Slade left his half-aware state, opening his eyes casually. He glanced up the pair of legs directly in front of him.
A metal dish struck the wooden floor with a resounding clang, swiveling around noisily a few times before finally settling down. Slade looked upward, meeting the man standing above him with an empty stare. The red-eyed man nonchalantly acknowledged his prisoner's blank expression, turning back and heading up the stairs.
He glanced at the dish. The plate itself, fashioned from some kind of metal, had obviously not been cleaned in a while, tarnished from all of the identical meals he had either consumed or forgone, prior. Atop the dish sat some mysterious piece of meat, its exact identity as unclear as his captors' destination. Without an appetite, though, the meat was all but useless, so all he opted to do was simply ignore the riddle of a meal.
Closing his eyes halfway as he leaned sideways, Slade lay diagonally to the floor, his right arm supporting him. Directly in front of his waist laid a bowl of water, rivaling the food dish in its state of being unkempt. The tinted brown liquid within, rolling around the edges to the motion of the ship, rippled as he grabbed a handful of it, splashing it against his face before finally slumping over onto his side.
As the man lay on his side calmly, no one who had not bear witness to the events that had transpired would have ever guessed that, eleven days ago, the now-humbled man had effortlessly beaten down three soldiers of the battalion known as the Platinum Edge. To the uninformed spectator, however, the man positioned on the floor was nothing more than a simple prisoner, who could very well have been rendered unconscious by the first blow of the "invasion" on that uncharted piece of land.
Opposite Slade, quite a distance away, sat his co-Islander and trustworthy friend Ry. Closed eyes and long blonde hair partially hid the distressed look on his face, but, as Slade had noted, he didn't seem to be taking the whole chain of events too well.
The room in question that they were both confined possessed next to no defining features of any sort. A quite bland wooden chamber to begin with, its original purpose was most likely that of storage, as the design seemed to indicate. However, it seemed to have been converted to a room to hold prisoners such as him and Ry in, as the excess of space in the chamber made evident. Slade had guessed similar rooms existed on the other vessels, where the other Islanders were theoretically being kept. Each of the three sturdier walls gave host to three pairs of chains and fetters.
The wall on Slade's left, which faced the outside of the ship, however, was a rather light, run-down arrangement of planks. The wall itself was the only real indication as to the time of day that one could perceive, rays of light piercing through the cracks and holes strewn about the wall, and illuminating the otherwise immensely dim compartment. On the right, a wooden stairway was positioned, simply leading up to an intersection and ultimately to the main deck, as he had recalled from the red-eyed man temporarily freeing and escorting him out to relieve himself, from time to time.
The image of his crumpled friend loosely chained to the wall as he was, faded as his vision once again gave way to the notion of sleep.
His mind lingered in the void of half-consciousness.
Numerous old memories started flowing through his mind at the sound of the voice, almost fearful in nature.
"Slade..." The voice grew louder, seeming to boom endlessly through the deep blue space of his mind's eye.
"Where are you?" The volume and concern of the voice only grew.
Slade's eyes darted open as he jumped back to consciousness. As he did so, his arms scrambled instinctively to raise the body, temporarily forgetting he was interned within a large naval vessel, headed nowhere specific except "the mainland". As his arms had jerked quickly, the sound of the chains made reminded him of his shameful location, grinding his momentum to a halt.
Examining the shackles around his wrists motionlessly, he thought about what had just gone on inside of his head. He spoke softly to himself, "That voice..."
Of course; it was Missa, whose voice he had not heard in a seeming eternity. Slade continued in his quiet one-way conversation. "Could she be aboard the ship...?"
No response. "Of course not...last thing I remember..."
The desperate sight of two smirking troops dragging her to a different vessel, right before he had been bludgeoned in the back of the skull, was well burnt into his mind. Why would they take her back around into the same ship, after he lost consciousness? If she was indeed on the ship, then why had she not said anything until just now, abruptly stop after calling out for him?
Slade prematurely concluded it was just a dream, before settling down once again to rest, head aching from a hunger induced by lack of appetite.
In the same position he drifted off in, Slade found himself awake. Finding it hard to focus in the room, early morning skies failing to adequately light the interior, he could only see directly in front of him. Both the bowl and the plate were absent. Tugging his wrist and consequently the chains, he ruled out the possibility of being moved yet not waking up from being forced elsewhere. Finally able to see in the dark, he shifted his focus outward, noticing something much more significant: Ry was gone.
The ship bobbed up and down in the water, but didn't seem to be moving forward. The idle sounds of random chatter and movement upon the floors, all around but seemingly so far away, were louder than usual. Slade, despite the somewhat recent turn of events in his life, found this to be a drastic change. He mustered a sound outward: "Hey!"
A pair of footsteps grew in volume, moving closer laterally, light dancing down the stairway as the footsteps moved downward. Turning the corner into the room of his solitude, he looked in. He asked, "You okay?", the illumination of the lantern reflecting in his red eyes.
Slade winced at the light, which he felt like he was not reflecting, but wholly absorbing into his eyes. "...Where's Ry at?"
"I'm assuming you mean your friend...He is...off the ship, already."
He pushed himself back upward into a sitting position, guessing he would not give up the location of his comrade. "Oh...I see. Where are we at?"
"We're in the southern port of Cirron," he said, advancing toward the prisoner's position. "Here, let me get you out of those." The light grew brighter as it came closer, Slade's squint equally intensifying.
Setting the lantern down, the man pulled a key ring from his belt, sifting through it, before settling on a key that matched the run-down, rusted state of the chains themselves. With two quick jabs and revolutions, the shackles were undone.
Slade rubbed his wrists, almost instinctively, now that he could. "Thanks, I guess." The other man grunted in acknowledgement.
"Yeah, no problem...Come on, let's go."
The man, out of nowhere, grasped one of the chains that had just moments ago bound Slade to the somewhat desolate wall. With one mighty jerking motion, he pulled the chain and its base right out from the wall, the sound of wood breaking spreading throughout the ship.
Slade almost reflexively spun around at the loud sound and image of a man wielding a chain dangerously close to his unarmed presence, moving into a hostile position. The man simply smiled and shook his head, placing a finger over his lips to request that he maintain an aura of silence; the expression on the prisoner's face changed from that of hostility to being completely puzzled. Holding onto the chain he had just retrieved, he cautiously fed it through a hole worn in the outer wall, making sure not to make any more noise than he should, before outright releasing it into the water. A quiet splash confirmed his success as he looked about hastily, retrieving his lantern once more.
Slade took a large step toward the man. "What was that for?" he inquired, very quietly.
"I'll explain later."
The man grinned. Slade, however, was still as confused as he was a few moments ago.
Re-acquainting himself with the concept of walking, he began to head up the stairs, his red-eyed escort following. As he did, his thoughts graced the subject of why exactly the red-eyed man treated him the way he did, not to mention the motives and perhaps purpose of what he had just done.
To Ry, the man was completely silent, almost failing to acknowledge him altogether. Ry regained consciousness with meals solely waiting for him, whereas the man took the duty of waking him up whenever he gave something to him, in its relatively fresh state, so he had noticed.
Then there was the action the man had just taken. Why, of all things, did he pull the chain out of the wall, only to sling it into the water? What did he hope to achieve by doing that? Perhaps this was a test of some sort.
Halfway up the stairs, a long, flat step was present, providing a level intersection to a hallway on the right. Slade, following his own shadow generated by the lantern, nearly jumped at the sound of a voice down that hallway. It was the first soldier he had taken out eleven days ago; or was it twelve now?
"Where are you going with him?" he asked. A dirty expression formed on his face as the man caressed the right side of his ribcage, still bandaged from the blow he had received close to a fortnight ago.
Slade looked backwards behind him at his escort. He let out a deep breath, recovering somewhat from the startling he had just received. "He, well...I was instructed to take him up to the camp."
"The camp...I thought we were taking that man to the general?"
Slade talked quietly to himself once more. "The general?"
The man smiled once more. "New orders."
"Does the commandant know?"
"Of course. Why wouldn't he?"
"Heh, whatever." The man finally took the hand off from his ribs, turning back around as he brushed some hair out of his face. "Carry on, I suppose." He glanced over his shoulder, glaring at the two men heading up the second set of stairs.
Moving to the main deck, Slade looked back. His escort was also looking back toward that intersection, as if he were waiting for something. Slade placed a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine...Come on, let's pick up the pace."
As the two reached the deck, the man once again looked about nervously. No one was on the deck. His tone, while retaining its quietness, grew more impatient. "Come on, let's go!"
He took the lead now, walking quite rapidly down the ramp leading to the port. Some soldiers were down on the port, idly conversing, as the two men continued past them in a hasty stride.
One of the soldiers abruptly broke his conversation with his colleague, fixing a stare on the officer and captive that just passed them by. "Hey!" he bellowed out, as a sort of low yell. "Where are you going?"
The man stopped once again, straightening out his uniform. "New orders; no time to explain!"
Both groups gazed at each other untrustingly. "Let me go get the commandant," the soldier said, in the same low, heavy tone.
"No time!" Nervously uttering his last phrase, he started to run. Thrown off-guard by the sudden movement, Slade could only follow after him. Giving a passing glance behind him, he noticed both soldiers weren't chasing after them.
They were rather running back to the ship.
Slade sprinted after his friend of sorts, finding wind to yell at him. "What's going on?!"
"I...told you...I'll explain later!"
The two ran throughout the winding, stone-paved roadways of Cirron for several minutes, the red-eyed leading the way and Slade scrambling to keep up, before the leader of the two stopped to catch his breath.
Running a little bit past him and circling around his position as he stopped, Slade stooped forward, breathing hard. Not having have run that hard and long for at least three years, his endurance was evidently not that of his leader's. The taste of blood was beginning to emerge in the back of his mouth, as the man looked around the corner. He was winded, but nowhere near as badly as Slade.
He began walking again, signaling Slade with a stroke of the neck to follow him, albeit slowly, down the stony path once more. "I think we lost 'em," he said.
Slade nodded, finding no need or desire to speak and interrupt his panting. The two continued down the path for a few moments, before both of them, in seeming unison, broke into a light jog.
By now, the suspense was killing him; he was dying to know. "Tell me; what's going on? Who are you?"
"My name is irrelevant."
Slade found an ounce of bad humor in his tired state. "Ha...What a coincidence, Irrelevant; that's my name too."
The two slowed to a walking state again. "Tell me...Irrelevant," the man grinned, I saw you back on that Republic of Island," the latter three words stated mockingly. "Where did you learn to fight like that?"
"Years of training. That's all," Slade replied, looking to his right at Irrelevant.
"Really now..." he said idly, his gaze fixed on the area behind the Islander's right ear. Slade instinctively placed a hand over the area the man was staring at.
Irrelevant continued. "Tell me...Did your parents ever tell you the story...you know...of the world's creation?"
Slade thought about it. "I..." he deliberated. "I don't re---"
Four soldiers quite a distance away rounded the corner and stopped, analyzing the next move they should make; that is, before they made eye contact with their own culprits.
Slade and Irrelevant spun around upon earshot. Three of them were rapidly closing in on their position, one staying back, throwing some sort of signals around the corner. Slade and his evident partner awaited their nemeses, reaching for every ounce of strength within them. The other looked at Slade.
"Get out of here. Run north and th—"
"No," Slade interrupted firmly. You helped me out---or so I think---So, yeah, I'm not gonna just run away from you at the slightest sign of trouble."
They both assumed their own martial stances and gave each other one last look, nodding in a newfound unison. They looked on at the three soldiers charging toward them, two more now in tow. One of them, bandages around his ribs, was smiling.
Taunting, Slade merely smiled back at him.