In the heat of the midmorning sun, Hataru paced along the bow of the ship, yawning heavily as she watched a group of storm clouds thunder angrily above a collection of mountains in the distance. Hataru really didn’t care for how dark and threatening they looked, especially since she knew they’d be flying through them soon, but Antenor had made it clear that the captain had already determined their next task was to take her home to Trellisania, as he had promised almost two weeks ago when she’d first woken up on his ship. The quickest way to do that was to make a beeline through the Behemothic Mountain Range on the border between Imoterra and Trellisania, cross over the rain-shadow desert beyond them, and then sail straight to the capital city of Novallar, where her mother and father were both probably worried sick by now. It had been over a month since she had last seen them, so naturally Hataru felt excited, but she also felt a twinge of melancholy, knowing that it also meant she would have to say goodbye to the new friends she had made ─ probably forever.
The princess yawned again. It was easier to just not think about it.
Instead, she ran her fingers through her soft and clean, chestnut curls, which had taken her four whole hours and three full bathtubs of steamy water to get that way and purge herself of any remaining Kresreb filth, and by that time, the sun had been streaming brightly through the captain’s bay windows, making it rather difficult for her to fall asleep, despite her weariness. But maybe it wasn’t just the light that was keeping her awake. After dealing with the bear-monster, she didn’t really have any desire to return to The Null. Who knew what sort of horrific memories or occurrences she might find waiting for her there?
Jerkily, the old pirate ship rattled to and fro, and Hataru’s grabbed the railing, her knuckles turning white. The ship had been doing that every fifteen minutes or so since the bear monster had disintegrated ─ just another problem for the ship mechanic, Talus, to worry about. That poor man was probably running on even less sleep than she was; thank goodness Zephyr seemed to have a deep interest in machinery and was able to help him out in the engine room.
“I hope they’re able to get everything fixed soon,” she muttered to herself, leaning against the railing.
“You and me both, Princess,” Levi materialized on her left, leaning on the banister and studying the sky as if it held the answers to all of life’s mysteries. In turn, Hataru studied him, her guard up, unconsciously shifting away to the right. He was fully clothed again, she noticed, as her eyes drifted to the loosely laced, open neckline of his shirt, remembering the glow of his bare chest from the previous evening. As brazen as a peacock, Levi smirked, and she snapped her eyes away, furiously blushing. He continued speaking, “Yeah, the ship was rocking so much last night that I had the most horrible dream ─ I turned into this hideous bear and the whole crew tried to kill me and…”
Hataru blinked at the captain.
“... Too soon?”
“I don’t think it will ever stop being too soon, Captain.” She shifted another centimeter away from him, pulling her arms closer over her chest.
Her tone pained him. “Yeah… I guess you’re right.”