This was perfect! It was his ticket to staying with his friends without them considering him a dunce! Laughing with joy, the boy dodged in and out of the thinning crowds in the market as if he were a spy on a stealth mission, racing against time. Running so fast he could hardly see where he was going; everything was a blur, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise when he slammed into someone’s back, knocking Zephyr to the ground. However, he soon began to tremble when he saw his worst nightmare dominantly shadowing over him, firing daggers of disgust from eyes as dark as the endless void of a starless sky.
The figure hissed, “Well, well, what do we have here? Thought you could run away, did you boy? Yet here you are, running right back to me, just like the night I first found you. What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I ─ I’m,” Zephyr gasped, his throat constricting with fear, “I’m sorry, Mister Kosu! I ─”
“What did you call me? Don’t forget, I demand respect from the likes of you!”
“I’m sorry, Mister Captain Kosu, sir! I─ I’m sorry!” he squealed like a runt piglet. “Please… please don’t hurt me!”
“Hurt you? Oh, I’m going to do much more than hurt you, child.” The Black and White Assassin lifted his stygian knife.
“No! Please!” Zephyr held his hands up in a meager attempt of self-protection, revealing the precious cargo he’d been clutching.
Kosu halted, and stared at the comb in astonishment. “Where did you get this?” he spat, snatching it from the boy’s quivering hand.
“Hey, that’s ─,” the boy grappled for the silver object, but was knocked back down by a sharp kick from the heel of the pirate’s boot.
“Silence, brat! Or I’ll cut out your tongue and feed it to the dogs!”
“But… you don’t have any dogs.” Zephyr cried.
“I said silence!” Kosu studied the comb, turning it over in his palm as the lad groveled at his feet, sniveling. A moment later, the 26 year old glanced down and with a falsely sweet voice cooed, “It seems as though you have saved your skin with an appeasing gift to your master. With such a gift, I, as the gracious master that I am, would normally have given you a choice between freedom or returning to your duties aboard my ship, but, since you’ve made it clear that you, my precious, little thief, want to join my crew again by running all the way here to give this to me, I will be morethan happy to oblige.” Kosu bared his teeth in a sneering, crocodile grin. “Brutus,” he called over his shoulder, “show our youngest member back to the ship; he has some toilets to scrub.”
A massive giant of a man with curly hair sprouting from every visible spot on his body materialized behind Zephyr and grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt. Before he carried the child off, the captain whispered in the man’s ear, “Keep an eye on him, and when he’s finished with his chores, lock him up until we’ve set sail. I don’t want the brat running off again.” Brutus grunted in acknowledgment, then trudged heavily toward Kronos’ Return, towing a terrified Zephyr, streams of tears flowing down the lad’s cheeks, washing away the last of the sticky residue of his strawberry cake.