Pirates of Shenkuu: Part Three
"We need more than two pets to make a crew," Panbu points out as I pace nervously around the ship. "You said so yourself. Even the smallest pirate ship crews have at least three pets, usually more. If we're going to go into hand-to-hand combat with another ship, we need more than two pairs of hands."
"I've been working my tail off at Fanciful Fauna, trying to earn money to get a better weapon than my practice fan," I grumble. "I've got more than enough to worry about at the moment, trust me. What about you? Where's your weapon?"
"I've got my wooden staff from the dojo," Panbu says. "And we've both got our leather helmets. That's about it."
I groan. As if things couldn't get any worse, my 4,000 NP fee couldn't cover all the wood needed to repair the ship, and there were still a few spokes missing on the wheel when the ship came back from Hangyun's, not to mention the half-finished Crokabek's nest.
"Let's fly over to Wonderous Weaponry," I mutter, steppin onboard to my new ship. "Maybe they'll have some cheap throwing stars or something."
Panbu's not half-bad at hoisting the sails, and we have the ship flying in no time. Wonderous Weaponry isn't far from our house, which is good because I'm no good at navigation, and Panbu isn't either. It's all I can do to keep us from impaling ourselves on anything or crashing into a gorge as we weave precariously through the ravines of Shenkuu. It doesn't help that this is the mistiest land in all of Neopia; it's hard to see things when the fog covers practically everything.
"Well, look who's here," Nishi calls, from where she's perched on a boulder near Wonderous Weaponry.
"Where's the Weapon Master?" I call back, my heart sinking. I'd much rather have the friendly Shoyru show us around the shop than the annoying Draik sitting in front of us.
"Busy," she answers. She puts down the sword she's polishing and stands, examining our ship with a critical eye. "Does your father know you're sailing his ship around, Aisheng? And what's with the bright purple sails?"
"It's not his ship," I say, ignoring her last question. "It's mine. I bought it a few days ago from Hangyun's."
"Great Fyora, so you really did," Nishi murmurs, looking impressed in spite of herself. "I suppose you're here for some weapons, then? It'll be hard to beat any pirates with those." She flicks her tail around to point to our wooden practice weapons.
"No. What are some of your. . .cheaper weapons?" I ask, gliding down to the ground and pulling the ship forward carefully, careful to not let it slam into the rock. I tie it to one of the posts at the shop's harbor, knotting it with a few tricks Feiling taught me.
"I'm assuming wooden and paper products are out of the question?" Nishi remarks, watching me tie up the ship with a critical gaze. I lift my chin, smiling slightly as I let go of the rope and the boat stays. Panbu climbs down, landing heavily on the ground.
"Yes," I answer. "We've got quite enough of those."
"Well. . .we've got staffs, throwing stars, sais. . ." She flips her own into the air. "Shields, bows, knives, stuff like that. It'd be really useful for you to know how to use a throwing star or a bow, so you can put holes in their sails, forcing them to land so you can catch them."
"I can't use a bow," I mutter, while Panbu nods in agreement.
Nishi rolls her eyes. "Of course you don't. Well, I'll get you some throwing stars. You should be able to learn how to use those alright fairly quickly—but I'm not guaranteeing anything. And you have to work at it."
We nod, and she continues. "Luckily, I know how to use a bow, so. . ."
"So you'll teach us?" I ask excitedly. "How about swords? Can you use those too?"
She shakes her head crossly. "No. Stop interrupting. It would take you way too long to learn how to use a bow; you'd end up shooting your own sails or wasting arrows on the trees. Stars are easier to use and cheaper, too. You're pretty good with a staff, Panbu, so you should be fine in regards to close-range stuff. Your wooden one should work fine."
"What about me?" I ask. "I'm guessing my wooden fan won't be very useful."
"No. How much money have you got?" she leans against my ship, stroking its sides and wincing. Apparently she's got a splinter—serves her right.
"About 2,000 NP now," I say, hastily counting up all my change. I've been working hard ever since I bought the ship, and it's paid off.
"I can get you some real fans for that much. Granted, they'll be pretty poor quality, but they should do for now. Add on another 500 and I can get you a dozen cheap stars." She holds out her hand, swinging the sai back and forth in the other. Panbu and I give her all our money, and she sprints into the shop, coming back out a few minutes later with a pair of flimsy-looking fans and two small bags of throwing stars.
"Looks like we'll have to pass on the bow, then," I remark, climbing onboard the ship as Panbu works at the knots tying it to the harbor post. "Too bad. It would have helped." I turn around and jump about a mile in the air when I see Nishi there, leaning casually on the wheel as if she does it every day.
"What are you doing here?" I hiss, trying to push past her. She swats me backward with her tail, yanking on the wheel so that we spin around, almost scraping the other ships in the harbor. Panbu wails at the end of the rope, and I hastily pull him up.
"Let's face it: you two are pretty bad at fighting," Nishi says. "Not only that, but neither of you can use a bow."
"I'm not bad with fans," I protest, but she cuts me off.
"You've never fought anything but a practice dummy. And saying you're the best in your class isn't much—you're in the junior class. Unlike me, you haven't even graduated yet. I deal with weapons every day." To demonstrate this, she pulls a satchel off her back and unzips it. Inside is a bow shaped like a Kazeriu and a quiver of Naleap feather-tipped arrows.
"You want to be part of our crew?" Panbu gasps, staggering forward and staring at the bow. I didn't know much about weapons, but I can't help staring either. It looks both extremely expensive and extremely deadly.
"What better way to see the world?" She shrugs. "Let's face it, there's only so much training I can get, stuck here in a weapons shop in Shenkuu. There are different ways of fighting, and I'll be off to a rough start if all I know is the Shenkuu way. I aim to be a great warrior, and make my name known in the Battledome. Shenkuu doesn't even have one."
"Do you have to come with us?" Panbu mutters, edging around her to the other side of the boat. Stored in a box at the rear is his staff, along with my wooden fans.
"Might as well," she says. "I don't have nearly enough money to get a ship. And I know Aisheng, at least will be going somewhere."
"Me?" I ask, surprised. "What's with all the times you were shooting me down, telling me I could never be a pirate?"
Nishi sighs impatiently, then looks down at the ground, looking quite unlike herself. "Look," she mutters. "I was wrong. I just. . .I didn't want you to fly off and go on adventures, while I. . .I'd be stuck here. Forever."
"Oh." A wave of relief washes over me, and I smile. "Well, you don't have to worry about that, Nishi. You're coming with us. With your help, we'll be able to catch the pirates in no time."
She smiles back at me, and for a moment I think maybe this won't be so bad at all--with Nishi and Panbu, this task of catching enough pirates to get a proper ship doesn't seem too bad at all.
"Uh, guys?" Panbu beaks in, sounding nervous. "We have a problem." He stands near the masts, watching the sails. My heart leaps into my throat--had one of them snagged on a branch?
"What?" I ask, drumming my fingers on the wheel. "S-something wrong?"
"Well, I. . .I mean. . .you and I can steer just fine, but you have to know more," Panbu stammers. "What I mean to say is, it's not enough. We need a navigator, someone who can work a compass and make charts and use instruments to plot courses, and to steer us in a storm."
"Oh," I say, feeling stupid. Of course. I turn toward Nishi, my face hopeful. "I don't suppose you can navigate ships?"
She shakes her head too quickly.
"But you know someone who can," Panbu growls. "Come on, Nishi. We let you on the ship. Now you have to help us."
"Fine," Nishi sighs, looking annoyed. "My cousin. He's almost out of navigational school, and he's looking for work. If you know the way there, we can persuade him to join--I'm sure he'd love to. He's been turned down one too many times, and he's getting desperate."
"Would we have to pay him?" I ask, examining my empty wallet. Panbu does likewise, and comes up with only a few NP.
"No, he has to do a certain number of hours internship before he can graduate," Nishi explains. "That should work until he graduates, by which point we'll probably have some money from bounties. We can pay him then."
"Great," I murmur. "Open the sails a little more, Panbu," I say, raising my voice. "We're heading to the Navigational Academy."
"Aye, aye, captain," he says, and Nishi swings the wheel to the right. We swerve past a cliff, and we're on our way, heading into the mists.
To be continued...