The AlNel Ending
Nel let out a grunt as she lifted the last of the provisions into the covered wagon and then checked inside. There wasn’t much in there- just a few bags of clothing and food and a single pallet for sleeping on. The spy knew that there will be more things stuffed in there, so the extra space was necessary. She made sure that what was in there was properly placed so that it wouldn’t fall out before she headed to the front. The lum was already tethered to the wagon and was ready to go.
Tynave and Farleen stood off to the side and saluted as Nel passed. The spy nodded to them before lifting herself to the wooden seat. It was a little difficult move since she was already in costume. Instead of her usual uniform, she donned a long, plain robe made of durable and coarse materials. Underneath the robe was skin-tight clothing suited for stealth and speed. There was also a pillow stuffed under the robe so that she would appear to have a large belly.
Her daggers were carefully strapped to her thighs for easy access and so that they would be hidden to others. She also had a hood attached to the robe so she could cover her red hair. Over the year, it had grown to her shoulders and she was thinking of letting grow longer now that she didn’t have a practical need for short hair.
It had been almost a year since she and the others defeated the Creator and was liberated from the hold of 4D space. Ever since returning to Aquaria, she had been devoting herself to her work to the point where her queen was almost begging her to take a vacation. Some part of her wanted to take a rest, but another feared that if she stopped, then she wouldn’t be able to get back up and continue.
She wasn’t working so hard just to distract herself- she was also striving to bring about the future that Albel envisioned. They had a slow start to their lifelong project, but it was gaining some ground. They immediately told their sovereigns their intention and gained their support on the matter, but Albel and Nel had to first set the stage to make it possible. It was agreed that it could take several years before either ruler could even hint to the citizens about a merge between countries.
The two warriors didn’t keep their relationship a secret anymore- both courts were made aware of the ancient ceremony, but the commoners were left to only speculate. Albel and Nel were often seen together in public and some even witnessed them sharing a room some evenings, but they never once displayed any public affection.
Any protests to the idea of them being together had fallen short when everyone noticed that they’ve been working on joint missions together. Everything they did solved major issues and made everyone’s lives easier. Even though Albel was still a nasty jerk to anyone other than Nel, everyone began to praise them as true heroes of both kingdoms.
Of course, not all was well- they may have won over most of the commoners, but there were still some diehard protestors that wanted the war to continue. Some were the fallen nobility that Arzei cast out when he became king- others were soldiers traumatized by war and were left with nothing in the era of peace. Not only that- there were also some Dragon Brigade members that continued to show hostility towards Aquaria despite their king’s order…
“Here, Lady Nel,” Farleen said as she handed the spy a small metal device in the shape of a flat rectangle. It looked like a communicator from the Inventor’s Guild, but it was missing a screen.
“Maria developed it,” the violet haired woman explained upon seeing Nel’s questioning face. “She said it should allow you to keep contact with her and Fayt while you’re out there.”
“Oh, and Fayt also asked us to tell you to call him if you ever need any help,” Tynave added behind her.
Nel smiled at that and nodded. Fayt would say something like that. The boy wanted to come along, but she insisted that he should stay just in case. Both he and Maria were valuable to ‘Aquor’ (Nel’s code word to reference both countries) as researchers who could help Lady Elena develop new technology. It was true that the off-worlders could’ve simply introduced their technology, but it was unanimously decided that Elicoor should only advance by their own pace with their own inventions, made from Elicoorian materials.
The spy knew Fayt would return to Elicoor since he made it known that he wanted to live here, but she was surprised when Maria followed him and asked if she could stay as well. The girl wanted to start her life over, away from the political powers that governed space. She was immediately welcomed in Aquios while Fayt chose to settle in Kirlsa with Astor.
Fayt was living a happy life and had a role in society, but even he was itching for an adventure once in a while. She wasn’t one bit surprised he would jump at the chance to explore new territory, but it was too dangerous to let him go- or rather, he wasn’t suited for this kind of mission. Her task was to infiltrate Greeton and buy, borrow, or steal random pieces of technology to bring back for study. Now that the ties between the countries were solid, Albel wanted start the next step: catch up with Greeton.
In the future, as one kingdom, they could very well stand up to their neighboring country, but they could be behind in technology. If they wanted to join forces with Greeton one day to protect Elicoor from other planets, then they needed to become their equal in terms of power and civilization.
There was no telling what she might encounter out there- they hadn’t heard anything from Greeton since the war began several years ago. Until she can confirm that it was safe for any human to cross the border and explore their country, she was going to have to do all the work. Well, half the work- she wasn’t going in alone.
Nel glanced beside her when her partner climbed on. The wagon shook a little from the new weight. Albel was also dressed differently- he had on a tunic with long, flowing sleeves to hide his claw and leather armor to protect his vitals. He was also wearing pants made of the same durable materials as her robe. To complete the look, he had beard stubble forming under his chin to give him a more rugged look. Most men developed facial hair in their late twenties and his stubble was just proof that he was getting older.
As of late, Albel been going on undercover missions with her and he wasn’t too bad at acting when he needed to. This time his role was to play a mercenary who is seeking out a new life for himself and his pregnant wife (hence why Nel had a pillow over her belly). If no one in Greeton bought that, then they could just fight their way out.
“Ready to go?” she asked him as she reached for the reigns. He grunted in reply, acting as if he was already bored. She rolled her eyes at him before turning back to her subordinates. She knew he was also eager to explore Greeton and see what it had to offer. He already looked into rumors of strong warriors that he could challenge for fun.
“Take care of things while I’m gone,” Nel ordered to her subordinates before she added in a concerned tone, “And watch over Clair, too. Make sure she doesn’t do anything she’ll regret.”
At this, Tynave and Farleen appeared a little solemn before they determinately confirmed that they would do as they were told.
Nel ended up telling Clair everything that happened while she was on that journey to save the galaxy- including what the gods really were. The spy needed someone other than Albel to talk to since he experienced the same thing she did. To this day, Nel regretted it because it caused her friend unneeded stress, but Clair insisted that she was fine. After a while, the spy began to hope her friend would be okay when a strange man claiming to have come from Greeton appeared in Arias one day.
At first, Nel was suspicious of the man, but his story checked out for the most part- or rather she couldn’t disprove his claims. Somehow, Clair grew really close to the man and took it upon herself to nurse him back to health when he came down with a serious illness. Nel thought that they might become serious and settle down together, but one day Logan (as the man was called) went missing. It wasn’t unusual, since he would disappear to who knew where on occasions, but this time was different. They found his body weeks later on the shore of the river that crossed Arias. He was inside his favorite boat and seemed to have passed away in his sleep- the illness must’ve claimed him.
Since then, Clair had kept to herself and only recently started busing herself with writing letters. The grey haired woman seemed to want to send something out, but she couldn’t find the right words and ended up having to throw out the letter and start over. Her office was slowly becoming littered with paper and used up inkpots, but Nel didn’t have the heart to stop her. She wasn’t sure who her friend was trying to write to and some part of her was scared that she was actually writing a will or a suicide note.
But Clair was too strong to let go like that. Nel had faith that she would overcome her grief and continue on with her life. She felt bad that she had to leave her friend when she needed someone by her side, but this mission had to be done.
Nel signaled for the lum to start moving and directed it through the crowds of Peterny.
“May the Grace of Apris be with you!” Farleen called out from within the stables as they left. The spy accepted the sentiment, but ignored the words. She had become just as anti-religious as Albel, but she didn’t make it obvious to everyone. If anyone ever noticed that she never attended services anymore, they would assume it was because she had been on so many missions as of late.
“You sure you have everything, woman?” The Wicked One inquired before they could reach the gate that led to Greeton’s border.
“Enough to sustain us for a while,” she replied before she patted her soft ‘baby bump’ and added jokingly. “And I brought enough contraceptives to make sure this doesn’t really happen while we’re out there.”
“Heh. I doubt you brought ‘enough’. If the maggots out there don’t bring me a challenge, I’ll be taking my frustrations out on you.”
The spy smirked as she shook her head fondly. “Is there anything you think about other than sex and aggression?”
“The ultimatum- though I suppose it will involve sex and aggression at some point as well,” he answered her with a smirk.
“Don’t remind me about that…” the spy requested with a sigh. There was no telling how long the mission would take- weeks? Months, even? Both ruling parties were getting exhausted with their constant running around that they devised an ultimatum for both of them. After this mission, they wanted them to finally settle down and start a family.
Nel didn’t have to retire from the Crimson Blades- it was just that she had to take maternity leave for every pregnancy. She and Albel already discussed how they would care for a child so that they could continue to work and be able to spend time with it. As long as they limited themselves to two- maybe three children, it was possible.
Of course, they only agreed to ‘settle down’, meaning that they would finally live in a household together (as opposed to their staying the night together in between missions). They never really agreed as to when they would have children and Nel figured she could hold off for another year with contraceptives before the courts start to complain.
As for Albel, his ultimatum involved the Dragon Brigade. Many soldiers were already rooting for the idea of him leading the brigade since hearing that he ‘tamed’ the Marquis. One day, Nel tricked him into confronting Crosell and ‘prove her wrong’ about the bonding he had with the dragon. Apparently ancient dragons had a link with their riders and that enabled them to perceive what the person experienced. Crosell was able to tell Albel that he already knew about the Creator and approved of his plan to protect Elicoor- thus proving Nel right. Albel ignored her smug look very well and acted as if he didn’t care either way.
The Marquis only offered to help when he was truly needed, so even if Albel became leader, he would have to ride lesser air dragons unless something came up that would endanger the world. Still- Albel kept refusing the offer, saying that he wasn’t worthy. He believed he lost his chance the moment he failed his first Ascension of the Flame and that he had no right to succeed his father. But Arzei wanted a reliable leader to protect his kingdom- and there was an overwhelming support from the people.
This left the King of Airyglyph no choice but to force the position on him once he returned from Greeton. Nel should’ve been more supportive of Albel’s feelings on the matter, but this was one time she actually agreed with the Glyphian king. It would be beneficial to everyone if Albel assumed leadership because he was the only one she could think of who could scare the remaining rebellious members of the brigade into submission.
Thankfully the ultimatum wouldn’t impede on their goal of uniting the kingdoms and they already had supporters who could help out on the missions they couldn’t go on after this one. Everything will work out in the end- but they didn’t have to like it.
“Here we go,” Nel announced as they passed through the gate.
“Let’s see what this so-called ‘technological superpower’ has,” Albel commented with a smirk that she mirrored.
They both shared a common interest in both the thrill of missions and finding ways to protect their home. It was no wonder why they were the perfect match. The spy urged the lum to move at a brisk pace, towards the border of Aquaria and Greeton.
There was no telling what awaited them beyond their lands, but they were sure it was nothing they couldn’t handle.