Maria wonders if keeping Albel around is fair. When she and Fayt confront him, he surprises them both.
We are sitting together in Moonbase's recreational hall and watching the others. Sophia and Peppita are talking, Cliff is napping, and Albel is...well, he actually appears to be meditating, but I have a hard time believing he's the type. I consider Maria's suggestion, but quickly reject it.
"No way," I reply with a shake of my head.
"Why not?" Maria asked conversely. "I'm sure your father never expected us to have an entourage. Anyone else coming with us would be signing their death sentence."
"No," I reply, "The more people with us, the better chance we have of surviving. Anyway, do you really think we can protect Sophia on our own?"
"True. Cliff will be an asset and Mirage has been making noises about joining us in battle. What about him?" Maria gestured at Albel.
"What about him?" I demand. "Albel is a great fighter!"
"Don't you think it's cruel to allow him to come along? He has no grasp of what is going on," Maria points out coolly.
"That's not fair. Albel is very smart, you know," I protest.
"His deductive reasoning is sound, I'll give him that much, but Fayt, he could die. Are you really ok with that?"
Her question silences me. Of course I don't want Albel to die, but I want even less to take him back to Elicoor.
"Well, let's go ask him," I offer a compromise.
"Fine," Maria huffs.
We cross the hall together and approach Albel. His eyes open as we walk up to him and he rises to meet us. He attaches his scabbard to his obi and watches us warily.
"May I help you?" He drawls, the edge of mockery in his tone undermines the civility of his words.
"Do you understand the severity of the situation?" Maria asks without much subtlety.
Albel's eyes narrow and he tilts his head. He is clearly insulted by the question. "Your mission has changed. Before, it was to locate Fayt's father. Given his untimely death, you decided to come here in order to find out what he was studying. The man and his associates had discovered a gate to another world and the voice of a creator that had proclaimed this...galaxy's doom. The two of you and the idiot girl in pink have powers that will aid in this...creator's defeat. Now the mission is to confront this creator and his minions."
Maria is silent and I shoot her a quick, knowing glance. Albel is very observant. I can't help but wonder if perhaps he spied for his country at times. The man doesn't miss a beat.
"Then I presume that you understand that there is no guarantee that you will return to your planet alive," Maria holds his gaze in a manner that is almost challenging.
"Yes," Albel replies, "I do not care. If it is my fate to die, I wish to die in battle. Anyway, how can I go back to Airyglyph knowing all the fun I'll be missing?"
"This isn't a game, Albel!" Maria snaps.
"I'm aware," Albel smirks, "Like it or not you worms are stuck with me. Get used to it."
Maria groans and throws her hands up in exasperation. She looks at Albel, then to me. "How do you put up with him? It's like talking to a wall!"
She stomps off without hearing my answer and I am left with Albel, who looks terribly pleased with himself.
"You shouldn't rile her up so much," I sigh.
"Someone needs to knock her down a peg and since you won't do it, I have no problem with it," Albel replies in a languid, insolent tone.
"Don't start with me. I tolerate the wench because she's got a brain to go with that sharp tongue, but I'll not have her treat me like an idiot savage."
"Okay, but you understand why she was asking those questions, right?" I ask as tactfully as I can.
"Of course," Albel replies flippantly, "I'd expect nothing less from anyone in her position."
"Then why did you give her all that attitude?" I ask incredulously.
"Because it amused me."
I groan, and am not really sure if I want to kiss this infuriating man or kill him. He drives me absolutely insane but I guess that's part of the charm. I turn away from him to go back to Maria and maybe vent a little, but Albel grabs my arm.
"Make no mistake; I understand what I'm getting into. Somebody has to keep you safe and I don't trust those idiots to do the job right."
"What are you talking about?"
"Look at them," Albel orders and I quickly do. "The lot of them would fall on their weapons if it would keep you safe. I will do no such thing. What I will do is slaughter anything that gets in our way."
I shiver. His intensity is magnetic; my mouth has gone dry; I stare into his unnerving eyes and feel my heart pound. Lust, there is no other word for this thing between us and it is nearly agonizing. For a moment I wish I could feel the same thing for Sophia or Maria. It would make my life so much easier. Yet I do not, and this is where I stand: On the precipice of fear and desire as I look into Albel's crimson gaze.
"It seems we have company," Albel murmurs before Sophia's voice cuts through the thick tension between us.
"Hey!" She exclaims, "Are you bothering Fayt!"
I cringe inwardly. Sophia stands next to us with her hands on her hips. She's frowning at Albel and I pray he spares her his acidic tongue.
"I am," Albel smirks, "but I don't think he minds all that much, do you, Fayt?"
I feel my face heat up. He's teasing me and the way he said my name was entirely too intimate. God, I can't do this right now.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Sophia demands.
Albel just laughs and walks away. I'm relieved that he hadn't verbally abused Sophia to tears, but more than just a little freaked out by his borderline flirtatious behaviour just now. I want to go after him and ask what the hell that had been about, but hang back, sure he'll just turn it into a verbal sparring match. Much as I enjoy them, I'm in no mood now.
"What is up with that guy?" Sophia shakes her head.
I rub the back of my neck and look away from Sophia's perplexed expression. "It's complicated."