The image of beauty sauntered towards them, her hazelnut curls drifting delicately on the breeze like ocean waves on a peaceful day. Her flamboyant, flamingo-colored dress made ample use of her womanly proportions, with sultry, off-the-shoulder sleeves; a cropped-top that revealed her midriff; and a low-riding skirt that hugged her generous hips and swirled down to her feet like rose petals. Zinnias, hollyhocks, and free-flying streamers crowned her head and embellished her waistline, transforming her into a daughter of Jubilee.
The captain’s eye grew wide, “You look─”
“Incredible!” the crown prince looked her up and down.
“─beautiful,” Levi breathed. Hataru found herself ensnared by his intense, but tender gaze. Neither he nor she could rip their eyes away as their surroundings melted into oblivion and they entered into their own private world in which they were the sole inhabitants.
“Ahem,” a sudden cough brought them back into reality. Captain Sterling stood with her hands on her hips, her stoic face entirely unfazed by her own festive getup. She wore a rust-colored, leather corset with straps and a winged collar over her light-green dress that descended to her knees in elegant, leaf-like ruffles. Her upper arms were decorated with sinoper armlets that matched her ankle-strap platform shoes, which accentuated her shapely calves. Atop her head rested a circlet of marigolds with pendulous, grassy ribbons.
Tarin beamed brightly. “Elden, you look fantastic! When was the last time I saw you wear a dress? Graduation?”
“No, your highness, I wore the standard naval uniform, just like everyone else,” she retorted. “The last time I wore an actual dress was when we attended the Commemoration Ball together, the year before. It was a faded shade of amber, don’t you remember? You told me that I glowed like a candle flame.”
“Ah, yes! Your hair was longer then. I must say, though, I think this one becomes you even more.” He teasingly waggled his eyebrows.
“Oh, quit your ogling,” she snapped, turning away from him so that he couldn’t see the slightest curling of her lips or the blush upon her cheeks.
Entertained by their banter, Hataru inquired, “Is this an old friend of yours, Prince Tarin?”
“Oh, yes,” he answered, still snickering at his jest, “Let me introduce you to Captain Elden Sterling, the best air captain in the entire Royal Flotilla.”
“It’s good to meet you, Captain,” she curtseyed.
Tarin continued, smiling proudly, “And Captain Sterling, this is… uh…” Elden crossed her arms and arched an eyebrow in amusement. Turning back to the princess, scratching at the collar of his peasant shirt, he admitted, “I… I don’t believe I’ve asked your name, actually.” Scoffingly, the red-head rolled her eyes.
“Oh! Forgive me, my name is Hataru Orfanos, your majesty,” she curtseyed again, still concealing her own royal identity.