Hataru had heard stories about gold-thirsty people risking and losing their lives to search for the legendary treasure at the peak of The Place Where Earth and Sky Kiss, but she had always dismissed it as a lack of precaution on the expeditioners' behalf. Looking at it now, however, the princess took back her haughty opinions. Protruding from the open sea like a red wood tree in the middle of a barren desert, the crude rock formation, nearly as wide as it was tall, definitely seemed out of place. Far below, the waves desperately threw themselves against its base like frivolous women pining for love, but the mountain paid them no heed, extending miles beyond the clouds to caress the face of the sky.
Suddenly, the ship shuddered, the engines sputtering smoke.
“Talus! Take care of that!”
“He's here!” Zephyr exclaimed beside the princess, leaning over the ship railing.
The princess looked at him, confused, “Who’s here?”
He pointed up to an oily black airship anchored to the rock like a guard dog chained to a post, “Master Kosu. He must have beat us here. Look, there he is!” Only a few hundred feet above Kronos’ Revenge, a squad of tiny, ant-like figures scaled their way up the crag.
“How do you know he’s a part of that group? Wouldn’t it be safer for him to stay on his ship?”
“Yeah, but he told me tha─ I mean, I heard him say that he would be going to the top, himself. He doesn’t really like staying on the ship all that much, too boring.” Zephyr nodded in agreement with his previous master’s ideology.
“Well, if he’s looking for excitement, I’d say he’s found it,” she frowned as her eyes trailed up jagged rockwall. “I do hope that we don’t have such a need for thrill. There’s got to be a better way than that…”
Antenor joined them, studying the mountain, “No, no. We’ll take the manual rowboats; that’s how I did it last time. We should be able to beat them to the top, too.”
“You heard him!” Levi bellowed, calling his men to attention, “Cale, go help Firious and Antenor haul them out. Kurt and Cedric, you’re coming with us. Martin, you man the ship while we’re gone. Go ahead and settle her on top of the cloud line. Talus, keep working on those engines. I want to know why they kept sputtering out this whole trip, and I want you to put a stop to it. Everyone else! Be on your guard! The Black and White Assassin may still have a secret agenda, and you all know how tricky he can be.” The whole crew grew silent; some removed their hats and bowed their heads. “But we won’t give him the chance!”
“Huuraaahh!” the crew cheered, then scurried about on their new assigned errands.
“I’m coming with you,” Hataru walked over to where the captain stood hanging his jacket over a barrel on the deck.
“Ah─ me too!” Zephyr chimed.
“No,” Levi removed his clawed hand from his jacket and slipped it into his pants pocket, “Both of you are to stay here on the ship.”
“No, I’m coming,” Hataru placed a hand on her hip, “I’ve had this feeling since breakfast ─ I can’t explain it ─ like something in my gut is telling me that I need to go with you.”
“Your gut is probably just telling you that it’s almost lunch time and you need to eat, so you should listen to it and stay here.”
Levi turned away from her ─ conversation closed.