12. Men (part 1)

          Despite her need of sleep, Princess Hataru still lay awake in bed, staring up at the wooden ceiling. She could not stop thinking about the prince and the pirate. Tarin's castle was supposed to have been her next destination, where they would have met if it hadn’t been for the grimy pirates who had stolen from him and attacked herself. She imagined what it would have been like had everything gone according to plan.

          Just as she had done with all of the other possible suitors, she would have arrived at his palace a day before The Sky-Bender in an outdated speedboat, dressed in a simple maid's uniform. She would have then posed as a new servant for the prince and requested an audience with him so that she could meet the man that "she would be serving". After entering the room, she would have carefully assessed how much attention he gave her, if he looked her in the eye or not, and other signs of respect for her as another human being. Later in the day she would have "accidentally" poured water in his lap as she was serving his meal, and wait for his reaction, compassionate or spiteful. After being rescued by and walking with Tarin in the cave without giving him her name or status, Hataru was sure that he would have passed her tests with flying colors.

          The next day, when her father's ship arrived, she would have crept aboard to get ready to officially meet the prince as Princess Hataru Orfanos-Catomerus of Trellisania. She would have worn one of her finest gowns with a modestly cut neckline, slit sleeves, and gems beaded across the bodice and down the skirt ─  transforming her into a radiant, walking chandelier. Her neck and wrist would have been adorned with expensive jewels, silver, and gold; her hair would have been teased into a becoming updo, showcasing her curly locks; and her skin would have been perfumed with the most divine of products. For a finishing touch, her eyes would have been lined and painted, her lashes elongated, her cheeks powdered, and her lips colored and glossed. She would have been stunning, just like every time before, making every head turn and every jaw drop. She would have walked into throne room with her back straight and her head held high. There, the prince would have been seated on the right hand side of his father, as the crown prince. Their eyes would have met, and she would have given him an award winning smile. His eyes would have grown even wider once she was close enough for him to recognize her as the maid from the day before. Then, she would have congratulated him for impressing her and asked the king to be granted a month as a guest at his castle in order to become more acquainted with his son through courtship. Hataru smiled at her vision, but then grew sad because she knew that it would never happen now. Brewing over this in brief anger, she gently stroked the black mask that the prince had given to her. Sighing, she glanced at it where it lay on the pillow next to her; she knew in her heart that she could not completely hate the vile pirates, for they were also the reason she had met little Zephyr and Captain Levi.

The End

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