A/N- Once again I've been side-tracked by a nagging fic idea instead of updating what I already have in the works. At least this time I have an excuse. I'm on spring break and my home computer has all my started files for the next chapters of my other fics, and I really felt like writing, so voila! New idea. Besides, I've been wanting to do an Elena-Arzei for a while now. Like almost everyone else, I nearly threw something at the TV when they didn't hook up at the end after all the time you spent running letters back and forth. XP Well, at least there's fanfiction. I've managed to even work in a few familiar characters (mostly inventors), so I hope you all enjoy! Also, please remember to review, too!
Before she even read the letter, Elena knew exactly who it was from. The elegant paper and ornate wax seal couldn't mask the crudeness of the rushed, illegible cursive that marred its front. Caught off guard, she almost let a shadow of regret flit across her face before she realized that the foreign engineers and their friends were waiting with barely-concealed curiosity to see how she'd react. She held it in one hand, staring at it for a short moment before she gathered the resolve to crumple it and let it fall to the floor. There it looked as innocuous as the rest of the crumpled blueprints and notes that littered the marble floor, but she knew it'd linger on her mind far longer than any of her research papers.
The blue-haired engineer, a child by the name of Fayt, if she wasn't mistaken, looked rather embarassed and blushed faintly. The others did the same thing in their own ways, either averting their eyes or scuffing their shoes or suddenly finding a very interesting piece of lint on their outfits. All the others, that is, except a tall blonde woman with a long braid and a man's uniform. She merely looked on, half interested, half knowing, with a hint of a sad smile.
"Please tell the King that I respectfully decline his advances. He should know better than being so foolish by now; it simply can't work. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have more pressing matters to attend to." Elena sighed, apparently exasperated.
Only those who really knew her well would have been able to see the pained expression in her eyes as she turned her back on the group to go back to her studies.
"Yes, Lady Elena." Nel finally said, sounding regretful herself, "May the grace of Apris be with you."
The group finally filtered out and the heavy oak door shut with a sharp thud behind them. She cradled her head in her arms and sat there silent a while until she dared to get up and find the envelope. She smoothed the deepest of the creases out and stared the cursed thing down for a moment before her curiosity finally got the better of her.
"Arzei..." she murmured softly and guiltily, as though just saying the name was a betrayal to herself.
After a moment's trepidation, she slid her finger under the flap and tore it open. Inside, the note merely read:
Still stubborn as ever, I'm sure. Just do me a favor and remember when we first met. I might be getting old, but I'm still as tenacious as ever. I'll do it all again.
She couldn't help but smile and sink into the comforting depths of memory.
It had been her second year at The Holy Mother Academy and she was already well on her way to becoming a successful runologist. Not only did she have the best grades of all the students majoring in Runology, but several of her experiments on new runes and their usages had already been granted permission and funds to be developed upon from the Queen herself. All her work hadn't left her much time for the kind of social life her fellow students had, but she didn't mind. She'd soon be out of school and doing what she loved because of her dedication and constant work. Or at least that was what she'd thought until she put in her request for graduation at the end of the first semester and received only a letter suggesting she see her advisor, Master Maledet, immediately. Years later, she still remembered the man with a mix of nervousness and annoyance, though he was probably well into senility or dead. But that didn't really matter. She'd always recall him as the twitchy, balding middle-aged man with a grudge against any other sentient being he encountered. As fortune would have it though, he was the reason she'd met Arzei in the first place.
The waiting room to see the academy's advisor was a barren, bland place with tacky plaid-upholstered chairs and walls that were plastered with paper announcements of new courses and programs. Elena hadn't set foot into the place since she had started at HMA, and just being there again made her feel incredibly small and insecure. Even so, she wasn't the most apprehensive person in the room. A handsome, dark-haired man who appeared to be the same age as her was sitting rigidly in a corner, clutching what seemed to be registration papers. He wore a peculiar style clothes that had apparently been washed with a bit too much starch, adding to his almost petrified appearance. Instead of the customary robes most male runologists wore in Aquios, he donned a long ornately embroidered white tunic under an even more ornate waistcoat. His leggings seemed to be the only ordinary part of his emsemble, though even they appeared to be made of some exotic (and probably expensive) hide that matched his knee-high boots. All in all, it gave him a look of pomposity, but Elena wasn't about to let that intimidate her. She'd dealt with her fair share of nobles, and even though she didn't particularly care for the thought of dealing with another, he did look pretty lost and forlorn. After one final moment of deliberation, she decided to take the seat next to him. She flashed him a quick smile before setting her own books on the vacant chair on her other side. He looked back at her in surprise, but he managed to respond with a shaky grin.
"Hi." she said shyly, brushing a brown lock that had escaped its bun out of her eyes. "So you're starting here, huh? It's a great school; right now I'm a second-year runology major. You?"
He flashed a warm, polite smile but appraised her warily with guarded blue eyes.
"Perceptive, my lady." he said politely, though she was sure she could detect a playful wryness to his voice, "Yes, I'm transferring here from Airyglyph to study Runology further as well."
She had to work to hold back a chuckle, and he bristled at her apparent rudeness.
"I'm sorry. " she smirked, "It's just that no one has called me 'my lady' since my grandfather forced me to go to finishing school when I was eleven. Please, just call me Elena. Nice to meet you,--"
"Arzei. Arzei Bohnleid. It's a pleasure to meet you as well, my l-- Elena."
She thrust one hand foward for a handshake, but before she could respond, he took hold of it and kissed it politely. Elena's cheeks blushed a hot red and she yanked the hand out of his grasp instinctively. He looked up and noticed that her grey eyes had clouded over and narrowed, making him fidget a bit. Even though he'd studied the culture of Aquios, the things the books spoke of weren't always accurate, and he had clearly just offended one of the first people he'd met. As if that wasn't bad enough, she was a pretty girl he'd probaby be seeing a lot more of on campus. All in all, not a great start.
"I'm sorry." he said looking at her quizically, " Have I offended you?"
"N-no. I mean, you just took me by surprise, that's all."
He let out a barely-masked sigh of relief. So he hadn't completely messed up yet. Probably...
"I apologize. I assure you it's a customary greeting in Airyglyph."
She smiled lightly and shrugged.
"Of course. The nobility here does the same when amongst each other."
Arzei gulped and began to fidget again.
"I.. didn't know... I, uh, mean to say--"
Before things could get any more awkward, the two were interrupted when the door to Maledet's office flew open and a pale young girl practically ran out, tears welling up in her eyes.
"Next. Arzei Bohnleid?" a tense and breathy voice shouted.
It reminded Elena of the hostile little yappy lap dogs that some of the more pompous female nobles carried around, and the mental image made her smirk. She turned and saw that Arzei looked like he'd paled quite a bit.
"Don't worry about him. He's just a low-level ankle-biter. If you don't let him get to you, you'll be fine."
He couldn't help but laugh at her spunk. Still, she was right.
"I suppose so. I hope I'll be seeing more of you, Elena." he smiled, sincerely this time.
"Err... likewise. Though if all goes well, I'll have worked out the details of my graduation by the end of my session with the ankle-biter."
His face fell, but then he paused.
"Wait a second-- graduation? I thought that you said you were a second year. How's that--?"
"I'm a bit too devoted to my studies." she shrugged self-deprecatingly.
"Mr. Bohnleid? Could you please put an end to your chit-chatting and stop wasting my time?" the voice from the office barked.
"Good luck." Elena winked, picking up a textbook and beginning to page through it.
"Get in here before I really lose my patience!"
He looked at her apologetically and made his way into the chihuahua's den. Watching him go, she couldn't help but kind of regret that she wouldn't be seeing him again, but she quickly shook that thought out of her head. All nobles were essentially the same, and she didn't need another after she'd just rid herself of the influence of her grandfather. After her parents had died, she'd been placed in his care and thrown into the world of nobility, something her mother had been careful not to expose her to, which wasn't a difficult feat for Helena Frahm after she'd chosen to marry a commoner, effectively exiling herself. At the time, feeling like she was in her grandfather's debt for burdening him with caring for her at his age, Elena had gone along with it. At least, she had until she completed high school and finishing school and he'd refused to let her study runology, saying that it was a hobby of the pleubian woman who wanted to be warriors. Instead, he informed her that he was in the midst of setting up an arranged marriage for her. She stormed out on him and hadn't gone back since, though through a few very terse communications, he'd made it abundantly clear that even if she'd wanted to, she wouldn't have a place there. Alone and resourceless except for a scary determination to be her own person, she'd signed up at the inventor's guild to pay her tuition and had been working there since when she wasn't studying.
'No matter how nice this particular nobleman seems,' she reprimanded herself, 'you know better.'
It was probably better she wouldn't be seeing him again.
Lost in her reminiscing, she barely noticed that ten minutes had passed. She was snapped out of it when a now-familiar voice growled out another order.
"Miss Frahm! Come in here, please."
She paused, fairly certain she hadn't seen Arzei leave yet, but despite an alarm bell ringing at the back of her head, she sighed and gathered her things. When she entered the office, she was first overcome by the khakiness of it all. When that faded, she noticed that her suspicions had been confirmed and that Arzei was still sitting in one of the seats opposite Maledet's enormous paper-covered desk. So much for never seeing him again.
"May I ask what this is pertaining to?" Elena groaned, preparing herself.
"Of course. Mr. Bohnleid here is new to Aquios, and seeing as you two are already aquainted, I've decided to appoint you as his personal guide. That is, if Arzei here doesn't object."
"I... uhhh... what?" Arzei stammered.
It was amazing how in just a few moments how Maledet had gone from rabid rottweiler to simpering lapdog. Elena was willing to bet that he had caught on to Arzei's status as nobility and had realized that having him as an alumni would definitely benefit the school, not to mention his chances of getting a raise. She couldn't help but scoff at his patheticness. At least he was about to be disappointed when he actually looked at why she'd scheduled an appointment. Tour guide wasn't on the list, nor was there room for it.
"Well, sir, I'm afraid that's impossible. I'm only here to sort out any loose ends so I can graduate."
"I'm sorry, but you are slightly mistaken. You are here to sort out loose ends, but you won't be graduating this term."
Seeing the outrage on Elena's face, he barrelled onward so he wouldn't be interrupted by the volcano of anger that was about to erupt.
"At any rate, as I'm sure you're aware in some degree, Holy Mother Academy is a liberal arts school. It appears you haven't met all of our criteria for graduation. You haven't yet proven proficiency in Engineering, Compounding, and Smithing, not to mention elementary runology. You shall have to take those courses before you even think of graduating. I've taken the liberty of setting up your new schedule. Classes begin on Monday." he sneered and thrust a paper schedule at her, taking joy in watching her deflate. "And you shall meet Mr. Bohnleid here after lunch outside the main building to take him on a tour. Understood?"
"Elementary runology? But I've already taken Advanced Runology 3! You can't expect me to go back a few levels, can you? Besides, I was told I tested out of that! And those others don't even have to do with my major!"
"Do you have the proper paperwork autheticated, signed, and triple-copied on canary yellow, white, and pink paper?"
"Of course not!"
"Well then I'm afraid there's nothing I can do. So very sorry. Are we at an understanding? Because I can go over the section and paragraph number in the school book of policy if you wish."
Resisting the urge to leap over the desk and throttle him, she bared her teeth in a frightening mockery of a grin and shook her head tersely.
"Very well. You may go."
Elena balled her fists, and even though her fingernails cut into her palms, she didn't really care. All she cared about at the moment was finding an outlet for her rage.
She stormed out of the room, but not before she heard Maledet turn back to Arzei and begin to ask him all about his life in Airyglyph (undoubtedly trying to pry for a specific amount of Fol Arzei was set to inherit). She was so distracted that she barely noticed someone casually blocking the exit to the campus grounds.
"Sorry to hear about the set-back, Elena." the someone, a tall handsome man with grey hair in braids and voluminous red velet robes, smirked, "I suppose you can't run away from our little competition that easily after all."
She closed her eyes and exhaled deeply. The last thing she needed right now was to listen to Mackwel's gloating. He was second in the class only to her, and he'd been feuding with Elena since one of her first freshman runological inventions had earned her a full four extra points than his had in Master Ansala's class. With his annoying attitude, even on the best of days, she ended up with an incredible urge to fireball his smug pretty-boy face into ash. Needless to say, today wasn't the best of days.
"Are you sure you have time in your busy schedule to gloat like this?" Elena said sarcastically.
Mackwell's weakness was that he was an obsessive list and schedule maker. Every bit of his time had to be accounted for; doing nothing was utterly unacceptable to him.
"As a matter of fact, I have it pencilled into my schedule." he snorted, flourishing his planner. Sure enough, in tiny neat print under 11:31-11:43, he had printed, "Spy on and taunt arch-nemesis (Frahm)."
"You do realize that's a bit creepy don't you?" Elena said, arching an eyebrow.
"Sure. Creepy like a fox that lies in wait to pounce on its prey."
"You spent most of last night making that schedule, didn't you? You sound delirious."
He tossed his hair back triumphantly and smirked.
"Delirious with glee at your downfall, perhaps."
Elena glanced at the clock in the middle of the grounds. There was only one way to get rid of Mackwell.
"Gee, look at the time. Is it 11:45 already?"
Mackwells eyes widened and he looked frantically from his planner to the clock and back to his planner.
"I'm off-schedule! Late!" he panicked until he noticed Elena's smug look of satisfaction, "This hasn't ended yet! I'll be back at 3:28!"
Watching him run off into the distance, she realized that not even tormenting Mackwell had brought her out of her bad mood. After the morning, she had a feeling that nothing was going to go right today. Still, she couldn't help but look foward to after lunch-hour. Just a bit, though.
Post-story A/N- Yes, yes. I know what you're thinking. Mackwell obviously appears to be much younger than Elena in the game. Yet it does imply that they worked together and if you read Mackwell's entry in the dictionary, it says that he graduated second in his class. Who else but Elena could kick Mr. Obsessive Academic's arse? Let's just say that he is vain and uses potions of youth. Heh... and I know Arzei is nothing like what he seems in the game, but remember that at this time he's not anywhere close to being a king.
Well, I hoped you guys enjoyed this, even if it is an unusual coupling. At least Albel's not in it. XD He gets enough action around these parts already. Also if you're bored, go check out my forum, SO forum fun. Until then, remember to review or I'll send a turnip-scarecrow voiced by Crispin Freeman after you. -sigh- Even if AMS is the only one who gets that threat, it's still valid. And slightly frightening. Remember, constructive criticism is always appreciated. CAT