17. Azure Conquest (Page 3)

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 literally sailed through the test with flying colors on the first go. 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 his parents wanted him to do so. 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 his final year. Without his comrade by his side, his barophobic tendencies ─ the fear of gravity ─ recurred stronger than ever, and now, even after being united again with Captain Stirling again, alighting still caused him to drift into this green sickly state of nausea.

Less than a minute later, the prince was still curled up against the ship’s handrails. When he finally pried his squinched eyes open, he was met with a pair of boots that he recognized instantly. His vision followed the boots upward till he was looking at the face of a choleric, cross-armed captain, her face stating plainly that she wanted answers, and she wanted them now.

“Get up,” she growled, her right foot drumming away at the floor.

Like a dog with his tail between his legs, Tarin stood tall to face her. Despite his height advantage over her, he still had reason to be afraid; Elden knew all of his moves ─ with both his words and his sword. There was no phasing her, and that was a very scary concept; her wrath was worse than that of any foe’s.

“Now talk.” There was a severe absence of clemency in her voice.

He took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “Well, where to begin? I─”

“Don’t you dare try any of your pussyfooting with me. Get to the point.” her words stung like a child’s rump after a hard spanking.

“Okay… ” he sighed. “This little odyssey of mine isn’t really about finding the dagger…”

“I'm listening.”

“I guess I have what some might call an ulterior motive?” he grimaced.

“Go on.”

“My parents asked me to attend a meeting that I didn't have much interest in being a part of. I tried to refuse, but they were going to force me into the conference whether I agreed to it or not. Then, I heard about the break in and the stolen dagger. I saw my opportunity, my window of escape, and I took it.”

“You called me out to help you play hooky?” she gasped. “I can't believe you! I thought you’d have grown out of that sort of behavior by now!”

The End

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