Hime x Hime
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The warm afternoon wind swept through my hair, nearly knocking my glasses off. I had underestimated just how fast a ship this size could move through the air, but wind magic was an amazing thing.
Wow, we're higher than Mount Asahi up here! I wish Yuki and Jun could be here to see this...
I knew for a fact they would enjoy it as much as I was. I closed my eyes, inhaling deeply. The sound of footsteps broke my momentary trance.
"You really took to flying quicker than I thought. What do you think?" Amber asked, approaching from behind my shoulder.
"I never knew it could be this exhilarating. Speaking of flying, where’s Pon-Pon? I haven't seen him since this morning." I noted.
"He's actually up there in the crow's nest taking in the sights. He likes to spread his wings and pretend he's some large creature." Amber gave a slight chuckle, putting her hand up to her mouth. "He can only materialize when I call him out, but that uses up quite a bit of my mana."
"Mana?" I asked.
"You don't even know that? Well... That's how you use magic. Everyone has an available source of mana, and once you run out—poof—no more magic until you get some rest." she explained in simplified terms.
"Interesting... So I can use it too, then?" I made a pose like I was some wizard with a wand, feeling a bit excited at the prospect.
"Probably, but you're not ready for anything crazy yet. I don't want you accidentally blowing a hole through Aurelia's Tear. Mother would never let me hear the end of it."
I would never do something like that... Or at least I think I wouldn't.
"What are you louts doing? I thought I told you to swab the deck!" A man in a gruff voice shouted from elsewhere on the ship. "Start port, and work your way starboard. That's an order!"
"Yes, first mate!" A handful of other sailors responded with urgency.
"They're really on top of things around here. Everyone seems so busy that it kinda makes me feel bad for standing around..." I rubbed my neck sheepishly.
"I wouldn't worry too much about that. These men are paid well to provide us transport. That reminds me... There's someone I'd like you to meet." Amber gestured towards the back of the ship where the cabins were located.
I followed her lead, passing by several sailors in the process. They gave Princess Amber a small nod of reverence, but I got some pretty disdainful side-eyes.
"I feel like a goldfish at a pet store, being gawked at so much. Did I do something to piss them off?" I whispered to Amber as we walked inside one of the cabins.
"Oh, don't mind them. They're like a bunch of older brothers to me. They're probably wondering what I'm doing with such a scrawny guy." She punched me on the shoulder playfully. "I've been flying on ships like these since I was a little girl, and the crews have always taken care of me."
"Oh, that's right. You mentioned at dinner that you wanted to fly in the royal fleet like your father. Is he still in service?" I asked. Amber paused mid-step.
"........The Captain's quarters should be just at the end here. Let's go introduce you." Somehow her monotone response left me a little wounded. Much more than an angry or sarcastic tone would have.
It seems I bumbled right into a land mine without realizing it. I had no idea what the situation was like with her father, but based on her tone and the way Queen Veranda reacted... I couldn't exactly assume the best.
We entered the room at the end of the hall through a pair of fancy wooden doors. They each had a circular window in the center. The room inside was extremely cramped.
Decorating the walls were the heads of various beasts, old photographs, model boats, and antique clocks. It was as if a hoarder from one of those reality TV shows took their collection out to sea. Or sky in this context. Sitting in the center of the chaos at a small wooden desk was a single gentleman.
The pale-faced man had gray hair and a handlebar mustache. His captain’s outfit was navy blue, and many badges lined his chest.
"Amber! I was hoping you two would stop by and say hello. I've been buried up to my neck in reports, else I would have come out to the deck sooner." the man said. "Is this the boy you mentioned?"
"Yes! Sakuta, this man is Commodore Azazel Flynn. He's one of the bravest men I've ever known, and pretty much like an uncle to me." Amber introduced the man warmly. "Oh, and this is Sakuta Yamada. He's the one that saved mother."
Though he was on the smaller side, Commodore Flynn gave off an aura of power and confidence. His intense eyes scanned me over as if they were hunting for a sign of weakness, but soon gave way to a friendly smile.
"She gives me far too much credit, but it is true that I served with her father in the royal navy for many years. Long before he became king, even." I checked for Amber's response, but her polite smile didn't waver. "It's nice to meet you, Sakuta."
"The pleasure is all mine. I appreciate you having us aboard your ship." I bowed.
"No need for formalities, truly! When my favorite niece sent her familiar with a letter asking for my help, I couldn't put a crew together fast enough. " he said.
"Oh yeah. Where are we going exactly?" I asked.
"Haha, I guess Amber wanted to keep it a secret. There's a training yard the royal family owns along the coast. It makes for a great spot to practice magic, and get some sparring in as well. If you're planning to do something as crazy as sail to the demon capital—and survive—you'll want to be a lot less green."
Wait, he knows about the plan?
Reading the puzzled expression on my face, Amber stepped in to clarify.
"Don't worry, Sakuta. There's hardly a person I trust more with my mission than Commodore Flynn." she said proudly. "When I'm not being harassed by suitors, I've been sneaking off on expeditions aboard Aurelia's Tear to train."
"The bane of every pirate from here to Zephyr, she is! Isn't that how your nickname—" The Commodore's words were cut short by a large boom. The impact sent Amber and I crashing to the floor.
There's something... soft on top of me.
I had hit my head pretty hard on the ground so I winced in pain. As I opened my eyes, another person filled my vision. I had broken Amber's fall with my own body.
She simply stared at me in shock without saying a word. The smell of fresh perfume filled my senses as our ragged breathing slowed to match one another's. Her stern facial expression betrayed the rosiness filling her cheeks, our hearts racing.
Huh? What's happening?
I was completely frozen as those deep pools of red stared back without retreat. A few seconds felt like lifetimes as her soft figure pressed against mine. Just as she began to lean in slightly...
"Hey! Are you two lovebirds gonna lay there like a couple of beached sea-drakes, or what? We've got ourselves a problem!" Commodore Flynn shouted making his way to the door.
That’s one moment ruined.
"LO—!?" Amber almost choked, palming my face into the ground to lift herself up to her feet.
"Hey!" I complained, the atmosphere returning to normal. Whew, that was dangerous. I had almost gotten carried away. Even so... She didn't pull away at first either.
"What's going on, Az!?" Amber called in Commodore Flynn's direction. The curses and shouts from outside the cabin painted a picture of total chaos. Things had taken a turn for the worst.
"It would appear that we're under attack." The man smiled.