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The whole plaza cheered as the princess walked down the lane, greeting the villagers happily and wishing them all good luck. All the villagers smiled at her, greeting her with equal enthusiasm, shaking her hand and bowing to her in respect. Every time one did though, she would tell them immediately not to. The villagers, out of respect again, rose and apologized. Instead of telling them not to, she would smile sweetly at them and shake their hands as well.

A little boy ran up to her and tugged on her skirt, too quick for her knights to stop him. Just as one of the knights was taking his sword out of his sheath, she stopped him and crouched down to the boy’s eye level while smiling gently at him. Before she could even open her mouth, the little boy showed her a flower he held timidly in his hands and announced brightly to her, “You’re very pretty. When I grow up, I want to marry you!”

The princess widened her eyes for a split second before smiling; her ruby lips making her teeth look so much whiter and her pigment green eyes turned into crescents. She tucked her red hair behind her ear before replying to the boy, “I will be looking forward to that day.” The boy smiled before running off, placing the white lily in front of her. She bent down to pick it up and tucked it into her hair. She turned towards her guards and asked in a teasing manner, “How do I look?”

All of them looked away from a moment before one of them cleared his throat and replied, “You look beautiful as always, Lady Ariel.” The princess nodded before turning away and continuing her walk in the city. She’s been surrounded by ‘yes men’ for too long and nobody would offer her an honest opinion even if she paid them. All of them were too afraid of losing their jobs, and it was a sad thought when she really had time to think about it.

More villagers ran up to her, just to greet her and shake her hand. Many of them had just run up to her to greet her, and Ariel had told her group of knights to stay behind her or to the sides of her, just not in front. It was exciting being able to meet all the people residing in the place she and her family ruled over, and she needed some fresh air; being coped up in the castle walls was not the most welcoming lifestyle after all.

They walked pass the trading port, the knights on even higher alert than earlier. All of their bodies were tense, their hands on the hilt of their swords. Ariel raised an eyebrow and she looked over the large body of her knight and she saw ships lined up on the harbor. Flags she did not recognize were flying on the poles of the ships, fluttering in the wind and almost shining within the sun’s rays.

Her knights continued to lead her through the village, letting her greet the villagers and letting her enjoy the natural breeze before leading her back to the castle. She couldn’t lie to herself; she already knew what she was going to do after she finished her brief revisions of the country’s history. And she had already everything prepared when the knights brought her to the castle and asked her politely to revise.

She thanked them for being escorts before walking to her room, greeting the maids and butlers who passed by her with a kind smile and a joyful ‘hello’. All the workers greeted her back with equal enthusiasm, bowing and curtsying when they did. A butler, the only one who knew what she did when she finished her revisions, was pushing a cart with silver plates on them. She glanced at them and licked her lips, telling herself not to take one of the sweets too early. She giggled when the two of them reached the door, her butler rolling his eyes as she quickly snatched one of the macaroons off the silver plate as she pulled out one of her books.

“Thank you Ian,” she called to him as he walked out of the room and closed the door. He nodded his head as acknowledgement and said in a soft voice, “You’re welcome, Princess Ariel.” The princess lay on her bed as she read the book quickly; finishing the chapter she was supposed to after finishing all her snacks. The whole castle knew of her sweet tooth, and all of the chiefs would always laugh whenever when she walked into the kitchen and asked for a sweet snack. It had become so frequent that they started storing pre-made sweets in the fridge.

After putting the book back in its place neatly, she opened her closet door and grabbed the cloak out of her closet doors. It was a muddy brown and tattered, just perfect for blending in. She tied her wavy red hair into a low ponytail before putting the cloak on and using the hood to cover her hair. Grabbing a pouch of gold from her bedside table, and climbed out the window and out into the royal gardens. There wasn’t anybody out at that time, a perfect way for her to escape.

Of course, she didn’t just go out in her royal dress- it would have been too constricting for climbing and running, and it would also heighten her chances of being caught. So she had a pair of brown slacks and a loose fitting shirt underneath the cloak. That day, she had decided to go barefoot into the streets seeing as it wasn’t very hot out either, so it wasn’t a huge problem.

She climbed over the gardens’ gate easily, having already memorized where to stick her feet into and where it was safe to grab onto. Quickly hopping the fence and landing on the balls of her feet, she ran out of the castle’s perimeter, careful not to get caught by the few guards that were on petrol.

She ran out of the perimeter fairly easily, and she smiled when the warm sun greeted her and the busy movements of the village entered her sights. Like her usual routine, she looked at all the stands set up in the streets, picking out some fruits she would never be allowed to eat in the castle in fear of her messy eating habits getting in the way.

She bit into a slice of honeydew of the warmest orange colour. She was friends with the person that owned the stand, and that person knew of the sweet tooth she possessed. Sure the honeydew could have tasted better if it was cold, but the sweetness and warmth that was in her mouth while she chewed was something that she could never experience in the castle.

Ariel continued walking throughout the small town, buying small hand-made accessories that were too cheap in her opinion and small trinkets that she would keep in her room as mementos. She lips curved into a smile as the villagers still greeted her ‘good afternoon’ even without knowing who she was, and she greeted them back as well. Sure it was a small village, but it was also a successful trading port and practically the home for piracy. The only thing is that the pirates had a space for themselves and as long as they did not leave that area, the knights and navy could do them no harm. Of course, the pirates did not take advantage of that and stayed in their spot.

While she was walking along the perimeter of the pirates’ area, barely even touching the space, a group of men appeared in front of her.

She widened her eyes, as they stopped her and stood in front of her, in front of where she needed to run if she didn’t want to enter pirate territory. The men, burly and heavily scarred, smirked and started talking amongst themselves- loud enough that she could hear what they were saying and it scared her, what they were going to do to her.

“A little maiden, huh- you lost or something?” One of them asked, crossing him arms and walking towards her. His voice was coated with an accent she could not recognize  for the life of her, and assumed that that was the way low educated people talked.

She gulped and answered in a as strong of a voice she could muster, “No, I know perfectly where I am going.”

The men chuckled and one of them said to the other, “Look at the way she’s talking, must be from a high-end family.” She widened her eyes and her breathing got heavier, cursing the way she could not speak out of her usual formal speech. The three men surrounded her, blocking even her view of the public street. She was being backed into a wall in pirate territory and she couldn’t deny it, her heartbeat was beating faster in fear. Every time she would sneak out, nothing dangerous would happen to her. So often that she had let her guard down when she walked along the path.

“Her fingers are so pale, she has to be from a rich family,” the men grunted to each other, discussing what to do with her. Looking over her shoulder, Ariel gulped before taking a small step back; preparing herself for the risk she was going to take. After all, she was already a few steps into the pirate’s area, what harm was it going to do to her if she just ran in? Well, a lot of harm and mistreatment if they found out she was the princess, but other than that, they won’t bat an eye.

 Right?

Ignoring her mind that was telling her to just stay, she ran into where the forbidden area, her feet hitting the gravel roughly as she continued fleeing. Soon enough, she would get to a safe area and lose them. Along the streets, she heard murmurs and whispers, all pointing to her no doubt. She did look out of place, a small body covered in a tattered brown cloak and running away from something. She was willing to bet that she almost looked like a child that had stolen something from one of the pirates.

Behind her, not far away too, she heard the voices of the men yell at her. Her hand griped her hood harder, hoping that it would not fall as she was running through the streets. The balls of her feet were already starting to ache and she could feel her body almost giving out, but she prayed for her to hold on just a little longer- at least until she could find a safe place where she could hide. It couldn’t possibly be that difficult, she could practically fit into anything due to her small frame- problem was actually finding somewhere she could hide in without the men seeing.

She looked over her shoulder and saw the men were still after her, and they didn’t look like they would stop anytime soon. Accidentally, she let her grip of her hood go and clutched onto the bottoms of the cloak, getting almost caught up in the way it would brush against her feet and make her trip over her own two feet at times. The hood slid off her head and revealed her bright red hair. Her green eyes widened as every one of the pirates hushed, noticing the way her hair would fly with the breeze as she continued running.

She looked back one last time before bumping into a firm chest. Scared, she looked up and thanked the heavens it wasn’t one of the men. He had vanilla-like blonde hair that was messed up really nicely and charming hunter green eyes, almost making her lose track of what she was doing previously. Her small hands gripped at his shirt to keep her balanced, before hurriedly pulling her hood up again.

Then man looked at her, annoyance showing in her eyes, before pushing her away. His eyes flicked away from her and to where he heard shouts from behind Ariel. Instinctively, his hands flew to his swords’ hilts and a cruel smirk danced upon his perfectly shaped lips. He glanced at Ariel and told her, “Run and hide.”

The princess looked up at him, knitting her eyebrows as he turned away and pulled out his swords. He yelled at her to hurry and, almost as if grasping the reality of the situation finally after meeting the man, she ran as fast as her legs out carry her. Carefully, she threw a worried look over her shoulder for a second before continuing down the path. She clutched onto the cloak tightly and almost ran across the town. Occasionally, she would trip over her own two feet, but she continued running across the trading port.

And she was almost getting away, until another burly man appeared in front of her to block her way. Not wanting to think anymore, she ran back to where she had come back from as that was the first thought that appeared in her mind. Ariel clutched tighter to her cloak as a form self-reassurance as she back traced back to the actual port itself.

Despite knowing it was a bad idea, she stopped in front of a boat unknowingly and sat next to the plank that was leading up to it, letting her feet fall from the edges of the port and her toes could barely touch the cool water she so desperately needed to help her relax. But Ariel couldn’t inch herself even more or she would risk falling into the water, and she couldn’t swim so it didn’t sound like a very appealing idea to soak her whole body where she could potentially die.

“Find the girl!” She widened her eyes and gulped. Scrambling to her feet and trying to mind her step, she gripped her cloak again and her mind let the thought that she was aching from the waist down slip her mind.

Seeing the plank, she took in a deep breath through her mouth, sealing her lips to prevent any whimpers from escaping and scurried up the plank. Anxiety held onto her heart in a vice grip but she tried swallowing her fear while walking onto the boat. It was surprisingly empty, not a creak or voice to be heard. Realizing that, she let out a little bit of the breath she was holding but still continued her slow and careful pace. She prayed that she would not get caught as she tried finding a place to hind, just in case the brutes could get on the ship- or in the worst case scenario- she was sneaking around in the brutes’ ship.

Finding a place to hide is the most plausible solution right now, she thought as she continued sneaking around the ship’s decks.

She too soon reached a staircase that was hidden by a trap door. If she hadn’t seen the handle on the floor, she would have still been wandering around the large ship. Using almost all her strength since the door was so heavy; she managed to lift it up and slowly walked down the stairs carefully. There was no railing or anything and her hand felt empty for the few seconds where she walked down without holding onto anything to support her, but she still counted her blessings that she was able to find a hiding spot for the time being.

Spotting a few barrels, she smiled out of relief and released the breath she was holding the whole way there. Walking over to it, she opened the lid and cringed when the strong scent of alcohol hit her nose. Quickly closing it, she looked at the other barrels, not wanting to open any of the other ones that were sitting oh-so innocently in front of her. It didn’t look like she had much of a choice though, but it wasn’t exactly the brightest idea to open each one, one by one.

Just as she was walking over to one in the far corner, she heard a cheerful voice at the top of the deck and she widened her eyes. Ariel panicked on the inside and she frantically looked around. A small gap was peeping through some of the barrels hidden in the shadows and she ran to it. Her feet didn’t make any noise, surprisingly, but she couldn’t really count herself safe until she had gotten to the little gap. And for once in her life, she was thankful for her petite frame.

With a little more effort than what she thought she had to put in, she squeezed into the tight fitting gap. She breathed in through her nose and held her breath, not wanting whoever was going down to catch her. The footsteps got closer though, and she could feel her heart panicking, the beat it produced growing faster and harder the more she staying in the gap.

The sounds from the feet were stopping and slowing nowhere near her though and she started counting her blessings again until the barrel she was leaning on was taken out of the way. She yelped as she fell flat on her back, winching at her carelessness when the source of the footsteps looked down at her with a barrel in his hands.

Both their eyes met each other; Ariel’s filled with worry while the others were filled with surprise. She let out a small sound of confusion when he turned around and carried the barrel up the stairs, not looking back at her. Maybe, as small as a chance it might be, she hoped that he did not actually see her- or thought she was an illusion, whichever was more convenient.

But as she tried standing up, she felt the boat rocking and her feet slid against the floor, making her fall flat on her bum. She winched again when she heard the trap door open. It didn’t give her enough time to find another hiding hole, and her bum was hurting too much for her to even consider standing anymore.

She looked up with guilty eyes, but it turned into shock when she was greeted by more than one pair of eyes that time, five if she had counted properly in her mind. And there was one that was just one eye and she wasn’t sure if she would count that as well. She decided to leave it out and just count the five that she could see.

She gulped again and trying concealing the guilty with an innocent smile and voice, “Hello.”

The others just stared blankly at her without saying a word.