King Guardia was hardly surprised upon hearing his precocious daughter's announcement that she was to wed her best friend, now beloved, Crono. Nor was he surprised by the immediate sense of disapproval that came with the news. In his mind no man, no matter how noble or chivalrous, was good enough for his daughter. But Nadia's (or Marle as she preferred to be called) happiness meant everything to him. For this reason, the elder king gave the young man a chance to prove himself worthy, both as a leader and as his daughter's husband. As such, he requested that Crono perform three tasks, each one more daunting and dangerous than the last.
The missions wasn't about appealing to his pride, or showcasing his power as king. This was about ensuring that his daughter and his kingdom would be in good hands. It had been some months since he first asked Crono to complete his task to prove himself, and it had been about as long since either Marle or Guardia had last seen the young man -- that was, until tonight.
Having just returned from his final and most arduous task, the silent warrior was greeted with open arms by the subjects of Guardia's kingdom. Even at this late hour of the night the festivities for Marle's betrothal continued. Yet Crono didn't participate in them and instead took to observing the celebrations from one of the many balconies that decorated the castle. The young man looked so serious, his brow knitted and eyes focussed ahead. Standing behind him, King Guardia studied Crono in silence. If Crono was aware of the elder king's presence, it didn't show.
The elder king could still remember coming to this place so many years ago, on the eve of his own coronation and marriage to his beloved Leene. It was both terrifying and comforting to think that he was now standing in the exact place where Leene's father once stood. Guardia could only hope that he had half the wisdom his father-in-law had, and that Crono had twice the sensibility he had back when he was a young prince.
"Marle's grandfather once told me that nothing is ever finished until it has come full circle." Crono swiftly turned to face the elder king his surprise evident in his green eyes. A shy, but polite smile crept into his features. Guardia knew all too well what it was to face one's father-in-law. Only now could he truly appreciate what it meant to be a father. The young man studied him intently, his expression attentive, but guarded as though gauging him as well. His daughter had chosen wisely.
"Though Marle and I have not always seen eye to eye, I know she would never purposely harm our kingdom, or our people," he quietly began. "However, you, Crono, could you say the same? It was for this reason that I asked you to perform a series of tasks before marrying my daughter."
Crono's expression turned pensive and for a moment King Guardia could see a little of himself in the young man's eyes. The elder king's eyes softened as he remembered the discussion he had had with Leene's father on the eve of their wedding so many years ago.
"I needed to know that you would be capable of facing the challenges that I face, every day as king."
Crono's first task had been to tend to the threats of monsters, which plagued the outer regions of Guardia's kingdom. Though the elder king didn't interfere, he ensured his contacts kept him up to date on the actions and decisions of the young prince-to-be. King Guardia needed to know if Crono would choose to place others in danger or if he would face the threat himself. Others who had tried to court Nadia had all failed, allowing strangers to risk their lives while they claimed all the glory.
However, the silent warrior wasn't like the others, not only did he face the threat bravely, but also he succeeded in removing the beasts that plagued the outer villages. Once the threat was removed, the young man set up defences to ensure the village's security from possible future threats. However, this was only the beginning of the tasks Crono was to complete.
"When I asked you to complete your first task, I wanted to know how you would face threats that are posed against the kingdom. "Not only did you deal with the threat but also you ensured that their safety of your subjects came first. You earned their gratitude and gave them faith in you. Two things every successful king needs of his subjects if he is to properly lead them."
It was hard to discuss matters with a man who preferred silence to speech. Though Marle said Crono was capable of speech, Guardia had yet to hear the young man say as much as a word. Unfortunately, Guardia himself was not a man of many words, so it was difficult for him to express what weighed on his mind. But after a moment`s pause, he found the right words and broke the silence once more.
"Your second task was to reveal your sense of nobility. How far you would go to protect the innocent," he began.
Though the king continued to have his contacts keep watch over Crono it was clear that their presence wasn't necessary. Word swiftly spread throughout the kingdom pertaining to Crono's brave rescue of a mechanic's daughter who had been kidnapped a short time ago by a corrupt businessman. The businessman later claimed that it was only fair that he should keep the child as his personal slave in exchange for the money and products he never received. It didn't matter that mechanic's workshop and his supplies had been destroyed by recent storms that had plagued the region.
Powerful and feared, the loan shark wasn't easily frightened by threats of arrest, even when it came from the king himself. While Crono wasn't a trained soldier, he fought long and hard against the man to defend the young girl and her family. Though he was severely wounded in the process the young warrior continued to fight and in the end was able to gain the upper hand. Instead of taking advantage of the situation and having the man, killed Crono chose to arrest him so he could stand trial.
"By putting your life into danger so as to protect that little girl and her family, you have not only earned my respect, but the respect of those who call this kingdom home."
Crono's cheeks warmed as he scratched the back of his head sheepishly. The young man tried to shrug it off by waving his hand. A simple gesture that revealed his embarrassment and awkwardness at being called a hero. Despite himself the elder king couldn`t help but smile to the young man`s reaction. "Your bravery is only surpassed by your humility. It is a trait I hope you never lose."
A silence fell between the two men as the sound of music drifted out from the ballroom behind them. Guardia knew it wouldn't be long before his daughter, Marle, would seek out her husband-to-be to invite him to join her on the ballroom dance floor. King Guardia could still remember his beloved Leene attempting to drag him onto the dance floor so many years ago. Guardia had been so embarrassed at his inability to dance that he'd often spend much of the night attempting to avoid Leene, so as not to refuse her request. That was, until one evening, she caught him off guard and blatantly refused to ever let him see her again if he didn't at least give it a try. It had been their very first real date and even now, years later, it was one of the most memorable moments of king's life.
Withdrawing from his thoughts, Guardia returned his attentions back to Crono who now stared ahead to the setting sun. Though it wasn't quite dark yet, brightly lit lanterns had begun to decorate the countryside. The king could still remember how as a little girl Marle used to be so fascinated by the beautiful lanterns. It was in her honour that he had the entire ballroom filled with the colourful, elegant paper lights.
Crono's green eyes met the king's own as if silently asking if he had finally succeeded in proving his worth both to the kingdom and to the king. Guardia wondered if the young man was as nervous as he was all those years ago. Though Crono hid it well the unspoken respect and anticipation was in his watchful gaze. "A good king must be willing to give everything to his people if necessary. He must never put himself in a position to take anything from his subjects. At least, nothing that can't be returned to them in one form or another.
"That is why I asked you to tend to the civil unrest in the local towns surrounding the palace. I wanted to learn how you would respond if placed in a situation where your rank and title would be put to the test.
"Trust is not something freely given -- it is something earned. When you eased their anger and settled their concerns without abusing the power I gave you, not only did you earn their trust, you also earned mine."
The third task had been a complicated one and the king knew it. The towns involved in the unrest had been bitter about a recent increase in taxes. They were also not impressed by the recent decision to conscript workers to temporarily assist in rebuilding villages, which had been destroyed by an invasion of monsters. Despite Crono's young age and inexperience, it was clear to Guardia that he was wise beyond his years. Though the young man had been at a loss over how to handle the matter the king learned that Crono had wisely sought out the advice of his friend Frog. Most young men when placed under such circumstances would not so readily swallow their pride and seek the wisdom of another.
The former squire's training (a detail he had discovered through Marle) had played a pivotal role in Crono's decisions, and this too pleased the king. With Frog's insight and wisdom, Crono learned how to properly channel the taxes into wages to pay for the conscript employees. He also invested the monies collected to train younger workers so they would have new skills to ensure them solid paying work in the future. Though the town folk weren't happy at first, upon seeing immediate results of their taxes being put to good use they grudgingly backed down. With the rebuilding of the nearby villages came new jobs, travellers and an increase of business.
Though the elder king had only intended for the Crono to find a peaceful solution to the unrest, his foresight and innovation was not lost on the elder king. The tasks had been intended to reveal if Crono had what it took to be a king. However, for the elder king it also revealed the sort of husband he would be to Marle. Though the young man's duties had kept him away from the castle, the two had kept in constant touch. Though their time together wasn't as long as the young couple would have liked, it was clear to the king that Marle had always been in the forefront of Crono's thoughts.
King Guardia fell silent for a moment as he glanced back to the horizon. His expression was both pensive and a little sad. He knew the time had come to bestow his blessings on Marle and Crono. As hard as Guardia knew it would be to give away his only daughter, he also knew she deserved to know the joy that came with being married to one`s best friend and beloved. Turning to face Crono, the elder king gave a sad smile as he clapped the young man's shoulder.
"You have all the makings of a king, Crono. You are noble, yet humble, brave, and pure of heart. So long as you never steer from this path you`ve chosen, you will forever have the loyalty of your subjects, and the love of my daughter."
Guardia didn't expect a reply, as he knew that Crono was not a man of words. Even so, he was touched by the young man's sincere smile. It was then that he realized the young man was, in many ways, the son he never had.
"There you are, Crono!" Marle exclaimed as she rushed onto the balcony where both men stood. Her eyes were bright with joy as a smile graced her lips. To the king, it seemed like only yesterday when she was a little girl laughing and twirling about on the balcony to the sound of music that played inside. Her excitement was incredibly contagious, and it caused the mood to lighten with her arrival.
"Have you been telling him your tales again?" she teased her father, causing the king to chuckle as he pretended to plead innocence. The two men shared an amused smile and soon Marle was grabbing Crono's hand so as to guide him back inside.
The young man began to follow her when he suddenly he paused and faced the old man once more. Meeting the elder king's gaze, Crono's expression turned serious and after a moment's pause, he spoke.
"Thank you -- for everything."
Startled, but touched by the sincerity of the young man`s statement, the elder king gave a polite nod in reply. With a warm smile, he encouraged the young couple to enjoy the celebrations, as the night was still young. "There will be time enough for seriousness tomorrow!" he said referring to the upcoming nuptials. They smiled and laughed to his words before slipping back inside to where the celebrations were well underway.
As he watched them depart, King Guardia could have sworn he felt the gentle touch of his departed wife's hand slipping into his own. Though he couldn't see her, the elder king knew that his beloved Leene approved of their daughter's decision, and this too filled him with a sense of hope and joy for the future.