Author's note: This is a little bit of a dark fic, something that I wrote when I was rather tired… and I must admit, it's a little bit inspired by Rap's To Stand Alone (my all time favourite fic!). So please read and review, and enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Prologue

The wind ruffled his wheat blonde hair that tumbled gently down his back. The moon stared down at him, her nostalgic brilliant light washing over his light features.

"Oh Moon." He sighed, feeling his body relax a little as he spoke. Emille had always said his voice was soothing. Emille. "You caused pain, death, an incredible adventure in the history of Endiness… but was it worth it? I was able to meet so many beautiful people, especially my love that spilled my heart when I first laid eyes on her. Now she's gone… and you've resurrected. Is this supposed to tell me something? Just tell me what you desire… tell me what I have to do…"

2 For Empathy By Xaphania

"King Albert, my Lord!" Minister Noish rapped on the door loudly. Albert stood from his desk, slowly shuffling to unlock his quarters. The irritated look on the Minister's face diminished as soon as he caught sight of the tired looking blonde before him. "Sire, have you slept any?"

"Afraid not." Albert turned his back to Noish, and opened his closet, revealing an abundance of clothing that he had no use for. "Am I to go somewhere today, Minister?" He relied on Noish to keep track of all his travels, things like that were slowly becoming too much to bear for the depressed King. It was all he could do to force a smile when people looked at him. These days made him weary, and the only drive that kept him going was the fact that there were people there, people looking up to him, idolizing him.

"Yes sir." Noish nodded mechanically. "You are to venture to view the newly built Hoax." The townspeople of Hoax had all deserted it after the attack by Sandora years ago. They had just returned three months ago to rebuild their town, and live in peace other than fear.

"Right." Albert picked out his favorite brown and green attire, stepping into his secluded walk in closet to change. There were magnificent outfits around him, gold and silver capes, pants, blouses, hats… but he had no need for them. He was a simpleton. It was a waste of money and time, those stupid clothes. He exited the closet, opening a small brown bag on his desk and slipping some gold coins into his pocket. Sheathing his spear to his back, he pulled his forest colored cape and deftly fastened it around him.

"Ready, my Lord?" Minister Noish inquired. Albert sighed.

"Ready enough."

"Mindy look out! King Albert's coming!" A little boy pulled his sister out of the way of six horses thundering through the streets of Bale. They stopped by the fountain, and Albert demounted for a moment, jogging towards Mrs. Slambert's house.

"Hello?" He opened the door slowly, peeking around inside. There was a shuffle as Mrs. Slambert came from the hallway leading to the kitchen.

"Oh, Albert!" Her face wrinkled into a smile as she engulfed the man in her small arms. Since Lavitz' death, she had grown very thin and frail, not the bubbly woman of before. It was as if her soul had left along with her husband and son's, something common among widows. But Albert had stood by her, kept her company, and supported her enough to try and keep her happy. It worked a little bit, but he too found the life draining from him when Emille had passed on. It was heart wrenching, for him and his soul.

"I am going away to Hoax for a little while." He told her after pulling away from the embrace. "But I promise to visit you as soon as I get back, alright?" The look on her face was one of cheeriness, but he was so experienced that he could tell it was forced.

"Travel safely." Was all she said, and then pulled a small package off of her table, placing it in his smoothly gloved hand. "Take some jerky… for you and the Minister." They both laughed, and then Albert bowed slightly, as he always did. She was the mother of an amazing man, she deserved all the respect she could possibly get for raising him.

"Thank you, Diana." He replied, and turned to leave her standing there, falling into reminiscence. Albert put the package of jerky into the sack draped over his horse, and then hauled himself back onto it. "Let's go." He ordered, and he was off with Minister Noish and his four most loyal knights.

The trip would be a long one, and they had known enough to pack supplies to camp for the night, such as tents, food, and blankets. Albert knew for a fact that he wouldn't be able to sleep, it was a disorder that irritated him, but was beyond his control. When the blackness finally fell, and the knights had set up a make shift campsite off of the traveling path, Albert and the Minister struck up a fire and sat around it silently. The knights rested in their tents before they would take their shifts guarding after the King and the Minister retired to sleep.

"What is on your mind, my Lord?" Noish bravely broke into the still air. He had sensed disheartening in his King for a long time, but never had the courage to confront him about it, or tell him that he should seek help. It was heartbreaking to watch Albert sit there so distantly, looking so pained and crestfallen that nobody could bring him back to the real world.

"Everything." Albert replied, and a look of shock came over the Minister's face. He had never gotten that answer before, usually it was 'nothing' or 'never mind'. Albert sighed heavily, as if trying to relieve a great weight from his shoulders. "My kingdom, my people, Mrs. Slambert… Emille… it's always Emille…" The words blurted from his soft lips and he clenched his jaw, looking as if he was about to fall into tears. He knew he wouldn't, he didn't know how to cry. He had lost so much in his life, and he had never cried.

"My Liege… you still torture yourself about the Queen?" Noish licked his lips hesitantly, opening his palms towards the dancing flames before him. The air was growing a little chilly, as it always did on Serdian nights.

"Noish, it's not really torture." Albert shook his head. "No, you're right. Her beautiful smile, her willing heart, her ability to have unconditional love for so many creatures… she was perfect. I was the luckiest man alive to be able to experience her presence first hand, and even more, love me as much as I loved her. But when she died… I just…" His voice failed him, and he dropped back into his mind once more. Noish's expression was that of a puppy's, he shifted over and laid a gentle hand on Albert's shoulder.

"You need not be afraid to talk, my Lord." He said quietly. "It may help you." He bit his lip, hoping that there was still a ray of light in there that could possibly spark a healing process. Oh, if only there was a way to mend the King's ripped heart.

"Nothing can help me." Albert shrugged him off, and stood harshly. He turned, his cape swishing dangerously near to the fire, and began off into the trees. Noish was frozen in fear, he didn't know what to do. He was afraid he had caused something terrible for the Kingdom. He couldn't move, he couldn't speak, he could only gape at the darkness where Albert had just disappeared into.

"What have I done…?" Noish breathed, and blinked in slow motion.

Albert walked for what seemed like hours, even though he knew by the position of the Moon that it hadn't even been one. He knew the forests, and would be able to find his way back easily, that wasn't a problem. He felt a twang when he thought of Noish sitting there, arm still outstretched from where it had been resting on his shoulder, a frightened gaze locked on the trees. Albert would return, and he knew he would. Just not right now, not when he needed to be alone. But he was always alone… it wasn't really what he needed… it was what his stubborn mind wanted. He kept refusing help… but why? What was wrong with him? He stopped walking for a moment when he came to a clearing of lush grass glinting in the moonlight like jagged emeralds.

"Beautiful." He found himself murmur, as he slowly shuffled into the center, where a thick log invited him. It looked strategically placed, like a child's fort or something. He smiled, remembering the first time he and Lavitz had built their own fort just outside of Bale, high up in a tree near the castle. It was their stronghold, where they defended the town, just like real knights.

"What is it, Lavitz?!" Albert climbed up the rope rapidly, following Lavitz' outstretched arm to see what was distressing his friend.

"Look at all the people." Lavitz tilted his head to the side, lowering his arm to his cross legged lap slowly. "They're all so happy… living their lives. I sure hope there's never a war. I don't want to see the people of Bale cry."

"They'll never cry, Lavitz." Albert put a hand on his best friend's shoulder. "They'll always be happy, because me an' you will always be there to protect them. Right?"

"Right!" Lavitz' features brightened, and the two of them raced down the tree.

"I'm sorry." Albert brought one foot up to rest on the log as he leaned on it, arm on knee. "I'm sorry that we never got to protect the people of Bale. A lot of them cried, Lavitz, and it's because of me. It's my fault you died… and they cried. And now I can't help them. I can't protect them without you." His voice failed him once again and he lowered his gaze, his long hair loosening from his green band to fall around his face. He closed his eyes, against the cruel world, the feigned Moon, the beautiful nature that seemed to bloom no matter what the circumstances. Why should he mourn when everything was so full of life?

"That's sad." A harsh female voice shattered the box he had built around himself, and Albert's spine straightened at once, his head jerking around. The voice was so strangely familiar that it stung the back of his brain. He couldn't see anyone past the clearing, and suddenly felt vulnerable in his weak moment. Ever so slowly drawing his spear, Albert removed his foot from the log and spun around in a complete slow circle, studying every crevice he could possibly make out in the dim light of the Moon.

"Please show yourself to me." He commanded in half request, curiosity taking over.

"You sulk, yet you smile. You are depressed, yet you deny it." The voice was beginning to form a face in his mind, and his blood ran cold and he wondered if he was bordering insanity. "I still don't understand why people act differently from their true feelings." A rustle was heard nearby and Albert whipped to face the sound, his spear poised even though he knew that the woman wasn't a threat. He thought he was ready for it, but when she stepped into his vision it felt as if he had been beaten in the face with a rock. Her slender figure seemed to glide towards him, raven hair ruffled by the slight breeze wafting through the clearing.

"Rose…" He barely breathed, and dropped his spear to the ground, feeling his legs grow weak he fell back onto the log. Albert's eyes were bewildered, and he couldn't take his eyes off of her. She had changed; she was no longer in her battle attire. Rose was clothed in a long, cream colored dress, with accents of deep purple and red. It wasn't very elaborate, just something simple and comfortable. It wasn't Rose-like at all. Albert winced, and then reached up, rubbing his temples with such force that it nearly hurt him.

"Albert, what's happened to you?" She cocked her head, looking down at him with questioning wide eyes. There was something new about her, something different that was on the inside, and Albert couldn't quite pinpoint it. She seemed to have a glow, a glow that Emille used to have so long ago… "Why do you hurt yourself like this?" The words dug under his skin, tearing it off to reveal his vulnerability, his loss of confident Kingship.

"I cannot rule anymore." He gulped. "This isn't my life anymore."

"Listen to yourself, Albert." Rose knelt down to his eye level, resting a quaint hand on his brown gloved one. "You always held your head so high, you were always so positive about everything. Even when Lavitz was killed, you still pressed on. You fought until the very end. And now, when everything is beginning to turn against you, you're giving up? You're going to let fate win? You fought against fate before, Albert! And you can do it once more! You changed the fate of the entire world, to save all that really matters. Your friends, your family, your loved ones. And the people of this country. The people that you love, no matter what they do, you have such wonderful fatherly feelings towards Endians. You are a strong man, Albert, don't ever give up." She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze, and searched his large sad eyes for some sign of life. Rose had changed a great deal. Wherever she had gone, she loved, and was loved, and that changed her so much. She seemed so happy, and Albert knew that she had come here to help him, because she was watching over him, all of them.

"I… I…" He tried to find the poetic words he knew were inside of him, but they managed to escape him and he lost in frustration. "Damnit Rose! What in Soa are you doing here?!" He let out the cry, and to his surprise, Rose simply smiled. It was so pretty, her smile. It was the first time he had ever seen her do it, and it seemed to warm his heart like Emille had done.

"She sent me here to you." Rose told him, her purring voice music to his ears. "She thought it may be easier on you if I came instead of her. I know it hurts, Albert, but you must endure it. She loves you, she loves you so much. Someday, you will join her, but you have to live first. You have to fulfill your life, your own fate that you create for yourself. Let it drive you, let her face and her voice take you all the way through life. Don't die now, Albert. You have a long wonderful life ahead of you, so live it. You will be together someday." Rose removed her hand from his and brought it up to his silky cheek, gently turning his face upwards to look into her dark eyes. "I promise." Albert saw a world of pain and sadness behind Rose's eyes, but over top of that, a bliss beyond imagination that he knew was her love. Love for her friends, and love for Zeig that she was sharing so happily wherever her soul had gone. Albert knew then and there what he needed to do, and he stood up, her hand falling from his face.

"Thank you." His voice was barely a whisper, and she nodded, backing up slowly. She turned around and gracefully faded back into the trees, Albert's eyes never straying from her.

"Well, we must hurry and pack if we want to get to Hoax by noon!" Albert strode into the campsite quickly as the first rays of dawn twinkled over the horizon. Minister Noish was sitting by the dwindling fire with his head in his hands, and leapt to his feet at the sound of Albert's upbeat voice. His wide eyes followed the King as he began yanking the tent pegs out of the dirt and tossing them in a pile. The four knights also stared, dumbfounded, also surprised by Albert's sudden return. "Well men, are you going to help me, or stand there and gawk?" Albert retorted, and the knights scurried around the fire pit, quickly helping him with no more hesitation. Albert looked up, and through his overhanging hair, winked at Noish briefly. Noish smiled in relief, letting out a sigh, and looking up at the patch of sky visible through the treetops.

"Thank you, Soa." He quietly prayed, and turned his attention to helping the others.

"Well Sire, what do you think?" Minister Noish waved his hand around, motioning from building to building in the growing town of Hoax. It no longer looked like a fort, now it was really a town. The war didn't affect it anymore, because the war was gone. Serdio was now at peace, along with the other countries that were so closely connected to it. The houses were all connected, a little like Lohan, with a yellow flag above each door. Albert hopped off of his horse, turning his attention to the grand church at the back of the town, made of stone, but still magnificent.

"It's amazing." He said to nobody in particular, and hurried off to the church that loomed before him. Entering the huge archway, he saw that the church was empty, the afternoon service already completed, and the Minister was tidying up the cold stone floor. "Wonderful, Minister." Albert complimented, staring in awe up at the stained glass window of the divine tree. An orb of light was glowing above it, and Albert guessed that it was symbolized as the Moon.

"I am very proud of this church." The Minister nodded, leaning on his broom. "It gives hope and a feeling of unity to the people here. They work hard, and they pray here… it all fits together in the grand scheme of things." Albert passed the man and walked straight to the window, removing his gloves and folding his hands. His eyes fluttered closed as he upturned his head to the soft colors bathing his face. My dearest Emille, do not fret for me, because I understand what I must do now. I will live my life to the fullest for you, so that one day, we can be together, and it will be the best of reunions. I love you, my Lady, and I always will. Until then, farewell, my beautiful Princess. He prayed silently into the warm air, and then backed down, kneeling briefly before the Tree and then returning his gloves to his hands, striding down the stone steps to a curious looking Minister.

"Minister, there is no 'grand scheme of things'." Albert said as he passed the bewildered man, smiling as he slid open the doors to reveal the sunlight. The sunlight that had dawned a new day, a new era, a new life. "We make our own schemes."


Post Fic Author's Note: Phew! That was strange! I was thinking I could make a longer version of this story, adding in a few things to the beginning and dragging out Albert's depression a bit… maybe a few more visits from Rose would be nice too! Review and tell me what you think! Thanx for reading!