“Run, Hataru!” the girl heard her mother scream. “He’s coming! Don’t let him get you! He’ll be here soon!” She felt a hand tug on her arm, trying to pull her away from the stranger, but the young girl remained immobile, watching every step the strange man took till he was standing toe to toe with her, a wicked gleam in his bottomless-pit eyes.
Her eyes shot open and a gasp escaped her lips, fear clinging to her like ice that refused to melt after a winter storm. Sighing, she rested her mask-covered face in her palms. It was just a dream. I haven’t had one in so long… The princess peered around. The sun had finally reached her shady nook, but she felt no reason to move; instead, she gazed at the sky. As much time she had spent in the atmosphere over the past month, she really hadn’t paid much attention to the earth’s infinite ceiling. Which is a shame, she thought, the sky is such a beautiful thing. And Zephyr was right, it does match the color of my eyes. Out of the corner of her eye, Hataru detected movement, but she ignored it, wanting to enjoy the splendor of the glorious blue expanse above her.
In a flash, a giant, scruffy man materialized out of the thick, humid air and squinted at her through his charcoal mask ─ a different make and model than her own ─ that gave him the appearance of a freakish, wild boar. Noticing a sword at his hip, Hataru mimicked the way some of her shyest friends behaved at balls and parties, slowly scooching as far away as she could and trying to appear as small as possible.
“C─can I help you?”
“You the princess?” he grunted.
“Um… what princess?”
“The one that the master wants, like he wanted that other dancer he killed last year.”
Hataru gulped, “Oh, no. I don’t think─”
“What color are your eyes?”
“… Excuse me?”
“Master said the princess he wants has blue eyes. The last one I found on that tiny ship had hazel eyes, and she was too fat. I can see why, though. She eats like a pig! And she squeals like one, too,” he added under his breath, “which I think is sorta cute…”
“Hold on… you couldn’t possibly mean… Gilda? You kidnapped Gilda? What have you done to her?”
The man shrugged and gestured over his shoulder with his thumb, “We have her tied up on Kronos’ Revenge. I don’t know why the master kept her though, since she wasn’t the girl he wanted, but if your eyes are blue, you must be the right one.” The pig man had no sense of personal space as he leaned forward, trying to get a better look into the glass eyeholes of her mask. “You are her!”
“Wait a minute! Just because my eyes are blue doesn’t necessarily mean─ hey!” The stranger grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet, forcing the princess to follow him across the ledge, but she fought back, trying to wrench herself from his grasp. “Let me go!”
“Don’t struggle,” he warned, squeezing her wrist tighter, “ or you might fall. “I’m taking you to Master Kosu; he might even give me a raise.”
“I don’t care! Let me go!” With her free hand, the princess slapped, pinched, and scratched at the brute ─ anything she could do to get him to release her arm ─ but her assaults only seemed to annoy him as a single mosquito pesters a field worker on a hot day. Violently, he swatted at her, smacking her in the jaw with such a force that her scarlet mask flew off her face. They both watched dumbstruck as it tumbled over the mountain side.