Chapter 9

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For a moment, Epoch thought ey were safe from the pirate crew once the footsteps ceased. Maybe eir curse had been said wrongly. But, that moment ended as quickly as it came. Within seconds, there was a loud pounding against the door of the vault.

"Open up!" one of the pirates called out from outside above the clamor of eager, blood-lusting murmurs. "We know you're in there." The sharp accent rattled against the vault. 

"That idiot?" Epoch muttered and dragged eir fingers over eir face. "They're letting him lead?" 

"Who is it?" At Irene's soft whisper, Epoch nearly froze in eir startled state. 

"Pomegranate Jones," Epoch explained, training eir eyes on the shadows veiling the door ready to burst with the pirates. "The worst pirate ever. He should've walked the plank ages ago, but since his parents are illegal patrons to the anarchist revolution, as long as the idiot is alive, so is the Captain."

All of a sudden, another voice rattled from outside the vault. "And when we find you, we'll make you walk the plank, and the sharks'll nibble your bones." The sharp laughter swarmed outside against the melody of knuckles racking against the wood. 

Epoch glanced at Irene — she had a melody in her eyes that sang the shanty of curiosity. "Caligula Roets," ey explained. "Also an idiot. He thinks he can get through life with violence."

Irene nodded. 

Then, suddenly, the door bursted open, flickering candlelight flooded into the vault. Against the light stood four men. Epoch could easily name by appearance. Pomegranate was the man in a well-tailored suit and dark, silky waves. Caligula still wore a Musketeer-esque hat with a feathered decal. The other two idiots, as Epoch liked to call this pathetic yet still lethal lot of anarchists, were a blond named Phobos and a man with a chestnut-hued ponytail who called himself, in the rarity of his oral moments, Al. 

"Aha!" Caligula said with a smirk. Epoch watched as the dark-skinned pirate seemed to scan the room for Irene. "There you are." 

Epoch felt like sweating as ey watched Caligula strut over to Irene, grabbing her chin between his two fingers. "Please," she begged. Tears seemed to glisten in her eyes. "I didn't do anything." 

Caligula let go of her with a smirk. As he turned away from the blue-haired girl, Epoch heard the pirate mutter, "Not worth it." 

Meanwhile, Al simply mumbled. "That's normal," Epoch explained to Irene who seemed frozen in her state of trembling. 

Epoch felt like sweating again as Caligula whipped around with a burning glare. "Then why do you have our gold in your damn hands?" he roared. Ey watched as he seized Irene's wrist, which held the necklace. 

They're going to kill her, Epoch thought and glanced around the room as Caligula stared at the necklace. Meanwhile, in against the background of dim shadows, ey heard Irene laugh. Was that nervous laughter. "I don't suppose we could consider this a total misunderstanding and put this whole thing behind us, can we?" Her lips seemed to begin to twitch. Was she trying to force a smile?

Epoch shifted eir attention to Caligula, who ey made out inspecting his knuckles for a second, then dead straight at Irene. "Nope." 

Epoch noticed Caligula reaching for his sword. He'll kill her right here? No. That wouldn't do. As long as Epoch was alive, Irene would not die. "Get ready," Epoch whispered to Irene. 

"But—" Epoch let out a groan as ey heard Pomegranate interject "—before we begin this naumachy, we'll give you the chance to hand over the artifact like a good juvenescent phrontisterion, and let everything go behind us." Epoch groaned, feeling as if eir ears could rattle at the nonsense. 

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