Better to be loved than feared
Chapter 6: Desperate Times
Location: Captain's Quarters
Timeline: Sometime after Ed's death
Mei thought her words over so as not to sound whiny.'Why do people fear me?' Wait,that would be a dumb question as she knew exactly why.She stood at the door of the Captain's cabin,just staring.Why did this have to be so hard? As Mei-Xiu looked at the bouquet of white and pink roses she had brought for Captain Daenelia,she remembered all she had to be grateful to her for.A home,pay,a ticket out of Gamshen,and a second chance for starters.
She still knew that she didn't want people to fear her anymore but she did want them to take her more seriously than Erm.No,the automaton wanted to be friends with the rest of the crew before she ended up...ended up like Ed.With that in mind, Mei stared at the door once again and knocked.
"Yes? Come in!" The captain shouted as she hid a letter under a stack of books on her desk. Mei-Xui opened the door and walked in, cradling the roses in her arms like a baby.
"Do you have a minute, Captain?" she asked.
"Yes, yes, of course," Daenelia picked up a pencil and put it down again, then straightened her desk as best she could. "What is it, Mei-Xiu?"
The automaton showed little emotion at the best of times, and Daenelia always had trouble telling what she was thinking or feeling. Somewhere in the back of her mind, the captain always wondered how much Mei-Xiu really felt. Like normal people, like her. It was one of the things that sometimes made it hard to connect to Mei-Xiu. Daenelia counted herself lucky that she had such an accomplished assassin in her crew, and that most of the crew seemed to accept her. But she also worried about word getting about that the Steamhawke held such a prize. Not the assassin bit, but the automaton bit. She knew many pirate captains would not have hesitated to sell the poor girl. Daenelia almost raised her eyebrows as she realized she did see Mei-Xiu as a girl first. She transformed her expression to one of genuine wonder, as to what Mei-Xiu wanted to talk about.
"Uh,first,here's some flowers.I heard people like flowers." Mei-Xiu handed her captain flowers with awkward speed."I...I don't want to sound ungrateful,but how do I make people like me? I mean everyone panics a little when they find out I'm an automaton." She looked down to her nervously twiddling fingers,"...And aren't that comfortable around me afterwords..." The girl looked up after saying the last part softly,"I mean I try not to let them know but then they see me in battle...with blades coming out of my body.Except Erm who wants to mutilate himself for me apparently." That was one mental image not coming out of head anytime soon...
Daenelia smiled, still holding the flowers she'd been handed. "I will have to put these in fresh water before we leave." She put the flowers on the desk for now. It was a hard question to answer, straight away. How to make people like you. Daenelia had tried to figure that out when she was younger and lately, she felt she had just... given up. Captains don't need to be liked, she had been told once. They need to be obeyed.
"Mei," she started to say. "It's different for everyone. I don't think you can make people like you." Mei-Xiu looked at her intently, urging her to go on. "Well. Ehm. I know you're a sweet person. You're kind, and quiet and ... Well, you're just fine the way you are. But you are an automaton. People will see that first. And the crew has been in awe of you since the battle. I have heard them talk, and yes: some are scared of you. And some think you are a great pirate." She left out the ones that had wondered if the Captain was going to sell off this thing to the highest bidder once they came into port. Those ones were no longer with the crew anyway. Daenelia had had them thrown off as soon as they landed in the water.
Mei-Xiu sighed and fiddled with her clothes. "But ... I see them laughing together, and they share food together. And I am never included." Mei realized she was sniffling.
In a way Mei-Xui sounded like a teenager trying to fit in. Daenelia assumed Mei was much older than that, but sometimes people and automatons aren't given the chance to grow up properly. Mei must have spent most of her younger years being trained and altered. Never found much time to socialize with people, beyond what she was asked to do. "I think, you have to like yourself first." Daenelia said. It sounded like something her mother would have said. And she continued, thinking of her mother's advice when she was 12. "Don't hide being who you are. Not on board anyway."
"I like myself to an extent but it's hard to forget the past." She looked up to her captain almost like a child would look up to a teacher."I'd like to forgive myself but I don't know how." "I mean they weren't good people,but..." Wait,what did Captain Dae just say? Mouth opened in shock,"Others like me? I mean Ivan is nice to me,Ivan the war dog that is." Mei back tracked slightly out of guilt,"I mean there's nothing wrong with Ivan the doctor." The girl was lying,she had heard plenty of horror stories about him.
"Oh, Ivan the doctor...," Daenelia wondered why she hadn't had him put overboard yet. "But yes, Ivan the war dog... He's a great asset to the crew." Daenelia understood the instinctive trust that Mei seemed to feel for the big man with the gas-mask. She had felt it too. It was strange not to be able to look straight into someone's eyes, and Ivan was an intimidating form of a man. But the way he moved, and his slow speech, and more importantly how he said things, had impressed Daenelia enough to forget how frightening the man looked. She wondered if Mei noticed it at all. She gestured with a hand and asked: "You're not bothered by how he looks?"
Mei-Xiu looked at Daenelia as if she had said something nonsensical,"He did seem intimating at first,but he's a kind person who seems to understand my predicament." Mei remembered how comforting,patient,and well-humored the large man was when she was crying in her hammock.It figured that the large tainted man would know what it was like to be feared by the people you wanted as friends.
Daenelia nodded. "You know, there are far more people on board who are uneasy with Ivan. It is good that he has a friend in you," she said. She paused while she thought about which other people on board were kind and gentle. To be honest, she couldn't think of many. The crew was a bunch of cutthroat pirates, after all. "It may be hard to find many friends on board, Mei," she added softly. She straightened up and took a deep breath through her nose.
"Just be yourself." Daenelia wished someone had told her that years ago. "Don't pretend to be something you're not, just to get people to like you." Mei-Xiu looked at her, waiting to say something more.
"Well, you can always try to find someone to share a hobby with. Ehrr, Faizal draws pictures for instance. And McGinty collects bottle corks. Dottie enjoys fencing and sword fights. I think Finn likes spear fishing." She nodded. "You should find a hobby. Something to do, other than fighting and fixing things." Daenelia's mind went to the excellent bottle of cognac she had stowed away. Drinking was not a hobby, she chastised herself. Not anymore. "Or.. learn to play a musical instrument! The crew love to be entertained by music!" Actually, Daenelia loved music. The crew were more divided on the subject. The last musician to play during dinner had nearly been thrown overboard by drunken mates.
Daenelia watched Mei-Xiu, as she took it all in, almost as if she was making mental notes.
Mei-Xiu had already decided she didn't like Dottie after the whole "Erm" incident but learning an instrument was a good idea...as long as she didn't end up like the last musician. That unfortunate musician had started up non-objectionably mediocre,but after a few too many bottles and a terribly played and horribly sung song about millipedes and issues with his father,was forced off the ship screaming.'I guess that's why personal issues are personal',she thought silently.
Mei wondered if Faizal knew anything about painting,"Well,learning an instrument and painting are on the list of things I want to do before I,well...you know.And I am pretty good at dancing."
"Well, there you go!" Daenelia said with a smile. "Might I suggest learning the ocarina? It's easy to carry around, it sounds nice, ... I love it." The Captain kept smiling as she remembered someone who used to serenade her with sweet love songs on an ocarina. "There is a young girl selling them, near the docks. Very popular with sailors. The instruments."
Daenelia stood up and walked to the door, beckoning Mei as she walked. "Come, I don't want to cut our talk short, but I have plenty of work to do, still."
Mei faced her and smiled."I understand,thank you for the advice."