Chapter Four

Chapter Four

Sophia yawned and stretched out her arms, all the trees started to look the same. The scenery all began to blend in with each other and the bird calls began to sound monotone. Instead what she did was watch herself put one foot in front of the other. Her and Adray had been walking for some time, only coming across the random fiend or two, but Adray was a strong guy, Sophia was just always in the way.

"Have you thought about what you are going to do once we get to Peterny? We are close." He said, snapping Sophia out of her daze.

She began fiddling with the hem of her shirt, She really hadn't thought about what she was going to do. There wasn't really anything she could do, she had no way to contact Fayt or Maria. Nel was with Fayt and Maria. There was no more Albel, he was probably already back in Airyglyph by now. That left Adray, but Adray had work to do once he got there. She was going to be all alone, and the thought scared her. Even though her anger had still not completely faded, she thought about how she wouldn't have been so alone if Albel had decided to stick around, that thought alone slowed her pace.

"Uhmm, well I was thinking about, maybe staying at the inn for a while, umm, you know to think about what to do next." She said, a little unsure and vague. Adray raised an eyebrow.

"Ah, it is good to have a plan. As soon as I get to the city I have to go straight to the guild, I am very behind." He said, sounding completely oblivious to her uncertainty.

"Yeah…a plan…" She said absent mindedly.

She could see the city up ahead and sighed, in an hour or so they would be there and from there on she was flying solo. It never dawned upon her that she was actually alone till they reached the gates, she knew she was alone, but she was holding out for that small almost impossible percentage that she would bump into someone.

They walked in silence for the rest of the way, Sophia not really paying attention to her surroundings, it seemed like she kept on passing the same exact tree. Without even realizing it they arrived and she looked at the large stone arch entrance to the city. It loomed above her like her hopeless situation.

As soon as they reached the center of the city Adray turned to her, "I'm sorry Miss Sophia, but I was suppose to be at the guild yesterday, I have to go now, I hope everything works out for you." He said, and with a wave, walked away, just like that.

Sophia stood there awkwardly in the square, listening to the vendors scream out what goods they had. She twiddled her thumb. 'Great…' she thought in disdain. She felt so lost. Then it hit her. She had no money. No money at all. 'No more Inn…' Deciding to get out of random middle of the square spot, she went over to the church and sat on the wide steps. To make matters worse, all she could think about was Albel.

Albel silently cursed to himself while watching the girl sit there pathetically. It was not his problem. It was not his problem at all. Why did he have to care what she did, Exactly right, he didn't. He mentally screamed at himself for even standing there.

He saw her bring her knees to her chest and rest her head on it. From where he was standing he could see her attempt at a whistle, looking quite stupid while doing so. He clenched his fist, willing his feet to move on.

He should have gone to Airyglyph by now. He should have reported back to the king and whipped his division back into shape. Peace may be present, but war was inevitable. They needed to prepare. From the snippets of conversation happening around them, Greeton was now becoming a problem. But even as he turned to leave, he couldn't.

He turned around to glance back at the girl for the last time, he tensed as he found she wasn't there anymore. He shrunk back into the shadows of the merchants stall to avoid her gaze, wherever she was.

"You should go talk to her sonny." Albel turned to the old lady whose stall he was hiding behind the shadow of. She was dressed in what looked like a gypsies garb, her skin was wrinkled with age, and her eye full of with a mischievous glint in them. Eye, as in one, her other eye was glassy and vacant looking, rolling around at awkward angles. It was a fake. He didn't like the hag one bit. She looked crafty to him.

"Shut up old fool." He spoke harshly, but was only received with a crazed laugh.

"She be heading this way now." The old lady chuckled in mirth, Albel clenched his fist, she was heading this way, walking as in a daze, oblivious to her surroundings.

"Come here girlie girl!" The old lady shouted out to the girl, Albel was about to tear down the stall with his claw, what was that old hag think she was doing?

Sophia timidly approached the stall. As she grew closer she could see something was wrong with the woman's left eye, it rolled around to impossible angles.

"You be lost child?"

"Umm, well, a little." Sophia said, disheartened, she couldn't bring herself to look away from the fake eye.

"Why don' you be home now?" The lady gave her a crooked grin showing off her missing front teeth. Her eye rolled around in its socket awkwardly.

"Home is far away now. I don't know what to do." Sophia sighed as she eyed over the lady's wares. It was a clothing stall, she looked down at her own attire, ever since being on the Diplo she had been wearing her jeans and tank, she then realized how out of place she must have looked. Not to mention the dirt and grim layered on it from the crash and sleeping on dirt.

She fingered the fine fabrics, but pulled away fast, banishing the thought from her mind. Why bother with new clothes when she would be home soon. Hopefully. Maybe. Probably. Not.

"How you find yourself here?" Sophia thought ironically, well, I only arrived here by an emergency pod because the space shuttle I was on earlier was attacked and destroyed, She sighed and replied, " I…umm, guess you could say I…don't really know."

The old woman's eyebrow arched and gave Sophia another toothless grin, "I'm sure all be well in time girlie, come closer, I read fortune." Sophia hesitantly took a step forward at the old woman's beckoning.

Albel watched from the shadows, so close to her he could see her trembling a bit. His eyes narrowed on the old hag, his fist already on the hilt of his sword in case of any trickery, he didn't trust the hag one bit. He restrained himself from swinging his blade down on the old woman's hand.

"Oh tut tut, girlie, I see a man, he be only having one hand. Angry fellow, anyone you know girlie?" The old woman said, taking Sophia by the hand and facing it palm up, Sophia gasped.

"I know him!" She said excitedly, the woman just cackled, sneaking a glance into the shadows.

"Aye, you be wanting to go home?"

"Yes! Yes!" Sophia nodded her head.

"He will help you, he be waiting by the gate leading to Palmira Plains." Sophia immediately jerked her hands away, frown upon her face.

"No he's not…" She said, Sophia tried not to think about the swordsman, "Why would he." She said with a voice laced with bitterness. The old woman eyed her strangely, then her gaze seemed to rest on the shadows of her stall, Sophia thought she saw something shine, but her attention was quickly averted when the old lady hastily pulled her down eye level by her collar, her eye darting to and fro the shadows.

"He cares for you more than you know girlie, don't be fooled, but don't be a fool. It be the ones that care most, hurt you most." She said in a hushed whisper, before letting her go, accenting the last part with a roll of her fake eye.

Sophia stumbled a couple steps and looked at the old lady in confusion, before rushing off away from her, while departing she heard the lady laugh dementedly in her wake.

When Sophia ran blindly out of the square running deeper into the market, Albel rushed the stall and stared the hag down, drawing his blade and pointing the tip an inch away from her face, "What did you say to her?" He growled. The commotion made the other vendors and folk stare.

"You and her be needing a push, I gave push," She said, cackling crazily.

"You better be gone now, girlie be waiting by the gate, remember sonny?" She shook her head, the beads on her dress jangled as she retreated into the shade of her stall, Albel looked at her sharply before sheathing his blade and taking controlled steps to the gate.

Sophia tried to calm her breathing as she neared the inventors guild, but with what little pride she had, she couldn't bring herself to walk in and admit to Adray that she didn't know what to do. She pulled at the ends of her hair, biting the bottom of her lip, sighed, then leaned against the crumbling wall, slowly falling to her feet. She felt tears sting the corner of her eyes.

"I'm gonna kill you Albel!" She growled into her hands. The people who heard turned to look before rushing off, "This is all his fault!" She continued yelling.

'If I ever see that, that, that….that jerk again I'm gonna smack his face so hard that his smirk falls right off his perfectly chiseled face!' Her face flushed when she realized what she was thinking. She did not find Albel attractive, intimidating strong? Yes, attractive? …Maybe. "Ugghhh!" she groaned into her hands yet again.

She thought back to the demented lady's ramblings. Without even thinking, she got to her feet, pure rage towards Albel was the only thing on her mind, the only thing that motivated her at the moment. She ran to the gate, eyes zeroing in on every face she came to, till the end of the bridge.

He wasn't there. She didn't know why she thought he would. She stood there awkwardly, people pushing past her trying to get in an out of the city. She was pushed off to the side. She felt her face burn with humiliation.

Albel tried to walk away. He tried to stop looking. He tried. He really did. She just looked so pathetic. If it was anything he hated more than fools, it was quitters. The way she stood there so dejectedly made him cringe. Something inside of him gave him this angry feeling, but not at her, strangely, at himself. No one makes Albel the Wicked feel that way. No one, he glared at the girl.

Once again he was in the shadows, looking on as she was being pushed around by the rush hour crowd. Two things also angered him here, how she just let them, and that they had the gall to push her aside. He watched as her face flushed and she tried to make her way out of the crowd, but they were relentless, trying to get in and out, pushing and pulling. In short, it pissed him off. Especially that look in her eye, that look of hopelessness and defeat.

Albel couldn't take it.

He moved out of the shadows. No one noticed him until a man who stepped right in his path gasped. The war may be over, but his name and face was infamous and in some places unwelcome if they were brave enough to admit so. The man backed up, stuttering an apology, the sudden disruption in the traffic flow made other people look on, and like the man, back up. It was almost as if Albel was surrounded by an invisible wall. He smirked at seeing their faces riled up with fear.

He slowly and deliberately made his way over to the girl. She hadn't seen him yet, her back was to him, she was still trying to get out of the throng of people. Albel smirked, he was getting closer, he was directly behind her now. He could tell she was confused by the way people finally backed off from her.

Albel said nothing as he pushed her forward with a hand on her head through the path being opened up by the people, "Whha….?"

Sophia tried straining her head to see who had grabbed the top of her head and began pushing, strangely people just let her and her….captor through with no problem, they even seemed to shake a little bit. She felt like she should have been more concerned about the person pushing her forward by her skull, but for some reason she felt at ease with it, she felt like she could trust the person. She felt…safe almost.

They cleared the gate with no problem, the person behind her didn't stop pushing her until they were a good distance away, "Okay! You can stop now!" she said, trying to turn her head to see the person she hoped on her dear life it was, but she knew it was him. It had to be.

The person let go and Sophia stumbled a little before whipping around to see the person who helped her through the crowd, although roughly. She didn't even have to see the person's face to know who it was. As she was turning she extended her hand getting ready for the biggest and only slap she'd ever given to anyone in her entire life.

Just as her palm was going to smack his face with a resounding slap, her wrist was intercepted only an inch away from his face, that face with that infuriating smirk. Sophia's determination to be angry at him did not fade. She tried shaking her wrist out of his grip, but to no avail.

"I-I hate you!" She screamed at his face, her face flushed with frustration.

"You just left me there, you selfish pig of a man! I can't believe you would just leave me there by myself! I was so, you are such a, ughh!" She screamed, pounding her other fist into his chest.

He hadn't said anything so far, he hadn't done anything, except let her hit him and scream in his face. The site was a little ridiculous, his towering height and her flustered face.

"I think you're a coward, a jerk, a monster, a moron, and umm…a chicken!" She said triumphantly, "That's right! A chicken!!" She said once again for emphasis. He still did nothing.

Albel just stood there, he didn't care or listen to what she had to say. All he saw was her soft lips jump up and down, he didn't even realize his hand still held on tightly to her wrist. The audacity of her even thinking she could land a hit on him shocked him. He heard nothing she said, concentrating on her in general instead.

Albel observed her, her face was red, her eyes burning with anger, her hair slightly mussed where his hand was before. Another thing he didn't understand was why she was so damned mad. Had he not just saved her pathetic self. If she wanted to be alone then for all he cares she could just go. But he knew that wasn't what he really thought. If that had been the case, he should have left for Airyglyph long ago. He scoffed at his own thoughts.

It was then he noticed that she was hitting his chest, with some vigor he might add. His eyebrow raised at her act of brashness. He also noticed she had stopped shouting and was glaring at him, but he could tell it was halfhearted, her anger seemed to have faded while he was somewhat ignoring her, but her pounding on his chest had not.

He finally had enough, with the wrist he still had in his hand, he pulled her closer to him, bringing her wrist up, almost holding her in the air with it, she was now standing on the tips of her toes, their bodies were touching now, their faces only mere inches apart.

"Are you done yet girl?" He said huskily. She felt his warmth breath on her cheek, her anger was almost renewed, and her face flushed again, but this time she didn't think it was because of anger, but she reasoned, what else could it have been?

Albel hadn't realized what he had done till he felt her warm body against his, the rise and fall of her chest as it seemed she was gasping for air from the sudden change, and the way her eyes bore into his. He got lost in them.

Neither knew how long they stood there like statues, holding a battle with their eyes, who would be the first one to look away, who would be the first one to falter, but neither had to break away, because at that moment an acorn was thrown at them. Neither of them paid attention, till a few acorns were thrown on them.

Sophia looked up at the tree branch above them. It looked like a squirrel, a flying squirrel, it glided from tree to tree, no bigger than a fist. Albel looked at it crossly, and the way his eyebrow twitched made Sophia giggle, then wince as she lost her balance on the tips on her toes, causing her arm pain. Albel quickly let go of her, sending her to her feet once more.

Albel was getting ready to slice off the branch, aiming for the flying, or rather gliding squirrel. Sophia saw this and immediately positioned herself between the squirrel and Albel, Albel glared at her, "Move."

"No." She said just as fiercely, standing her ground. The squirrel seeing its safety resting with the girl, glided over and landed on her shoulder, Sophia looked at it and smiled, petting it softly on the head, whispering into its ear. Albel fought the urge to roll his eyes and scoff at the silly display of affection. It was a rodent.

"I'll name you Zazu." She said, completely disregarding Albel, in truth, she was relieved at Zazu, as she had just named him, interrupted, she had no idea what would've happened or how long they would've stood there had Zazu not appear. Her heart was still beating fast and she could still feel the warmth from his body.

From the corner of her eye, she could see Albel sheath his sword, still glaring at her in resignation. Albel was confused. Not that he would ever admit it to anyone, but he was confused. His heart was beating irregularly and his face was hot. It couldn't be because of this stupid girl. No, it could definitely not be.

With a purposeful turn, he started walking towards the way to Airyglyph, if the girl wanted to follow, then so be it. He made it four or five steps before something made him stop, but with his pride, he wouldn't turn to look at the girl, "I am heading to Airyglyph, follow if you want. I do not care." Then continued walking.

Sophia looked at his retreating form, what had gotten into him all of the sudden? Zazu squeaked from his spot on her shoulder, Sophia promptly got up and ran after Albel. Leave me once, your bad. Leave me twice, mine.

And with that, the three companions, if they could be called that, left the city of Peterny.