Synopsis: Mina is a daughter of a naval officer. It takes some time, but she later realizes the officers are corrupt. When she calls them out while abusing their authority, they become violent toward her. She injures one of them out of self-defense, because she sees where the situation is going. She's afraid but can no longer live in the delusion that the officers at her port are good men. One of the members of the Red Aria crew aids her, leading her to question all the values and belief system she's known all her life. Originally written in 2019.
I was raised to believe that the navy officers were moral men driven by justice and chivalry. So why—why did my hand grip a blade, turned against what I thought were men of virtue and righteousness, men who were supposed to be defenders of the impoverished and helpless, men who were meant to be incorruptible and deemed worthy of a medal pinned to their lapel—why was itI that raised a hand in defiance to their cruelty?
"You'll pay for that, wretched woman!" One of the officers yelled, before turning his attention back to his wounded comrade.
I lowered my gaze to the injured man. His back was against the wall as he hunched over, hand pressed over the injury. A dark crimson blossomed from underneath his palm, blotting his ivory uniform into a color that matched the wickedness in his heart. Before the men reacted, I turned and fled from the dim alleyway. My boots hit the ground and left a thundering echo throughout the night.
Adrenaline coursed through my veins as my heart galloped wildly inside my chest. My desire to cry and to spill the contents of my dinner onto the ground was held back by my own fears of being caught. I knew not of my fate in the morning, but at the very least, I had to warn the priory of what happened tonight. The priory would be set ablaze, that much I knew, as retribution for harming the officers. But what love did I harbor to the bastards that seized my town? The pain he felt was less compared to my people.
Hot tears blurred my vision as I bolted blindly past the corner bar and nearly struck a bargoer.
I narrowly avoided collision by the drably dressed man. I skirted around him and hid myself among the dark. Paranoia struck a chord, and every voice and shadow that passed by stirred fear within me. To steady myself, I counted to twenty. With a heavy heart, I set out again. As I neared the priory, I noticed the lights were off. With every step I took toward the crumbling building, I realized the gravity of the situation. Where would the elders and children go if the building burned? How would the priest react? Will the officers harm them? No, they only knew my face and my face alone. Everyone else would be safe. I must believe that.
As I approached the doorway, someone caught my arm. In that split second, I wondered if my blade would taste another man's blood tonight. I whirled around and without thinking, I brandished my blade.
When I met their eyes, it was a man.
The frown on his face was illuminated by the lantern light he held. His pristine uniform signified his status in the navy. Shit. As he stepped toward me, he held a musket in his other hand. I blanched. How did he find me? Had he been trailing me? It was futile, but I lunged forward with the blade. He sidestepped me and jabbed his musket at me. I dodged his attack, but the muzzle caught the frills of my blouse. I scrambled to get away but he only grinned and shoved me against the wooden door. I dropped my blade and yelped as pain seared throughout my collarbone. He pressed the muzzle against my clavicle. My flimsy blouse was a thin layer against his cold, callous weapon.
I struggled, but he only pressed the weapon harder against me.
"If only you'd let us have our fun," the man mused, bringing the lantern close to my face. I winced from the sudden brightness. "If it weren't for your pretty face, this damned church would have burned down a long time ago. Funny how you'd sully yourself just to protect this shit hole."
The officer laughed, setting the lantern on the ground. He moved closer and stepped on the blade, preventing me from reaching it. With the musket still pressed to my body, he leaned forward and grabbed my chin, prying my mouth open with his thumb.
I held my gaze as he observed me, eyes raking down my torn blouse. I bristled with rage but held my tongue.
He only clicked his tongue in amusement and released my chin. "Your father was an honorable officer. He died while defending his values, you know. A virtuous man 'till the end." He reached up and brushed a stray strand of hair from my face. "It's poetic the daughter will die the same way."
Immediately, he struck me across the face. I gasped out in pain and cradled a hand to my cheek, blinking back the tears.
"I hate women like you." He grabbed a fistful of my hair and forced me to look up. A scathing look mingled with disgust crossed his features. It unsettled me. "Educated, perceptive, and beautiful—pah. Women are supposed to be creatures of submission and ignorance. Not a thought should cross that pretty little head of yours. Your father tainted you, spoiled you with the delights only a man should have."
"My father wasn't bound by tradition," I spat out, twisting away from his grip. "He gifted me with knowledge because he knew I could stand as an equal in this world."
The officer threw his head back and laughed. "Your father was a fool. His ideas of righteousness and lawfulness only made others scorn him. He believed officers were the hand of justice in these trying times." He curled a hand around my neck but didn't suffocate me. Yet. I clawed at his gloved hand in vain. "If he let us have our merry way, he wouldn't have died, you know."
"What are you trying to get at?" I demanded. He slowly tightened his grip around my throat.
He smiled wickedly at me. "I killed him. The fool had it coming."
The strength in my arms sapped as I stopped prying at his hands. I could only stare back in horror.
He had to be lying. I was told my father died an honorable death—defending the townsfolk from a pirate invasion. This officer had to be lying. I had no reason to believe him. He was a lying, dishonorable cur through and through. He was only telling me to incite rage.
But why? Why did he stare at me with those hateful eyes, filled with nothing but malice and a certainty that he did, in fact, murder my father?
"You…you bastard," I managed out, my vision blurred as something warm rolled down my face. Something stirred within me—a rage ignited from the very depths of my heart. Before I knew it, I ripped the musket from my blouse, string and fabric fluttering in the air. The officer took a step back, startled by my forcefulness. I couldn't think properly, only blinded by rage I never knew lay dormant inside me.
He hastily fired a shot but missed. The bullet lodged itself into the wall behind me. I grabbed the blade from the ground and charged at him while tears rolled down my face.
For tonight, I was not a killer. Only an agent of retribution.
He sidestepped my attack and swung the musket. I held up my right arm up and shielded myself from the blow. Pain blossomed from where the musket collided with my arm, but I cared not. The man brought his weapon back and swung again. This time, in a wide arc. I moved back but found myself cornered at the priory entrance.
He grinned, several feet away, and positioned the weapon over his shoulder, poised to fire.
By the time I threw the blade, he would have pulled the trigger. But if I hit his hand, his aim would be off, and I could still escape. It was risky, but I was already a dead woman.
I accepted that I had no fate in the morning.
So I prayed. I prayed wherever I ended up, I hope my father would forgive me for hurting another person.
The trigger was pulled. I fully expected to die, but the officer only dropped his weapon and knelt.
From what I saw, his white pant leg was dyed crimson. I squinted and saw another figure in the dark, not too far from where we stood, brandishing his own gun.
"You've harassed the lass long enough."
My savior stepped forward, but it was difficult to discern who he was. He donned an eyepatch and was dressed in dark, drab colors.
Under the moonless sky, I somehow sensed that he was…familiar.
Before thanking my savior—I turned to the man on the ground. I took quick, short steps to the officer. He groaned in pain and tried to reach for his weapon as I approached. I kicked the musket far from his reach and before I knew it, I tackled him to the ground and hit him in the face. He cursed at me, swearing and calling me derogatory names. No matter how many times he called me a bitch, wretch, or whore I hit him as hard as I could.
"I hope you rot in hell!" I screamed, as tears flowed freely down my face. "YOU TOOK MY FATHER FROM ME…YOU RUINED MY TOWN. You smeared the name of navy officers…destroyed the foundation of justice and truth I believed in…! You…you're nothing but…!"
The man below me continued to curse and stopped resisting. Finally, I stopped. I huffed and glared at him, feeling exhaustion overtaking me. As I glanced at my knuckles, blood coated them.
"Kill me, why don't you…? If it eases your pain." He mocked, blood running down his nose. He spat out blood beside him before appearing smug. "Another will take my place even if you kill me. So do it, little lady. Do it because by tomorrow morning, you'll be killed."
I suddenly remembered my blade. Wildly, I grabbed at it—why did I ever set it down? My emotions were strung high, scattered between grief, animosity, and rage. It was difficult to think clearly. But this man, this pathetic, rotten excuse of an official—I loathed him. I loathed him with every fiber of my being. And with such ferocity, along with the other corrupted officials who abandoned their duty and sunk into depravity.
I held the blade above my head. Time slowed. The officer below me only grinned. He welcomed it. He embraced death by my hands. I could kill him. Kill him and avenge my father. Kill him, kill him, kill him, the voice echoed in my head. Tomorrow didn't exist. Only in this moment did I have the chance to end his life like he ended my father's.
The hand that held the blade trembled. It wouldn't budge.
Tears streamed down my face as I gazed at the man. He looked pitiful, bruised and reduced to a bloody pulp. He returned my stare. Do it, he eyes urged. Put me out of my misery.
Just then, a hand closed over my knuckles.
I glanced over my shoulder, with his hand still clasped around mines.
"That's enough, lass." My savior's voice was quiet, almost soothing.
He wore a long, ruddy colored coat lined with gold buttons. It looked luxurious and sturdy, so much more than I could ever afford. Suddenly, I forgot about the officer below me and realized my tattered attire. I held a hand to my chest to preserve what dignity I had left. My savior turned his eye away from mines and glanced at the bloodied officer instead.
"He won't harm you anymore—not in that state."
I lowered my blade and numbly nodded my head.
My savior helped me to my feet and guided me away from the officer. The officer let out another string of swears but he grew quiet as we left the priory.
I slid the blade back into my boot, securing in its hidden sheath. The man with the eyepatch led me somewhere quiet, and to where—I knew not. He spoke in a soothing tone, calming me from my grief-stricken state. Whatever he said, it was lost on me. I was glad he spoke, speaking about nonsense to occupy my dark thoughts. He seemed kind, offering me a small vial at one point and I realized it contained alcohol. Seldom did I touch alcohol, but I needed something to carlm my nerves. I drank it eagerly, a bitter flavor scorched down my throat. I coughed and wiped my mouth before handing back the vial.
He pocketed it and continued.
For a while, we walked. It was a companionable silence. Nobody milled about, as many folks were fearful of the night patrols by the navy. But knowing the officers, they were most likely in the central district bar or speakeasies.
The cool air dried my tears, but my nose was colored red. I held my blouse close to my chest to preserve my modesty, but my right shoulder had a gaping hole. Frills and loose thread dangled everywhere, and I would mend it later, if I had the material.
My thoughts whirled around as we walked, further from the light of the center district. The navy would hunt me down. Those living at the priory would have to go elsewhere. My town was already in shambles. And…where was I to go?
I looked ahead, seeing my savior's back. I did not have a good look at his face, but he seemed oddly familiar. We never met in person, but I have seen him somewhere before. Perhaps in passing.
"Sir…" I quivered out. I was unsure if he heard me. He kept walking. "May I know your name? And, um, thank you." I let out a shaky sigh. "For back there. I am grateful."
He paused so abruptly that I collided into his back. He was firmly built.
I didn't press further for his name, as I realized I haven't introduced myself either. I found myself staring at his back as he continued walking. He had broad shoulders and moved with a confidant stride.
…I wonder why he aided me. Did he have his own motive? Or was it out of selflessness?
He noticed I was no longer following him due to the absence of footfalls. He partly turned, craning his neck to look at me.
"What're you doing, lass?" He sounded somewhat impatient. "If you don't come along, they'll find you."
"Where are we going?" I asked quietly. My fingers gripped the fabric of my shirt. "At least tell me where we're going. You have my gratitude, but you don't fully have my trust."
"You followed me this far and now you want an explanation?" He ran a hand through his dark hair, exasperated. "Talk about priorities. OK—I'll explain along the way. But first, we need to get you out of this town. You know they'll be looking for you in the morning."
"I know." I began to walk again, following him. He moved, but with a sense of urgency this time. "They'll have a bounty for my head soon. That much I'm aware."
His strides were longer and faster than mines. I struggled to keep up.
"At the very least, my crew can drop you off at another port. You can start anew there," he said this with finality, with no room for me to argue. "It'll be difficult, but I believe you'll manage. You have tenacity, from what I've seen."
I grew quiet again. Tears brimmed in my eyes as I thought about the events from earlier. My body ached, especially my right arm and the area around my collarbone. While I failed to see tomorrow, he was already planning my next course of action, as if he was familiar with this life. Whatever this life meant. Things were moving too fast, but it was impossible to fight the pull of time. But how could he be so levelheaded in this situation? It was too much to handle. Some things sunk in, but other things did not.
I tipped my head back and gazed up at the sky.
Above us, a few seagulls cawed and glided through the inky night. Stars shimmered, as if offering hope. What was in store for me now? I thought again. What port town awaits me? As the man strode onwards, I spoke again.
"My name is Mina." I fiddled with the loose threads of my blouse. With my free hand, I brushed the tears away. "My father was a good naval officer; unlike those you just saw. And, um, my mother—she was a dancer. Both my parents died, so the priory took me in. I tried to stop the officers from taxing what little we have."
He was quiet as he listened to my story. After a respectful pause, he spoke. "Mica. Just Mica is fine, lass. I don't care much for formalities."
"Ah." I said flatly. "Mica. As in…Red Aria?"
The name registered, but my reaction was mild. I was emotionally and physically exhausted from the events before and didn't react as much as I thought I would. Normally, fear would have gripped me, but I felt hollow. Today was already a strange day, only making room for stranger events and stranger people.
"I've heard awful rumors, but I can't believe them. Not after today…because you saved my life." I shook my head and let out a weak laugh. Mica looked at me as if I was borderline insane. Of course, there was nothing to laugh about. But I found it absurd all the same.
"You're a member of the Red Aria crew," I mumbled, half out of my mind and trying to rationalize everything, "pirates have saved me from the navy. Who would have thought? But…isn't the navy supposed to protect its citizens? So why—" I balled my fists, my voice rising out of confusion and anger— "why were they abusing their authority and burdening the townsfolk? Why do they exploit the weak and tax the church? Aren't they supposed protect? To uphold the law? Then why, why did they abandon their duty? To who am I supposed to turn to when I need justice?"
I was frustrated beyond measure. It wasn't making sense. Officers were supposed to be paragons of goodness—pirates were supposed to be bad. If only it were that simple.
My tears were relentless. Every being of my body shook as I thought of my father—the only good man amongst the corrupted. There had to be others, but they were so little and few in between.
"All my life, I grew up believing the navy officers were good men. But now…I could see that I was blind. I fooled myself, making excuses whenever the officers committed any wrongdoings. I was blind, wasn't I? So willfully ignorant. I blinded myself with this delusion. But no," I spat out bitterly, my vision blurring, "not anymore. I won't make up excuses for them any longer. And to think…to think that the infamous Red Aria pirates would save me instead. I don't know what to believe anymore."
"Then don't," Mica murmured quietly. "Your whole belief system built over the years just shattered in an instant. Anyone would go hysterical."
"So what do I do now?"
My legs gave out and my knees hit the ground. I pounded the ground with my balled-up fist. Desperation overwhelmed me as I tried to search for an answer. Anything to guide me in the right direction. Anything to latch onto, knowing what I believed in has betrayed me. I would have to start anew—a new name, new town, a fresh start. But what of everything I've known here? This measly port town was the only one I knew. I knew nothing of the world beyond where my feet could take me. I didn't even say goodbye to the ones I loved and cared for.
"How the hell am I supposed to forget this?" I sobbed, cradling my injured hand to my chest. "This is the only life I've known. I just can't leave it behind so easily…"
He didn't look at me, only up at the stars. "Some turn to religion for comfort. Some learn to move on. As for you," he fully turned, his coat billowed in the wind as he faced me. "That's up to you to figure out, lass. But at the very least—"
With the backdrop of stars and an air of solemnity surrounding him, Mica knelt in front of me.
"Come with me, Mina," he said calmly. I couldn't help but believe in his words like scripture. "I can guarantee your safety."