Looking down, slightly unassured of himself, he answered, "I know, but I’ve been dreaming of this, of my freedom, ever since I was taken prisoner on Kosu’s ship. I’m older than I was then; I can take care of myself now. Some of the crewmen told me about how to get a job, and they even taught me a few fighting tricks so I can defend myself, and look ─ !” he opened his vest to showcase a fine blade the perfect size for his small hand to hold, “Mister Firious said he didn’t want me to go trotting off and get myself killed, so he gave this to me! Isn’t it cool? It’s so shiny! You know, Mister Firious isn’t such a mean guy after all. When he caught me hiding back aboard Jupiter’s Revenge, I thought he was a mean, grumpy old man, but he’s actually pretty nice.” A deprecatory snort sounded off at the boy’s remark from the general direction of the first mate himself. “Oh, and let me show you my pack! Mister Captain Levi gave me my favorite foods from the kitchen,” he pulled out a sack of jerky and cheese, “some spare clothes,” he removed two pairs of slacks, four pairs of socks, and three shirts, “and he even gave me some real money for me to spend at the market!” he lifted a heavy pouch of gold coins from his pocket to show her.
“Wow!” Hataru feigned some extra enthusiasm, still quite worried for the boy. She had no doubt that he was tough, but she also knew from her own experiences that the world, especially Habar, could be a very dangerous and scary place for a child.
“Oh! I almost forgot!” his eyes smiled as he tied the knapsack shut, “Thank you for saving me from the scary-monster bear. Mister Captain Levi told me what happened.” The boy looked up at her, “I hope you know he really didn’t mean to hurt you, and he’s really sorry that he did. He told me so.”
Again, the princess’ eyes dashed to the silver-haired pirate. Tiny dimples appeared at the corners of her mouth. “I know,” she mused, “Thank you for telling me, Zephyr.”
“You’re welcome!” he exclaimed, not fully aware of what his words meant to her. “Well, I think I’ll be heading off now.” He looked around at all of the merchant’s tables they were passing, already thinking his future purchases.
Maternal instinct alarms ringing in her ears, she choked, “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” More downcast, he added, “Besides, I don’t want cause any more trouble for you and Mister Captain Levi. Goodbye, Miss Princess Hataru!” And with that, the ten year old disappeared into the crowd.
“Zephyr, wait! You’re not a bur...den.” she tried to call him back, but he was already gone. For the trillionth time, Hataru’s eyes welled with tears. Only two seconds without the little chatterbox, and she already missed him more than she could say.