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The Greater Mystery Is You

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It took a few weeks to realize that there was something her crew knew that she didn't. Sometime between the boarding of a cruise ship and the escorting of a merchant ship through a dangerous patch of space, Marika noticed Misa and Kane talking to each other in soft tones, particularly noticing when she caught them using her mother's name and the Parabellum.

What did Ririka have anything to do with the Parabellum?

She knew Ririka took on a new job and their conversations were far and few in between though Ririka never exactly told her what her new job was, only that it was in space. Marika thought about flat out asking Misa what they were hiding, but if Misa wanted her to know, she would have told her. Marika was fine with that because she knew Misa wasn't malicious, but that didn't mean Marika couldn't find out on her own.

She cornered Chiaki in the hall one day and pulled her aside into an empty room. "Chiaki, I have a mission for you. I need you to subtly figure out what my crew is hiding from me. I don't want them to know that I know something is up though."

Chiaki arched her eyebrow. "Why not just ask them directly?"

"I would, but not yet. There's a reason why they are keeping whatever it is from me and I respect that, but as a captain, I have a right to know what it is. This way, I can do both. I trust you."

She nodded and furrowed her brow in thought. "To do so in secret, I would need to tread carefully. Your crew has been working on the Bentenmaru for years and they know every inch of its systems. I cannot spy on them through the systems without taking many precautions. What exactly am I looking for?"

"Anything you think might be important." Marika rested her hands on Chiaki's shoulders. "I believe in you, Chiaki. I know you can do it."

There was a slight smile on Chiaki's lips before she cleared her throat. "I will do what I can."

"Thank you. We should get going to the bridge before the others wonder where we are."

Marika linked her arm with Chiaki and led her into the hallway with only a mild noise of surprise from Chiaki. Marika enjoyed touching Chiaki and she half suspected Chiaki felt the same way.

***

They went on their assignments from the insurance house while Chiaki wrote a program to insert within the Bentenmaru system so she could use it to spy on her crew. Well, spy might have been a strong word. Peek in on sounded a lot better. Marika did her part to distract her crew with more assignments and new things to focus their attention on that instead of whatever it was Chiaki was doing. No one seemed to think it was out of the ordinary so Marika considered that a victory.

Chiaki visited her quarters one night with a datapad. "I think I have something," she said. "What do you know about the Parabellum?"

"It's a pirate ship under the Galactic Empire under the Captain Ironbeard. They were there when we met with the captain of the Grand Cross. Why?"

She handed the datapad to Marika. "It looks like your mother is working as a crew member for the Parabellum."

Marika's eyes widened. She knew Ririka was a famous pirate with amazing skills. But why was Ririka working as a pirate for the Galactic Empire instead of with a ship within this star system or even the Bentenmaru itself? She asked that of Chiaki.

"I think I found out why, but I do not believe I should be the one to tell you. You should ask Kane or Misa, or even your mother when you have the chance."

That was interesting. It had to be something of great importance if Chiaki wouldn't tell her. She inclined her head. She wasn't going to push. Chiaki gave sound advice whenever she asked her and she wouldn't ignore it.

"Thank you for telling me what you found." She flopped down on her chair. "I will ask Misa tomorrow. Tell me though, will the news be good or bad?"

"You will be surprised, that I can honestly tell you."

***

Marika was surprised when she asked Misa about Ririka and the Parabellum. Very surprised. She fell back in her chair and brought her hand to her face.

"My father is alive? And he's Captain Ironbeard?"

Misa nodded. "He didn't want to tell you. A Letter of Marque can only be passed through direct descendants and he wanted to take pirating to a new level, a level only pirating under the Galactic Empire could take him. He didn't want to abandon us, so he had to fake his death so you could become the captain of the Bentenmaru."

"Ririka is pirating with my father in deep space." She nodded. "I can see why this was hidden from me for so long."

Misa placed her hand on Marika's shoulder. "He wanted to see what you were capable of, Marika, and he has. You are our captain and you deserve the title of captain. Your parents are pirating their own way and so are you."

Marika smiled at Misa. "I am, aren't I? I'm not going to worry about what my parents are up to, not when I have my ship and crew to take care of." She paused. "Do you think the Parabellum will ever fly this way again?"

"Oh, you can pretty much count on it, Marika." She winked, making Marika laugh.

***

Marika ran her hand across the panel of the Bentenmaru and made a noise of satisfaction. High school was finally behind her and she could focus her attention on being Captain Marika.

No, not her full attention. Marika glanced to the side of her where Chiaki was sitting at a console, tapping at a furious rate doing whatever she was doing. Marika wasn't sure, but she didn't feel the need to ask. If there was one thing she'd learned about Chiaki over the years they've known each other was that Chiaki had her best interests at heart.

The rest of the crew were inside the space station, getting supplies and enjoying themselves, but the two of them had decided to stay back on the ship. Marika swiveled her chair towards Chiaki. "Do you want to do something? The crew is going to be at port for the next twenty-four hours."

Chiaki looked up from her computer screen and turned around. "Was there something you wanted to do? Coorie left me in charge of helping her upgrade the electronic warfare system."

Marika shook her head. "No, I don't mean that. I was hoping we could do something fun, just you and me. Your father's let you stay with the Bentenmaru for a year training right next to me. We should celebrate."

Chiaki arched her eyebrow and peered at Marika through her glasses, giving her one of her indescribable looks. "How do you propose we celebrate when we're stuck on the ship while in port?"

"I was thinking of making us some of those chocolate parfaits you enjoyed so much. I know we have the ingredients."

Her eyes widened and Marika felt a warm feeling envelop her. She loved making Chiaki happy in any way that she could. Marika clapped her hands together and got to her feet. "I'll be right back!"

As she stepped towards the door, Chiaki called her name. "Wait. Let me go with you. It is not proper of the captain to be making parfaits for her crew." Chiaki stood up.

Marika laughed and hooked her arm with Chiaki's. "I'm a pirate, Chiaki. I can do whatever I want. You should know that and I want to make you a parfait."

She led her into the kitchen and sat her down before heading behind the counter to whip up the chocolate parfaits. It took no time at all and she placed one in front of Chiaki along with a spoon.

Chiaki picked up the spoon and when she took the first bite, she moaned at the taste. Marika hid her smile as she reached for her own parfait. She loved how open Chiaki was in those moments and she just wanted to savor them bit by bit.

Chiaki met Marika's gaze and put her spoon down. "I assume you talked to Misa?"

Marika nodded. "I did, and I understand why they kept something big like that from me, both Misa and my parents." She shook her head in amazement. "My father is alive and he's pirating with Ririka. I can't believe it."

"It is something that should be kept a secret, at least outside these walls if you want the Bentenmaru to retain its Letter of Marque. How are you feeling though about everything?"

Marika shrugged. "Surprised? But I'm not feeling upset or anything like that. They have their own path to follow and so do I. Which is why I wanted to ask you a question."

"Oh?"

"May I kiss you?"

Chiaki blinked and Marika noticed a slight tinge of red spreading across her cheeks. "Yes."

Marika beamed and walked around the counter. Chiaki turned in her seat and looked up at Marika with a vulnerable expression on her face. Marika cupped her face and leaned in to kiss her.

Chiaki tasted like chocolate and ice cream, and Marika wanted to taste more. She deepened the kiss and felt joy when Chiaki pulled her in closer.

When they broke the kiss, Marika couldn't help the goofy grin on her face. "You like me," she said.

Chiaki rolled her eyes. "I've always liked you, Marika."

"That's good, because I want to keep kissing you. Is that okay?"

Chiaki answered by giving Marika a kiss.