“How long has it been following us?” the prince of Marcelia asked.
“I’m not sure, could be days, could be weeks. They must have something rather important to say if they’ve been tracking us all this way from the capitol. My men are prepared to stop and meet them at your order, Prince Tar─”
“No,” he objected, “I don’t want to meet with them, and whatever they have to say is not something I want to hear. Lower the ship beneath the clouds.”
“You want me to what?” The captain was astounded by his command.
“You heard me!”
“But, you hate dismoun─”
As the ship drew closer, Tarin grew more frantic. “You think I don’t know that? Just lower the ship beneath the clouds, already!” he trumpeted; though, he soon regretted it when he saw the shock and hurt in his companion’s eyes, caused by his sharp words. Sighing, he continued, “Look, I’m sorry, Elden. I haven’t been completely honest with you about the exact reason I wanted to undertake this expedition. I promise I’ll explain everything, but, right now, I need you to do as I say!”
After examining him with scrutinizing eyes for an instant, the ship’s captain finally relented. “Fine, but I’m only doing this because you are my prince ─ and my friend. However, I do expect a thorough enlightenment from you as soon as we are through.” With that, she briskly turned on her heels and began violently barking orders at her crew, and expeditiously, like a submarine diving beneath the icy waters of the ocean, the Azure Conquest vanished from sight into the chilling mist of the clouds, blanketing the ship’s deck with thick soup-like vapor.
“Brace yourselves!” someone shouted through the haze as the ship sank with more haste. Not needing to be told twice, Tarin sank to the floor, grabbing hold of the rails with a death grip. The only thing that made this plunge bearable for him was the comfort in knowing that no one could see his distorted facial expressions through the fog.
He had always hated descending from the air ever since he was young; it always made his insides yearn to become his outsides, and it took everything he had to keep from giving in to his body’s wish. That was probably the reason why he was never able to pass the final exam back at the academy, not once out of all the thirteen times he’d attempted it, as compared to Elden Stirling, aviator extraordinaire, who’d sailed through the test with flying colors on the first go ─ puns intended. He’d never harbored any feelings of envy toward her, though, only raw inspiration and awe. When he had entered the institution as a first year, he was just an unenthusiastic, royal rascal, attending the school solely because it was his duty as crown prince. That all changed when he saw Elden, a second year, performing in a simulation module in which she was required to govern her ship while fending off a band of unforeseen pirates. He watched as she put all of her energy into it, and from that point on, he was captivated by her passion and charisma. Tarin worked hard to make high marks in every class in order to get closer to her, peer to peer, and once they finally met, they were immediate friends. She gave him helpful tips about managing a ship that she learned in her more advanced classes, and in return he offered special swordplay techniques. They were a team without equal in all of the school’s history; nothing could beat them. That is, until Elden graduated and received her RCD ─ Royal Captain’s Diploma ─ leaving Tarin alone for all of his final year. Without his comrade by his side, his barophobic tendencies recurred, his fear of gravity and its effects rebounding stronger than ever, and now, even after being united again with Captain Stirling, alighting still caused him to drift into this sickly state of nausea.