“Now that we’re out of harm’s way, mind telling me what happened back there?” Fols grunted as he slammed a rock into the chain of Chance’s handcuffs. The links shattered into pieces and Chance took this moment to stretch with a groan of relief. The sun descended slowly as the haze of White Fog lingered in the near distance.
“I guess they found out I was still alive,” Chance said plainly. “Kinda seems like a strange coincidence, though.”
Fols tossed the rock back into the wilderness and then quirked a brow at him. “The Navy usually has that sort of ability. Say, didn’t you want to be a marine before?”
Chance scoffed at the thought. It certainly crossed his mind, his father being a famous marine turned pirate, but that opportunity was long gone. “He wanted me to, but after he became a pirate I’m pretty sure he knew I wouldn’t have a chance.” He began walking into the haze with Fols accompanying him. “Besides, I probably wouldn’t do well with the Navy anyways. Too much lying and hiding.”
“Aren’t they supposed to be the good guys?” Fols asked with a grin on his face. “They always talked about justice and upholding the law and all that.” The haze turned thicker and thicker with each step, soon encompassing the two in its cloak of milky white. The sounds of people surfaced in the distance alongside the clinking and clanking of metal against metal.
“That sorta changed when Eirin’s father beat the crap out of me.” Chance rolled his eyes at Fols. “Judging everything in black and white is a pretty stupid idea, especially here. Eirin’s father doesn’t like the Navy either.”
“That’s funny.” Fols furrowed his brows in thought. “Now that you mention it everything seems to fit into place more. You think it’s because of him that the Navy didn’t find you until now?”
“Knowing him I bet he did. He probably hates me more than them.” Chance scoffed again, this time more stronger than the last. “He’s probably gotten sick and tired of me wrecking his property.”
Fols chuckled. The fog around them began dispersing as they entered into a campsite full of people with shoddy clothing and poor hygiene. The smell of smoke and metal lingered throughout the air as they passed various downtrodden folks with emaciated faces. The more fortunate ones glared at them almost as if their presence stained the surrounding ugliness. They took no heed however; Fols stretched his arms around his head and Chance kept his focus straightforward without minding the greedy faces stretching beyond the pathway of mud and dirt.
“Chance,” Fols began as he paused to contemplate is next words. “Do you really think Montrel hates you?”
“Yup,” Chance responded plainly. Fols stifled a small chuckle.
“What if I told you he’s actually scared of you whisking Eirin away?”
Chance stopped in place. His sleepy face turned to Fols and shot him a blank stare. Fols chuckled nervously and shrugged away the feeling of terror from trickling up his spine.
“All I’m saying is don’t think you’re all alone on this island. You don’t really show your true feelings either y’know.” Fols peeked at Chance from the corner of his eye. The blonde stood there without responding but knew Fols was right.
“Anyways, what’s the plan now?” Fols started walking but Chance stayed in place. He stopped and looked at Chance, frowning as he peered at the surroundings. They stood at an empty area of the campsite, not a single word from afar escaping into it. An eerie wind swept through the pitched tents sitting above mounds of dirt and junk as the sound of jagged metal danced from it.
Chance shifted his feet and balanced himself, raising his hands up and relaxing them while keeping his attention focused around him. Fols walked near a pile of metallic junk and pulled out a rusty pipe almost his height. The area came alive with footsteps as various men approached and surrounded the two with weapons drawn.
“You kids are lost,” one of the bandits gleefully said. “We can get you back on track, provided you give us everything you’ve got.”
Fols hoisted his pipe onto his shoulder and mused at the bandit’s words. “Sounds like a death flag.” He looked to Chance and said, “Hey, are you gonna give’em all you got?”
Chance looked to him and scowled slightly. “I’m gonna beat the shit out of them if that’s what you mean.”
Fols waved away Chance with a bright-toothed grin. “That’s what I mean! He didn’t specify what he wanted. All of what, our clothes? It’s not like we’re carrying any money anyways.” Fols started laughing aloud as Chance sighed and shook his head.
“You two sure have a death wish,” the bandit leader growled under gritting teeth. His thugs closed into the two with weapons ready for blood. “Forget it, just kill them. We’ll sort out the pieces later.”
“Oh, these guys mean business.” Fols spun the pipe with one hand and planted it into the ground. “There’s a lot of you, but don’t underestimate us. We’re not just going to let this go, y’know!”
The bandits charged. Chance leaned back and watched as a saber attempted to decapitate him. He rolled back with such agility the assailant found no time to react to the rubber sandal crashing into his face at practically lightning speed. The burly attacker flipped back once before slamming head first into the dirt.
“What the hell was that?” One bandit yelled with an uneasy voice. Fols spun past a man with a mace and tapped the uneasy bandit on the shoulder.
“That was called a kick,” Fols explained calmly with a smirk on his face. “Man, didn’t you learn anything from your bandit lifestyle?” He clocked the shocked bandit square in the head and shoved him towards the man with the mace. The mace user shoved the body away but also got clocked right in the face with Fols’ pipe.
The two didn’t break a sweat against the horde of bandits. The leader clenched his teeth so hard his jaw cracked, and with a cry of anger he unsheathed his blade and charged towards the two. “You’re mocking me, aren’t you, you damn kids! I’m gonna gut you if it’s the last thing I do!”
By the time he joined the fray the rest of his thugs were already dispatched of. Chance and Fols glanced to him but did nothing as he charged while screaming at the top of his lungs. He raised his blade high and prepared to cleave Fols in half but the blunt end of an axe slammed into the back of his head and knocked him out. Fols swatted the leader so he fell into a pool of mud rather than collapsing on him.
The axe rebound to its owner, who caught it with a meaty hand. Chance scoffed as Favro unveiled himself with the axe resting on his shoulder.
“I see Favro is late to the party!” He laughed aloud with a gleaming smile on his face. “That is alright, Favro enjoys being fashionably late to any gathering whatsoever!”
“That’s stupid,” Chance uttered with his dreary expression still plastered to his face. “You’re stupid. Stop being stupid.”
“Oy, hey now.” Fols snickered as he waved Chance off. “Don’t be so hard on him. What’re you doing here, Favro?” He looked to him and frowned. Favro looked to them with a very serious expression as he holstered his axe into a burlap satchel.
“I’m sure Chance knows this isn’t a coincidence.” Favro looked to Chance, who kept his gaze on him. “There’s a lot I have to tell you two, but let’s hurry before more company comes.”
Chance scoffed. “I knew you were too stupid to be true.” He approached Favro and looked him straight in the eye. “Are you really gonna be honest after all this time?”
A few drops of sweat trickled down Favro’s burly face. He let out a sigh and nodded. “I will,” he uttered with an audible gulp. “Please stop giving me that look and let’s hurry away from here.”
Chance nibbled on his lip. He slowly let out a breath of air and stepped back. Favro took the lead and guided the two deeper into White Fog, explaining the circumstances as they traveled. At that moment Eirin and her father also shared some truths, and the air of tension still surrounded the outdoor cafe even as the discussion went underway.
“I know what you must think,” Montrel began as he clasped his hands together upon the plain wooden table. “Every night I wonder what I could have done to prevent your mother’s death, but believe me when I say I’m still faithful to her.”
Eirin managed to hold a scoff from coming out. What does a man like him do when he goes out every night? She knew he had some mistress on the side, that he was nothing but lies and slander. She stifled her anger and continued listening with narrow eyes.
“Every night I have been visiting your mother’s grave. At first I simply couldn’t face her, but as reality washed down upon me I knew I couldn’t escape it. I forced myself to go.” Ravonov bore a hole through the table with a pained face. He brushed his mustache, clearing his throat, choking back what sounded like a whimper.
Eirin relaxed her expression of doubt. She never saw him in such a state of weakness and pain. Was the man before her truly her father? As Montrel sighed she felt her heart sting with a bit of sympathy.
“Before I knew it,” her father continued as he struggled to hold his composure. “I was visiting her every day, telling her about the island, what I’ve been trying to change.” He looked into Eirin’s eyes. “I poured my heart into her, Eirin. Every time I mentioned you I cried, because I knew what you thought of me.”
Eirin felt her breath being torn away. A haze of confusion bathed her with mixed feelings that she tried to suppress from clouding her hate. What are you supposed to feel when your father shows weakness despite seeming like such a monster? Eirin didn’t want to listen anymore; she didn’t even know why she continued listening. She couldn’t deny he cut into something deep within her, a revelation almost waiting to happen and free her. Unfortunately history doesn’t simply vanish within the blink of an eye, and as much as she wanted to reject his confessions something told her to continue listening.
“Your mother did a lot to improve this island.” Montrel looked towards the empty streets. ” After the massacre the nobles had full reign of this island, doing whatever they pleased, hurting anyone that stood in their way. It was a nightmare stepping out even in broad daylight. Everyone feared the nobility.” He looked to Eirin with another expression foreign to her. It almost seemed like a mix of nostalgia and burning ambition. “She was so happy paving a better future for you and Chance. By the time we realized it you two were playing without a care about petty standings or blood.”
“There’s still much to do. It took years to change laws and enforce them, even more to ensure people stayed content and recalled the days before the massacre.” Ravonov scornfully peered over his clasped hands. “But even after all this effort, it seems like the more things change the more they also stay the same. The nobles still look down upon those below them and the rest still carry resentment.”
Eirin felt her anger completely dissipate. She wanted to keep hating him with all the strength she had but it was no use anymore. The father she knew, who always faced things with such a cold and heartless expression, simply didn’t exist in this place and time. In a deep pit where she kept past memories she remembered this father. She lost all hope for the warm father, but seeing him now and like this stirred dead feelings of love only a child could have for her parents.
Lord Ravonov’s face contorted in pain. His voice cracked with weakness but he remained strong in his words. “Everything completely displaced when your mother left us. I felt myself starting to hate the lower classes. I even counted the scoundrel who took your mother away from us amongst them. I knew it was wrong but I still did so! And then Chance….” A sharp breath of air shot out of his mouth. He clenched his hands so tightly the leather of his gloves strained to hold together. He looked away with utmost shame, yearning to leave the sight of his daughter seeing him in such a bitter state.
“He was the worst offender,” Ravonov seethed with explicit hatred. “A common part of the rabble, friends with you. I’ve seen the interest bloom between you two and it horrified me to think what would come of it. Not only that, if he hadn’t alarmed your mother she wouldn’t have gone out to rescue him. So I decided to forcefully end the relationship.” He couldn’t look her in the eye after that. Eirin recalled the moment all too well, the sounds of his father’s fists slamming into Chance’s face second after second. And then the pistol! The mistress clenched her teeth as anger pierced her sympathetic feelings once more.
“If it wasn’t for you I would have killed him. I saw the anger in your eyes and realized what I just did. I was relapsing into what your mother was trying to change and you saved me. I know you and Chance will never forgive me for that day, but I can at least try to atone for my wrongdoings.”
They basked in silence for what felt like hours. Eirin slowly slipped out a sigh, careful to keep herself calm and collected. Ravonov brushed a hand over his mustache and struggled to maintain eye contact with her daughter. “I’m glad you at least stayed to hear me out. There is nothing else for me to say unless you have lingering questions to pose.”
She held her head up and leered at him with a scowl. “First and foremost, I can’t even fathom to wonder how you would think I’d believe all of this in the stroke of a few hours. Are you even aware of what you’ve just confessed? How could you possibly believe to persuade me after all that’s been said and done?”
Every word struck through Montrel like freshly sharpened swords. The pain multiplied as she continued her relentless barrage of scolds. “Of course I’ll never forgive you. I do admit, leaving me alone every night allowed me to contemplate on some things. Plus, you gave Chance and Fols to visit me during your absence, so I suppose things turned out fine.”
Her father almost jumped out of his seat. “What!?” He barked aloud.
Eirin pointed a commanding finger at him. “I’m not finished!” she scolded with strength almost parallel to his. “What are you shocked for? Things don’t simply change overnight, as you’ve said.” She huffed in slight irritation. Ravonov grunted helplessly and returned to his seat.
“But, even with all these devastations some good things blossomed.” A small smile graced her soft face. “If it weren’t for mother I wouldn’t have pursued my dreams of becoming a doctor. When you injured Chance so extensively like that I realized full well how important it would be to continue pursuing my dream.” Her smile faded when she looked her father in the eyes. “So, I suppose I can thank you for that. However….”
Lord Ravonov prepared himself for the worst. He felt his body was dragged through lava and cacti with every word his daughter propelled against him. Even after all that she still had more to say! He couldn’t blame her at all, but this conversation now seemed more like a torture session than anything.
“You sent Favro on a mission of some sort. I haven’t seen him since you dismissed him from the estate several years ago. What were you planning with that?”
Ravonov eased down a bit. Better for things to turn into an interrogation than being submitted to more verbal torture. “Chance and Favro never met, and when I realized my errors I immediately planned my road to atonement. I ordered him to scavenge for a Demon Fruit, and during that I asked some comrades of mine to take Chance away for a few years.”
“How inexcusable,” Eirin chided. “You didn’t tell anyone a thing, either. Dare I say, your plan seems akin to kidnapping than atonement!”
“In the end it did more good than harm.” Ravonov’s composure remained unwavering but Eirin saw a bout of weakness when he cleared his throat. “During this time Chance’s parents declared mutiny against the Navy and they sought out the boy for compensation. I knew your intelligence would find something amiss, but I’m thankful Howard put the pieces together and assured you everything would be fine.”
“He acted as a better father than you, too.” Eirin huffed and looked away. Ravonov gritted his teeth in shame and lost all of his composure in favor of an anguished expression. When Eirin returned her gaze to him he quickly resumed his cold demeanor. “Your explanations certainly seem credible, but what purpose were you travelling towards in light of all these struggles?”
“Chance is a free spirit like you and Howard. There is no doubt the three of you would eventually set sail and pursue your dreams, perhaps even find your own crew to call true compatriots. Had I not set sail I would have never met your mother, Favro or Chance’s parents.” A longing sigh treaded from his mouth. Some nostalgia hit him and he reveled at the feeling but snapped out of it when he remembered where he was.
“But my dreams are bound to this island. You three deserve more, and I’ve been planning to help you since then but some obstacles were more difficult to bypass than most. The Navy’s return is a glaring blight on this island which I’ll alleviate after all is said and done.”
“And what exactly have your fruits of labor accumulated into? I don’t doubt my strength let alone Chance or Howard’s, but a regiment of Navy ships would spurn any self-respecting seafarer.” Eirin pitched a credible concern but Montrel didn’t waver.
“The pact has been broken,” he stated plainly. “A glaring offense against me and the people of this island. There are some things worth forgiving, but what the Navy did to this island years ago is inexcusable. Our nobility used to have heart, but now most of them are disillusioned.”
Eirin furrowed her brows in thought. “Our nobility used to be different?” she inquired. Montrel nodded.
“After the massacre the Navy intended to usurp the island with nobles of their own. At first they attempted to persuade people with pretty coin, but if that proved unsuccessful those who didn’t agree were subjected to blackmail or harassment. Your mother fell on the distant end of the spectrum and rallied some of us to combat their attempts.”
Eirin furrowed her brows in thought. “And I assume that led to the tenuous pact you mentioned before?”
“Precisely,” Montrel confirmed. “However, the roots of evil managed to plant themselves within the island. I’m sure you can deduce what happened to your mother afterwards.” They fell into a bitter silence. Eirin let the words soak into her mind despite a lingering uneasiness telling her otherwise.
“Then in truth it’s the Navy’s fault for our loss. Don’t you dare fail with your efforts.” Eirin looked her father right in the eyes with an ambitious expression on her face. Not a single speck of disdain covered her words, and Montrel surged with happiness at this. He found difficulty placing his feelings into a smile so instead he nodded strongly.
“I’ve held you here long enough. I told Favro to seek out Chance, and if all went well they should be meeting up with Howard at his old quarters. Make haste, Eirin!” He stood up and prepared to walk away, but Eirin approached him and hugged him tightly.
“I do forgive you for what you’ve done,” she said without an iota of resentment. “But if you don’t oust the Navy from here then I certainly will never forget this injustice!” She gave him a determined smile and then sped down the road. The hug shocked Montrel so greatly a tear started trickling down his cheek. He wanted to say something – anything, before she disappeared from his vision for what could be the last time. A knot blocked his throat and he lost his chance.
But he didn’t feel disappointed. He calmly walked away while drying his cheek with a handkerchief that was tucked inside a coat pocket. Words wouldn’t work for a situation like this, he needed to show Eirin how he felt. And what better way to do so than ridding the island of the Navy?
Either way he was planning to do that, but he still felt that wouldn’t do justice for her. When she and the other two inevitably set sail having the Navy off their backs would certainly show more gratitude. Any way to spite those government dogs would surely be a boon, and that seemed like a nice way to repay Chance.