IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!!! Don't go skipping to the part where Albel is supposed to answer yet. Yeah you. I know you totally would… Anyway I was advised to hold off on publishing the novel for a few more months (in fact they told me to wait after my graduation in the spring) and I felt that the novel and this fic have enough differences that I can post the final chapter safely. I'd still hate to see plagiarizers using my fic, but so long as they don't have the novel version I guess I shouldn't care. But PLEASE if you HAVE to post Aquios High anywhere, tell me and give me some credit.
If anyone is still interested in when the novel will be published, then go to my author page and send an e-mail to that address. I will personally e-mail everyone when it goes through publishing and the date of its release. Something tells me I'll probably give up on the publishers and self publish it… Oh well.
Also, I have a new project going on and I'm posting it to youtube. I'm rewriting the PC version of Final Fantasy VII into a funny parody. The link to the videos is on my author page. Please comment and subscribe if you like them!
And now without further ado, enjoy the final chapter of Aquios High…
It was nice and sunny in Aquios when it reached noontime. The weather was still a bit chilly, but that was normal for a December day. Karen and Sonya were still able to appreciate the sun in the tearoom of the Zelpher mansion. Since their children were off on a field trip and their husbands off on a short business trip to Airyglyph, they had the perfect opportunity to gossip in peace with a delectable tea blend of lemongrass, chamomile, ginger, catnip, licorice, and mint. It was a rare tea blend that Sonya hoped that no one, especially her husband, would ever find. He would waste it in one day since he was a 'tea-aholic' as Nel would say.
"I hope they take the time to visit old Woltar before they come back from their business trip," Sonya sighed before taking a sip of her tea. Nevelle at least swore that he would, but she was certain Glou would make him forget.
"Even if they don't, the old man isn't alone. His daughter and her family are still living with him," Karen replied idly as her eyes narrowed in thought. The demon couldn't shake off the feeling that something was going on. Glou and Nevelle were too far away to cause enough trouble for her to sense and she knew Albel would be behaving as long as Nel was around. So what was this familiar feeling she was sensing?
"Still it would be nice on their part to visit. Woltar has done so much for both our families and we have been neglecting to contact him."
"True enough, but it appears that our 'brave' men are trying to avoid Woltar and I sickly suspect it has something to do with that little vacation we had," Karen muttered as she finally brought her teacup up to her lips. The cooling liquid danced around her tongue, bringing a myriad of flavors that ended with the typical cooling sensation that was common of mint leaves. Karen waited patiently for Sonya to digest her information and waited for a good interpretation on her part.
While Sonya was no spy, she did have a good ability to store innumerous amounts of data and had photographic memory. Usually when she heard something from Nevelle, she could easily catch a lie or find out he's hiding something because his story didn't match with the last one he told.
"So you mean that time when we went to the resort and they claimed that they went 'hunting'?" she guessed with a disgusted expression. She should have known that her husband was still causing trouble…
"Even our children are trying to figure out what they were really up to. Apparently it has something to do with them, seeing as Glou is constantly teasing Albel about it," Karen said as she rubbed the rim of her cup with her fingertip. It was a nervous habit of hers and if she found herself doing it with any glass or cup, then that meant something really bad was about to happen.
"I wonder…" Sonya mused. After a slight pause she then sat up and made a startled noise, "I just remembered! Nevelle said he gotten a gift for Nel and it was to be given to her on a very special day. He told me that right after we returned from the resort. I thought that he meant that it was for her birthday, but he then gave me indication that Glou was doing the same thing for Albel. You don't suppose they're graduation gifts? …But then where on Elicoor could they have gotten them around the Greeton border?"
"Good question. All that's around there is a resort, a shrine, and a 'stupidnatural' demon," Karen smirked over the recent joke about her father. Apparently a student in Aquios started the joke.
"Hmm? What was that last one?" Sonya inquired curiously.
"A supernatural demon. There was one who moved to that area a long time ago, but I doubt Glou and Nevelle would be so stupid as to mess with him…" She trailed off as she caught the surprised look in Sonya's eyes. It was just as Sonya came to a realization when Karen realized what she was sensing earlier. Romero was on the move…
"…Karen… Nevelle told me that he and Glou had hidden something that was now in the possession of a demon… You don't suppose…?"
"Sonya!" Karen shouted as she arose from her seat, "Go search your husband's study and if you find the Blades of Ryusen, then come by my mansion and retrieve the Crimson Scourge. If they did get them, then we may need to return them."
"Okay, but where are you going?" she called out in worry.
"I need to get more information from a secret source…"
Karen didn't say anymore as she stormed out of the tearoom and out of Aquios.
It was getting close to sunset. Almost three hours since the whole mess started. Clair sighed as she stared out the window. The minions had long since stopped shaking the bus and were just sitting there watching them. She highly doubted they were merely waiting for someone to just come out, as monsters were not known for patience. Perhaps the demon that sent them ordered them to act as guard dogs until the master arrived. If that were the case, then they were screwed.
If the demon was as territorial as Maria explained in her 'Prissy' analogy, then there wasn't a chance he/she would listen to diplomacy. Albel and Nel were their last hope now. Clair had no doubt in her mind that they were alive, but the distance from here to Kirlsa was time consuming on foot. Even if they could get help, they may end up getting it too late.
Then again, why was she stressing over the matter? Her father was here- and so were Cliff and Mirage. Hell, even she had enough fighting skills to take on a few monsters and demons. And she couldn't dismiss the fact that there were some other students with fighting skills. Fayt must have some skill with a sword despite Sophia's insults. Speaking of the brunette…
Sophia was the first person Clair would expect to freak out, but she was calmer than the whole class. She kept reassuring everyone that everything was going to be okay. True, optimism wasn't foreign to a girl like her, but the teacher's aide couldn't shake the feeling that Sophia looked melancholy as she said her words. The girl looked as if she was going to die.
Whatever. Clair shook her head and dismissed any remaining thoughts. There was no way Fayt was going to let his sister figure die. Maria and others probably would help protect her. Still…
"You juvenile delinquents better hurry up with that help."
Fighting skills or no, something bad was coming and Clair couldn't get the feeling out of her mind that it involved Nel and her disturbingly anal boyfriend.
"I wanted to tell you that I love you!"
There it was finally out and Nel was rather pleased at the shocked expression on his face. After a few minutes, Albel turned his head away and glared at the tunnel they were to travel down. He didn't say anything, nor gave any indication that he had really paid attention to what she had said. But she knew by his initial expression that he had heard her. Even so, it felt nice that she was finally able to get it off her chest. Though she still couldn't help but wonder what his answer would be. Did he feel the same or was she just hoping that he did?
As the minutes passed, her immune system began kicking in to fight the germs that have gotten in her and her fever lowered slightly. Her mind became clearer, allowing the entirety of the situation sink in. She had just told Albel her feelings for him… It didn't matter to her if he didn't return her feelings, the worst case scenario was that he was going to use that information against her. It was never a good idea to give him such delicate information because he would seek to abuse it.
What was she going to do? She knew now that he didn't love her in return with the way he ignored her. She couldn't take back what she had said either. It wasn't like he was paying that close attention to her to know that she was feverish. She couldn't convince him that her fever made her delirious.
"It seems you're back to normal now." A deep voice broke through her panicked thoughts. Nel blinked and then found that Albel was staring at her.
"We're leaving now," he announced as he stood up and grabbed the torch.
"What? But-" Why was he in a hurry all of a sudden?
"I said we're leaving now!" he shouted irritably before he walked over to her and snatched her wrist. Nel couldn't even fight back as he easily pulled her behind him into the tunnel. He was certainly moody now…
His grip on her wasn't really tight so she could have broken away if she had wanted to, but for the time being she didn't mind. It may be the last time she could be so close to him now that he knew how she felt. She could see that after this moment, once they found help, he was going to distance himself from her. Now that her mind was back in order, she was glad for the sudden rush. Clair and the others needed them to get help and this was no time for her to be worried about the future relationship between her and Albel.
Nel remained as silent as he was as they briskly traveled down the tunnel. She didn't recall them going this fast before, but then figured that they were making up for lost time because of the break they took. But then again, Albel might have sensed something she couldn't. Maybe the monsters broke through the boulders that blocked the Mosel entrance and were catching up to them. It would be easy for a minion to find them by tracking their scent.
Instead of asking about it, like she had been doing since they came into the cave, she mentally prepared herself for a possible attack and kept her free hand near her daggers. She could feel that she was back in control of her senses and ability unlike before. Nel still had a fever and a possible infection festering in her wounds, but apparently her confession had knocked the sense back in her and drove away the delirious fog she had been trapped in.
Twenty minutes later, there was a slight breeze and some soft light coming towards them as they approached the end of the tunnel. They had finally made it to the end. All of Nel's previous fears melted away as her eyes traveled over the Kirlsa cityscape in the twilight sun. Some lights were on in the city, giving a lasting beacon for lost travelers out in the wild. She couldn't believe that it was almost sunset and prayed to Apris that the others were still all right in the bus after such a long wait.
Albel wasn't in the right mood to admire the scenery and quickly pressed on, dragging Nel with him. He quickly dropped the torch to the ground where it was doomed to extinguish among the plant-barren rocks. She had trouble keeping up with his long legged strides and nearly tripped several times because they were running down a slope. But before she could open her mouth to complain, Albel finally said something…
"…About earlier…" he began in a soft tone that made the young spy strain to hear.
Her heart thumped wildly in her chest when she realized he wanted to talk about her confession, "Uh, well about that…"
"You weren't yourself. You had a fever," he dismissed quickly. Nel held back her surprised look in order to focus on her balance as a rock the size of Cliff's brain made her foot slip. Small rocks are more hazardous than the bigger ones…
She soon noticed that Albel was giving her a break by saying what he did. He was willing to forget her confession and pretend it never existed. She was both relieved…and a little heart broken. She knew this also meant that he wasn't going to return her feelings.
"However, I'm not waiting until you're in your right mind to tell you this… So listen up because I'm only going to say this once," he warned with a short glance at her over his shoulder.
She stared at the back of his head, curious of what he had to say now. She hoped it wasn't going to be a speech on why they shouldn't be together or him 'calmly' telling her that he didn't like her. Like what he had done to Mayu.
"I do…feel differently about you. Other bothersome people make me want to kill them but if I killed you, then I know I would truly regret it."
Wait this wasn't a speech about his hatred of her. This was… Maybe there was hope, "Are you trying to say that you…? Wait, what are you trying to say?"
Nel heard a loud growl come from him as he skidded to a stop and caught her by the shoulders. Albel's face was moving close to hers, causing her to fight a blush from their close proximity. He growled again and tightened his hold on her as he struggled with the words he wanted to tell her. His face was contorted with an interesting mix of anger and constipation. She couldn't tell if he was sick or fighting some sort of blood lust.
"Don't make me say it woman! It should be obvious," he ground out through clenched teeth.
"Say what?" Nel was irrefutably confused since his words had double meanings. She knew it was pointless to assume anything related to Albel the Wicked, "I'm not making you say anything. You are the one who wanted to say something."
He almost howled in anger, making her wonder if it was his night to be a full demon. It wasn't until he pulled her flush against his body and had his forehead resting against hers that she finally got an idea of what he was trying to tell her.
"Damnit!" he snarled, "…I love you. Deal with it!"
She didn't get the chance to register his words or feel giddy with the knowledge that he felt the same as she was immediately pulled into the roughest, most demanding kiss she had ever experienced in her life. …Well it was her first kiss on the lips, everything else had been gentle pecks on the cheek or forehead. And just as quickly as the kiss was initiated, it was quickly ended as he shoved her away. His eyes glared down at her and he let out a sigh that was mix frustration, anger, and relief.
"And Apris be damned if you forget that!" he barked before he turned on his heel and stormed off in the direction of Kirlsa. He hadn't gone too far when he noticed she wasn't following and waited for her to come to her senses and catch up with him. Numbly she moved her feet and he began walking again towards Kirlsa. She couldn't believe what just happened. Her hand trailed up to touch her lips, but then Albel grabbed her hand to make her hurry up since she was slowing down.
In hindsight Nel had known all along that if Albel ever did return her feelings, there wouldn't be any soft touches and whispered sweet nothings. This left her with no idea how to respond back. Even if he wouldn't initiate a kiss or a cuddle, would he mind if she did? Or would he just push her away? In the end, she had imagined she would be hyper-actively happy like other teenage girls her age, but instead his confession had left her apprehensive. The only lingering question was: what now?
In any case, her feelings for him weren't going to change any time soon and she was certain Albel's wouldn't either. It was a subject that could wait until some other time. For now she needed to focus on how to get someone to help them. The Runologists most likely wouldn't believe them since monster attacks were rare in their area. And too many teenagers had made many prank calls to them to where they had stopped listening to minors altogether.
It seemed that Albel was already aware of the situation and happened to be leading her to the one person who would believe them. Count Woltar. If anything, Woltar probably knew what was happening. It wouldn't surprise her if Woltar already knew Albel was a half demon and could even predict who their fathers were planning to prank next month. Like Nel and her father, he could see through deception and would realize that they were telling the truth and get them some help.
However, seeing him also meant that Albel had to be on his best behavior lest Woltar treated him like a baby or put him in some random wrestling hold until he apologized. And honestly, they didn't have time for that.
It was dark and the streetlights were on by the time they reached the gates to Woltar's mansion. The guards on watch recognized them and called in to see if they could come in. While they waited, Nel finally had the chance to see Albel's face since they had reached town. He had insisted on moving quickly so that all she had been able to see was his back. But now she had to wonder if it was because he was trying to hide the blush that was still visible on his face. With a small smirk, she decided to admit for the first time that his cheeks were red because he was blushing instead of being angry.
Well it was nice to know that he wasn't always confident in expressing his thoughts and feelings either.
It was tiresome to wait for clearance from the guards, but it was protocol and if they didn't do their job right, Woltar and his family would be in danger. Though, one would think there would be exceptions since Albel was a relative of the elder man. Woltar had a daughter who had married Glou's younger brother and that's how Woltar was related to him… or rather how Albel was related (by blood) to Woltar's grandson.
Nel sighed inwardly when they received permission to see the young lord. He could secure them an audience with Woltar. The pain was beginning to come at her in full force but she ignored it long enough to walk with Albel into the main hall of the mansion. She knew they were going to have problems in a few minutes. Albel and Maxwell, the young lord of the house, had never quite got along in the past even though Maxwell just adored his cousin's attitude. For some reason he thought that being a cold manipulative bastard was a Nox family trait and sought to be better than Albel at it.
Maxwell's father had died when he was really young and he never really stayed around Glou long enough to realize that the Noxs were actually friendly pranksters. Albel was the way he was because of his mother who possessed a quiet evil.
Albel sent a slightly concerned glance at Nel as her steps faltered. She shook her head as she felt head becoming fuzzy and each breath became more difficult. She had been feeling fine only a moment ago, why was she getting worse now? She straightened herself and told Albel that she just needed rest and would get some after they had seen Woltar. She didn't catch the disbelief that flittered across his features before Maxwell appeared.
It shouldn't be any surprise that Albel and Maxwell were near identical cousins since Maxwell resembled his father and Albel resembled Glou with a few differences inherited from his mother. They even shared the same insatiable desire to torture the people around them.
"Why if it isn't cousin Albel and the ever lovely Nel," he smirked before making an exaggerated bow.
"Don't bother with the formalities, worm. Get the old coot down here before he keels over," Albel sneered. He didn't like the look Maxwell was giving Nel and if he thought he was going to get under his skin at a time like this, then he had better be prepared to die. Nel was too busy trying not to pass out to make a comment to deter Maxwell from his obsessive hobby.
"Well aren't we in a hurry tonight?" he retorted as he leisurely strolled over to Nel. Maxwell kept an eye on Albel to see his reaction as he cupped her cheek, "So has he asked you out or something? I've never seen you two so close before. What ever the case, keep in mind that you don't have to settle for a brute like him when you can have someone like me."
He was about to lean in and kiss her cheek when she pulled away and weakly shook her head, "Please Maxwell, we don't have time for this. Go get Woltar. We must see him."
Despite her condition, Nel could plainly see that Maxwell was trying to goad a reaction from Albel. Apparently it was working since Albel's jaw was clenched and his fists were at his sides as he resisted the urge to attack his cousin. Maxwell only huffed at her 'brush off' and placed an arm around her.
"Patience, I will go get him. Is it really that bad to be around me?" he inquired before he pulled her against him. Nel cried out as his arm applied pressure to her sensitive injury. He gave her a shocked glance for her outburst, but he didn't get the chance to ask what her problem was as Albel quickly shoved him away from her.
"Get away from her maggot!" he shouted before he grabbed Nel's arm to keep her from falling over.
"You don't have to be so possessive over her," Maxwell reprimanded in retaliation for being pushed over, "She is a person after all…"
Suddenly he heard someone clearing their throat behind him. When he looked to see who it was, he quickly masked his shocked look with a nonchalant one. Behind him was a beautiful girl with brown hair who was glaring at the young lord.
"Misty, how long have you been there?"
Misty Lear was the only woman Maxwell would consider to call his girlfriend, but they constantly had a rocky relationship because he would avoid acting romantic for her. Like Albel, he feared it would ruin his pride and he didn't quite know what he could say to her without unintentionally offending her. Since Misty worked with his mother in alchemy and compounding, they lived under the same roof and that gave him plenty of time to work the kinks out.
"I've been here long enough," she muttered with her arms crossed. Maxwell thought that she might have been upset with his flirting and immediately informed her that he was only trying to get a rise out of Albel. But he soon found out that wasn't the reason why she was upset after she pointed at the arm that was previously around Nel. It was covered in blood…
Maxwell grimaced slightly, "Great. I just had this shirt dry cleaned…"
"MAXWELL!" Misty scolded in fury. He gave her a sideways glance before letting out a long sigh.
"I know, I know," he muttered before facing Albel and Nel, "You could have told me she was hurt. …Mother! We have an emergency!"
Just as he had shouted those words, Milenya came in looking confused. After all, her son claimed that he could handle everything now that he was a 'man' so why did he need her help now?
"What are you doing? I believe they are here to see your grandfather. So why haven't you…?" She took one look at the bloodstains on Maxwell's arm before her eyes swept over Nel's pale face, "Oh dear…"
"Lady Nel is injured and she needs immediate medical attention," Maxwell said in an authoritative tone as he carefully placed his hands behind his back. He didn't want the blood to stain more of his clothing. He appeared proud knowing that his mother hadn't seen him goofing off a second ago.
"I see…" Milenya sighed before rushing over to support Nel, "Misty, I will need your help."
Misty snapped to attention and ran over to the weakened girl's other side, "Yes ma'am!"
The two women carefully lead the red head over to the next room where they kept the medical supplies, but before they went past the curtain that covered the doorway, Milenya paused to glare at her son.
"Maxwell, you better stop messing around and go tell your grandfather that he has guests before he decides to retire for the night. You will be severely punished if you fail to perform your duties properly!"
Maxwell flinched slightly and raised an eyebrow, "Yes mother…"
When he was sure she was gone, he faced Albel and found that he didn't find it unjust to glare daggers at him. Maxwell brushed off the murderous intent that was radiating off his cousin and then crossed his arms, "Well I should go summon the old geezer. I trust that you won't destroy half the house while I'm gone?"
He didn't receive any answer from Albel and didn't try to stick around for one as he gracefully walked away. But before he could leave the main hall, he cursed when he found that some of Nel's blood had gotten on shirt when he had crossed his arms. So much for a grand exit…
They sat Nel down on a cold, sterile icebox before Misty worked Nel's shirt off. They had to ignore her cries of pain as the dried blood pulled at her skin. After Milenya closed all curtains to ensure privacy, she helped Misty with the bra. Unfortunately, all the dried blood made it impossible to unhook it so they had to resort to cutting it off. They allowed Nel her hold her bra up for decency as they examined her gashes.
Past the blood they could see that her outer skin was a fiery red color, indicating infection, but the color of her deeper levels of skin was turning a slight green color. She was still bleeding slightly, but not enough for alarm. Apparently her wounds have been bleeding slowly the whole time so she wasn't at risk of suffering too much blood loss.
"Oh dear, this is worse then I thought… It appears she's poisoned from whatever slashed her. It is such an advanced case that I'm surprised that she is still conscious," Milenya admitted with a look of concern before turning to her assistant, "We need to clean off the blood first. Misty, go get some hot water and rags and then start cleaning. I will go mix some herbs for an antidote."
When Misty left to fulfill her orders, Milenya opened a cabinet that revealed several beautifully crafted silver bottles, all made by Misty through alchemy. She then grabbed a long fluted bottle, uncorked it, and then held it up to Nel's lips.
"I need you to drink this. It will slow down the poison's progression and allow me time to administer the proper medicine to stop it." Once Nel slowly drank all of its content, the elder woman added, "Now I'm not going to lie to you, you are going to be in a lot of pain before I can get you an antidote strong enough to stop the poison. If you think you can make it, I will help you to the bed over there and you can lie face down and try to sleep through it. I'm sure you are about ready to pass out any time now."
Nel didn't say anything, nor did she really think. It seemed she was already unconscious, but her body was on autopilot. Without Milenya's help, she staggered over to the stretcher bed, and climbed in after much difficulty. She closed her eyes once she was settled, but Milenya couldn't be sure if she actually fell asleep. She decided to start gathering the herbs for the antidote since she only had a limited amount of time left before the blueberry extract potion wore off.
For the next hour or so (or days in Nel's mind), Nel felt the stinging of hot water as Misty cleaned her wounds and was relieved to hear Milenya order her to go make cotton swabs with her alchemy. But her rest from pain was only for a fleeting moment before she felt the antidote being placed directly on her torn skin. The mixture did more than just sting, it burned and stabbed at her. For a moment Nel could almost swear that Milenya poured acid on her and it was eating away at her flesh.
Nel couldn't remember if she let out a scream or if it was just her mind that was screaming, but she did remember the feeling of numbness as she blacked out from the pain. When she awakened again, she found herself laying on her side and her chest wrapped in bandages. She still felt some pain, but it was dulled significantly to where she could ignore it. She slowly sat up, not worried about her shirtless state since the bandages covered her, and found Milenya washing her hands and Misty stirring honey into a teacup.
"Oh good you are awake," Milenya said when she glanced over to her patient with a small smile, "The poison is gone and we have covered the wound. However, since you are unable to rest for a few weeks to let it heal naturally, I recommend that you go see a doctor with knowledge in runology and have them cast a cure spell on you."
"Thank you for taking care of me." Nel blinked when she realized that her voice was hoarse and tried to clear her throat, "…How long was I out?"
"Well…I was not sure when you actually passed out, but if it had happened after you cried out, then you have been out for almost twenty minutes," Milenya answered after smiling off her thanks.
Twenty minutes… Nel couldn't even remember what happened after Maxwell touched her. Her blurred memory recalled the information that she was poisoned, most likely due to the minion that had attacked her, and she could remember a lot of pain. At least she knew why her condition was getting worse earlier, but why was she feeling better before that? It must have been some strange serum on that monster's claw. Maybe it was designed to trick the victim into thinking they were just ill and would get over it without medical help…
"I should go tell the others how you are faring. Misty, make sure she drinks all of the tea in that cup," the elder lady ordered before she slipped out of the room.
"Okay," Misty said cheerfully before walking over to Nel with the cup, "Just drink all of this and then you can go watch Maxwell and Albel make asses of themselves in front of Lord Woltar."
"Woltar?" A surge of panic rushed through her as she tried to push the teacup away. There was no time to sit and relax, she had to go explain the situation of the bus to Woltar! "I can't trust Albel to tell him, I need to go!"
Misty pushed her down before she could start walking, "I know how you feel, but you need to drink that tea first. It has medicinal herbs that will take away the pain and help control the inflammation on the skin."
With a sigh, Nel tried to down the drink in one gulp, but then found that her throat was too dry and sore to handle that without choking. She forced herself to take smaller, quicker sips and was grateful that the tea was warm instead of scalding hot. Misty watched her as she pulled up a chair and leaned her arms against the bed.
"Albel was able to tell us the situation and Lord Woltar is in the process of gathering vehicles and a tow truck right now. He said that you and Albel will have to go with him to fight off the minions before your classmates can get any help," the brunette explained, hoping to calm the girl down enough to stop rushing, "I can't believe you guys fought off so many monsters on your own. I suppose you are lucky just to get that one hit compared to what a novice fighter could have suffered."
"I see…" Nel muttered as she focused on finishing her tea. Knowing that action was being taken helped her calm down. But then she began to wonder what exactly Albel had said to Woltar. Why couldn't Woltar get any Runologists or some of his army to help fight?
Misty seemed to understand the face Nel was making and added, "The reason why you guys have to fight is because none of the troops or the Runologists can help at this time. Right now, they are busy holding off the monsters that are trying to break in to the asylum in town."
"What?" This was unexpected. When did monsters start attacking in towns? And when did this happen? Kirlsa looked so peaceful when they passed through earlier that day…
"Yeah. For some reason, monsters are trying to kidnap patients in the asylum. They're mostly going after the violent ones. In fact everyone is suspecting that the last escapee, Randall, had actually been kidnapped instead."
"No Randall escaped. Didn't Albel mention that Randall had been our bus driver this whole time?" Nel tried to keep the panic down from the new information. If minions were trying to capture asylum patients, then was that why they were attacked in the desert? …But if the monsters were after Randall, then why did they chase after her and Albel? Her eyes nearly narrowed in anger at the thought that the monsters thought that she belonged in an asylum.
"No, Albel hasn't said a word about that… but then Maxwell started making comments and then an argument broke out…" Misty trailed off in disgust, "You better hurry and tell Lord Woltar about that. There may be a connection in all this."
Nel didn't need to be told twice as she gulped down her remaining tea and jumped down from the bed.
"Wait!" Misty called before she could reach the door. When Nel turned to face her, a white t-shirt was thrown at her. She easily grabbed it with one hand before sending a questioning glance to the brunette.
"Knowing Maxwell… and Albel since he's Maxwell's model, you'd want to wear that before they start talking to your breasts instead of you," Misty snickered as Nel blushed and tugged on the shirt. She had forgotten that she was shirtless…
"Oh and…" Misty continued, her smile not once fading, "When this is over, we seriously need to sit down and talk. I'm sure we can release a lot of stress together by just venting off about how stupid our boyfriends are."
Nel smirked, "I agree… I'll call you tomorrow morning the minute after Albel infuriates me again."
There were only three world wonders on Elicoor that Nel knew dearly. One was the mental stability of Romero after living many lonely years with half-witted minions, the other was Glou Nox's ability to live after playing a joke on Karen, and finally the last wonder was the enigma known as Woltar. The minute Nel re-entered the main hall, she was rewarded with the extremely rare sight of Count Woltar's …miracle ability. Somehow the elderly man had both Albel and Maxwell in a single headlock and was pacing around with an evil smirk plastered over his winkled face. Both teens were having a difficult time moving with him.
Neither liked the fact that they were at the mercy of a man that was twice their age and had one foot in the grave nor did they like being stuck close together like that. Albel was nearly growling at the fact that his face was touching Maxwell's. Maxwell seemed more disgusted at the fact that his face was closer to Woltar's armpit rather than the nearness of his cousin.
Suddenly the old man made a sharp turn, making Albel curse loudly and made Maxwell to lose his footing and struggle to keep from being dragged around. Woltar's clear grey eyes focused on her and then his evil smirk melted away into a grandfatherly smile.
"Lady Nel, I'm glad to see that you are well. Perhaps now I can hear the full story without indecent interruptions," he said over the grumbling of the boys.
"I apologize for Albel's behavior," Nel bowed slightly while being careful not to cause her back to start hurting again, "I'm afraid we don't have time to teach manners on stubborn lums."
"I agree, well said milady. You hear that boy? At least someone understands the importance of polite conversation," Woltar sneered slightly down at Albel before allowing him to slip out of his grasp. He then quickly tightened his hold to prevent Maxwell from going free as Albel sneered and popped the bones in his neck and back.
"I thought you don't have time for this? Why can't I be released?" the remaining captive sputtered as Woltar continued his pacing.
"I didn't hear Lady Nel apologize on your behalf," the old man explained in an amused tone, "You know very well that you must apologize for that mouth of yours before I can let you go."
Maxwell stubbornly remained silent for a few more minutes before letting out a nearly inaudible apology. Woltar decided that it was enough and let him go without forcing him to say it louder. The young lord then pulled a total Albel move as he retreated into the shadows to glare venomously at everyone in the room. Had he inherited the Nox crimson eyes, Nel could swear that it was actually Albel himself in the shadows trying to plot revenge.
"Now, have a seat, the both of you," Woltar urged as he settled himself in a lavish red velvet armchair. But before the teens could follow suit on the couch across from him, he let out a warning stare to Albel, "And I advise you to silence your tongue unless you have something important to say, boy."
There was a moment of silence to see if the Wicked One was going to say anything in retaliation, but he only 'feh'ed and plopped down next to Nel. She didn't take the time to reflect on anything else concerning Albel and quickly turned her attention to Woltar. It was now time to get the answers she needed…
"Wise choice, boy," the old man drawled as he sat up to face the red haired girl, "Now I have already heard what has happened and what attacked you. While we're waiting for the rescue team to finish preparing, why don't you tell me your interpretation? Maybe you have some idea why monsters are attacking you?"
"Well…" she paused to collect her thoughts. She wasn't entirely sure herself between Misty's information and her own observation (or at least what little she received) of the minions. Still whether it was pointless or not, she figured that Randall should be mentioned, "…I heard from Misty Lear that monsters are trying to kidnap the patients in the asylum and Albel and I recently discovered that the latest escapee, Randall, had been parading around as the bus driver in Aquios. After hearing the news from Misty, I would have to conclude that Randall was the true target in the attack…but…"
"But?" Woltar prodded, seemingly intrigued with the connection she presented. She seemed to struggle with what she wanted to say next. She wasn't even sure if it was a possibility…but Woltar seemed to have read her mind when he concluded for her, "…You think that the monsters were after you in particular."
She was silent for a while but then suddenly shouted, "But why would they be after me? I haven't angered any demons…at least I don't think I did. If anything, I would think they would go after Albel!"
Nel wasn't entirely sure if Woltar really knew about Albel's secret, but the old man didn't ask for an explanation about her outburst. Instead, he began thinking. He had an intense look in his aged eyes as a wrinkled fist came to rest under his chin. Suddenly Albel finally stirred beside her.
"You may be right… I remember counting around thirty of the maggots back at the bus and apparently more than half came after us. You said you were chased by fifteen of them. And it wasn't long after we defeated them together that more showed up…"
"Did I really say there were fifteen?" she inquired in a shocked tone. She couldn't quite remember much of what happened between the bus and the cave, but she was certain that she couldn't take on so many in such a place as Mosel Desert, "I was probably exaggerating…"
"You usually don't exaggerate details like that," Albel pointed out. She couldn't think of anything else to say and remained quiet until Woltar was finished thinking.
"…Tell me, did Randall go after the two of you before or when the minions came?" His question made both teens jump. That's right, Randall said that he had to kill them first like he was possessed or something.
"He did," Nel answered before Albel could. Knowing him, he would only be rude about it and make Woltar force him to apologize again, "He also mentioned that 'he' wanted us dead as if there was someone talking to him in his mind…"
"What do you expect from asylum patients…" Albel muttered under his breath loud enough for only Nel to hear. She jabbed his side with her elbow to warn him not to make comments.
"I see. I think I understand now. You see this isn't the first time monsters came to kidnap asylum patients and now I'm led to believe that there is a connection between them. Perhaps demons can control them and that may explain their violent behavior. Nevertheless, I believe that the demon is after the both of you."
"But why?" Suddenly Nel regretted asking that question as Woltar's wrinkled face contorted into a calculating smirk.
"I think I have an idea, but first let me confirm a few things. For instance, have your fathers been acting suspicious lately? Have they run off to a far off place claiming that they were going on a hunt or to a resort?"
Albel's eye twitched and Nel began frowning before they both let out an annoyed monotone, "Yes."
"And have they returned with some items that they refuse to show you?" he continued while enjoying the teens reactions. His smirk turned into a grin when they answered with another monotone 'yes', "Then it is as I feared…you are the demon's targets."
They didn't like the casual and nonchalant tone Woltar used as he concluded his small interrogation. He made it sound like the demon just wanted to capture them for a tea party instead of a slaughter.
"So old man, are you telling me that it's dad's fault that a demon is after us?" Albel sneered while he crossed his arms.
"I'm afraid so. It's not even that surprising after all. Knowing Glou for as many years as I have makes one forget what is normal," Woltar then cleared his throat like he was about to tell them a bedtime story, "Once long ago, back before either Glou or Nevelle were even married to your mothers, they hid their prized possessions, the Crimson Scourge and the Blades of Ryusen, in a cave near the Shrine of Kaddan so that one day, they can retrieve them and give them to their first born child when they were old enough. Then one day, a demon moved in and took over the area and then claimed the swords as their own. Knowing this, Glou and Nevelle reclaimed their possessions anyway. They probably thought they could get away with it."
"Even so, if it's the blades he wants, then why doesn't he try to take them back? Why go after us?" Nel wondered while glancing at Albel as if he knew the answer.
"Well it's not such a simple matter. As demons, their pride will not allow mere humans to get the better of them so they must find retribution against the person who committed a crime against them. And the make matters even more complex, the demon that we will be dealing with is none other than the king of the undead himself, Romero," Woltar finished with a grim voice and, for some reason, an amused expression. Nel stiffened at the name. Romero? Wasn't he Albel's …grandfather? But if that's so, then why does he seek Albel's death? Demons never kill their own kind…
"Heh," Albel chuckled, clearly interested in their new enemy, "So you're telling me that the demon who's supposedly so powerful is after the children of his trespassers? No wonder those maggots at school call him names. If this 'stupidnatural' worm had any sense of pride, then he should be going after father!"
"In a normal situation, that would be the case, however, Glou is protected from his wrath simply because he's married to a …particular demon. Though I must admit that I have no clue why Nevelle was included in the protection pact …well unless Romero sees them as inseparable friends."
"But if that's true, then wouldn't Albel be protected as well. I mean…" Nel trailed off, unsure if she should even finish her sentence. While he knew that he was half-demon, Albel still didn't exactly know who he was descended from. Something told her that the secret wasn't going to last much longer anyway so she might as well obtain as much information as she could, "…Isn't Albel-"
"Romero already finds it difficult to fathom why a human and a demon would get married," Woltar quickly cut in, proving that he was trying to keep the secret going, "It would be too much for his closed mind to think that they could conceive children as well. Romero thinks too highly of the demon race and believes that demons are much too superior to even co-exist with humans."
"But is he as strong and powerful as claimed?" Albel inquired with a gleam in his eyes. Nel knew that look well. If there was a challenging enemy coming, then he couldn't wait to fight them. She hoped that Woltar wouldn't egg him on, lest he'll start making reckless decisions.
"You won't be disappointed fighting him, boy. He has years of mastered power at his disposal and if his strength isn't enough, you know that he will have minions present to tire you out," the aged warrior grinned at the sight of Albel's smirk. He then arose from his seat and made his way to the stairway, "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to contact Glou and Nevelle and tell them to help clean up the mess they made. And while I'm up, I might as well find a sword for Albel since this is an emergency situation. …We wouldn't want him holding us back."
Albel growled at the comment and was about to get up and give Woltar a piece of his mind, but Nel placed her hand on his arm to calm him down. They both knew what would happen if Albel tried to attack Woltar from behind… Blind rage always made him forget about the headlocks and other miscellaneous wrestling holds that the old man knew well. Albel stayed seated, but didn't quite calm down. He couldn't forget what Maxwell and Woltar did. But most of all, he was upset that he didn't realize that Nel was poisoned from that minion. Milenya said that it was one of the most lethal poisons that was hard to detect because the victim wouldn't appear to be in critical condition until it was too late.
He failed to protect her and that made him pissed. Romero was going to die a slow and painful death once Albel sees him. That maggot of a demon will regret the day he raised an army against him and his woman. …His woman… Suddenly Albel let out a smirk. Nel hadn't refused him so that meant that her feverish ramblings were actually true. The thought of Nel and the possible future made him forget his anger. But soon he began thinking of other things. Particularly of what Woltar had revealed to them about their fathers. All of a sudden it all made sense now. And if he didn't act soon, then they will have the upper hand.
Nel let out a yawn, tired from all the things she suffered that day. Running in the desert, fighting minions, walking through a long passage, and recovering from poison…were not what she expected when she got on the bus that morning. Some field trip that turned out to be… Help was on the way and she was sure that Clair and the others could hold off the minions for another hour. Every thing was okay now. She didn't realize that she was nodding off until her body jolted awake when she felt Albel pull her against him. Her head fell comfortably unto his shoulder and his arm was snug around her waist.
In the back of her mind, she was glad that he wasn't anal about physical contact, but all she could focus on was how warm and safe she felt just then. She relaxed again and was about to close her eyes when he finally spoke.
"Are you feeling better? You're not in pain are you?"
"I'm okay. Milenya and Misty gave me herbal medicines that should numb the pain for a long while. But I'll need to see a runologist doctor as soon as this is over because I need to have the wounds closed," she replied with a smile. It was nice to hear him actually care about her for a change though she could tell he was forcing himself. She knew some part of him cared, but he's not the type to vocalize it.
"Good…" he trailed off. Nel took the chance to glance up at him and found that he was staring off into space with an uncertain look in his eyes. He wanted to say something else…
"What's wrong?" she wondered as she pulled herself up a little to look him in the eye.
"I figured out what exactly our fathers are up to and why they needed to get those blasted swords," he replied with a serious expression. Nel's eyes widened and then she waited for him to explain…
The hum of the sand buggy's engine was calming despite the urgent situation they were in. Nel had a tight grip on the frame of the vehicle as she watched the far off sand dunes zoom by. Woltar and his rescue team decided to travel through the desert rather than follow the road because it would lead them to the bus faster. The single road in Mosel twisted around like a drunken snake because the people who built it were trying to find level land.
Glou and Nevelle got Woltar's message and replied that they would meet them at the coordinates once they finished their business. Whatever business it was, they made it clear that it was too important to call off and it they were close to the end of it. So the bottom line was, maybe they'll be there or maybe they won't. It really depended on how scared they were of Woltar's threat. Nel had to shiver from the threat. She wouldn't even wish something like that on Albel!
Woltar claimed that if they didn't show up at all, then they would have to take his place in the charity jujitsu competition and train the people who were competing. Most people going to that match were novice fighters fresh from the dojo and were often known to miss their mark, needless to say that the judges encourage more women to help train the competitors than men.
It was after thirty minutes of driving when Woltar signaled to the trucks following them to stop. Nel snapped out of her thoughts and found that they were on a dune looking down on the bus.
"Hmm, doesn't look too hard. It seems there are only sixty minions down there guarding the bus," the old man said with a smile. It was early night and the moonlight was providing most of the visual aid since the headlights were cut off. Even at his old age, Woltar still had sharp eyesight.
"Not too hard…" Albel scoffed before he pointed at a ridge behind the bus, "There's more of them hiding back there you old fool."
"Oh, does that mean you can't handle that many? Since when have you become such a weakling?" Woltar teased, knowing it would get a rise out of his favorite target. Albel's cheeks reddened as he glared hard enough to crack some windows in the rescue trucks.
"I was more concerned about you pulling something old man. Besides, it's only the three of us fighting and Zelpher isn't in her best condition right now," he justified while jabbing his thumb in Nel's direction. The red haired girl ignored him as she trained her eyes on the bus. She was more concerned about her friends on the bus rather than the small argument. She didn't see any blood anywhere or signs of fighting on the ground near the monsters' feet. After seeing the number of the minions, she was suddenly grateful that there was a runologist available to heal her back otherwise she would most likely open her wound while fighting.
Nel could easily see the outside, but the inside was too dark to tell if her friends were still safe inside. Luckily one of the members of the rescue team had some night vision binoculars on them and she quickly asked to borrow it. With it she could not only see inside of the bus, but also even more minions that were hiding under the bus. More importantly, she could see that everyone was still safe and unharmed. She even noticed that Clair, Fayt, and Cliff were keeping watch and were the only ones looking out the windows, but none of them seemed to have noticed her and the others. That could be a good thing though because if they couldn't see her, then neither could the minions. They still had the element of surprise.
Woltar currently had Albel's face pressed against the ground, leaving the teen to swallow a fair amount sand. Why was it that Nel could look away from them one minute and then find Woltar slamming Albel down in some manner the next? For Albel's sake, she hoped that sand was good for half demons because it didn't appear that he was going to be allowed to get up for quite some time. It didn't take long for Woltar to look up from his little project and notice what Nel was doing.
"How are they? Does there seem to be any casualties?" he asked in a concerned voice.
"No, the bus doesn't seem to have taken on any damage and would probably continue to protect everyone until we get rid of the monsters," she reported as she gave the binoculars back to its owner.
"That's good. They are very lucky then. Well boy, are you ready to move out or would you rather continue eating?" the old man inquired dryly as he released Albel from his hold. The Wicked One gasped for air before he trained his nearly glowing crimson eyes on Woltar. It was apparent that he was about to yell many obscenities and would have done so if Nel hadn't quickly covered his mouth to keep their position hidden from the enemy.
"We don't have time for this," she hissed as she ignored the feel of the tips of his fangs scrape against the skin of her palm, "Use your anger on the monsters."
Wait fangs? She glanced at sky to find that there was a full moon out. That explained a lot with his current attitude and all… Woltar nodded in agreement with her suggestion as she released Albel's mouth. Albel didn't make any noise as he looked from Nel then to Woltar before he jumped up and charged towards the minions with his sword already drawn. Woltar was next to follow him as he used his knowledge in runology to throw a volley of fireballs into the furthest trench where the monsters were hiding.
Nel quickly moved while unsheathing her daggers and charged into the fight. Between the three of them, there wasn't too much trouble in fighting the monsters, however the sheer number of them was bound to wear them down eventually. They needed more fighters in order to finish off the battle quickly, or at least more runologists. Suddenly it seemed Nel's prayers were answered as she heard Clair yell from within the bus before two blondes jumped out. Cliff and Mirage couldn't just sit still while others were getting some action, so naturally they had to ignore their authority figure and join in the fun. In the end, Clair shouldn't have been so surprised or angry.
"Nel!" Clair called from a window after finishing her curses upon the blonde pranksters, "Did you bring help or just a warrior? We need a way to get out of here you know!"
Nel grinned before she dodged out of a monster's way and then slashed him. She knew that was Clair's way of saying 'I'm glad your safe' in a stressful situation of protecting students. The red head attacked one more monster before facing her friend, "Of course! They're not too far from here, we just need to get rid of these first."
With a great sigh of relief, Clair called upon the students who knew some runology (the precious few there were) and helped them aim at some of the stray monsters who might try to escape.
"Remember if you hit Nel or the others, you get a month of detention," she warned as she unleashed a lightning chain at a group of minions that were heading for the open windows.
Albel was fighting much like the part demon he was, often skewering several monsters at once on his blade. Cliff managed to make a lighthearted joke about Albel making 'minion shish kabob' when he saw him. Cliff tossed over ten more minions before making sure that Mirage got his joke by asking if she started the fire yet. Albel let out a sneer at Cliff's antics, but didn't bother to insult him as he saw a minion heading towards Nel's blind spot.
Nel had sensed something coming at her from behind, but before she could react to it, she felt an arm slide around her waist. Once her body was pulled against something hard, she noticed a now bloody minion off to her side with a blade coming out of its chest. In love or not, she couldn't stop the scowl when she literally felt the teasing smirk against her neck.
"You should watch yourself cerise," Albel chuckled darkly as she quickly moved away from him.
"I could have handled it myself you know!"
"Sure you could," he said in a mocking tone before running off to face another minion. Nel growled in frustration before letting it out on a nearby monster. She was so getting back at him for that! …Somehow…
It wasn't long before the last of the minions were disposed of and the students cheered as they climbed out of the bus and into the care of the rescue team. Adray carefully carried Randall, who was still passed out for reasons that should probably remain unknown, out to the medical persons. Now that Woltar had a connection between demons and the asylum patients, Randall may be treated better wherever he's going to next.
"Nel! I'm glad you're safe!" Clair shouted when she was finally out of the bus. She grabbed Nel and pulled her into a hug for good measure, proving how stir crazy she had been inside the bus.
"Clair…can't breathe…" Nel wheezed as she tried pushing her away. Suddenly the silver haired teacher's aide felt a killing intent directed at her and let go of Nel instantly. She wasn't too surprised to find that it was coming from Albel as he glared at her like a territorial dog.
"You should get a medal for this. Not only you survived the desert, but you survived it with him," Clair muttered quietly with a quick gesture to the Wicked One, "How ever did you do it?"
Nel glanced warily at the mentioned party and made an exaggerated sigh, "….Well it wasn't easy. It was like traveling with a PMSy demon…"
"You don't say," Clair grinned as she noticed Albel twitch at the choice of words. That guy sure had good hearing…
"At any rate, we're safe now. We should head over there once the last of the students have evacuated," the teacher's aide continued as she turned her attention to the remaining few coming out of the bus.
Since they were in the back of the bus and they wanted to make sure everyone made it out okay, Fayt, Maria, and Sophia were the last ones to get off. Cliff and Mirage waited for them as Steeg and Leiber entertained them with lousy demon jokes. Welch and Marietta eventually became tired of their voices and tried to persuade the brothers to leave already, only to succeed in getting Leiber to go. The girls sent apologetic looks to Cliff and Mirage before following the louder brother to safety.
Once Fayt was nearing the door with Sophia and Maria, Steeg decided to follow the others, but then turned back when he heard a gasp coming from Maria. It turned out that she gasped as Sophia suddenly collapsed to the sandy ground, falling unto her knees.
"Sophia?" Fayt called as he leaned down to check on her. She was huddled over with arms crossed, shaking like she was freezing. It was true that it was a little cold outside with it being close to winter and the sun already gone, but it wasn't that cold to make someone collapse like that. Maria bent down to feel Sophia's head to check for a fever, but couldn't find anything unusual.
"What's wrong with her?" Cliff inquired as he ran over to the little group. Fayt quickly stood up with a confused, but worried expression as he replied that he didn't know.
"Miss Clair! Something is wrong with Sophia!" Mirage called out as she followed Cliff to the scene.
It was at that moment that a really bad feeling washed over Clair. But she noticed too late as she turned her head to face the small group that there was a minion half of Maria's size getting ready to claw her, "Maria watch out!"
The blue haired girl found herself in a rather trapped position. She could dodge the monster, but then Sophia, who was directly behind her, would have received the blow meant for her. Time seemed to slow as the razor sharp claws came closer to Maria as she raised her arms to at least defend herself. Suddenly, just as the claw was about to make contact with her raised arms, Fayt managed to get in front of her and kick the minion away where it promptly landed in Mirage's area and was quickly disposed by her.
"Are you okay Maria?" Fayt immediately asked as he gently grabbed her arms. Maria opened her eyes, not even realizing she had closed them in the first place.
"Yeah, it looks like it only scratched me, but nothing deep," she replied as she examined her arms. She had been wearing a white long sleeved shirt and now the material of left arm was slashed open. Her skin showed little welts, but no blood, "It's only a cat scratch."
It still stung really badly…but Maria wasn't like her brother to make a show out of it. She just grinned and bared it. Nel overheard Maria as she walked over and then sighed with relief. Even if that minion had poisonous claws, it would have to cut really deep in the skin in order to affect the victim.
Maria glanced down at Sophia. Had she said something? She kneeled down once again next to her friend to hear her better, "Did you say something Sophia? Are you alright?"
"Coming…they're coming…" the brunette whispered in a tiny voice.
"Coming?" Maria echoed before glancing at Fayt who was keeping close to her, "Who's coming?"
Suddenly Albel paused in his leering at Nel and glanced out to the horizon behind the rescue trucks. He gritted his teeth in frustration and then began to storm over to Woltar and Adray by the medical van.
"Hey old man, prepare yourself! There are more coming!"
"What?" Nel called as she glanced around. Who 'they' were was not important because the tense air was more than enough to clue in everyone. Not everyone was safely inside a rescue truck and some the rescue teams that came with Woltar were not fighters. If another horde was coming, then they were in trouble.
"Ugh! Why can't they leave us alone?" Clair grumbled as she pulled out her daggers, "I don't know if there are enough people to defend everyone out here…"
"We need a hero!" an extremely exaggerated high-pitched voice called out before switching to an equally exaggerated deep voice, "Well then you're in luck for now two heroes have come to your aide!"
Everyone followed the sound of the strange voice to the roof of the bus where Glou and Nevelle stood. Glou held a cheesy grin to hide the fact that he was the one talking while Nevelle kept his 'cool spy' pose. They appeared absolutely stunning with the light of the full moon behind them. However Nel and Albel still had to slap their heads as the 'heroes' were wearing ridiculously bright tie-dye T-shirts. Nevelle's had all the colors of the rainbow and Glou proved that he was secure in his masculinity by sporting a hot pink tie-dye.
"What business trip did you have to have to wear that?" Nel shouted up at them, effectively ruining their pose moment.
"Oh didn't you know?" Woltar inquired in a sarcastic tone, "They made a business trip to Dragon Land."
Both fathers coughed as they desperately tried to hide the letterings on the back of their shirts that clearly stated 'I went to Dragon Land and all I got was this lousy tie-dye T-shirt!'.
"Actually, we did have real business to conduct in Airyglyph… then we went to have a little relaxing break before going back to the business at hand…" Nevelle defended as he crossed his arms.
"But the real question is where you really finishing up with your 'business' or were you riding a roller coaster when I had called you?" Woltar added with an all-knowing smirk.
"We came didn't we?" Glou snapped at the elderly man with a blush.
"Um…" Clair started, catching everyone's attention, "I thank you all for coming to help and all but…"
She quickly pointed at the crowd of minions that had stopped to watch them with confused expressions. Some of the monsters seemed to be hypnotized by the shirts Glou and Nevelle were wearing.
"Could we have a little less talking…and more fighting?" Clair finished before the monsters could snap out their stupor. This group seemed to be a little more organized than the last few since it appeared that there were some minion leaders screeching orders in their own language.
"Well… I bet I can take down more monsters than you!" Glou called to his long time friend as he unsheathed his masamune blade and jumped down to attack.
"Should we bet on two bottles of aged Glyphian wine?" the spy suggested before joining in the fight.
"Whatever! Just fight and keep that blasted stuff away from the rest of us," Albel growled at them. He still hadn't completely forgiven them for the wine incident two months ago.
The fathers moved quickly in destroying their marks and made sure to keep near the defenseless students that were still out in the open. Cliff, Mirage, and Fayt tried their best to defend Maria and Sophia. All Fayt could do was throw random rocks and sand at them since he didn't have a weapon but he still fought nonetheless. Even though her arm still hurt a little, Maria was not quite out of the battle as she used a Welch-modified toy gun to shoot small flammable balls of newly marketed 'Lasselle Stink Bullets' (an invention formulated by Mirage). All one needed after shooting a stink bullet was for someone to cast fireball on the target, but the smell was more than enough to stop a minion.
It was a small group of minions considering the number of fighters they had. And it felt like defeating them was a little easier than it should have been. If anyone had known better, then they would have guessed that the monsters were just stalling for time. But why? Sophia made a stifled cry as the air around the area seemed to have drop drastically in temperature. Albel too sensed that something had arrived before a strange quiet befell the minions.
His eyes widened as he felt a pulse go through his body and his mind almost went numb. But before his body could shut down a strange rush of heat flowed through him and he was suddenly better. Albel quickly glanced to the right where Nel had been fighting beside him. Her eyes were wide and glazed over and her body appeared limp. She was about to fall, but before Albel could even begin to move to catch her, something… something harder than steel wrapped around him. What ever it was forced his arms against his forearms and covered his mouth. It was strong-too strong and he couldn't move at all.
The force was pulling him to where his feet were hovering a few feet off the ground. The only thing that could move were his eyes and they darted around wildly to find out what was going on. He soon found that Nel was not too far from him and was obviously in the same predicament he was in. A chuckle from above and vibration from behind told him that someone was holding them. Who on Elicoor could be as strong as this? …Besides Coach Adray of course. If he tried to grab Albel, he would have known and tore off Adray's limbs by the time he started thinking about moving towards him.
"It's time for you to pay the price for stealing what was mine!" the captor bellowed joyously as Glou and Nevelle stopped fighting instantly. …Well they stopped after knocking out the minions they were fighting.
The initial look on their faces showed worry for their children, but they quickly hid it behind taunting smirks. Woltar slowly made his way behind the dads with a neutral expression as he observed the scene before him. The King of the Undead held a particularly evil smile as the remaining people froze in recognition of him.
"Well, well, I was wondering when this would happen. Nevelle, we're being visited by Romero the Stupidnatural!" Glou grinned, earning an instant growl from the demon.
"That tears it!" Romero yelled as he briefly tightened his grip on the teens, "Who was the maggot that started that crap?"
No one noticed Steeg snickering and waving in the background behind Romero as he ran off to safety with the rescue team.
Nevelle tsked as he walked closer to the ancient demon, "Temper, temper Romero. You know how stupid it makes you when you get angry."
"It does not! You creatures are the ones who are stupid!" he spat venomously. Suddenly Mirage caught on to the tactic that the dads were using. Assuming that anger was the demon's weakness, then there was a chance to distract him and help save Albel and Nel.
The female trickster pulled Cliff by the ear down to her level so she could whisper her plan to him. When he got the jist of, he gave Mirage the thumbs up and jumped behind Romero.
"Let my friends go, he who was born naturally stupid!" Cliff declared in a loud voice before whispering to Mirage, "Like that?"
"Perfect…" she grinned as she watched for the demon's reaction. However, instead of getting angry, Romero just glared back at the muscled teen and then raised an eyebrow.
"Wouldn't you fit more into the category of being born 'naturally stupid'?" he inquired in a dull tone as Cliff's eyes widened in shock.
"Wha…?" Wasn't that supposed to anger him?
"All humans are born stupid and they will die stupid. It's a fact of life…" Romero replied, proving that he could fall back on his prejudice to keep from getting upset with insults. Suddenly Albel managed to squirm a bit and rearranged his arms to where he could dig the tips of his claws into Romero's arm. It was enough to make the demon loosen his grip slightly and allowed Albel to free his mouth.
"If you know what's good for you, you'd get your nasty disease riddled arms off me before I rip out your intestines and choke you with them!" Albel snarled as he tried again to get out of his grasp.
Romero was surprised that Albel was even moving. How did a mere human resist his mind numbing pulse? But before he could contemplate it further, he sensed two figures coming at him from behind. The first was Mirage as she tried to kick his legs out from under him, but he jumped up to avoid the attack. Cliff tried to land a punch to the face, but Romero leaned back and then willed fire to appear on the teen's fist. Unlike Runologists who needed to chant and use symbols to cast magic, demons were able to summon magic mentally with will power.
Cliff cursed and put out the fire before it could cause any serious burn damage to his skin. Mirage prepared herself for another attack, but before she could move, Romero decided that they were not much of a challenge and sent spells to the sand to toss them both into a sand trap one of his minions created. It was really only a pit with sand falling on the sides so no one could climb out. Once they fell in, some remaining minions jumped in to attack, but luckily they were small fry and were no real danger to the pranksters.
"…Worms…" Albel sneered at the duo's failed rescue attempt, regaining Romero's attention again.
"How is it you're immune to my shockwave? No human has the capability to resist it…"
"Oh that? He gets it from his mother," Glou replied dryly as the ancient demon glared at him venomously.
"What is that supposed to mean human?"
The dads gave each other incredulous looks. One would think that a hint like that would clue Romero in on who exactly he was trying to kill. Suddenly Woltar stepped forward with his hands behind his back in a proud pose. Even Old Woltar had a history with Romero and was one of the brave men who didn't fear him. Of course, the old man wasn't protected in anyway and could have been killed so many times in the past by the demon, and yet he remained alive. It was rumored that Woltar threatened to haunt Romero should he be killed by the demon's hand. The King of the Undead probably didn't want to suffer Woltar's nagging for all of eternity and agreed to let him die naturally of old age. But then this was only one of many rumors…
"Don't you know?" Woltar said haughtily as he fixed a cold gaze upon the demon, "Your daughter really is in love with Glou and she was capable of bearing children. Is it really that impossible to believe that the boy you're holding isn't her child?"
"My Ipiria would never allow a human to touch her!" Romero snarled.
"Ah but you also didn't think she would marry one either. Come now Romero. You should be ashamed that you are trying to place harm on your only grandson."
It was then Woltar's words sunk in to both Romero and Albel. The demon glanced down at the teen with a shocked expression, realizing for the first time how Albel did in fact resemble his daughter. Albel just couldn't believe that he happened to be related to an idiot.
Normally one would be shocked and then humbled if they found that they were related to such a powerful being, but Albel was already used to the shock after finding out he was half demon. At the moment he didn't want to care about it. Also he didn't see how Romero could possibly be more powerful than his mother. Karen had the power to strike fear in the hearts of millions. Romero only accomplished to get school kids to make jokes and laugh at him.
Either way, he had been shocked enough for one day and didn't need to recover from the new information about his grandfather. Albel decided to take action while Romero was going through the seven stages of denial and bit down hard on the demon's arm. The demon king hissed as the fangs sank down to his bone and quickly released the hostage. Albel landed cleanly on his feet before he sharply turned to face down Romero while occasionally watching Nel for any sign of movement.
Romero glanced at the glare on Albel's face as his own eyes softened at the sight, "That glare…so much like Ipiria's… You really are my grandson."
"Whatever. If you don't release Nel, then I'm not only ripping out your intestines, I'll shove your other organs down your throat and then let the maggots feed on you!" the teen growled with demonic anger.
"How cute," Romero chuckled at the growl, "But I'm afraid I cannot grant your request. I must have my revenge on those two bumbling idiots and while I cannot bring myself to kill you, I must use this female retch as retribution."
"Hey, who are you calling 'bumbling'?" Glou complained from behind his son.
Nevelle gave a slight glare to Glou before adding to Romero, "Who are you calling 'idiots'?"
"Would you rather he kill you instead?" Woltar questioned with a sly glance at the dads. They caught the look and knew what the old man was planning. With a slight turn to the side, Woltar threw a small dagger towards Romero and then quickly cast an earth glaive behind the weapon. The King of the Undead couldn't dodge both and allowed the dagger to implant itself into his forearm and used his power to cancel the earth glaive. Once he shook the tiny weapon out of his arm, Glou was upon him with his katana ready to strike and Nevelle ready to attack from behind.
"Slime!" Romero called as he floated out of their range and landed behind the spy. Nevelle reacted immediately as he twisted his body to swing his second blade. A green light formed around Romero's free hand before it caught the dagger mid-swing. Glou made another strike while Romero was busy holding back Nevelle's dagger only to fall down when his partner's body was thrown on top of him. Romero had moved so fast that even Nevelle didn't realize he was being tossed in the air.
Dazed, Nevelle and Glou slowly got up before something flashed up to Nevelle and punched him hard in the stomach. Romero then tossed the spy back to the ground several feet away. Glou glanced at his friend before glaring at the demon and let out a battle cry. The dark haired knight didn't care who Romero was at the moment because no one should ever attack someone when they are down and recovering. Unfortunately his attack was cut off as a green light from the demon's hand shattered his blade to a million little pieces.
Then faster than anything possible, Romero swept down to grab Glou's leg and spun him around before he threw him back to where Nevelle was just standing again. This time the spy was prepared and sidestepped Glou's body (muttering a quick apology for not trying to catch him) and tried to use a special runological spell to soften the ground under the demon's feet.
Romero was quickly able to float out of the trap and land a powerful kick to Nevelle's chest area. With the wind knocked out of him, the spy kneeled down to the ground where Romero proceeded to grab him by the shirt and throw him high into the air so the impact on the ground would hurt even worse. It was amazing and terrifying how the two greatest fighters in Gaitt could suddenly look like novice fighters in Romero's presence. What was even worse for their pride was the fact that the demon was fighting single-handedly with Nel's rag doll form secured in his other arm.
Ever since Glou and Nevelle took over in the battle, Woltar kept near Albel to keep him from joining in. He wanted the teenager to have a good look at what Romero was capable of before he rashly went off to fight something he couldn't handle.
"See boy? Romero has years of power and strength. Do you really think it's possible to defeat someone like him?" Woltar inquired, stealing a glance on Albel's reaction to the battle. His crimson eyes were actually wide with something akin to fear, but not quite as close. This was possibly the very first time he ever encountered someone with more power than both his parents.
Albel slowly clenched his fists and lowered his eyes to the sand beneath him. For once this wasn't about who was stronger. Nel was still in Romero's grasp and the fact remain that he wanted to kill her for retribution.
"Yes…" he finally growled in an answer to the elder man's question, "Someday I will be the one to defeat him."
But for now he needed to save Nel. There must be some way to save her…
Woltar studied him for a moment and then admitted, "Someday…perhaps you will. You may very well have the skill to do so."
"But can you save her right now?" the elderly man added quietly in his thoughts. He knew how much Albel was concerned for Nel's safety.
Romero laughed at the continued attempts to free his hostage between Glou and Nevelle, but he soon desired to finish his business and leave. The stench of humans was really getting to him now.
"Nevelle Zelpher, watch as I eliminate your daughter!" he bellowed as he grabbed Nel by the throat and held her out. Since her mind was still stunned she only dangled helplessly as everyone watched with panic.
"You despicable…!" Nevelle shouted as he ran toward the demon, followed closely by Glou. But he wasn't able to reach them as Romero summoned a dome-like barrier to keep the dads from getting close. Albel's eyes started glowing as he let out a yell.
"Albel!" Woltar barked, momentarily stunning the teen before he could run off.
"Don't try to stop me old man!" he muttered darkly.
"I won't…I just thought you would like to use this," Woltar said as he held out a long thin sword. The sword was Woltar's best blade and had been with him since his youth, "This curved katana has served me well for over 50 years and now it is yours."
Since Albel's other sword was lost to the sand from an annoying sand controlling minion in the last attack, he didn't have much of a choice and couldn't refuse. At least Woltar's sword was more to his style since the other weapon was a double-edged blade. Normally the sword was to go to Maxwell as he was going to be the next lord of the manor when Woltar passed away, but since he wasn't much of a fighter, the elderly man decided to pass the blade on to someone who would find a use for it.
The look of gratitude was enough for the elder as Albel silently took the offered sword and ran off to the barrier. After all, expecting Albel to actually say 'Thank you' was like asking Fayt to give up his plans for world domination or for Mirage to join the exclusive rich kid's club, the Society of Impressionable Youths.
With another yell, Albel rammed into the glowing translucent blue barrier that surrounded the demon. The walls began shimmering and wavering as his clawed fingers penetrated the shield. Glou and Nevelle stopped their pounding to look at the teen as he managed to get his head through the barrier.
"…That's right, Albel has some of Romero's blood and can't be affected by his power," Nevelle muttered before shouting, "Please save her, Albel! You're the only one who can now."
It seemed like a slow progress as his body passed through the barrier with much resistance from the wall. Once his left leg was the only thing trapped by the barrier he yanked his whole body toward Romero only to fall over when his leg was released. The King of the Undead had his back facing everyone at the time so that everyone could clearly see Nel's face as he choked the life out of her. Because of his position and Albel's sudden speed, he didn't notice Albel as he unsheathed Woltar's blade and drove it into the demon's side.
A wound like that would terribly weaken a person and possibly kill them in a few minutes, but for a demon like Romero, it was only like a mildly deep scratch. But still it was the first hit anyone had gotten on Romero. There was enough pain to make his grip on Nel falter, but not enough to drop her. While keeping her neck firmly in his hand, Romero lowered her to where her feet touched the ground before he grabbed the embedded blade with his free hand. Even with the force Albel put on to keep the blade in the demon's body, Romero was easily able to pull the weapon out.
"Well done young one, but like the others, you can't stop me," the ancient demon said as he turned to glance at the teen, "Give up your efforts, this human isn't worth saving."
"But she is! Kill the other maggots, but leave her alive!" Albel commanded with a growl. A shocked look came across Romero features before he looked at Nel's form.
"Are you trying to tell me you were going to claim this female child?" Then his eyes darkened as a snarl escaped his mouth, "I FORBID IT! I couldn't stop Ipiria from her choice, but no grandson of mine will mate with another human! I will kill this child and find you a demoness more fitting for one of your blood."
"Like hell! I'm not going to let a half-dead worm tell me how to live my life," Albel shouted as he tried to lunge towards Nel to free her.
Romero swiped his free arm across to hit Albel in the stomach and flung him to the edge of the barrier.
"You are too young to pick your mate! Don't defy me again young one…"
Albel coughed a few times when his lungs failed him. He may have been half-demon, but he didn't quite have the same immunity to pain like Romero had. Attacking him again wasn't going to work. Romero lifted Nel again and applied even more pressure to her neck, this time digging his claws into her skin. She wasn't going to last much longer…
Albel ran ideas through his head and couldn't come up with any. His usual tactic was fight, kill, and ask the nearest maggot why the problem started…and then probably kill that maggot too. But this situation was different. He wasn't used to using different tactics under time constraints. If he had to solve something without a fight, he would have thought of it in advance.
The only other option he had now was to try to snap Nel out of the spell Romero put her under using the only method he knew: Insulting her.
"Tch, what a pathetic worm you've become Nel… Since when have you become such a damsel in distress?"
It didn't seem to work. Albel scowled before he tried again, "So much for becoming a knight like your father. You're even a lousy spy to be caught like that!"
Suddenly he remembered how it felt when he was almost put under the mind numbing pulse. It felt like a shock to the system so maybe another shock would bring Nel out of the trance. She'd expect insults from him, but what could he say that would shock her?
He knew exactly what would shock her, but he wasn't going to say it. No, he already told her enough and she understood so he wasn't going to say it again. Perhaps a compliment would be enough instead…
"The woman I admire wouldn't let herself fall for such a cheap trick. Just fight it Nel!"
Still no response. A complement wasn't enough. She needed to hear something more shocking, but he didn't want to say it again. Those are words for weak men anyway. Suddenly some air escaped Nel's throat and more blood oozed out from her mouth. He needed to think of something quickly.
"You're stronger than this…I know it…that's why…" he let out a slight growl. He didn't want to say it, but his image wasn't worth the cost of her life, "…That's why I… love you. …Because you're strong."
Fortunately for Albel, the barrier couldn't carry any sound to the outside, so no one was able to hear his words. Unfortunately for Albel, Nevelle could read lips. Nevertheless, Nel's body twitched slightly as her eyes became clearer and more focused. Ever so slowly her hands came up to grip Romero's wrist. Since he was distracted and disgusted by Albel's words, he didn't notice his victim moving. Using the last of her strength, Nel managed to kick Romero's elbow joint sharply enough to where it began to bend the other way.
With a hiss from the demon, she was dropped to the ground where she swallowed in some air and then coughed up some blood. Romero probably crushed some of her windpipe…
Albel was there in an instant to scoop her up in his arms before the demon could grab her again. He ran up to the edge of the barrier and stopped only because Romero cast a wall of fire before him. With a glare, he turned to face the demon. Romero's face was contorted with pure rage as he breathed heavily and flexed his muscles with every breath. It seemed that he was so furious that the finally went off the deep end.
Either out of concern for Nel or the desire to further anger the demon by ignoring him, Albel glanced down at Nel to check on her. She had claw marks on her neck and there was a bit of gargling to her breathing. If he didn't get her to a medical runologist soon, then her blood was going to drown her. It appeared that Nel wanted to ask him something, but every time she tried to speak, no words would come out. But Albel knew what she wanted to ask.
"I don't lie, woman. I meant every word I said. You really are a pathetic excuse for a knight." She glared at him, thinking that he was only talking about the insults he gave her.
"But," Albel continued, ignoring her look, "…at least you're mine …even if you are pathetic."
Nel couldn't decide if she should continue to glare at him from the 'pathetic' crack or start to blush at how possessive he sounded when he said 'mine'. The fire behind Albel began dieing, allowing him to back up against the barrier. The weakened flames didn't even burn them as the magic behind the fire was now too weak. It was easier to get out of the barrier than it was getting in since there was less resistance inside. Once they were out, Albel ran to Nevelle and laid his daughter down on the sand.
Albel grimaced from his thoughts as he hovered over Nel when the spy began casting the same healing spell over and over on her throat. If he had expressed interest in runology, then he would have been able to help heal her… Nel wanted to learn it later on in life like her father did, but if he had tried to study it, then she would have probably studied earlier than planned just to compete with him. Now that he was seeing the ultimate use of spells when it came to battle, he decided that maybe he needed to learn it in the future.
Nel had her eyes closed when her father started casting the first spell. In minutes she felt her body getting stronger and her throat slowly clearing up. The pain was fading and it was getting easier to breathe, but throughout the procedure, she felt something wet falling on her face. Her voice was back, but her throat was still a bit too raw to use it.
"…Daddy…you're crying," she managed to get out. Her eyes were still closed, but she knew it was him who was crying.
"I know." His voice was rough as well, but not for the same reason, "It's just that…you were almost gone."
Had Albel been a second too late in breaking her out of the trance, she would have been dead by suffocation.
Glou had been watching Romero in case he would attack while Nevelle tended to his daughter. The barrier had long since faded, but Romero hadn't moved an inch. He couldn't tell if the demon was just stewing in his anger or trying to calm down from it. In any case, Romero didn't like to lose and it was certain he was going to retaliate in some way. He took comfort knowing that Karen told him that Romero has been taking anger management sessions to lessen the demon's rash decisions.
However anger management had no therapy when it came to family.
Romero suddenly screamed out as tremendous amounts of energy surrounded him. Glou let out a worried grunt. Surely he wasn't going to destroy everything around him? Glou's suspicions were confirmed as the now visible red-colored energy gathered into his raised hands. With Romero's power, everyone and everything in a 10-mile radius was going to disintegrate into nothing. The only ones expected to live through something like that was demons and roaches. Albel should survive it too, but since he only was half-demon, his body should be fairly damaged.
There was no way for anyone to avoid the attack. None of the rescue vehicles were even running for an emergency exit. But then they weren't fast enough to outrun the blast. Everyone stared fearfully at Romero as the ball grew larger. Some slowly backed or crawled away while others crouched down to take cover. Albel tried to cover Nel's body with his own just as the demon released his energy blast.
It seemed like time was moving in slow motion, but in an actual split second, a soft blue light emanated from somewhere near the bus and countered the blast. In the next split second, a feminine figure appeared in front of Glou (who was at the very front of the blast and possibly the main target the whole time) and strengthened the barrier so that it would absorb Romero's attack. After that moment, Sophia's body collapsed as she fainted. When the conflicting lights finally faded, a woman with long blonde hair, golden eyes, and colored markings on her skin turned to help Glou up.
"Karen! So glad to see you…I'm in trouble aren't I?" Glou muttered at the end from the glare his wife was giving him.
"That's an understatement," she replied flatly, "Bringing our son into your problem AND revealing his true nature and ancestry…let's just say you'll be cold and dry for a month."
'Cold and dry' was code for 'You'll be sleeping on the couch and no liquor'. Albel had long since quickly got off Nel in fear of others seeing him and was staring at his mother. It was the first time he had ever seen her in her demon form and it gave him proof that everything Nel and Woltar had told him was the truth. It was hard to believe that his mother was a demon at first, but it also made sense in the way she was able to cast fear in people like that.
Romero staggered a bit as he regained his senses. When his eyes refocused, he was angered to find that everyone was still alive, but was more shocked to see… "I-Ipiria? What are you doing here?"
She slowly turned to face him with a neutral face, "Kazu told me what you were doing and I am here to stop you."
"Kazu!" he shouted in surprise before a scowl replaced his features.
"As you recall father, I created Kazu to serve you. But as his creator, he is obligated to tell me everything when I ask for it. Do not punish him for doing what he was created to do."
Romero only growled in response and then cast his eyes over to Albel, "The boy…why didn't you tell me about him?"
"I did. I have told you several times of my son, but it seems you've been confusing him as a step-son," Ipiria replied sarcastically. Glou snickered behind her and muttered 'idiot'.
"But why haven't you taught him anything? He can't use magic and he relies on weapons. Ipiria, the boy fights like a human!"
"He is half human and he ages like one too. In a few years he will stop growing and aging and that was when I intended to train him, but for now he is simply too young," Ipiria replied calmly as Romero finally began approaching her.
"I suppose I can accept that, but why does it seem that you're hiding him from me?" he inquired with a hint of frustration creeping into his voice.
"It's because to my growing alarm, I found that Albel inherited your senseless hatred of humans. I wanted him to live as one so that he may grow to accept them. I do not want another you to be in charge should Albel inherit your job."
"How dare you!" Romero snarled after looking like he was slapped in the face.
"Whatever," she countered indifferently, "I do not understand why you hate humans, but I will not have it spread to my child."
"I do not have to explain myself in regard to those parasitic beasts!" he replied with an indignant look as he crossed his arms. It was uncertain exactly why he did hate humans, but it was easy to tell that Glou was the main reason of his hate.
"That's fine, I do not wish to know. However, you will have to accept the fact that I married a human and that your grandson is half human. And while we're at it, forget about your vengeance. If you want the swords so badly, we can give them back to you."
"I don't care about the swords, you can keep them for all I care. I only want to either take the life of that man or make his life miserable," Romero growled as he pointed at Glou.
Glou simply raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms, "Believe me, you do make my life miserable. You think it's cool to have a stupidnatural demon as a father-in-law?"
"WHY YOU-!" Romero screamed as he lunged for the raven-haired man, but Ipiria held him back. Behind Glou, Albel silently agreed with his father's words. Romero was easier to bate a reaction from than Nel. Wasn't he supposed to be an all-powerful demon?
"Father!" she yelled to get his attention, "Killing people, no matter what race they are, will not make things better. You need to control your anger."
"I can not just forget it, Ipiria. For centuries those filthy beast have plagued this earth with their mindless ways and THAT man is the worst of them all."
"Why thank you," Glou replied smugly as he examined his nails. Ipiria hissed for him to be quiet before he made Romero go into another frenzy.
"I want retribution. I have gone on sharing this world with theses ingrates and I can not stand it anymore. I can only rest if at least one human died by a demon's hand," the elder demon finished as his daughter's cold eyes watched him.
"You want one human sacrifice? Very well, that can be arranged." Ipiria vanished in a flash and appeared before Sophia's fallen form. She expertly knocked both Fayt and Maria out of her way before scooping up Sophia and returning to Romero. She then pulled out a hidden dagger from Glou and held it to the girl's throat.
"How about this human father?"
She raised Sophia's head so that Romero could see her face clearly in the moonlight. Romero's eyes widened in shock when he recognized the face.
"I had thought so," Ipiria said casually, "I've heard that after mother died you tried to bring her back. I have also heard that her soul fled from you and ended up being reincarnated as a human. Well no matter, she is to die anyway."
Albel felt a headache coming. Were they implying that the fruit was the reincarnation of his demon grandmother?
"No!" Romero shouted before Fayt or the others could, "Not her!"
"But father, you said you wanted at least one human to die," she wondered in mock surprise.
"But she was once a demon!"
"I see no difference. A soul is a soul no matter what shell it chooses, it's a pity that the soul you care for happened to be in a human shell. But don't worry father, once I kill her again, she will finally be granted eternal rest since a soul can't bond to a third host."
Romero inwardly cursed himself for teaching Ipiria about souls in his job. Ipiria raised the dagger to slice the brunette's neck, but Romero stopped her.
"No, don't," he muttered dejectedly.
"Oh? So you don't want anyone to die. Please make up your mind," she replied in a patient, but still sarcastic voice.
"Give her to me."
Ipiria contemplated if she should or not. Reincarnations usually abandon all of their previous memories in order to live a new life, but then… Sophia may still have the memories of her late mother because she was the one who first cast the barrier. While souls were all the same, experiences from memories allowed them to do anything they could have done in their last body. If Sophia still had her mother's memory, then giving her back was not a good idea.
"Let me go Ipiria." Sophia's eyes suddenly opened.
"Yes," she answered as Ipiria released her, "It's been awhile, hasn't it?"
"All this time and you were here…," Romero said in a quiet voice as he tried to approach her, "Then we can still be together, I can ignore the fact that you're human as long as I can have you as a wife again."
Sophia/Dehlarenia shook her head, "No."
"I-I want to stay here with the humans. I like this life and how I'm living it now," she said while nervously staring at her feet.
"Dehlarenia, I do not understand…" Romero tried to touch her cheek, but she kept backing away.
"What don't you get father?" Ipiria suddenly snarled, "She doesn't love you! She never had!"
For the second time that night, Romero looked like he'd been slapped
"I-it is true. I was taken by force and had no say in our union. Now that I'm a human, the contract binding us together was broken and I was finally free…" she muttered in a quiet tone, but she was still clearly heard.
"I hate to use a terribly clichéd human quote, but if you really love her, you'll let her go," Ipiria added as Romero bowed his head. After a long agonizing silence, Romero thought it over in his head before he finally nodded his consent for his late wife's decision.
There was a slight smile on Sophia's face as she faced Ipiria, "I'm going back to my new self, please don't remind me of who I once was. I just want to live a new life in the way I want to live it."
She cast her eyes over to the others to see if they would honor her request too. Fayt and Maria were pretty shocked by the turn of events, but she knew they wouldn't say anything to her host. Cliff and Mirage were still in the sand trap and most likely were lost on what was going on outside and the rest of the students were safely hiding in the rescue trucks. As for Albel, she had a feeling he'd rather forget this night ever happened.
"I understand mother," Ipiria nodded as she came closer to Sophia's body. There was a satisfied smile on her face despite the pain she felt when Ipiria punched her in the stomach to get her to pass out. Sophia's lithe form fell over into Ipiria's outstretched arm before she was carried back to her blue haired friends. After the demoness gave the bluenettes a warning look to remind them to keep Sophia's 'inner secret' she then turned to the remaining minions that were still waiting for the next order.
While she didn't create them, she still had authority over them. And since Romero created them to be easily manipulated bumbling idiots, she knew they would obey her.
"You four, help them out of that trap and then cancel the spell." She glared at the mentioned four while pointing at the trap Cliff and Mirage were still in, "The rest of you return home. This mission is over."
The minions groaned as they did as they were told. They wanted to cause a little more chaos and maybe at least maim someone. But despite their grumbling, they knew that if they stayed, then they would be the ones to get maimed by their master's evil daughter. The dads and Woltar sighed in relief as the minions ran away and the remaining students minus Albel and Nel were finally in the care of the rescue team.
"Are you crying?" Albel inquired with disgust as he gazed at Romero.
"N-no," he sniffed as he quickly tried to wipe away the evidence of tears, "S-Some sand got in my eye."
Glou and Nevelle shared an eye roll from the demon's response, but wisely kept quiet.
"I hope you are happy Ipiria. At least one of us is…" Romero muttered before glancing off into the distant horizon. On the outside he appeared angry, but his eyes betrayed him by showing how depressed he was. Ipiria's eyes softened a little as she placed her hands on her hips.
True Romero brought it all on himself for what he did to his late wife and his thirst for vengeance on all of humanity (…well maybe just vengeance on Glou), but the demon was just cut down twice and left bleeding. He was denied the love of Dehlarenia and a chance for revenge. He may have been a rather evil ass, but he was still Ipiria's father. He deserved to have at least one thing turn in his favor.
"Is there anything non-violent we can do for you? I hate for you to have wasted your time by coming all this way and return home with nothing," the demoness asked as she made her way back to her husband's side.
"You know what I want and you made sure I did not get it," he replied solemnly, "The maggot you married does everything in his power to insult and humiliate me and I have no chance in retaliating."
Ipiria cast a short glance towards Glou and then suggested, "If he annoys you that much, then I could chain him to a bed and not allow him to leave the house."
"Hey!" Glou shouted as Romero contemplated the offer. Ipiria wouldn't really put her husband under house arrest. She would just keep him from entering Greeton. But regardless of how the deal would turn out, Nevelle had a better idea that would appease Romero more.
"How about you take home this voodoo doll of Glou?" the spy said as he pulled out rather pale plush toy that resembled the Glyphian knight, "Then you can just poke it with a needle and inflict minor pain on your favorite pain-in-the-derriere."
The 'voodoo doll' that Nevelle happened to have was made from the remains of Nel's beloved BloodyClaws. A few days ago, Albel finally became bored enough to cross the line by destroying Nel's stuffed animals. So to cheer his daughter up, he got Sonya to help him remake the demolished bunny to look like Albel. Unfortunately, they couldn't replicate his demonic features and so the toy began to resemble Glou instead. Nevelle added a beard to the bunny to spite Glou.
"HEY!" Glou protested again as Romero reached for the doll.
"Don't worry, it's not real. He won't really know if he's hurting you with that when he lives so far away from you," the spy whispered as Romero examined the toy.
The demon glanced at it closely and didn't seem to notice the fact that the 'voodoo doll' had long floppy ears and a puffy cottontail whereas the real Glou didn't have such features. With almost a child-like look of awe, Romero procured a thin needle from thin air and poked the doll in the arm.
"Uh…OW! That hurt!" Glou faked whined as he rubbed the opposite arm. He then corrected himself and rubbed the other arm before the demon could notice.
Romero squealed with glee as he poked another area of the doll's body, resulting in Glou to pretend to be hurt in the identical area. He then poked several other areas (including Glou's family jewels) before Ipiria cleared her throat and requested that he should return home.
"Oh fine…" Romero muttered as the 'pain riddled' Glyphian knight rolled over in the sand, "I hope you come visit soon Ipiria, and bring the boy with you."
"…His name is Albel, not 'boy'," Ipiria corrected him, but she wasn't heard as Romero was squealing with laughter over the voodoo doll. The King of the Undead then disappeared with a cry of joy. Nel smirked slightly from her position on the ground as she watched Albel cover his eyes in shame.
"So now it's finally over. Let us return to Kirlsa and have some tea," Woltar suggested after a long pause of determining that Romero was really gone.
"I agree, thank you for your hospitality," Karen nodded as she resumed her human appearance. Nevelle glanced down at Glou who was still in a fetal position and cupping his balls.
"The Stupidnatural One left, you can get up now…"
Glou cracked open one eye, "…Oh, so he is."
"Were…you having fun pretending to be in pain?" Nevelle couldn't help but ask as his friend got up and brushed off the sand.
"Wha? Absolutely not! …Well a little…until he 'attacked' m'boys. I'm so glad it wasn't a real voodoo doll," Glou replied with relief, "If I lost them, then Albel would never get that little brother or sister he never wanted."
Nevelle raised an eyebrow, "I think one half-demon terrorizing society is more than enough. Please don't have more children."
Nel couldn't agree more.
"Good morning Aquios High! This is your host Welch Vineyard…"
"And Steeg Idaho!"
Welch gave him a blank look, "…We know you're a 'ho', you don't have to broadcast it on live T.V."
"I didn't say I was a ho…" Steeg muttered in confusion, "I just said my name: Steeg Idaho."
"We know you're a ho, you don't have to repeat yourself," the female newscast sniggered as she had a hard time keeping a straight face. It took Steeg a few seconds to catch what he had been saying wrong. I-da-ho…
"Hey! Up Uranus!"
Suddenly Welch shot off her seat, "WHAT DID YOU SAY TO ME?"
"Uranus…you know, that mythological planet the government officials whisper about?"
"Oh…" she sat back down, "It's really called that? It sounds like…"
"I know, that why I said it," Steeg smirked proudly.
"OH FOR THE LOVE OF APRIS!" Tynave screamed off camera, "GET ON WITH THE NEWS!"
Both anchors sunk down in their seats before Steeg cleared his throat and sat up.
"Sorry for the late introduction, this is your Morning Report!"
They smiled nervously as Mayu watched the steam come out of Tynave's ears.
"Well it has been a little over a week since the disastrous senior field trip and Lasselle has finally got all the charges on him dismissed," Welch continued as she gathered up her papers on the desk.
"Even though several students were put in harm's way, Kirlsa officials were glad for the events as they have revealed new research for the mentally …uh impaired if you will," Steeg added while not trying to sound derogatory to the asylum patients, "Randall, our former bus driver, is now the first to be admitted into the new asylum wing for the 'Demon Whisper' syndrome."
"And due to the fact that he can't be our bus driver anymore, the district has now hired us a new bus driver. The streets are now safe once again and we don't have to fear riding on the bus anymore," the cinnamon haired girl smiled pleasantly. Steeg glanced at her before delivering the killing blow to a particular student…
"Yes and the new driver happens to be a former nurse at the Kirlsa asylum. She had resigned from her job since the start of the new research on the 'Demon Whisper' syndrome and came here to try something new. This wonderful and sane nurse is none other than Mrs. Merrywin Fittir!"
The smiles of the news anchors couldn't be any bigger as a familiar male voice cried out 'Noooooooooooo!' for the whole school to hear. The cry was soon followed by a familiar female voice's taunting laugh.
"Well, I'm glad Cliff and Maria are taking this well!" Welch chirped after a pause, "There's nothing more wonderful than a parent-child relationship on school grounds."
"Indeed there isn't. However, due to the new bus driver, the promised segment of the behind-the-scenes of Cliff and Mirage's next prank was cancelled. We will have to instead move on to…" Steeg cut off as Marietta suddenly stormed in the room with a sheet of notebook paper. She then excitedly handed the sheet over to Welch.
Her eyes darted over the hand-written words before they widened, "Breaking news! We just got word from the local news that Albel Nox and Nel Zelpher are arranged to be married after graduation day!"
"An arranged marriage, huh? This must be quite a shock to them," Steeg mused before he slammed his hands to the desk, "We MUST have an interview!"
"I agree," Marietta replied as she headed back towards the door, "I have Lady Nel detained-er-I mean here right now. Lieber!"
The door opened and Nel was shoved in. Before she could figure out what was going on or try to crouch into a fighting stance to fend off her attackers, Marietta grabbed her arm and pulled her over to the desk where Steeg and Welch sat.
"Oh hell," she muttered when she noticed the camera. She then glanced at the news anchors, "What is the meaning of this? Why am I here?"
"There is news all around about how you're arranged to be married to Lord Albel. Care to tell us more about this?" Welch prodded with a smile as Marietta held up a microphone to Nel. The red head's eyes widened for a moment before she realized what had happened.
"You mean to tell me that my father and Albel's father had announced to all news medias that I'm in an arranged marriage?" she inquired dryly as her eyes narrowed and darted between Steeg and Welch.
"That's right. Is this the first you've heard about it?" the silver haired anchor inquired with all the profession of a real newscast personality.
Nel grinned an almost evil smirk before she slowly shook her head, "I was afraid that they were going to do this. Steeg, Welch, your news program is about to get an exclusive coverage here. Before anymore rumors spring up, I must announce that there will be no arranged marriage taking place."
Gasps and excited smiles filled the room and possibly the whole school from the information. Welch couldn't help but question her further, "Really? Do you mean to tell me that you're willingly going against your father's wishes by not going through with the marriage?"
"It's not quite that I'm going against my father's 'wishes', it's just that the arranged marriage is to take place if I didn't have a lover before graduation. My father doesn't know this yet…and well neither do my friends, but I'm already engaged."
More gasps erupted as Mayu zoomed the camera in on Nel's left hand to show off the rather impressive ruby and diamond engagement ring. Steeg briefly wondered if Albel knew about this or if he was watching the broadcast. He instead asked, "Who's the lucky guy?"
"I can't tell you…at least not yet. Until this current rumor is put to rest, I probably shouldn't bother revealing such irrelevant information," Nel replied smoothly.
While Tynave was happy and impressed that the news went on without an argument, time was running short. She signaled to Welch and Steeg to start saying the closing lines.
"Oh but can't we stay on air for ten more minutes?" the cinnamon haired girl whined when she caught the signal. Tynave only glared in response, leaving the anchor to let out a disappointed sigh, "Okay… I'm sorry folks, but it seems that we have run out of time. Hopefully next week we can share more news about this developing story. This is Welch Vineyard…"
"…And Steeg Babaganoosh!…"
Welch looked like she wanted to say something about that name, but decided to ignore it just this once, "…And this was your Morning Report, see ya!"
As the credits rolled Steeg leaned towards Nel and said, "Hey Nel, I'll pay you 100 Fol to tell the local media and get them to come here. I'm sure classes will have to be cancelled while Lasselle tries to get rid of them."
"Not a bad idea…Throw in that so-called picture you have of Luther sleeping with a teddy and I'll do it."
Steeg raised an eyebrow, "Why do you want that?"
"Sophia's birthday is coming up and I have a feeling it might make a nice gift," she said with a look of indifference.
"Okay, let me change that question. Why would Sophia want it?"
"Goodness Steeg!" Nel cried with fake concern, "I thought you and your group were the information highway when it came to school gossip. You can't tell she has a crush on your cousin?"
Steeg, Lieber (from outside the classroom), Welch, Marietta, and Mayu suddenly exclaimed 'WHAT!' in surprise.
"Hmm…I guess it's something only a spy or someone with Sophia's powers would notice," Nel amended with a rather smug look.
"You're crazy woman. Heh, Luther and Sophia…" Steeg finally replied while shaking his head, "But fine, I'll give you the picture."
"Why thank you Mr. …uh Babaganoosh. I'll get to the task immediately," Nel then pulled out her cell phone and dialed, "Hello? Channel 4 news…?"
"Oh come on Nel, you know me well enough to refer to me as Kenny Blankenship or Captain Tenneil," Steeg whispered when she was put on hold.
Welch long since caught on to the fact that he was naming himself off characters from MXC and then leaned over to whisper to Marietta, "Just watch, next he'll refer to himself as Guy LeDouche. Apris know he looks like a LeDouche!"
As promised, Nel called every news station and every newspaper about her engagement. She refused all interviews for late night shows and public appearings and kept quiet about the fiancé. Reporters surrounded the school, crowded the windows, and some even tried climbing the roof to get inside, but Lasselle made sure that all entrances were locked. There was nothing the principal could do to get rid of them and had to cancel classes so that the students that were required to go outside for gym class would not be mauled.
It was lunchtime when a small crowd lead by Maria approached Albel and Nel at the lunch table. The two were sitting closer together than normal, but there didn't seem to be anything romantic going on. Albel was watching the news on a portable T.V. while Nel scribbled down notes on what looked like to be a hand drawn map of the school. She was probably mapping out an escape route to avoid the news interviewers. Ever since hearing it on the Morning Report, Maria and the others couldn't stop wondering who Nel was engaged to and why Albel didn't seem to care about it.
Though not everyone in the small group was particularly that interested. In order to convince them to come along to support the girls, Fayt and Cliff were paid 50 Fol and a promise of 'something good' from their girlfriends. Though 'something good' probably meant that they were going to spend that money on the girls, but they chose to live in their perverted fantasies. It was probably Sophia who was the most curious out of the group.
She knew deep in her heart that Albel and Nel were meant for each other and that they would end up together, but the 'engagement' left her rattled. Unless Nel had been lying for some reason, who would she marry if not Albel? Also why wasn't Albel upset or jealous? He was extremely possessive of her and wouldn't let her say yes to any proposal. The whole ordeal had Sophia in circles. In fact it was mainly because of Sophia constant loony mutterings and pacing that Maria decided to organize the group and surround Nel to get answers.
"Alright Nel, time to spill it. Who are you engaged to?" the blue haired girl demanded as she rested her fists on her hips. Nel glanced up from her work and then briefly stared at the T.V. Albel was holding before turning back to them.
"Sorry, can't tell you yet," she replied earnestly as she went back to work on her map. Suddenly Mirage clicked her tongue as she approached Nel.
"You can't even tell us, your close, personal bestest of best friends?"
Nel narrowed her eyes as she gazed into Mirage's blue ones, "Mirage, after all the things you've done to me this year, you hardly qualify to hear that kind of secret."
"What?" the blonde called out in mock surprise, but then inquired curiously, "What did I do to you?"
"Oh…" Nel held up her hand and ticked the points off each finger, "You blackmailed me twice, asked for my only leather whip for compensation of one of the blackmails, gave me lingerie for my birthday-"
"Okay!" Maria interrupted before it could go farther. The blue haired girl then grabbed Sophia by the shoulders and pulled her to the front, "You forced us to use to bug guns now! Get her Sophia!"
Smiling brightly, the brunette took a seat next to Nel and chirped, "I like secrets you know…"
"I do know," the spy, "But some secrets can keep you from getting cute things like this."
Nel then held up a picture up to Sophia's eyes long enough for the girl to see what it was. It was then put back under the map before anyone else could see it. There was a small grin and a huge blush on Sophia's face as she glanced at the area where the picture was hidden and then back to Nel.
"Where did you get that?"
"It's a one of a kind picture from a secret source. There are no copies," Nel answered ominously, but then asked in a cheerful voice, "Want it?"
"YES!" the brunette blurted out before she could stop herself.
"You'll have to forget about my secret…" the spy warned with a wave of a finger.
"Secret? What secret?" Sophia said innocently.
"Sophia!" Maria cried out in disappointment as the matchmaker concealed her new picture of a shirtless Luther sleeping with a giant teddy bear in her purse.
"…Sorry, I can't help it. It's so cute!" she squealed even though the others didn't know what was on the picture she was describing. But before Sophia could get up and rejoin the mob that Maria gathered, she began to wonder…
"Nel? How did you know?" she whispered so that Maria and the others couldn't hear. It wasn't like she was keeping her crush on Luther from her friends. She just figured that they wouldn't approve of her crush and didn't bother telling. Up till now she thought Fayt was the only one who knew about it.
"Even a spy can find out secrets, even if they're not intended to be secrets," Nel whispered back with a wink.
"Oh come on Nel! Just tell us," Maria screamed out of frustration.
"No," she replied firmly.
"Please?" the bluenette prodded.
"Would you do it for a Nelly Snack?" Cliff asked as he held up a moldy banana he found in the garbage. Maria grimaced and then wondered why her brother had been digging in the trash.
"Gross!" Nel cried as she slapped the offending fruit out of the prankster's hand.
"Please Nel, just tell us already. Every minute you stall is a minute I'm not playing a game," Fayt pleaded with a few twitchings to his eyes and hands.
Nel growled under her breath, finally getting annoyed by her friends' antics. She could tell them, but on the other hand, waiting would make fruits of her plan so much sweeter. If she waited just a bit longer, she could tell her friends without ruining the plan. But if she was too soon… Well gossip traveled very fast and there was the fact that everyone else in the cafeteria was listening in. With a sigh she faced Albel.
"How's it coming over there?"
He didn't take his eyes away from the screen as he replied, "The worms are finally heading over there for a live interview. It won't be long now, they say it will be in a minute."
Nel contemplated it for a second. They were pretty close, perhaps too close so that they wouldn't catch wind if she told her friends. But then again, a minute in a news broadcast can mean ten minutes depending on any technicalities…
"I suppose I can tell you now. But everyone who is listening in must promise not to tell the media for at least a day. Even if you do, you won't get money out of it." She cast a quick glance at Maria, who only scoffed back, "I've told all reporters not to pay anyone for information because I promised them that I would tell whole story tomorrow."
She figured that money would be the main reason should someone betray her. If there were nothing to gain, then they wouldn't bother, but then some people would do it for other reasons… Well if she stalled enough then it wouldn't matter. Right now the only thing the students wanted was to have their curiosity sated. Nel stole another look at the T.V. Albel was watching. She was right, the news had to delay for a few more minutes. That meant she had to stall for just a bit more.
"Anyway…" she blinked when she noticed that everyone was suddenly closer, "If you guys really want to know…"
"Yes?" the whole crowd of students in the cafeteria chorused together.
"My fiancé is actually…"
"Yes?" the crowd repeated more urgently.
Nel fingered a strand of hair and faked a shy smile, "It's kinda embarrassing really…"
Everyone let out an annoyed sigh or an irritated growl.
"Well I got to get over that… My fiancé is…"
"Yes? Yes?" the crowd perked up.
"His name is…" Suddenly she turned away and rested her head on the palm of her hand, "What am I saying? You guys don't care."
"NEL!" everyone screamed. The spy snickered lightly at their frustrated expressions.
"Are you maggots really that stupid? She's engaged to me you fools!" Albel growled as he finally turned away from the T.V.. Apparently Nel wasn't just annoying the crowd with her stalling. There was a stunned silence and a sea of extremely wide eyes.
"…You couldn't hold out for a few more minutes? Now everyone knows our secret," Nel pouted slightly as she crossed her arms. Though she was only acting, some part of her really was disappointed that the game was over. It was a little fun baiting the crowd like that.
"It doesn't matter," Albel shook his head as he shoved the T.V. over to her, "It's starting."
Nel, Albel, and as many people who could see over them watched as a crew of reporters approached the front entrance of the Zelpher mansion. The main interviewer, an averaged sized tan-skinned man, knocked on the door only to have it answered by the butler. The crew was refused entry, but was promised that the knights would be out shortly. During the waiting period the reporter reviewed the entire story up to the current point and showed clips of the only interview Nel gave in the Morning Report.
Nevelle then came out with Glou who 'happened' to be visiting at the time. Okay, so the whole world knew that they were joined at the hip. The reporters didn't care as it only made their jobs much easier. The two knights put on charming smiles for the camera thinking that they were here to talk about the arranged marriage they announced earlier.
"What can we do you for Pace?" Glou inquired to the main reporter. He had been through so many alleged scandals and rumors (some of which were started by Nevelle) in Airyglyph that he knew every single news reporter by name.
"Well Sir Glou, we came by to find more clues about this mystery boy that Lady Nel mentioned in an interview at her school," Pace replied clearly into his microphone. The dads glanced at each other in confusion.
"Mystery boy?" the spy echoed as Glou crossed his arms.
"Are you talking about Albel? He's not that much of a mystery, he just …well…takes after his mother," Glou said with a grin leaving confused looks from the news crew. Not even the news could figure out that his wife was a demon or that Albel had some supernatural powers from her.
"Uh…no sir. We're not talking about your son. We were wondering about another boy, perhaps someone you don't want your daughter near, Sir Nevelle?" Pace inquired as he turned to the spy.
"Excuse me?" Nevelle answered with shock.
"Lady Nel announced this morning that there will be no arranged marriage because she was engaged to someone else. Would this mean that there was another boy you were trying to keep her from with this marriage?"
"What? No… We arranged this because we thought our children didn't have anyone else…" the red haired man trailed off as he caught on to the first part, "Did you say she was engaged?"
"Yes. That was what she said this morning sir," Pace replied with a professional straight face.
"To who?" Glou suddenly blurted out.
"We don't know. Lady Nel didn't say." The reporter shook his head, "This is why we came to talk to you. We thought you might have some clues."
"Well she does have other male friends…but as far as we know, they're already in relationships," the dark haired knight said after some deep thought.
"I thought I knew everything about my little girl…" Nevelle muttered in a dejected tone as he stared at the ground.
"I don't like this," Glou commented firmly, "We'll have to investigate this on our own."
"We'll contact you if we find out anything," Nevelle added before they both ran back into the house. While they did appear calm, there was no mistaking the worried panic coming from them.
Pace only blinked at the knights' retreat before he calmly faced the camera, "So it appears that this is a mystery that even Sir Nevelle couldn't solve. Who could she be hiding that she doesn't even want to own father to know about? We will try to investigate further. Back to you Sam."
Nel and Albel burst into laughter (with Albel's being a bit more evil than Nel's) as the small report ended. They were acting like their favorite sports team just won a major tournament with the way they were being so friendly with each other. Fayt and the others only stared at each other, not quite sure what was going on anymore.
"Did you see your dad?" Nel shouted between breaths, "He looked like he was about to have a conniption!"
"Heh, this will teach them…"
"Uh, sorry for ruining your happy celebrations, but…what?" Maria started from behind them, "Never mind what just happened on the news, what I want to know is what was the point of telling everyone that you were engaged when you were going to have to marry him anyway?"
Albel was in too good a mood to have to explain anything to a worm and so thus ignored her as he changed the channel to some heavy metal music show. Nel rolled her eyes at his reaction and then moved away from him so that her friends could hear her over the loud music.
"I said it to get back at our dads. A few days ago we realized what they were up to and had to pull a step ahead of them," she started as she walked away from the table.
Back at Woltar's mansion during that fateful fieldtrip, Albel told her that he found out that the Blades of Ryusen and the Crimson Scourge were to be wedding gifts for them. After Nel got over her shock and rage over it, Albel finally pulled out the object he had been hiding in his pocket and proposed. She still wore the ring even though at first he made it sound like the engagement was to only prank their fathers.
He told her that it was either to say yes now or be forced to later for the arranged marriage. They had confessed their love for each other earlier, but Albel acted as if he didn't care that he was asking her, making her think that he made up his feelings so that she would go along with his plan. Back then she felt that she had no choice and accepted and after that she was glad she did because she then knew how Albel truly felt when she had been under Romero's spell and less than two minutes away from death.
"You got back at them by saying that you were engaged?" Sophia inquired in confusion.
"Well, notice I only said that and nothing else. Everyone assumed that I was engaged to another person and that information carried on to my father and Glou, who as you just saw had a few heart attacks hearing it," Nel chuckled smugly.
"Well fine, you just one-upped your dads after many years of them tricking you," Mirage began, appearing to be a little upset over this, "You only got them once, aren't you going to do more so that you're even?"
Cliff then appeared over his girlfriend's shoulder, smelling like rotten foods, "And if you are, can we help you with some ideas? I've always wanted to prank Al's dad!"
Mirage seemed unfazed by the offending smell, but Nel had to wave her hand before her nose.
"Thank you for the offer, but we have no need of childish pranks. Besides, this marriage thing was Glou's plan since I was three and for it to fall apart at the seams right when he executed it must be too much for him to bear. I think this is more than enough of revenge." Nel blinked as she realized that the pranksters weren't listening to her.
Cliff was really looking for an excuse for Mirage to smell him and get her judgment. She whispered to him, "Dig deeper in the garbage, you still have a lingering scent of the stink bullets Maria shot at you…"
Apparently Mirage's invention was so bad that smelling like garbage was better than smelling like the bullets.
Nel pinched the bridge of her nose to try to stop the incoming headache and then faced everyone else, "Is that all you needed to know?"
The whole cafeteria murmured with bored, disappointed noises as the students dispersed and went back to their tables. Fayt grumbled more than anyone as he pulled out his hand held, "This wasn't worth fifty Fol and missing more than fifteen minutes of my Zelda fix…"
Maria shook her head as she turned to the cafeteria doors, "Sophia, Fayt, let's go…"
"So what are we going to do now, Maria?" Sophia wondered as they began walking.
"The same thing we do everyday, Sophia," the blue haired girl replied as if it was obvious.
"Try to take over the world?" Fayt supplied in a hopeful tone.
"No. Meddle in other people's lives. Besides…" she glanced at Sophia and gestured towards Nel, "Don't you need to plan for someone's wedding?"
"Narf!" Sophia chirped happily as Fayt hummed the tune to 'Pinky and the Brain'.
And that's how the good stories end…by ripping off endings of popular 90's cartoons.
Yes there are holes in the story and many unanswered questions, but they are all answered in the novel. I hope this 'shortened' ending was satisfying enough for you. I liked it anyway. Well I'm going back to work on my Final Fantasy AWESOME project, I hope you guys come and watch it! See ya!