I sat on Johann’s bed, in a small room aboard the stolen Rienbache military ship. It seemed like I had a knack for landing in those. It was once named Glorie av Reinbache, now, under the command of Johann, it was named Natten.
The ship was nothing like mine. Where mine was warm and open, Johann’s was cramped and cold. Mine was decorated, Johann’s ship was brutally minimalistic. But most of all, it was dark. My ship had warm comforting lighting that simulated sunrises, Johann’s ship had brash white lights, and where the lights didn’t reach, it was pitch black.
The longer I sat on the bed, the more I understood Johann’s attitude. After all, if I had to fly around in this thing all the time, I’d also be in a shitty mood.
I crossed my legs on his bed and looked around. There was a large window with blinds drawn, a table in the corner of the room with a logbook or diary of some sort on top of it. A pen sat next to the diary and a lamp on the corner of the table. Other than that, there was absolutely nothing.
So of course, no one can blame me for picking up the logbook and picking the lock with my hairpins.
On the first page, in surprisingly neat handwriting, was an account from two years ago. “Mei namm apellt Johann Rademacher…” I propped up the pillows, leaned back, and began to read.
About an hour later I was halfway through the book when the door burst open. “Princess Valenti- Is that my journal?”
Without moving my head or looking at him I answered, “Yes.”
He cleared his throat, “I didn’t know you could read Reinbachien.”
I slammed the book shut indignantly and turned to face him, “Do you take me for a fool? Of course I read Reinbachien.” I rolled my eyes and gave him a disdainful snarl.
“Stop that,” he said, “Now come on, we have much to talk about.”
We walked down the barely lit halls, “What? So now that you’re not trying to kill me you want to be friends? Is that it?”
“Don’t take that personally. I’m a mercenary. Your uncle hired me to kill you, I accepted the contract. It was nothing against you.”
“I’m so sure.”
We reached the dining hall, and I noticed yet another difference between our ships. My ship had eighty tables, each with six chairs around them, this ship had like two hundred tables, each one small and with only two chairs. I suddenly felt very lonely.
Johann picked a table and sat down, “If you would like to eat anything, you can go in the kitchen, I ate before coming to see you, but if you’re hungry, I can wait.”
I was extremely hungry, but I didn’t want to accept anything from him. Instead I crossed my arms and glared across the tiny table at him.
He was disgusting. His bright blond hair was the perfect shade of yellow and his eyes the perfect shade of green, and on his perfect face was a strange look that made all the features seem gentle, vulnerable even. I looked away and growled.
“I’m here to propose a partnership.”
Out of all the words he could have said. A rush of hot anger flared through me, and the next thing I knew I was standing up, slamming my hands on the tiny table and screaming in Johann’s face.
I don’t remember all of the words I said. I think I said he could shut his whore mouth and that his wife was a donkey, as well as letting him know what I thought about him as a person, before he grabbed my hands to stop them from smashing the table to pieces.
“Valentina calm down.”
“How dare you!” I shrieked, feeling the heat burn up my cheeks and my body. My tongue felt like lead and like the sharpest rapier, “You try to kill me! You make me your sworn enemy! And now you want to be partners? Where are your morals, your ethics, where is your backbone you snake?”
“I had none! I probably still don’t. But I’ve tried my way, maybe it’s time to try yours.”
“What? What are you talking about Johann?”
“Remember when I had you cornered? And then you went through the asteroid field past Yahanah and in the end you cornered me with the help of them? When you had me on your ship, captured, gun to my forehead, and then you let me go. Even though it made Rodolfo incredibly nervous and angry.
“I’m not sure if I agree with the choice you made to spare me, though I greatly appreciate it. And that’s why I want to be partners. I want to join you on your quest to reclaim the Meridian throne.”
I felt like my wind had been knocked out of me.
“What?” I asked breathlessly, “You… want to join my crew?”
“No.” Johann answered, “But I want to join you. I don’t agree with many of the things you do, if I had been in your position, I would have pulled the trigger. I could never serve under you. But I can be alongside you. An ally of sorts.”
I wondered what Rodolfo would say if he knew I was considering a mercenary who had been my sworn mortal enemy a few months ago as a close ally now. I could see him standing straight, a rod of nervous energy with hands that were too professional to fiddle, but that looked like they desperately wanted to. That rod of nervous energy looking at me with stern brown eyes that said he would follow whatever decision I took, but please please please not this one.
I giggled. Then pushed my brows together in thought. As much as I wanted to have a mobile ally, I had to think this through. Making Rodolfo worry is kind of funny, but ending up dead with my crew slaughtered behind me is anything but. I had to think as if he was here. I had to channel Rodolfo.
I squeezed my eyes shut and said, “Alright, so you expect me to believe you had a sudden change of heart? How do I know that you mean it? How do I know that you’re not still on the contract and just biding your time?”
He smirked, “I could tell you all about how I essentially have you captured since you’re practically alone on my ship. And how since you’re not dead, or headed for Meridia that must mean the contract is broken. But I think it would convince you more if I told you that I feel like things are bound to go much better for me under your rule than his.”
There he is! The beautiful, selfish Johann I know. Now that he’s acting in his own self-interest, I can trust him. Not entirely, but enough.
“Alright Johann, consider us allies,” I said. “We’re independent units acting in coordination for a unified goal. You are not my soldier, you may not claim you are acting with the authority of the Meridian crown. If you do, I will hunt you down, corner you with my kindness, and end you.”
Johann smiled, then laughed. “Me? Doing that? Shut your whore mouth!”
I smiled, but quickly pulled my mouth in a tight line.
We shook hands.