“And let me guess, they’d actually be burglarizing m─the ship’s owner blind and sabotaging the engine so she couldn’t chase after you when you escaped?”
“Naturally! Though, I’d never thought of sabotage… I’ll have to remember it for next time…”
“Next time? As in, you do this frequently?”
“Yeah, about once a week. Sometimes twice.”
His honesty unnerved the princess. She set down her cup of tea. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Ah… you asked me?”
“You said that I’m free to leave this ship whenever I want. What’s to prevent me from contacting authorities and telling them everything I know about you?”
He smiled wittingly, leaning back in his chair, “Oh, you won’t do that.”
“And whyever not?”
“Because I saved your life. You said those men attacked you, didn’t you? Who knows what would have happened to you if I’d left you on that ship infested with those scoundrels.”
“You mean scoundrels like you? Criminals? Thieves? Pirates?”
“Well, now. Not everyone is what they seem. I must ask you not to group me with those ruffians, Princess.”
“Stop! Don’t call me that! I'm… I’m not a princess!” Whether he was telling the truth or not, Hataru didn’t trust this man with her royal identity.
Hands up in surrender, he quirked, “Okay! Sorry. I was under the impression that women liked that sort of chivalrous thing.”
“Not from the likes of you!”
Her insult hit him like a slap to the face, but Levi took it, eyes closed and lips pursed. “Fine. I understand if you don't want to trust me. Just believe me when I say that you are safe now. Think of yourself as… as my ward. As long as you are under my care, I promise that no harm shall come to you, and if it does, may the blame be put on me.”
“You shouldn't make promises you don't intend to keep.”
Irritated, he clenched his fist, “I told you, I─!” He paused. Taking a deep breath, the young silver-haired man sighed, “My quarters here will be free for you to use during your stay. Please excuse me while I grab a few of my personal belongings.” Promptly grabbing a change of clothes and a hairbrush, he walked out the door and smirked over his shoulder, “I hope you enjoy your stay, Princess.”
~ ~ ~
“Are you done with your breakfast, Miss Hataru?” the kindly man with smile-line wrinkles who had been bringing her meals for the past two days asked, popping his head in the door.
The princess gazed up from the book she had been reading comfortably on the bed and smiled, “Yes. Thank you, Antenor. It’s on the table.” Despite his association with pirates, this gentleman reminded her of the grandfather she’d never had, and though he never stayed to chat, his presence seemed to comfort her. She especially appreciated that he didn’t mention the irony of her self-imprisonment in the captain’s quarters after being barricaded within a storage closet for multiple days ─ unlike a certain one-eyed brute who’d knocked on the door too many times for her liking. On the contrary, the snow-bearded man didn’t really say much at all; he just left her to herself, with which she was unfathomably content.