“Mother... Don’t leave me. I love you,” I cried, holding the sickly most beautiful woman on earth.
“Please live for me, Eleanor. I love you too. Please, don’t ever forget your surname. The name is your pride. The reason of your existence,” Her voice chocked at her throat, a bit vague from what could be heard from my ears.
“I don’t want the surname. It’s not important as how important you are to me,” I sobbed to my heart’s content.
“No, Eleanor. You will be the Queen and your lover will be your King. The most important person to you is your future lover. I can’t protect you forever though I can love you forever. He’ll protect you forever like how your father protected me,” Her smile was somehow weak but very reassuring. “Remember my love, only death can part lovers.”
“I will remember that, mother,” To my surprise, my hands which were holding hers felt very cold. And finally, she left me with a smile carved on her pale pink face. I wept and wailed over her death and was consoled by a very sturdy stature.
“It’s alright. It’s alright... It was just a nightmare. I’m here,” Captain Kenny was embracing me tightly.
I swiftly hugged him and buried my head in his broad chest that my tears didn’t seem to stop rushing from my pale cheeks. He softly brushed my hair in a comforting manner and we remained in that state for quite a while. When I was quite certain that I was no longer crying, I pulled my guts to face him.
“Sorry,” I swiftly shoved him away from me as my face reddened from the embarrassment.
“It’s okay,” He retorted a bit shocked, maybe he was stunned for his action to actually embrace me when I seemed very weak.
“That dream... it comes again. I’m very scared. What if I’m the princess?” I bluntly asked.
“Then, what if ‘you’re’ the princess?” He made the word ‘you’ became intense and I could see that he was referring to my feelings.
“Then, if I’m the princess... will you...” Before I could finish with my sentence, Maria barged into my chamber with a happy look carved on her face.
She quickly grabbed my hands and exclaimed enthusiastically, “YOU’RE AWAKE! ELEANOR’S AWAKE!”
Captain Kenny’s expression turned gloomy as if he had lost the main sentence that I was about to say just now. He groaned slowly, not letting Maria heard him though I could see his unsatisfied look that was extremely annoyed with it. I giggled mildly as I smiled towards him. I wasn’t sure but I thought I saw him blushing right after seeing me smiling at him.
“And what are you doing in here, Kenneth? You’re not plotting any perverted acts on this pure young maiden, right?” Maria pulled me closer towards her.
“If I am to do so, I would’ve done it a long time ago,” He said angrily, not facing towards us.
“Eh, then you really are plotting something until the appointed time comes?!”
“AS IF I WOULD!” He retorted hastily with his face reddened from anger or embarrassment.
“Then, you don’t like Eleanor?” Somehow, Maria’s face turned rather sly, with a cunning smile carved on her face.
For the first time in my life to see Captain Kenny’s acting so weirdly, as if he was an innocent lad who was denying that he was in love. Wait, was he really?! No, it was probably my imagination or so.
“No. I don’t hate her,” He answered briefly.
“Then, do you like her? Oh, sorry, do you love her?” This time, Maria’s question was intense enough and that’s what I would really want to know.
He paused for a while, didn’t dare to answer. We waited patiently for him to answer and finally, he replied, “I wonder.” He slightly giggled and left us in bewilder. Maria and I was facing each other and we had no idea what he meant by that. Which was it? My brain messed up the whole day; even so, right after hearing my awakening, all of the crew came and greeted me casually. Chast still couldn’t stop his crying habit. Well, what could I expect from a child?
“LAND AHOY!” Josh exclaimed.
Finally, after two weeks and five days being on the sea and eat almost burnt home-made dishes, we could finally have our tongue taste the ‘real’ cuisine, the best made by infamous chefs in the town of Shawn.
“I can’t wait to get to the bar. I almost lost my sense of taste,” Sweeney moaned.
All of the crew retorted synchronically, “Shhhhhh.....!!!”
“I can hear that,” Maria uttered, a bit hurt and a bit gloomy.
I giggled at their cute little atmosphere that I didn’t actually look where I was heading to when I abruptly collided with Captain Kenny who was walking nearby. I quickly apologised, “Sorry!” but he didn’t seem to bother and said, “Careful when you walk. What if you bumped into one of the crooks downtown?” then he left. He was acting really weird ever since we left Faintlight or rather, after he apologised for the accident kiss.
“Ah, Eleanor! Ain’t ya gettin’ taller and moe uhh... shabby,” a voice that I had long longed to hear struck my ears. A voice that I had been missing for a long time and I knew whose voice was it. I quickly turned towards the source and saw a sturdy image of my foster brother, Renka. I trotted towards him happily and attacked him with a tight embrace while uttering, “Renka, I missed you so much!”
“Heh, me too. Mammy and Pappy too if I am to tell ya’. Oh and, right afta ya left, Pappy had been callin’ ya for like lotsa times and he didn’t even remember that ya left fo’da crew,” He gave one of his childish grin.
“Really? I’m sure Pappy had been missing me so badly. What brings you here, Renka?” I asked bluntly.
“Yer not happy wif me bein’ here? That’s mean,” He sulked.
“That’s not it! I mean... it’s quite rare to see you here. I know you go overseas quite a lot since you’re trading things for Mammy’s work...” Before I could finish my sentence, Renka cut it with his own statement, “I ain’t here fo work. I’m here for ya, solely.”
Somehow, his black eyes were serious and the childish grin he gave me vanished instantly, as if something worse was about to happen.
“I’ve brought ya a piece of reminda from Mammy. Ye hav two seasons approximately fo ze coronation. Yer father iz ill,” Renka’s eyes shone intensely.
“Wha... what are you talking about?! I’m an orphan, am I not?” I shrieked shockingly.
“Hey Capt’n, could it be zat yer hidin’ it from her? Ya didn’t tell it yet, aint’cha?” Renka’s attention was now towards Captain Kenny.
“What is it all about, Captain?” I asked doubtfully. “What is he saying?”
“Capt’n, what are you hiding from all of us?” All the crews joined my question.
“Since when did you know this?” Captain Kenny’s face was rather dark and gloomy now.
“I’d love ta save it later but’cha see, I knew this just recently too. Mammy’s so mean to hide it from us all tho. Why aint’cha tellin’ her yet?” Renka asked boldly.
“I... I don’t know.”
I grabbed Captain Kenny’s left sleeve with both of my hands and stared at him straight through his eyes, “Please, answer me.”
“I... I’m sorry, I lied. You are the lost princess and I’ve known it weeks ago, when Mammy finally answered my questions. I’m sorry,” Captain Kenny finally answered everything.
Tears streamed down from my cheeks, “How could you hide it from me?”
“Just who on earth would have enough guts to tell you when you went running into them and cried while stating that you didn’t want to have such horrid past?” His explanation was enough to answer all my questions.
“Sorry for making you endure it alone. From this day onwards, I won’t be giving any more burdens to any of you. It’s okay... I’ll find my way back. I’ll sail somewhere where anyone can’t harm me. Then, you all won’t be hurt anymore, right” I released his sleeve and left the harbour and ran aimlessly, heading nowhere.
“Eleanor!” I could hear Captain Kenny’s voice calling me over and over again but I just couldn’t stop my legs and they were becoming heavier. My heart wouldn’t stop aching and finally, I skidded to a halt where in front of me a dead end. I huffed and sobbed at the same time and finally, the masculine stature that was chasing me stopped near where I stood.
“Don’t come near! I’m a burden to everyone! I know that those were no ordinary dreams but still, I don’t want to acknowledge them. I don’t want to hurt anyone anymore! Those dream, they’re still chasing me. They hurt everyone who’s in good terms with me. The servants’ children, Cecille, Myra, Rayne and Andrew, they’re all killed and they were my friends! I am not suited for the throne! I don’t want anyone to know it! If they knew that I’m the princess... They’d...” He quickly embraced me from behind and interrupted my line, “I know. You don’t have to mention it, I know. I dare take the risk. You’re one of us now. Your pain is our pain, your tears is our tears. We are in the same ship.”
“Why are you the one who’s doing all the comforting? Why are you the one who always come for my rescue? Why are you the one who always stay by my side when I need someone?” I held my sobs so that I could be able to say all those lines.
“You once said that a woman needs protection from a man, right?” I slightly nodded after he finished his sentence. “Then, I’m offering you mine. I will be your shield, I’ll be your sword and I’ll be your knight. Use me as you see fit.”
“Are you saying this out of sympathy?” My eyes became blurry from my tears.
“Trust me. If this out of sympathy, I wouldn’t be here doing this comforting,” His brace became tighter, as if he wouldn’t let me go.
My heart was thumping like mad. I hoped that he didn’t hear it but somehow, I could hear another heartbeat from behind me, giving me a very warm feeling. The feelings of being protected, secured, the feeling of being wanted and being held lovingly by the man who sworn for your protection. I couldn’t think of anymore words then just letting myself in his firm hold, his warm and large hands were wrapping me. The tension in the atmosphere grew bigger and bigger. I couldn’t help myself from blushing continuously.
“What are you guys doing there?” A half-shocked shrieking voice rung in our ears from Captain Kenny’s back.
“Mind your own business, lil’ guy,” Captain Kenny quickly released his hold and jerked away from me with a slight scowl on his face.
“Is this what people call ‘adultery’?” The child’s eyes widened.
“What?! No! Where did you even learn that from?” He blushed, defying the child’s accusation.
“Then, why does that sister over there is crying? She looks a lot younger than you. Could it be that you’re a rapist?!” The boy, probably a twelve-year-old, was holding something in his hand that looked like a long stick and was ready to attack him.
“That’s not even an inch to the truth...” Captain Kenny monologue to himself. “Then, do I look like a rapist to you?” He uttered sarcastically.
“With that good look of yours, no girls could ever resist you. And when the right time comes, you’ll attack them,” The boy muttered bravely.
Suddenly out of the blue, a blue snake-like dragon went on and approached me while yelping, “Everyone is worried... Captain, you are so mean to make a woman shed tears. What kind of gentleman are you?”
“A talking serpent?!” The child cried shockingly.
“Hey, you insolent fool! I am not a not a serpent and I am a very graceful water dragon owned by the Devil of the Sea, Kenneth Rogers, the great pirate of the sea,” Penelope pouted and was waving his wings angrily.
“Don’t go around telling him about us randomly you stupid dragon...” Captain Kenny caught Penelope by his right elf-like ear and pulled it.
“My greatest apology, master,” he uttered.
“No way! You’re the Devil of the Sea?!” The boy released the stick that he was holding and came nearer towards our stature. He then abruptly bowed in front of him, “You’re my most respectable person! I adore you! Please be my mentor!”
“Didn’t you just accused me randomly and now you’re begging me to be your mentor? What kind of person are you?” Captain Kenny raised one of his eye-brows, looking at the small figure that was bowing upon him.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know that you are the Devil of the Sea. As far as I heard, the Devil of the Sea is a woman-hater, a heart-breaker despite the good looks of his. But, I didn’t expect to see him being intimate with a girl over there. She must be someone special. Even the Devil can love a person,” The boy making a conclusion of his own.
“Even I am a human myself,” Captain Kenny whispered to himself.
“She’s no ordinary girl. She a prin...” Before Penelope could finish his sentence, Captain Kenny covered his mouth from spouting more about my background.
“She’s one of my crew and her position is a cook. That’s enough for an introduction,” Captain Kenny gave a death glare towards Penelope.
“Well then, why don’t you guys come over to my place? Please accept my hospitality as an apology,” He bowed courteously.
“It’s okay. Our crew is waiting for us at the harbour. I’ll have my leave now,” Captain Kenny grabbed my hand and was still pulling Penelope’s right ear and fled from the incident place.
Somehow, he was being a bit cold towards Penelope and the boy and he didn’t even say even a word towards me. Not long after that, we finally arrived at the harbour with everyone, including Renka, was waiting for our return. Maria quickly snatched me away from Captain Kenny and was hugging me tightly, saying, “You poor girl. Please be my daughter-in-law... I promise my son will protect you with all he can and if he makes you cry, come to me, okay.”
“Ehhh... But...” Before I could finish my sentence, Renka interrupted, “If that’s da case, he has ta go ova ma dead body first.” Somehow, Renka sounded serious, as if he was challenging her.
Everyone in the crew went, “WHAT?!” simultaneously, including Captain Kenny. How did this even come out like this? I wondered.