Nocturna League (Episode 1: The Witching Book), страница 1
Nocturna League: The Witching Book
By Kell Inkston
Copyright 2015 by Kell Inkston
“The Oceans are wide and are as varied as the people who drift upon them. You will experience everything and meet everyone. Such is the nature of the ocean, that chaos incarnate. Seawater is, in essence, the very blood of adventurers.”
Chapter 1: The Duel and The Introductions
“You ready this time, kid?” a hulking, grey-scaled shark man asks, wrapping his hands with athletic tape. A ragtag crowd cheers as they ready for “ the daily whuppin’ ”, now a well-loved pastime of many upon the M.S. Nocturna.
A bruised young lady, covered with a different sort of bandages and opposite to him on the deck, is already to her feet. The slipping squeak of black sea-boots upon metal rings as she takes stance. “You won’t catch me off this time!” she says with a smirk, extending her hands to grapple through her long pea-coat.
There’s a silence as the shark man takes a deep breath, pulling the eldritch salt of the Eversea into his lungs. “Alright. On your guard, kid!”
In a blink, the two rush at one another and the crowd goes wild. The blond youth, about eighteen, slides right past the shark man’s giant frame. Before he can turn, the agile lass latches up his back fin, and puts him in a headlock.
“How about this!” She exclaims, squeezing the shark man’s dense neck with every fiber of her strength.
The shark man winces in surprise and then smiles. “Really, Colette?” He asks, raising a scaled brow and peering behind his shoulder with black eyes.
She doesn’t stop squeezing. “Really, what?”
Her opponent stretches out his arms, yawns and then, amidst the cheering and laugher of the crowd, falls flat on his back with Colette underneath.
“Wh-What the hell? Cheater!” She shouts as she fails to push the massive shark man off her.
He releases another mock yawn. “I dunno, kid. I just got real tired all of a sudden. Not sure if it’d be healthy to get up,” he says, winning agreements all around from the crowd.
Colette punches into her opponent a few seconds more, and then he gets up, freeing her from his boulder-like weight. She takes a moment to breathe, which is more than enough time for her enemy. He sweeps his leg from under her, tripping her and sending her back to the cold, salty deck.
“Looks like I win again!” The towering shark man guffaws as he crosses his arms. “You know, I really do admire your willingness to get trashed every day, but I think you should start with some easier opponents first,” he says with a shrug.
Colette brings herself back to her feet with half the vigor from last time. “Forget it, Dunks. I started hard because that’s the quickest way to improve.”
Dunklestein the Daring scoffs with a wide, sharp-toothed grin. “Sure, kid. Just keep in mind you could never choke me out the way you would a landy.”
“Yeah? And why’s that?”
Dunklestein points to his gills, and Colette draws back amidst the laughter of the crowd.
“Wait, seriously? Doesn’t that only wo-”
“Work in water?” Dunklestein interrupts, “Naw, that’s just a landy rumor. Seasorts are fish and man, so we can breathe in the air or in the drink.”
Colette nods, averting her gaze. She takes in every word, but she refuses to look like she’s valuing correction. “Alright, Dunks, cool.”
“Yeah, cool. Now you ready for another or are ya’ done?”
She takes a breath and stretches her limbs. “Another!”
“Actually, I think that’s quite enough from you two,” a voice says, its owner descending the steps from the upper decks.
Everyone hushes up and most of the crowd disperses to either get to work or hide in their quarters. Just audible over the chaos is the prompt, measured steps of black sea-boots; these ones a few sizes larger than Colette’s. Before Colette and Dunklestein stands The Captain, Commander of the M.S. Nocturna, and unofficial best captain ever.
“Now what all is this here? Explain why you’re engaging in this degenerate rapscallionry to distract the other sailors.” The tall, entirely bandaged figure demands as he fixes his round spectacles and navy captain’s hat.
Dunks smiles sheepishly as Colette sighs. “W-well, Captain. The boys and I just thought it’d be proper t’-”
“The gym’s way too small,” Colette says, cutting off Dunklestein.
Dunks cringes and The Captain looms over Colette. “Could it be that it’s too small, or is it that you simply want to impress everyone with your tomfolly?”
“No, it’s definitely too small, Cap. I need room to move or else Dunks’ll just run up and corner me.”
“Which is totally fair in a real fight, mind you,” Dunklestein says, definitely being helpful with that bit of information.
“Thanks, Funks,” Colette hisses at that relevant bit of information. “Now, as I was saying—it’s not like anyone’s actually busy except the chef and Gran, so like, why shouldn’t we entertain them a bit? You should watch sometime Cap- I’ve gotten pretty fierce!”
“Yeah, Cap. She could almost deal with split ends,” Dunklestein says.
Colette jabs a fist into Dunklestein, who shrugs it off.
The Captain stares on a moment and then nods. “I see… You say you want more space to fight, and that it wouldn’t harm anyone at this time of day?” He asks, his voice a cross between a salted, calculating veteran and a warm, thoughtful grandfather.
“Yeah, exactly,” Colette says.
“Well too bad, Jobber Colette. You two hustling about in public eye encourages in-fighting, and I need our men thinking about their work. It’s not just the chef and his apprentice that are busy, you know.”
Colette sighs, shaking her head and shrugging. “You really are hopeless, Cap.”
The Captain leans forward. “Do you really want to fight that bad? I heard you say that you felt the harder the opponent, the greater the improvement. Perhaps instead of Dunklestein the Daring, you’d like to-”
Colette throws up her hands in horror. “N-whoa! Captain! Please!”
“Swab the upper decks, Miss Ketiere,” The Captain commands plainly.
Colette nods. “Right away, Cap.” Colette fires off a sour salute and trots off to the janitor’s equipment.
The two watch her leave, and Dunklestein winces in pain and cups the spot where Colette punched him. “Gah- Cap, I know you told me I should be acting tough and all, but in the past couple days she’s been hittin’ like a damn whale. She’s so scrawny, but the way she ridges her punches… sometimes I get glimpses of you.”
The Captain nods. “She’s getting quite the competitive set of skills, don’t you think? I believe there’s hope for her winning her little wager with that overlord of hers… Really, I’m wondering if it’s time,” he says, watching Colette gather a bucket of soapy water with a cross look about her as she starts up the stairs.
“Time for what, Captain?”
“About time we had her mettle tested in a more threatening fashion; we’re almost to our destination, you know.”
Dunklestein’s dark eyes witness a small spark. “Oh? Yeah, I think she’s ready.”
“Then it’s settled. You’ll be keeping us company on the landing party,” The Captain says with a nod.
Dunklestein nods back with a smirk, but then jolts. “Wh-wait, I’m going too?”
“You heard me. Now get your gear ready,” The Captain says, peering out to the mists ahead.