Chapter 28 - At the Doorstep

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***Not sure why the format is kind of weird on this chapter. I tried fixing it but couldn't. Sorry about that but I hope you enjoy reading!***

This trial should be over by now. Hydro fumed at Cain's last act of defiance. It wasn't enough to mock my intelligence; he had to destroy my hovercraft too. Hydro hadn't even checked to see if the prince was still alive. Because of Cain, the past three miles were a medley of walking and running and panting and sweating and cursing the grueling gaze of both suns.

By the time Hydro arrived within five hundred feet of the estate, rancid sweat drenched his upper body. In the silver light of the afternoon, the white walls appeared sepia. The estate beckoned him to become Eska's apprentice with an auspicious gaze. He didn't run. He couldn't run, albeit he wanted to. Triumph sewn onto his face, he cradled the orb in his left arm, cherishing it as he would a trophy. 

Within three hundred feet, he summoned his remaining energy to awkwardly jog. The once plush leather sole of his shoe was now beaten and extinct. Prince Evber had been more of a challenge than Hydro anticipated. Where the halberd had connected, gashes converged like tributaries of a dried river. Was anyone else here already? No, they can't be, Hydro reassured himself.

One hundred feet. Victory within his grasp. He paused. From the shadows of the estate's east side, a figure emerged. Zain.

Hydro scanned his opponent but saw no orb. "Could not figure yours out, I take it?" he muttered.

Another fifty feet and he would win. Hydro stepped forward. Zain blocked Hydro's advance, the tip of a rusty blade lightly poking the rhinoskin. 

"Out of my way." Hydro brushed the sword aside and continued walking—until Zain reshuffled himself in front of Hydro, halting his progress.

"I can't let you pass."

"You do not want to face me, fool." Hydro tried pushing the sword away again, but Zain held it tight.

"Yes, I do."

Determination stared Hydro in the eyes, but he merely smirked. "That is a bad decision."

Hydro gripped his sword and swung it at Zain, who jumped back. For the majority of the dance, Hydro lunged and swung to his right, trying to accommodate for the orb he held in his left arm. Zain was always faster than him though. Sparks flew as the swords sang to one another a ballad of defiance. An animalistic side of Hydro enjoyed the fierce battle. His royal side did not. There was a time and a place for battle—and now, when he was exhausted and so close to victory, was not one of them. He swung his sword, managing to close the gap between Zain, and lifted his elbow into Zain's face, causing him to stumble backwards. This needs to end.

"Maa!" Hydro shouted and lifted his arm upwards.

Nothing happened. Hydro remembered the orb. Stupid ball. He wanted to drop it, but he couldn't risk Zain picking it up to claim it as his own. How to dispose of him? A breeze attracted his attention, and he looked to his left.

A light-blue, glowing cloud swooped in from the direction of the breeze. What is that? It vanished. The commoner appeared in its place. What kind of power did he use? Hydro spotted an orb in the commoner's hands. How did he solve it? He's closer.

"What are you two doing?" the commoner asked.

"Eirek, get inside. Now!" Zain yelled and then redirected his attention back to Hydro. He smirked.

That cur! This was his plan all along. Rage boiled inside him. Hydro stepped forward and threw all his weight into his stroke. Sure enough, Zain blocked it—but Hydro's slash was so powerful that the rusty sword broke in half.

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