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The clouds were just a shadow on the horizon at first, but, slowly, they got bigger and bigger, covering the moon and calling the attention of a girl. Hiako looked at the sky, and whispered to herself smiling: “It is going to rain.”
The dark clouds overwhelmed the ship. Lightning boomed and everyone started to run. Hiako stood still. It was getting colder. She shuddered. Suddenly, she blinked furiously, as if she had woken up from a trance. No one could be seen in the boat. She slowly walked in the direction of a nearby door, but stopped at once.
A woman opened the door, and ran outside. “We are sinking! We are sinking! The basement is full of water, and the water level is going up! Save your lives!” she screamed, barely being heard, because the tempest was too strong.
A lot of people came out from the door screaming and running. People luridly tried to get to the life boat, “We are all going to die!” a man exclaimed, “We can’t escape from our destiny.”
Chaos then set in. People became hopeless. “God gave up on us”, someone muttered.
People silently said good-bye to each other and prayed. The storm roared. Water came out from the door. The ship was sinking. Everyone would die, or so it seemed.
A loud noise was heard. The boat cracked, and rapidly sank.
“Hiako! Come here, please?” her uncle said from his office. She raised her eyes from a book and replied: “I’m going uncle!”
“As you are a Hillmain, you deserve the best. And, as you are fifteen, you don’t need a tutor anymore. So I’m going to send you to Madam Lucy’s school. It is a boarding school overseas, but is one of the best!” he said satisfied. “Now go pack your things. You’ll set sail tomorrow!”
“No more rules…”
She was six. Her mother, Emily, was seriously ill.
“Mom, are you going to die?” Hiako said crying.
“No, darling. I’m going to rest now. I’ve completed my mission here.” Her mom said weakly.
“But will you leave me alone?”
“Don’t worry; your dad will be here.”
“When will we be together again, mom?”
“I will always be in your heart, but when you complete your mission, we will finally rest together.”
“So Hiako, what do you want to do when you grow up?” her dad said, walking by the river shore.
“I don’t know, dad” she replied.
“You don’t have any idea?” he asked with an air of disappointment.
“Well... I like the ocean. Maybe I could live on a boat.” She said happily.
“Good choice! But don’t forget: people will try to change your dreams, so be firm and never give up!”
“Never give up” she thought. Suddenly, as if she was hit by a thunder, she opened her eyes. “Never give up!” she thought with her energies renewed under the water.
Hiako could barely recognize and differentiate the top from the bottom, but luckily, she saw some bubbles going up, and she followed them.
She emerged from the water and took a large breath. Her clothes were heavy and seemed to be pulling her down, but she still fought. No one could be seen or heard. For the first time in her life, she was alone.
The girl saw a piece of wood floating, apparently a piece of chair. She swam close to the furniture and tried to climb on top of it.
A thick fog appeared. The air got colder. Hiako couldn’t even move. She felt as if her body had frozen. Her eyes were slowly closing; her arms couldn’t hold herself for much longer. She was running out of energy, but she wouldn’t give up.
Time passed, and the night became day, but nothing would happen. The option of giving up was tantalizing. Then, in a flash, a huge ship loomed in the fog. It was coming fast. The flag couldn’t be seen, but voices could be heard.
Hiako, too weak to open her eyes, heard something falling in the water. The sound of paddles was audible. The row-boat was coming closer and closer, until it stopped by her side. Someone lifted her up, putting her inside the little boat. They took the girl to the main ship. A person took Hiako to the middle of the deck, gently placing her on the floor. Someone came, and after checking the girl, said: “She isn’t breathing!” More people came closer, and someone ripped her dress, exposing her chest. A pressure was applied on her chest.
One, two, three. Mouth-to-mouth was performed. One. Two. Three. Mouth-to-mouth. One. Two. Three. Mouth-to-mouth. All of a sudden, she felt a strange sensation. The next moment she was throwing up water, but as soon as she was finished, she fainted. But, at that instant, when her eyes open, she saw a boy, a woman and a flag. A pirate flag.
Hiako opened her eyes. Her heart was beating in an irregular way. She was sweating, and she was scared. The room around her was dark, the girl tried to sit up straight, but her entire body hurt.
Hiako was lying down in a bed wearing a nightgown. She blushed remembering the woman and the boy. But were they real?
On a second attempt to stand up, the bed creaked.
“So, you finally woke up!” someone said from the darkness.
“Who is there?” she whispered worriedly.
“I’m Aaron, and you are?” he said while turning on the light. His black- curly hair went down to his neck. His pale blue eyes reminded her of the ocean. He also had a childish face, with a cute smile.
“I am Hiako Hillmain. It is a...pleasure to meet you.” She answered suspiciously.
He looked at her, and if it was all a joke, he smiled in an ironic, but still, a friendly way.
She tried to stand up, for the third time, and when he noticed, grabbed her hand and helped her.
She took a few seconds trying to stand still. When she finally managed to stand, Aaron smiled again and opened the wardrobe, from where he took out a yellow dress.
She got it and enquired “Do I need to wear it?”
“Or do you prefer to go outside using a nightgown?” he answered laughing.
“Okay, then. By the way, are we in… a pirate ship?” she asked scared.
“Kind of. We aren’t really pirates. We are buccaneers.” He answered as if it was obvious. “We steal from other pirates.”
“But it is still stealing” she concluded.
He didn’t answer, but walked in the direction of the door. “After you are finished dressing, come outside. I’ll be waiting.”
As soon as he closed the door, she took off her nightdress and put on the dress. It was light yellow, simple, yet beautiful.
The dress fit perfectly and, when she opened the door, noticed Aaron leaning against the wall. He looked at her, from top to bottom, and with an approving smile said: “Now that you are ready, we can meet the captain! But I must warn you: He likes brownies.”
“Come in!” said a voice coming from behind the door, as Aaron knocked. Inside the room, Hiako noticed a small man with a funny face eating some brownies. He looked at her and, after signaling with his head, Aaron closed the door.
“Hello Hiako! I’m Captain O’Brian” said the captain with a brownie in his hand.
O’Brian offered her a brownie, but she refused with a polite “no”.
“Hiako, I assume Aaron told you everything by now.” The brownie-fan deduced.
“He told me… just that you are ‘buccaneers’.” she explained.
“Not enough!” the captain said with a sad smile. “The truth is that, after we saw you floating in the water, almost dead, we decided to help you. Our next stop will be at the New Moon port. As it is the only port nearby, we decided to take you there!” he resumed, eating another brownie.
He tried to get another brownie, when he noticed that they were finished.
“WERE ARE MY BROWNIES?” he screamed.
“In your belly maybe…” Aaron said jokingly. Hiakos belly then started to groan loud enough for Aaron hear. “Hey captain, I’m taking Hiako to have lunch.”
As they left the room, Hiako heard O’Brian saying something about brownies, but she didn’t hear because Aaron started talking.
“I told you.” were the words he used.
“You have a crazy man as a captain?” she said mistrustfully.
“When the topic is brownies, he may seem a little crazy but in battle, he is fearsome” he explained. “And also, he is a great man. He has taken care of me since I was little. O’Brian is like a father to me.”
“So, you lost your family when you were smaller?” she concluded. “I also lost my parents.”
He kept quiet.
Suddenly, Hiakos’ belly made another loud grumbling noise, and Aaron laughed while taking her to the cafeteria.
It was a large room, with different kinds of people. Men and women of all ages and cultures were there. Some were wearing fancy clothes, but the great majority was dressed in clothes suitable for the job.
There were large tables, with people sitting on both sides. Some were eating and others just drinking.
Aaron took Hiako to a table at the right side of the room. A man and, a woman were sitting there.
“Hello Aaron! So, is this our mermaid?” the man said laughing.
“She finally woke up!” the woman said, smiling.
“Hello…” was the only word Hiako used, a little shy.
“Aaron sat down and offered an apple to Hiako, who gladly accepted.
“Her name is Hiako. And Hiako, this is Jack, our gun dealer. And this is Suzy, our doctor. She helped me to save you.” Aaron explained.
Some minutes later, Hiako and Suzy were chatting as if they were old friends.
“Excuse me, doctor…” A boy said while coming in our direction, he apparented to be an apprentice. “They need you outside.”
Suzy stood up and, after a fast farewell, went out of the room. Jack, some minutes later, also stood up saying he had to work.
“Now that we are finally alone, I want to show you something” Aaron said smiling, while dragging Hiako out of the room.
“Where are we going?” she said, while going down a staircase.
He didn’t answer, but continued walking, until he stopped by an old-looking door. He got a key from his pocket and opened it. Inside, it was all dark, but as soon as they entered, Aaron lit a candle.
“But…But…But… What is this?” she asked, almost fainting.
“This is our treasure room.”
The room was full of different items: Pieces of jewelry, clothes, gold and silver objects, furniture, sculptures…
She looked around the room, back at Aaron and then back to the room. Aaron laughed and walked on a golden pile, where he got a necklace. It had a silver string holding a blue sapphire.
“A present for you.” he said “so you will remember us when you leave.”
“But is it all right?” she asked, suspiciously.
“Don’t worry. Only the captain and the vice-captain have access to this room, and well, everything here is from them” explained the vice-captain.
“Vice-captain?” she asked, while playing with the necklace.
He smiled, but when he was going to say something, a loud noise was heard. Voices came from far a way, and Aaron went running back to the deck. When he got to the stairway, he noticed Hiako and ordered her to stay there with a severe voice.
She was scared. A lot of different sounds could be heard, like people screaming or arguing, the sound of footsteps, and the sound of metal clashing against metal.
She took hold of the sapphire as if it would give good luck to her friends. Tears came down her face, not only because she was scared, but because she couldn’t help.
As if she was shot by a gun, she stopped crying. She noticed how useless it was to stand there, so she stood up, but then Aaron’s face came to her head and she remembered his order.
She sat down again and did the only possible thing: She prayed.
A long time passed,and the sounds started to fade, until they stopped. Aaron appeared at the top of the stairs. He was bleeding and his T-shirt was ripped, exposing his abdomen.
She ran all the way up and stopped by his side, hugging him, while crying.
“What happened?” she asked, looking afflicted at the surroundings. Blood puddles, swords and some corpses all over the place.
“We were attacked by pirates” he told her.
She stopped walking and pointed to his wound. “You are bleeding” she said going pale.
“Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt” he laughed, continuing to walk.
In a fraction of a second his smile disappeared. His face went white and all the cordiality was gone. He started to run in the direction of a crowd. It was when she saw O’Brian on the floor. His face, emotionless, was pale. His heart wasn’t beating anymore.
“Get away from him!” Aaron exclaimed to the crowd. People moved out of the way, and Aaron ran to his side. “He…He is… dead” he whispered to himself.
Hiako stood still, without moving a muscle. What could she do? What could she say? How to comfort someone who had lost his father, not once, but twice?
Aaron was sniffing, trying not to cry. His face was hard, in a painful way. His childish expression was gone.
His pain and sorrow could be felt by everyone. But it didn’t matter how much she wanted to help him, no one took a step forward to hug him or to say kind words. No one moved, allowing him to suffer in silence.
Aaron’s soulless expression could make the strongest of men cry. As if it was destined, the world was quiet for a few seconds. People didn’t talk, birds didn’t make a sound, the ocean was calm. For the first time ever, the boat was silent.
The twilight was wonderful that night, but no one noticed. Suddenly, Aaron stood up and looked in all directions. “So, why no one is working? Why is everyone stopped?” he screamed a little groggy after spending all day long crying. “Will you contradict your…Captain?”
He looked at every confused face, and went to O’Brian’s room. No one moved an inch. But some seconds later, people slowly went back to their posts. Jack passed by Hiako’s side and suggested that she go and see Aaron. She was a little scared, but knocked at the door.
“Who is there?” said a rough voice from behind the door.
“It is me, Hiako” she said, going in.
Aaron was standing up by the coach the captain always sitted to eat his brownies. A plate, half-full of brownies was still . He looked at the horizon. As Hiako came closer, she heard him singing:
Each man has his goal
Each person has his life
But as you once were born
You once shall die
Each one lives
As long as they should
But when the time arrives
HAVE SOME BROWNIES!
“He created his own ending” Aaron explained.
She didn’t say anything. He started to cry, hugging her.
“Why are you crying?” she demanded to know, with an idea in mind.
“Because he is dead.”
“Could you prevent it?”
“If I was by his side…”
“So it was all my fault?”
“Don’t be silly. You didn’t kill him.”
“Was it you then?”
“No. But what is the point of this?”
“Would he like to know you abandoned your crew, to cry?”
“Would he like to know you are crying for something that wasn’t your fault?”
“No.” he said, stopping to cry. He looked at her and, after, looked up at the sky. “I can’t let his life-time job be destroyed!”
At first, they looked like pebbles, but as they got closer, she could recognize the range of mountains she explored so much with her dad as a child. Her heart beat faster. “Dad” she whispered.
The port was in the Far East, and they slowly navigated in its direction.
“So it seems it is time to say good-bye” Aaron said coming close. Since that conversation he had with Hiako he barely stopped working, and rarely smiled. A stranger was standing by her side, with black-curly hair, pale-blue eyes. He was now a man.
“We still have some time” she said smiling.
“Some minutes” he concluded.
The port was full of different boats, and the pirate flag was down.
All of her new pirate-friends were on the deck, some even crying wishing farewell.
“Don’t cry people! I’ll come back!” she said, trying to comfort them. She went down from the ship with Aaron by her side. But he didn’t go far.
“A long time has passed since I stepped on dry land” he explained.
He was happy. His niece was far a way now, and all those lands would be his. His last goal was to be sure she wouldn’t come back.
He looked at the horizon and, suddenly, started to blink furiously. How could it be possible? Hiako came walking down the road, in his direction.
“Uncle!” she screamed.
“Hiako? What are you doing here?” he said angrily.
“Well…” she stopped to think “The boat sank, and I was saved by fishermen.”
“And how did you get that dress?” he asked suspiciously.
“It was in a luggage box” she said, hoping he wouldn’t ask more questions.
“So… go to your room and prepare a new bag. You will leave on the next boat in the morning!” he said.
Hiako smiled. They would meet sooner than she had expected…