“Can you tell me what you’re doing on my ship, Zephyr?” Not a single drop of vicious tone could be found in the man’s voice.
The child closed his eyes, took a deep breath and began, “Five years ago when I was nine years old─”
“I thought you said you were ten,” Firious interrupted.
Zephyr’s jaw dropped, and his eyes darted back and forth as he stuttered, “Ah… ah… yeah… I─ I meant… when I was,” he counted on his fingers, “when I was, ah… six! No. When I was seven. Yeah, when I was seven. Sorry, I’m not very good at math.” The boy rubbed his mouth with the back of his hand and looked at the ground.
“Go on,” Levi prompted.
“Well, when I was seven, my dad beat my mom, and when she died, he started beating me. But then, one night, my dad died, too ─ ‘cuz Master Kosu killed him! I was so scared! I thought he might kill me too. I begged him to, ah, let me live, so he took me with him. He, ah, he kidnapped me! I’ve been on his ship the ever since then, and today, Master Kosu said that it was time to, um, prove my worth, and he told me I had to swing aboard your ship. But I hid behind this big barrel, instead of fighting. And then Master Kosu left, and those guys found me… ” he pointed at the first mate and the other crew members. “That’s why I’m on your ship, Master Levi.”
Levi smiled warmly, “Just Captain, Zephyr; I’m nobody’s master. Thank you for sharing this story with me. I don’t mind if you stay on my ship, and you can consider yourself a free man now. I’ll let you off at the next port, if you want.”
“Really? I can hardly remember the last time I was on the ground! I’d, uh… do anything to feel the dirt beneath my feet again!” the boy cried. Hesitantly, he hopped up and hugged the captain tightly.
Giving him a firm hug back, Levi assured him, “It’s no trouble at all, Zephyr. We’ll have to do something about your clothes, though.”
Zephyr looked at his clothes, grabbing his pant pockets, confused, “What… what do you mean? What’s wrong with my clothes?”
“You barely fit in them! I think I might still have something that’ll work. I’ll look around in here while Firious takes you on a complimentary tour of the ship. How does that sound?”
“Uhh… that sounds great. Thank you, Mast ─ um, Captain Levi, sir!”
“And there you go again, you do-gooder,” Firious grumbled to the pirate captain as he and the two crewmen led boy out to see the ship. Levi chuckled to himself as he watched them leave.
“That was very kind of you, Captain,” Hataru remarked as Levi dug around in a chest at the base of the bed. “Your kindness never ceases to amaze me. Truly remarkable.”
“Oh, you think so?” he hit his head when he tried to peek at her over the trunk lid.
Her elegant, cyan eyes sparkled in sincere admiration, “Yes, I do.”
“Oh,” Levi ducked back into the chest, blushing, “Well, I... I think that you’re ─ um.”
He tried to continue, “Well, I─ ”
Slam! “Wow, Captain Levi! Your ship sure is amazing! Fourteen sails… and those turbojets! And don’t even get me started on your engine room!” the stowaway boy padded into the captain’s quarters as if he had done so all his life. Casually looking around the room, he noticed Hataru for the first time. He studied her, “Did you know that your eyes are the color of the sky?”