2. The Claw of the Man (part 5)

          “While I was in recovery, my father finally expressed how disappointed he was in me. He explained that my greatest mistake was when I decided to run off on my own, and that choosing to fight the bear was my second. The consequence for the latter had taken care of itself in a traumatic way, he told me, but the punishment for sneaking off would be up to him. I held my breath, waiting for him to scold, shout, or even slap me, but I heard not a single word. Like a snail, he reached over and grasped my metal fingers in his. I looked up and was caught in his gaze. Speaking words that I will never forget in a calm voice, he gestured to my hand, I choose to punish you by giving you a gift, it will be both a blessing and a curse.' I waited for an explanation. 'A blessing because it is a tool that can help if you learn how to use it correctly. A curse, because it is a constant reminder of that day, a day that will haunt you for the rest of your life. When you look at these claws, I want you to remember why they are there; not just because the bear took your hand form you, but because you chose to run away and then to fight when there was no need. Use this gift wisely, my son.’ And with that, he got up and left me in my bed, staring at my mismatched hands in shame.

          “Over the next months, I trained myself to sword fight with my other hand by practicing with the men on the ship, and slowly discovered how to use the claws to my advantage in battle, as my father had suggested. Over the next few years, I mastered techniques he’d helped me create. Now, I have taken over the ship after his unexpected death; many of the crew who served under him stayed, although a handful did choose to leave. I captain Jupiter’s Revenge as my father did before me. Not once have I forgotten the day I lost my hand to a monster, nor the day my father gave it back to me. And I will continue to do so, he was right, it is both a blessing and a curse.”

          Flabbergasted with eyes wide in awe, Hataru stared at the man sitting before her. Her tea had grown cold, for not only was he a talented swordsman, but also a skilled storyteller. However, her bread was all but crumbs on her plate, being that she hadn’t eaten in many days. Full of pity and concern she took both of his hands in hers and looked him the eye, not saying a word, but making her feelings known.

          “Oh, don't feel bad about it; I've had almost eight years to adjust to adjust to this. Besides, it was my poor choices that got me into this situation, so I don't really have anyone to blame but myself.” Casually, he flipped her hands over and studied her palms. “Ah ha!” he exclaimed, “I knew you weren’t a serving maid! Your hands aren’t calloused or bruised enough to be the hands of a servant. I can guess that you’ve lived a pampered life because your hands are soft, but you had some sort of mishap in your childhood due to this old scar," he pointed to the faintest line of a past wound running down her palm, " Maybe you aren’t a princess, but you most definitely are not a serving maid.”

The End

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