Maximilian Acorn woke up to find he could move his legs.
Which, in of itself was a shook; it had been ages since he had actually been able to move his lower limbs, let alone feel this young, his exposure to the Zone of Silence and his premature aging not helping in the slightest, but what caught his attention even more so than his body's new energy was that he could actually focus on it. Feel it.
Whatever had plagued Max for the last years of his reign, trapping him in the limbo of his own mind, had seemingly vanished overnight vanished, and the Acorn king felt whole once again, which set off alarm bells in his head. Shifting himself out of his bed, he looked around his room in rising shock.
His room, which had been commissioned for him several years before his birth while his father still reigned while Mobotropolis, the original Mobotropolis, still stood. The room that had been destroyed during Robotnik's (Eggman was what he was called these days, but to the king he would always be Julian,) coup d'etat and subsequent 'remodeling' of the Acorn Kingdom's capitol, yet… here he was, laying in a bed that had burned in betrayal, the semi-familiar sound of mortars ringing in the background-
Someone was shelling his city.
But... who? Julian? No, Max realized, shifting and sitting on the side of his bed, he has never needed to engage in siege-warfare since the Great war, not with his technological advantages as well as his damned flying fortress.
The Battle Bird Armada, then? No, I was told that they had crash-landed in a nearby mountain range, and their floating homeland with them. They don't have the capacity for even mounting an attack like this.
Then who could be-
The voice shocked the King out of his thoughts and he flinched out of bed in surprise, dully noting that the last time he had moved that quickly was during the assault on Robotropolis. Then his mind caught up to him, and he recognized the voice.
"Max, dear, are you alright?"
That voice... belongs to Alicia, Max realized, before focusing on said chipmunk. Alicia, who look decades younger than when he had last seen her, yawned as she shimmied out of the covers and walked over to him. "What's wrong? It's to early to hold court today, everyone's still asleep or on sentry duty."
What? "Sentry duty?" Max spoke, baffled. Surely, his wife jested? There was no court to hold, not since the founding of the republic. And what of the mortar rounds outside? Why was she so calm?
"Alicia, I don't-"
The Acorn King stopped, and stood there for a moment in silence as he abruptly began to take in his surroundings. Then ignoring his wife's worried gaze (and for that, he would apologize later- Alicia had been, and still was, one of the greatest things to ever happen to him, and Max had never been one to simply ignore for her any reason) before turning away and striding over to the sheathed sword he had noticed laying atop a rack on the wall.
He grabbed it, scabbard and all, and revealed the sheathed sword in all its golden glory.
Impossible. This- how can this be?
The Sword of Acorns, the relic that had been forged from the Source, the same substance that Maximillian himself had once bathed himself in, shone in the Acorn King's grasp as if newly made, bearing none of the scars of battle nor hint of magical corruption that had befallen it in it's last days.
...Or at least, what should have befallen it.
Then the Source of All spoke one last time to Maximillian Acorn, and he understood. Not how, nor why, but he understood nonetheless what the Source told him, understood what had happened to him.
He had been given a chance no other had ever been presented. One last chance, one final gamble, to save not just his kingdom- but the world from the follies- his follies- that had befallen Max's reign in his old life.
He would do his best not to disappoint.
Reverently sheathing his regained sword, and replacing its scabbard on the wall to be tied to his belt later, Maximillian took a fortifying breath before turning back to his wife.
By the Source, she is beautiful.
Oh, how it had all gone wrong. They had barely had a year together after reuniting before he was poisoned and rendered, for all intents and purposes, comatose, and while Max objectively knew he had not been truly able to control himself, the Acorn King still remembered how dismissive he had been of not only his wife, but his son and daughter.
Gods, his children.
Max had never seen his youngest again, after she had gone to halt Julian's flying fortress and never returned. Elias, from what Alicia had told him, seemed to have disappeared from where he had decided to live in Feral Forest after an attack from Ivo.
As far as Max knew, in his old life, all his children were dead or as good as dead.
That... was my fault, wasn't it?
And yet... here he was. A new life. A new body. The chance to do things differently, the chance to save his reign from disaster, the chance to discard his moniker 'the Cursed.'
I know not how or why this chance was given to me... but I shall not waste it. I shall not fail.
"Max? Are you well?"
Alicia again, and Maximillian pulled himself from his thoughts, and took several steps forward to meet his wife.
Taking a moment to try and form the words, he simply sighed, and wrapped her hugs around her in the first true embrace he had felt in so, so long.
And by the Source, it felt good. Max almost wanted to weep.
Alicia, surprised, concerned, but never one to shy away from the (admittedly) few hugs Max had given her since the war had begun earnestly reciprocated, and they stayed like that for a few moments, basking in each other's warmth before reluctantly separating. Suddenly blinking away tears, Max made to turn away and hide them only for Alicia to spin him back around, a glare on her face. "Maximillian Acorn, you are going to tell me what's been bothering you so wrongly or so help me-" Then the Acorn Queen then sighed, anger fleeing just as quickly as it had come, before returning her gaze to him.
"We... do not have much time left, anyways. I leave come the morn. Let me remove this one trouble before I leave."
He remembered this. He had been planning on sending her to Angel Island, in the then-likely event that the war would be lost and Mobotropolis razed to the ground by vengeful Overlanders- only, they had .
If he let her go, he would not see her, or his eldest child, for another fifteen years.
Max found that it wasn't a choice he was willing to make.
Finally, the Acorn regained the use of his vocal-cords, and spoke, his voice, albeit younger, still as tired as it was in his old life.
By the Source, he was tired.
"We… may have to postpone your flight to Angel Island... indefinitely, Alicia," he spoke at last to the interest and mild shock of his wife. "There is... much I need to tell you, dearest, and none of it good."
They (and by they, Maximillian meant Alicia, due to the fact that she disliked it when Max ran himself ragged, which he had been doing for several months now, not counting the life she knew not about) decided to wait until after they had eaten the day's first meal before they spoke of what Max had done and lived through. To Alicia's surprise, and happiness, the first thing Max did was cancel the order to have her flee to the Royal Compound on Angel Island, something which she had vehemently argued against, for what kind of Queen would she be if she fled her own home and people?
A smart one, Max had argued back then, very much ignoring the fact that he had refused to go with them and how much of a hypocrite he was. For many years after that, he had regretted forcing her to leave; he had sent her and Elias away solely because he had thought Mobotropolis' fall had been imminent, but when he had received word that his wife, the love of his life, and his eldest child and heir had died mid-flight due to running into one of the rare Overlander aerial patrols…
Well, he had lost almost all sense of self-preservation. The next time he sent out soldiers to harry the siege lines of the Overlanders, Max had ridden out with them, throwing himself into the enemy lines with a vengeance, before taking his personal guard, fighting his way out of Mobotropolis and riding towards Feral Forrest, before returning two weeks later with an army of mounted-armor that had been regrouping in the deep woods, far from the Overlander patrols' prying eyes, smashing the Overland's host outside the walls of Mobotropolis.
Those had been days when Max had just been tempted to capitulate. His people were suffering, his Kingdom splintered, half his family dead and the only other member out of his reach, safe in Knothole, and his capitol under siege. Yet, he prevailed in that battle, and ultimately, they won the war.
And then they lost the peace that came after.
Thanks to Julian.
Max grit his teeth at the thought of the obese Overlander.
He would have to deal with him at some point, and that point would be at the end of his sword, Source willing.
Shaking away the increasingly darkening thoughts that plagued his mind, Max strode through the lower halls of Castle Acorn, where the Royal Nursery was, having left Alicia upstairs to find his children. When was the last time I'd seen Elias as a child, or Sally? Both grew up far too quickly, the Acorn King lamented. He had not helped in stopping that growth either, he knew, to his shame. Sally, forced to fight a guerilla campaign in her own kingdom, and Elias thrust onto a thrown he had no time to acquaint himself with.
Source willing, that would all change.
Finding himself at the nursery, Max nodded to the two Royal Guards flanking the door. "Thank you for your diligence in you duty. I shall be taking Elias and Sally with me to meet their mother, so you are dismissed from this post until your next rotation. Get some sleep," he told them, before entering the his slight surprise, Rosie the Woodchuck was already there, cradling his daughter in her arms and bouncing Elias on her knee.
"Good morning, King Max. You're up rather early, aren't you?" Rosie frowned slightly. "I thought you would be with Queen Alicia still."
Max let out a chuckle at her face, sitting down besides his old caretaker and gently taking Elias into his arms. "I suppose I am a tad bit early, yes." An understatement; despite the continued shelling of the city, the sun had yet to peak the horizon. "Alicia and I wish to have our children close while we speak on some important matters."
Rosie hummed, singing a melancholic tune that spoke of brighter days, passing Sally over to the King in the meantime, who gurgled happily at the King, and Max smiled. Oh, how I've missed this. I will do right by you two this time, I swear.
Clearing his throat, he stood up, Sally in his arms and Elias on his shoulders, having clambered up their when Sally had been passed to him. "I'll not keep you any longer, Rosie. You should get some sleep, tomorrow will be as long as yesterday."
"Mm. I take it that Alicia is no longer leaving? Good," she continued before Max could speak on the subject, "It's do no good to send half your motivation for living away from you, would it?"
Max laughed, an honest-to-Chaos laugh, something he had not done since the early days of Alicia's recovery from her cryo-stasis, and the brief flair of happiness he felt was not at all loathed by him. "Only you would scold a thirty-two year old monarch, Rosie," he grinned, rising from his spot and making for the door. Rosie merely chuckled and stood up herself, joining the King at the now open door and bidding him good day, before departing to her own room, while Max strode away to consult his wife.
What he had said earlier still rung true.
They had much to speak of, none of it good.