Prompt 369 – Won’t Risk It

Name something you’re never willing to risk or take a risk on and why?

“All hands, on deck!” Captain Leo Peaches hollered to his crew. “Prepare to cast off!” He wanted to be away from this frozen hellscape before he could lose any more men to whatever the hell those zealots had summoned.

“Leo, stop!” Kita ran up the gangplank after him.

His temper flared. No ninja could order him on his own ship. “No,” he shouted, rounding on her. “You need to stop. Right now. No more games. No more disobeying me. We are leaving. That is that.”

Her blue eyes hardened as she frowned behind her mask. She always bristled when he tried to command her. He had really given her too much leeway these last few months. “We can’t abandon those people,” she said.

“We don’t owe these lunatics anything!” His men scurried around them, securing rigging and hurrying to load cargo. “Let them fight their own battles.” He knew when to cut his losses. The king was dead and couldn’t pay him anymore. Men, he could fight, but gods and monsters?

“There are innocent people back there!” she cried. “We have to do something!”

“I have people I need to protect,” he snarled back. “I won’t risk any more of my crew, least of all for strangers!” He continued his inspection of the ship, barking orders at a crewman who moved with less urgency than Leo liked.

Kita followed him up to the wheel. “I was a stranger.”

He whipped his head back towards her. “What?”

“You risked your crew to help me,” she said. “A stranger and a mortal enemy.”

“That was different.”

She folded her arms defensively. “Was it?”

“We owed you a debt,” he said, knowing it for truth but not feeling very convinced himself. The life debt had been a major part of it, but what he really wanted were the answers he believed he would find with her.

“You didn’t bring me all this way just to repay a life debt.” He hadn’t expected her to be convinced by his answer either, but he was surprised at the hurt in her eyes. She sighed and dropped her hands to her hips. “We were given a job and we have to see it through.”

He pointed behind her to the glow of fire in the mountains beyond the port village. “Pretty sure the job was over when the maniacs completed their magic ritual and killed the guy who gave us that job!” He scowled at the bandages bound tight around her abdomen. “You’ve shed enough blood for them already.”

Her hand went to the wound in her stomach involuntarily. “No,” she said. “I promised those girls I would keep them safe. We can still save them.”

Leo ran his hand through his hair in aggravation. “We’re pirates, Kita. Not heroes. We can’t fight…whatever that is back there1. There’s no payday for that fight.”

She closed the distance between them and frowned up at him, her fists balled at her side. “I’m not a pirate,” she said. She clasped the pendant at her neck and tugged it free. She pushed it against his chest. “You do what you have to. I’m going to do what I can.” She turned away from him and leapt to the port side railing.

“You’re going to fight alone?” he called after her. “Are you crazy?”

She straightened and stared out at the island, the city burning in the distance. Her hair streamed behind her in the wind. “I’ve always fought alone,” she said softly, “but that’s not what makes me crazy.” She grinned over her shoulder at him. “I’ve just always been a spaz.” She saluted. “I hope we meet again, Captain Leo Peaches.” And she disappeared into the night.

Leo gripped his pendant tight. Once it had brought him peace of mind. Having it back now filled him with unease. His connection to her was gone. He shook his head and tied the cord back around his neck. He couldn’t spare any more time worrying about a rogue ninja. He had a ship to ready for departure.

Notes: I don’t know why I always associate these two with risky behavior but when I saw I had another risk-related prompt coming up I knew I wanted to write a Leo and Kita scene. I imagined Leo saying he wouldn’t risk his crew and tried to come up with a scenario where he would be forced to make that choice. And then I decided it would devolve into an argument between him and Kita where she would leave. They’ve had their fair share of bickering, but I don’t think I’ve ever written an actual argument/fight between them that wasn’t resolved amicably.

One thing I’ve noticed I’m particularly bad at writing is conflict in general. I’m awful at writing stakes. I want everything to work out and be happily ever after and everybody love everybody but that becomes incredibly boring to read. I’ve had this vague arc sketched out that involves a mysterious ritual to establish a new royal bloodline for this particular nation involving sacrifices and somehow Kita gets roped into it. I’d planned for her to get the kids out safe and foil the ritual, with Leo’s help of course, but that was too clean and easy.

During the course of their argument I realized that they did not actually succeed. The girls are still in danger (though Kita, at the very least, believes they’re still alive) and Kita was gravely injured. I also realized that there are some elements of actual magic in this world but they’re rare enough that Leo was shaken by what he witnessed, which leads him to his refusal to risk any more of his people. “Gods? Monsters? No thanks. The only god I believe in is the sea.”

The more I write to this tale, the more I want to write it as a comic or graphic novel. Alas, I have no skills or time to practice skills in drawing/sketching/art in general. It was an added bonus to discover more world building in writing this scene though. I love when the prompts get me deeper into my own worlds.

Anyway. It’s finally Friday. The week is over and the weekend has arrived. This was a Week™ for sure. I sorely need a couple days off. I really need a vacation. I should probably book one soon, but for now I’ll settle for the weekend. Have a great one! I’ll have another post later with the vss365 prompts I wrote this week. See you soon!

[1]“whatever that is” i.e. even I, the author, haven’t figured out what the heck happened yet

PS-Like these prompts? Like the short stories I write based on these prompts? Want to show your support? Give the blog a follow! Leave a comment! Buy me a coffee! I put a lot of time and effort into these posts and your support means the world to me! Ok, now go out there and write!

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