2. The Claw of the Man (part 1)

          The Sky-Bender, designed for travel in comfort, was almost five times the size of Jupiter’s Revenge, designed for speed and stability, yet she was still quite large for her model. Having three tall masts with old yellowed sails, a deck that would take a whole day to swab and wooden framed wings that kept her in the air, Jupiter’s Revenge may have appeared like any common airship, but she was hailed as the fastest ship in the open air. Flying off with unmatchable speed, the fair boat carried away her passengers and their stolen goods in no time.

          Hataru looked around with wide eyes. Men ran to and fro around the ship completing their everyday chores like clockwork, while cotton clouds dashed by in seconds. It took her a moment to realize that she was still holding the captain’s hand. He didn’t seem to be bothered by this though, and she could have sworn she heard him grunt with displeasure when she gently pulled away, her cheeks reddening. She studied his face as he proudly watched his crew; the sparkle in his good eye gleaming brightly. Aware of her eyes on him, he looked down and smiled warmly to her.

Eyes fluttering, Hataru’s stomach finally caught up with her. She clutched her stomach and moaned in pain. Levi’s expression melted into concern like a thin sheet of ice on a scorching hot day. Fatigue overtook her, and as if her bones were replaced by gelatin, she collapsed into his strong, sturdy arms. After recovering from his surprise, Levi carried the girl to his quarters where she could rest, undisturbed. Lying her on his own bed and seeing that she would be fine, he left to go complete his duties as captain, deciding to check up on her later. When she awoke, he was sitting in a chair by the bed.

          “So, Hataru, what is a pirate to do with a princess he finds locked up on her own ship?” he asked playfully, leaning closer to look into her brilliant blue eyes.

          Pink cheeked, she mumbled unconvincingly, “I... I’m not a princess. I’m just a serving maid on the kings ship.”

          “Is that so?” he asked knowingly. “Then you wouldn’t mind me looking at your hands, pretty one.” He reached down and grabbed both her hands in his. The metal of his claws felt like ice, sending shivers up her spine, and for the first time she noticed that he was missing a hand.

The End

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