Her face grew red, “And maybe you’d like to be referred to as… as…”
“Try Bothersome Buffoon.”
“What about Debonair Corsair?”
“Not a chance, Captain Little Beard,” she smirked.
“Hey! It’s called a goatee.”
“I still think I rather like Debonair Corsair…”
“What a pitty! I heard that the best nicknames are the ones you never like.”
The captain chuckled and glanced at the empty bowl on the ground, “Do you need help with that? I guess this is rather ancient technology. Do you even know how to work it?”
“Of course, I know how to operate a simple water pump!” she shot to her feet. Wrapping her filthy hands firmly around the pump’s handle, she heaved it up and down up and down several times, but not a drop fell from the spout. “Why…?”
“Sometimes,” the captain helped her pump from the opposite side of the handle, adding more force, “the pressure is lost, and it takes a few tries to get it back.” Finally, a sploosh of water flowed forth and filled the bowl, and they carried it back to Mr. Wan, who thanked them for their service and bade Diana to come again soon.
“Do I resemble your mother that much?” Hataru wondered as they walked out of the hut.
“I couldn’t tell you," he shrugged. "She died in childbirth with me, and there were never any pictures of her. My father always said she was beautiful, though, so I guess you do have that in common ─ even with all that crud on your face, Princess!”
“Hey!” She placed her hands on her hip, smiling begrudgingly.
They made a few more stops as they ambled their way through the streets, stopping in at homes with fresh bags of sustenance and proffering baubles to passer-bys. Hataru let herself get caught up in the moment, greeting each villager with a winsome smile.
Captain Levi grinned, handing a package of goods to another grubby child, “I must say, you’re a natural!”
“Really?” she blushed, “I’ve always dreamed of doing something like this, actually ─ giving to those in need.”
“Is that so?”
“I suppose you could say, I come from humble beginnings, so I’ve always wanted to help those who weren’t as fortunate as myself. But my father─”
“Wouldn’t let you. ‘Too dangerous, too risky,’ right?”
“Those are his words exactly,” she giggled, “I know he only wants to keep me safe, but ─ the way I see it ─ sometimes doing what is right isn’t safe. I’ve raised over millions of dollars for orphanages and hospitals, but it just isn’t the same as this ─ physically being here, in the midst of poverty, and meeting the needs of others.”
The two continued along in a comfortable silence, both gazing occasionally at one another in secret, as if they were each trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle by merely studying all the pieces from afar.
Baffled, the princess found her eyes continually drifting to the captain’s right hand, until she finally stated, “You know, I could have sworn that your fingers had been as sharp as claws the day we met, but it must have been a trick of the light, because now I see that your hand is merely mechanical.”