Wandering and Wondering

Authoresses' Note: I would like to point out that this is my first Star Ocean fic, and it's only going to be a one-shot unless I get lots of demand for it to continue. - This will be an attempt at some vague mention of Alphia… Any comments please review or e-mail me. Thank you!

Disclaimer: I own nothing from Star Ocean Till The End Of Time, or anything related to it. I am merely borrowing the people and the places for my own amusement.

The Kirlsa cavern always seemed like such a foreboding place. At least, they always did for Sophia Esteed. The poor girl could battle monsters, face near death and walk into danger without any real problems, but mention the cavern and she'll freeze up instantly.

Life is cruel and often shows what a person does not want to see or experience. This is why Sophia and her friends were currently in the Kirlsa cavern. Some greater power – Sophia blamed the Creator – wished for her suffering. It was just lucky that all of them were together in such a place.

"Um, Fayt, how much farther is it to the ring? My legs are starting to ache." The poor girl struggled on, knowing full well that even should the group stop they would just continue walking once more anyway.

The blue-haired leader turned and gave his long-time childhood friend a warm and, what he perceived to be, a comforting smile, "It's just a little further Sophia. If we don't get this ring, we won't be able to ask for Balbados' help at all. You know how much we need that inventor to make some decent accessories. Just keep at it; I know you can keep going for a few more steps."

Sophia responded with a nod and a smile, but she knew her legs would fail her soon. She'd never been very good at travelling long distances, and now was no exception. The dark and damp cavern was not what she pictured when she thought of exploring and visiting new places. However, she was the only one truly upset with the situation. Everyone else seemed content with walking into the place and battling all kinds of monsters, just for a stupid ring.

Their leader had also warned everyone in advance that there were rumours of the cave floor beginning to crumble away. For that, they all needed to be extra careful and mind where they walked. Sophia knew all this, so she watched each and every step that she took. The stone floor beneath her feet appeared loose, as though a heavy foot-fall would cause it to shift and collapse like the sands of the desert. It was by far no desert, this she knew. It was cold, wet and pitch black.

The poor girl sighed and closed her eyes in dismay. Sophia was not in a good mood. She knew that Fayt was always right when he chose to make a decision, yet sometimes she doubted his word. Since they had been reunited once again, Sophia had noticed something off with her childhood friend. He no longer looked at the young girl, unless she made her presence known to him. He tended to spend more time with his new friends than his old friend. Sophia felt alone at times with the group, but she had tried to fit in with the others and be helpful to everyone. Even Albel Nox, but the stoic swordsman preferred to be alone than spend his time with anyone from their strange group. Sophia didn't really mind that much about him though. She knew that he would be reliable in battles if nothing else.

She took another step forward, while everyone else had long walked on ahead. Of course, Sophia hadn't noticed that until she realised that she was no longer in the presence of other footsteps echoing off of the walls.

Immediately she stopped walking. Worry was clear on her face, "Fayt…"

Instantly she heard her friend's response to her call, "Sophia! Where'd you go?"

Pounding footsteps alerted Sophia to her companion's location: to her left. She spun around and saw a blue-haired figure emerge from the shadows. A great smile spread on her face and she dashed to Fayt's side. She quickly crushed him in a tight hug, all the while wondering just how she had managed to get left behind so easily.

"Sophia, you need to stay close to the group. It's easy to get lost here, plus it's dangerous too. What were you doing back here anyway?" He pushed her away from his body slightly and held her at arms length, hands on her shoulders.

The brunette blinked and calmly tried to come up with an answer. At last she said, "Oh, you know me Fayt. Sometimes I just get distracted, that's all." She saw the worry in his face, something that the poor girl didn't want to cause, "I'll try to pay attention next time Fayt." She smiled to reassure him.

"Okay. Well we need to go back to the others now. Come on Sophia." He released her shoulders and started to head back to everyone else.

Sophia decided to stick closer to her best friend as she followed, not wanting a repeat of what happened before. Being afraid and alone in a monster infested cavern was not what she wanted to do with her day. Of course, she didn't want to even be there as it was.

The pair made it back to the others with little issue, although Sophia wasn't welcomed back as heartily as she should have been. Everyone just gave her a brief smile of acknowledgement and then they all trudged deeper into the heart of the cavern. So deep, that torch light was still not enough to push away the creeping blackness of the shadows. Shadows that moved sure enough when one gazed at them for more than a minute.

Sophia felt a familiar fear enter her mind as she walked behind Fayt. She could tell that something was watching the group, waiting to emerge from the darkness. Yet, the girl could not find her voice to speak of her concerns. She felt as though her throat had closed off, preventing words from leaving. The cold fear engulfed her entire body, even though she still saw nothing. That was when it happened. The unstable floor that she had been warned about decided to choose that time to make itself known. Sophia lost her footing and dropped instantly into a black and unwelcoming hole. Cries from Fayt and the others greeted her ears, but she could not respond, for her lungs were unable to take in needed air.

When at last she reached the bottom, a thud resonated off of the walls and ceiling, causing some loose rock to break away from the above and plunge down into the dark depths. Sophia Esteed was trapped in a dark hole with no way out and no light at all. Her friends' calls for her had become quiet and muffled, so that no words became clear in her hearing.

She poor girl coughed and she tried to sit herself up. It was obvious that she couldn't even do that simple task when a sharp pain shot from her hip bone and up to her brain. She had been bruised on her hip, something that would prove a problem if she was attacked in there.

She took a deep, painful breath and called out fearfully, "Fayt..! Anyone..?"

Being alone in the dark was not what she wanted, not at all.

When a person is alone, with no distractions and nothing to do, they start to think about things that happen in their lives, random things that normally wouldn't concern anyone. This was exactly what Sophia began to do.

In her mind she wondered about trivial matters: did she need to lose or gain some weight soon? Was pink really her colour? How does Albel keep his hair clean? Such thoughts caused a giggle to escape her lips, followed quickly by an intake of breath as the pain from her hip came back into focus.

After she shifted into a better position to alleviate some of her suffering, she wondered whether she'd ever get rescued. She knew that Fayt would never leave her to die down there, but she hoped that he would come and save her soon. She hated being alone, especially when she had nothing to do. Another thought came into her head then: how would Fayt get her out? As far as Sophia could tell, the ceiling was unstable and blocked up; there was no path that led down into the dark caves she was in; and they may not even know if she's alive or not anymore. The brunette was sure that she lived, because she always pictured herself going to a better place when she met her fated end, or at least not being in pain when she did die. Being dead was completely ruled out then.

She wondered who would save her if not Fayt. Who truly knew of her or even cared enough about her? There were the others in the group, of course, but which one would help?

Cliff was a friendly enough person, she decided, but he might not go out of his way to save her if he didn't get any support from anyone else.

Mirage was nice as well, in a motherly and big sister kind of way. Sophia didn't believe for one second that Mirage would let her rot down there, but unless she got the go ahead from someone like Fayt or Cliff she would not come to the rescue.

Maria was cold towards Sophia at times. The brunette felt as though the older girl hated and resented the happiness that Sophia could bring in the harshest of times. Sophia had little doubt that she would try to be logical and say that they could come back for her once they had the ring. That was just the sort of person Maria Traydor was: cold, calculating and always trying to be rational.

Then there was Albel. While he kept to himself a lot of the time, he did appear gallant enough to defend a person in battle should they be in danger. Still, Sophia couldn't see the aloof man coming to her aid in this lifetime. That would be a miracle in itself.

She decided to face the reality of the situation: nobody would be coming for her. The monsters probably didn't even come into the depths that she had entered.

The minutes dragged on, and Sophia felt that she was slowly slipping into a form of insanity. She knew that a person should not be left alone in the still dark for as long as she was. That kind of torture did something to a normal person's brain. Soon she thought she'd start to imagine sounds. She'd never see anything, sadly, because light was an issue down there.

That was when she heard a shuffling from above. It was quiet and there was a long, drawn out gap between each shuffle, but Sophia was sure that someone or something was moving around above her head.

"Fayt..?" she whispered into the darkness. Why she whispered, she could not understand. Perhaps it was the fear that there would be a monster trying to kill her from above. Maybe it was due to her lack of proper air. Whatever the reason, Sophia knew that her question went unheard by the being above.

A shaft of light peered through the stone blockage in the ceiling, showing Sophia that there was indeed a person trying to save her. In fact, it was multiple people. Different hands kept grasping rocks and lifting them from the hole in the ceiling, hands that Sophia recognised, but could not place.

As more light poured into the surrounding space, Sophia could make out where it was that she had been trapped in: a small, rounded out cave. It seemed rather odd that there'd be a perfectly cut cave right below the actual caverns, but the brunette was far too pre-occupied to care. The last of the rocks had been removed from the ceiling and Sophia was able to clearly see who had come to her rescue. It was in fact her friends.

Fayt called down to her first, "Sophia? Are you okay?"

A huge smile appeared on the girl's face and she tried to call back to her long-time friend, but her injuries prevented from doing so, causing only a yelp of pain to respond the blue-haired teen's question.

The brunette could make out frantic whispers as Fayt and some of the others began to plan how best to retrieve her from the hole. How were they going to get her out anyway? She didn't want them to get trapped with her as well. Thinking of the others and what they'd do to get her out made Sophia cringe slightly. They couldn't have gone to fetch the ring if they were all there trying to help her get out. Guilt worked its way inside her heart. She was always dragging the group behind, making them wait for her to catch up to them. Why was she so useless?

Just then the still air shifted and a dark shadow crossed Sophia's vision, obscuring the light from her eyes temporarily. She looked up at the tall figure blocking her view, slightly afraid of what could have moved so fast. Then she saw the glint of metal in the dark, showing her just who it was in front of her small form.

The shadowed person crouched down onto his knees and grunted in annoyance when he saw that Sophia would not be able to move anytime soon.

"Stupid girl, you got hurt so easily from such a small drop. You're weak." His voice was reassuring, even if he had just insulted her.

The tall swordsman hoisted Sophia to her feet, which caused her to gasp in tremble from the pain, but he wasn't paying any attention to her. Instead, he tied a bit of rope around her waist and tugged on it three times.

"Okay Albel, we'll pull her up then!" Fayt's voice brought a sense of happiness through Sophia, because she just knew he'd save her somehow. What had shocked her so much was who had come down to make sure she was fine and to make sure she got out of the hole. She never expected Albel to be her hero at all. It was unlike him, but she also knew that he tried his best to look after each person in the group sometimes.

Albel was the most puzzling person she had met, yet Sophia was sure now more than ever that she would make it her mission while she travelled to work out the stoic swordsman.

He was worth wondering about, after all.

The End

Authoress' Note: Yes, it was probably really rubbish. Like I said at the start, there was some vague mention of Alphia, but it was so miniscule that it probably was just overlooked. I just needed to write a Star Ocean fic. This is so pointless, but I wanted to show some creativity for once. I think I did fairly okay with describing and the grammar, but please let me know in a review what you thought of it. Thank you for reading it!