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Response #2: Guo Xiang

Gruff whispers danced through the pungent air of the makeshift conference room. Outside, gentle waves crashed against the outside of the old wooden ship. The water was calm, unlike the crew.

Sweat poured down the pirates’ muscular bodies. The room was cramped and none too clean, but no one seemed to mind.

After sailing for nearly three weeks, they were going to see their captain for the first time today. Rumor had it that he was over seven feet tall, with a thick black beard that was as course as a scouring pad. His name was unknown, but everyone had their ideas.

Out of all the excited men, young and old, one boy’s fervor seemed to pale the enthusiasm of everyone else. He looked to be no older than 17 and was wearing the same dull brown knickers and once white sleeveless shirt he had worn since his first day on the ship. His face was scrubbed clean and his usually pale, seasick skin looked strangely vibrant and rosy.

“Hey you!” a voice demanded impatiently.

The boy turned around in his chair.

“Me?” he asked, pointing innocently at himself.

“Yes you. Stupid boy!” the speaker jeered with false exasperation. He was only a young man himself, not the boy’s senior by more than a year or two.

The rest of the crew joined in, laughing and spewing vulgar insults. The young man seemed to be fairly high up in the pecking order.

He continued speaking, not giving the boy a chance to retort.

“I hear the captain’s going to throw someone overboard today… someone weak… someone useless.”

The young man didn’t need to continue; it was clear what he was insinuating.

But the boy didn’t seem angry or hurt by this remark. He blinked his large dark eyes and tilted his head cutely to one side.

“I’m so sorry,” the boy sighed lightly, “it was nice knowing you.”

He patted the young man on the back sympathetically.

“Hope you know how to swim.”

The young man clenched his teeth and made a grab for the boy’s shirt.

“That,” he growled, shoving his fist in the boys face, “ was not smart.”

The rest of the pirates got up on their feet, anticipating a good fight.

Just as the young man drew his arm back to punch the boy in the face the door swung open. A tall man with a thick black beard stepped through.

Everyone froze. The young man dropped the boy roughly to the ground. Was this impressive character their long anticipated captain?

The bearded man searched through the crowd for a few seconds before speaking.

“Captain? Where are you?”

The boy raised his hand as high as he could.

“Right here!” he laughed, skipping to the front of the room.

The crew looked around uncomfortably, not sure whether to laugh or pull the boy back and give him a good beating.

The bearded man nodded and stood to the side.

“Good to see you Ma’am.”

The boy threw off his cap. Long, curly black hair waved down “his” narrow back.

Not bothering to savor the surprised expressions of her crew she walked deliberately over to the young man. He gulped as she placed one of her long fingers under his chin and lifted his face up to hers. Turning his head towards the right she placed her small lips by his ear.

“Like I said earlier, I hope you know how to swim.”

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