Passage Chapter 18

The Next Chapter

“Lady Haswar is grateful,” Luserina Barows was telling the young queen. It was in the early afternoon, the next day. “She well aware that what those ex-clerics did was wrong, but she’s glad you won’t harm them.”

Lymsleia leaned back on the throne. “There’s been enough killing,” she said, sighing. “But they can’t go unpunished. They had the motive and the means to destroy me, and now I have the same for them. Still, there’s a less bloody solution. Make arrangements to separate them and send them to various prisons in different countries.”

“Are you sure that’s wise?”

“Well, I certainly don’t want them here, and certainly not together. This is the second time they’ve intended harm toward the royal family, and I’m sure they’d do it all over again. One of the assassins...she mentioned Princess Shahrewar, Haswar’s mother, and referred to me as ‘Princess.’ That, to me, shows how bitter they still are about my reign, and...that frightens me, to be honest.”

Luserina nodded, and then bowed to her queen. “I’ll get on that right away, Your Majesty,” she said, and then took her leave.

After she was gone, Galleon approached the throne. “Your Majesty, are you all right?”

“Of course, Galleon,” the girl replied. “I’m just, uh...exhausted by everything, I guess.”

“I can imagine,” the older knight said with a nod. “But...are you sure it’s not something more?”

“If it is, it’s probably because you two will be gone soon,” Miakis answered for the queen, looking at both Galleon and Kyle. “I mean, c’mon...don’t you want to hang out just a little while longer? At least until our trainees start showing some promise.”

“I’d love to, Miakis,” Kyle said. “But to be honest, I could go for a little peace and quiet. Also, I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit of the world.” He looked at Lymsleia. “Fighting in your brother’s army, I’ve come to realize...just how many beautiful girls are out there, all waiting for me.”

“Uh...try not to overexert yourself, Kyle,” Lymsleia told him, looking nauseous.

“I, too, wish I could stay,” Galleon said. “But the truth is, I’ve already had a long, rewarding career fighting for the royal family. It’s time to move on. When Silva is done with her work here, I’ll be traveling with her back to Lordlake. There is still much to rebuild there.”

“I understand, Galleon...and you, Kyle,” Lymsleia said sadly. “I’ll just miss you both so much. Visit me whenever you can, okay?”

“I will,” Galleon told her.

“Sure thing!” Kyle chimed in.

The doors opened up, and Wilhelm and Richard both walked in.

The queen stood up as she saw them. “ it time already?”

Wilhelm nodded. “It sure is, Your Majesty. We’re taking Mueller’s body back to Zelant. The boat leaves in about half an hour.”

“Then take care. Thank you for everything you’ve done. Everything. I mean it. And once deepest condolences.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” Wilhelm said. “He was a soldier who only believed in the proper treatment of other soldiers. What he did to you, or for you, he did out of respect. I know he had no regrets about protecting that wounded man.”

Richard’s smile was a pained one. “He was...a great person, a great mercenary.”

“He was,” Lymsleia said quickly in response. “And we’re forever grateful for his help, too.”

“Well, if there’s nothing else, then we should get going,” Wilhelm started to say, but was interrupted.

“Just a moment. There’s one more thing I need to do.” Lymsleia took a few steps forward until she was on the lower level of the room. “Will you come here, Richard, and kneel before me?”

“Huh?” The teenager exchanged confused looks with Wilhelm. “Oh...of course, Your Majesty.”

When Richard was in front of her, Lymsleia placed her hand on his shoulder, just as she had done the first time. “Sir Richard, during this time, you have been recognized as a Queen’s Knight, as well as Commander of the Queen’s Knights. Though the contract has expired, it will be renewed at your request should you choose to return. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

“Thank you for all you’ve done,” Lymsleia continued, though her speech was taking a slightly emotional turn. “You’re a real lifesaver, in more ways than one. And...”

“Huh?” Richard said, noticing she was acting strangely.

That’s when she threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly. “I’m going to miss you so much!” she exclaimed, stifling her sobs.

“Y-Your Majesty,” the teenager stammered. “Please don’t cry.”

“You come and visit me too!”

He let the order sink in for a while, and then he chuckled. “Of course, I will,” he said, slowly bringing his arms around her.

Sniffling, the queen started to move back. Before she completely separated herself from him, however, she planted a quick kiss on his cheek, stunning everyone in the room.

With a bashful smile, Richard stood up, and then joined Wilhelm toward the center of the room.

“All right, then!” Wilhelm said. “I guess we’re off.”

“Have a safe trip,” Lymsleia told him, drying her face.

“Come on, Richard,” Wilhelm said to the teenager, turning around. “We don’t want to keep the others waiting.”

“Sure,” Richard replied, joining him.

“Bye!” Miakis called, waving.

“Be safe in your travels,” Galleon said.

“Same here,” Kyle said. “Have a nice trip. And, uh, you’ll introduce me to some girls if I ever visit, right?”

Wilhelm and Richard turned one final time, waving, and then exited the room.

Miakis didn’t waste a moment when they were gone. “And what was that, Lym?” she teased. “Could it be our little Lymsleia has taken interest in a boy other than her brother?”

“Huh?” Lymsleia turned to the female knight, her face turning red. She folded her arms, her expression becoming annoyed. “Oh...grow up, Miakis.”

“Oo~h, then it’s tru~e,” Miakis mocked. “Lym and Richard, sittin’ in a tree...”

Lymsleia clenched her fists together. “Ooohh.” She then glared at Miakis, pointing a finger at her. “As your queen, I command you to shut up!”

Miakis only laughed in response, tickled by the girl’s reaction. Lymsleia couldn’t stay angry for long, however; soon, she was laughing as well.

“Well, uh, hey,” Kyle suddenly spoke up. “I don’t know if a guy’s opinion matters, but if he’s a candidate, I’d vote for him. He can be a little strange, but despite what’s happened to him, he seems together.”

“What did you two talk about, anyway?” Lymsleia asked.

“Oh...this and that. I think he was hiding behind that Mueller guy for so long, he couldn’t do much of anything else. But this whole experience has taught him that he’s capable of standing on his own. That, stop running from his past. Anyway, he’s a good guy.”

“I agree,” Galleon said. “You have my approval.”

“Mine too!” Miakis added cheerily.

Lymsleia looked at her knights uncomfortably. “W-wait a minute. You guys are acting like we’re going to be married. He’s not even my betrothed! The whole thing’s ridiculous, if you ask me!”

“Is it really?” Miakis asked, her smirk refusing to fade. “If you recall, Richard did participate in the Sacred Games, even though he was drugged in the first round. As much as we were rooting for a certain someone else, Belcoot even admits that he isn’t sure he could’ve won if he’d had to face Richard...”

“Wh-what are you saying?” stammered the girl, whose cheeks could not have been any redder.

“Think about it, Your Majesty. If there hadn’t been any sort of cheating at the games...there’s a good chance...that Richard would’ve been your husband today.”

* * * * *

“I thought I’d find you out here,” said a voice.

Richard, who had been standing by the edge of the boat, turned as Wilhelm approached him. “Oh. Hello, Wilhelm.”

“How are you holding up?” the man asked.

Richard’s gaze returned to the waters. “I’m okay. A little sad sometimes, but I know I can manage.”

“That’s ‘cause you’ve got all of us to lean on.” His look turned devilish. “Not to mention, the support of the queen. Heh, heh, you lucky dog, you.”

Picking up slightly on the insinuation, the teenager looked at Wilhelm. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Oh, come on. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed. She’s a little more touchy-feely with you than she is with the rest of her knights.”

“Wilhelm,” Richard groaned. “It’s not like that! She’s a respectable person, and we’ve just become friends! Besides, she’s just a child.”

Wilhelm’s grin spread. “Sure, right now. But when you return...and who knows when that will be...she’ll be a certified royal babe! You won’t be able to use that argument anymore!” He let out a hearty laugh. “But enough about that.” He looked straight ahead, taking in the warm, soothing breeze. “We should be coming upon a port town in a few days. Then it’s off to Zelant...” He grinned. “Oh yeah, I’m sure those hot tavern twins are waiting for me. Since we just did a job, we can take a break for about...oh...say four, six months...and enjoy some time with the ladies, y’know what I mean? Heh, heh, heh...”


“Ow!” Wilhelm moved back in surprise, covering the spot on his head that had just been struck. “What’d you do that for?” he demanded, turning to Richard. “You could’ve--” He stopped and looked down, his furious expression crumbling as he recognized the rod that was in Richard’s hand. “Oh, you have got to be kidding me. Where the hell did you get that?”

“Mueller said I could have it if anything ever happened to him,” the teenage boy explained with a mischievous grin. “And besides, I don’t think he’d appreciate it very much if you just fell back into your old habits...”

“Oh, great...” The mercenary commander grabbed hold of the rail and hung his head, groaning. “Now the Blademaster becomes the Tyrant. Ugh, it never ends...!”

* * * * *

They were to be joined in marriage.

It was many years later, and she was many years older, or at least at an age she considered more appropriate to marry. As he walked by her side, she looked at him, giving him a smile that would undoubtedly be returned. She had been giddy since the engagement, though oddly, she had no clear memory of it. All she knew was that she was in love, and that for him, the feeling was mutual.

It was a romance that blossomed from childhood friendship. That was the story, or perhaps, the expected outcome. There was talk of fate and destiny, but such things only made up half the equation. The two were equally responsible for the bond they shared, something that was only growing stronger by the day.

They turned to one another as they were pronounced husband and wife. Richard lifted his hand and began to caress her face, but it was she who took initiative, rapidly shortening the distance between them. She kissed him full on the lips and then broke away, causing him to laugh in belated surprise.

Lymsleia turned in her bed, a silly grin on her young, angelic face.

It was just a dream, but for now, it would do.

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