It's been a long time since I've really had the time to think hard about my friends. I guess I'm really lucky to have the people around me that I do. They make me feel so strong; almost invincible. That's a silly thing to say, because I know that I'm not invincible; I know that no one is. I've seen too many people die for me to have those kinds of delusions.

The people that are special to me are things that I took for granted until a while back. I thought I was going to loose it all, not just my friends but my home, my entire galaxy. I never want to see anyone suffer what I had to suffer. I want to protect people and keep them from having to suffer that same pain. I know it sound dumb, or impossible. But I hate injustice. I can't stand to see people suffer. Especially Albel Nox. He tries to make you think that he's fine, that he just chooses to be the way he is. But I know that's not the truth. He's hurting so deeply, and I think he's longing for friends and companionship. But his hurt and his pride keep him from kindness; keep him from feeling love that was so often kicked up in his face, so often used as a weapon against him. Maybe I'm wrong and I'm just guessing, but I bet that Albel was a really sweet kid, before his dad died. I bet you he was popular with the ladies too. And I bet you that he got used a lot because of his birthright and status.

I don't know what I was thinking. If things had gone as planned, I'd be back on Earth by now. But I keep putting it off. I was so relieved when I got my friends back, when I was able to find everyone again. My fears had weighed me down until the moment we were all together again. I keep wishing that there was some way for us to all stay together now. It would be fun, maybe we could go and explore Greeton altogether…But I know that I have something I must atone for.

I've got a secret; one that I haven't told anyone, and one that I don't think anyone else knows. I don't think that Sophia is really Sophia.

I was so scared when she didn't come back right away… I thought I could help her… but I think she didn't want to exist. I think she didn't want to live on as a weapon. I think that the Sophia that's with us now is just my creation… a living doll of the girl I thought I was in love with. I can't look at her like I used to. It's my fault she's like she is. Why doesn't anyone notice? Why doesn't anyone see her lost memories?

I don't know what to do about Sophia. I feel like I need to stay with her and help her out, because her memories of everything besides our journey to defeat Luther are pretty jumbled. I've helped her memorize her parent's names and jobs, her address, important things like that, but she's still not… all there. In the end, the truth is that I felt like it would be my fault if she didn't come back. I wouldn't have been able to bear the looks on the Esteeds' faces. We'd grown up together like siblings, and even though she drove me nuts a lot, she still meant the world to me.

I guess that leads me straight into my other secret. I think I like Albel better than the other members of our group. Well, that's poor wording really. I think that I get Albel better than everybody else. And I'm pretty sure he gets me. I guess the easiest way of explaining that is the way we both lost our fathers. For him, it was our weakness that got our dads killed. I don't think it was that. I think it was that our fathers loved us enough to die for us, and that's all. I think that deep down, Albel's grateful for all of that too. That's why he lets me hang around; because we're the same. That's something that the others don't really understand. Almost everyone has pulled me aside at least once to ask me what it is I see in the guy and why I don't leave him alone to go on his weird power trips. I always say the same thing: Albel isn't a bad person, and he deserves friends and love as much as we all do. That really made Cliff look at me funny, but I didn't care. He's been sulky about the whole thing because he really loathes Albel. I wish he'd stop treating me like an incompetent little brother when it comes to relationships.

Ever since we defeated Luther, we've all been hanging around down here on Elicoor II. We don't want to leave each other. Nel and Cliff are having a hard time deciding what to do. They want to stay together, but they both have duties; Cliff to Quark and Nel to Aquaria. Peppita's scouting out venues for the Rosetti troupe to perform at, Maria is spending tons of time in Castle Aquaria's libraries, and Sophia just kind of wanders around aimlessly from shop to shop and from garden to garden. I think that Albel hates being in Aquaria. They definitely don't treat him very well. I guess it's understandable, since he was known for killing their people mercilessly on the battlefield. He likes it when we stay in Peterny though.

Sometimes I wonder if there's a reason why he likes Peterny. The strongest memory I have of the place was the night that He woke me up with a sword in my pillow, ordering me to come outside and talk with him. He swore he was just testing his aim, and seemed surprised when I didn't accuse him of some sort of treachery. I just observed that doing things like that was dangerous. The look on his face was almost comical. He asked me if I hated him. I thought it was ridiculous. How could you hate someone for following the orders of their king? It wasn't fair at all. Maybe that's why he liked Peterny, because he found out that there was at least one person who didn't hate him.

I already have a plan, kind of. I think it will be a nice surprise for Albel. I want to take him to Earth. He can meet my mom and just immerse himself in a new world. That seems to be his new hobby, anyway. Of course, I'm gonna have to make sure he knows he can't just go around killing people and stuff. That's probably going to be hard for him to get used to. Eh… maybe it's not such a good idea… Anyway…

But now I don't want to see her. I don't want to have to tell the others what I've done. I know that Albel is the only one of us who will not judge me, but won't lie to me either. He's the only person that can help me now. To tell you the truth, I don't know why I really decided to stay with him. I've just gotten so used to his presence, so comfortable with his stinging banter. And he's born right out of his time; the guy's a genius when he isn't letting his big head get in the way. I think he'd do wonderfully in a high-school on Earth even. He'd eat it up. But he'd probably be too proud for that. Maybe I can get him a portable console and he can just read to his heart's content. I think he's really taken to Maria too, even though he seems to really despise Cliff and Sophia in particular. When you think about it, Maria, Albel, and I are all in the same boat. We've all lost a parent in the same way. We're all guilty.

Wait. I keep saying all of this stuff, but I don't get it. Why do I want to shower Albel the Wicked in hospitality and gifts? He'd hate me for it. I dunno. I guess I just want to share something with him. Ack. Now that's weird too. I'm starting to weird myself out. But if I'm going to be really honest: Albel looks kind of like a girl. In fact, if he were a girl, he'd be absolutely gorgeous. Way hotter than the girls back home. Sometimes I find myself watching him. He's really graceful, almost like a cat. It's not weird really, just admiration from one swordsman to another, you know.

Well, what I was getting at is that I'm not letting the others talk me out of this. I'm going where Albel goes. For a while at least. I know he's an asshole sometimes, but I genuinely believe that he means well. My mind's made up.

Tonight I found myself driven to thought as usual. Long ago I had taken to sleeping very little, sometimes not at all, and perhaps it was because of my constant inner conflict. Inner conflict. That sounds so congenial. Who would expect me, of all people to be a secret philosopher? I'm sure that most who know me or know of me suspect that I'm just a muscle head with no depth. No one suspects that I am someone who is driven to such questions as "What is the meaning of life, why did the cosmic "they" allow (or force) me to live?" Well, that question is as good as answered now. No worries there.

But tonight my mind is somewhere else, wandering in that manic, swirling mass that is my consciousness. I stare at the ceiling. I can hear soft breathing several feet away from me. My mouth is dry, and I'm thinking about crawling out of bed to get some water, but I stay put. There's movement, and a soft yawn. The rustle of someone shifting in their sleep. I remain on my back, breathing softly and feigning sleep.

Regardless of the reasoning for my train of thought, I feel the darkness that bears my nightmares to me pressing in at all sides. Before I get any further here, let me say this: There are two people, and two people alone who understand me. Those two unfortunate miscreants are the only people who can rightfully claim the burden of having traversed the same road as I: battled the same self loathing, muddled in the same pit of despair, and lost the same loved ones in their own weaknesses. They have despaired in the same desperate, utter loneliness as I. This is just to name a few things. Therefore, if they are reading this, they must know their elevated places and should keep them well in mind during the following.

My thoughts have revealed this:

Forced by whatever mental hardships I pressed on myself as a child, from day one I knew two things for sure. First of all, I wanted to know why I was here and what god or goddess may have placed me in such an existence. And number two: regardless of anything, I would rise to be a hero- I would be the best there was in Ariglyph. Now I must blame that second one on my upbringing; dragons, magic (in the form of runology), knights and valor and honor. But that first question… it was of my own making, and one I was loathe to find an answer for. Inconsequentially, today I am nowhere nearer to my little pipedreams, despite having met and in part killed the very creator of our universe.

I understand that this feeling I've had lately; a horrible weight like a rock in my gut is brought about by my own stubborn wickedness. When I became master of the Crimson Scourge I admitted to that. This stone in my gut; this unbearable loneliness is entirely of my own making.

Let it be known that I sign this of a waiver of sorts.

For countless months and years, I have drifted through my life as a frantic refugee, claiming my unfailing strength and fortitude as the swings of my blade were thrown over my shoulder in a hasty retreat. I suppose I am sinfully torn; I hate people. I despise and loathe them with all of my hidden venom. However, I lived my days as a "knight" of the king, one whose job it was to protect and understand those worms.

It didn't take much for me to realize how small my world is, has always been. I didn't really care that my world itself had been small, only that I had been forced to endure its smallness. So He came and showed me, nigh on a year ago, just how small my world really was.

I thought I could be alone forever. I thought that was what I wanted. But that kid won't let me. I try to hide and somehow he finds me without lifting a finger. Now I'm the maggot, always crawling back on my face and begging for more of him; more of his time, more of his attention, more of his goddamned bleeding heart.

But to him I'm just another ally, one of the many he foolishly calls "friend". For how long has that boy ran through life with his hands over his eyes, refusing to sift out the evil from the good? And how has he not gotten a knife in the back as a result? If his eyes were open, and he were seeing the waking world, he would have been done with me long ago: and for good reason. Is it really obvious? My mood souring at the thought of him leaving, or being out of my reach is something that my "friends"- those maggots that I put up with- notice?

That little fool is mine, and I won't have anyone- not that Aquarian Wench, that Blonde Ape, or that stinking, whining Earthling bitch taking my prey away from me.

I must confess: I've been nothing short of a bastard in all of this; cruel, my back turned to the hands extended in friendship. My heart would never allow me to take the hand of another and call it friendship. I'll always say that it is because having friends gives you weaknesses. But maybe friendship is the most frightening thing of all…for some people. The moment you stand still to take the hand of a friend is the moment you find a knife in your back.

Now, in the case of my unfortunate comrades, we are joined together by something that I cannot seem to name and that not even MY blade could sever. Tell me how many people would dare to get into the head of Albel the Wicked, and who do you think exists that could survive it? Well, these two did, and that is the only explanation that I need give. My pride has destroyed what was once an attempt at building something around me, and try as I may, I cannot make myself want to change. I guess it's nice that those two at least, could accept me for the vicious thing that I am.

For that is what I am. A cruel, merciless thing that forgot true goodness long ago in favor for some scant niceties of society. I don't care anymore what others do, so long as no one else dares stand in my way. All I can do now is run from my nightmares- the foes that I cannot slay- and claw at my own flesh when they make me think that it has betrayed me.

I only admit my self loathing to a chosen few. Of those, only two still draw breath today. I say it again; I hate my pride and my wickedness.

But I am content as ever, the violent hermit. I cannot help but realize though, here and now what it means to be a hunter. My prey is so near. The heart that I so long to hold, beating in my hands. Yes; Those soft green eyes. But something in me tells me again: "He will not be yours." I stand still. In one place, patient for once, I will wait as the heart I have so painstakingly dug for in humility, on my hands and knees is passed once more to another. That exquisite, beautiful beating heart has been my most painful lesson; a lesson in humility. I desire to struggle against it, blame those filthy worms who take those green eyes off of me.

But they're locked on my soul- what's left of it. I feel them boring into me. What does he want, as he watches me, pretending to be asleep in the darkness? Does he know the gravity of the words he so recently uttered?
"I want to go with Albel." Albel the Wicked.

That unmistakable smile forms my name, and I know that I, the wicked one, will eventually crumble under its monumental weight. I will remain his tool; a sword arm at his side to be kept at a happy distance. I submit- yes, I, Albel Nox, submit to being only a tool to be used at his beck and call, only to be forgotten in his affection for that… that … girl.

I speak the words out loud to the darkness.

"Give me your smile and your eyes always on me."

I've not given up yet.

Because you, Fayt Leingod are my prey, and no one else will have you.