“Ladies first…nah,” Ajax joked. “I’ll go first. You are scared after all, aren’t you?” That sweet tone could kill Charisse any day, had the scene around them not been so grotesque. Ajax stepped into the boat, and extended his right hand towards her. As he sat in the boat, a ripple appeared with the boat being the center of it. Within the ripple’s radius, there were no dark shapes leaping in and out of the water.
Charisse wasn’t sure how to understand this scene. It appeared that Ajax had the ability to cast away the evil creatures. Whatever the reason for this was, the fact that it occurred was enough information for her, to reach out and take his hand, stepping into the boat as well.
“You trust me after all, Charisse, deep inside your heart–even though you may not know me. Am I right?” Ajax asked. His tone was tender and demonic at the same time, just like that of a siren–a male one.
“…Maybe.” She knew not her answer, nor what to make of this bewitching stranger. Charisse averted her eyes.
Ajax gave a snicker, but pressed no further. “Let’s go then,” he said instead. With his decisive declaration, he gave the battered boat a gentle row, and it began to sail forward. The ripple around the boat seemed continuous, like a force field or invisible barrier protecting the boat from being attacked by what swam in the dark waters and leaped in the smoky skies. As the boat sailed forward, not a single dark shape touch it, nor the passengers upon it. Ajax rowed slowly but steadily, focusing on the journey, on the safety of it.
It was at this time that Charisse viewed him again. Despite her fearsome surroundings, the presence of Ajax and his bright demeanor seemed to lighten the mood of it all, without even speaking. Was it the company of someone, anyone, or was it this man in particular? She wondered about this, with her eyes on him.
Deep in her thoughts, Charisse didn’t notice that she had been staring at Ajax for quite some time. Since the boat was small with enough space for just two people, the two were actually sitting quite close to each other. For a brief while, as Charisse stared at Ajax, pondering, examining him, observing him, she got lost in her own thoughts, but he was aware of her gaze.
“Is my face so beautiful that you can’t help but memorize it?” he asked in a teasing tone. “Or did you remember my love for you?” He gave her a small smile, looking straight at her.
Realizing at last that she had been staring, Charisse gasped and looked away. “Sorry.”
“You know,” Ajax said, “Look around in this whole realm.”
She did as he said. All she saw were miserable skies, miserable waters, and miserable creatures. She was on a miserable boat too, and the only thing that wasn’t miserable was Ajax himself.
“Isn’t it nice?”
“Nice?” Charisse creased her brows. As said before, everything was miserable.
“Yes, nice,” he confirmed. “On this vast sea, there is only you and me. I could own you here, I could keep you here, we could stay here forever, just you and me. No one can disturb us here.” As he spoke, he stopped rowing and took her hand, kissing the back of it. Then, he sighed. “But I’d better get you out of here.”
With that, Ajax let go of her hand, and went back to rowing.