Antenor lifted an eyebrow, nodding towards her.
“Me? Why would he be jealous of me? I don’t─”
“Not of you, Miss Hataru. Over you.”
“Over me? That’s… impossible… who…?” Prince Tarin. The name came to her out of nowhere. Hataru gulped,“Umm... Antenor, how exactly did you and Nosa break the curse?”
The old pirate cheeks grew a rosy pink, “Well, I suppose I have to tell you...”
Panic began creeping back into her heart.
“Nosa… my Nosa… all she could see was that nasty beast in front of her, but she knew it was me, stuck inside. She stepped forward, and she… she kissed me!” His face was as red as a tomato, a flippant smile upon his lips. “Right on the nose!”
“Oh,” Hataru squeaked.
“That was our first kiss,” the old man giggled to himself.
“Would you stop that! This is serious!” she exploded. “Are you sure there is no other way?”
Downcast, Antenor grimaced. “Not that I can think of. It makes sense, though. Everyone wants to be loved, even a monster conjured by magic. That kiss must have been enough to stun the beast into losing its grip on my soul, allowing me to slip out and conquer it. Poor Ursine didn’t have his love to save him from the beast.”
The girl covered her whole face with her hands, peaking out from behind her fingers, obviously worried. “So you’re saying that if I don’t kiss him, he will die?”
“If you don’t save him, the beast will kill us all. The Kresreb is like a mental prison that you can’t escape unless you can let go of your rage, and that is a very difficult thing to do without help,” Antenor glanced at her, “Please, Miss Hataru, you are his only chance.”
The ship began to tremble. The sound of claws ripping through wooden boards drew closer and closer, climbing up the side of the ship. A terrifying roar emitted from an unseen throat, and the princess jumped to her feet. The Captain was coming.
Hataru looked out at the stars, scattered as if they had been poured from the heavens with no specific pattern in mind. A hint of light over the horizon of clouds announced that morning was on its way. Hataru wondered to herself if the stars feared the sun, zealously climbing over the clouds to overpower their dim lights, as she feared the Kresreb, scaling up the side of the ship to bring her imminent doom.
“Please,” Antenor beseeched.
The silver bear leaped onto the deck.
~ ~ ~
The Kresreb stared at the squad of men that had congregated around it, their weapons aimed steadily at the beast. A true predator, the bear-monster surveyed the premises, searching for a weak point on which to inflict its terror. The man that stood directly before the beast, barely a bound away, was scrawny and quaking in his boots, but the look in his eye said that he knew how to use the that harpoon he held. Beside him, a much beefier fellow clutched six knives between his knuckles. To their right, yet another man gripped a ragged mace. Two men ─ twins ─ trained their muskets at the Kresreb, and several others bore swords. One man even wielded a plunger in one hand and held tight to the top of his trousers with the other, a menacing glare on his face. Each and every man was prepared to fight, to give his life for his crewmates; none were willing to back down in coweress and act like the prey that the Kresreb knew they were.
Finally, the monster found it, the mark it had been looking for. A small boy with eyes bulging like those of a slippery, green frog and an oversized nightdress would serve as the perfect target. A rumbling growl crawled up the Kresreb's throat as it lunged toward the child without hesitation.
Everyone moved in slow motion; they couldn’t keep up with the beast’s agility, and this pleased the Kresreb. A few milliseconds later, the beast loomed above the boy. Raising its colossal, metal claw for a death blow, the beast only paused to savor this first kill of the night, for there would surely be more to follow.
But then, she was there, shielding the boy with her beautiful body. She was the reason for its existence, the one whose image was imprinted on its heart, the one whom it yearned for, and the one whom it feared. She was the only one who could truly cause its destruction. Yes, the beast itself was mortal and could therefore be killed, but when it came to fighting, the Kresreb had more than an advantage. With her, however, all it took was a single touch of her glossy lips and the very fibers of its being would disappear. For the Kresreb, this woman could be both the beginning and the end, and therefore, she must die.