*At the Temple steps *
The line of porters form up as Iyou and Belldandy meet one last time with the Senior monk. Both shrine maidens are dressed for travel and carry their weapons close by. They kneel as the monk blesses their journey’s start and then rise. Father Hermit stands to the side with a worried look upon his face. With a great many cries of farewell and good luck from their friends and fellow worshipers, they make their way through the gate and move towards the port.
“Your father was not all that happy to see us off I think. Does he have concerns?” Belldandy’s sideways look to her friend was serious.
“He is never content to see me leave the Temple. Father has always been of two minds about my education in the West. He knows that this is the best way, but what Father does not worry about his daughter?” Iyou smiles at this but privately agrees that Father did look more worried than usual during this departure.
They soon reach the port and board the ship to take then to Babbage. The porters are done loading the ship and since they did the job so well, Iyou tips them nicely. This results in them lining the dock as lines are cast off and shouting “Banzai” as the ship moves out with the tide. The maidens stand at the rail, waving as the city disappears over the horizon.
Over the next few days the girls go over plans of what to do and whom to contact once they are in Babbage. As Iyou walks by the helmsman during the afternoon, he tries to hide the compass from her. She then sees that the needle is not pointing in the right direction for Babbage!
“Why are we not heading for Babbage?’ Iyou yells at the helmsman. When he does not answer she stamps down to the deck to the mate. “Where are we headed? You know what our destination is. What is going on?”
“This is not for you to know. We have orders.” He replies.
The red haired shrine maiden flies up the stairs, her katana already half way out. Iyou unsheathes her sword prepared to fight. The mate and half the crew stand between them and the wheel. Things are going downhill fast when the captain comes up from below.
“Mou yamtara! Put up your weapons! I will not have fighting on my ship!” He bellows as the crew looks to him and them to the girls who are ready to battle at the drop of a pin. They slowly drop them to their side as he glares at them again.
The captain turns to the maidens, “What started this?” he demands.
“The course we are on is not the one for Babbage. Your crew refuses to change it and they will not listen to me. They must be following orders of the yakuza. We will defend you and correct this error.” Iyou calmly states while she and Belldandy are back to back and ready to fight.
“They follow their orders shrine maiden and they come from me and I follow my orders also. Would you care to see them? If you do then you shall be honor bound to comply also.” The captain signals to the cabin boy to get the orders pouch. Iyou and Belldandy relax a bit but still maintain their guard. The cabin boy returns and the captain thrusts the pouch to the maidens. “Read and obey as we do. Then you will apologize to the crew for your reckless actions.
Iyou opens the pouch and pulls out a scroll and starts to read it out loud so that Belldandy hears it also…
“To the captain of the Flying Dragon. You will leave port on a course for Babbage. Maintain this course for two days then change it for the steamland ports of Steelhead. Say nothing of this to the shrine maidens you transport. Only if they attempt to stop you should these orders be shown. Yamada for the Temple” Belldandy’s mouth hangs open as Iyou’s face shows a ton of puzzlement. They look at each other, sheath their katanas, and fall to the deck in a deep bow of forgiveness.
“Gomennasai, we are both truly ashamed.”
“You did not know so your response, while overmuch, was correct. We know how much the yakuza wants you dead. Yamada-sama also knows this and planned for the deception. He felt that by allowing you and the other monks to think you were headed back to Babbage, he could protect you for a while. Steelhead is a smaller steamland and perhaps you can stay there quietly while conducting business in Babbage. There is enough commerce between the two lands that you should always find a steamer to take you there and back in a quiet manner.” The captain takes back the pouch from Iyou’s hand.
Belldandy looks up from the deck, “Does Father Hermit know of this?”
“He does. Yamada-sama tells me he was not happy. He wanted Iyou to return to Babbage. I was told that an intercepted note from the yakuza forced him to reconsider.” The captain frowns, “The note contained fresh instructions to eliminate both of you.”
Iyou speaks softly from the deck, “I thank you for revealing this to us. We shall be following the orders as the senior monk wishes. What might we do to repay you for our hastiness?”
The captain thinks for a moment and then smiles. “It is said that the floors of the Temple are the cleanest in Nihon. Would you both show us the method of cleaning as you wash the main deck?” The crew bursts out laughing as buckets and brushes are brought forward.
Both maidens sigh and roll up thier skirts and sleeves. At least the deck is much smaller than the main floor of the Temple…
*Iyou is returning to Babbage but for certain reasons will be taking up residence in the Nevermoor region of Steelhead. Belldandy follows her friend and who knows what will occur next. Iyou’s typist is happy to be back in circulation in the steampunk regions and hopes to be role playing again soon. *