FINALLY! I've been dying to finish this chap! This one was just… cute I guess… X.x Kill me if you wish… but the ending I enjoyed…

WARNING: HINT OF LUTHER/NEL!

Chapter 11: Ugly

"Maggot."

"Jerk."

"Cerise."

"Flan."

"Worm."

"Fool."

"Hey! You can't use one of my insults!" Albel barked, sitting up in his bed. Nel shrugged slightly.

"What's it matter?"

"It's cheating." He shot back, thoroughly irritated by the woman. Nel chuckled.

"Relax. It was just a game."

"Yes, but what fun is it if I don't win?" The Glyphian asked with a frown. Nel gaped before taking her pillow and throwing it at him.

"Albel Nox, you are the most selfish, inconsiderate piece of scum I've ever met!" She cried. Albel grinned as he caught the pillow, tossing it back to her.

"That's much better!" He laughed. "I finally have some challenge, you despicable fool."

"Your fighting must have been pathetic if you lost to Fayt!" Nel shot back. Albel scowled, but fired one right back in her face.

"You must be really desperate for a man if you risked your ass to save those two worms from Airyglyph!"

"Should I really be asking you about men, Nox?"

"Well you can hardly call yourself a woman, Zelpher…"

"You look like a cross-dresser!"

"You're just flat out ugly!"

Nel hesitated for a moment, glancing away before coming up with a reply. "You're an anorexic, skinny bastard!"

Albel, however, caught her moment of hesitation. Had he hit a sore spot? She had never gotten upset when he had called her ugly before. Then again… he had never called her ugly.

He glanced over silently, wondering if Nel was going to try and provoke him again. To his surprise, Nel had rolled over so her back was to him. He opened his mouth, but closed it again, shutting his eyes in the process.

He was a fool…

& & & & &

Albel ran towards the wall as fast as his legs could carry him. His arm was now in tip-top shape and his hopes had risen after his father's funeral. Turns out his father had left behind his journals for him to read along with the Crimson Scourge for Albel. Unfortunately, the blade was still in the Urssa Lava Caves and nobody dared to retrieve it.

He plopped down in front of the wall, smiling at the Aquarian on the other side. "Hey."

"Hey…" Nel's face looked unusually pale. Albel's smile faded when he heard her distraught voice.

"Something wrong?" He asked. Nel shook her head. "Oh…"

There was silence for a moment before Nel spoke up again.

"Albel… do you think I'm ugly?"

Albel froze. What? Why was Nel asking a question like this? It's not like she ever complained about her looks. He glanced down at her, noticing her sad face.

"Where did this come from, Nel?" he asked softly. Nel averted her gaze, soon finding a small rock in the wall quite interesting. "Nel." Albel urged, placing a hand on her shoulder. Nel flinched and Albel recoiled, apologizing quietly.

"Some girls…" Nel started. "Some girls that are in the crimson blade training with me…" She brought her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. "They've been picking on me lately…" Her eyes closed as she blinked unshed tears away. "They keep calling me things, saying I'm ugly and hopeless… that REAL girls are much more accepted in the crimson blade." Her eyes opened again. "I'm not that ugly, am I?"

Albel was shocked. THAT ugly! What in the seven hells was she talking about! She wasn't ugly at all! "Hmph… the maggots are just trying to get to you." Albel growled. Nel glanced up in question. "You probably surpass those idiots in everything. They're just trying to drag you down." He smiled. "Don't listen to their lies. You're anything but ugly."

For the first time that day, a small smile spread on Nel's face. "What do you think of me anyway?" Nel finally asked. Albel glanced up, blushing slightly.

"Well you're nice… funny… talented… smart… stubborn… but not as stubborn as me." He grinned, causing Nel to laugh. "You're strong, clever… really pretty…" He added quietly. Nel blinked.

"What did you say?"

"Nothing." Albel replied with a blush. "But I can tell you that you're the best friend I ever had."

Nel smiled warmly, her cheeks turning slightly pink from his words. "Well… you, Albel… you're funny, smart and caring. You're the toughest and bravest person I've ever met… along with one of the nicest." She failed to mention that she thought he was cute. But then again, what girl in their right mind would? Tomboy or not, you keep your mouth shut. Albel laughed lightly, proud for cheering his friend up.

Nel glanced at the position of the sun and cursed. "Oh no! I have to go back for dinner now!" She whined. Albel nodded his head in understanding.

"Go ahead. I'll see you tomorrow." He said, shooing her away. Nel paused and glanced over.

"Oh Albel… there's something I want to tell you." Albel glanced at her through the hole and leaned forward.

"What is it?" He asked with a frown. Nel smiled and bent down, letting her head go through the hole so that she was able to whisper in Albel's ear.

Instead, however, she moved over and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. She pulled back quickly and ran back to Aquaria, waving behind her. Little did she know that the one little kiss had turned Albel redder than her own crimson hair. He watched her leave before heading back to his own kingdom, a grin plastered on his face all the way back.

& & & & &

Nel had left before Albel had woken up the next morning. He had awoken to find her bed empty and her daggers still on the nightstand. The group had planned on staying here for a couple days to get some supplies along with some decent rest. Nel must have gone shopping or something. It had to be something where she didn't need her daggers… what other logical reason was there?

Albel had soon gotten dressed, strapping his sword to his side as well. He had decided to himself that today would be a day to either train or kill something… preferably the latter. He also preferred the latter when it came to either killing monsters or people. Not that he was a sick murderer or anything… but he had cut down too many monsters recently. Maybe there was a rapist of some sorts he could slay for the heck of it.

He sighed and shrugged to himself as he finished adjusting his gauntlet and heading downstairs to the main lobby to head out. His crimson gaze scanned over the people until he caught sight of the blue haired boy sitting at a table near the window.

"Hey, Leingood…" Albel started, walking over. "Where is everyone?" He asked, trying not to sound concerned for anyone in particular. Fayt glanced up at him, giving him a knowing look.

"If by 'everyone' you mean 'Nel', she went out a while ago. She didn't say where she was going though…"

Albel scowled at the earthling, but didn't bother to reply. Instead he walked out of the building without question, leaving the stunned boy behind. Nel was in a foul mood today and the chances were it was his fault.

Not that he was going to apologize! Of course he wouldn't! He would never apologize to that woman!

He would simply find a way to make her come back quietly without bloodshed…

…which meant that he would more than likely have to knock her out.

The Glyphian groaned and ran a hand through his hair as he headed down the road. His crimson gaze scanned the heads of the people in the town, frowning when he saw no sign of red.

"Bloody woman…" he hissed. "Where the hell could you have gone?"

He continued out of the town, glancing at buildings where she might possibly have gone to visit. Nel was still nowhere to be seen.

He paused as a thought crossed his mind. What if Nel had been caught in the middle of a brawl? He knew Nel was tough, but she could easily get knocked out by toxic gasses. That was one of her weak spots as a spy. He had learned about it on their travels when Cliff sprayed her with his cologne. She had been out for three days afterward.

She could easily be kidnapped by those bastards then! What if they had their way with her and just dumped her body off somewhere unceremoniously! Even worse… what if they just kept her afterward!

"Snap out of it, Nox…" He hissed to himself. There was no point in panicking. That wouldn't get him any closer to finding her. He paused as another thought crossed his path.

What if all that happened… and Roger was the one to find her!

His face paled and he soon felt queasy. "Oh shit…"

& & & & &

Nel headed home later that night, her spirits a lot higher than they were before. Albel was always able to make her feel better… it was amazing what he could do with just a few simple words!

She headed back home, a bright smile on her face. Even with Albel gone, she still had Luther to talk to.

"Speaking of which… where is he anyway?" She asked herself with a frown. Her eyes scanned the courtyard quickly, her frown deepening when she found he wasn't there. Sure enough, realization popped into her head.

"Oh! He must be at dinner already!" She said happily. Every so often, the blonde boy would come and eat with her at dinner. That was the main explanation for why he wasn't in the courtyard at this time.

"Well, well, well… if it isn't the little Zelpher brat."

Nel spun around to see the same girls from the crimson blade training standing in the courtyard, clad in their skimpy versions of the uniforms. The head girl, named Lina, who had her long blonde hair tied back, crossed her arms as she sneered at the young Aquarian. She was thirteen, just a couple months younger than Luther, along with the other two girls that followed her. Nel frowned as she looked over at the three girls, her hands reaching for nonexistent daggers.

"Why are you here?" Nel asked quietly. Lina smirked and flicked some hair out of her face.

"To see Luther of course." She drawled. "I've come to accept his date offer."

This reply left Nel confused. Date? Luther never seemed to have any interest in dating or girls. Then again… she only did see him once or twice a day. It was possible that he had other things to do. His life didn't revolve around her, and she accepted that fact.

"Well don't let me stop you…" Nel said calmly as she turned around to take a detour.

"What's going on here?"

Nel froze and looked up. Luther now stood in front of her, wearing casual Aquarian attire. His soft blue eyes stared down at her curiously, making her slightly uneasy.

"Oh… uhh… Lina's here to accept the date offer you gave her…" Nel said quietly. Luther continued to stare down at her curiously, his face showing confusion.

"Date? But I never asked her on a-"

"Hey there, Luther!" The blonde called happily. Her friends stood behind her, whispering and giggling happily. "Don't mind that ugly little girl there. She's just an in the way fan girl of yours. Come talk with us!"

Nel winced at the words thrown at her, glancing up to see Luther's eyes flash with something she had never seen before. Nel soon recognized that same burning flicker that she saw in Albel's eyes.

He was angry…

"You're right…" Luther said calmly. "There is an ugly girl in my way…" Nel winced as she felt his hands grasp her arms tightly, suddenly spinning her around to face the girls. Step by step, Luther led the redhead towards the three crimson blade, his grip still firm. It wasn't until he was face to face with Lina that he spoke again. "I suggest you move, bitch."

No doubt was there shock on Lina's face, along with Nel's. Luther NEVER swore or got angry! Lina's eyes were wide and her mouth hung open in horror. Luther continued to glare at her, the anger intensifying.

"Move!"

The three girls stepped aside, giving the two of them room to pass. Luther stopped and looked over his shoulder, his arms still securely around Nel. "If you ever treat Nel like that again, I'll make sure that you regret it."

Nel found herself carted away once again, down hallways and corridors until they were a good distance away from them. But at the same time, they weren't heading to the dining room either.

"Uhh… Luther this isn't the right way to the dining room." Nel began as they turned yet another corner. Luther stopped, his bangs shielding his eyes.

"I know…" he whispered. Nel looked up at him nervously, twisting her body around to face him.

"Then… why are we…" the girl found herself silenced as she was pushed into the wall, two arms at either side of her head, palms pressed to the stone.

"Because I want you, Nel…" Luther breathed, finally looking at her. His eyes seemed to hold pain as he gazed at her, his face showing strain. Nel blushed as he bent down, his hands lightly touching her hair and bringing her head forward.

"I'm sorry about what they said to you. I'm sorry that I couldn't protect you earlier… just don't listen to them… okay?" His face was a mere inches from hers now, and she could feel his breath on her face. "You're not ugly, Nel… you're the opposite of ugly… their words mean nothing!"

Nel gazed at his face, his eyes showing yet another thing that she had never seen before. "Luther…" She reached out and touched one of his cheeks. "Luther, are you crying?"

The blonde closed his eyes, shaking his head quickly before opening them again to smile at her. It was then that Nel realized the closeness between them. Luther gazed down at her warmly, his face unconsciously coming closer to hers. Their noses were just barely touching when the blonde boy pulled back, looking away.

"No… it's not the right time yet…" He whispered, more to himself than to her. "But the next time those girls start causing you trouble, tell me, okay?"

"Huh?" Nel blinked, surprised by the sudden mood swing. "S-sure… "

There was a small pause as Luther smiled down at Nel. "Oh, right! Dinner should be starting soon, right?" He took her hand and pulled her off the wall. "We should go!"

& & & & &

Nel Zelpher rested at the edge of the village in a quiet, secluded area surrounded by trees and rocks. Her sudden mood swing had sent her wandering aimlessly around the area, eventually finding this empty place to stop and think. Her argument with Albel was still quite fresh in her mind as his voice dragged up so many others from long ago.

"I'm sorry I couldn't protect you, Nel…"

"You're nice… talented… funny… stubborn… not as stubborn as me though."

"You're the opposite of ugly!"

"You're the best friend I've ever had."

"Their words mean NOTHING!"

"I'm so stupid…" She whimpered, clutching her head. "Why does all of this have to come up whenever he's around!"

"I'm getting over to your side no matter what!"

"Zelpher?"

Nel was dragged out of her nostalgia at the sound of that ever familiar voice. Her eyes traveled to the direction of the sound where a weary looking Albel Nox now stood. Despite seeming quite composed, his breathing seemed heavier than normal and his face showed a look of relief.

"Nox?" She blinked. "What brings you here?"

"Bah… you were all depressed when I last saw you." He said sharply as he walked towards her. "I'm just making sure that you don't try anything stupid, that's all." With that he sat down beside her, resting against the cool rock. Nel smiled to herself, looking up at the trees above.

"What brought you to talk to an ugly worm such as myself?" She inquired, finally glancing over at him.

"You're not ugly, okay?"

Okay… that totally threw her off. That was one of the last statements she expected out of him. Well… it was less likely of him to say something like: 'I think that Cliff is a sexy maggot.' But that was getting WAAYYY off the target! Either way, she could not help but gawk at his quick and sudden reaction to her question. Albel, noticing her stare, scowled and blushed slightly.

"I didn't mean it when I said you were ugly…" he muttered. "I mean you're not pretty either, but compared to that Sophia maggot, you're…" He quickly shut up and tried to find another way to not compliment her. "Besides, its not like you see many guys drooling over you either…" Of course, this wouldn't be true if it weren't for Albel shooting death glares at any maggots that dare even think up fantasies of her while walking alongside her as they walked through town.

Of course, by now, Nel was in hysterics at Albel's attempts to cheer her up. She knew he was never good at it, but this was to die for! Albel turned and shot a scowl at her.

"What is it, maggot?" He snapped. "This is what I get for running around town trying to find you!" Thoughts of Roger finding her once again invaded his mind and he growled. "Fine, I'll go then." He growled as he stood up. He was surprised, though, when Nel caught his arm, forcing him to stop.

"I'm sorry, Albel…" She said between small giggles. "It's just seeing you trying to cheer me up… it's not like you…" She smiled up at him apologetically, still hugging his arm. "You can stay if you want. It's your choice…"

Albel glanced down at the still smiling woman and sighed, letting himself sit down again beside her.

"You're a lot of trouble, you know that?"

"Sadly, yes."

Silence… lots of it.

"You're still an anorexic skinny bastard."

"And you're still a despicable fool."

The two smiled, both realizing that they were now on good terms again.

Well… as close as you can get with those two…

TBC…

More luther nel… what can I say? XP Apologies!

This chap is longer than the average 2300 word. Its about 3000 without the head and footnotes. You're lucky butts today XD

The next chap won't be up for a while… exams and all X.x

Until then!