7. Runaway Princess? (part 3)

          Meanwhile in the treasure chamber, Levi paced back and forth, stopping every few steps to turn and look at the entrance. The rest of his men had begun to search for the comb again, but he couldn’t focus. Why hadn’t he gone after her? Why? She had been gone for over an hour now. The princess was dead, he was almost certain. No, he thought to himself, a shiver going down his back, I can’t think like that. I must believe that she is alive somehow!

          Stopping abruptly from his striding, Levi sat down atop an old wooden chest, his head in his hands, next to Zephyr. The boy was still coughing and wheezing, but it was obvious that he would live. Zephyr looked up at the captain with tear-filled, worrisome eyes shielded behind Hataru's mask. The lad had been crushed when he had heard what Hataru had done for him. Why did you disobey me, Zephyr? Levi had asked. Why didn’t you stay on the ship like I told you? Those words ate away at the boy’s heart. Why had he smuggled himself away on one of the boats? He had wanted to get in on the adventure, too, that’s why. Zephyr had felt like he would miss out on something big if he didn’t come, so he hid ─  a skill he had learned from his years on Kosu’s ship ─  under a blanket in one of the lifeboats and waited patiently for the men and Hataru to leave before he revealed himself. Unfortunately, he had no idea that he would need an air mask, and set off to follow the team without one. By the time he had reached the cavern entrance, his lungs were almost full of water and he could barely breath. Now Hataru is dead because of me! The poor boy thought. I’ll never be able to forgive myself!

          With his muscles twitching from the cold, Levi scanned the room for any article of clothing that he might be able to use to keep warm. Hataru had still had his shirt wrapped around her like a shall when she so foolishly ran off, and now his body was cooling down quite a bit. He felt every chilled drop of sweat that slipped lightly down his toned muscles, and left a trail of skin just a little bit colder than before. Just past a bucket of diamonds on his left, he spotted something that might be useful.

          “Zephyr,” Levi said wearily, “can you fetch that cloth over there for me? I think it's a shirt. It’s a burgundy color, over there by the diamonds. Please, go get it for me.”

          The boy hopped up, grateful that the man had not yelled at him, still surprised by his kindness. He ran to the cloth and yanked up on it. Finding that it was, in fact, a shirt, Zephyr began to walk back to Levi, but a silver object fell out of a fold in the fabric and caught his eye. Stooping down to pick it up, he discovered it to be a jeweled hair comb with the initials N.M. inscribed on it. Thinking that it would be a nice thing to lay on Miss Princess Hataru’s grave, if they ever found her body, he slipped it into his pocket. Tears formed in the wells of his eyes as he thought about her death. It’s my fault, he thought in despair, it’s my fault!

The End

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