At my current point in the game, I've just defeated Cedric and put Richard on the throne, and am just in the process of dashing back to Lhant. I know Richard is possessed - I think I'd have figured that out even if I hadn't spoiled myself - but I haven't actually officially met Lambda yet, so no way was I going to try to write him, or how he communicates with Richard.

So figure this is just some depressed introspection that take place while Lambda doesn't have anything to flip out over, and Richard's alone on the throne or in his room, and grappling with how far he's come and how far he still has to go.

Group dynamic is still my favorite to write - just wandering around with Asbel, Pascal, Sophie, and Richard in the party really has been my favorite part so far - but Richard is also the one who gives me the most trouble, so I wanted to practice a bit on him.

A part of Richard – the only real part of Richard left – wished that those days could have gone on forever.

Yes, he'd been an exile. He'd been forced from his kingdom, had his family torn away from him, even looked death in the face. His uncle's men had proven terribly resilient in their pursuit, he'd dragged his friends into his crusade, and lost the only place he'd ever really belonged.

Except…he hadn't. And he'd found a new one in the bargain.

By Asbel's side, reunited with Sophie, and with Pascal tagging along to brighten all their spirits and give them all some laughs in the face of their goals. They'd had goals, all of them, they'd had a purpose for going on and a target to work towards. A reason to get up in the morning, a reason to strive, a reason to fight.

Asbel still had that – he had Lhant. Sophie still had that – her search for her memories. Pascal still had that – her apparently boundless desire to explore.

Richard didn't, anymore. He had his throne back, and his kingdom. It was everything he'd hoped for since Cedric had driven him away with poison burning in his belly.

And now, alone, he had to face the terrifying future. He had to answer one question that felt like it would swallow him whole.

What do I do now?

Of course, he had to look after his people. He wanted to look after his people. That was a purpose, a driving purpose, and it would hopefully see him through the rest of his days. But it wasn't direction. It wasn't a goal.

Whenever he closed his eyes, Richard saw the wide road stretching out ahead, with its promise of battles to fight and foes to overcome and steps to take. He saw Pascal, and Sophie, and Asbel at his side, at his back, keeping him safe and making him smile. He heard their bright, cheerful, kind voices, and his heart broke to open his eyes again.

A rebellious prince on a quest to regain his throne could have friends. A King could not.

It was stupid to miss those days. This was better. This way, they weren't all put in danger by his dreams and his vendettas. They could all go back to their lives.

And Richard knew it was selfish to want them by his side. That didn't stop him from wishing. That didn't stop him from looking out from his window at the wide expanse of ocean, and dreaming. He thought wistfully of plum porridge hastily whipped up by Asbel through dualizing, or Sophie walking along the shores looking for discarded things, or Pascal napping in the sun before chasing off after a starfish or Sophie.

A King's life was a hard and dangerous one, with the hopes and dreams and fears of many on his shoulders. A vagrant thought of only tomorrow, a girl with no memories thought only of the moment.

On the other hand, a knight…only had to live his life for his King.

Asbel was no longer a knight, of course. He'd left that dream behind, to take care of Lhant. But Lhant probably wouldn't be around much longer, at least as Asbel knew it. No matter how much he wished it, there would be no reconciling with his brother. Richard knew all too well that "family" was sometimes just a word. The sooner Asbel learned that truth, the better he would be, and the sooner he could heal.

Of course, as for the matter of his leaving the Knight Academy, well…Richard was King now, thanks to Asbel's efforts and devotion. The least he could do was smooth things over.

No, Asbel would be safest by his side. Happiest by his side. And he'd thank Richard for keeping him there, when all was said and done. Asbel's kindness didn't deserve to be tarnished by the world even more than it already had, and a man who had carved up his own uncle like so much chopped meat would think nothing of keeping the world at bay for his dear friend.