Chapter 7- New Means of Travel

The next day, Julius returned to the inn where his students had, hopefully, slept. In retrospect, he probably should have sent along a message that he would be gone for the night, but he figured they would be too tired to do anything too out of hand. It’s not like any of them would spill any important information to their enemies for no reason or anything like that.

Why did they make this so difficult for him? 

Internally sighing, Julius walked into the inn and found his group waiting for him near the entrance. And almost immediately, Julius could tell something was wrong. 

None of them had any of their packs. The only things on them were their armor and weapons. 

“…What happened.” 

At his flat tone, the group all looked over at him, and Adrien cheerfully waved at him. In fact, they all seemed pretty happy at the moment…

“Hey, old man! Where were you last night?” 

“Busy. What happened to all your stuff?” 

“Oh, they’re all on the ship.” About three minutes of complete silence passed before Adrien frowned. “Aren’t you going to ask ‘what ship’?”

“Sorry, I was just feeling all my immediate stress leaving my body, only for it to be replaced with new, worse stress. What ship are you talking about, and why aren’t any of you keeping an eye on it to make sure you weren’t scammed?”

“Ah…um…excuse me, I need to use the restroom.” Standing up, Adrien quickly left the inn. Which left Julius to stare at the rest of the team. 

“…We should-” 

“Follow him to the ship, yes.” Sighing, Julius jogged out of inn, just in time for him to see Adrien sprinting around a corner. Not slowing down at all, he chased after the young hero, the rest of his students hurrying after him too. 

Thankfully, they didn’t have to run far to find Adrien, soon arriving at a building in the outside section of the city with a sign that said Rolo’s Rentals, two wings printed on either side of it. Inside, Julius found Adrien talking with a rotund wingdrake in a furry blue jacket and brown pants. It looked a bit like the interior of a ferry building, with a desk staffed by a different wingdrake, a human, and a harpy.

“-ed to check on the ship, again.”

“Okay? Not sure why you would need to do that.” 

“He just wants to make sure that we have everything we need on board,” lied Julius as he walked up. 

“Aaaah, kay. Well, always best to make sure,” muttered the wingdrake as he gestured for them to follow him. “Everything should be in order. We made extra sure to take care placing everything in, since you tipped so generously.” 

“Ah, yeah, we did come into a fair amount of money recently,” replied Sue as she rubbed the back of her head, wincing a little as Julius glanced at her. Well, at least their money was going to good use.

“Ha, always nice to hear.” Smiling at them, the wingdrake looked to Julius as they walked out of the shop and onto the ‘air dock’, a wide, round plaza-type of structure, a few airships visibly tethered to the ground in their own small sections, like moorings on a regular dock. “Oh yeah, haven’t introduced myself to you yet. Name’s Joral, the captain of the ship you’re renting.” 

Julius nodded, extending his hand with a polite smile. “Nice to meet you, Joral. I’m Julius.”

“Aaah, so you’re the teacher guy. Nice to meet you too.” Joral shook his hand, looking completely relaxed as he grinned up at him. “Adrien there filled me in on the gist of things. Neat to know I get to play a part in a fancy quest thing like this.”

“…Yes, it’s good to know you’re up to speed,” Julius replied dryly, very deliberately not looking back at his student. He could still practically feel the kid flinch though. “So you know where we’re going then?”

“Vaguely. All Adrien and Maria there said was that they wanted to go down to the Water Temple. Not sure if that means just going to Orin or going straight there.”

Julius actually did look back at his students then. Adrien rubbed his head sheepishly while Maria just grinned and gave him a thumbs up. He tried really damn hard not to sigh as he looked back at the captain. “We’ll be stopping in Orindaco first. There’s someone there I need to meet up with.”

“Kay, cool. They got a good dock down there for skyships. Speaking of, you wanna see the ship before we go?”

“Actually, I’d prefer if we just get going right now. Our ‘quest’ is kind of time sensitive.” And he didn’t want to give his students a chance to get in more trouble.

Joral shrugged. “Cool with me. Come on, Finja’s over this way.” He gestured at them to follow him again and led the way through the dock. 

Other wingdrakes could be seen around the area, loading crates and cargo onto their ships, while some harpies in woolen caps and fluffy vests were directing traffic. There were a few humans around, mostly in the tight doublets covered in intricate designs that were common up north in Tramontava. Though, geographically speaking, they would be to the west of Xelsha, wouldn’t they? Hm.

Joral’s ship, once they got to it, did look decent enough, Julius had to admit. It was smaller than most of the cargo ships around, more like a caravel than a windjammer, but it was clearly well-maintained. Of course, like most airships, it had two large, long balloons instead of sails. One in front and one more towards the back, sort of like the masts of a normal ship. Or, well, a sea ship? Also hm. 

Julius had a lot of things to think about these days.

Back to the ship, the Finja certainly looked decent. A normal, brown hull with two gray balloons, a few small, gray windstones visibly embedded in the…fabric? Material? So many questions today.

Joral didn’t pause at all in his walking, so Julius just followed him up the gangplank. Only once they were all on deck did the wingdrake turn around and grin, spreading his arms and wings wide. “Welcome aboard.”

Julius clapped politely. A second later, his students started doing the same, though audibly more hesitantly and awkwardly, earning a chuckle from Joral. “Ah, thanks. Okay, so, teacher guy, already went over this stuff with the rest of the team, so gonna do a quick runthrough of rules. It’s fine for you to walk all around the ship, but while we’re in flight, always wear one of these.

Joral picked up a black cord that was tied to the mast. “This here’s a safety cord. You always need it clasped to you, because if things go south, we don’t want you going south, if you catch my drift. Also, don’t mess with any of the balloon tethers or you’re all probably gonna plummet to your deaths and my business would be wrecked. So don’t do that.”

“Got it,” Julius replied dryly. “I’d rather not fall to my death, so thanks for that.”

“Hey, same. I’d prefer you didn’t drop to your death either.”

“Could we please stop talking about falling and death right before we get on an airship?” Maria asked, looking distinctly uneasy.

“Oh, yeah, speaking of death-” “Seriously dude?” “-I also gotta ask that you don’t wear any metal while we’re up in the air. Pisses off the Skybird something fierce.”

“The Skybird?” Adrien asked. 

“The Ancient Tempest, Demon of the Sky,” Maria muttered, looking even more uncomfortable. 

“…Is that a thing we need to worry about?”

Joral shrugged. “It isn’t if you don’t wear metal. Keep your swords sheathed too. Arrows are probably fine if you keep them quivered. Unless you’re trying to make lightning arrows, I guess?”

“That’s not how those are made,” Sergio spoke up, clearly frowning under his scarf.

Joral just shrugged again. “Kay. Anything else?” He tilted his head in thought, his blue feathers ruffling a little in the wind. “Oh, yeah, I’m legally required to tell you that sky pirates aren’t a thing. So, yeah, those aren’t a thing.”

“…Why would you be legally required to tell us that?”

And another shrug. “I don’t make laws. Ask King Fritz. We all good here?”

“Yeah, I think we are,” Julius replied. The wingdrake nodded to them, then started moving around the ship, adjusting ropes and pulling up the gangplank as he went while Julius turned to his students. “…”

They stared back at him, all starting to look a bit nervous with his sudden silence.

“…Good work everybody. Renting a ship like this actually does help us get to our destination way faster than just walking and there are far fewer chances of us getting sidetracked on the way. This was a good idea.”

Adrien was the first to blink, immediately grinning in obvious relief. “Y-Yeah, definitely! That’s exactly why we thought we should get-mfh!?”

Sue smiled awkwardly as she and Sergio covered Adrien’s mouth. “Yep, it was totally a fantastic idea of ours. We’re really glad you think so too, sir!”

Julius raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms over his chest. He really needed to work on their poker faces. “It’s a damn shame that we can’t do our usual training up here, though. The ship’s not nearly big enough for a proper chase.”

And that got them sweating. “…Y-Yeah, it’s…a real shame.”

Julius smiled. “I’m glad you feel that way. Because since we are on such a small ship like this, it means I need to start getting creative with how I help you all reach your full potential.”

The trio of winces were in perfect sync. Maria and Sophia, meanwhile, seemed to have reached a good conclusion of where this was about to go, had already hurried below deck the instant Sergio and Sue pressed their hands over Adrien’s mouth, and were gone by the time they finally stopped covering his mouth.

Julius let his smile get wider. “I’m sure we can think of something.”

Ah, the joys of teaching.

“…S-So, who are you gonna meet in Orindaco?” Adrien asked, clearly trying to change the topic. 

“My sister, of course.”

Now why did they all look horrified?

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