Author's Notes: Overly effortful fanfiction for a fandom that is essentially dead. I was doing a replay of Origins and spoke to an NPC in one of the houses in Sheliak, who mentioned he saw Gibari trudging back to Nashira in tears. How could I have not written this after reading that?

Baten Kaitos Origins spoilers. Ladekahn-oriented. Gibari/Ladekahn, but can be interpreted as a just close friendship if you plug your ears a little. Looking for critique: Tell me what I did right, and what I didn't.

Also, ff net sucks. This was originally formatted with indentations, in the style of your typical novel, but this website doesn't recognize the existence of the tab key.

"This is it, young Prince. In a short year from now, you'll finally be a man. You will begin to undertake the responsibilities of your title. Ladekahn, I sincerely hope you're prepared for your throne. Your charges – the people of Diadem – need a strong, mature leader. Unfaltering. Well-learned. Honorable in all…"

I watched plaintively as the steam rose from the untouched cloud-brewed tea, escaping the porcelain cup and condensing on the mirror of the vanity before me, partially obscuring my own reflection. My gaze traverses the edge of the gilded vanity, admiring the opulent filigree – it was exactly my late mother's taste.

It was a mild, early-February morning. I had been thoroughly brushing my hair in preparation for my twelfth birthday celebrations when my father, His Majesty of Diadem, entered my room, apparently intent on spoiling my mood for the day.

"… Ladekahn, are you paying attention? You owe it to yourself and to Diadem to heed my words."

At his comment, I finally look up to his reflection standing behind me, his arms folded indignantly over his chest. Every inch of his body indicates a man with incredible conviction and discipline – everything from his honed musculature to the way he carries himself. I fully appreciate why our subjects admire and adore him.

"Yes, Your Majesty." I turn to him and bow my head to convey respect. "I apologize for my absent-mindedness."

He seems gravely serious. "Soon, you won't be a child anymore. There won't be time for absent-mindedness."

"I know. Don't worry." I turn back to the mirror, running the bristles of the brush through my smooth, albeit kinky platinum-blonde hair.

"I do worry!" He interjects without missing a beat. "Sir Rambari, bless his soul, but you haven't been taking your studies and sword practice seriously ever since you befriended his son."

I stop partway through a brush stroke, taken aback. "Pardon?" I know he's my father and the most powerful man in the nation, but the audacity and heartlessness of such a comment!

"Gibari will become a fine knight, of that I am sure." He says slowly, as though qualifying or attempting to mitigate the severity of his last statement. "His capabilities already far exceed that of his peers. But he has proved to be an unfavorable influence on you."

"I disagree." I reply, keeping my tone as neutral as possible.

"You disagree, do you? Then, perhaps, do you have some sort of alternate explanation as to why you did not attend your afternoon sword practice yesterday? Or why you showed no evidence of having read the politics tome you were supposed to be familiar with?"

He's right. And because he's right, I have no idea what to say in response to that, other than to be completely frank with him. Honesty is certainly my strong point; I do not lie because I do not want anyone to ever doubt the veracity of my words.

"It's my birthday today, correct? I'll be having my formal celebrations here in Elnath, but all I really wanted was to spend some time in Sheliak with Gib and the other kids. That's all I want."

"That's my point, Ladekahn. That life isn't for you. You aren't a commoner."

Damn it, I know all of this. It's been this way since mother passed on – endless droning about responsibility, lessons in etiquette and politics, and an increase in the intensity of my training.

"Your Majesty, with all due respect, I know all of this. Why are you here?"

"Because I am ill, and you need to be prepared for anything. I want to leave this world knowing that my kingdom is safe, in capable hands."

At that, the brush escapes my loose grip and falls to the floor with a clunk. As I stoop to sheepishly pick it up, I notice him leaving. I silently wonder if he's disgusted at my sudden lack of composure.

Let it be known that I absolutely hate salty things. I simply abhor them. My maid prepares a fine cloud-brewed tea alongside my breakfast every morning, and without fail, it goes untouched and eventually goes to my potted Kasilam shrub.

And here, on a day that, as I understand it, most children receive toys, sweets and adoring affection, I'm seated at a table with a remarkable spread of food and the company of my father, Sir Rambari and a number of important knights. No cakes, chocolates or pastries (my favorite): just caviar, glubberfish, the finest cuts of various other flying fish, broiled cancerite. All of which tend to be quite salty.

As I begrudgingly make my way through the food on my plate, I'm constantly on the lookout for opportunities to leave. I don't want to be here, I want to find Gibari. I just want to have a normal birthday. A birthday like the ones I had with mother, before kids my own age began calling me "Grace" and "Highness" and bowing in reverence when I passed them on the streets of Sheliak.

Finally, the whole affair is over and I am permitted to leave. With only a brief thank-you and a deep, appreciative bow, I move to leave Castle Elnath to walk to Sheliak.

My gait is quite fast and I can hear the metal part of my shoes clanking against the cobblestones of the street with every step I take. My eyes tour the grandeur of the city, drinking in the beauty of the architecture, that which glows faintly with warm orange light.

"Kahn! You made it!"

Just as I anticipated, Gibari is seated at the base of a large tree where bunnycats often play, waiting for me.

"Yeah! I'm here!" I can barely contain my enthusiasm, and I run over to him and set myself down in front of him, disregarding the soil that was sure to mark my clothes.

"Happy birthday, man." He cocks an eyebrow at me. "But what took ya?"

"Ah. The birthday feast lasted longer than I thought it would. Sorry about that."

He laughs, his features wrinkling in a way that could only be described as delightful. "Don't worry about it. But don't make me jealous! I don't like to be reminded that you'd rather be up there in that castle with all your fancy-pants food!"

"Come on, Gib. You know that's not true."

"Yeah, yeah." He offers a lighthearted, playful punch to my shoulder. It hurts more than I think he meant it to.

"What did you do today? I wanted to hang out with you more, but the king is pretty mad at me. He had me double up on my training and study a pretty lengthy book, cover to cover."

He reclines easily, interlacing his fingers and placing his hands behind his head as a makeshift pillow. "Not much. I was in Nashira most of the day. Glubberfish season is over now, so we're preserving and storing the last of the lot."

"Sounds… salty."

"It is," he admits, "it's delicious! You should come to Anna's pub when your schedule frees up, and try some!"

I open my mouth, stick out my tongue and make a mock gagging motion at the suggestion. He laughs heartily at my response. Given my position and lineage, I guess that looks pretty funny to him.

"Oh! Kahn, I've got something for you."

"A gift? You didn't have to…"

" 'Didn't have to' my ass. Here, this is from me to you."

He digs around in his pocket for a moment before extending a fist toward me, enclosed around something. For effect, he slowly and meaningfully unravels his fingers, revealing a necklace with a pendant carved out of river stone.

"T-This? Did you make this?" I say breathlessly as I take it from him, allowing it to dangle from my finger, the pendant swaying back and forth in front of my face pendulously as I inspect it. It appears to be a fish, with crosshatch markings on one side, and the words 'Friends Forever!' inscribed on the other.

"That I did." He says proudly, surveying my reaction with those deep brown eyes. I put it on and tuck it under my clothes as he continues, "I know it's not much… and it's not perfect… in fact, it's pretty far from it… But I did my best and practiced a lot, so I hope you like it."

"I love it. Thank you so much!"

Without even thinking, I practically launch myself over to where he is, throwing my arms around him. I must look like an idiot, because I'm grinning ear-to-ear, my crown just fell off and I have mud stains on my posterior, but I'm too happy to care.

"Ha! Kahn! You're an idiot. And a sap." He embraces me in a manly bear hug, patting my shoulder good-naturedly.

I finally part from him, unable to rid myself of my probably very un-regal grin. "I think you have our roles confused: You're the idiot. And sap? Excuse me, who engraved 'Friends Forever!' into this necklace again? Please."

As he continued to laugh, I settle myself next to him, feeling the same complete contentment that I always feel when I'm around him. He starts to set up for telling me a lengthy joke, but I'm not entirely paying attention: I hear his mellifluous voice and the diction of his words more than I hear the joke. I'm just basking in the camaraderie he offers me, and the happiness that he makes me feel.