The crew warned her not to look down, but Hataru couldn’t stop herself. Peeking over the edge of the rowboat as she stepped out, she couldn’t see the ground. No trees. No grass. No towns. Nothing. All that was visible was a soft, downy blanket whiter than the purest of snow, far, far below. Dizzy and nauseous, the princess could barely walk straight as she stumbled onto the rocky ledge. Slipping, she fell face first into the captain's chest and they both smacked into the ground.
“I am so sorry! Are you okay?” she gasped, scrambling to get off of him.
“I’m fine,” he grumbled, wincing as he rubbed the back of his head, “just be more careful next time.”
“I will,” she said apologetically.
The crew walked, or rather, hiked, from the spot where they had docked toward the inky entrance of a massive cave. When they entered, the temperature dropped instantaneously. An eerie glow was cast from the men’s lanterns onto the rugged cavern walls, and drops of water splashed into large puddles at the crew’s feet, raining down from the hundreds of sharp stalactites that hung ominously above them.
Chill bumps popped up along Hataru’s arms, and she began to shiver violently, teeth chattering, the sudden drop of temperature shocking her body systems. Then, out of nowhere, a soft fabric fell heavily on her shoulders. Surprised, she snapped her head around and beheld a shirtless captain, beads of sweat sparkling in the lantern’s light. Levi’s unseen cheeks blushed, and, without making eye contact, he brushed past Hataru, leading the group forward. His white shirt was smooth and thin but surprisingly warm; it also seemed to be water resistant because it was as dry as a desert. Grateful for the warmth it provided, she snuggled into it.
Wanting to make conversation, she decided to speak with one of the men walking next to her. He was much older than any of the other men in Levi’s crew, but he had just as much energy as they did and didn’t seem to have any trouble keeping up with the group even though they were walking rather speedily. “So we’re looking for a comb right? One that a female pirate once owned?”