“Open your scrolls,” Webs uttered, his eyes drooping. “Read from section one hundred and eleven to section one hundred and thirteen.”
Turtle sighed resignedly, pulling open his scroll and finding the sections Webs instructed. After the excitement of bringing down a certified Genocidal Murderer, returning to the slowness of life as a Jade Mountain student was… depressingly familiar.
The size of the words in his scroll was actually slightly larger than what he was used to (Queen Coral was exceptional at cramming as many words as possible into a single scroll), but compared to the effortless flow of words his mother could make, reading his history scroll felt like he was gouging his eyeballs.
It was especially difficult reading next to the brightly colored, constantly twitching yellow and purple dragonet sitting next to him.
“Isn’t this the worst?” Kinkajou whispered to Turtle, her scales adopting a reddish hue. “I thought Webs’ lectures were the worst but somehow, this is worse than taking venom to the wing!” With a small giggle, she added: “Trust me; I’d know.”
Turtle only nodded. He wanted to make an effort to say something back to her, feeling that he was acting about as introverted as he had when he first arrived at the Academy. Unfortunately he couldn’t muster up the will - or the words.
For what it was worth, Kinkajou looked content with one-sided conversations; Turtle suspected she was quite used to them, but… surely she expected more out of him?
Or maybe she doesn’t, and I just have to prove that to her.
Setting his jaw, Turtle began, squeaking: “Y'KNOW- '' before cutting off abruptly, immediately realizing how hilariously his voice had cracked. His eyes shot open as the entire class’s heads swung in his direction. Ahahah… oops , he thought as his cheeks burned in the sight of so many eyes.
An eternity passed.
Kinkajou began laughing hysterically and fell onto her back, tears streaming from her face. No one else followed her lead, though Turtle heard a loud snort come from Peril, who had been reading off of one of her clawmates’ scrolls.
Clearly disgruntled, Webs began incessantly shushing Kinkajou, but to no effect.
“I am going to remove you from this cave if you don’t shut your mouth!” he sternly told her.
Kinkajou, seemingly trying her best, managed to calm down. She still let out a little giggle here and there, though.
Huh… doesn’t she want to get out of this class? Turtle tried to focus on her through his peripheral vision (which was a little difficult). He expected her to have remarked to Webs that she would’ve enjoyed a removal from the torturous class, but she didn’t…
Whatever. He was probably just overthinking things.
Turtle took a breath and got back to reading his scroll. And by reading, he actually meant spacing out and contemplating Kinkajou’s feelings (or lack thereof). What she had told her the day prior wasn’t dis couraging but… it didn’t really spell out any promises either. Which was both a good and bad thing; good because it meant Turtle still had a chance at winning her affection, and bad because he was far more confused about her emotions than he’d ever been.
It only felt like a minute had passed when he heard a gong ringing. His clawmates sprang from where they were sitting and rushed out into the hallways, leaving him sitting alone in the history cave. Kinkajou had left before he could blink.
Instead of picking themselves up and taking him to the next class, Turtle’s limbs stayed put. His mind was clouding with worry and insecurity; spread throughout was a mist of annoyance concocted by his anger that he was thinking about something so ridiculous when he just needed to get on with his life and not think about something so small and insignificant that-
“Turtle?” Webs glanced at him confusedly. “Are you going to your next class period?”
Turtle shook his head, clearing his thoughts (somewhat). “Right, yes, class! See you there! I mean, um, see you later. Because… you aren’t teaching the next class…” He snapped his fingers at Webs and smiled very, very awkwardly.
“Kinkajou? Kinkajou?” Turtle trotted through the hallways, glancing around for the energetic RainWing. He couldn’t have been spacing out for that long… right?
Thankfully not. “Turtle, I’m over here.” The voice behind him was unmistakably Kinkajou’s. He realized after a couple of moments that he had accidentally ran past her in his rush. Catching his breath, he waited for her to join him. For the first day after hearing about Kinkajou willing to hang out with him and see how her emotions settle, this was not a terrific start to Turtle’s Epic Quest to Win Kinkajou’s Affection.
“What’ve you been up to?” Kinkajou inquired, her eyes glittering with excitement.
“Um, we only saved the world recently; I think you should know what I’ve been doing.” Was that sweat forming on his face? Jade Mountain wasn’t a very hot place…
“Hey, you never know. I would love to do a different thing every single day, and I’m sure it’s not hard. I just haven’t tried.” She gasped suddenly, which caused Turtle to jump a little in surprise. “Have you tried?!”
I think I’m visibly shaking.
What has my life come to?
“Nnnnnoooo~…?” His sweat glands were either malfunctioning or his face had heated up so much that they were working very, very effectively. “I mean… I did write that story the other day… and… that’s it?”
“What about your voice cracking lessons?”
“How else would you so effectively make such a hilarious noise?”
Luck, he wanted to say. Pure bad luck.
“Well, uh, I’m glad you found more enjoyment out of that than I did. Heh.”
Kinkajou stopped suddenly. “Whoa, what’s up there?” She pointed a talon to the ceiling.
Turtle followed where she was pointing. Kinkajou tapped her tail against his snout and he flinched. “Ha! Race you to the next class!”
“wAIT!” As Turtle stumbled after her, his voice cracked horribly again. Kinkajou burst into laughter as she ran.
In his Herbs & Healing class, Kinkajou was sitting at the front, while Turtle had resigned next to Peril near the back. There were only five of them present. Clay was looking rather tired today; he still tried to remain enthusiastic but Turtle saw his eyes drooping on multiple occasions. Plus, he yawned very frequently.
Though even if Clay was more awake, it still would’ve been hard to focus on anything other than devising how to act how Kinkajou would like.
Perhaps I should act more like Clay. I hear he’s popular with the girls, and pretty much everyone for that matter. It can’t be that hard. Maybe if I just try to be more outgoing…
“Turtle, are you listening to what Clay’s saying?” Peril hissed, snapping Turtle back to reality.
“No…” he replied subconsciously. He could practically feel Peril’s blue eyes studying him, but he couldn’t be bothered to react. Especially with his eyes glued on Kinkajou’s gorgeous scales, which contrasted starkly with his musty green ones, he didn’t want to think about anything, really. Not unless it pertained to the quirky RainWing.
It didn’t take very long for Peril to catch on. “Oh…” Her face contorted into a mischievous grin. “I know that look better than anyone,” she whispered giddily. “Hehe… this is adorable.”
“Will you stop?” Turtle snapped, though he still kept his voice to a low whisper.
“No. But I can help.” Peril drew a little closer to Turtle. “Trust me; I know all about this kind of stuff. Need relationship advice? I’m your girl.”
“I don’t need relationship advi-”
“Shh. Don’t argue with the expert. You clearly do need advice.” She smiled breezily. “Which I will be happy to give.”
Given that there was clearly no way to dissuade Peril from bugging him, he conceded. “Fine. Just make sure not to discuss this with anyone. Especially Kinkajou.”
“Right…” Turtle didn’t know if he could entirely trust her. “So what’s your oh-so-amazing relationship advice you’re so intent on playing up?”
“Rule number one of a good relationship: Always do whatever your partner or, in this case crush, tells you to do. Never object to anything. If you’re really close, you’ll be able to receive messages through eye contact alone. ”
“...Mhm, yes, I see you’re very acquainted with servitude.” Turtle teased.
“Shut it, fishface. Rule number two: if you want to attract a girl, you’ve gotta act sweet, charming, and outgoing.”
“How do you know? You aren’t a boy.”
Peril only eyed Clay in response, as if to say No, but he’s sweet, lovable, and attractive and look who he’s got fawning over him.
“That’s easier said than done, Peril-” Turtle started before being interrupted.
“Uh-uh-uh,” Peril waggled her talon. “I’m pretty sure a dragon that can help take down a Legendary Monster, while taking a huge boulder to the face can do basically anything.
Turtle’s eyes widened in legitimate fear of what his friend was proposing. “You’re not saying…”
“No, of course not! Clay didn’t need any animus magic to be viewed the way he is by pretty much every girl here, including and especially me. What I am saying is that you aren’t going to get anywhere with the mindset you have.”
As Turtle nodded to Peril’s words, he noticed Clay had stopped lecturing and had begun staring at Peril and Turtle in curiosity. The rest of the Winglet followed suit.
“Peril. Turtle,” Clay said, trying to sound as stern as his sweet voice could muster. “Save it for the Prey Center, please.”
“What were you two talking about?” Kinkajou asked brightly, smiling at Turtle the way that always makes his heart flip over.
Peril perked up. “Well, we were just talking about how Turtle right here-” She was cut off by Turtle covering her snout. Her firescales licked his talons briefly, but didn’t do anything more thanks to his invulnerability. “Nothing!” Turtle insisted. “We were talking about nothing!”
Clay smiled in amusement while Kinkajou made a very exaggerated ‘HMM’ face that made Turtle crack up a little. Kinkajou gave him a pleased expression before his talons were swatted away by Peril. “You smell like FISH!!” she cried.
Turtle ate alone at the Prey Center. He wanted some time to gather his thoughts in a manner that didn’t involve forsaking his education.
The prey was alright. It didn’t taste amazing, nor did it taste exceptional. Basically everyone in the center was acting hyper, though (Yes - including Kinkajou. Shocker). That certainly wasn’t very fun..
Turtle had to admit though, despite the noise, it was nice to have time in the Prey Center for an organization of his confusing and conflicting thoughts. He tried to imagine how Kinkajou would act around him if he were like Clay:
“Oh, hello Kinkajou,” Turtle would say. “You’re looking nice today.”
“Aww, thank you~” Kinkajou would reply. “You’re not looking too shabby yourself!”
He would chuckle.
Oh, how nice it would be to laugh alongside her! If only he wasn’t so awkward all the time!
Turtle spent the freetime he had that evening in his sleeping cave, writing in a journal he’d recently made. Whenever he wasn’t working on a new story, it was nice to take refuge among the pages of the journal he’d been filling out. The quiet of the cave was nice after sitting in the manic Prey Center, even if it was a little lonely.
Today, Kinkajou actually laughed at me. Twice. I know she was probably forcing it, because she most likely felt bad for my immense awkwardness, but it was still nice to see, I guess.
I’ve decided I should probably begin acting like Clay or someone else great if I want Kinkajou to love me. It’s obvious no one thinks I’d make for a great partner right now, especially not Kinkajou. She probably thinks I’m weird… and just unpleasant to be around. I swear I bring down every mood I come into contact with.
I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to change up my personality to suit Kinkajou, but maybe once I get the hang of it, she’ll at least actually want to hang out with me, instead of doing it for pity.
Why, oh why am I so unbearably dopey?!
Turtle couldn’t think of anything to add to that so, caught in the moment, he threw his journal to the floor. It thankfully didn’t break; Turtle would’ve felt even worse than he already did if it had. He thought he could hear the sound of claws scraping against the floor beside him, but when he looked behind him, nothing but his notebook was there.
Probably just my notebook making that sound… I dunno.
As he walked outside the cave, a sweet-hearted, familiar voice spoke behind him: “Turtle?”
“MOONS ALMIGHTY!!!” Turtle yelled, tripping and falling to the ground as he whipped around. Kinkajou snickered as the materialized, her scales changing from camouflage to her trademark bright freaking yellow , though she dabble some more pink scales in than usual.
“Kinkajou!” Turtle exclaimed. “What in the moons are you doing here?!”
“I saw you writing in here and got curious.” It was impossible to stay mad at her when she added her sweet smile as she pointed to his journal.
“Um,” Turtle started. “Please. Don’t look in there. Or else.”
“Or else what? ” Kinkajou challenged.
Turtle took a few seconds to think. “I’ll… be… not happy?”
Kinkajou regarded him apologetically; for a moment he thought she was actually going to hear him out. But then her eyes flicked to his journal and she snatched it from the floor anyways, reading what he had written.
“Kinkajou…” Turtle protested, but he couldn’t bring himself to actually do anything. Yet another reason why Kinkajou will never love me.
She finished reading surprisingly quickly, tossing aside the notebook and pinning Turtle down with her absolutely magical gaze. She didn’t smile, she just stared at him looking rather shocked. Her scales were beginning to take a color scheme of green and crimson - worry and something else.
“Turtle,” she started. “...Why?”
“What do you mean?” he asked, panic edging through his voice.
“Why do you want to change who you are?”
“Because…” Turtle took a moment to muster up courage. “Because… you’ll never love me the way I am now. I’m just… stupid, boring Turtle.”
More crimson spread through Kinkajou’s scales, as well as some dabbles of bright red. “Turtle, I definitely wouldn’t love you if you changed who you are! You’re the opposite of boring! You’re frankly hilarious and this school would be way more boring without you!”
Turtle breathed shallow breaths, amazed by what Kinkajou was telling him. “You really mean it?”
“Granted, I’m still unsure if I do actually feel all lovey-dovey towards you or not, but that’s part of the fun! Who knows where we’ll be in the future.”
She continued, more crimson and some pink spreading through her scales. “Though if I’m being honest… I’m leaning towards the former.” She giggled, as if she found the prospect rather amusing. She finds everything amusing, though, Turtle remarked. That’s one reason why I love her.
Turtle was silent; his face was burning up again.
“What? Aren’t you going to say something to that?” Kinkajou asked, laughter soaking her voice.
After taking a moment to consider what was happening, Turtle snorted. He then began laughing, which only made Kinkajou smile more. “Moons, I’ve been overthinking this, haven’t I?”
“Uh, YEAH! You have!” Kinkajou stepped closer to Turtle. Speaking more softly, she added “But that’s perfectly okay because your worrying makes me smile.”
Turtle caught his breath. “Uh… why?”
“Because it’s adorable and hilarious! You’re adorable. And hilarious.” She turned around to leave the sleeping cave, still smiling, but sedating the most brightly colored scales on her body. “I’m going back to the Prey Center.”
“Can I come with you?” Turtle asked immediately.
Regarding him with a grin, Kinkajou replied: “So long as you haven’t lost your voice!”
“Aw, shut it!” Turtle cried as Kinkajou raced off, with Turtle trailing closely. Their laughter echoed through the halls like two instruments playing in harmony.