24. The Truth

Chapter 24

The Truth

            Nel had seen it several times already, but she never thought she would experience what it was like to be transported. Maria had gone over the dos and don’ts on the process before Cliff joined in teasingly with horror stories of what could go wrong. It disturbed the spy that advanced technology still had some flaws in that could make a person disappear into the unknown. Though, like with any invention, the chances of it happening were solely due to user error and Maria reassured them that the personnel that set up the transporters took every precaution.

She didn’t really feel anything when the lights surrounded her, but it was unnerving to see an entirely different view when the transporter beams went away. She seemed to be the last to arrive and found that someone was already greeting them. Their host had sent someone to properly show them around, but Maria insisted on seeing the commodore immediately.

Despite all of the warnings the girl mentioned, Nel couldn’t help but notice how polite and approachable the crewmembers were. They weren’t anywhere near as hostile as Cliff made them out to be and she was beginning to wonder if all she had heard was the typical propaganda one would hear in a war. Airyglyph and Aquaria had plenty of it and viewed each other as monsters even though it was far from the truth.

It was only a short walk from the transporter to the conference room. It was definitely the most fascinating conference room she had ever been in. Like with most styles, it had a table large enough to fit a great number of people, but it was arranged in a way so that there was a ‘hole’ in the middle. At the center was a large blue sphere that floated and had dozens of rings orbiting around it.

The lieutenant gestured for everyone to take a seat before he wandered to the other end where another man was standing. Because of the display, she couldn’t see who yet. The chairs that surrounded the table had no base and seemed to float in mid air. After watching the others sit, Nel cautiously did the same and was amazed to find that it supported her weight without sinking.

Albel chose against sitting and instead wandered over to lean against a wall. He made sure to position himself behind her- then again, maybe he chose that area because it was out of the way from the floating benches that lined the walls and it gave him a good view of the speaker from where he was. Of course, there was always the chance that he didn’t trust in the technology that held up the chairs, but Nel figured that was unlikely. He was taking in the advanced technology better than she was.

Suddenly, the display in the center disappeared so that the person in the back could be seen. Nel was quickly able to identify him as the commodore- the man that was in the moving screen from before.

“It will take a while to reach Moonbase. Let me explain the situation in the meantime,” Wittcomb began after his greeting to Fayt and Maria. He seemed to be more interested in them than the others who were assembled in the room. “The two of you in particular have been on Elicoor for some time and probably know little of what is going on.”

It surprised the spy to hear him mention the name of her planet as if he knew about it. She was under the impression from Fayt that his people knew almost nothing of her world. But, she supposed that it didn’t really take much for them to learn of a planet’s name.

“Please, fill us in,” Fayt requested politely.

From the short briefing Maria had given her, the spy now understood the different factions and everyone’s relationship. Ignoring their terminology, she didn’t have much trouble following what was going on. The Federation’s war with Aldian and the Vendeeni was no different than the war with Airyglyph. But it was unnerving to hear the commodore mention a threat that was facing the galaxy- meaning that Elicoor was also included.

“You’re not talking about the war with Vendeen and Aldian, are you?”

“That is correct,” Wittcomb confirmed in answer to Fayt’s question. “I imagine you are also aware of those powerful bursts of energy?”

It took a moment for Nel to recall the light that destroyed the Vendeeni ships. The others had mentioned then that they were heading for Fayt and Sophia’s home world. Their planet was prepared to defend against such attacks, but even then they suffered damage. The spy could only shudder as she thought of what could’ve happened if those blasts had gone through Elicoor instead of passing by them.

…But wait- Albel claimed that they came from the Mosel Dunes. Did that mean that they did pass through the planet? That didn’t make sense- she would imagine that there would’ve been a substantial hole left behind and perhaps a report from the Legion of the Void over heavy damage to Greeton (as some far reaches of their continent were other side of the globe from Mosel).

The next words from Wittcomb’s mouth were something Nel understood very clearly. “Those energy bursts were a message. A declaration of war.”

“Declaration of war? What alien power has the ability to mount such a devastating, long-range attack?” Fayt wondered as he shook his head. Nel wanted to know what kind of enemy out there would want to threaten an entire galaxy. It seemed like they were after Earth, but apparently there were more targets. But most of all, she couldn’t understand why it seemed her planet was spared- not that she was complaining about it. It was just that the blasts were too much of a coincidence at the time for her not to think it was suspicious.

The commodore then described a new enemy that was unknown to anyone before. The creatures were known as ‘Executioners’ and they were the emissaries of an entity known as the Creator.

“The Creator?” Sophia repeated to make sure she had heard correctly.

“Yes, it is not uncommon for dictators to claim divine origin. Their message states that our science has delved into forbidden areas, and thus the Creator has decreed our annihilation,” the commodore explained in a calm manner.

‘Uncommon’ indeed. Nel remembered sending subordinates off on several missions to deal with silly nutcases who honestly believed they were emissaries of Apris and wanted to form an invasion to take over both Aquaria and Airyglyph. They were all taken care of in a matter of days and were reported to be completely powerless against their runology- which a real emissary would have complete command over. But unfortunately, this new threat didn’t sound very powerless. If it weren’t for the fact that they had nothing to do with Apris and his teachings, Nel would almost consider that this ‘Creator’ might’ve been the real deal.

“That’s insane,” Cliff declared as he shook his head slowly.

“Sounds like a plain old invasion to me,” Fayt muttered in a scoff before Wittcomb nodded in agreement.

“We believe that is correct. They are, without a doubt, a power to be reckoned with. They have technology far exceeding our own. Take a look at this,” he requested before the display in the center activated again. Instead of a sphere, it showed a flat screen with a green and blue ball on one side.

“This is Earth. And this shows our attempt to use our space stations to trace the route of the energy blasts,” Wittcomb said, describing the image. The picture then began to move and show red lines that came out of white circles and headed for the planet. “Their energy blasts passed through an unknown dimensional space- faster than the speed of light.”

Nel blinked. She wasn’t sure what dimensional space was- nor did she know what subspace or gravitic space was, but there was something about it that made her think of those black holes Albel had mentioned before. The spy risked at glance at the Wicked One behind her and found that he was making a face that proved he was thinking the same thing. Did that mean Elicoor happened to be near one of those…gates? Gates was a good word for it- she understood that better than ‘dimensional space’.

She also wasn’t sure how long a ‘light-year’ was, but it was easy to determine that fifty thousand light-years were very far away from where they were. This was very bad- a powerful enemy located a long distance away had the ability to strike long range and they couldn’t defend themselves from it. It was the invasion of the Vendeeni all over again, but this time the stakes were even greater.

“Have they sent out a fleet?” Maria queried, trying to get an idea of what more the new enemy could try.

“We don’t know. If there is one, we haven’t detected it. Still, a declaration of war has been made. Surely it will not be long. An attack by a fleet of such power would spell trouble for the Federation,” Wittcomb replied grimly before he sighed.

“So this means Klaus, Vendeen, and Aldian are all in deep trouble,” Cliff said, pointing out to the commodore and to Maria that the current war would have to be put on hold.

Elicoor would also be in trouble, the spy realized. They were also part of the same galaxy, meaning that the coming threat was her and Albel’s problem as well. Suddenly she was glad she had decided to come along with them- someone needed to help defend Elicoor from the Creator. It was rather scary to know that no one on her planet was even aware of the new danger in the universe. They could’ve been attacked without ever knowing who was behind it.

“Yes…” the commodore agreed before he finally revealed the role the previous enemy was playing. “And it seems Vendeen was attempting to capture and use the Federation’s secret weapon…”

So that was the reason. Somehow the Vendeeni managed to learn about Dr. Leingod’s research and sought to use Fayt for themselves. Their foolish greed and pride had destroyed many innocent lives on Nel and Albel’s planet. Some part of the spy was glad that Maria and the others killed one of their more influential leaders.

While it didn’t seem to be public knowledge (according to the commodore), the Federation had been hoping to use Fayt as a weapon against the threat. It seemed his father knew that the Executioners were coming and gave Fayt and Maria their powers to fight against them. But how Dr. Leingod knew was a mystery- the bluenettes were currently nineteen years old, meaning that he knew about this coming threat for nearly two decades.

“But frankly you do not look much like a weapon to me. How can a man of flesh and blood fight a fleet of starships?” Wittcomb admitted with some doubt flashing across his features.

It was understandable- Nel jeered before when they faced off the Vendeeni with dragons and runological weapons. But she had seen Fayt’s power first hand and knew it was a force to be reckoned with. Additionally- Maria once destroyed what was apparently a famous ship with her power. The spy didn’t know much about that since she only heard the story once from Cliff, but it seemed to be enough to impress Wittcomb. Maria’s powers weren’t as well known to the Federation and it gave the commodore hope that two ‘weapons’ would give them a chance against the Executioners.

“Unfortunately, our powers are still unreliable. We can’t just invoke them whenever we want,” the girl warned him before Wittcomb speculated that they must’ve had some type of protection placed on them. Without the professor, Fayt and Maria were virtually of no use unless they had some way of controlling their powers. This was why they had to go to Moonbase and try to find something that could’ve been left behind. This was as much as Nel understood.

Bridge to Commodore.” A voice called out after a strange sound that nearly made the spy jump in her seat. She wasn’t sure if she would ever get used to that…

“Yes?” he replied as he glanced up at the ceiling.

We have a transmission from Federation Station #9.

A screen appeared at the center after Wittcomb requested for it. Nel stared curiously at it as a blurred and wavy imaged appeared, followed by rather scratchy sounds. Too much of it was garbled and indecipherable, but it was apparent that the speaker was panicked. There was only one thing that came out loud and clear before the picture blanked out and disappeared.

Are they gods?

There was a heavy silence before the operation on the bridge came in again. “We’ve lost the signal. Report from Headquarters: Federation Station #9…has been obliterated!

“Obliterated?” Wittcomb yelled in surprise. A feeling of dread washed over Nel as she watched the commodore go through shock over the information. This had to have been the ‘fleet’ that Maria worried about at work. Judging by the reaction, the spy had to guess that destroying a ‘station’ was no easy feat.

But the most disturbing thing of all was the last words of the message. The executioners were ‘gods’? That couldn’t be. Apris wouldn’t allow such creatures that would kill as they did to exist. They could be demons or other creatures of Folstar, but certainly not gods.

“What could this mean?” the commodore inquired in a near whisper.

“I think he’s saying the Executioners are gods,” Cliff supplied, not sounding convinced. Like Albel, he didn’t believe in the existence of gods, claiming that every planet had a different religion. Nel didn’t believe him, but she had to agree with his doubt as to what the new enemy was.

“Hmph. Gods? Utter nonsense.” Albel scoffed behind her, sharing in the skepticism.

“Whatever they are, I fear we’ll find out soon enough,” Maria commented as Fayt nodded dismally beside her.

*****************************

After their meeting, they headed for the bridge so Wittcomb could contact his superiors and get a briefing on the current situation on Earth. It seemed they were running on borrowed time now that the Federation’s enemy, Aldian, had been destroyed. The Federation had as many ships as possible to counter the approaching enemy and keep them from reaching Earth. The Aquaelie had about twelve hours to get there if they flew at full speed. Until then, Wittcomb assigned rooms for everyone so they could rest until arrival.

Since Fayt and Maria were ‘valuable’ they got their own personal rooms. But Nel ended up having to share a room with Sophia, which wasn’t that bad. The girl was eager to teach her as much as she could about modern technology. Perhaps it was because the girl was so young and inexperienced that the spy didn’t mind asking about her world. Sophia didn’t make her feel primitive when she explained things- instead it felt more like she was just showing a guest around.

“So what’s your planet like? How do you travel and what kind of homes to you live in?” she eventually asked, sounding genuinely interested in Nel’s culture. At first the spy was a little hesitant to say anything, but she quickly found the girl was fascinated with low-tech worlds.

“Wow! Sounds like what I would read about in a fantasy novel,” she commented with fascination. “I’d love to see it someday.”

Nel almost smiled at that. Sophia reminded her of herself when she was younger. The girl still had the innocence of a child and the maturity of a growing girl. But while the spy never possessed the wide-eyed curiosity that Sophia had, she could relate to her naiveté. Nel missed her younger days back before the war and before she was ever exposed to death and survival on the battlefield. In some way, she was envious of Sophia and her lack of experience to war.

Suddenly a noise sounded from the direction of the door and Nel braced herself to hear yet another disembodied voice, but nothing came this time. Sophia glanced over at the entrance to the room and called out, “Yes? Who is it?”

There was no answer. The brunette’s brows furrowed in confusion before she got up from her bed. “That’s strange… I thought I heard someone at the door.”

Nel watched as the girl walked over to the entryway and activated the automatic door. She then let out a startled yelp when she found that there was someone outside. Albel was glowering down at the poor teen like she had offended him in some way.

Sophia held a hand to her chest before she let in a calming breath and exhaled. “Goodness, you startled me. Why didn’t you say anything before?”

“Is Zelpher here or not?” he snapped impatiently before he looked past the brunette to lock eyes with his woman. Nel glared back at him as she stood up and approached them.

“What do you want?” The spy didn’t mean to sound nasty, but she couldn’t stop herself from reacting to his attitude. Even though this mean side of him was normal behavior in front of others, she wished he would curb it just a little for Sophia. The girl hadn’t done anything to him, nor did she even know him.

“I want to talk with you,” he responded in a curt tone as if he had something important to discuss. But she was able to pick up that he wanted to do more than just talk- but he couldn’t request it in front of Sophia.

“Alright- let’s walk,” she suggested. She wasn’t sure where they could go to discuss anything privately let alone find a secluded place to share a moment, but she did want to at least hear his opinion on the new threat and what he thought of the advanced civilization while they looked for one.

“Oh, wait!” Sophia stopped her before she could leave. The girl then ran back to a small table and picked up a strangely shaped white pendant. She quickly returned to Nel and reached up to pin it on her tunic. “Don’t forget this- it’ll let you back into the room when you return. Think of it as a key.”

“Thank you.” The spy nodded to her before she turned and faced Albel.

“Have fun!” the brunette said cheerfully, not really knowing if Nel was going off with the man for recreational purposes.

The Elicoorians headed out and started walking aimlessly down the corridor. Albel couldn’t wait to growl once the door hissed shut. “Annoying maggot…”

“You don’t even know her,” Nel retorted as she fell into step with him. The spy failed to see what was so ‘annoying’ about the girl and wondered why Albel was so against her coming with them.

“I know her type- she’s no different than the women in Airyglyph. She’s too weak and would be a burden to us in battle.”

The spy opened her mouth to counter and defend the girl, but she closed it again when she realized that he was right. Sophia wasn’t meant to be a fighter and she honestly had no clue why she had to come along with them. …Then again, there wasn’t anywhere for the girl to go. She was Fayt’s friend and she didn’t know Maria or any of the members in Quark. It would’ve been awkward for her to stay on a ship full of strangers and there was no way for her to get home on a Klausian ship.

“She’s doing the best she can to help,” Nel eventually said after thinking it over. It wasn’t Sophia’s fault that she had to accompany them and it was unfair to treat her as if she was intruding.

“Feh, don’t tell me you’re defending the maggot just because she resembles some dead person you once knew,” he muttered disapprovingly. Nel was stunned at his words- she didn’t think her acceptance of the girl had anything to do with Ameena. It was a bit eerie to talk with her at first because she resembled the flower girl so much, but after a while, the spy was able to pick up enough differences to tell them apart in her mind.

“Of course not- Sophia has nowhere to go so she doesn’t have a choice. It’s not like she’s trying to get in the way,” she replied as she shook her head.

“Whatever. It’s still not right.”

It was then that the spy realized what Albel’s real problem was: he didn’t want Sophia to fight and get hurt. It went against his code to force the weak to go to battle. As a knight, he couldn’t just leave her to fend for herself and knew he was going to have to help protect the girl even though he would rather just ignore her.

“You shouldn’t worry about it, then- it’s Fayt’s problem, not yours,” she responded while trying to hide a grin behind her scarf.

Albel shook his head and sneered. “Leingod can barely protect himself.”

Nel couldn’t hold back her chuckle. As much as the Wicked One wanted to act like he didn’t care, he was probably the one who was most concerned about their party. “I wonder what the others would think if they knew you cared so much about everyone?”

“They would probably dismiss it after they notice that the pretty red haired Aquarian is suddenly missing,” he countered quickly with a smirk.

The spy caught the teasing undertone in his voice, but she couldn’t let it slide. Her eyes narrowed mischievously as a hand trailed to one of her daggers. “Was that a threat, Albel the Wicked?”

Some part of her was itching for a good fight, but she knew that it wouldn’t be possible while on the ship. She let her hand reluctantly fall away from the hilt and waited for his response.

“Depends… How would you like to be chained to my bed so I could have my way with you whenever I want?” he inquired rhetorically. “I doubt you would be wholly against it at first.”

“I thought you would know me better,” the spy muttered in mock disappointment, “I would easily slip out of those chains and ensnare you the moment you look away.”

“Can’t wait,” he growled as his good hand slowly trailed to her bottom to give a squeeze. She quickly pinched his hand and shook her head.

“Not here… though I’m not sure if there is anywhere that would be private enough.”

“Some other time then,” he conceded as backed off and resumed walking beside her.

A companionable silence fell between them as the wandered around. They came across several crewmembers who couldn’t help but stare at their strange clothing and talk amongst themselves behind their backs. Unfortunately, Nel could hear every word they whispered, but at least they weren’t saying anything demeaning. Most were just curious if they were really Klausians. One even made a comment on how Albel was rather thin looking for a member of that race.

Maria didn’t really expect them to fool the Federation crew, but to keep them guessing. The important thing was to not let them know that they were from an underdeveloped planet. The UP3 that Fayt loved to mention so much came from that government and they frowned upon violators. Even though Maria was part of an opposing government that didn’t follow the same rules, she didn’t want to incite any trouble with the people that were helping them out.

Still, the spy couldn’t help but feel a little self-conscious and out of place. Her Aquarian uniform she wore so proudly was inferior compared to the unusual materials that comprised a Federation officer’s attire. And for some reason, they seemed to like covering up as much as possible. This was probably due to the fact that they weren’t expected to engage in close range combat. Her garb was designed to allow her to move stealthily and give her maneuverability for fighting.

As for Albel, his outfit was most likely traditional wear from his ancestors. In fact, his clothing was so close to the design of a Crimson Blade uniform that he could be confused for an Aquarian if he had any visible runes. It wouldn’t surprise Nel any if her clothes were actually based on what the ancient Aquorians wore.

They eventually came across what appeared to be a bench and sat down on it. It was situated to where it was facing an expansive window, presenting the Elicoorians a view of warp space. Nel had managed to see what they called ‘conventional’ space before they ‘warped’. At the time, they were only floating out in the darkness amidst the zillions of tiny lights. It really hit the spy that she was far from home- really far. Never in her life did she imagine that she would travel in the night sky.

“How do you think the others are doing back on Elicoor?” Nel mused before a terrible thought came to her. “I hope the Executioners won’t target them…”

“Those maggots will be fine. I made Leingod show me that moving display again and he was able to point out where our planet was. As I suspected, it was located near one of those dimensional space holes- the enemy doesn’t appear to be going near them,” Albel explained, shocking her a little. This wasn’t the first time he outsourced to fix problems or get information, but it still amazed her. He was much more intelligent than he would let others believe.

“Really? That’s good,” she replied before she shook her head. “But it still bothers me to know that some of the light beams came from Elicoor. There must be some connection- maybe the enemy left some technology on our planet that we don’t know about.”

Or it could be just the grace of Apris that saved them, but even someone as religious as Nel knew that there had to be more to it than that. After all, Apris usually bestowed power to his emissaries and bade them to save others on his behalf. Also, her god would never leave behind a tool that could be used to destroy other worlds.

“That is possible- perhaps those fools and the invaders weren’t the first to come to our planet. Heh, wouldn’t it be the perfect irony if it were left behind by the very being our ancestors came to call a god?”

Nel resisted the urge to scowl at him. “Don’t be ridiculous- Apris is our sun god He created life on our world and gave us the means to protect ourselves.”

“Protection, indeed,” he replied with a smug look. “Did he not give Sirvia a device to drive back the Greeton invasion? I seem to recall those fools going on about how that Sacred Orb of yours was some advanced mechanism the likes of which they had never seen before.”

For a moment, Nel was too flabbergasted to reply. What Albel said was true- the Sacred Orb was something that surpassed the technology of the off-worlders. But could it really be from the same entity that attacked Earth and the other planets?

“But Apris wouldn’t invade other worlds! All he did was give us power to create and maintain a nation!” the red haired woman argued as she shot up from the bench and whirled around to face him. Albel let out a huff before he crossed his arms.

“No need to get upset with me- I was only making an observation. If anything, this has made me believe, to some extent, of the existence of these ‘gods’,” the Wicked One replied. He then stood up and gestured around the ship. “It actually makes perfect sense that we would confuse people with advancements such as these as gods and saviors. This ship alone is worthy of being called a ‘vessel of god’ by our people.”

Only Albel would dare to say something so sacrilegious…

The spy closed her eyes and turned away from him. She didn’t want to hear it anymore! If what he said were true, then that would make everything her country believed in a lie. The teachings, the Precepts, the gift of runology that only her people possessed… they couldn’t be false!

But Albel wasn’t finished with his musings. He didn’t appear to have noticed her ire and continued on to make another point. “In the end, regardless of who left behind the technology, only the one who uses it would be deemed ‘good’ or ‘evil’. What’s happening now probably has nothing to do with your god. In fact he might already be long dead-”

“Be quiet!” Nel hissed as she fisted her hands. “I won’t judge you for your beliefs, but please keep them to yourself. You can’t convince me to let go of my faith.”

She prided herself in being open minded to other ideas, but there was only so much she could tolerate when it came to religion. Her father raised her by the teachings- her queen was the Holy Mother who bore the runological sight that Apris bestowed upon her race. To deny her faith would mean turning against her fellow countrymen and everything that Aquaria stood for.

Albel glanced over at her before he shook his head and let out a sigh. “I don’t care what you believe in- think whatever you want if it helps you sleep at night. I’m satisfied knowing that you’re smart enough to know what’s really important. You fought in the war for your people- not for your gods.”

The fact that he wasn’t forcing his views on her made her calm down some, but the damage had still been done. What he said was going to fester in her mind and bother her every time she prayed. There was a rational part in her mind that couldn’t completely dismiss his words because they did make some sense, but at the same time, it didn’t mean that they were true…

Nel decided to excuse herself and go back to her room. She didn’t need to continue to listen to things that disturbed her. Albel would most likely keep talking despite her request for him to stop.

“Don’t forget that I’m not your enemy. It doesn’t matter what our views are, we still have the same goal,” he reminded her, making her pause in her steps for a brief moment.

“…I know,” she replied in a forced tone after thinking about it. It was pointless to distance her self from him just because he said a few things that she didn’t like. She knew that, but it didn’t change the fact that he had upset her- she just wanted some time to think about other things so she could forget about it. She resumed walking and was dimly aware that he was trailing after her.

Nel thought about telling him to go away, but decided that letting the door slide shut in his face would be enough. Unfortunately, she didn’t consider the fact that it would hold open long enough for him to walk in after her. The spy glanced around and found that Sophia wasn’t in the room. She wasn’t sure where the girl could’ve gone, but she knew that she would be back eventually.

The spy let out a sigh of frustration before she turned and found him standing right behind her. He was close enough to where she could see his eyes from the shadows of his bangs and was able to notice his expression. His eyes were darkened with lust and he was trying to hide a grin.

“Please… I just want to be alone for a while…” she muttered as she glanced away from him. She was trying to be civil by controlling her tone, but there was still an inner rage within her that wanted to lash out at him. She knew she would regret it if she did acted on her anger and struggled to contain it. There was nothing to gain by arguing with him about religion- they were both set in their beliefs and it seemed nothing was going to change their minds.

“And let me waste this perfect opportunity to seduce you? I think not,” he said as he raised his hand to cup her cheek. She turned away from him and headed towards her bed. She couldn’t believe that he would think she would forgive him that easily. She wanted time to cool off before she dealt with him again.

“You do realize that I’m mad at you,” she told him in a light growl before she kept her back to him as a sign that she wanted nothing to do with him. He knew his words upset her. What made him think he could assume she would just forget that and accept his advances so soon?

“Not for long,” he declared in a very smug tone before he spun her around and kissed her. At first she fought against him, but he held her tightly to his body and kept a hand to the back of her head to prevent her from moving. She continued to struggle as his tongue traced her lips and tried to entice her to let him in.

She refused to cooperate with him and eventually tried to bite him. He let out a hiss of pleasure as her teeth clamped down on his lower lip and he responded by sliding his good hand down to her breast and giving a nipple a sharp pinch through her tunic and halter. Nel let out a pained gasp before he seized the chance to invade her mouth. Angry, she was about to bite down on his tongue, but he pulled back and pushed her on her bed.

Albel was on top of her before she could regain her senses. She remembered seeing a pleased grin on his features before his human hand gripped her hair and carefully forced her up to his lips. His claw soon came up to remove her scarf. It was at that point Nel forgotten why she was resisting him and couldn’t help but respond to his rough behavior. He wasn’t really hurting her badly and she couldn’t suppress the thrill she was feeling over his behavior.

It wasn’t long before her hands trailed under his shirt and she dug her fingernails into his back. She then deliberately scratched him in retaliation for his actions so far. In the back of her mind, she wondered if he was trying to make good his promise to get back at her for their last time in Aquios, but all thoughts ceased when she thought she heard a gasp followed by a hissing sound. She was too muddled to register it at first, but then she came to the realization that Sophia should’ve returned by now.

Almost immediately, her eyes shot open and glanced at the door. No one was there and it was closed. She must’ve been paranoid over being caught and imagined the noise. Still, she didn’t want to take chances…

“Albel,” she whispered when he finally broke away and started kissing along her neck and shoulder.

“Hmm?”

“Sophia could come back soon. We can’t let her catch us like this.”

“Damn,” he growled before gave her one more kiss then pushed himself off her bed. He had forgotten about the girl…

They both quickly rearranged their clothing so it wouldn’t look like they had been passionately making out. Nel then cast a healing spell on him to erase the marks she left on him before tending to herself. She would later learn that the Wicked One really liked it when she was furious and couldn’t resist trying to get intimate with her in that state. Nothing turned him on more than when she resisted him and played rough. He also viewed it as a good conflict resolution for the next time they argued since the anger would eventually go away and they could find ‘something’ to agree on.

“You should go,” Nel insisted in a softer voice. What little they did had mellowed her out to the point where her ire turned to mild annoyance. Now she could bear to be in his presence again, but it still wouldn’t look good if her roommate found him in their room.

“I don’t particularly want to,” he replied stubbornly before he reached out for her. The spy soon realized that he was trying to ask for forgiveness in his own special way without having to actually ask for it. Even if he couldn’t take back his words, he didn’t mean for them to bother her.

“Don’t worry about it- I’ll forget about earlier,” she told him as she leaned against him for a brief moment. “…Just don’t say things like that in front of me again.”

That seemed to be enough to appease him as he nodded and turned to leave. Nel stopped him long enough for a quick kiss as proof that things were settled between them. She was then left alone to think and wait for Sophia’s return.

***********************

A few hours later, Nel was resting on her bed as she wondered what became of Sophia. If she had known the girl would’ve been gone for so long, she wouldn’t have turned Albel away before. They could’ve finished what he started before now…

The spy sighed as she sat up. What if something bad happened to the girl and that’s why she wasn’t here? But that couldn’t be possible- Sophia was an earthling like the rest of the Federation members on the ship. Who would want to attack or kidnap her of all people- and for what reason?

That strange beeping noise sounded again from the door and she glanced over in the direction. Did that mean someone was there?

“Um… Who is it?” she called out, mimicking what Sophia did earlier. She was stunned to hear a panicked voice on the other side.

“Fayt, no!”

…That was Sophia. What was going on?

Suddenly the door hissed open to reveal the blue haired boy and the young girl. Her pendant activated the entrance and both appeared shocked as they glanced over at the spy. Soon relief crossed their features when they found she was alone in the room. Fayt shook his head as he strode in with Sophia hanging on his arm. The brunette appeared as if she were trying to stop her childhood friend.

“Where’s Albel?” the boy wondered as he glanced around the room. Nel raised an eyebrow before she stood up from her bed.

“I imagine he’s in his room. We took a walk earlier, then parted ways,” she replied as she shook her head. She didn’t feel too bad about partially lying to the boy since it was none of his business what she did with the Wicked One and she didn’t want to hurt him. She wasn’t sure, but Fayt could’ve still had a crush on him.

“That’s not what Sophia saw,” he muttered accusingly as the girl took on a guilty look.

“Fayt!” she whispered harshly as a blush came to her features. Her eyes then traveled over to the spy before she pulled away and bowed apologetically to her. “I-I accidentally walked in on the two of your earlier and I thought you would want to be alone with him so I tried to ask Fayt if I could stay the night with him. I didn’t know it was a secret- I’m so sorry!”

So that noise Nel heard earlier wasn’t her imagination. They were caught red-handed and now Fayt knew about it, too. …But for some reason, she didn’t feel bothered by it. All the worries she had about others finding out about her relationship with the Wicked One were non-existent in space. What did she care if Fayt and the others knew?

They weren’t part of Airyglyph or Aquaria and they didn’t understand the tensions that they previously had. Though she could still do without Cliff knowing anything- she could only imagine the bad jokes and puns he could come up with to rub the knowledge in their faces.

Still, it was sweet of Sophia for being considerate. Nel wasn’t upset with her at all- she was only trying to help and she didn’t intend to get Fayt involved.

“It’s okay- I suppose there’s no point in hiding it,” the spy replied in a blasé tone before she appeared a little remorseful to the girl, “But I’m sorry that you walked into an awkward situation. I didn’t intend for that to happen.”

The brunette relaxed some and smiled in relief that Nel wasn’t upset with her. But Fayt’s features darkened a little before he inquired, “So you are in a relationship with Albel?”

Nel examined him carefully and found that he was both concerned and angry. She also thought she could hear a little bit of hurt in his tone as well. She couldn’t easily dismiss his feelings considering how she knew about his crush.

“I’m sorry,” she repeated to him. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. Albel didn’t even know how you felt about him until I mentioned it. We were already…seeing each other before then.”

The spy didn’t really want to admit to a relationship since she wasn’t sure what she could call what she had yet. They were married, yes, but she didn’t feel like she was. More often that not, she felt like she was merely dating Albel- and before that, she couldn’t really say it was even a relationship. Really, it all started as her being a prisoner of war and him taking advantage of her…

“It’s not that,” the blue haired boy insisted after he flinched a little. He still had a few lingering feelings for the Wicked One, but he had long since accepted that Albel wasn’t into men. He couldn’t remain pining for someone who couldn’t return his feelings. “I’m worried about you! You can’t be with him!”

“Oh? And why not? Are you saying that it’s wrong for an Aquarian to be with a Glyphian? I didn’t think you would care about such things,” the spy retorted coolly as she crossed her arms. Never in her life did she ever think she would say such a thing. How could getting to know Albel change her opinions so drastically? It wasn’t as if she hated all of Airyglyph before, but she couldn’t foresee anyone forgiving the other side like she had done.

“It’s not that either! I don’t know how to tell you this without hurting you but…” Fayt trailed off for a moment, appearing very sad and worried before he resolved himself to say, “Albel is already married to someone.”

There was a tense pause as Sophia gasped in shock from the news. Her hands flew to her mouth before she glanced at the spy sympathetically. Nel tilted her head some before she replied, “I know.”

She wondered how Fayt knew that much without knowing who Albel was married to? She ended up thinking back to a few weeks ago before they faced Crosell. Albel had mentioned then that he threw off everyone about their relations, but he didn’t really explain how. Was it because he only told everyone the partial truth?

“Y-you do?” Fayt was visibly shocked to hear that but then he shook his head and wondered, “But what about your religion? Don’t the teachings of Apris forbid adultery? How could you be with someone knowing he’s already promised to someone else?”

The spy let out a short chuckle before she could stop herself. He really didn’t know… Fayt and Maria were the only ones who listened and took her religion seriously. Hearing him say that made her a little happy. She let out a sigh before she decided to tell him the truth. It was about time for her to fully accept responsibility and be true to herself and those around her.

She slowly rolled up her sleeve and showed them the bridal rune that was on her shoulder. “You misunderstand, Fayt. I’m the one who’s married to Albel- there’s nothing for you to worry about.”

And for some reason, Nel felt better after saying it out loud. There were no more secrets to keep and she felt like she could be honest with herself. She was married to Albel and it didn’t bother her anymore. She was actually content with the thought of being his mate now.

To the next chapter

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