17. The Beast's Arival

          Many of the men had woken from their slumber by the screams of their monstrous captain and were now filing out onto the deck; any grogginess they might have possessed had evaporated due to the fear-filled atmosphere. Some held torches of fire, a sickly yellow hue amid the darkness that surrounded them, while others held various forms of weapons, preparing for whatever might be coming. Among the crowd, Hataru spotted Zephyr, dressed in a nightshirt that was just slightly too big for him, wearily wiping the sleep out of his eyes. Catching his attention, she silently gestured for him to return to his bunk, a serious glare on her face to ensure that he knew disobedience was not an option. Bowing his head in disappointment, the little boy began trudging back the way he had come, his sleep shirt trailing behind him.

          Uncertain of what was on its way but aware that it would not be good, the crewmen began to gather around the ship's railing, broken and torn from the Kresreb's first passing. An eerie silence hung in the air, a moment of unnerving peace that allowed their fears to fester as they awaited the bear-like beast's impending arrival. It was during this moment that Princess Hataru looked out into the infinite, dark sky. The stars, scattered as if they had been poured from the heavens with no specific pattern in mind, were twinkling against the deep ultramarine firmament. A hint of light over the horizon of clouds announced that morning was on its way. Hataru wondered to herself if the stars feared the sun, zealously climbing over the clouds to overpower their dim lights, as she feared the Kresreb, scaling up the side of the ship to bring her imminent doom.

          A bone-shaking roar echoed over the side of the ship, and like a bean sprout that appears after much patient waiting, the Kresreb sprung aboard the ship. The crew cried out in surprise, yet they all stood their ground, weapons aimed steadily at the beast. Threatened, the bear-like monster sized them up, bearing its pointed teeth and bellowing ferociously, saliva spraying the first line of men. A true predator, the Kresreb surveyed the premises, searching for a weak point on which to inflict its terror. The man that stood directly before the beast, barely a bound away, was scrawny, quaking in his boots, and covered in Kresreb drivel, but the look in his eye said that he knew how to use the that harpoon he held. Beside him, a much beefier fellow clutched six knives between his knuckles. To their right, yet another man gripped a ragged mace. Four men trained their muskets at the Kresreb, eleven others bore swords. One man even wielded a plunger in one hand and held tight to the top of his trousers with the other, a menacing glare on his face. Each and every man was prepared to fight, to give his life for his crewmates; none were willing to back down in coweress and act like the prey that they were.

Finally, the monster found it, the mark it had been looking for. The small boy with eyes bulging like a those of a slippery, green frog and a nightdress two sizes too big for him would serve as the perfect target. A rumbling growl crawled up the Kresreb's throat as it lunged toward the child without a single ounce of hesitation.

Everyone moved in slow motion; they couldn’t keep up with the beast’s agility, and this pleased the Kresreb. A few milliseconds later, the beast loomed above the boy. Raising its colossal, metal claw for a death blow, the beast only paused to savor this first kill of the night, for there would surely be more to follow. However, the next thing the monster knew, she was there, shielding the boy with her beautiful body. She was the reason for its existence, the one whose image was imprinted on its heart, the one whom it yearned for, and the one whom it feared. She was the only one who could truly cause its destruction. Yes, the beast itself was mortal and could therefore be killed, but when it came to fighting, the Kresreb had more than an advantage. With her, however, all it took was a single touch of her glossy lips and the very fibers of its being would disappear. For the Kresreb, this woman could be both the beginning and the end, unless the beast could do anything to help it.

The End

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