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Lunar Cycle -- Chapter 1 CHAPTER ONE
Home Again
Yawning, Aika nonchalantly walked past the door to her quarters, seemingly out on the deck for a stroll. Anybody who really knew Aika would know otherwise, that she was in fact up to something. However, nobody would dare say anything to her. Trying to stop Aika from being devious was a death wish. Even Fina who seemed to see through all of Aika's tomboy antics would back off and leave the redhead alone. Especially when it came to annoying Vyse.

Such a thing was a pastime for Aika now. It was something she had done as a child, and something she still continued to do just as gleefully as ever. Not only that, but she had gotten irritating Vyse down to an art. She knew him better than anybody else, and so obviously knew how to get under his skin the best. Vyse would naturally get irritated, but then afterwards he would laugh or find a way to get back to her. It was a little game they always played, a game that poor Fina had gotten caught up in the middle of, especially recently.

The whole purpose of them returning to Crescent Isle was to celebrate Fina's eighteenth birthday. Fina didn't want them to make a big deal out of it, saying that she was perfectly happy spending the day with her friends. Vyse told her that he wouldn't stand for that, and they were going to throw a party whether Fina wanted one or not. That pretty much resolved that, and they had arrived at Crescent Isle to plan and to hopefully obtain birthday gifts.

Not only did she want to miff Vyse, but her curiosity got the better of her. This was the purpose of Aika's little stroll; she wanted to see what Vyse bought Fina for her birthday. Aika had already purchased a gift, a locket that was apparently made with a black moonstone. Obviously it wasn't a black moonstone, but the stone was fairly pretty. However, if Vyse had gotten something better for Fina, Aika would keep the locket for herself and do her best to obtain something even better for Fina. She had already been doing her best to hog Fina's attention, to dote time on her. So then Vyse would retaliate, do something even better to snag Fina's eye, and turn the tables on Aika. Fina obviously knew what was going on, but she didn't object to all the attention she was recieving.

The door to Vyse's quarters was unlocked. He generally didn't lock it, seeing that nobody really dared to go in there. Whether out of respect or out of some sort of fear, everybody on Crescent Isle kept out of their captain's quarters. Well, everybody but Aika. Glancing around furtively to make sure he wasn't nearby, she poked her head in.

"Vyse?"

No answer. The room was dark. Aika slipped in and shut the door behind her swiftly. Not exactly sure what she was looking for, she headed over to his desk, glancing at the pile of books and papers he had there. At first glance, people may believe that Vyse was your average dumb guy. Granted, he wasn't a genius, but he was working to become one. Whenever Vyse had the chance, he would read. He would read anything he could get his hands on: books on anatomy, books on navigation, short stories or reports on weather. Then he would take what knowledge he already had obtained and put it down in writing, in drawings and charts, in notes and outlines. Stacks of books that Vyse had written himself, rolls of maps and blueprints, star charts hung on the wall and illustrations he drew of various animals were testimony of his efforts on the road to knowledge.

Aika wasn't interested in Vyse's hoard of information, however. She had seen it before many times, from his charts of the southern constellations to his illustrations of flutterflies. Rifling through his desk drawers, she was looking for anything that looked relatively giftish in nature. Figuring Vyse, he would buy something relatively femanine for Fina. Obviously he didn't know that much about women, or how to guy them gifts. Some of Aika's own past birthday gifts from him were interesting to say the least. That ice cream maker he got for her this past birthday wasn't too bad, however.

Something caught her eye in the bottom desk drawer on top of a pile of manilla folders. Sitting there was a plain paper bag of small size, the sort of paper bag available at candy stores. Aika picked up the small package and peered inside, expecting candy, jewelry, anything of that manner. Inside were none of these, but what appeared to be two tickets to something or another. She was about to pull them out to read them when a voice spoke behind her.

"Looking for something?" it said mildly.

Aika jumped and spun around, tucking the small bag behind her back and shutting the drawer with a foot all in one motion. "Er, nothing Vyse....I was just hoping you'd have a spare pencil or something."

He crossed his arms and snorted. "Not only do you bust into my room, but you do a lousy job at lying about why you're here. Sometimes I wonder about you, Aika." He frowned. "And what do you have there?"

She sidled towards the door, doing her best from preventing him to see. "Nothing really...it isn't that important."

Vyse sidled along with her, already knowing what Aika held behind her back. "Give 'em back, Aika. I don't nose around in your desk, and I definately haven't tried to be nosey to find your birthday gift for Fina."

The female pirate wrinkled her nose. "Yeah right. You've been asking me every day for the past two weeks now. Now let's see what you have here..." She pulled the tickets out of the bag. Vyse didn't try to stop her. "Let's see..."Gordo's Dinner Theatre....admit one"...5000 Gold apiece? Damn that's steep." She tapped the tickets against her chin. "Pretty interesting."

He made a grab for them, and missed as Aika pulled them out of range. "Yeah, well I heard it's a funny show and the food there's pretty good. I don't really care about the price if Fina winds up happy."

She shot him a look. "And exactly why are there only two tickets here?"

"Oh please Aika....don't take it personally. It's Fina's birthday, not yours." Another grab, another miss.

"Well I'm gonna take it personally! I can't believe you!" She struck the familiar irritated Aika pose; hands on hips, shoulders thrust forward, feet splayed apart. "You'd actually exclude me?"

He smacked palm against his forhead. "Yeesh, you're being ridiculous about this. If you're that offended, then I'll find some way to confensate for this awful, horrendous crime."

"Then buy me a third ticket." Slowly her hand snaked out towards the door.

"No way in hell."

"Well then, you won't get 'em back until you do." With that, she yanked open the door and jumped out of the room. Vyse made a strangled sound, and ran after her. Aika was already making her way down the steps and towards the tavern when he made it out onto the deck. With a running leap, he jumped off the deck and landed in front of her with an irritated glare. She skidded to a halt, took a step back and ran in the opposite direction with Vyse in hot persuit.

"Aika, will you cut it out?!"

"No way in hell!" She ran past the chicken coop and up the slope of land that bordered the small lake.

Vyse sort of said something along the lines of "Youuuub-- ...eerrraaaggh!" and continued to run after her. At this point a small group of people had gathered to watch the two play the latest installment of their little annoyance game.

Hans yawned and shook his head. "They're at it again. Who do you think's winning?"

Kirala, who still carried the paintbrush she was using to paint the tavern's sign, shrugged. "I'd say this next round is Vyse--2, Aika--3." She scratched at her nose and looked up to the top of the slope, where Aika swung around one of the flagpoles in a 180. Unfortunately Vyse had anticipated this little move and stopped her short.

"Game's up, Aika. Gimme back the tickets." He held out his hand.

Aika glanced around looking for an escape route, but found none. "Er, now Vyse...I was just kidding around." She backed up until her rear end hit the railing of the small enscarpment over the lake.

"Well I'm not laughing." He stepped right up to her, and reached for the tickets. "Now fork them over already."

Aika leaned back and held the ticket-holding hand back out over the water. "Aw c'mon....can't you just buy one for me? I'll even chip in half the expense."

Vyse literally pressed against her, reaching his hand out, face contorted into a frown. "No....now just give 'em to me."

Aika gave an irritated grunt. "What the hell are you gonna do, climb on top of me? You're getting awfully damn fresh over a pair of tickets, Vyse." She leaned back over the railing even further. Vyse did likewise, ignoring the jeers of his crew members down at the far end of the lake.

"I wish they'd shut up....I'm just trying to get m--....ohshitohshit!"

Already leaning forward and standing on his toes, he lost his balance and started tipping over the rail. Aika flailed her arms and tried to pull the two of them back up, but the laws of physics took hold and they tumbled over the rail into the lake below, much to the crew's delight. Vyse surfaced, peering around through his wet bangs. Aika however did not exactly surface and tread water like Vyse so as much flailed her arms and made panicked sounds.

"V-vyse you jackass! You know I can't swim! I'm gonn--" The last sentence was cut off as she choked on some water.

He rolled his eyes and swam over to her. "Aika, calm down. Here, I've got y--stop flailing around...ow! Now you just kicked me! Hold still or you'll have to get yourself to shore!" He slipped an arm around her waist and started swimming towards shore. "That's better."

Hans chuckled. "What was that score again, Kirala? I'd say it's Vyse--4, Aika--2. He gets an extra point for being able to swim."

"Eh." was all Kirala said.

"You can stand now." Vyse let go of Aika, who stood. He snatched the tickets from her, looked at them, and slammed his fist down on the water angrily. "Oh great... Aika, because you were goofing around, the tickets are ruined. Look!" He thrust them under her nose so she could see. "The ink's run all over the place."

She blinked, looking at the tickets, and glanced at him a bit sheepishly. "Er, sorry?"

Vyse crumpled the soggy tickets, clenching his fist. "10,000 gold wasted, all because you had to be immature and goof around." He pushed her, and she fell back into the knee-deep water. "Do yourself a goddamn favor and stay away from me for the rest of the day." With that, he waded up to shore, leaving a surprised and somewhat guilty Aika lying in the water.

Fina stood on the edge of the lake, looking baffled. "Vyse, what--?"

He slapped the crumpled tickets in her hand. "Happy birthday." He removed his coat and scarf, both of which were dripping wet.

The silvite looked at the illegible writing on the tickets, then back up at Vyse, who was wringing water out of his coat. "Oh...uh, but what are these?"

He ripped his skyseer eyepatch off, which had begun to fog up, and snorted. "Ask Aika. I'm gonna go change." Turning on his heel, he stormed back to his quarters, his boots making wet squelching sounds all the while.

Fina turned to look at Aika, who had come up onto the beach, one of her braids undone from her swimming attempts. "Aika? What are these things Vyse gave me? Some sort of tickets?"

Aika shrugged. "Don't ask me." She continued on her way, leaving a bewildered Fina behind.

Kirala smugly crossed her arms. "Heh, see that Hans? I'd say the score is Vyse--3, Aika--2,000. You lose."

* * *

"I think he's still mad at me, Urala. It was an innocent little game, but I put him out quite a bit of money."

Urala continued washing the mug she held, rubbing at a stubborn spot with a rag. "But this is Vyse we're talking about. He only gets mad for a little while and then he's okay. I saw him in here earlier, and he didn't seem that angry."

Aika sighed and swirled her tea around in its mug. "Yeah still, even I think I went too far. And I'm not one to admit that, you know..." She winced. "He's gonna be mad at me for the whole day, and it's Fina's birthday today. The last thing I wanted was to let our competition get out of hand and ruin it for her."

"Oh, I don't know about that. Fina's a very understanding person. She'll be happy that her friends are with her for her birthday, and isn't that what's important? Besides, I'm sure you can pay Vyse back somehow."

The air pirate took a drink of her tea and morosely looked at Urala over the rim of the mug. "How can I?" she said, setting the mostly-empty mug down. "I don't have 10,000 gold to spend. If I did, I would've gotten something nicer for Fina, not to mention something for myself."

"We have a saying in Yafutoma, Aika....maybe it'll help you a bit with your problem: "He who causes a friend pain can only bring him more happiness later through friendship.". More tea?"

Aika nodded, holding out her mug. "So I've annoyed him now, but I can make it up to him all in good time, huh? It's worth a shot."

"There's anothing saying from Yafutoma, one that I use myself." She walked over with the small clay Yafutoman clay teapot and poured more of the mild green tea into Aika's mug. "It goes along the lines of: "Apologize."."

The redhead gave Urala a funny look. "That ain't any Yafutoman saying...that's just common sense."

"Exactly." said a voice from the doorway. Kirala wandered in and sat down at the table near Aika. "Common sense is something used world-wide. If you're wrong, then admit that you are to the one you've wronged." She turned to her sister. "I finished your sign, and it's now hanging over the door. I'll have to admit that the western form of writing is odd and hard to paint."

Urala poured her sister a mug of tea. "I appreciate it, Kirala." She eyed Aika. "Well?"

"Well what?"

"Aren't you going to go make it up to him? You have work to do, you know."

Kirala nodded. "She's right, Aika; as amusing as this little game has gotten, it has to end at some point or another. I'm not sure who's winning anymore, but I think the whole ordeal is getting beyond childish."

Aika stared into her tea. "Yeah, I suppose I can think of something..." she mumbled.

* * *

Later that night a party was held outside for Fina. It was originally planned to be held in the meeting room above the wharf, but both Vyse and Aika had decided that if the weather held, they would hold it out in the town's square. There was no rain in sight, the stars and the red moon shining brightly in the sky, and the evening was balmy, if a bit breezy. Urala spent the majority of the day cooking a large feast for the event, and Polly had come from Sailor's Isle with her family to aid the Yafutoman girl with such a large task. Between Polly, Urala and Anne a large amount of food was made, not to mention a series of tables set up beneath banners in the square. Ropes strung with lanterns crisscrossed each other high over the tables, providing a soft light from the red, yellow and blue moonstones burning within them.

Vyse stood next to the head table where he, Fina and Aika were to be seated later on and looked at his drink glumly. He wasn't exactly angry with Aika, at least that's what he kept telling himself. It's just that sometimes she could be so damn...Aika. That's the only way to term it; the one way to deem any of Aika's actions is to define them as "Aika-like". Nobody really seemed to maintain a childish core beneath a rough tomboy exterior like she did. She had perfected "Aika-like" when she was younger, and now at the age of seventeen she had gotten it down to an art. She did it so well and played her role on her own imaginary stage so flawlessly that she got away with it. And this is why Vyse stood by himself, staring at a glass of mur loqua. Some people may consider her behavior cute, but Vyse simply found it annoying.

Something brushed up against his shoulder, and he glanced up to see a somewhat shapeless quicksilver face a few inches from his own. Cupil made one of the strange sounds it always made and rolled slightly to the side.

"If you're trying to cheer me up, good luck. I'm still cranky." He took a sip from his glass, and sighed. "Well...I think I'm still cranky. Not too sure."

The creature sighed, made a face and shifted form into something resembling a cone. It quickly orbited around Vyse's head while making noises that can be compared to "vroom".

"Argg....cut it out already." He swatted at Cupil, who shifted back to its normal form, stuck its tongue out and lashed the pirate in the ear with it. Vyse made a disgusted sound and made a grab for the silver creature, but missed. Muttering, he turned as Cupil flew past again and lunged for it, only to nearly grab Fina in the face. Cupil shrunk down in size and darted into Fina's bodice, making a bubbly cooing sound that was its equivilent of laughter. Vyse crossed his arms. "Yeah sure...little snot...go the one place I won't chase you."

Fina put her hand over her breasts a bit defensively anyway. "It's only trying to cheer you up, Vyse. You've been sulking ever since this afternoon."

"Yeah, I know. I'm just a bit sour about not being able to have a gift for you. Especially when I went out of my way to get the one I had before the incident earlier today."

She smiled. "But isn't it the thought that counts? I'm happy that you did all of...whatever in order to get me those tickets. As much as I'd like to go to a dinner theatre, I'm just as happy staying here at this party, and spending it with my friends." A small noise came from somewhere in her shirt. "Cupil agrees too...so don't worry about it."

He looked up at the paper lanterns, and then gave a short laugh. "Heh, you're right. So I'm out some money and you're out a gift. It's not like we can't get back either."

Fina leaned against the table and looked ahead at something past Vyse. "That's more like it. Now I just want one more thing..."

"Name it."

She smirked at him, and pointed past him into the crowd. "Apologize to Aika, and forgive her."

Vyse looked over his shoulder to where she was pointing, and saw Aika sitting near the fountain, looking at the water quietly. He suddenly realized that she probably had been moping the same way he was a few minutes ago. "I guess....but she owes me an apology too."

"I'm sure she will, I know she feels bad about this. She told me herself. Not only that, but she's been quiet all day, and we both know Aika doesn't really get quiet." She pushed him towards the fountain. "Go make up so we can eat dinner without any uncomfortable moments, okay?"

"Okay okay, I'm going...yeesh." He walked through the crowd towards the center of the square, and sat down on the edge of the fountain, not exactly facing her. "Hey."

"Hi." She didn't even look up, just splashed at the water with her hand. She was quiet for a moment, and then gave him a sidelong glance. "I'm sorry for being such a jerk, Vyse."

"Nah, I should apologize myself for blowing up like that." He turned towards her and grinned. "You know, the two of us really should stop this competitive garbage. I'm tired of getting mad at you."

She smirked and splashed a bit of water at him. "Same here. I'll knock it off if you knock it off." She extended a hand.

"Deal." He shook it. "Now that we're not not-talking-to-each-other anymore, let's go back over to Fina. I think it's time we embarass the birthday girl in front of everybody."

Aika gave him a funny look. "You're not going to spank her eighteen times, are you Vyse? Because if you do, I swear by all the moons I'll kick your ass."

He stood, laughing. "I might be crazy at times, but I'm not THAT crazy."

From there on the party ensued without any more unpleasantness. Vyse and Aika both gave speeches about the birthday girl who was in fact embarassed from all the attention. If Fina wasn't blushing from head to toe, she was blinking away tears of happiness. The only other time she behaved differently was when Aika gave her a locket and said it was from "me and Vyse", to which Fina responded with a sly smile.

A few hours into the party, a small ship pulled into the port, one of the many small shoreboats that the Delphinus had. While some of the party-goers didn't notice it, Aika did.

"Who's that coming in, Vyse?" she said, pointing to the blinking lights of the small vessel.

He squinted at it, adjusted his skyseer patch and frowned. "Hm...looks like it's Domingo. I guess he's back already...I sort of expected him to be gone for at least a year." He stood and looked over at his two female companions. "I think it'd be best if I greet him. You two can stay here, if you want. He'll probably come over to the party for some food and loqua anyway."

"All right by me." Fina said, feeding small morsels of leftover food to Cupil.

The wharf was fairly dark as Vyse walked down the various ramps to the docks, many of the torches let to go out to conserve fuel. Domingo was stepping out of his small ship that Vyse had loaned him, looking a bit smug about something. Domingo always got that expression on his face when he had outdone his competition...and that competition was always Vyse.

"Hey there, Domingo. You're back sooner than I thought."

The explorer grinned and shook hands. "Cap'n Vyse, same as always...you always seem to greet people like they're your best friend, as if you just saw them yesterday."

"Habit pounded into my thick skull by my father. And although I'm going to regret asking this...why the huge grin?"

Domingo reached into his pocket and pulled out a small golden object and plunked it into Vyse's hand. "You never really explored all of Rolana, did you?"

Vyse looked at the small item, which felt fairly heavy for its size. It was a life-size scarab made of pure yellow and blue gold, inlaid with a fairly impressive ruby. The detailing on its shell and the legs was amazingly accurate and lifelike. "This...was there?" He held it up to the light to admire the gem in it. "Amazing...I've never seen any treasure this beautiful anywhere in the Nasr kingdom." He glanced at Domingo. "Tell me there's more..."

The treasure hunter laughed at Vyse's almost hungry expression. "There's more all right, but here's the real kick to the face: you can't get to it anymore."

"Why not? What happened to it?"

"Rolana isn't accessable anymore, Vyse. The East-Nasr Rift has swallowed it up."