Despite the scenario, I'm not going for a NelxAlbel. I guess you can see it if you squint. Come on. Nel and Claire are so obvious. And ask me to believe that a straight man can wear a purple skirt, not be embarassed, and actually look good.

Little fact: Apparently at the beginning of the game Albel's affection rating for Nel is 20, where hers for him is only 15. Poor baby. (If you want some kind of comparison, Fayt has about a 15 for Albel, and a 22 for Sophia).

Disclaimers and all that. Im ALMOST willing to resort to piracy to gain posession of Albel, though.

Above all

Leave your fear

Believe in strength

Envision victory

Lest you fall...

Confidence.

Confidence is born of many things. Status. Belief. Some people, from the moment they are born, posess it. It is what assures them that they are in the right, that they can choose the correct path.

Sometimes I wonder about people's sources of confidence.

I see Fayt, who draws confidence from his values.

I see Cliff, who draws confidence from his strength.

But where do you draw your confidence? What gives you the right to stride from the Airyglyph dungeons into the Audience Chamber of the King without pausing to bow?

You speak harshly. You walk arrogantly. You fight mercilessly. What gives you the right?

You disgust me in too many ways. I can never forgive you for your cruelty towards my country and my subordinates. I try my best to keep personal feelings off the battlefield, but I can make an exception with you.

In my darkest moments, I want nothing more than to see you grovelling at my feet, begging for forgiveness.

But I know that you'd rather slit your own throat than do that. And I'm beyond deriving pleasure from that kind of abasement. That's your style.

The only thing I can respect about you is your sword.

I once saw you as a demon of the battlefield, living only for slaughter. The worst kind of monster possible. I wondered why Fayt had accepted you.

Later, I wondered why you never camped with the rest of the party.

Many times I wondered if you had abandoned us, left on your own. I cared little, except for the loss of a sword arm.

It wasn't until we reached the lava caves, where there was no space to run off to unquestioned when I found out.

You demanded first watch and stayed up until everyone else fell alseep. Against the wall, shrouded in black, you unbuckled the armor, and peeled off the sleeve that sheathed your left arm. In the shadows, burn scars reflected the glow of the single lamp. The elbow would only bend to a certain degree before I saw you wince in pain. The smallest finger and the one next to it were missing, the remaining fingers opening and closing as if they were the claws of your weapon.

You would rub salve onto your arm, wrap it up again, and lay your armor beside you. In the morning you were always awake first, the claw in place once more.

I saw this ritual twice more before we parted.

The final time was on the Spiral Tower; we were all exhausted. You were, too, although it would kill you to admit it. Your fingers stumbled in the familiar motions. Your arm fell slack as soon as you had plucked the fingerless glove off your hand, and I found out why you rubbed salve on your arm every night.

The indigo of your sleeve was stained dark. The skin, sensitive already, was rubbed raw by the friction of the armor. A bloody ring encircled your left bicep, another at your wrist, and two more above and below the elbow. Your knuckes and were a shredded mess.

I must have made a noise to give myself away, because your sharp eyes instantly locked upon mine.

"Witch. How long have you been awake?"

"Long enough."

"Go back to sleep," you hissed. "And if you breathe a word of this, your blood will be decorating my sword before you can get past 'last night'."

"Don't be foolish." I found myself crawling out of my sleeping roll and coming towards him. "You can't do that by yourself."

That was definitely the wrong thing to say. You attacked like a cornered animal. "I can handle my claw fine, woman! Go back to bed before I demonstrate just how well!"

Sometimes words just won't work. I grabbed your arm by the wrist, eliciting a faint cry that was swiftly bitten off and followed by some foul language.

Dipping my fingers into your open jar of salve, I began to minister to an arm that didn't have the strength to pull away.

I began at the hand, moving un slow circles over the affected areas, and made my way up to the shoulder.

Your head began to nod, chin touching your chest. You closed your eyes and leaned back against the wall. I wondered if you had fallen asleep.

"How... long?" you mumbled, surprising me.

"I first saw you in the Urssa Caves." As I rubbed, I imbued a bit of my healing skills into the wounds, soothing the inflamation.

"Heh... hate dragons... miserable worms... they make it sore..."

Your eyes were slits, glazed and half-aware. I wondered if you were dreaming.

"I... couldn't... can't... I'm..." A moment of something like pain flashed across your face.

Finished with the salve, I found some gauze in my packs and wrapped the worst areas. Then I carefully drew the sleeve up your shoulder and slid the glove onto your hand.

"Done."

You looked at me. I wondered if you were aware. "I've always... respected... you... strong... I wish..." Your eyes closed. I never heard the end of that sentence.

I wondered what you had been about to say.

I hate dragons. Their presence offends me.

Because I couldn't do anything. I still can't do anything. I'm weak.

I've always respected you. You're strong. I only wish...

...That I could have your strength.

Some people draw confidence from values. Some people draw confidence from strength. I never had either. Only the desire to believe that I posess true confidence grants me a false ego. I may show the metal claw to the world, but the real claw is the remnants of my arm.

I'm just like a maggot hiding in a slab of rotting flesh.