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Under the Crown

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After witnessing his best friend’s career as a trollhunter, becoming one himself carrying with it all the responsibilities and getting alarmingly texted by Eli over the supposedly presence of extraterrestrial forms hiding in the city – alright, that turned out to be true but still, a MILLION texts! –, Toby had developed a pretty strong sensibility to his phone. He had ditched the silence mode forever since his life was never static, the least he could do during dates with Darci or while sleeping was turning on vibrations. But he could still feel it.

That was why, when a couple of noises came from his nightstand, his eyes immediately opened. He wasn’t even that tired, too much stress after one of their typical adventures – facing an alien god-like being. Besides, it was five o’clock, he did manage to get a least a couple of hours – risking his life multiple times did wonders to his optimistic attitude.

Toby took his phone, rubbing his eyes with one hand. On first look the notification showed a couple of deleted messages. From Krel. That was surprising, he never knew him as a text guy. Lately they would usually get on the phone to talk about whatever, like spending the last days of summer as normally as possible – if that talking magic cat was going to leave them of course… ah, but that was another story –, organizing big amazing parties with him as Captain DJ Kleb the klebtastic, looking for a special someone for him so they could go on double dates together – that plan needed some adjustments though, since the Akiridion would had chosen physics over dates every day.

Was it important since it wasn’t his usual method, or was it less important exactly because it was different? Toby shrugged those theories off, finally reading the texts.

Krelito : Message canceled

Krelito : Message canceled

Krelito : Message canceled

Krelito : Toby I miss my parents

Krelito : Message canceled

Krelito : I don’t want to be alone

In a few seconds of preparation, while making sure not to wake up Wingman and walk slowly in front of nana’s room, he was ready to go… alright, maybe a little more than a few. After all, presenting himself with empty hands for a comfort friend mission was not an option.

***

He didn’t even have to knock, the prince opened as soon as he stepped on the door mat. In his Akiridion form, looking like he didn’t catch the sleep Toby did in those hours, he smiled warmly like he didn’t quite expect him after all. In the early hours of the day, while the sun was giving just a little warning about his advent, his glowing form was as bright as ever.

“Your speed has exceeded my expectations.”

“You don’t need an A+ in gym when you spent most of your school year running from all kinds of trolls… but a no gravity Warhammer kinda helps.” Toby walked in, looking around. “Are your 80s robots around here somewhere? I’m up for a midnight snack.” He let himself fall on the sofa, smiling contently. In that house everything felt incredibly homie.

Krel shook his head, taking the armchair.

“They are currently sleeping… sort of. They are so well integrated into their human life configuration that they feel the need to try. Though I’m positive they are just lying in their bed with big facial expressions, their orbits wide open and their glitching omnipresent.”

“… well thanks for the nightmares.”

“Also it is 5:11, I believe midnight snack might be an incorrect title.”

“Dude, any moment of the day can turn into a midnight snack with the right tools.” The perfect words, of course he got the engineer’s attention. Toby took out his bag, slowly unzipping it. “To start we have none other than the fabulous, universally recognized as the ultimate chocolate bar, Nougat Nummy!” An entire packet emerged, slowly and with the emphasis it deserved. It came from the secret stock he created in case the world was taken over by any kind of unusual ruler – for now trolls and aliens were dealt with, so who knew?

The way Krel’s eyes lightened up made the road spent between floating and pedaling on his bike almost worth it. He immediately got one, humming in delight.

“I do believe no sentient being could resist this.”

“You, my friend, really are an alien…” A little glare. “… an Akiridion, of sense! Very well, moving on to the next big star… where did I put them… aha, here we go!” Toby hummed a little music, taking out two bundles of aluminum very familiar looking. “Sorry dude but it’s been since I found out about your origins that I’m dying to know this: is being immune to the Diablo Maximus Breakfast Burrito an Akiridion-5 thing? Tonight, we find out!”

The prince blinked at him, looking at his bag, then back at him. How weird, knowing more than him about something.

“I have several questions.”

“Go ahead.”

“Is this specific meal an actual menace? You seem awfully scared by it.”

“My relationship with this burrito changed through the years, between love, hate and gallons of milk. Let’s just say we’ve come a long way since the first day.” Toby looked at it, caressing the envelope like it was one of nana’s cats – one that had survived Dictatious at least…

“You managed to retrieve two burritos at this hour?

“I know a guy… well, many guys.” He was the best client of every Mexican truck around, duh. Though only one of them turned out to belong to an alien – Stuart was cool, no matter how irritatingly narrow was the alley behind his store.

“How could a meal of 460 kilocalories maximus be considered a snack?”

“You do not question the Diablo, never. The taco version of it managed to take down a mountain troll made of nothing but volcanic rocks, gluttony and selfishness.” If possible the Akiridion’s eyes got wider. “We really need to have a sleepover all trollhunters related, to fill you in in case something weirder comes out.” Which was just a matter of time in Arcadia, really.

“It sounds necessary indeed. Very well, I believe it is time to test your theory.” He had the right spirit, the scientist. It was a fascinating view watching as the prince took the burrito with one hand, ripped off the aluminum with another while scratching his cheek with a third, like he was exploring a whole new world. Probably his mind was doing his own research, testing the molecular consistence of the burrito or something. Funny how his four arms were the least shocking fact about him – spending so much time with Blinky kinda ruined the amazingness of it.

Krel looked at him once, a little uncertain, before finally taking a bite. There it was, the moment of truth. Ten seconds to feel the heat. Forty more to feel… something else. Toby mentally counted before shifting closer to him.

“So? How do you feel?” His eyes weren’t turning bloody red, that was something. But after another second his entire body trembled, and he started to cough violently. Again, no flames were erupting from his throat, so already better than a regular human.

… he should had noticed sooner they weren’t from this planet.

“I-it is quite impressive, I believe I’m not currently feeling my tongue.”

“Ah, the ghost-palate, that’s how you know they put top quality fresh ghost peppers in it. Apart from that, do you feel any particular urge? Maybe to get up and running like your life depends on it?” Krel frowned at him, waving to himself since the heat was still active. “It’s nothing serious, really, but maybe you were just in need of spending a few hours… I don’t know, dropping the kids out of the spaceship? Or flush some garbage through the wormhole?” A fluorescent alien was gaping at him while holding a deadly burrito in one of his four hands. Life could still surprise him after all.

The prince shook the confusion away, staring at the Diablo.

“I’m gonna have to guess by your confused metaphorization that this meal is able to elicit the same effect the Zeron brotherhood, a fearsome group of bounty hunters, could… occasional incontinence.” This time Toby was left mouth-opened. “I believe we should program a sleepover regarding our own extraterrestrial related adventures as well.” That was for sure. “Does this burrito truly hold such power?”

“Well yeah, you see last time Se ñ or Uhl had one he s-”

“Oh fligshag, spare me the details! I’d rather spend an entire delson running away from another threatening enemy than acknowledging our principal’s Stuart phase!” He sniffed the burrito and shook his head, putting the envelop back, probably deciding one death attempt for day was good enough. “So what seems to be the conclusion of the experiment?”

Toby hummed, while munching on his own burrito without a sweat. And yes, he might have liked how it left the prince speechless. He was pretty proud of his trained stomach after all.

“I’d say Akiridions are more resistant to spicy food than humans… but Aja is still pretty much above average.” Krel rolled his eyes, that was probably a line he heard before. “So, this is a productive night! Let’s celebrate!” Another hand in the backpack of wonder, and a thermos appeared. “Nana likes to prepare homemade lemonade when she finds biologic lemons at the market. Can you give me two glasses?” The prince nodded, getting up as Toby opened the container. Right after he was pouring the drink for the two of them. “Her secret ingredient is rosemary, gives a completely unique flavor!”

“Mary made this with your grandma?”

“… just drink it, dude. Cheers!” Their glasses clinked against each other. “Ah, we’ve got Nougat Nummies, we’ve got burritos, we’ve got nana’s lemonade. What could possibly top all this, you might be asking? Well, my Akiridion friend, the answer is right here!” He patted his backpack once again.

“You managed to fit many items in that compartment, even while looking rather small.”

“Fanfic magic.”

“Wha-”

“Behold! The key to unlock the most epic night of all…” He raised the case. “Go Go Sushi 2, the Fugu Expansion Pack!! Now I know what you’re going to say and yes, this game’s drop kinda almost caused us to be conquered by a crazy evil intergalactic general. But to its defense I can say… it’s so much fun!” He pushed the cover right into the other’s face. “There are twenty new types of sushi! Twenty!! New!! Sushi!! And even an Easter Egg for the next series!” And that without talking about the secret Fugu level with the poisoned rolls. That game was getting darker with every new version, he wondered what the third series would bring. Only time could tell.

Krel took the game in his hands, giving it a look. The cover was filled with cats and all kinds of sushi, with a big title in the middle. He smiled.

“Against my better judgement, I think I would like to try it.” He got up to turn on the console.

“Awesome sauce!!” Toby gave him the game, excited. “You know, in this version you can even customize your cat chef! Personally I think of myself as an Exotic Shorthair, though the Persian one has a longer fur and online I read that sometimes the sushi gets stuck in it. It could be just a theory, like the rumors about Dokusi Chef being a magic cat since he always knows what’s going on, but I guess the only way to find out is… hey, are you okay?” That game made him bond with AAARRGGHH!!!, it was special and he was probably able to talk about it all night long – for the little of night that was left at least. But even his blabbering couldn’t distract him: his friend had been standing in front of the console for a while, completely still. Petrified. “… Krel?”

The prince gulped, startled, the case slipping from one hand and being catch by another. He sighed, slowly putting up a smile as he entered the game.

“Uhm, sorry. Shall we begin the raw fish adventure?”

“Yee, you won’t get away with that. Sit here.” Toby tapped on the sofa.

Krel looked down, and suddenly all the sleepless hours he definitely spent defined on his face. It was weirdly evident, even in such dark eyes and on his glowing skin.

“Ruining the fun was not my intention.”

“Mine wasn’t leaving you alone in this, and it still isn’t. Sit.” It came out a little demanding, but Toby was doing his best to smile friendly. With such a prideful and arrogant personality, he doubted the Akiridion prince would obey to a simple request. Just a bit of confidence in his voice felt right. To show him he was serious. To show him it was important.

And with that Krel followed his command and took the place right next to him, hugging his legs close to his chest. His tired eyes were focused on the console with no intention, for the sole purpose of having something to look at.

“Sorry.”

“Stop, okay? There’s nothing to apologize for. Just sit with me, take a sip of lemonade goodness and tell me everything. We have all night.” Not really, but it sounded cooler than ‘we have until nana realizes her Tobypie is missing and starts calling the cops… which might take a while honestly.’. The house was silent and kinda warm. The first time Toby entered he had been blown away by the conditioner of that ship. Weirdly, the cold had felt comforting in its own way. This warmness was empty, dry.

Krel tightened his lips, then took a deep breath.

“You know… getting stranded on this remote planet for all this time made me realize something.” He smiled, calmly, like the acknowledging was making him feel better. “I like my engineer role more than I have ever imagined.” No other words.

Toby frowned at the silence left. He shrugged.

“I know. I mean, it’s kinda obvious.” With the passion he always showed while presenting a new invention, and the pride that always came with every success, it seemed a given to him.

Maybe only him. Krel sighed.

“You are aware, yes… they never were.” This time the quietness was filled with unspoken words. “I see them every night, you know? Smiling and talking like they know everything is going to be alright. They are holding me close, me and Aja. They are telling us how proud they are of our achievements, of their… remarkable children.” A tear ran down his cheek. “I… I-I saw it so many times already, I don’t understand why this liquid loss keeps happening to me!”

Toby got closer, just a bit, his heart tense in his chest.

“Don’t be hard on yourself, it’s never easy.”

“This is not about that…”

“Then what?” Krel opened his mouth, but then closed it and shook his head. More tears fell. Toby held his shoulder. “Hey, no worries. I’ll talk for now, I’ll tell you a story instead, how about that?” No response, but no refusal either. “So, once upon a time… pretty much sixteen years ago, there was a couple. A lovely, married couple, very in love with each other. Very happy, so much they decided to have a child together… that came out a little chubby, but you know how it is.”

Krel sniffed and shook his head.

“I-I believe I don’t?”

“If they’re chubby, then there’s more to love!” It got the prince to smile a little. “Anyway, after the kid was born everything was going perfectly. Life was good, burritos were fresh, nothing bad could ever happen. Like that wasn’t enough, luck was on their side: they won the state lottery!… you know what a lottery is, right?”

“On Akiridion-5 it is usually a recurrence where the royals concede some of their possessions to their people, they just need to get the correspondent number.” Talking about his home made his eyes shine, it was hard to say for the better or the worst. “But since on Earth the economy is centered around the profit, I’m guessing it is about money?”

Toby nodded.

“Not millions, but enough to have a nice celebration. That was when they decided to have a cruise around the world… it’s like going in space on a ship, but the ship is on water.” The prince was usually so brilliant, it was easy noticing his lost stares involving human things. “I guess you can’t keep having good things happening to you forever… there was a storm. They didn’t make it.” That lump, every single time. Toby was used to it, no matter how little he knew about his parents. Somehow there was no way he could act unphased by it. “And the kid was left with his grandma, cared and loved for many years after. The end.” He took a sip of the lemonade, and it felt like the hug nana would offer him before going to bed. Telling him about his dad’s contagious vivacity, his mom’s sensible intelligence, and how much they had always loved him and always will.

Krel’s dark shining and wide eyes were locked on him. His lips trembled before he could put some words together.

“I’m sorry.”

Toby smiled at him.

“Dude, I told you not to. Besides, I guess it’s not exactly the same. Your parents are heroes, they saved the universe!” He genuinely thought that would had sparked something into that proud engineer. But his eyes were unmoving. Guilty even.

Like he just hit the biggest target.

“… we have learned many things about them since we stranded on this mud ball.” That nickname lost all his contempt a long time ago. “Between many, we discovered that our parents weren’t the perfect rulers after all. They made decisions that hurt other planets, they kept secrets from everyone but themselves to the point it almost destroyed us…” Krel took his glass, looking at the opaque aromatic drink. He took a sip, sighing in relief, like that was the hardest effort he had made recently.

Toby smiled with cautiousness. The extraterrestrial in front of him was one of the only two beings that faced the trial of the Deep and came out alive. No way to tell if what he knew came from that. Maybe he saw even worse down there. It added even more strength to his figure.

“Sounds tough.”

“Actually, I am very glad I know now. Because I feel like I really know them. I managed to understand my parents before it… happened. And this is the problem.” His body started to tremble, like he was suddenly very cold. “When we saw each other for the last time, they were my authoritative Papa and my fearless Mama, King Fialkov and Queen Coranda, our planet’s models and others’… doom. There was much about them I was saying goodbye to. But them?” His eyes were so lucid. “They left seeing me as nothing else but a good King.” It felt light, that crack into this guy’s walls. A barrier that had gotten thinner and thinner, slowly allowing people in.

And he was there. Toby felt the tension while setting foot on such a reserved territory. It felt like he was in the wrong place, trying to break through Krel’s world like Aja always did before. Almost like someone could had tried to understand Jimbo better than him.

But the fear for the unknown was a friend of him at this point. He was no rookie at this challenge.

“Is that a bad thing?”

Krel gulped, blinking as drops caressed his cheeks before falling on his knees. He slowly put the glass on the coffee table, placing two of his hands on the sofa.

“No, obviously not. They were the King and Queen, and they acknowledged us as their rightful successors. It has been my fear since I was very little, not being good enough for the crown. Now I know I am.” He was putting no effort in those words. Like he had kept telling that to himself many times before, to the point it left his lips without him realizing.

Toby looked straight at him, with every intention of making it evident. Because he was there, present, focused. Ready to take everything he was going to throw.

“But?” This time, the crack was bigger. And one by one, broken pieces started to fall.

Krel turned his head at him. No more lost glances, no more helpless eyes. A strong realization had just taken over.

“But I’m not just a King, Toby. I never was, I just never realized it until I came on Earth.” His eyes softened a little. “You know, back at home Aja used to run away all the time. She desired nothing more but to deny her royal nature and be just like any other girl. I believe her hidden warrior spirit was trying to get out.”

Toby snickered. If only Steve was there to listen about his ninja kicking angel’s anecdotes.

“Definitely sounds like her.”

“I remember that Papa used to always come to me whenever that happened, with an apologetic look and a serious expression on his face.” Krel breathed out. “And he would say sorry, without any further explanation. Like before my Coronation Day on Akiridion-5, just ‘I’m sorry my boy’. Like Aja escaping her royal life somehow hurt me.” He placed his hands on his lap, tracing the back of one with his fingers. “Perhaps… he always felt the need to apologize because of the responsibilities my sister was leaving to me.”

“Was he wrong?”

“Not entirely. It wasn’t the duty I was supposed to fulfill in her place that was hurting me. It was… the envy. Because Aja at least knew there was something else she wanted from her life. Now look at her, not only a Queen, but a fearless warrior!” Krel looked down. “As for me, I didn’t even know if I hated being a royal or not. I never had the courage to step out of the palace and discover myself. I could have never imagined the possibility that was coming. I could had never predicted that… that I…” He stopped, covering his mouth as a sob raised from his throat.

Toby looked at him, caressing his back, all the pieces getting together in his mind. A prince, alone in a role chosen by others, too prideful to deny his abilities but at the same time too underconfident to test himself. Too much to leave his comfort zone for a new adventure. Then the coup came.

“… all your achievements, you gained them on Earth.” His own voice felt far away, just a bare noise to put together his thoughts. “And they didn’t know about that.” That was, that was the problem altogether. It was so simple it broke his heart.

The prince nodded merely, slowly hugging himself. Tears were streaming freely on his face, shining of just a bit of the natural fluorescent light of the extraterrestrial.

“On Akiridion-5, Papa was fine with my inventions. Supportive even, from time to time. But only as far as they did not replace my duties as a prince. It was painful, you know? Every single time he would call it a ‘fine hobby’, my core would hurt. But here on Earth, being a royal is a completely useless condition. Our own personal skills, without those we couldn’t have survived. And after creating a wormhole generator, an impossible task to say the least, I thought I was finally ready to face him again. To make him listen. To make both him and Mama proud of me, for something that for once I was sincerely proud of.” He shook his head. “But it will never happen, because he’s gone. Both Mama and Papa. Gone forever. Without knowing how much I wanted for them to see me as who I really am!” He grabbed his fluorescent hair, groaning in frustration. “And I am no soolian, I am aware that this is not what humans call fleeting. Because the regret is not a simple emotion. This is meant to stay with me forever… unlike Mama and Papa.” The Akiridion’s figure was getting foggy and distant. His eyes were filled, an entire dark universe was forming inside of them, made of regrets, fear, sadness.

Only then Toby realized big drops were falling from his eyes as well. It seemed like his friends were bounded to get hurt somehow, Claire getting possessed, Jim turning into a half-troll, Darci, Eli and Steve getting almost killed like the rest of the city. And now this. It wasn’t fair.

It wasn’t fair. Toby placed an arm around the extraterrestrial’s shoulders, holding him as close as he could.

“I’m so sorry, Krel.”

“P-please don’t cry, Toby. I never meant for you to be sad.” Krel leaned towards him, tears shining into his eyes. “I had every intention of spending time with a friend and forgetting about this. I thought I was going to be fine for one night.” It was so surreal, right in front of him there was the one and only Krel Tarron from Akiridion-5. The genial but annoying Latino he met a while ago while retrieving pieces for Merlin’s magic spell. A guy with a big talent, a bigger pride yet a fragile heart, pried of the recognition he needed from the people he loved the most.

Toby smiled sadly and shook his head.

“You’re pretty dang smart, dude, but that’s not one of your best plans.” He sighed, rubbing his shoulder. “If you don’t address the problem, it will bother you later. Worse, it will be sneaky and surprising, catching you off guard. Reminding you that you could had done something… even if you are nothing but a child… even if it doesn’t change the fact that they’re gone.” He felt himself shaking. No, tonight wasn’t about him.

Krel looked at him in disbelief, his cheeks humid.

“W-what am I supposed to do then?”

“You know you can’t forget. You just have to accept. With due time, of course.”

It was so simple, yet the hardest thing to say. Toby knew perfectly that night couldn’t solve all of his problems, this wasn’t just any kind of obstacle. Krel’s eyes widened, his lips trembled and his sobs started to shake his shoulders.

“I just… I can’t. I cannot do it, I miss them!” His words disappeared for a second. “E-even after they prepared us for it, reminding me and Aja many times how they weren’t going to stay with us forever. Even if I knew life for a royal could become extremely dangerous… this isn’t how I wanted them to go!!” Toby hugged him immediately, as hard as he could, feeling his shoulder wet from tears. “I want my Papa to be proud of who I am, not who I’m supposed to be! I want my Mama to hold me and say that I am perfect the way I am, like she did many times before! I-I want them here with m-me and Aja, this is not fair! I-!” His entire body was trembling, so fragile for the first time. His voice got lost, as his crying prevailed over his words, leaving nothing but sobs behind.

Toby felt his throat on fire. But he kept it together, holding him just like nana always did whenever he felt sad. Closing his eyes just for a moment, to be the rock he needed. To let this moment pass and become a part of their lives, like many other hard times before and to come.

***

No smell of cookies and cat fur, that was what made him immediately realize he wasn’t at home. Toby slowly opened his eyes, realizing from his sore limbs and his hurting back that he had slept in the worst position ever. But after taking a look at the arms weakly wrapped around him, along with the quiet snoring of the prince of Akiridion-5, he decided it was a little worth it. Though smelling Diablo and melting Nummies at morning wasn’t exactly pleasant… maybe.

No wait, it was 12:47. So he was entitled at being hungry after all.

He gently freed himself from the other’s embrace, looking for his lemonade. They had left everything in the open, so the drinks were definitely warm at that point. He drank it nonetheless, the sour flavor aching a little on his still sleepy tongue. It was supposed to be a busy hour, yet there was no sound around them. Everything was beautifully quiet. Almost like this hidden ship was still active, and they were currently floating in outer space.

Krel started to move after a few minutes. Stretching his two left arms, while rubbing his eye with a right one, he slowly came out of his slumber.

Toby smirked.

“Good morning, sleeping prince.”

“I see nothing wrong with this title, but knowing you it was probably a reference of something human culture related.” That guy was learning. “I didn’t realize I had fallen asleep… is your grandma going to be worried?”

Toby took his phone. No messages or phone calls.

“The chances are that she forgot to put her glasses on… or she is just old.”

Krel smiled. His eyes weren’t red and puffy like a common human, instead his eyelids looked a bit swollen. But he seemed less tense, that was good. He picked up a Nougat Nummy from the package and slowly opened it. The chocolate cover was a little melted.

“I am relieved you are not going to face trouble.”

“Please, I’ve hidden our troll secret for a pretty long time, and AAARRGGHH!!! has been living at my place almost since the trollhunters situation started.”

“Your hiding techniques might rival Stuart’s.” He swallowed a bite of chocolate and peanut butter, putting then down the ‘breakfast’. “… I had greatly appreciated your company and advices. They had given me great comfort.” Always so eloquent and formal in his words, but right now in his real form there was real gratitude.

Toby took a Nummy as well, ready to wolf it down.

“No problem, you’re part of the club now!”

“Club?”

“The missing family club! Well, we’re not going to call it like this obviously, we need something a little catchier if we wanna make t-shirts out of it.” Wasn’t Stuart also a seller of graphic tees? Maybe his connection with burrito trucks was going to come in handy – aside from retrieving potentially deadly burritos.

Krel giggled, licking distractedly the chocolate left on his thumb.

“Does this kind of institution actually exist?”

“Might as well, between you, me and Jimbo with his missing dad we are already three. I think Steve had problems with his too, we’re down with four members already! Unlucky children united!” He elbowed him a little. “Like a support system, you know?”

Krel took one last bite from his nummy, sipping the lemonade. Then, smiling a little brighter than the night before, he nodded.

“I’d like to ask Aja’s inclusion as well.”

“Of course! And for the next sleepover as well!”

“Are you thinking about another Diablo experimentation?” He was learning too quickly. “… I needed this, Toby, and I’m grateful. But it feels like it’s not enough. Please do not get me wrong, I greatly enjoy your company and I’m aware I am not alone… but I still am sad.” No tearful glow was in sight, daylight was a nicer condition. But it didn’t erase everything.

Toby finished his snack and took his backpack once again. A bundle was the only thing left inside. He unrolled it, revealing a black wool blanket. One of nana’s greatest works, and even if it was pretty warm already Toby put it on the other’s shoulders.

“You know what my nana always says about my parents?” Krel shook his head, snuggling inside the cover. “That they are always watching over me. All the time they are loving me from above, making a few miracles happen to make me happy.” Toby was never going to forget the flour incident. “I know it’s probably not very rational from your point of view, or possible to say the least. But I do believe it, and I’m sure your parents are looking out for you as well. And they are very, very proud of you.” With his tech, his wit and his courage that prince had saved so many lives. He wanted for him to realize it. But Toby knew his words were nowhere near enough to compensate what he really wanted to hear, or from who.

Maybe they didn’t have to be enough. They just needed to be said. To spark a little spark of hope inside his heart – his core. Krel wiped away a single tear, smiling nonetheless.

“Thank you, Toby.” He took a deep breath. “So, are you still up of the raw fish session?”

“What?”

“The Go Go Sushi. You wanted to play, is that correct?”

“Well yeah, but… you don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Krel got up, kneeling in front of the console that had been left in standby. “Really, we can’t do something else like… I don’t know, jogging in the forest?” They looked at each other in silence, then they started snickering. Right, the two of them, for sure. “Okay maybe not, but really anything you want.”

“I want to test myself into catching flying sushi.” The prince activated the device one again. Finally the loading icon of a sushi rolling around the screen appeared.

As soon as he was back on the sofa Toby put the cover back on him, took both of the controllers and placed one on his lap. The menu appeared, cheerfully announcing the game.

“Ready?”

Krel stopped, frozen, and Toby feared the sense of déjà-vu from hours ago. But then, to his surprise, the prince’s eyes focused on the outside. The window, or more specifically the sky. Light blue, bring to an almost painful extent. Thinking about, it was the Akiridions’ signature color. It was a tint that meant home. So he nodded quietly to himself, smiling with his eyes tired but his look focused. The same look Toby was sure every child had, thinking about their loving parents.

“I think I am.” He took a breath and held the controller, finally pressing start.