It's been a little over a year and a half since everyone went their separate ways. The world's been saved and everything resumed to some kind of normalcy.
Even Erik went back to his old life, only it was far more fuller and richer in all aspects of those words. His crew was smaller when he came back, he was honestly surprised that there were any left at all. But it was like Derk though, some found better reasons to go than stay. Families, better opportunities, any reasons to go straight was a good reason as long as they didn't betray them.
Loyalty, while noble and spoken highly of even amoung criminals, was a rare thing to have. But he supposes that loyalty born from gratitude was also something hard to shake as well.
He knows that fully well, Erik was ready to turn his own leaf if he wasn't set free. He was ready to give up his ways if only the he'd asked.
But that never came and he came back to a more loyal crew than ever before. Loyalty in gratitude, from freeing not only himself but the others as well. The Vikings were left in shambles after he was done with them when they threatened his unmoving sister's life. His hesitance on taking a life was wiped away and that's when he became one of the youngest pirate captains to sail the seas.
And now he was rising to the most infamous. The power and strength he's obtained from his world saving adventure made him something to be feared of. His piracy days while still harsh, will have no opposition that can stand in his way unless they were Calasmos or the Luminary himself.
He'll sure as hell fight to the death with that thing again, but he would kneel for the Luminary.
Sometimes Erik wonders what Eleven was doing. He wonders if Eleven would be horrified if he found out how a pirate's life really was outside of the fluffed and cut out versions of the stories he's told.
He wonders if Eleven would hunt him down once he realizes how much of a felon he really was.
“Captain! The Zwaardsrust region is on the horizon!”
Erik snapped out of his thoughts. “Prepare the sails and get ready to anchor, men! Johnson!”
Erik turned around and headed towards below deck. Heavy footsteps quickly trailing behind him to catch up. The burly man was definitely one of the smarter ones on the deck and that in itself still confused why he didn't make a better life for himself.
But he was his first-mate and kept the crew together while he was gone.
“How's our stocks looking so far, Johnson? I know we'll need to send runners to Octagonia for supplies but I want to know how many.”
“We'll probably only need to send a four-man party, we only need more medical supplies and the like. Maybe some lemons or fruit if they got any.” Johnson easily reported. “We can send some scavengers out into the wilds to collect materials too, maybe even a deer or two.”
“Did one of the idiots get scurvy again?” Erik looked over his shoulder a little exasperated. “What are they, children?”
“Aye, captain.” Johnson confirmed. “Phillips and Snap caught ill yesterday and now just recovering. Bench was the one to let us know.”
“I swear, if they weren’t so damn good at their jobs, I'd throw them overboard a long time ago.”
“At least they got personality.” The burly man shrugged. “At least Bench is with them.”
“Thank Yggdrasil for that.” Erik sighed before getting back on topic. “I know for a fact that the lot of you have been excited to hit the casinos.” Erik smirked and looked at the bigger man. “We'll be docked here for at least a week so leave a skeleton crew and make sure no trouble comes back at your heels.”
“Wait, really?” Johnson perked up and then looked suspicious. “What's the catch?”
“You have to take Mia.”
A whip of blue whirled from behind them, Johnson jumped and Erik continued to walk on while giving Mia a bland look.
“You need to stop doing that, one of these days someone's heart will stop because of you.”
“I'm trying to scare you!” Mia scowled before looking hopeful. “But do you really mean that? Can I really go?”
“You can't bring trouble. And if you get into trouble that you can't get out of, don't expect one of my men to bail you out.” He gave her a pointed look. “They're going to come back here to fetch me so I can see what sorry state you got yourself into.”
Indignation silently raged through her being but a scoff came out instead. “As if that will happen.” She stuck up her nose and turned away from him. “Octagonia's full of drunkards and washouts, hardly anything for me to worry about.” Then something clicked in her head. “Wait, you're not going?”
Erik rolled his eyes at the bewildered looks that they were giving him. “I've no interest in gambling, I'm going to scavenge around myself and maybe fight a dragon up by Dundrasil.”
“Picking fights with monsters again? There's a better way to get your blood pumping with a puff-puff girl, captain.” Johnson almost sounded like he was complaining for him. “The newer members are still in a daze after that Tentacular.”
One of the most feared monsters of the sea, known to sink ships the moment they were in their hold, were now easily felled by Erik's swords. It was once a monster that Erik would fear as well, but he's fought scarier and far more powerful things than what the overgrown sea platter had to offer.
Usually, he would let his men take care of any monsters that would pop up. It was a learning experience for them, but a Tentacular wasn't something he was going to throw his men at. Even if it was child's play at this point.
“Ugh! I'm glad he's not going then!” Mia scrunched her face in disgust. “I don't need to see him getting it on with some floozy. Go hunt your stupid dragon!”
She stomped away leaving Erik slightly amused.
“Have fun with that, Johnson.” Erik smirked at his first-mate. “Make sure her hands don't get too sticky. We don't need anyone figuring out we're here.”
Johnson groan. “Me and my big mouth.”
It wasn't a secret that Mia gets defensive around women that gets interested in Erik. He doesn't exactly know why but it wasn't really an issue seeing he hasn't been interested in sleeping around for a while now. But the thing that confuses him was that Mia knew his preferences, the crew had a vague idea on his standing when it came to getting a shag.
Not that he was able to anyways. A certain hero made it hard to sleep around despite the fact that they never even hinted at each other in being interested. The few times he got drunk enough were wasted times seeing as there was no point if he could barely remember the night.
“Get me an inventory of our material stock, Johnson. And after you figure out who's the skeleton crew, tell the men they're free to head out once we fully anchored and docked.”
“Aye, aye, captain!”
Dragon hunting wasn't bad, it was interesting to find that Dundrasil was on its way to being rebuilt.
It shouldn't have surprised him honestly, but seeing the starting foundations being set made his longing even more painful. The distance between the law and his piracy now had a physical manifestation. Dundrasil's long lost prince would finally take his throne.
Erik was more surprised that the rebuilding didn't happen sooner.
But time affected everyone differently and he now had to accept the lost cause of his longing.
At least the sizable jewels the overgrown lizard had was something out of the day.
“I am a hopeless bastard.” Erik sighed to himself. “And an ungrateful one too.”
And yet as a pirate, despite getting back what he set out to do on land, he still wanted more. His greed continuing to pin after something he could never have. The pride he has for himself also prevented him from seeing the rest of his friends, or maybe it was cowardice?
Regardless of what it was, he definitely knew there was also a healthy mix of self-preservation. Everyone he knew were too good to stand his chosen career.
Erik continued on heading back towards the wheat fields of Zwaardsrust. Evening settling and the view temporarily clearing his mind, the beauty of this fallen kingdom was something he took in slowly. Warrior's Rest Inn were full of honest people and he knows his men well enough that they won't touch the place of rest.
It was much better to plunder from the opposition, honest people would always value sentiment over riches anyways.
Plus, why raid the inn when Erik knows about the treasures in the ruins next to it?
Not that he's told his crew, he respects Drustan's spirit too much to raid the last bits of his kingdom. The old warrior was most likely still residing in the labyrinth too, probably waiting for the next world ending crisis.
It was unfortunate, but it was only inevitable. Another Mordegon can rise and Calasmos had to come from somewhere.
A shadowy figure snapped Erik out of his pessimistic thoughts when they came into view. A dark cloak and hood obscuring their whole body. Erik's intuition blaring inside of him that this person was loaded. Whether it was valuables or gold, he had something priceless on them.
Curiosity got the better of him, stalking the cloaked figure trying to figure out why they would be dressed so shadily with whatever they had. It could be a runner for a noble, off to deliver something, needing the cover of obscurity to keep safe. Or maybe a fellow criminal with something too hot for them to handle.
But then, the wind blew to flash him a sword. The sheath it was in was an old leather one, beaten and nothing special, but the hilt of it has rang bells in a panic. The red gem was the first thing to give it away before he saw the the gold. It was the sword that he helped make in a damn volcano so he sure as hell wouldn't forget about it.
He wanted to know why the hell this shady bastard had it.
The moment he got close enough, he pounced. With his dagger fully brandished. What he didn't expect was the instant reaction of getting elbowed in the sternum. The strength behind it actually made him flinch and a little winded but not enough to stop him from knocking the other down.
“Alright, you shady bastard, you're going to tell me-”
A full-powered kick to the side knocked Erik over this time. The damn kick actually hurt compared to the things he's been lulling through. A thought crossing his mind wondering if this is what getting rusty was like. But then he's still able to take down a Tentacular with no troubles and he just hunted a dragon for sport.
“You little fucker-”
The man, Erik knows after that little tussle, scrambled away and reached for the sword. A spark of rage goes through Erik before he threw his dagger forcing the other to dodge instead. That this guy even dared to wield something that wasn't his, something that no other man on Erdrea would be worthy to wield, put a hot fire in him.
Though at that moment, Erik wondered why this man was wearing a single glove. The glove wasn't even on the dominant hand, the hand that reached out for the sword.
But he ignored them to rush at this shady bastard, the moment of distraction was just enough to brutally tackle him down knocking the wind out of him. Erik took out his second dagger and used it to press it firmly against the neck. The fabric of the cloak was in the way but it was no better than the skin underneath with how sharp the edge was. The rest of his body was position to ensure that this guy was pinned and without escape.
“Now, where was I?” Erik pressed his weight harder. “You're going to tell me where you got that sword, and don't bother lying, you're faster to die if you do.”
A weak groan was responded back, probably from hitting his head on the way down. Erik wasn't exactly kind when brawling so he gave the other just a second to recover.
With the shift of the stranger's head, the rest of the hood completely fell away leaving Erik to gape.
“Holy shit, El?!”
He sounded different, or more, he sounded like the time where he and Erik were tentatively getting to know each other. Quiet and subdued, something that was gone away the longer their journey together lasted.
It was just his name, but he could hear the uncertainty and hesitance lining it.
“Fuck.” Erik pulled back and off of him. “Shit, I'm so sorry, El.”
“It's- it's fine.” Eleven slowly sat up holding the back of his head. “I can heal it.”
Eleven looked different too. Hair spilled out to the side as he sat up released from the confines of his hood. They were long and flowing, maybe just stopping at the shoulder blades, shining their usual coppery bronze in both the setting sun and the glow of his magic. It was sort of weird to Erik that it still managed to maintain that perfect, unruffled trait despite having more of it.
He remembers Sylvando would have to occasionally cut it and it was then where Erik would imagine what Eleven would look like with longer hair.
Now he doesn't have to imagine anymore.
The pirate blinked back to reality. “You're... different looking.” He said dumbly. “Why?”
That was the wrong thing to ask, Eleven looked away clamming up. A hand immediately went to grasp his hood but just stopped there to hesitantly glance up at Erik.
Anger simmered at seeing Eleven being reduced back to his subdued self. He had to swallow the urge to go on a man hunt on who was responsible for this. Instead, he concentrated on his partner and held out his hand.
“Hey, you don't have to answer that if you don't want to, but can I at least ask why you're here in Zwaardsrust?”
“Sightseeing mostly.” Eleven took the offered hand. “I decided to travel again.”
“In a cloak and hood?” Erik narrowed his eyes when Eleven's hand went to his hood again. “You're more likely to get the soldiers called on you with how suspicious you look. What are you hiding from, El?”
Eleven gripped the fabric and bunched it together, his nervousness coming back when he duck his nose behind it. His eyes looked everywhere but Erik and it did nothing but burn the anger even hotter.
“You'll think I'm pathetic.” Eleven said quietly.
“El, you met my sorry ass in the dungeons.” Erik scoffed. “I'm surprised you don't think I'm pathetic.”
“And you were the one that got us out.” Eleven wearily smiled. “Everything that happened after is kind of excusable too.”
A grin tilted at his lips. “That's better, now come on, let's go sit down by that tree and talk there. No need to stand around for too long.”
Hands still together, Erik gently pulled Eleven along. Watched him eyed his surroundings for anymore people passing by. It wasn't until Erik forgoed the trees and sequestered themselves in an out of the way rock face that Eleven relaxed just a little.
But he was still alert, as if something was going to pop out.
“Alright, El.” Erik leaned in. “Why are you acting like you're on the run again?”
Eleven but his lip and tried to glare. “I'm not on the run, I'm just- just hiding.” He finished lamely. “Nobody's chasing me, or at least I don't think so.”
Erik blinked still slightly concerned. “You don't know if someone's chasing you or not? Wait, first tell me why you're hiding in the first place.” He rubbed his thumb at the back of Eleven's hand. “The spotlight's too much for you or something?”
He meant it as a joke, but the way Eleven's shoulders sagged and turned meek made him curse inwardly. The smallest bob of his head did in fact confirm Erik's words to be true and it made him wonder again just what happened.
“It's pathetic, I know.” Eleven kept his voice small. “I can face the end of the world but I can't handle the stupid stares and whispers. I left Cobblestone because I felt like some prize horse from Gallopolis. And even leaving Cobblestone, it's the same everywhere, just people staring and whispering because of this stupid mark.”
Eleven gripped his hood tighter, the hand with the glove finally making sense on why it was the only one.
And he can guess the rest, the appearance change of growing out his hair and wearing something that the famed Luminary didn't wear. The cloak did a fantastic job in hiding everything, but he wasn't sure if Eleven was wearing his purple duster. Erik could see Eleven's favourite turtleneck sticking out from the collar though.
“Hey.” He tightened the grip around Eleven's hand. “It's not your fault that people won't mind their own fucking business. On my ship, you're faster to have you eyes cut out if you're caught gaping.”
Erik blinked and cursed himself at the careless set of words he's just said. His language became crasser again and he's forgotten himself.
But Eleven laughed, eyes sparkled with a weary amusement. “If only.”
The time away changed them both, but Erik swallowed at how easy it was to get attached again. That the trust between them didn't even falter by the obvious difference in their lives. The obvious paths that should've split them far, far away from each other.
And yet they converged again pleasantly, another twist of fate.
“Did you not go to any of the others?” Erik steadied his voice carefully. “They could've given you an ear for this.”
“I-” Eleven bit his lip again and sighed. “I don't know why, but I sort of gave up on that after I went to Heliodor. After visiting Jade and Rab I just- I ended up running away.”
Erik choked on some spit. “W-what?! Really?”
Eleven looked down flushed, another reason for Erik to choke. A pretty dusting of his cheeks that made Erik's heart skip a beat. A pirate captain like him, getting hit hard with feelings like some teenage girl.
By a very pretty face.
Yggdrasil above, he hopes Mia wasn't like him.
“Well I didn't runaway.” Eleven huffed a little indignant now. “I just... left without saying anything. And after that, I just... wandered.”
“Well, at least that explains why you think someone might be searching for you.” Erik internally grimaced at the possible reaction Jade would most likely have.
She probably called out a whole search and rescue party, but from the lack of news of a missing Luminary, he can probably say that someone sensible stopped her from going too far. Seeing how Eleven wasn't sure of it meant that he hasn't encounter any Heliodorian soldiers with any grief.
But then, Erik didn't recognize him in that shady get up. And he also didn't know how long exactly he's been alone too.
“And you've been doing this for how long now?”
Eleven scrunched his brows together in thought. “Maybe a little under a year now? I've been jumping around between places and I haven't really been paying attention to the time. Especially since I spent a good amount of time in Nautica too.”
That's- that's fair. Erik still remembers the rather jarring experience of being safely sunken to the ocean floor. It was an underwater paradise free of any land creatures of any kind. A place where the merfolk were more curious of humans than what the Luminary was doing in their space. It was probably the best place for Eleven who was more than willing to help with expanding knowledge of human culture.
He can easily imagine it, especially after the hilarious misinformation at the museum that Eleven told him about. His fishy experience on their second trip into the deep sea was what gave Eleven the inspiration of Erik's current wear after all. The excited gleam made the pirate wonder if Eleven knew how much Erik appreciated this outfit.
Fit for a true pirate of the open seas.
The time for him to kneel was expiring, he has people to take care of, his little sister especially who was now too invested into sailing the pirate life. That was what he made his bed and he'll rest in it everyday until he dies. Erik can't drop everything for this lovesick heart of his. As ironic as it was, he was responsible now. Seeing Eleven now made him realize.
But if there was one thing he definitely was, it was that he was selfish and opportunistic.
“So you're just aimlessly walking the world then? Not in a hurry to go anywhere?” Erik prodded.
Eleven nodded. “Yeah, I do sometimes go back to visit mum, but I always Zoom back because I don't want to meet the other villagers.” He said a little glumly. “I don't do it often.”
“What about forging? You still keeping on top of that?”
Eleven looked at him oddly. “Yeah, it's how I've been able to keep the gold steady. Why?”
“Why don't you join my crew?” Erik smirked. “I haven't been able to find a reliable smithy to maintain our weapons.” He then frowned remembering who he was talking to. “I'll tell you now though, the pirate life might be a little too much for your good senses.”
Eleven huffed. “I had to deal with you, didn't I? And it can't be any worse than what happened in Puerto Valor.”
Erik blinked. “What happened in Puerto Valor?”
“I-” Eleven shifted not meeting his eyes. “Well, you're not the first one to say something about me being shady. That place is a lot more... dangerous at night.”
He can only imagine. It was no secret that Puerto Valor teemed with vagrants, Don Rodrigo helped keep that sort of activity in check but never fully eradicated the underground life. If anything, the knights in training put a false sense of security and actually help covered the small and exclusive black market that crosses the ports whether they knew it or not.
It was second only to Gondolia, where the real auction houses and questionable items reside. But Erik was curious on what Eleven got dragged into for him to see that quiet part of the underground.
“You're telling me about that later.” Erik said finally. “But I'm serious, El, about joining. I want a smithy, but it can be much for the good folk. And you're kind of the definition of good, with your country bumpkin upbringing and all.”
A part of him didn't want to expose Eleven to the life he's living now, but that small part was something he'll have to watch slowly die because he was at a standstill with his thoughts and emotions. Something that he'll have to rip apart no matter what the end of this deal he's offering might be.
Like the old saying goes, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
But if there was one thing he could trust, it was his nose for treasure. And he wanted to have this treasure no matter how temporary it may be. Even now, even if Eleven rejects him and continue to be oblivious to Erik's life out on the seas, at least he had this moment right here.
The curling lips and the storm-gray blue eyes, the shining locks that framed his face more lovingly than Erik could ever imagine. Alone as Eleven may be, Erik would set him free just like he did with him.
“Just because I'm nice doesn't mean I can't hold my own.” Eleven huffed. “If you didn't jump me like you did, I would've cut off your arm! And I can't believe you threw your dagger at me!”
“What was I supposed to do? Let you draw your sword?” Erik huffed back mockingly. “I thought some jackass stole it, El. I wasn't about to let some asshole wield it after the pains we went through to make it. Anyone that's not you is literally unworthy.”
The nice flush came back and damn Erik's pounding heart.
“Don't start that nonsense now, Erik.” Eleven shook his head. “And do you really think I would let this thing out of my sight? I get too nervous if it is. It's the only reason why I keep using it besides the other blades I made.”
And there it was, the old click of something being back in place. The rising confidence and that country twang coming out made his stomach flutter even more.
It was something that Erik was going to have to break.
“So?” Erik stamped down the band that was tightening around his neck. “Be my smithy?”
There was a pause that Eleven took to think. Looking down to the ground with something resigned, the same look that started to appear when they first left Arboria to finally leave for Yggdrasil. It was tired and a little sad, but there was a light that knew that everything was going to be worth it in the end. A thing that Erik was going to have to crush.
“Yeah, I think I will.” Eleven gave a small smile. “I'm kind of tired of being alone.”
It was a sweet smile too, something that all of Cobblestone had. When the villagers were finally freed of imprisonment and celebrated in Heliodor castle, he could see how someone like Eleven came about. Sunny bright grins that could cast the shadows away with just that, it was fitting that the Luminary was raised in a place like that.
It was ironic that their exuberance chased Eleven away.
“I'm warning you again, we don't live nice.”
Eleven rolled his eyes. “Then I won't be nice.”
“Yeah, try again, El.” Erik felt the anticipation shake his hands. “You're going to have to be prepared to stab somebody if you want to be taken seriously.”
It came fast, a punch to the gut had Erik kneeling over regardless of previous thoughts. A scathing curse was at the tip of his tongue but was stopped by a blade to his neck.
And following the sunset shine of the blade to the wielder himself, Erik felt like he was falling in love all over again.
“I think I can defend myself pretty well, Erik.” Eleven looked down with a smirk. “I'm not afraid to hurt someone if I have to, just because it's not my first choice doesn't mean I won't.”
With the too sharp tip still too close, it occurred to him that this is what might be missing from all the potential lays. A sense of danger where he knows he's met his match. Poisons and a pretty knife that were shown off meant nothing if they can't make something more than a paper cut.
Everything felt like a paper cut, annoying and a pain to deal with. Superficial and yet so irritating. He wasn't picky, but it was hard to go back after being spoiled.
With a flick of his wrist, Erik easily smacked away the blade and rose up in one swift motion. Stood and put a hand to his hips to give a cocky smirk himself.
“That's Captain Varg to you, El.” Words came out smoother now. “Let's see how long you last.”
Be it a week or months from now, this would be temporary. He's prepared for it to be temporary because Eleven still had people out there that would pull him away from the sea if the pirate life didn't scare him by then.
He just didn't realize how long temporary end up being.