Chapter 6: Desperate Times
Location: The Steamhawke
Blood. Screaming. Death. Fear.
What did these four have in common? They all featured heavily in Mei-Xiu's nightmares, very heavily. As she slashed throats, watched blood spill, jabbed, and gorged it was as if she could not even control her body. Then it was her turn to be the hunted, she was chased through a dark alley by angry brutes with fists, swords, bloodied daggers, spiked clubs, and guns until she arrived at a dead end. Before she knew, she was suddenly watching Shou and his daughter, Kaguya, getting viciously tortured. She woke up in tears with a loud, sharp, and horrible shriek.
Kichi jumped down on her uncovered stomach, looked at her with big brown eyes, and hugged her. Despite her continued sobbing, she hugged the little monkey and rocked him back and forth. The half-awake murmurings around her told her he wasn't the only one she woke up. Ivan grumbled slightly from his position on a chair in the corner of the darkened hold. It seemed he had been, until just recently, sleeping with his back against the wall and his feet propped up on small barrel.
He scanned the room briefly. The other sailors in the hold seemed used to interruptions and had swiftly returned to slumber. However Ivan found himself prevented from doing the same, as he felt some concern for the sobbing girl with the monkey. Softly, so as not to wake the other crew members, he spoke out. “Is... something the matter... girl?”
Mei-Xiu jumped a bit due to both the nerve-racking anxiety inside of her and the fact that she hadn't noticed the bulky man due to the darkness."Oh, Ivan it's you" she said speedily, running her words together. She was afraid of sounding childish but decided to tell him anyway. "It's...I'm..." The words wouldn't come out of her mouth. "It sounds silly, but I had a nightmare about my past and then about other things that haven't happened." She took a breath,"I have them a lot, actually...and they're really horrible.”
Ivan was reminded slightly of his younger days. It seemed like yesterday he was having nightmares and flashbacks from the war and his subsequent operations. He’d had many sleepless nights himself, once upon a time. “It’s only... natural... girl.” Ivan started. “One always dwells... on tragedy... even if one wishes... not to.” Ivan nodded gently. “Someday... you’ll have nice dreams again... I’m sure.”
"Thank you." Mei wondered if those dreams would ever be gone for good, though she certainly hoped they would be. As he looked at the Tainted man, she wondered if the crew really accepted him despite...being different."Is hard for you being...not like most?" She hoped she didn't offend him,"If the question is hurtful you don't have to answer, it's just that it is hard for me."
Ivan nodded understandingly. He was used to such questions, and really they didn’t bother him. It was natural to be curious. Even if he was the type to take offense, he knew she hadn’t asked simply out of wonder. “It’s... hard.” Ivan started. “But... life is hard... for everyone... everyone has their own... troubles. Mine are just... a little more... obvious.” Ivan finished up with a chuckle, but it turned into a wheeze quickly.
Mei smiled at Ivan's chuckle, she was glad he wasn't offended. Now that she thought about it,she should probably get to know him better, he seemed nice and understanding. The girl still had something she knew she needed to ask."How do you keep people from being scared of you, like they are of me?"
Ivan made a horrible noise in response, one vaguely reminiscent of a sigh. It was probably the best approximation he could make. “Many people... will fear... no matter what you... do...” he said with a tinge of sorrow. “But... despite that... you just have to show... you’re not something to fear... and the rest will... come around.”
Despite the disappointing answer,Mei-Xiu gave a small grin,at least he was being honest. His response had at least inspired some hope in the blade-filled automaton that she could improve things."Thank you for the advice,Ivan,and more importantly thank you for being here for me." The young woman now knew she had one more friend one the ship,one who was a little different,one a little like herself.