• Maruru woke up by a sharp pain to her side. Keller was kicking her.
    “What’s wrong with you?!” Maruru shouts, grabbing hold of Keller’s ankle before her foot crushed her hip. “That hurts!”
    “Yeah? Maybe I should do it again” Keller leaned forward, putting more weight to her leg.
    “Beat each other up later” Fen says from outside the ship.
    Keller grumbled but listened. She got on her Aier and went to where he was. They were all on their Aiers, ready to leave. Maruru rubbed her sleepy eyes and stretched. The sun was blinding, it looked like it was already noon.
    Oh yeah, duh, she thought. We’re supposed to get Non.
    She gets up and runs over to where the others were floating at. They took off as Maruru started moving but Ayn waited. She stops uncomfortably, remembering about last night.
    Oh man, she thought. What do I do now?
    She slowly steps onto the ledge, not making any eye contact. Her fingers trembled as she held them close to her chest.
    Okay, now what? She got up and was looking down, almost shutting her eyes. She should say something to him, apologize or something. Maybe he doesn’t want her to ride with him, but there’s no one else to go with cause they already left. Maruru gulped, readying herself to tell him that she should stay on the ship.
    “Aren’t you coming? Hurry up” Ayn says. Maruru looks up, surprised. He held his arm out to her. “Come on. You’d kill to get on an Aier, right?”
    She smiles and slightly nods. “Yeah” her voice was quiet, and it was odd. She was always loud and full of energy. What’s wrong with her? After taking a deep breath and slowly letting it out, she jumps off the ledge and into Ayn’s arms. Maruru clung onto him, closer than last time she rode with him.
    “I—alright, ready?” Ayn asks. He placed an unsteady hand on her shoulder to make sure she wouldn’t fall.
    “Mhmm” she rested her forehead on his shoulder.
    “Okay…” he gulped and started the Aier. They flew straight towards the others. It was going to take a few minutes to get to the kingdom.
    Maruru was thinking about last night. The way Ayn spoke, his serious voice, and the look in his eyes, so sad and unreachable. Like someone who’s seen too much in just one lifetime.
    He wouldn’t tell me, she thought. But he needs to, or else it’ll just hurt him more.
    But how could she help? She’s just a princess of an old kingdom. Her wish was to own an Aier and ride with the wind all day everyday. Like a bird, a free bird that gets to do anything and everything it dreams. No boundaries, not even the law could stop her. So she’s useless and selfish, only thinking of her and no one else, even her own father. But he was selfish too. Everyone is, even those that want nothing.
    Maruru brings herself closer to Ayn.
    I want to help him, she thought. Take his pain away so that he wouldn’t have any left.
    How selfish. She smiles slightly. Maybe being selfish isn’t so bad. But why should she even care about him. He kidnapped her and is using her to get money.
    I don’t care, she thought. It doesn’t matter that he’s doing all that. He’s not bad. And plus, he lets her ride with him on his Aier.
    “You’re…distracting me” Ayn says. “Can you…your kind of close…”
    “Sorry” Maruru says but she didn’t loosen her embrace. Why should she, anyway? Everyone always says hugs make people happier. She felt a weird tingle in her chest. It was a strange beating rhythm, like a heart but faster. She giggled because it wasn’t her heart. It was Ayn’s.
    “Shut up” Ayn grumbled. “You’re just getting me worked up so it’s your entire fault. And stop messing around!” he tugged on her hair. “Get serious”
    “Ow, yeah, I am” Maruru says. She giggles again. “But you were happy, right?”
    “You can’t deny what your heart tells you! I can feel it going bum bum bum right now”
    “Yeah, that’s nothing. I get that too when I’m scared”
    “Scared? You get scared?”
    He pauses before answering. “Yeah”
    “Wow, tell me”
    “I…nah, it’s nothing”
    Maruru stared up at him. His eyes look the same as it did last night. And his voice sounded pained.
    She felt the fast beat of his heart slow down and go back to normal. Her embrace loosened and she leaned back a little so that their bodies didn’t touch, just like the first time she rode with him.
    And I thought my hug was making you happy, she thought. She closes her eyes and placed a hand over her chest to feel her heart. Or maybe it was just me being selfish again.

    click to read the next part