Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Shizuka Usagi

Chapter 1




"Pretty please, Alby?"

"You call me that again and I will cut out your precious voice box, Leingod."

Darn, this is harder than I thought … Fayt thought, mentally stroking his chin. There has got to be some way to convince this guy to go out with Sophia. Or else I will—gulp—have to face the wrath of a dateless schoolgirl. Then again, being sliced into ribbons by Albel's blade isn't that appealing either…

Boy, was Fayt in a pickle now. He had to remember at the last moment to get a date for Sophia to the prom. She was just too … picky. Not only that, but most of the guys were taken. Cliff was going with Nel. Roger was going with Peppita. Dion was going with Ameena. He was going with Mirage…

Well, there was Lieber—but Fayt would sooner cut off his head then allow Sophia to go out with him. Being the older brotherly figure he was to her. The two were very close. Therefore, they could easily read each others thoughts. He knew the reason why she wouldn't ask someone herself. Sure, she appeared spunky on the outside, but on the inside she was sensitive and didn't take well to rejection. Just like him.

One day, Fayt was asked—more like forced—to accompany Sophia, Maria, Clair and Peppita to buy dresses for the prom. Nel was made by her father, Nevelle, to wear the tradition gown of the Zelpher line, much to her dismay. Cliff, saving himself from embarrassment, pretended to be sick.


As he sat outside the women's dressing room, bored out of his mind, Fayt noticed that Sophia dropped her purse not too far from where he was stationed.

"Hey, Sophia! You dropped your—" he paused when the contents of her purse fell out as he held it up, scattering everywhere.

"What was that, Fayt?" came a muffled reply.

"Err—never mind, Sophia." Fayt quickly gathered up Sophia's paraphernalia and stuffed them in her bag. However, one object, a leather-bound journal with a buckle, much like her choker, refused to stay inside.

"Get in there you—" Fayt growled, but no matter what he did the book wouldn't stay put. Finally, he gave up and tossed it to the side of the bench.

A soft plop was heard went it dropped to the floor. Fayt groaned and was about to pick it up when he noticed the entry written there:

Personal Information

Name: Sophia Esteed

Age: 17

Grade: 12 (At last, I'm a senior!)

School: Peterny High

Zodiac Sign: Um … Aquarius?

Favorite Animal: That's easy—a cat!

Best Friend: Hmm … I would have to say Fayt Leingod—and no I don't mean boyfriend!

Boyfriend/Secret Crush: Tehe…see page three

Fayt paused for a moment. Was it okay for him to be looking at this? It seemed like a diary to him. He examined the book, looking at the front and back cover. There was no 'keep out' written anywhere. Curiosity burned in his mind. Who could Sophia's secret crush be? She rarely ever talks about boys from what I hear from Mirage. He felt somewhat let down. They shared everything with each other. Why was she keeping this from him?

Suddenly, he couldn't take it anymore. One peek couldn't hurt, he thought, flipping over to page three. He scanned the page rapidly. In fear he would be discovered.

Dear Diary,

I've been rather … insecure about my feelings, lately. Ever feel like you like someone for no apparent reason at all? That's what's been going on with me. There's a friend of Fayt's who—giggles—appears to be striking my fancy right now. He is a Glyphian who is adept at fencing and, in an exotic way, is gorgeous! The way his crimson gaze penetrates your soul makes my heart flutter. The way his beautiful raven locks fade into blonde. However, the main thing that takes my breath away is—not just his looks—but the way he fences … it almost seems as if he is dancing. His movements are so graceful yet deadly. The way he guides his sword with such skill and ease it appears to be second nature to him. There's just one thing I would like changed about Albel Nox—sigh—his attitude.

But I plan on—

Just as Fayt began to read the next paragraph, the door of the woman's dressing room opened. Sophia spotted him and gasped. Shedashed over to him and snatched the journal from his hands.

"Fayt! Were you reading my diary?" she demanded, rage flared in her sea green eyes.

"O-of course not, S-sophia! It dropped on the ground and—whoa, nice dress." Fayt stopped in mid sentence, commenting on Sophia's outfit.

"Oh really? Thanks! It took me forever to save up my allowance for it …" Sophia trailed off, "Were you trying to side track me?"

"Look! It's um … Albel!"

"Where?" Sophia whipped her head towards the direction Fayt pointed at, while he dashed off.

"Huh? I don't see him. Fayt?" Sophia turned back around to see nobody in site. All of a sudden, realization dawned on her.

"Oooh! How dare he distract me?" She seethed, stomping towards the way Fayt took off. But why did he choose Albel of all people? Could he have…? Sophia looked at her leather-bound diary. No, he wouldn't. She balled up her fists in anger. "Fayt Leingod! Get your sorry butt back here!"

End Flashback

Hmm … it seems the only way to persuade Albel into taking Sophia to the prom is for him to get something out of it. A bribe, perhaps? Fayt searched his brain for all the possible things he could get for Albel. He came up with zilch. Heh, that the best you can come up with Leingod? His father is the richest man in Airyglyph. If there's something that spoiled Nox wants, he'll get it. Fayt frowned. The swordsman's patience would run out any time now. He had to think fast in order to win over the reluctant misandrist.

Unexpectedly, an idea came to him. He remembered that there was only one thing that Albel cared most about in the world: fencing.

Fayt had noticed that Albel had been throwing a few longing glances at his Crimson Scourge. That's right, his Crimson Scourge. Albel had lost it in a foolish bet to Fayt about who Cliff would ask out. The swordsman was so confident that he would win, just to lose to Fayt. Being a man of his word, he begrudgingly lent it to him for two months. Currently, there was still one month of Fayt's ownership to the sword. Although he didn't show it, Fayt knew that it was killing him to be away from his precious sword.

"How about I give you the Crimson Scourge a month early? All you have to do is go out with Sophia. What do you say, Nox?"

"All I have to do is go out with the girl?" Albel said, skeptically. Though, a spark of interest showed in his eyes at the mention of the Crimson Scourge. "What's the catch?"

"There's no catch. Just take my lovely Sophia to the dance and you can have your sword back the next day."

"Why don't you go out with her, worm? Are you her little boyfriend?" Albel said in disgust.

Fayt sighed. "Sophia and I are just really good friends. Besides, I'm going out with Mirage, remember?"

"Bah. Like I could forget. It was because of that blondewoman I lost the bet." Albel growled.

"Yeah, yeah I know. Now just answer the question. Are you going out with Sophia or not?" Fayt was beginning to lose his patience.

Albel ran through his options once more. Date the brunette wench and get the sword. Date the brunette wench or wait two months. Date the sword and get the brunette wench. Wait … what the heck? Where did that come from?

It was clear Albel was having a mental struggle. He wanted his prized Crimson Scourge back badly. However, he was going to have to spend three agonizing hours with the over-optimistic brunette. Nonetheless, wasn't it worth it to getthe family heirloom back? Besides, it was better than going out with the Aquarian scum or the bubbly, circus brat. Plus, his father was beginning to notice that the katana seemed to be missing …

"In addition, you get to borrow my top-notch armor. This is a once in a million opportunity, Albel. So take it or leave it." Fayt said in a knowing tone.

Albel was beginning to sweat under the pressure. Fayt's armor was the highest quality around. The equipment from the Leingod business was the best. That company had the finest inventors and materials.And if there was anything he liked better than fencing, it was fighting in the battle simulator, using Leingod's awesome gear. He would never admit that to Fayt. Though, he knew the swordsman long enough to tell his interests.

"Al-Alright …" Albel finally confirmed, defeated. "But that doesn't mean I'm going to be goody-goody with her. Got that?"

Fayt ran a hand through his hair. He had a feeling he would say that. "Fine, fine. Whatever you do, don't make Sophia upset."

Albel just grunted and shut the door in front of his face.