10. Clash in the Cave (Page 3)

Levi held his breath in horrified awe and tightened his grip on his own sword, but he didn't get a chance to swing. One second, the dark fiend was pointlessly pummeling the captain’s chest, and the next, the blade was gone, and an exotic sword was trained on the assassin’s heart. Both men gazed upward.

Bearing over them, surrounded in a halo of dim lantern-light, the audacious figure of Prince Tarin of Marcelia, an image that would make any woman swoon, peered down at the two peculiar men fumbling on the floor. His glance slid over each man slowly, taking in every detail of their appearances and committing them to memory. Then his gaze drifted over to the dagger which he had easily whisked a yard out of Kosu’s reach, and his eyes widened with recognition.

“That’s mine!” the prince practically squealed, greedily diving for his precious family heirloom.

Kosu blinked, scrambling to his feet and snatching up his sword. He had two choices ─ kill the pirate or get the knife, which he needed in order to kill the pirate ─ at least, according to that prophecy… It wasn’t a very difficult decision. Using the battle skills he had accumulated over the years, he quickly cartwheeled over to the prince, snatched up the dagger with the mastery of a professional pickpocket, and stormed away, pausing briefly at the cave entrance.

“We’ll meet again, Captain,” he spat, “Be prepared to meet your doom!” Then he vanished into the darkness of the cavern corridor, and his men following suit.

“No! You dirty scoundrel, how dare you steal from the Crown Prince of Marcelia!” a distraught voice screamed after him. Tarin rushed passed Hataru, spurting out, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I really must go! Farewell!”

“Oh! Ah… goodbye, I guess…”

Dazed, Levi stood up and blankly watched the bluejacket dash out the exit. Something about the prince didn't sit quite right with him, and he especially didn't like the way kept Hataru staring after him with  those gorgeous moon-eyes of hers. The captain cleared his throat, switching to his bladeless prosthetic as he approached her.

Resting his hands on her shoulders, he dipped down to stare into her fathomless blue eyes, “Blue blazes, I thought you were dead! Are you alright? What happened?”

Well,” she smiled apologetically, “… I fell asleep.” The captain stared at her in disbelief, so Hataru quickly stumbled through an explanation of what had happened after she’d run to fetch the spare mask, skipping over her alarming dream. When she finished, Levi leaned back, laughing heartily, and momentarily forgetting their social differences, he slipped his arms around her, seizing her against him in one fluid motion.

He embraced her tightly, whispering sincerely in her ear, “I am glad that you are alright, Hataru. I can't tell you how relieved I am to see you again.” The princess' cheeks grew hot, and her skin tingled where his hands rested. Her breath was cut short as her heart pounded on the walls of her rib cage.

“You’re alive!” A second pair of arms slipped around her from behind, “I thought you were dead!”

“Oh! Zephyr!” the princess slipped from the captain’s grasp and hugged the boy. “Yes, I’m alive. I’m here.”

“You… you saved my life,” he sniffed, leaning back to look at her face, his eyes watering. “No one has… ever done that before.”

“Oh, Zephyr, you don’t have to cry. It’s okay, really. Come here.”

She pulled him into another soothing embrace, and he snuffled, “I’m not crying,” but he hugged her tightly in return.

“She wouldn’t have had to save your life if you’d stayed on the ship like I told you,” Levi muttered under his breath. “Alright, men! Move out!”

Hataru looked up at him in surprise, “What about the cage?”

“I don’t think we’re ever going to find it up here. And besides, I’ve had enough of this place for one day.”

The End

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