20. The First Time (part 1)

          With their feet on the deck, it was finally time for them to part. He dreaded letting go, not wanting to give her up yet. Fortunately for Levi, Fate was in his favor for once. Just as the captain began to inch away, the maiden in his arms started to tremble, quivering like a child afraid of the dark. Sobs of fright and relief escaped her mouth, and, clenching his shirt in her hands, she refused to release him. He was her shield, protecting her from the terrifying world around her. What could he do but wrap both his arms around her and hold her close?

          "Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh," he whispered. "Shhhhhhhh. It's alright now, Princess. I'm here. I'm here, Hataru. It's alright. You're safe now."

          As her convulsive cries slowed, she was able to tilt her head enough to peer up at his face, searching his eyes for the assurance his voice portrayed. Trails of stale tears glistened on her rosy cheeks in the light of the morning sun, and despite being covered in sweat and monster spittle she was still able to take his breath away. "Captain Levi," she began to stutter, "I was so... so scared. It daunted me to think that... I thought that I... that you... that we were going to ─ to die. I thought... Oh, I'm sorry, Captain. I'm so sorry..."

          "Princess, you have nothing to be sorry for." A sad smile spread across his lips, his heart breaking to hear the remorse in her voice. "Hataru, what you did for me... you, you saved my life, and for that I am forever grateful."

          Upon hearing those words, Hope flew back into the girl's eyes, brightening  her own spirit as well as his. "And I, for your chivalrous heroism, Captain. Thank you." Cautiously, she relaxed her hands, smoothing out the wrinkles in the fabric on his chest, and took a step back. "I should probably go wash up, now," she blushed, looking at her grungy nightgown and knotted hair.

          “That’s fine, Princess.” A devilish grin, the pirate’s trademark smile, flashed across his face. “Nothing like steamy bath water to wash away the horrors of the night.”

          Hataru smirked back, bowed her head in courtly reverence, and then turned to saunter back to her cabin. After taking only six paces forward, however, she whipped around again, eyes wild, as if an idea had just struck her. "Captain Levi, take off your shirt!"

The End

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