A freakish light show immediately swirled before her. Harsh winds pummeled against Jupiter's Return as if they were stick-wielding children and the ship was a pinata full of prizes. The rain drilled into the men on the ship like icey bullets as the scrambled around the deck trying to secure everything down with ropes and chains. Captain Levi still had her unconscious body cradled in his arms as he tried to carry her to a safer place, but the deck was tilted at such an incline now as the ship fell, that it was nearly impossible for him to get a foothold, especially as more and more water rushed over the deck’s surface like a raging river in the sky. Nevertheless, he persevered, pushing towards the charred and smoking foremast, which teetered menacingly in the melee of the storm; Hataru didn’t like the looks of the giant crack cutting across its center.
“I need to help him! Saphira, I need you to send me back. Can you do that?”
Cold shivers. Flashes of light. Suffocating smoke. Her eyes shot open, and her brain was flooded with more information than she could process. But one sense ─ her hearing ─ did hold prominence above the others as the traumatizing sound of wood fibers splitting apart, worse than nails on a chalkboard, echoed across the deck.
“Look out!” Hataru howled, tackling the captain like an offensive rugby athlete. The foremast snapped in two and collapsed a mere yard from their bodies.
“Oww…” Levi moaned, “Hataru? How did you─?”
“Keep moving!” she yanked him to his feet, and together they struggled through the downpour.
“Are you alright?” he shouted. “What happened?”
“I’m fine! I─”
Out of nowhere, the rain stopped. The summer sun warmed Hataru’s face as Jupiter's Return shot out of the storm clouds like a discarded watermelon seed from the mouth of a dark and dismal giant, and for a brief, surreal moment, the princess thought they were safe. But then she felt her feet rise off the floor, and she realized the ship was still falling towards the jagged northern side of the Behemothic Mountains. Hataru was really getting sick of falling.
“Hataru!” Levi hollered, reaching out to her with his rubber-coated hand while he held onto the boat with his other. She grabbed it the moment the ship made contact with the land, sliding down the mountainside at a hundred miles an hour like an over-sized bobsled, but it didn’t do her much good since the second they hit the base of the mountain, Levi lost his grip and the pair was flung together into the air.
“Don’t let go of my hand!” he screamed.
“Wouldn’t dream of it!”
The princess decided that if she survived the fall, she would have to re-evaluate what the worst sound in the world was; it was hard to decide between the roar of a Kresreb or the pop of a mechanical, prosthetic hand being detached from its arm in midair, at the moment she was leaning towards the latter. You just had to jinx it, didn’t you? she thought bitterly as she and the captain flew apart and her eyelids drooped.
Visions flickered through her mind. A brown wolf and orange tabby tumbled about, playing together in the emptiness of The Null, but when they ran into an ashy bear and an ivory swan, the canine and ursine creatures attacked one another viciously. Hataru heard heard a huge crash, like an explosion that sounded close, but also far away at the same time. The swan flew away from the fighting, flapping its wings with haste, but soon found itself trapped within a metal cage with a pig for a cell mate. The swine fled from the prison, scampering off with a wild boar. I’ve grown quite fond of you, Gilda’s voice whispered, answered by a gruff voice that sounded strangely familiar, Me too. Once my arm is healed, we can leave this ship ─ run away together! The cage door slammed shut on the swan, and out of the void crawled a slimey, monochromatic crocodile followed by a hyperactive, tawny rabbit, and the two glowered at the swan with malice. The image faded for a moment, showing a water tank burst apart and spill the majority of its contents, but when the beasts returned to her vision, the rabbit had disappeared and a tuft of yellow fur stuck out between the reptile’s bloody, grinning teeth.