Chapter 33

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I observed the world through Will's eyes.

We stood in a golden meadow outside the royal palace, and the wild grass brushed at our trousers, tickling the exposed skin of our wrists and elbows. Blue sky stretched above us—faded and scratched, as though the prince could hardly recall the landscape, as if his memory had suffered the same effects as an aging photograph. But the Morning Glory sky was still a stark contrast to the dull grays that plagued us now, and I welcomed the nostalgia.

Across the dirt path was a prepubescent boy with dark hair braided down his nape, his pants rolled up to his shins and his collared shirt untucked and ruffled.

Regulas.

He smiled at us—a true, genuine smile—and then he swiped through the air with a hefty stick, daring us to engage in a duel.

Almost two heads shorter, Will lunged forward and fake-stabbed his brother in the gut with a cottonwood twig. The older boy clutched his stomach and fell backward into the reeds, an exaggerated grimace on his face, eliciting a few joyous giggles from his younger brother.

Giggles.  From Will.

"Got you!" he exclaimed, pointing his makeshift sword at Regulas.

"And whom did you get?" came an amused and honeyed voice. Will turned around, and a woman in a white summer dress grinned down at us. Her raven hair fell like a satin sash over her shoulder, and her features were softer than Will's, her nose slim and rounded at the base, her mouth small and her lips full and pink as a radish flower. But she bore the same dark, angular eyes as her son—eyes that held wisdom, eyes that held history.

She carried another child in her arms. Based on the toddler's matching white ruffles and the tufts of black hair sprouting from her head, I figured she must be Lucy.

In this glimpse of Will's childhood, I was witness to the royal family of Rhea, intact and happy and warm.  Perhaps for the last time.

"I've got an enemy," Will declared. He waved his stick at Regulas, as if it were obvious.

"Oh, is that right?" the woman hummed. "And now that you have him, what will you do with him?"

I could feel Will's exasperation brewing. He was in the middle of a game; why on earth would he stop for a moment of introspection? Impatient, he glanced back at Regulas, who still sat on the ground, chuckling behind his fist. "I dunno. That's not the fun part."

"No," his mother agreed, shifting Lucy in her arms so she could ruffle Will's mop of hair. "No, it isn't."

The memory vanished in a burst of black and white feathers, and in the next scene, Will and I peered around a wooden door into a master bedroom, the thick maroon drapes blocking the sunset colors and drawing our eyes to the trembling candle flame on the dresser.

Will's mother lay in a bed of silk sheets. Expensive pillows supported her back, and her glossy hair had been tied in a bun, loose bangs now lackluster where they clung to the sides of her face.

She spoke in hushed whispers to the tall man standing at her side. From this position, we could only see the back of his dark tunic, but the silver crown on his head told me precisely who he was, and I wasn't sure who was more perturbed by his presence—Will or myself.

The young prince hugged the wall, nervous and afraid, and below him, his sister's small head peeked out from the door, blue eyes glistening as she watched on in confusion.

The queen caught sight of her children, and she murmured something to the man before reaching toward us. "Asa-kun," she said calmly. "Come here."

Will approached her with trepid steps. At the same time, the king turned and walked out of the room, and I only caught a glimpse of his features: a lean frame, tattooed hands, and dark brown, shoulder-length hair.

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