Chapter 54:

Chapter 54 - Up, Up and Away


At first, Morgan had assumed that the announcer was being a big baby about the banana incident. In what world did a banana to the face constitute an “attack?” He didn’t resent being handed the victory over it, (for obvious reasons) but he did think that calling in the city watch to arrest Simone was a bridge too far.

It was only when he stood before the MC at the awards ceremony that he realized the true extent of his suffering. The man’s eyes watered, rimmed with flecks of banana that he’d yet to rinse out, and there was something wrong with his mouth; his tongue and lips were covered in sores, and what little Morgan could see beyond that looked unnaturally swollen.

Does this guy have a banana allergy or something? he mused, trying not to stare as the man launched into his recounting of the day’s events. That’s a bit of bad luck, alright.

“Wha a math eveybody, wha a math,” the announcer was saying, gesturing broadly at the two combatants well enough to stand in the pit with him. Morgan figured that the Gunslinger Roulette fought would’ve been present too under normal circumstances, given that he’d take third place by default… But from what Roulette had said after coming off the field, he had good reason to believe the man had been incapacitated.

That left him and Simone, who couldn’t seem to decide who deserved her venomous glare the most: the master of ceremonies, the soldiers waiting to take her away, or Morgan himself.

“Athide from ith unfowthunate concluthion, ih wath twuly a bathtle fow the ageth. I am thad to thee ouw local thamphion lothe hew tithle in thuth an unthewemoniuth way, buh nonetheleth, I woulh athk tha you all welcome youw new thampion with a wound of applauth…


For the first time that day, Morgan got a chance to bask in some applause of his own. The cheering sounded a little forced, and the clapping didn’t sound overly enthusiastic… But even so, the recognition was all his. He puffed out his chest and waved to the crowd, glad to have some level of validation for his efforts. The man couldn’t help but smile at the sight of Beretta waving her little flag like a girl possessed; it reminded him that some in attendance, at least, had been rooting for him all along.

The announcer doled out he and Simone’s prize medallions next, followed by Morgan’s winnings: an unassuming sack of goldslugs that felt pleasantly heavy in his hand. He nodded to the announcer and proceeded to spin slowly in place, offering a wave to every corner of the stands. The roar of the crowd was intoxicating; he almost didn’t notice when the soldiers approached from the sidelines to lead Simone away, except that one was busily picking his nose, which–

Morgan froze in place. A soldier picking his nose… Now, why does that seem so familiar?

It came back to him in a rush: during his escape from the palace dungeons, all had been going well at first. He’d crept through the guardroom, up the stairs, and through the barracks full of sleeping soldiers without alerting a single person to his presence… But the moment he’d gone to open the barracks door a crack, he’d been discovered immediately.

It was this man–the nose-picker–who had discovered him and sounded the alarm. And, judging by the look of recognition dawning across his features, he remembered his face.

“IT IS THE FUGITIVE!” he cried, pointing a mucus-tipped finger in Morgan’s direction. “Forget Simone–he takes priority!”

Morgan didn’t think–he sprinted away at full speed, sparing a hasty wave for his posse before throwing himself through the ready room doors. The two staff who’d been lecturing him earlier were there. They moved to stop him, but he bowled them over without hesitation and continued on to the entrance hall, determined to reunite with his friends.

Fortunately, they’d moved nearly as quickly as he had; he only had to wait a beat before Marka came charging down the stairs to the stands with the others in tow.

“Where’s Roulette?” Morgan barked.

“She didn’t come back after her match,” Mimi answered. “Maybe she’s outside?”

Morgan cursed. “She damn well better be!”

The soldiers shouldered their way out of the ready room behind him, cutting their discussion short. Morgan made for the main entrance without looking back, plunging out into the daylight with reckless abandon. His eyes swept over the scenery until he caught a flash of pink somewhere off to the right.

“Roulette! We’re goin’!”

She looked back from her view of the city, startled, but didn’t bother asking any questions. She took off right alongside them, only stopping long enough to help Anua recover from a near-stumble.

“I’ve got the prize money!” Morgan panted as he led them down the street toward the southern gate. “I say we flee the city–hop in that airship you had your eye on and take right off!”

“Agreed!” she called from behind. That was all Morgan needed to hear. He kept the gang moving right up to the city gates, thankful for the fact that the watch didn’t seem to make use of any communication devices in the performance of their duties; all they got from the gate guards was a couple of funny looks as they sprinted by, though it surely wouldn’t be long before the soldiers on their tail clued them in.

The airship lot didn’t stand too far away from the gates. They covered the distance in a couple minutes or so, putting them within spitting distance of the Skywind. Now, all that remained was to make their purchase and get off the ground as quickly as possible.

Morgan was relieved to see the salesperson hurrying toward them from a couple lots over, having hiked up his robe-like garment to the knees to speed his progress. The moment he came within an arm’s length of him, Morgan thrust the bag of slugs into his hands.

“There. Two hundred goldslugs,” he said in a rush. “Deal’s done. See you never.”

“B-But the anchor…!” the man sputtered, looking between the bag and the Skywind with apprehension in his eyes. “The vessel is chained to the ground!”

“We will handle that,” Marka said, striding up to the chain and erasing the lion’s share of it with a single blast from Voidthrower. At that, the salesperson’s eyes nearly bulged out of his head.

The group gathered at the base of the gangplank, then, preparing to embark… But, for some reason that Morgan couldn’t fathom, Mimi and Anua held back.

“You comin’?” he said, fighting to keep the impatience from his voice.

“No,” Anua replied. She folded her arms and took a step back. “This is my city. The people here need me. I cannot accompany you, no matter how much I may wish to.”

Mimi nodded, shooting Roulette an apologetic glance. “Same for me. Where my master goes, I go.”

Oddly, Anua seemed to take issue with that. She took hold of Mimi’s shoulders and turned the girl to face her. “No, Mimi. I am not your master anymore,” she said. “You have learned all I can teach you. The time has come for you to look to the world for further lessons.”

Mimi’s eyes went wide. “What…? B-But the Gunsmithy! The soldiers! You can’t handle all that without me!”

“I can, and I will,” Anua assured her. “Do not worry about me. You are destined for great things, and I am coming to believe that these people are as well.”

Mimi began tearing up, though she did her best to hide it. “Anua…”

“Hush, child,” the older woman said, reaching into the folds of her dress. She retrieved a small item Morgan couldn’t see and pressed it into Mimi’s hand before curling her fingers around it. “You will need this, and they will need you. Now go. You know I hate to repeat myself.”

Mimi stood there trembling for a moment, her eyes flicking briefly toward the sight of blue-uniformed figures dashing across the sand. Then she threw her arms around her mentor, pulling her into a tight hug.

“I won’t forget you, Anua,” she squeaked. “I won’t let what you taught me go to waste!”

Anua smiled faintly and hugged her back, but was quick to break away from the embrace. She regarded her pupil sternly and waved her off, refusing to let the nigh imperceptible trembling of her own lip overwhelm her resolve. Then she turned away and walked out to meet the approaching soldiers, leaving Mimi to process all that had happened.

“Come on,” Morgan urged, reaching out to tug on her arm. “There’s no time for long goodbyes.”

I know that,” she croaked. “It’s done. It’s over. Whatever. Let’s go.”

They all climbed the gangplank together, and Morgan made right for the controls. He didn’t know for a fact that he could fly an airship, but he figured it was worth a try.

After all, he’d surprised himself before.

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