A Star-Spattered Sky: Part Two
Deriun sat in his office, smiling his amusement. He'd watched Jessica from the shadows and had found it endlessly funny. He'd had to make constant trips back to his room so no one would hear his uproarious laughter. She'd lost every fight -- and in rather embarrassing ways as well. But what he was surprised to find was the fact that she was constantly getting better. Her somewhat clumsy swings were faster, her blocking more effective. In just one day, she'd improved -- if ever so slightly.
He glanced down at the map what he'd forgotten while he was speculating. Jessica's progress was entertaining, if nothing else. 'Yes,' he thought, 'just like Keilla.'
Jessica was worn out and weary. She was bruised all over from being hit with the wooden sword. Her pale skin was going purple with the splodges.
"Are you alright?" the same Lenny asked. "You copped a beating in training today," he said sympathetically. "The guys weren't very civil with you, were they?"
"I don't see why they have to be," she said coldly. "I'm supposed to be treated like you. If that's how they'd treat each other, fine by me."
"Oh no, they don't treat each other like that. They definitely wanted to teach you a lesson. I'm sure of it."
"Well, I don't know why that would be. If you do, feel free to tell me," she snapped angrily. This Lenny was proving to be nothing but a bother.
"Because you're different," the Lenny whispered. "You're not like us. You're a girl -- and a faerie. You can't expect too much of them, you know."
"I expect nothing of them," she spat, sitting on the deck. "I do not know them; I do not care for them. They are nothing but worthless, spineless..." She sighed. "I best not finish that thought. I'm sure they mean well deep down -- a very deep way down."
The Lenny laughed. "Perhaps. I wouldn't count on it, though."
"Sit," Jessica said. "You seem to be my only source of interaction, so I suppose I must speak with you."
"Deriun seemed friendly with you," the Lenny said. "Friendlier than with anyone else, I have to say. I suppose it's your charm working on him." He chuckled.
"It is, is it?" Deriun asked from behind the Lenny.
"Ah!" The Lenny jumped. "D-Deriun! H-how p-pleasant to s-see you," he stuttered.
"I'm sure you're thrilled," he growled. "Now I must speak with Jessica, if you don't mind."
"That means scat," Jessica whispered to him.
"Oh! Right! Well, I'll see you around, Jessica!" he called, backing away.
"It seems you've made a friend," Deriun said. "How was your day? You seem to be well and truly bruised. You're lucky they missed a spot, though."
"Where?" Jessica asked, wondering where she hadn't been bruised. They had to be only one place.
"Your face," Deriun said making Jessica laugh.
"Well, I suppose I am lucky they didn't think to hit me there," she agreed. "It might have put an end to my pretty face." She laughed at the absurdity of her having a pretty face.
"Indeed," Deriun said gravely. "I'm surprised that you made it through the day, actually, Jessica," he told her with a smile. "I thought you'd run screaming after five minutes."
"I'm not prissy," Jessica said scornfully. "You underestimate me."
"Perhaps I do," Deriun said thoughtfully. "Well, I must be going. We don't want the crew members to think that I've become soft. I'd have no power over them, then."
"No, we wouldn't."
That was two days in a row she had been beaten to a pulp by the boys. She was thinking of giving up. Below-decks couldn't be so bad, she tried to convince herself. Of course she couldn't, though. Her adventurous side was trying to rise to the challenge, not caring how badly hurt she was.
"Does it really matter?" she sighed. "I'm never going to be as good as the boys. That's obvious. I'm just a silly little air faerie who can barely hold a wooden practise sword," she said glumly.
"Don't speak so in my presence," Deriun said scornfully. He looked down at her, his eyes blazing. "Get up," he growled. When Jessica remained in a wide-eyed heap, he yelled at her, "Get up!"
Jessica slowly got to her feet. Her chin rose and she looked at him. "Yes?"
"You will fight," he snarled at her. "You will." Then he turned on his heel and stomped away. Many of the crew had turned to look at her and Jessica blushed.
"What?" she snapped. "You've never seen him angry before?" She sat back down, and her eyes filled with tears as she looked out at the waves. How could she escape this?
"No, they've never seen him care before," that same, annoying Lenny from practise said.
"Oh, would you go away?" Jessica yelled, her eyes burning. "I don't want you around, Lenny!"
"My name," he said coldly, "is Teair."
Stalking off to the other end of the ship, Jessica almost groaned. She'd just gotten rid of one her most important allies! This was terrible! In fact, she'd just gotten rid of her only ally.
"I won't make it to the end of my training," she moaned. "It's only been two days and I'm alright giving up."
She squeezed her eyes shut. No one should have to endure this. No one.
"You're Jessica, right?" A voice startled her.
"Why... yes," she said softly, looking up at the red Kougra. "Who are you?"
"Well," he said thoughtfully, "I do have a name, but how about you just call me 'Red?' It's safer, you know. In case anyone hears my name and then turns me in when I'm a successful pirate."
Jessica looked at him like he'd gone insane. "You sure like to plan ahead..." she muttered, looking away awkwardly.
"Yeah, I do. So, uh... How do you like the ship?" he asked, clearly at a loss for what to say next. "I mean, what with Deriun breathing down your neck, I don't suppose it's that pleasant, though."
'He talks way too much,' Jessica thought, suppressing the urge to run away. "If there was one way off this ship," she said darkly, "I would be on the other side of Neopia."
"That's nice," Red said merrily. He started to jabber and Jessica racked her brain, looking for an excuse to leave.
"Red!" she said excitedly. "You know, I should be... um... seeing -- uh, seeing..." She didn't know who she could see that would prevent Red from coming. "I have to go and see Deriun!" she exclaimed.
"Oh, okay. I'll go now. Bye!" he called, already scurrying down to the cabins. Jessica shook her head and smiled. Deriun wasn't that scary.
"Here comes the klutz again," a boy whispered to another. "I'll bet you ten Neopoints and my next dessert that she loses to everyone."
"You're on," the other whispered back. "She's got to better than yesterday," he murmured as an after-thought.
"She certainly couldn't get any worse," the other snickered. The second elbowed him in the ribs as Silver came out.
"Boys!" he barked. "And -- erm -- girl." The boys giggled behind their hands. He blushed. "Order!" he yelled. "Or you'll be seeing the captain, aye, that you will." He nodded and took a puff of his pipe. "Practise starts now!"
Jessica picked up her makeshift sword and her eyes widened when she saw her partner. It was an extremely brawny Acara who grinned menacingly. "You better be hungry, girl, because you're going to EAT IT!!"
She gulped and her hand shook as she held the sword. When he swung, she defended, their swords clashing with a smack. She ducked under his arm as he tried to swing again at her. She used a kick she'd seen Silver demonstrate which made him fall flat on his face and held the point of her sword at his neck.
Smirking, she said two words, "Oh yeah."
Deriun was just getting his chuckles under control now. Jessica was downright funny. When she took down the Acara and made one boy rather full at dessert-time and ten Neopoints richer, he'd felt very proud of her.
Silver came into his office. "Good afternoon, Captain," he murmured. "Been watching, have we? It was quite a show, was it not? No one has managed to take down Max. It's very interesting that the worst fighter of them all has accomplished it."
"Very interesting indeed," Deriun murmured, staring straight through everything.
"I've seen that look before," Silver said warily. "What are you thinking, Captain? Not something to do with the girl. She's really too... weak to do anything, Captain."
"She is many things," Deriun said, still staring straight ahead. "Weak is not one of them."
"Is it not, Captain? Then how has she managed to lose to everyone except Max? Can you explain that, Captain?" Silver snapped. "She does not deserve to be your experiment, Captain. Leave her alone."
Deriun still stared at nothing when he said, "Just like Keilla."
To be continued...