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PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, '11, 7:53 pm
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From my bedroom window, I could see out over the stone walls to the lush, grassy plains that covered so much of my beautiful Palma. On clear days, I could sometimes convince myself that if I squinted, I could see the walls of Camineet, but logically, I knew that the town was too far away. It was a lovely view, one that I never grew tired of, but sometimes it served as a reminder of the distance between me and the home I loved.

The palace was pretty and comfortable, though over the past several years I didn't have the time to take much notice of my surroundings when I wasn't traveling throughout Algol. While there was always work to be done, things had started to settle down, and I gradually found myself with more free time on my hands. Though it seemed that I was almost constantly surrounded by people, I somehow found myself feeling...lonely.

It sounded ridiculous when I admitted it to myself; after all, I was hardly alone in the spacious building nestled at the bottom of Baya Malay. The staff performed their duties, my advisers' help was invaluable, and the guards flanking the palace and the outer gates were friendly, yet primarily focused on my safety. Even so, during all of my interactions with them, I couldn't help but think that they only saw me as their ruler and didn't truly know me as a person.

I looked down again at the fields below me. I was pacing around in my room waiting for something to happen, like a princess in the fairy tales I was so fond of reading as a child; I assumed most would think that I'd already had my happy ending. I wasn't some damsel in distress in need of rescue, I was the queen of an entire star system! Somehow, though, something was missing.

The images of my fellow warriors floated through my mind. Noah, the esper wizard, had been on one of the teams sent to further colonize Dezoris and I hadn't been in contact with him recently. I assumed that Odin and Myau had gone back to Scion, though I knew them well enough to believe that they would not be content staying in one place for too long. As much as I cared for my three friends, I put them in the same category as everyone else, those who only knew me as a brave warrior, their strong leader.

I thought of the others who I considered close to me. I would always be the destined monarch to the governor, who was the one to inform me of both my past and my fate. The impossibly kind Suelo, who had patched up my wounds more times than I could remember, had only met me after the death of my brother, when I had started on my seemingly foolish quest to overthrow Lassic. The situation seemed hopeless, as I worried that all memories of the girl I had once been had vanished forever. Just when I was about to give up, one last person came to mind, as if someone had whispered a name softly into my ear. The ties to my past hadn't all been broken yet.

Whenever an idea popped into my head, I was frequently unable to think of anything else. I needed to go back to Camineet, but I wanted to do it without my usual fanfare and entourage. The plan began to form as I flung open my wardrobe doors. Pushing aside all the shimmering dresses and lavish robes, I managed to dig out an old gray cloak, worn and nondescript, that I had somehow been able to hold onto. I carefully removed the bejeweled tiara that adorned my hair and replaced it with my favorite pink headband before wrapping myself in the familiar warm threads and pulling the hood up over my head. Trying to make as little noise as possible, I descended the back stairs and slipped outside.

Normally, getting past the guards at the gate without being detected would have been a problem, but fortunately, I knew things they did not. The prison building that had previously served as the passageway through the wall to the area surrounding Baya Malay was still intact, but abandoned. The outer door was still locked by magic, but I had my ways of getting around it. I was able to enter unnoticed and once I was inside, I started running my hands over the cool, dark walls. It didn't take me long to find the hidden door and within a matter of minutes, I was through the secret passage to the other side.

The walk to Camineet was a pleasant one, especially since there was no longer the threat of attacking monsters to worry about. As I neared the residential area, I saw several people, presumably on their way to Scion, and I ducked my head down, hoping the loose fabric of my hood would shield my face. The entrance to the town was no longer guarded by robotcops and I was soon making my way along the familiar streets, enjoying the feeling of the gently worn stones beneath my feet.

I passed Suelo's house and turned right, approaching a four-way intersection. I allowed myself to look down the street to the right and caught a glimpse of my childhood home; for a fleeting moment, I was tempted to pay it a visit, but I knew there was nothing there for me. I had a new home now.

I continued down the street on the left and kept walking until I had reached the small blue house in the back corner of the town. I hadn't been here in years and as I stepped up to the door, I briefly felt foolish as I realized I didn't even know if the person I was looking for still lived there, or if he would even be home at this time. I'd come this far, though, and I wasn't going to turn back. After taking a deep breath, I knocked on the door.

Nekise, my brother Nero's closest childhood friend, opened the door, looking much like he had the last time I had seen him; though as I was still trying to keep my head down, I could only steal a quick glance. Perhaps his shoulders were a bit broader now, and his face had taken on a little bit more of a masculine edge, but his light blond hair was still kept short and his pale blue eyes still had that same serious quality that they'd always had. He was still quite a bit taller than I was and he looked down at me as I stood on his doorstep, probably resembling the beggars I had encountered in some of the smaller villages years ago. “Can I help you?” he asked flatly.

I turned my face up towards his to fully meet his gaze and watched his eyes grow wide as he realized who I was. “Pardon me, Your Highness!” he exclaimed as he started to drop down to one knee.

“Stop that! Someone's going to hear you!” I hissed as I pushed my way inside, nearly knocking him over in the process. He closed the door behind us and stared at me curiously, most likely wondering what the Queen of Algol was doing standing in his living room. I had to admit it was a valid question.

“Um...would you like to have a seat?” he asked, gesturing towards a well-used sofa.

I sat on the edge and removed the hood from my head, still far from making myself comfortable. He took a seat in a chair across from me and we sat in awkward silence for some time as I looked at the floor, the walls, the furnishings...everywhere except directly at him. “So,” I finally said. “...How are things?”

He still looked slightly confused. “Fine, Your Hi-”

“Alis,” I interrupted, shaking my head. “Just Alis, please.”

“Okay...Alis. Things are going well, I'm doing all right.”

“Good, I'm glad to hear it.”

“And you! You've been busy these past few years.”

That was a polite understatement. “I know, I can't believe how quickly the time flew by.”

The deafening silence resumed. When I couldn't take it any more, I spoke again. “I don't think I ever got a chance to thank you for that Laconian pot. It came in handy quite a few times.”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Your brother gave it to me, it was the least I could do.” I saw his eyes searching me, still looking for answers. “Nero would be proud of you,” he said softly.

I felt a stinging sensation at the corners of my eyes and looked away again. “I hope so.” I whispered. I fidgeted in my seat, idly playing with the loose fabric of my cloak, as I tried to think of what else to say. I'd thought I'd known my reasons for coming here, but when it came to phrasing them coherently out loud, it all just turned into a jumbled mess inside my head.

“I don't think anyone remembers him anymore,” I said, my voice still small and shaky. “I don't think anyone remembers who I really am.” I snuck a peek at him and saw that he was still watching me intently. “I guess that's why I'm here. I know it sounds silly,” I finally confessed.

“Not at all, though of course I can't say that I completely understand.” He stood up and crossed the room, joining me on the couch. “Nero's death was hard on me, too. I can't even begin to imagine what it felt like to lose your brother, not to mention everything else that happened afterward.”

“Sometimes I wonder what things would be like if he hadn't been killed. I can't say that I'm unhappy with the way things eventually turned out for me and everyone else, but I do sometimes think about what it would have been like if my teenage years had been more normal.”

He chuckled. “I don't think anyone regards their teenage years as being 'normal',” he tried to reassure me as he gave my hand a friendly pat. “I really don't think you missed out on much.”

I managed a small smile. “Maybe not.” I turned my body so I was facing him directly. “Tell me more about what you've been doing since the last time I saw you. Please?”

“What do you want to know?”

“Everything.”

Nekise leaned back against the cushions of the sofa and looked towards the ceiling in thought. “Let's see...a group of people in Camineet and Parolit, myself included, started a newspaper after...well, after you defeated Lassic. I've been writing and editing for a couple of years now.”

I scooted backwards so I was also resting comfortably against the plush cushions. “That sounds interesting,” I said genuinely. “Tell me more.”

“We cover all sorts of events on Palma; now that it's easier to travel around the planet, there's so much to write about.” He blushed slightly. “And of course I've been following everything that you've been doing.”

“You'll have to show me sometime. Keep going.”

I didn't know anything about page layouts or proofreading or distribution, but I was content to listen to him talk about his work. I could tell he loved what he did and I was glad that he was happy.

He, however, mistook my silence for disinterest. “I'm sorry, I must be boring you,” he apologized.

“No! You're not boring me at all! You make it sound fascinating.”

He smiled at me. “You're too kind.” The smile disappeared for a moment as it was his turn to avert eye contact. “I don't know what else to talk about, really. I go to work, I come home. Sometimes I take a walk to Scion on the weekends.” His eyes flicked back up to meet mine.”I know it pales in comparison with all that you do.”

The conversation turned back to me, which is not really where I wanted to end up. “I do what needs to be done,” I said casually, trying to shrug it off. “I wouldn't mind a leisurely stroll to Scion some weekends, it sounds like a lovely way to spend free time.”

“Surely you're allowed to go wherever you'd like...”

I sighed. “Yes, but everything has to be a big production, and I can't even go anywhere by myself anymore.”

“You came here, didn't you?”

I bit my bottom lip and hesitated before answering. “I snuck out,” I admitted. When I looked for his reaction, he seemed to be trying not to laugh and wasn't being terribly successful. “What's so funny?” I asked him.

“Sneaking out...I guess you're more like a 'normal' teenager than you initially thought,” he said, finally allowing a brief chuckle to escape.

“I never thought of it that way.” I wrinkled my nose, remembering that I had been gone for a while, and I wondered if my presence had been missed yet. “I suppose I should get back before they think I've been abducted.”

“Yeah, I'd hate to be beheaded for kidnapping the queen.”

“I'd be sure to pardon you, don't worry.” I stood up, but I didn't move towards the door just yet. “I'm sorry that I just sprung this surprise visit on you. It's the first time in a long time I just did something on a whim, without completely thinking it through.”

“It was good to see you – you know, in person. You may have initially caught me off guard, but it was nice catching up.”

“We should do it again sometime.” My suggestion lingered in the air as my feet still refused to take me outside. “Maybe instead of Scion, you could take a walk to the palace instead,” I shyly suggested.

“I wasn't aware that I could just stroll right in there, no questions asked,” he said with a slight smirk.

I rolled my eyes and put my hands on my hips in mock annoyance. “I'd tell the guards you were coming, of course.”

“Well, if it's that easy...” The smirk softened into an eager grin. “Sure. I'd love to come visit you this weekend.”

As the last time I'd seen Nekise hadn't been the happiest of occasions, it was good to see him smile so openly. “I'd like that very much,” I honestly told him. Though I now knew I'd be seeing him again in the near future, it was somehow getting harder to make myself leave; still, I knew I had been gone for long enough. “I really must be going,” I sighed. “I don't want to cause an interplanetary disturbance.”

He walked me to the door. “I hope you won't be in too much trouble when you get back.” We stood around awkwardly for a moment before he reached out and gave me a quick hug. “I'll see you soon,” he promised.

“Thanks,” I said. “For everything.”

As I hurried out of Camineet, I felt a warm flush rise to my cheeks, though I wasn't quite sure why. I didn't have much time to think about it, though, as I snuck back into the gates and the palace the way I'd left. It didn't matter; all I knew is that I felt a lot better than I had when I'd left earlier in the day.
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