“Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” he whispered. “Shhhhhhhh. It's alright now, Princess. I'm here. It's alright. You're safe now.”
As her convulsive cries slowed, she was able to tilt her head enough to peer up at his face, searching for the assurance his voice possessed. Trails of stale tears glistened on her rosy cheeks in the light of the morning sun, and despite being covered in sweat and monster spittle she still took his breath away. “Captain Spry,” she began to stutter, “I was so... so scared. It frightened me to think that... I thought that I... that you... that we were going t-to die. I thought... Oh, I'm sorry, Captain. I'm so sorry…”
“...What? What do you have to be sorry for?” a slight smile crept across his lips, “I should be the one who’s sorry. Hataru, what you did for me... you saved my life, and for that I am forever grateful.”
The young woman sniffed, glister returning to her eyes, “Well… you’ve saved my life plenty of times before, so now we’re even.” She relaxed her hands, smoothing out the wrinkles in the fabric on his chest, and took a step back.
“Wait a minute, if we’re keeping count…” the captain started counting on his fingers, “... then I’d say you─”
“Hey!” Hataru snickered, shoving his arm playfully.
“Hey, what? You didn’t let me finish!”
“That’s because you were going to say that you’ve saved me mo─” the princess stopped mid-sentence, her whole face crinkling up like a sour raisin. “What’s that smell?”
Levi shrugged, “I don’t smell anything.”
Hataru sniffed the air, curling her lips further in disgust. Curiously, she brought a chunk of her knotted hair to her nose and then had to prevent herself from retching. Trying to keep her monster-spit coated hair as far away from her face as possible, she scowled, “I… need to go wash up… Please excuse me.” Hastily bobbing her head in courtly regard, she turned to saunter back to her cabin, but after six paces, she whipped around again, eyes wild, “Captain Spry, take off your shirt!”
The captain was a rainbow trout, red in the cheeks with glazed eyes and a gaping jaw.
“You heard me!”
He chuckled nervously, just now noticing all of his men circled around them. “I think I must heard you incorrectly. For a second, I thought you’d asked me to remove my ─ hey!”
She was upon him like a thief in an armed robbery, tugging at the hem of his shirt and struggling to yank it over his head. “What ─ what are you doing? Hey, Hataru!” He wasn't sure if he should resist her or give into her wish. Ultimately, he ended up in a twisted tangle of cloth and appendages.
“Stop fighting me, Levi, and just take it off!” Hataru barked.
Abruptly he obeyed, bending his back and straightening his arms to allow the princess to peel the fabric from his sweat-drenched skin. He gawked at her, like a man who had just experienced an electric flow of lightning course through his very being and survived. “There,” she swallowed, “Now you really are safe.”
Peeking up at him through her lengthy eyelashes, nothing could hide her cherry tomato cheeks, burning at the sight of rivulets of perspiration trailing down his unclothed torso. “I'll, ah… I'll, I’ll just put this away in my, er… your quarters for safe keeping. Good night.” With that, the princess sailed off like a yacht on a cool lake, leaving the befuddled captain in her wake.