25. Together Again (Part 4)

“Woah!” the melodramatic man grabbed at his heart and pretended to stumble backward, feigned astonishment smeared across his face. Then, as if he had spotted an abnormality, he leaned in closer to study her face, “Hey, have your teeth always been that white?”

“What?” she giggled, “I suppose so...”

“Oh, I must have forgotten, since I haven’t seen them in a while.”

Nodding her head in apology, “Yes, please forgive me. I haven’t been a very good guest have I?”

“Well, I haven’t been the best of hosts, either,” he shrugged and offered her his left hand, “Call it even?”

Hataru held up a finger, “Hold on.” She walked over to a merchant and exchanged two more of her coins for a cobalt kerchief. When she returned, she handed it to him, “Here, now we’re even.”

“What’s this?” He looked at the blue bundle in his hand.

“Open it up, and see!” Intrigued, he unfurled the soft fabric. “I heard that you enjoy giving gifts, so… I thought you might like receiving them, too.”

“Wow,” he breathed. In his hands rested the silver compass she had purchased earlier, shining with august majesty. The attention to detail on the compass’ cover, plated with precious metals, would impress even the greatest of artists, depicting the lifelike profile of a silver grizzly with solemn, gilded eyes that stared unblinkingly at the captain, twinkling with a sense of wisdom and understanding. “Hataru, this is beautiful! … but… I can’t accept it.”

“Ah, but, Levi, you must!” she retorted accusingly, conspicuously fiddling with the ring dangling at her collar bone.

The captain raised his hands in surrender, flashing her his quirky grin, “As you wish, Princess,” and fastened the compass to his belt and tied the kerchief around his head. The quintet soon continued on, wandering the streets to see what they could see. When they entered the provender district, the smell of baking delights invaded their nostrils like an enemy army on a raid, and all five of their stomachs erupted with loud, growling pleas for aid in fending off the savage attack of hunger.

“Alright, friends,” Levi snickered, “go fill your stomachs!”

Grinning from cheek to cheek, Kurt and Cedric glanced at one another then scampered away screaming something along the line of, “Pork chops and toffee!”

            Antenor shook his head, “I don’t know where they get all that energy. Levi, what do you─” he sniffed the air, “Is that bacon? I… I’ll be right back…” and then the old man disappeared into the crowd as well.

The End

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