Tread New Ground


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Scene Title Tread New Ground
Synopsis After a long journey across a desert of ocean, the flotilla from the Pelago finally arrives on the shores of former Japan days later than anticipated … but apparently, just in time.
Date August 22, 2020

Another bright, cloudless day sailing on calm sea and negligible winds seemingly suited to have been exactly as the day before it… suddenly was not. Jenny, materialized in a living flash of water, appeared on the deck of the Second Star in an excitement before the dark line on the horizon had even had a chance to manifest as the broad body of the island it actually is. She'd seen it all closer what they were just now beginning to pick out from afar— seen ships, signs of a settlement.

With a direction called to swing slightly southward more directly for that section of shore, both ships in the flotilla fight now for the land, working their way through the nearly-opposite wind to make that last bit of journey to the first bit of solid land they'd seen in two weeks.

It had been a long shot across the sea directly since they left behind the volcanic ridges of the Aleutian Islands. The winds had worked against them nearly the entire way, and the decision had been made to bear as west as possible while still heading south, keeping a close eye on their position on the GPS. Sunburned, low on water, and low on provisions, but close enough to the end they could taste it, the group had accepted what it meant when they passed the last point to reasonably veer back north in the direction of the Kamchatka peninsula.

Their determination had paid off. Now, at long last, two months and ten days into their journey, they'd arrived.

They'd reached the shores of Hokkaido.

十勝港の村 (Village of Tokachi Port)

北海道 (Hokkaido)

September 7, 2020

“I remember Japan.” Else Kjelstrom’s voice is little more than a whisper over the port side railing of the ship. Her brows furrow together, dark eyes unfocused and distant as she watches the coast. “Before the end, when we wanted to be stars, not made from them, we came here to play… and were played.”

Else’s shoulders sag, blonde hair hangs in front of her face, and she looks over to what of Hokkaido remains above the waves. “It was cities, music, and drugs…” she admits to the wind, then pushes away from the railing, eyes fixed on a specific point on the horizon. “Now we walk in bigger footsteps, don't we?”

Silas's grin is vast and bright and toothy. This entire journey had been one long gamble against the sea, and he'd chosen to double down when they'd hit the point of no return; though he would never admit it, as water and food had dwindled in the last week or so, he'd started to worry. The sight of land in the distance, though, is a sign that that gamble hadn't been as crazy or desperate as it might have seemed in the dark hours. Because they'd made it — straight on til morning.

Or nearly so, at least.

Else's ruminations, half-heard as they are, prompt a raised eyebrow — somehow the idea that Else might have fans over here isn't one he'd entertained, but so much the better. "We do," Silas agrees with Else. "And now maybe we'll get a chance to make some footprints of our own." Towards a better world, he thinks. Hope my Japanese is up to snuff; if it's not… well, not for lack of trying.

Asi's eyes are wide as she looks out to the shore, to an island that is as unfamiliar as any others they've seen in their travels, yet is the farthest reaches of the country she called home most of her life. She rests a hand on the railing, throat tight. "Bigger footsteps," she agrees absently to Else. She looks to the encroaching shore, close enough now they can see the white wash of waves against the rocks. She listens to the sound of Kiseki move across the decks behind them, readying to land.

She lifts a hand to wave to Destiny on the other craft sailing with them, an acknowledgement that they see. A sign of excitement, and relief, that they've made it at last.

The wave is returned with a big smile from the captain of the Featherweight. Des’ voice crackles over the radio, «お帰りなさい.»

"ついに帰って来たそうよ, ね," Asi murmurs into the breeze when she hears that. She turns to Silas with a small, genuine smile, claps him on the arm before her nerve gets the better of her. "Almost there now."

There's more than just land ahead, they see before long.

There's boats, too.

Gestures from afar and calls to fishing boats passed reveal that there's a port nearer than they could have thought. One that, by all means— judging by the lack of weaponry sported by the boats and persons aboard them— doesn't appear to host hostile forces. It's too good an opportunity to pass up, so to port it is.

Floating docks hover out over the inlet made by the flood, no spindles of skyscrapers peeking from the waters. They've got that to look forward to when they head further South yet; when they sail past those thin fingers remaining of Tokyo. The buildings along the shore are rudimentary where they're not installations from before the flood, built back from the docks for fear of waters that could possibly rise again. The traffic is minimal for ships coming and going, a single vessel come to guide them in.

The dock they're directed to seems completely by chance, their arrival completely unexpected, but there's someone sitting there perched on an overturned crate. A woven, sunbleached hat sits upon the man's brow, and he watches the unfamiliar ships come in. His gradually-righting posture corrects until he sits perfectly upright, hands balled on his thighs. He comes to his feet as the first ship alights next to the dock, belatedly coming to attention.

He shouts up, gesturing for rope or plank to be directed his way.

Else is, expectedly, distracted once the ship is in port. Even while the others are lowering a gangplank down, she is leaning against the railing of the port side, looking out over the sweeping mountains like forested waves frozen in time. Her eyes remain half-lidded, though. Dark brown concealed behind a fringe of lashes. She whispers, too, though the noise of the surf and gulls swallows all the sound up before it passes her teeth.

Once the plank is down, Else blinks herself awake and turns a brown-eyed stare over at Silas. For a moment she is introspective, before finally slipping into an easy smile to take shuffling steps across the deck toward him.

“Well, we know where we’re goin’,” Else says in a sing-song voice, “but we don’t know where we’ve been.” She comes up beside Silas and hooks one of her arms in his. “And we know what we’re knowin’,” she adds with a wrinkle of her nose and a smile as she looks up to him, “but we can’t say what we’ve seen.”

Well, so far so good. First, they've found a port; that's good. Secondly, said port does not seem to be a den of pirates, murderous cutthroats, or moonshiner wannabes with delusions of being postdiluvian Al Capone. Promising.

Though there is someone waiting for them, which is… curious. A good sign, hopefully; if nothing else, Else doesn't seem too offput by their reception. Silas's eyebrows climb as Else links her arm with his, a bemused smile crossing his own face… though the lyrics she's singing seem odd, for her. A warning? he wonders. Maybe… but if it is, it's a pretty low-key one.

Fair enough. But time is short and the gangplank is down, and it seems that now it's time to do the very thing they came here for — to tread new ground. "And here we go," he murmurs to her… then he takes a breath. "参らせてもらせてありがとう!"1 he calls carefully, making sure to enunciate properly as he raises his free hand in greeting; there's a guileless smile on his face, a shucks I'm so glad to be here! grin that he's practiced for a long time. A first impression goes a long way.

Destiny watches Else’s movements even as she secures the Featherweight. The concern for her friend is great, but that’s regardless of locale, so having her nearby is as good to her as anything else. She isn’t sure, however, why watching the other blonde thread her arm through Silas’ has her stomach in a knot.

The Captain resolves to forget it as she pulls on her long coat - the one that sweeps behind her impressively. At least, she finds it impressive, and she spent many hours tailoring this particular garment to her frame so she wouldn’t look like she’s playing dress-up in her parents’ closet.

One of her crew has set out the plank and she smiles up at him. It curves up as if caught by a hook at one corner and Des sways back and forth just once before she turns and heads for the dock to join the others. “Good afternoon~” Destiny sing-songs, waving as she approaches.

The man down on the dock lets out a huff of a laugh, one of disbelief as much as incredulousness, looking up as the first of the arrivals make their way down. "日本語上手っすね2," he notes, and then looks back to Destiny as she comes down next. He awkwardly lifts one hand, smiling mostly from his eyes as he says, "Hi." He sidles a step to the side and back, taking a moment longer to be bewildered.

"あまり信じられないくせに…" he remarks to himself quietly.

Asi descends after Else and Silas, asking curtly, "何を?"

The man lifts his head up, pushing his hat back further. "A-ah…" He considers a moment the number of non-Japanese here, and decides to take a chance with English. "I just… couldn't believe it. I'm here today to fulfill a promise I made. One my father made, but he had me promise to keep. He passed away two years ago, but he said it was important I be here. Today, of all days, because…"

He looks from Destiny back to Silas and Else. He skips over Asi entirely. "Strangers would come to Tokachi." He still sounds a little dumbstruck at it all. "On a journey. And they'd need help."

Shaking his head once, he stammers out, "I'm Keiichi. And, um, welcome." He stoops down to pick up what lies on the dock next to his crate seat, picking up not a fishing rod…

But a shovel.

"I'm told you'll need this," he explains as he offers it out.

Silas's smile grows at the compliment, but he's not at all confident that it's an accurate assessment of his actual skill at the language; he's able to piece together the generalities of the exchange that follows, but it's a decided relief when Keiichi opts to switch to English.

The rest of what Keiichi has to say is… a handful. He eyes the shovel for a moment before taking it. "Welp. Looks like your dad was a wise man, Keiichi," Silas says, smiling brightly. "I'm Silas, pleased to meetcha."

Then his expression grows a bit more serious. "So. Who'd your father make this promise to, anyway? If you don't mind me askin'?"

Diggin’ in the dirt,” Else whisper-sings as she scuffs her feet along the dock, joining with Destiny and linking arms with her, “stay with me, I need the support,” she continues. Des recognizes the song, it’s an old Peter Gabriel tune Else used to hum down in the Ark.

I’m diggin’ in the dirt,” Else sings with just a smidge more volume, still a little breathy and whispery as she walks with Destiny down the dock and away from Silas and the others, “to find the places I got hurt, open up the places I got hurt.

Destiny flashes a smile Silas’ way when he receives his compliment. Even if his Japanese is still fledgling, it’s delivered well enough to be understood and that, in her mind, is the first and largest hurdle. Everything else will come with practice and immersion.

That makes her expression cloud for a moment. Immersion isn’t an experience that she has ever had. But she shakes it off quickly when she links arms with Else, always quick with a broad smile for her friend. Even if she doesn’t always understand the riddles she speaks — or sings — in. There’s a glance back over her shoulder, but Des will always stick by Else’s side when she’s wanted there.

The more I look,” Destiny sings back softly, as though to indicate she somehow understands, “the more I find.

Keiichi dips his head in a nod to Silas' introduction before he looks to the others who join him. The question about who the information came from comes off as reasonable to him, maybe, save for an awkward point preventing him from providing an answer. He admits, "To tell you the truth, I don't know. I never met him. But…"

He considers it for a moment, then turns his head back to shore. "I'm sure it is a story better told over some lunch." He waves a hand for them all to follow after.

Asi begins to frown, looking back to the crew still aboard the Second Star. "«We'll be back soon, all right?»" she tells Kiseki as he leans on the railing at the top of the gangplank. He can only drop his head in a sigh.

"«Bring back something good to eat!»" Kiseki balks, to which Keiichi turns back with a grin and offers a thumbs up.

The exchange is just a taste of how much Japanese everyone is soon exposed to now that they've made landfall.

Venison is a far cry from sea eating, and it's a stew of vegetables and meat that make up the scents in the community hall Keiichi's brought them to. At this time of day, there's only a few faces around, those out at sea and those tending to the land bound to reunite here in the evening. For now, the woman seeing to the kitchen warns that the food's been on since dawn, so it's good to eat, but the meat might still be tough.

Asi doesn't seem to mind at all, prying apart slices of it in her bowl to chew while she listens to the story.

"My father was pretty friendly— he ran a boat repair back when Tokachi Port wasn't a village. One day he had a visitor come in from out of town. I wasn't there then, I was still studying at the University in Sapporo. But he had me come home after that day." Keiichi sets aside his bowl to fish out a necklace on a string from under his shirt. He holds it by its top, showing off what appears to be a stylized fishhook made of bone.

"He had this, and told me something terrible was about to happen in the world. Whoever came to speak with him, they left him scared. I was able to talk him down, but I almost wish I hadn't. We— we almost didn't make when the tsunami came."

He looks back up, expression solemn. "After that, though, I believed. The visitor was right about then, and he was right about now. I didn't know the rest of the story about that day until my father's health started failing. Then he gave me this so I'd remember, and told me to be here, today, to wait for visitors who'd come on a boat from across the sea."

He lets out a quiet laugh before admitting, "You know, I think if he'd tried to tell me all this before I had faith, I'd probably have thrown it into the sea without a second thought to make a point." Keiichi looks down at the charm. "But…" He weaves it off of his neck and over his head to hold it in his hand. "He didn't, and I didn't. Everything worked out in the end."

Destiny’s eyes get wide and she sets down the piece of meat she was shredding with her fingers, wiping them clean before she reaches out toward the necklace. “I’ve seen that before.” She halts before she gets close enough to look as though she’s going to thieve the necklace away. “Walter had one.” Her eyes light up, excited to have some knowledge of this mystery before them. “It’s the symbol of…”

As she trails off, the little blonde captain’s face clouds over with confusion as the answer seems to slip through her fingers like water. The memory isn’t hers, and she can’t always grasp them at will. Her hand withdraws and she lists to one side until she’s resting her head against Else’s shoulder. “I’m fine,” she murmurs before anyone can ask. “Just a headache.”

Venison and vegetables is about the best possible welcome they could get, as far as Silas is concerned; what better way to celebrate the end of a long, dangerous voyage across the sea than with a dish full of things that grow in and/or graze on precious terra firma?

And a story, of course. Gotta have a story.

Silas scrutinizes the bone hook carefully when Keiichi shows it; it looks familiar, but it isn't until Des speaks up that it clicks. "Walter…" he muses. It's been awhile since he's thought of Walter, but now that Des has brought him up…

Walter got fished out of the sea by a seer too, Silas recalls. And now this… Whether that bodes good or ill, though, is hard to say. Better than being dead, a voice chuckles at the back of his mind, and he's forced to agree.

Keiichi's talk of his lack of faith are met with a sympathetic look. "I never used to believe in prophecy. Before all this," Silas says quietly, lips curving up into a rueful ghost of a smile. "But here we are," he says, raising a glass.

His gaze moves over to Des, becoming more serious. "If you think of who it is, let me know," he says quietly, before looking back to their host. "Did you get told anything else?" Silas asks, not unkindly.

This being the first time they’ve seen Jenny on more solid land, they notice quickly that she doesn’t look as comfortable as she had back on the boats during the trip. She hadn’t gotten a sunburn, nor had her skin ever even gotten chapped, but now she looks as if she’s… drying out? Her hair hangs flatter against her head and she scratches at her arms every so often. Land-sickness, maybe? The exact opposite of sea sickness? She partakes in the venison and vegetables, at least able to participate in the conversation now that they’re speaking in English for the most part.

“You sure this stanger wasn’t that Walter guy?” she asks, curiously, since Destiny brought him up. How common were bone shaped fish hooks, after all?

“Looks like everyone is getting caught on fish hooks these days,” Else says as an aside to herself, both brows raised, “but are you the fish in the water, or the man who is bad at fishing?” A small smile spreads across her lips, and she blinks a look over to Destiny, giving her a thoughtful up and down with halfway-lidded eyes.

“You need to drink more water,” Else says to Destiny, nodding in stern affirmation after that. Then, quieter, “Fish don’t drink water, they breathe it.”

Keiichi's eyes dart back to Des with surprise in them. "It's a good luck charm," he asserts where she fails, even if the extent of the item's significance is beyond him. He offers it out to Silas. "One needed more by travelers than by me." He smiles quickly. "It's served its purpose for me. Served as a reminder for today. Hopefully it does even better by you."

"Because," he segues with a little more gravity, leaning back into his seat and adjusting the bowl in his lap. "There's a road ahead of you yet."

Such as it is.

"The message I'm supposed to give you—" Keiichi clears his throat, looking uncertain. He was given a message, but now that it's come time to give it, he's uncertain what register he should take. "You've come a long way," he explains. "And you shouldn't stop here. Don't turn back. Keep going forward to…"

His breath hitches, trying to remember the details with clarity. Each word the way it's supposed to be spoken. He finds himself looking to Asi. "«There is a place southwest of Tokyo; one which will hold answers. They may be to questions you already have, or to mysteries you didn't yet realize needed solved. At the base of Fuji-san, inside a town that no longer exists, an estate will still stand. Find the owners.»"

"«There you will find your answer.»" Keiichi breathes out slowly when it's said.

Asi's stopped chewing, bowl let go back to the table. Her eyes begin to narrow. "«I'm sorry— our arrival was preordained, and all that was left for us is a fucking riddle?»"

The messenger blinks rapidly, shoulders shrinking down. "All I'm doing is passing along what I was told," he explains more humbly.

It's struck a nerve with her though, and she turns down to her bowl to start stabbing through the next tough piece of meat. "A goddamned riddle," she mutters into her food.

Else's ramblings draw a thoughtful frown from Silas — there's a thread in there, it feels like, albeit one that's hard to follow. Keiichi's explanation draws Silas's gaze back, though. "I had a good luck charm once," he says quietly. "I carried it with me to the far side of the sea, and back. I lost it at the end," he sighs regretfully, "though not before I'd made it back to where I came from." He pauses for a moment, eyes flickering to Else. "More or less."

Carefully, he reaches out and takes the fish hook, nodding to Keiichi. "Thanks." He's going to have to leave Keiichi a present — a nice bottle of something, maybe.

Keiichi's message, though, sees Silas's mouth curve down into a frown. Asi's reaction gets a moment's sympathy. "Had to be something easy to remember. Riddles are pretty good about that," he offers to her, then shrugs; that's his best guess, at least.

"So. The riddle said we were headed towards Tokyo. What can we expect over that way?" Silas grins. "And, come to that — like you said, we've come a long way. What are things like here in Japan these days?"

Drink more water, Else says. Destiny lifts her head as her spirits do the same. A small smile for her friend as she whispers, “Little fish, big fish, swimmin’ in the water…” She doesn’t understand the language of songs the way that the seer speaks it, but that rarely stops her from responding in kind.

The little blonde is careful to keep from looking anything other than curious when Keiichi speaks in his own language, starting to slide her bowl toward her again with one hand. She waits patiently for Asi to drop the keyword before she lifts her head and lets the light of interest show in her eyes. It only grows stronger when she shifts her attention to Silas. “Else and I are good at riddles,” she asserts quietly, squeezing her friend’s hand once with an almost conspiratorial smile shared between them before she goes back to her meal.

Asi continues to chew what remains of her current bite, trying to shear apart her displeasure as surely as she shreds the strip of venison. Her gaze shifts back to Silas when he mentions his good luck charm, though, her expression slacking. Before long, she returns her attention to her food.

Keiichi warily takes his eyes off her and looks back to Silas. "I don't know, honestly. I've never been to Tokyo, not even before the tide came."

"Flood," Asi corrects without looking up. "Before the Flood came."

"… Right," he concedes, then clears his throat. "Things are peaceful here in Tokachi, though. We keep to ourselves. Sometimes we get visitors, and usually they are peaceful. But— sometimes not." He considers that for a moment.

"You can tell them from afar. Different flags, different… ships. Not fishing boats."

Shooting an apologetic look Destiny's direction, Keiichi supposes, "Southwest of Tokyo, near Mt. Fuji, is where you need to look for. In a dead town, there will be a large home. The family there has your answers."

Silas frowns. It's disappointing that Keiichi doesn't know more about the state of things outside of things outside Tokachi, but… honestly Keiichi's done a lot for them as it is. The rest falls on us, then, he thinks, not without a bit of relish. They've overcome a lot to make it this far.

He nods slowly at Keiichi's explanation. "Not fishing boats," he says thoughtfully, eying Keiichi. Military, maybe. Like the Sentinel loved to steal.

Hopefully they'll avoid the worst of that — running into another Decatur or whatever the Japanese equivalent had been would be trouble. As much as Silas would love nothing better than to steal the Sentinel's biggest toy and drown the lot of them, a heavily staffed military boat would be rough odds… and he'd probably lose crew in the process.

We've been lucky so far, Silas thinks to himself, and puts that line of thought aside for now — there'll be time to plot more contingencies later.

For now, they've got a riddle to worry about. Silas nods along with Keiichi's explanation. "And somewhere, we're probably gonna have to dig a hole," he says, giving a wry grin.

“Good thing I’ve got Spades on my ship,” Destiny muses with a small smirk at her own little inside joke. The expression softens as she looks across the way to the Japanese woman she’s traveled alongside. “Cheer up, Asi. We’ll figure it out. If someone left that charm for Smiles, then they know we can do this.”

Else’s eyes are halfway lidded still, her focus shifted off to the edge of perception. Slowly, dark brown eyes cloud with milky swirls. Her brows come together, lips press tightly. The corners of her eyes crease into crows feet, and for a moment it looks as though she were scowling.

“We could save the world our way,” Else murmurs in a lyrical manner, “we could build it up our way. If we stay here, we die here, we’ll never get away. If we stay here, we die here. With nothing left to say…” Her whispered lyrics have a hoarse, dry quality to them. “We’re walking in the footsteps of the dead.”

It's a good thing that Keiichi can't really hear the murmur of Else's new song from where he sits, having picked up his bowl again. He picks up when Destiny looks over at her; decides it's best he doesn't know.

They'd go, after all. He knew it before they even arrived.

"You are welcome here as long as you need to recover. If anyone asks, tell them to talk to me."

Asi lifts her head again to insert, without the cheer encouraged by Destiny, "We have things we can trade to make it worthwhile."

"Good," Keiichi says with a smile. "All the better. Don't forget to bring some of this back for your friends, too." He lifts his bowl in explanation.

Asi doesn't answer. She's shifted a look to Else, too, out of the corner of her eye.

The Tokyo Atolls

September 12, 2020

Before the Flood, typhoon seasons infrequently brought that kind of strong weather to Tokyo. The storms since have turned the remains of its skyscraper architecture into weathered, fragile-looking remains. The northern half of the ring of "islands" made up of formerly-famous sights like the Tokyo Skytree or Yamagato Tower don't have the same amount of traffic weaving in and out of them as the more-closely-maintained network of Manhattan buildings did.

Then again, the island of mountains-come-hills of what remains of the Bōsō peninsula are where the people in this area opt to live. There's far more traffic in that direction, and that's not where they're headed.

Introductions and requests for directions are exchanged with a passing, armed ship that comes to check they're not passing through the area with the intent to cause trouble. An exchanged bottle of alcohol and a drawn-upon map later, they have a better idea of the area they're navigating through.

When they return this direction, they'll be headed West of here anyway — to what would have been inland near Fuji, flooded over. They'll spear as close as they can to Mt. Fuji's base that way to follow up on the riddle they're destined to solve.

But no one said they couldn't find safety and shelter in more familiar grounds first.

"Are you sure?" Asi asks anyway as they prepare to hook south to navigate around the Izu peninsula.

Mutually, they were all sure. They came all this way— whatever mystery laid that way would wait until they had firmer ground under their feet again.

神戸布引ハーブ園 (Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens)

兵庫県神戸市 (Kobe City, Hyogo)

September 14

There was no easy way to make this approach. The uncertainties regarding who would be reigning over the garden hills lead to the area natives being split between the two boats when they enter the bay. Asi stands stern on the Featherweight while Kiseki lingers near the front of the Second Star, his molded shield of sheet metal clinging to one forearm.

"There's no— ships," Asi notes with tension to herself when she looks down the spyglass. She lifts her voice to speak into the handheld comm. "船がない.何も見えへん.3"

Not until they get closer, that is. After hooking inland at a slow pace toward seemingly-abandoned docks, they hear what sounds like a single gunshot in the distance. Then from between curves in the hilly shore against the mountain, a slender vessel emerges from a narrow inlet. The schooner drops its sails and practically rockets to intercept them as they approach.

"Oh, shit," Asi says, setting aside the radio. She sees the men armed on the ship, reaches to her waistband to produce the gun she has, curving her hand around the grip. "Destiny, I don't know," she calls out to the captain. "I don't know if we should turn back. I don't recognise them."

But it's also been years since they've been here.

Kiseki on the other ship lifts his voice, shouting across the open water, since that's what tool he has available to him. "«We're here to see the sunflowers!»" Maybe those on approach can hear him give the sign indicating he's friendly, maybe they can't. He repeats it, regardless, adding a second time, "«We're coming home!»"

"Steady ahead," Silas calls, his eyes fixed on the ship coming at them. The other boat's certainly maneuvering aggressively, and if they decide to shoot rather than bother with questions, they're rapidly closing in on a range where evasion would be impossible…

…but Silas has confidence in his boat, and confidence in the work Queen Lowe's repair crew had done to ready her for the long journey. He's pretty sure that if things get rough, they can take the other boat's first punch on the chin and make it through intact, and after that…

Well. He's not going to throw the first punch, but if they do they're going to find out that he's a hell of a counterpuncher.

But for now…

"Steady," Silas repeats.

Maybe she’s being true to her name. Maybe she’s spent too much time with Else Kjelstrom. Or maybe, just maybe, she’s simply foolish. Whatever the reason, the Featherweight’s captain holds fast. “We’re precisely where we’re meant to be!” The little blonde calls back with a confidence to match Silas’ own. It’s a confidence she wouldn’t have had before she inherited the boat from her previous crew.

Destiny likes to believe she inherited Jimmy Woods’ bravery, too.

The Featherweight is the faster of the two boats and she calls for a fallback out of instinct. They may be able to outrun whatever lays ahead if they have to — though she has some doubts — but the Second Star will be better able to take the first volley, and so she cedes the leading position easily. There’s no cowardice in a strategy sound enough to allow for a counterattack from both ships.

Under her breath, the little blonde mutters, “Warning shot or signal?”

"I don't know. I don't know." Asi can't hear the question, but repeats her answer anyway. She keeps her eyes on the approaching ship uncertainly, hand still on the gun in her belt. Her eyes dance back and forth between the ships ahead, and then to the shore that someone clearly had been watching them from. "気をつけろう," she whispers rather than shouts across the water.

On the Second Star, shield still by his side, Kiseki bellows louder than his thinner form seems it should be able to shout, "ひまわりを見るため帰ってきた!"

The schooner continues to cut through the water heedless of the lack of wind in the bay, sails filled anyway. Silas' call for a steady hand sees Kiseki keep his defensive posture without reaching for anything that could be considered a weapon— for now.

Closing in quickly, the sails of the schooner begin to billow, the localized burst of air filling them out dispersing away. Three men stand on the deck, one of them holding a rifle trained on the Second Star in generalities. "«Who are you?»" the man besides the armed one shouts. "«We don't know this ship.»"

Kiseki shakes his head. "«We left years ago, to New York. We've come back.»" Nervously, he looks between the men he doesn't recognize, at least from this distance. "«When we left, Tomoko was in charge here. Is she still alive?»"

A tense silence fills the space between the craft as the schooner floats slowly closer.

Not very trusting, are they? Silas thinks, his eyes fixed on the advancing schooner. But they haven't opened fire yet, either; the longer that continues, the better. The fact that the schooner is advancing without any prevailing wind is also telling; they've almost certainly got an atmokinetic.

The fact that they're slowing up, and the fact that no one's pointing a gun at anyone just yet — not directly, at least — gives him some hope, too. Things haven't gone bad yet… so for now, all he can do is stand ready, and trust in his people — in Asi and Kiseki, and in Destiny. He looks over to Featherweight for a moment, then turns his attention back to the schooner and waits, hoping things don't go bad… but ready just in case they do.

The man with the rifle hovers the nose of it about uncertainly when they draw near. He doesn't see signs of aggression here, but what if he's wrong? Still, the tension in his shoulders begins to ease, the urge to point the gun at anyone lowering.

"«Is Tomoko still alive?»" Kiseki demands to know again, his agitation only increasing at the lack of a response.

"«Yeah,»" the schooner's navigator calls out absently, finally. "«Yeah, she is.»"

Kiseki looks back to Silas with relief sagging his shoulders, hope entering his eyes. Maybe these people weren't bloodthirsty marauders after all. "«We've come all this way,»" he explains in a shout despite looking at Silas. "«To come home. To bring news of what things are like across the sea, to—»"

"«All right, all right,»" the other man on the deck balks, standing next to his fellow with the gun. "«We can talk about this on shore.»"

With a brusque gesture of his arms and a shout to come about, the wind begins to take the schooner's sails once more. "«Welcome to Japan, stranger,»" he tells Silas as they sweep past to come about.

Silas tries not to show it, but he's feeling pretty relieved, too. A throwdown here might not have been the worst possible outcome… but it'd have been up there. This is a diplomatic mission, after all, and it'd be a pretty bad outcome for them to end up fighting before their diplomat's even had a chance to speak. "«Thank you,»" Silas calls back, carefully enunciating his words.

He takes a deep breath, then glances back to Kiseki, nodding and giving a faint smile. "Good work," he says, giving credit where it's due. Then he looks back to the helm. "Follow 'em in. Nice and easy," he commands.

On the Featherweight, Destiny reaches across herself and claps Asi’s shoulder once, allowing the shift in her posture to hide the way relief brings her shoulders to lower. As always, the Captain tries not to let her anxiety show to her crew, and that includes her visitor.

How many times had Jimmy done this and convinced her there was nothing to be worried about in the first place?

“I’ll be in the wheelhouse,” she says low, but not so low that she can’t be heard over the angry sea this time. She needs a moment of solitude. Just her and her thoughts. Her and her ghosts. “Give a shout if you need me to do more than navigate.” Des sends Asi a smile that’s warmer than she feels at the moment. “Or if you need me to wrangle Else.”

Asi forces a breathy smile of her own, forcing her hand to release the gun at her waist. "Yeah," she says with rattled steel to her composure. She looks ahead to the ship leading them back to the shaded inlet, wading through ghosts of her own with far less grace. There's nothing to punch, no way to drink away this feeling.

Her eyes lift to the shape of the run-down buildings on the slope of the mountain, ones which their encounter proved only look abandoned. She takes in a deep breath…

And whispers a greeting to the land when she exhales it out.


The narrow band of river through the forest is barely wide enough for their ships to pass through, but opens into a small lake playing host to a hidden flotilla of docked boats. The sounds of the surrounding forest hum with summer bugs as they add two more ships to the docks and disembark. Kiseki eyes the other craft closely, minding for signs they're used in aggression rather than just for travel, finally seeming satisfied enough that he leaves behind his shield.

One of Destiny's crew offers his hand up to help his Captain onto solid ground, meanwhile Asi leaps ungracefully to the dock. She situates herself near the front of the pack, a distance in her eyes as she listens to the familiar thrum of the woods, looks ahead to paths she recalls well.

Unseen, Destiny gives a squeeze briefly to the hand that helped her down from her ship to the docks. She lingers just long enough to be sure her sea legs won’t betray her and send her stumbling down onto her face. She’s done this enough by now to know that’s very unlikely to happen, but being greeted at the Pelago brings far less nerves than this greeting does.

The man with the rifle from the schooner that intercepted them slings it over his shoulder and waves an arm for them all to follow. "«We'll take you up to meet everyone. This way,»" he directs, meanwhile the aerokinetic closes his eyes and fixes two fingers against the corners of his mouth. The sharp whistle that comes warbles, the sound of it propelled up the mountain on the wind.

There's no answer, but there's also no trouble as the troupe walks up the worn pathways once used by tourists and hikers to arrive back at the foot of the Gardens grounds.

"Still just as beautiful as when we left," Kiseki marvels.

Beds of wild-running sunflowers nearing ten feet tall crisp in the late-summer sun, faces turned to the cloud-dappled sky. Other colors thread through the long, thin grass on either side of the cracked stone pathways leading up to the hazed-glass greenhouse visible from the sea. When the group rounds the bend to near the large greenhouse, further up the hills the tops of a distinctly European-looking building peeks past the trees.

That trepidation turns over to wonder as Destiny takes in the countryside. “ひまわり…” she whispers under her breath, voice pitched almost childlike. She hopes she’s kept herself quiet enough to maintain the image that she doesn’t speak the local language. Why she feels that someone ought to, she can’t decide. It’s just some sort of instinct.

A small group of people are in the process of descending the pathway to meet them when one breaks away and comes sprinting down the hill at them, arms flailing. "あさみん!" she screams, and Asi turns her head up, footsteps stopping. The young woman running right for them doesn't stop until she reaches them, yelling the same name again until she runs headlong into Asi, leaping and throwing her arms around her shoulders.

Bewildered, all Asi can do is catch the scrawny woman, letting her hug onto her. Eventually, she lowers the woman down and receives the blunt end of an excited stream of chatter. Asi eventually glances up to nod that she's all right, if surprised to be being received like this. She reaches out to ruffle the girl's hair.

The rest of the group come to meet them is lead by an older woman, a walking cane that looks more for show despite her age cradled in one hand. "«Welcome back,»" she says to Kiseki first, who bows his head respectfully to her in return.

"«Glad to be back, Tomoko-san,»" he replies.

"«And you've brought friends,»" Tomoko says with a wide smile, a wisp of hair chased by the wind crossing her face until she lifts a hand to thread it back behind her ear again. "Hello. Welcome to Kobe. I am Aoki Tomoko, and you are welcome here."

She nods momentarily to the unfamiliar trio who brought them here. She goes on to murmur, "«We've seen some changes— more people, more powers. We wouldn't have lasted without adapting… and I am glad we were still here to greet you.»" Her attention goes to Destiny and Silas as they seem to lead the others who've come up, and she smiles. "You came from across the sea?"

Silas, for all that his expression is placid, pays every bit as much attention as Kiseki as they pass the boats… but even he can't keep a touch of wistful melancholy off of his face at the sight of the sunflowers. Sunflowers aren't a common sight in the Pelago; it's been a long time since he's seen this many of them.

Silas's eyes widen at the sight of the young woman who comes running out of nowhere to tackle Asamin; he grins and nods back when he sees she's okay, though, and heads on. She'll catch up when she's ready… and, after all, Silas would be the last person to interrupt a happy reunion.

Tomoko seems spry for her age, which is good both in the abstract and from a practical standpoint, for their mission; it's a bad thing when something unfortunate befalls your main point of contact with a community in mid-negotiation. When she welcomes them, Silas smiles and nods deeply in appreciation, but does not speak until she asks her question.

"From the Archipelago of Manhattan," he affirms. "I'm Silas Mackenzie, of the Second Star; I'm handling the mercantile half of things for our expedition. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Tomoko-san," he says, bowing deeply. Then his eyes move to Destiny, yielding the floor to her.

The hug-onslaught Asi seems forced to endure doesn’t draw any lines of suspicion to the short blonde’s brow, finding reflections of herself in the willowy woman. Destiny recognizes a family reunion when she sees one.

When Silas finishes making his introduction, her cue is recognized. She doesn’t bow in the way the Japanese do, but she does bow all the same. She seems to love the way her coat can be flourished. It makes her feel impressive. “Captain Destiny of the Featherweight.”

Standing up straighter when she’s done, she smiles, wide and friendly, without showing teeth. “I’m from the Council of Captains at the Archipelago.” The last word is enunciated in such a way as to suggest she’s almost forgotten the shape of it in her mouth. “Figured it was high time we say hello to our neighbors, no matter how far down the path they might be! News can’t travel at all if no one delivers it, right?”

Destiny may be slightly misrepresenting her role in this crew, but introducing herself as moral support, the cute one, or simply the mascot seemed silly even to her.

"Archipelago… of Manhattan?" Tomoko queries first rather than immediately answer either Captain, looking to Kiseki for an answer.

It's Asi who provides the reply, though, one arm wrapped around the shoulders of the teenager who still stays glued to her side. "New York," she explains. "すべては水中ので、今「ペラゴ」と呼んでいます4." She forces a small, thin smile and tips her head just slightly to the older woman.

Tomoko lifts her head and murmurs a note of understanding, looking to Silas first in that new light and then Destiny second. She responds kindly, which Asi translates aloud as, "She respects the distance you all came to be here. She assures anything official can wait a day or two until we've had time to settle in… then we can swap stories from respective sides of the world, talk about what needs done to knit it back together."

Destiny, if not Silas too, knows well enough that she ad-libbed the last bit, which Asi sets to fixing by echoing that certainty as a question back to Tomoko, appending a consensus-seeking but warm "ね?" on the end of it. Tomoko hms her approval, tapping her cane on the ground as though the words themselves are something needing marked for the weight they carry.

"To bring back communication…" the old woman marvels slowly. It's a thing one could have given up on happening by now. But she nods her head thoughtfully at the idea.

"ま, that is for later!" Tomoko chides herself with a quiet, toothless irritation. "For now, food and beds." She turns to those who joined her down the hill, nodding stiffly to them and indicating what she's said again in Japanese, gesturing up to the old restaurant and gift shop for good measure.

The young woman at Asi's side peels away then, insisting, "先に行くわ5!" as she takes off at a sprint again. It leaves Asi free to shove her hands in her pockets, lip rolling as she bites on the inside of it. She takes a moment to look at the field of tall flowers hiding garden beds beyond them, glances back to the sea, and then looks further up the hill. Her toe twists in the dirt.

"Can't hurt to get settled in," Asi acknowledges quietly, chin tipping toward the buildings further up. "We'll take some time to properly rest up… then head to Tokyo." It comes from her with a sense of wonder, like this is all still a shade too surreal for her. Surely it's a dream.

At the same time, she finds herself looking forward to showing the crews around. It encourages her to find her footing again. "We'll take a detour through the greenhouse on the way up. Come on. It's nearly as beautiful in there as it was before the Flood— in some ways better."

Silas definitely suspects there's some ad-libbing going on there… but it's a good line. It's a damn good line, in fact. To knit the world back together, his thoughts echo, and be damned if his smile doesn't broaden, shift a little from diplomatic into something more… real.

To knit the world back together. To start to heal the wounds the Sentinel had ripped open. A great work, that; the kind of job you could throw your back into until the day you die and not see it finished. There'd be worse things to work towards, though, wouldn't there?

Tomoko's got a point, though — food and beds do sound like some excellent ideas at the moment. Silas nods gratefully… then, watching Asi's shadow peel away and take off, his smile grows a bit more as he looks to his friend. "Sounds good," he agrees with Asi… then, turning back to Tomoko, he offers a bow. "You have my thanks for your welcome, and your hospitality; I look forward to the talks to come," Silas says, and his grin is sincere.

Then… as Asi starts to leave, he offers another bow and moves to follow. "I look forward to seeing it," he says to her, still grinning brightly.

Destiny’s quick to tack her thanks on to the end of Silas’ own. She doesn’t immediately fall into step with the others, instead peering back toward the boats and crew they’ve left waiting at the docks. An emotion she doesn’t have a word for puts a crease in her brow and a storm in her eyes.

But the spell is broken quickly when she hears mention of a greenhouse, and a beautiful one at that. Destiny turns back to her friends, all sunshine again. “I can’t wait! Everyone seems so nice here. I’m glad that—” The young captain pauses, thinks a moment about what she wants to say. If they can work together to restore communication between corners of the world, it’ll be a good start. “I’m glad.”

Like Destiny, words are beyond her, but Asi smiles and shoves her hands into her pockets as she heads up the incline, one foot after the other— a guide to lead her fellows as they tread new ground in search of connections to reforge as much as mysteries of the past.

Tomorrow would be a new day. And now, they can begin both of those tasks in earnest.

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