24. The Silver Comb (Part 4)

Licking the stickiness from his fingers, Zephyr sighed with contentment. Every bite of his ambrosial morsel had been celestial bliss. Smacking his lips in order to enjoy the scrumptious, ghostly aftertaste, the boy laid back and stared at the clouds. The sky is such a pretty color, but what makes it like that? He closed his eyes and speculated. Is there a man who paints it everyday? Or maybe it’s a woman? Yeah, only a woman, a pretty woman like Miss Princess Hataru, could paint such a beautiful thing like the sky. But where would she live? It would have to be somewhere where she could reach the sky easily… so maybe a mountain, ora really tall tree, just like a bird. Can she fly like a bird? Her wings would have to be long and pretty and… white, like a swan’s, so she could hide in the clouds while she paints. That way she wouldn’t have to worry about getting caught by mean people like Captain Kosu. No one could ever hurt her or make her peel potatoes and scrub toilets! She would be able to paint the sky as much as she wanted! She would be free, all by herself, and all… alone. Like me.

Suddenly, the remains of his shortcake tasted bitter in his mouth, and the gentle breeze sent goosebumps down his arms. A pain deep inside his chest caused warm tears to form in his eyes, but he squeezed them tighter, refusing to let the droplets flow. Zephyr had chosen to go his own way, to be alone. He would have to figure things out for himself from now on.

Unless I go back.

No, that’s impossible. I can’t just turn around and ask to stay with them again only a few hours after leaving! They’d think that I’m… that I’m a halfwit! I can’t let my only friends think that about me.

After sitting in silence for a moment and accepting his decision, Zephyr lazily opened his eyes and stared up at the dimming sky, the sun beginning its descent behind the treeline of the forest just outside of town. A horrific thought struck the lad, It’s already this late? I should have found a place to stay by now! I really am a halfwit! Hopping up from the stone wall he’d been resting on, Zephyr pulled out his stash of money, wondering if it would even be enough to sleep on an innkeeper’s floor for the night, and also emancipated a cold, metallic object in the process.

            Puzzled, the lad stopped and picked it up from where it had landed on the dusty road. He wiped the dirt away with his sleeve, and the tiny gems that decorated the object glinted in the light emitting from the glowing streetlamps. Zephyr’s spirits ballooned with recognition ─ it was the comb from the cave that he’d taken to place on the princess’ grave when he’d thought she was dead. He still had it! The possibilities raced through Zephyr’s mind like a jackrabbit. He could sell the comb and use the money to rent a cozy room with a real bed for the night, or he could use the money to purchase more delicious strawberry shortcakes. He could… He could… He could even take it to the Jupiter’s Revenge and use it as an excuse to come back aboard! Yes! His resolve for remaining self-reliant crashing, Zephyr roughly stuffed the pouch of coins in his pocket and bolted away clutching the silver comb.

The End

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