like Lance.” Takashi yelp and back away from Luca who invades into his personal space. The guard’s words make his heart beat wildly in his chest. Not a question but a statement. He likes Lance.
“That’s impossible,” was out of his mouth before he realizes, “we’ve just met like, what, a year ago, and also not under the best circumstance. Isn’t it too fast? And we never…do something like courting or the like. I…I don’t”
“You see the big woman who’s one of the prince’s guard?” Luca pipe up. Takashi nodded, confused about what she has to do with the conversation.
“My twin, Rosa, used to have a crush on her, that’s why she wakes up at 6 every day to jog. It starts with something so simple, the crush. She loved eating so she was chubby since little, the court girls teased her relentlessly. She met Zethrid one day during a party in the castle, she went to the restroom and met with those girls in the hallway and they tease her. Zethrid saw and stood up for her and chase those girls away.”
“So she liked her because she saved her.”
Luca shook his head a fond smile on his lips, “that would have been the normal thing wouldn’t it. Not when it comes to Ross, no. The reason she liked Zethrid is that she compliments her on her dress. You see she was wearing her favorite yellow dress that day, the same color with Mia. Mia is the opposite of Rosa, small, petite and compose. All night people were complimenting her, totally disregarding Rosa, those girls too were telling her how inadequate she is compared to our sister.
“Zethrid told Rosa she looks good in the dress and yellow suits her. Then after that, she began working out with Zethrid every morning to get closer with her.” Then those blue eyes take on a melancholy hue that makes Takashi’s heart clench. “Zethrid do her exercise in front of Rosa’s grave every day now. Sometimes she’ll be there even when it’s not morning. Rosa would have been on cloud nine if she knows.”
“The point is!” Luca cut off his reminiscing abruptly to focus on the man before him, he’d done enough grieving. “The point is love can happen anywhere, anytime and with any reason. You don’t have to know each other for years to like them. Life is not a novel or play, you don’t need grand gestures to fall in love. Sometimes it’s the smallest thing that takes up the most space in your heart.”
Takashi looks at the bracelet on his wrist. Blue. The same color of Lance’s eyes. Those eyes that always look straight at him, gentle and fierce at the same time. Just thinking of the man make Takashi’s heart tremble. Somehow, the thought of him being in love with Lance was not unpleasant.
“So what are you going to do now?”
Luca is looking at him again, all trace of gentleness gone. He thought about the question, simple yet very important. What he’s going to do now? Tell Lance his feeling or pretend like nothing has happened?
“I don’t know yet. I’m not going to push my feeling onto him. When I feel like it’s the right time I might tell him and whatever his answer will be the fact that I’m his butler will not change. I’ll stay by his side and take care of him to the best of my ability.”
“That’s what I want to hear,” Luca slaps his back so hard Takashi went into a coughing fit, “now I know that whatever happens, I can trust you with Lance.” The guard gets up and pulled Takashi to his feet.
When they got back to the clearing many of the soldiers were passed out on the floor while the pirates were still going strong, a full mug of ale all in their hands as they sing and dance happily. Seems like the soldiers were no match for Voltron when it comes to drinking.
Lance stopped his conversation with Lotor the moment he spots Takashi walking back with his brother. Feeling mischievous Luca wrap his arm around the butler’s waist and kiss him on the cheek. The man went rigid in his arms as his face flush to his ears.
Takashi doesn’t know what happens and why Luca kissed him but the man’s face is similar to Lance’s and it makes him weirdly excited. He quickly makes his way towards the dancing crowd planning to drink this night into oblivion.
Lance got to his feet and follow after his butler. He shot his brother a murderous glare, bitterness raising in his chest. Poor Lotor was left confused while Acxa shook her head tiredly beside him.
“Now why would you go and do something like that?” Ezor appeared beside him an impish grin on her face.
He shrugged, “just teasing.”
The red-hair woman smile widens and slips her hand into his.