Roars of the crowd surrounded the two captains on the mighty vessel they stood upon, deafening their heavy pants of breath as they locked eyes with one another, waiting impatiently for the other to break.
Their battlefield swayed side to side beneath them, only to be rocked harsher by the excitement of the on-watchers. The hardwood floors echoed with each stomp, and every person climbed high, even up the masts, to get a view of the show.
From the ground you could miss the light blue ship, as it blended with the sky, that is if it wasn’t for the white name printed across it labeled ‘Watanabe.’ Though from the bottom it looked beautiful, that was all for show. On deck the poor thing had been through generations of battles across its surface.
The ships in the skies weren’t particularly made for fights, only really shipments across the world. This one in particular though went above and beyond that as it carried the most precious cargo of them all.
One a criminal, hunted for nearly 10 million; dead or alive, and the other a bounty hunter who hadn’t missed a single target in her years in the game.
Each of them slowly gave out under the harsh sun from the constant energy they had released as they fought for what seemed like hours.
Harsh bated breath pushed out of You’s constricting lungs, her sword was tight in her white-gloved grip as she was losing her stance by the second. She could feel the blood by her busted lip trail its way to her chin and onto her white uniform. You couldn’t care less as her outfit was beyond salvageable at this point, being torn in multiple places while blood from her enemy, and herself, stained it all over. Her father would not be pleased at her now ripped cape, multiple popped buttons, and sword sliced hat either.
None of that mattered though as the criminal of the skies, better known as: Sakurauchi Riko, stared at her with a smile graced upon her lips. The audacity she had was something You hadn't seen before; so cocky while on the enemy’s territory with no way to escape.
Her look contradicted herself though as she was slumped to the side, holding onto her bloody arm while her other kept its grip firm on her sword. Blood ran down her forehead, mixing with her sweat and ruining her usual dressed up look.
Even her prim corset, topped with a white blouse, was nearly half un-done as the two had been tugging and pushing against one another for so long. Her skirt was slit farther up than she would’ve liked and even her knee-high boots were scuffed from her falls. The best thing she had going for her was her perfectly set hairpin.
You brought her sword upwards, holding it close to her chest. The steel gleamed against the blinding sky as her grip on the light blue handle tightened immensely.
“I already told you, Riko. If anyone’s collecting that reward, it’s me.”
Riko laughed, showing her sharp canines to her prey,
“You know, if you wanted to ask me out so bad, all you had to do was ask. Getting forced onto our little dates is getting a bit old.”
You clenched her jaw, not wasting anymore time before sprinting towards her target. Riko tried to not let her act drop but she could feel the sweat dripping down her back as You charged with no remorse.
You kept her blade near, cutting through the air, before she finally swiped at Riko’s already damaged arm. Riko was quick to raise her sword, keeping their strength leveled for a moment as she sweetly winked,
“Still in denial, huh?”
You pushed harder, feeling Riko’s arms shake under her force, as she grunted out,
“Can’t you be quiet?”
Losing strength, Riko quickly jumped back, as You did as well. Of course, Riko wasn’t as graceful as she stumbled on her feet. When she regained her balance though, it was as if nothing ever happened as she put back on her charming smile.
“What’s the fun in that?”
Riko began to walk to the side, stalking You, checking her up and down. You’s ability to fight in her sailor uniform always amazed Riko. It was tight in all the right areas, but it didn’t have much of a look, nor flexibility, as her own did.
You observed Riko’s cat-like behavior, trying not to let her embarrassment get the best of her as she saw how long the outlaw’s eyes stayed on certain parts of her ‘uniform’.
You took note of just how slow her moves had become since the start of the brawl. Even in Riko’s more non-tasteful loose fitting outfit, she just couldn’t keep up.
Riko’s sword dragged along the deck, scratching a circle around her favorite sailor before stopping. Her eyes weren’t focused on You though, but rather something much farther beyond her. A grin appeared as she caught sight of what she was really looking for,
“You know You, I do enjoy my long rides on your ferry,”
Riko gave a quick wink with her innuendo,
“However, I think it’s about time I go.”
Riko lifted her sword to the skies, turning it slightly to shine against the sun, as she looked towards the clouds.
You followed her line of sight, hearing the loud mechanics of a distant ship roaring through the sky. Parting the clouds for a dramatic reveal, the beast of a ship that Riko led was heading straight for them.
The flags flapped violently in the wind, having its target locked straight for them as if a madman were steering that vessel. The speed it was going showed no sign of stopping either, but rather going straight through them. With how many crew members You had, she gulped at the idea of just what the outcome could be.
You looked back at Riko, quickly running towards her as she was distracted by her confident getaway.
She wouldn’t get a chance like this for months, having Riko on her ship was already difficult enough. Plus, with her clients getting less patient, You was in a desperate need for results.
Taking a swipe, You aimed straight for Riko’s open neck. Riko barely caught sight of the steel from her peripherals before acting quickly. Stepping back to bring her guiding light down to block You, the two swords clanked against one another, screeching louder with every push from their owner.
The crowd's excitement grew with the battle coming to its end, swaying the floors even rougher than before. With the sea-sickening motion on her side, Riko pushed You with everything she had to get back to guiding her ship. Though her crew was so close she also knew the ones left in charge needed as much help as they could get.
You stumbled back, farther than anticipated though. Before she could regain her balance, everything around her was thrown off by the edge of her ship hitting her thighs. Her hands grasped at anything it could as she could hear gasps from her surrounding crew.
No matter their speed, she knew there was no way they could reach her in time. You closed her eyes, expecting the soon heart dropping sensation to hit her body. However, there was a sudden jerk of her hand, keeping her at the edge.
Opening her eyes, You saw Riko. Her jaw was clenched as one hand still held towards the skies with her sword while her damaged one held tightly onto You.
Their hair whipped around from the high speeds of the wind, covering their sight for a moment before a single gust cleared it.
The duo held eyes in silence with their breath held, almost as if that really was almost the end for them. Riko was the first to break, giving a slight smile to her foe. It was one that wasn’t cocky for once but instead full of relief. And for a moment, the wind whispered in their ears, giving away their inner thoughts neither of them dared to speak out loud.
That was until You pulled Riko’s hand downwards, headbutting her in the teeth.
One thing about the criminal was that when it came to strength, she wasn’t a match for You. With her sword falling from her hand, Riko took a few steps backwards before hitting the deck full force on her back. Her head spun as she looked up, seeing her ship above them, finally lowering the loop-ended escape rope, but also You’s sword inching closer to her neck at a much faster rate.
“I don’t get a ‘Thank you’?
Riko laughed out as she saw how You treated her rare act of kindness. You shrugged her shoulders though,
“We have ropes off the side of the ship for a reason. I could’ve caught myself-”
Riko quickly spoke up, cutting off You,
“How can you catch a rope with your eyes closed?”
You opened her mouth to respond yet her words stuck at the back of her throat. Instead, being a woman of few words, You clicked her tongue as she focused back on her sword in her hand.
With the blade harsh against Riko’s skin, she closed her eyes as she could feel it at the center of her throat, itching itself deeper. Finally, in a change of positions, You grinned down at her outlaw.
“You know, the reward said ‘Dead or Alive’. As long as you get there in some way nobody will care.”
Riko clenched her jaw as she could feel the sword breaking skin ever so slowly, taking its time to make her suffer. She could’ve slit three throats in the time it took to even push a centimeter down on her, but You kept taking more and more time.
As Riko opened her eyes to see what was taking so long though, the loop-ended rope had made its way right behind You. She smiled, showing her bloody teeth at it, and as You glanced to see what was there, Riko kicked her leg out, swiping at You’s ankles. Thrown off by the attack, You fell backwards, landing on her bottom.
Riko jumped up with the slight time she had You on the ground. Grabbing her sword and quickly sliding it into her scabbard, she ran towards her getaway rope. The crew members that watched the fight began to run towards her but her slim stature helped her slip by each of their touchy hands. While in a normal situation she would fight back, her escape route was quickly moving farther away rather than closer to where she initially guided.
Riko could see the rope sliding over the edge of the boat and as she stepped onto the edge to ready herself for the jump, she made the mistake of looking down. Below she could see the clouds being pushed aside, giving her a clear sight of the extremely far ground below that would surely catch her fall.
Riko looked back up quickly, trying not to think about it nor the sounds of You’s crew running faster towards her. She took a gulp as she jumped up towards the rope, grabbing hold for dear life as she slid her foot to stand in the loop of its end. As soon as her crew members from above felt the tug, they began their get away.
Riko turned herself around and waved her hand towards the crew with a laugh mixed between relief, victory, and intense fear of falling. Of course, she also had to take a moment to blow a kiss at You as she got tinier into the distance. You still sat on the floor as her crew members began to talk amongst one another, all shocked at how fast Riko could turn around such a last minute losing fight.
For a moment though, You smiled at what she saw. The face of victory always made Riko shine the brightest, even if there was a little help thrown her way. Soon enough though, You roughly wiped her happiness away when she saw her crew coming to check out the damage she had done to her.
She hated that aerial outlaw, not for being the Robinhood of the people, but rather what she was doing to her. You lived to dirty her hands for others, yet here she was pushing off the one job that would set her for life.
The bounty on Riko’s head was beyond anything You had ever gotten for a job, but after seeing the millions she had stolen and given to others it was no wonder every person with more money than they could ever spend put their hand in getting rid of her.
What started as a simple hit soon turned into a cat and mouse game that You wasn’t sure she ever wanted to stop. She’d follow the bait and trap her each time, only to be ‘outsmarted’ plan after plan. ‘Outsmarted’ by leaving her keys by the cell, ‘outsmarted’ by having the rookie guard watch her, even ‘outsmarted’ by never once raising her hand to order an attack on the ship that hid behind the clouds since the start of the fight.
You stood up from her thoughts as too many were gathering around. Dusting off her uniform and adjusting her white gloves, You kept her head high. Her crew began to back up as she made her way into the captain’s quarters. So long as she could walk on her own, You never liked asking for help. They already knew their next mission anyways, find land to restock then go back to tracking down Riko Sakurauchi.
Miles away in the far distance, Riko was finally helped back onto her ship. All of her crew members began to cheer around her the moment she poked her head up as it was yet another successful getaway from the best bounty hunter alive. Sure, You was the only one who could catch Riko, but in everyone’s eyes she could never be as skilled as the smooth criminal.
Bottles of harsh liquor and stolen ales began to pop all around in a flash, taken from lord knows where, as the celebration began. Riko declined the drinks though as instead she brought her hand to her throat, looking back at the small ship in the distance as she thought of what had just happened.
She knew You had enough time to end their game right then and there. She had seen You’s abilities when she had taken down the infamous Matsuura Clan and even made her way through the Ohara’s, one by one at the same time. Yet, she stayed at a distance with Riko, always watching her.
Riko also knew it was wrong to continue when she had escaped her so many times. It was as if every escape was a second chance, but she just loved to tempt You.
She loved that rush You gave her when she was near. The way You smiled when she found her, or even when there was but a blade between the both of them and she could finally see those ocean eyes up close.
They were never filled with hatred nor admiration though, instead a hollow core with no substance to hold it together. A soul that once had so much fire, only to be broken down to take orders.
And though it started as a joke, that was the reason why Riko flirted with You, to get any reaction and really any words out of her.
Now, unknowingly, she was in the same boat as You. Now she needed their game to continue, she needed something from You that she just couldn’t say out loud.
Perhaps it was her curious nature to understand more about just who Watanabe You was.
Or, perhaps it was her own selfish pirate's desire to want what she knew she shouldn’t have.