2. Jupiter's Return (Page 4)

The princess was a flower ─ soaking in the melody as if it were sunlight and swaying her hips to the beat of the drum as naturally as if it were the winds that dictated her fluent movements. Unabashedly lifting her hands, she let loose her contorted emotions from the past week, expressing them through fervent twists of her body. Filled with passion, Hataru blossomed, executing each improvised step with flawless enthusiasm. If she were to have had an audience, they would have seen a girl, silhouetted by the midmorning sun streaming through the windows, dancing her heart out with pas de basques and pas de chats, and they would know the meaning of beauty and life. Little to her knowledge, however, the dancer did have an audience at her secret recital. In the midst of a pirouette, she saw him.

Arms folded, Captain Levi leaned against the frame of the open door, his eyebrows raised in amusement and a smug smile stretching his lips thin. “That was spectacular. You’re an incredible dancer.”

The princess stiffened, “Diamond Champion of the Trellisanian Nationals for two years and counting. How long have you been standing there?”

His smile widened. “Long enough.”

“Well… what do you want?” She crossed her arms rigidly over her chest.

“I just came to let you know we’ll be descending to dock in a few moments. I thought you might like to walk ─ or dance, if you'd rather ─ on solid ground for a bit.”

“Why you─” she groaned.

“What’s that on your face?” he cut her off, curiously squinting at her. “On your cheek there. Did you scratch yourself?”

Immediately, her hand flew up to cover her left cheek, “It’s nothing!”

“If you’re hurt, you should let me know. Firious is a good medic; he could take a look at it for yo─”

“No! I mean… I’m fine. It’s just… it’s nothing. Now, please leave.” She stormed toward him and began closing the door.

“Hey! Wai─” The door clicked shut. “Hataru!

Ignoring him, the girl ran to the wall of shelves and snatched a small hand mirror she had noticed earlier. Her hands trembled.

“Hataru, you ninny, you washed off all your cosmetics in the bath… How are you going to conceal your scarlet letter now?” she whispered, staring at the reflection of the cruel, “S” shaped line that snaked its way down her face from the bridge of her nose to her jaw.

The End

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