"Enter" A soft low voice said from behind the fabric screen wall. David cleared his throat and entered through the doorway with Ara behind him. It had been two days since the Bloody Lotus had dumped Charlotte Bennet onto the P.A.S Nyctimene and David had taken it as an invitation. He rolled his shoulders back and shot Arabella a slow nod as she came up next to him.

      "Captain David Brattle of the P.A.S Nyctimene, my lady captain." Arabella announced and stepped back and behind David. Captain Meiling was something out of a royal portrait. She wore a blood red folded captain's hat with a golden skull embroidered on the front. Underneath it, slick jet black hair folded into a messy bun behind her head with bangs that framed a painted face and dark brown eyes. She wore a brown leather corset beneath her burgundy coat and over her red bustled dress with gold brocade detail and an off white underskirt. As she stood, Arabella could feel the air in the room shift around her.

     "David," She said in a deep smooth voice, "You received my invitation." she slid her hand around his neck and pulled him in a hug but her dark eyes gazed like a siren at Ara. "New first mate?" She whispered. David cleared his throat as she let go of him and pushed him out of her way. He stumbled awkwardly into a bookshelf and then regained his balance. She didn't walk, but glided a few paces forward towards Arabella. She extended her hand towards her as she cocked her head to one side. Ara exchanged glances with David and took Meiling's hand only to jolt forward as Meiling suddenly pulled her face to face. "Do I frighten you, girl?" she gripped her hand tighter and Ara gulped down a gasping wince but said nothing. "I asked you a question." Ara wanted to shake  out of the face to face moment but couldn't.

     "No, my lady captain." She said strongly between clenched teeth.

     "So would you kill me if you could?" Hot breath shifted against the Ara's ear.

     "Not unless you gave me reason to, my lady captain." Ara responded. Meiling loosened the grip but still held onto her hand, still close enough to bite her nose off. Instead she flicked her free hand up dramatically and smiled with a sassy low brow. Ara bit her lip as the sharp nail of Captain Meiling's pointer finger dug slowly down her right cheek. She couldn't decide what made her want to cry out more, the pain in her lip or the pain in her cheek. When it was done, Meiling licked a bit of blood off her finger, giggling while the young woman in front of her let it trickle down her chin.

    "You'll smarten up." She said, letting go of  Ara who held her ground with a grave glare and a bleeding cheek. She then looked to David. "I want that child put in her place, whatever that means to you; hell, bed, or jail." Understanding that she was referring to Captain Bennet, he bowed.

     "Yes, my lady captain." he said and she smiled as though he had agreed to do her a favor.

      "Wonderful!" She said in delight. "Now, shall we sit down for tea?" She asked as they walked in a group across the hall. In the middle of a black tiled room was a low, white wooden table with red and gold pillows scattered around it. A ruggedly dressed girl came in with hot tea as the three sat down. 

       "Xiaxia isn't joining us?" David asked, crossing his legs under the table.

       "Oh, Xiaxia was a wind hopper." Meiling replied, flipping her hand. Ara looked to David with a confused expression but he didn't notice. Wind hopper? What the hell did that mean?  "I think she might be back later in the month but that depends were she ends up. You know how they are, flexible for themselves but never for anyone else." He nodded. Ara sipped her lapsang souchong.

      It was dark when she and David returned to the Nyctimene and sat down in his office for a drink.

       "Are you going to clean up that cheek or is it a new fashion statement?" David asked her with a smirk, grabbing a bottle of rum and two glasses from a drawer in his desk. Ara plopped herself in his chair before he could sit down and grinned. "Get up off me seat you dumb tart." She laughed and nudged his ankle with her foot before transferring herself to the seat across his desk.

       "So what's a wind hopper?" She asked as he poured her a glass and slid it over.

       "You really don't know after-" He stopped himself short and thought for a moment, "Yeah, Bennet never hired any, did she? She never much cared for their kind." He took a gulp of rum. "Anyway, wind hoppers are vagrant pirates or ship hoppers who don't really have anywhere to go to. Say you felt like leaving the Nyctimene, yeah? Well, maybe you'd work on the Bloody Lotus for a bit and then bugger off onto another ship and so on and so on. Then you just sort of get stuck in a habit where you don't stay with one captain for too long." Ara nodded slowly as she sipped her rum. "I think we should kill Charlie Bennet."

       The statement was so out of place that she coughed a bit on her drink. The conversation suddenly felt as though someone had ripped two different letters in half and sewn the mismatched pieces together. "I mean, we'll obviously leave it up to a vote but I'm just letting you know my personal preference. I think it'll be less trouble."

      "She still has a crew you know." Ara said. She thought of the girl's last breath before her blood spilling across the deck. She imagined her pleading eyes before falling through a cold cloud for the last time. It sent shivers up Ara's spine.

      "Oh please, we could take that crew. Besides, who on that ship is going to actually want revenge?" David smirked.

       I will. Ara thought but didn't dare say it out loud. "Either way, we'll talk about it tomorrow with the crew and then decide on a plan of action. Then we'll be heading toward the island."

      "The floating island?" She asked.

      "Yeah," David replied before finishing off his drink. He stood and cracked his back. "That's where Meiling's allies receive monthly payment." He told her. Ara took down the last of her drink and rolled her shoulders out. "Let's get to bed. We need to look for loot tomorrow."

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