2. Jupiter's Return (Page 1)

After each of her anemic fainting episodes, Princess Hataru always felt a little disoriented, like the world had decided to do somersaults while she was asleep, but the feeling usually passed once she recognized where she was. The problem, however, was that Hataru hadn't the slightest idea of her whereabouts when she opened her eyes. Midday light poured into the unfamiliar room from a set of bow windows, which expanded across the entire wall to her left, making the fine diningware on an elongated octagonal table twinkle. The wall to her right consisted of a series of shelves lined with hundreds of books and trinkets and a study nook in the corner closest to her ─ complete with desk and oil lamp. In the other corner, a clawfoot bathtub peeked out from behind a wooden room divider. The entire room, so foreign to her, did not help her grogginess fade with haste, especially when, most alarmingly, she found herself  to be tucked into a full size canopy bed with golden-toned sheets and curtains that complemented the carmine carpet. As she blinked at her new surroundings, a garnished door across the room from her opened, making her jump.

“Ah, the sleeping beauty awakes, I see. Good afternoon, Princess,” the strange silver-haired man walked into the quarters bearing a tin tray laden with a steaming teapot, bread, and cheese, which he gently set on the table. “I thought you might be hungry. Please, come and eat.”

Her four-day-empty stomach rumbled, gaining priority over the young woman’s intuitive mistrust of the captain. Wobbly kneed, she stood up, clinging to the bed posts for support.

“Careful, now,” Captain Levi caught her from behind, beneath the elbows, when she stumbled and guided her to a chair. Hospitably pouring her a cup of tea, he chirped, “I hope you like Earl Grey.”

“Humph.” She watched the steam curl while nibbling on a hunk of baguette.

He sat down across the table, pouring himself a cup, and after allowing her to consume the rest of the baguette and nearly half of the cheese, Levi spoke, “You know, I never did get your name.”

The princess was slow to answer, “... Hataru… Captain Spry, where am I?”

“You, Miss Hataru, are aboard Jupiter's Return, smoothest sailing ship on  the open skies.”

“You kidnapped me?”

“I didn't kidnap you… I rescued you; you are free to leave whenever you want. I'll even take you anywhere you’d like to go after our next stop.” Her eyes narrowed in unbelief. “Look, my ship was under fire. I had to get my men out of there.”

“And what exactly were you and your men doing on my ship in the first place?”

“Oh, ah…” the captain scratched his neck, “Well… okay. I might as well go out and say it,” Looking her straight in the eye with his single yellow orb, he declared candidly, “We had plans to rob your ship─”

“How dare you! That all belongs to my fa─ the king of Marcelia!”

“...which I full-heartedly apologize for, now. You have every right to be mad at me.”

Of course, I have every right! she wanted to scream, but instead she held herself with dignity. “And how exactly were you planning on accomplishing this?”

         “We had quite the scheme, actually,” Captain Levi leaned forward, grinning as if he were about to tell her the best joke in the entire universe, but Hataru didn’t think she would find it very amusing. “I was going to pose as Sir Levi of Mahgnitton ─ a friend of a long lost relative of whoever owned the airship, I think it was a young woman, maybe around your age, actually ─ and while I distracted them, I’d send my men on a little maintenance check of the ship, you know, to make sure everything was in tip top shape?”

The End

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