Chapter 70 – And That’s Their Story

And that’s their story–the story of two girls in love.

Was it love at first sight? I don’t know. 

From the look on your face, I guess you don’t either. Not that a child like you would understand. Yes, yes, you’re not a child, you’re grown enough to make your own decisions, sure. But maybe I’d believe that a bit more if you ever cracked open your history books.

Well, it didn’t matter if it was love at first sight. In short time, the two grew a bond with a strength forged in molten flames. It was a short time that they grew together, but they never grew apart. For the rest of their lives, no matter how distant they may have been, they kept a shard of each other nestled in their hearts. That’s the kind of love that they built.

Hm? Come again? Oh, what happened after they parted?

Well, life ended up well for both women. Emi Khara went on to become a diplomat and inventor whose machines are still used in households today. Beatirce Ragnell became one of the most important priests of her time and revolutionized the Church’s role in health care. Their destinies did not converge again, as far as I’m aware, but they both ended up happy. That’s the important thing, after all. 

As for Emi, well… I think you’ve figured her out by now. Yes, Grandma Em is the same girl from the story, what with her love of contraptions and that stupid Winter Ceremonies painting she’ll never throw away. I guess when she called me “Novi” that must have finally given it away. You certainly know what happened to her, I imagine, so I don’t have to explain.


No, you’ve never met her. She passed long before you were born.

In her younger years, Beatrice provided aid to civilians during the conflict between Dannark and Doros. Eventually she founded over two dozen hospitals, all of which run to this day. But she didn’t make it through the Great War. She was helping the evacuation effort in Fathie when a bomb struck her medic tent. 

But she will always be remembered as a hero. After your Uncle Reo united Tsubasa and ended the war, he placed a statue of Mother Ragnell in Fathie City, right in the center of the downtown square. Next time we go there, you ought to take a look.

Actually, wait. Don’t go letting Grandma Em know I told you about her. She doesn’t like to talk about it too much. After she heard about what happened in Fathie… she was very sad for a while. You have to be sensitive.

What? What did you say? Oh, does she love me? 

Dearie, that’s an easy question.

Of course she does. 

Your grandmothers love each other very much. We grew to appreciate each other’s company, and we raised a whole family together. It’s been fifty-seven years since we wed and we’re still happy. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is. She loves her family very much, and we love her.

You know what? Let’s go find her. She’s probably out at the balcony watching the sunrise. We can surprise her and show her that wooden centaur you found. I have a feeling it’s going to make her happy. 

What’s that? Whatever happened to that mad scientist girl?

That’s a story for another time. A very long one. By which I mean, go read your history books.


<== Previous

Hands Held in the Snow Afterword (+Q&A) by Thedude3445 ==>

Chapter 68: Harmonies

Atop the Gonda Tower, all five moons were in view, radiating in full bloom and showing off the entire city of Balarand.

Emi, for the first time in her life, realized that Balarand wasn’t exactly a city crossed by two rivers. More like… Balarand was one giant misshapen island in the middle of one big river. It was a revelation that put her entire life into perspective. She was an islander, living on an island city. 

It changed nothing, but still.

Emi and Novella stood at the edge of the roof and watched the stars sparkle in the night sky, watched the military patrols sweep the streets below. Peaceful, quiet, beautiful, but not exactly the kind of atmosphere that sets one at ease.

Behind them was a whole party of people. Emi’s Mother and Father squabbled about something or another. Touma had two Dannark noblewomen by his side and was about to be slapped by both. Reo stood alone watching the patrols with a pensive frown. Ms. Khami chatted with the recently-arrived Lord Lau, while his daughter was in the process of being seduced by none other than Pip.

A whole crew of Emi’s family and closest friends, and she ignored them all in favor of the woman next to her. 

To be fair, the woman next to her was Novella Khara, her soon-to-be-wife, and this woman was surprisingly adept at conversation. Even… a friend, perhaps.

Down below, large towers were being constructed on top of buildings all over the city, with large, rotating panels. They were called semaphore telegraphs, large devices that could be used to carry messages across long distances. The towers would rotate the panels to indicate a message, and then the next tower would replicate it until it carried all the way to the front lines of the Dannark-Doros War. While they were dwarfed by the size of Gonda Tower, even partway through construction it was clear they would change the shape of the cityscape dramatically. Never again could a rebellion break out when commanders across the river could exchange messages in an hour or less. Another new normal.

“A shame, isn’t it?” Novella asked.

Emi turned her head from the view below. “What is?”

“That we’re out here celebrating peace when these conquerors are installing towers to clamp down its iron fist.”

“Oh… Um, I’m not really into talking politics with a lover,” Emi said. “It’s kind of a rule of mine.”

“We aren’t lovers,” Novella said. “We’re merely fiancees.”


“Any further would be presumptuous to the point that I’d have to think you are attracted to me.”

“Well, you’re certainly attracted to me, and we ARE getting married in a couple weeks. So I guess that makes us pretty close to lovers.”

“But enough of lovers that you cannot talk about politics?”

“Sheesh, fine,” Emi whined. “I completely agree with you. I think it’s terrible what Dannark is doing to our city. But the rebels that attacked us did a bad thing too. Violence trades for more violence. And if the Dannark-Doros War gets any worse…”

“We’ll be in Zahn by then.”

“But my heart will still be here. I’m an Elincian through and through. A Balarand islander.”


“Nevermind. What I mean is…” Emi tried to figure out the right words to say what she wanted. “The rebellion, the occupation, the war, all of it is an injustice against the harmony of the Gods. My gir–my friend taught me a lot about the way Tsubasa works like a finely tuned machine, and right now, the springs are broken, so the whole thing’s falling apart.”

“An apt metaphor for a gear-head such as yourself.”

“No offense to you, but I don’t want to marry you for love or romance or any of that,” Emi said. “I want your noble status so I can better help the world. So we can better help the continent.”

“I see…”

“Tsubasa is in great trouble now, but we can fix it. There’s something I realized during the rebellion: we are important people. We have so many resources at our disposal, and we have the opportunity to use them to better the world. We can end the injustices and restore harmony to the continent. For years, people like you and me have sat on their hands doing nothing but keeping the status quo. But we can be the ones to finally change things forever.”

“Together, you say. You assume I wish to do anything of the sort.”

“You’ve already been doing your part. You were the education governess and helped an entire nation’s children learn to read and write.That’s amazing, Novella. Think of what we could do!”

Novella seemed to ponder this for a few moments. Then, she smiled softly. “It’s a good dream.”

“A darn great one, you mean.”

“I like it. Let’s bring harmony to Tsubasa.”

Emi L’Hime was soon to become Emi Khara. The Moon Festivals had drawn near, and wedding preparations were well underway. It was an exhausting process, enough so that this trip to Gonda Tower was one of the most refreshing reprieves she’d had in weeks.

“This woman of yours, this Beatrice,” Novella began. “She must mean a lot to you.”

“Yeah… A lot.”

“You still love her.”

“Of course,” Emi said. “She’s the woman who changed my life. She’s the reason I decided we’ll change the continent together. And she’s absolutely gorgeous.”

“I see,” Novella said. “The kind of love that doesn’t fade like a fire. More like… frost on the top of a mighty mountain.”

Emi nodded. “I’ll love Beatrice the rest of my life,” she said. “And probably more than ever knowing she’s out there doing the Gods’ work.”

“It almost sounds like you want to compete with her to better the continent more.”

Emi giggled. “Don’t worry, I warned her ahead of time. We’ll both be keeping score.”



“I fully expect to fall in love with you,” Novella said. “I must warn you ahead of time. I can’t imagine a life with you where I don’t.”

Emi felt her cheeks burn and averted her gaze. She back at the half-built semaphores and tried to think of any possible response she could give. What did you say to a statement like that?

“Hey,” Emi said. “May I call you Novi for short?”

“Uh, why?”

“It’s cute.”

“I’ll allow it, if I can call you Em.”

“That’s fine.”

“Novi and Em,” Emi said. “Sounds like a power couple in the making.”

“If that’s what you wish, Em.”

“I would say that I do, Novi.”

They smiled at each other.

Then– a tap at Emi’s shoulder. Pip, shoulder around Lord Lau’s very excited daughter, shouted at them, “C’mon you two!” It’s time to dance!”


“After you, my dear Em.”

Emi and Novella stepped away from the edge of the roof and joined the others in an impromptu dance session. Touma had pulled Reo into the spotlight and forced him into a musical pair, which sparked the rest of the family to move along with them. Even Emi’s parents began to dance together. Even Ms. Khami and Lord Lau of all people began to dance together. 

As if the entire tower had trapped in a magic spell, Emi’s family and friends froze before her in this moment of time. For however long she gazed at them, they stayed in place in this moment, like a grand painting with all its vivid strokes of color. All her loved ones gathered here to celebrate the night even in trying times.

In the midst of this scene, Emi could see the future before her. She would raise a family and become a devoted wife and make an impact on the world that only someone already born into privilege and wealth really could. She would give up her entire life to make sure that her descendants had a world to be proud of. She would serve Tsubasa like only a L’Hime could.

These past few weeks had been exhausting, but Emi felt stronger than ever. Finally, somehow, she had become like Beatrice, and it took her until this exact moment to realize it. 

She took Novella’s waist and worked her dancing magic.

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Chapter 66: Arrivals

Today marked the arrival of Emi’s future wife.

To mark the occasion, she wore a light blue springtime dress and tied her hair back into a ponytail, something she never did except on the most very special of occasions. She placed her bowtie on the top of her head, over her left ear.

Emi sat outside in her front yard, basking in the warm sunny weather and reading a book. It was the ninth entry in The Elf Cycle, just released, titled The Rise of Soonworld. And it was the final book in the series, she was starting to realize. Just twenty pages from the end, and the Golem and Ghost had finally confessed their love to one another. But it was too late–the Ghost’s spiritual energy was fading. Her mana had run out, and her energies were falling back into nature. The Golem had offered to absorb her, for them to become one, a single being living together forever. But the Ghost refused him; it was her time to leave and return to the astral dimension.

This book…

…really sucked.

It was clearly rushed out in less than half a year just to cash in on the popularity of the eighth one… And Emi never felt more disappointed in her life. 

Well, with the final book in The Elf Cycle a huge letdown, it was finally time to discard those last little bits of childhood that still lingered on Emi’s person and fully embrace the woman she was meant to be. Just kidding. Emi would never grow up, and she had come to accept that with the joy that only the silliest of weirdos could embrace in themselves.

Without even bothering to stand up, she closed the book, let it levitate around her, and then sent it through the window to her barren rebuilt bedroom. That was the only fitting way she could send off such a wreck of a novel.

Ms. Khami, followed closely behind by Pip, came out through the front door and looked down at Emi. The old woman put her hands on her hips and shook her head. “Still spending all your time reading cheap fiction, I see.”

“I’m a little devil,” said Emi.

“My little devil.” Ms. Khami looked better than ever. Back during the rebellion, she saw a side of her that she had never been privy to before– vulnerability, hopelessness, genuine anger. But all of that was gone, just like the third floor balcony that had been completely repaired. “They still aren’t here, are they? What could be the hold-up?”

“Customs must be difficult these days,” Emi said. “You’re the one that taught me all about trade and tariffs, so you should know.”

“Not me. Just the books I assigned.”

“This conversation is real weird,” chimed Pip. “It’s like you’re friends or something.”

Ms. Khami briefly smiled, then faked a stern look. “I’ll leave you be, then. Come, Pip. We have rooms to clean.” They went back inside.

Her heart started to fill with a sort of mix of dread and anticipation. She’d made peace with all of what was going to happen in her life, because that was the L’Hime Family way. She was going to take what might happen and turn it into something excellent. She would make something that her parents, that Reo and Touma, that Ms. Khami, could all be proud of. Something Beatrice herself could be proud of. She would certainly achieve all of that. But that assurance didn’t stop her from being incredibly nervous anyway.

 Finally, a single carriage pulled up to the house gate, and out stepped a portly man with a large waistcoat carrying large, clearly heavy bags. “Calling for the arrival of Lady Novella Khara,” the man shouted. “She is here.”

She was here.

Emi gulped, and then approached the carriage. She steeled herself, adopting straight posture and as serious a face as someone like her could make.

The door opened, and out stepped a slender, tall woman with rings on six of her fingers. She wore gallant black suit with a narrow white tie. Her hair was stringy, auburn, and her face was narrow, pink. Very handsome, if I do say so myself. One thing immediately struck Emi, though– Lady Khara was much younger than she ever thought.

In fact, she seemed nearly the same age as her.

“So this is Emi L’Hime, isn’t it?” the woman asked, her face entirely neutral. She used to always suppress her emotions in public as some sort of power move.

“It is she,” Emi replied. “Welcome, Lady Khara.”

Lady Khara stepped down from the carriage and extended her hand. “Call me Novella,” she said. “I’m going to marry you, after all. I don’t want you to sound like a servant or anything.” The woman extended her hand forward. “Nice to meet you.”

Emi took her hand and shook it with a firm grip. “Likewise.”

Novella smirked.

Emi did as well.

She had always imagined that Lady Khara was some middle-aged woman who wore long gowns that went down to her feet and had a serious expression on her face at all times. She wasn’t sure why the gowns part. But… this was certainly a surprise. Emi didn’t mind that she was a young woman herself, not that she had on a very well-fitting suit.

“So, is this your first time in Balarand?” she asked, keeping her grip steady.

“Actually, yes,” Novella said. “I wanted to arrive for the Moon Festivals precisely because that they your city’s most famous celebrations. I heard they are wonderful.”

“Well, the moons certainly are nice this time of year. But the Moon Festivals aren’t for a few more weeks. You know, when our wedding is set.”

“That’s okay. I’d like to get a feel for the city, anyway,” she said. “Perhaps you can show me around, Emi.”

“Perhaps, Novella.”

Emi waited for Novella to relent, to let go of her hand and end the shaking. She wasn’t going to let Novella get the upper hand here (literally), so she was going to keep shaking until her fiancee gave out. Novella seemed to be thinking the same thing.

“I must say, your hairstyle is exquisite, Novella said. “I expected much, but you exceeded all expectations.”

“Thanks. I changed it just for you.”

“I am incredibly flattered.”

“Don’t be. It’s only proper, after all,” Emi said.

The portly man folded his arms. “Ladies? Should we not be going inside, now?”

“After you, Emi.” Novella said.

“No, Novella, after you.”

Today marked the start of a new friendship.

<== PreviousNext ==>

Chapter 22: Mother and Father and Daughter


It had barely been a month since Emi’s parents had come back to Balarand and they were leaving again.

The housekeepers were pulling double duty now, setting up for the big party that was just two days away, while simultaneously packing up bags in her parents’ bedroom and readying them to depart on another extended trip. They filled the bags with outfits and presents and alcohol, the exact same items they had unpacked just weeks earlier. Essentially, their entire bedroom was being disassembled, from the wardrobes and the cabinets to the covers on the pillows, making the room look more like an unused guest room. For how often they were gone, it sort of was one.

And of all places… they were going to Zahn again.

“And you can’t take me with you?” Emi asked. “You’re going to leave me behind again?”

Not that she wanted to go, especially not to the country where Lady Khara could show up at a moment’s notice. She was more offended that they hadn’t even had the nerve to warn her before they decided to go. 

Her parents, thin and spry, youthful yet reserved, looked at her not like a daughter, but like a target for negotiations.

“We need someone to take care of the household, and you’re responsible enough to do it,” Father said. “You have earned your place in our family.”

Then why were they trying to marry her out of it…

“Though, you would certainly earn your place more solidly if you would ever clean up your room,” Mother added. “What are you building in there, a weapon?”

“I’m learning about mechanics,” Emi said.

“I’ll have Ms. Khami strike that off the curriculum,” Father said. 

“It’s self study.” Neither of her parents faced her at this point, instead focusing their attentions on directing the servants who were packing either too many liquor bottles, or not enough. Neither deemed it necessary to respond to her, so she continued, asking, “And the party? You won’t even be here?”

This got Father’s attention, at least. He ran his hand through his slicked-back hair, as if pondering the appropriate response. “We tried to stay as long as we could,” he told her. “We wouldn’t be leaving before the Winter Ceremonies if it wasn’t important. You know how our work goes.”

“Do you at least know what it is, this time?”

“You know we can’t tell you that,” he said.

“And will you even be back in time to go to Mammoth Pass? Or is this another one of those months-long ordeals?” 

“You know we don’t know that yet,” he said in the exact same tone.

“Yeah, alright. At least I’ll have Reo and Touma, I guess.”

Mother and Father looked at one another. 


“Reo’s been called to the front lines for an engineering project. He couldn’t tell us more,” Father said. “He’ll be fine, I’m sure,” he added. “Nothing serious.”

Oh great, her brother was in grave danger, and she was expected to sit here like the calm and collected stoic she was apparently meant to be. Not fair at all.

“So I’ll have Touma, then. Great.” Touma and parties… Those two things mixed about as well as a greyback bear and a barrel of fish.

“We’ll make sure to get another letter from Lady Khara to deliver to you,” Mother told her. Another very important thing to add to make Emi feel better about herself. “That said, do you have your own letter to give to her?”

“Yes, I gave it to Ms. Khami,” Emi said.

She did write a letter responding to the flowery nothingness Lady Khara had first written her. It was a simple thank you note with as little emotion or opinion put into it as possible, and she explicitly made no mention of the impending wedding, as if to subtly discourage Lady Khara from going through with this foolish plan. This would eventually backfire when it turned out that Lady Khara had been utterly enthralled by Emi’s cutting curtness, but she had little way of knowing that just yet.

“Miss Khami!” Mother called out with that shrill voice she adopted when she yelled.

She entered the bedroom carrying a broom in hand. “Yes?”

“Emi’s letter, please.”

“Ah, here you go,” Ms. Khami said. “You are fortunate I did not mail the letter as I intended to later this afternoon.”

Mother took out her reading glasses and then unsealed the letter. Wait, why did she do that? That letter was not for prying– oh, whatever. She read the letter intently, making a “tch” every few seconds as she went through it. Finally, she looked up, put the letter back in its envelope, and shook her head. “I had thought your descriptive abilities were better than this,” she said. “This is not up to par.”

That was the point, but Emi was glad, in a perverse way, that Mother only saw it as weakness and not rebellion. It meant she wouldn’t have to actually explain herself. “I apologize, Mother. I will practice later.”

“If only we had the time to wait… Oh well. Lady Khara will soon get to know the real you.” She turned to Ms. Khami. “Please, teach our daughter better writing skills. No more of her mechanics, or whatever she’s studying.”

“Yes, of course,” Ms. Khami said, lowering her head slightly. “Emi, go to your room and I will hand you a new assignment soon.”

Oh, Gods, whatever.

She left the bedroom. The last thing she heard was her Father remark, “At least she seems like she’s in a better mood lately. I wonder what’s changed…”

Absolutely nothing, Father. Absolutely nothing.

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Chapter 16: Letter from a Lady

Emi washed herself off and stepped into the steaming hot bath. Her body flared up and she let the water soak all the worries of another stressful day away. All she would ever need to be content in her life was a nice rice bowl and a soothing bath. Everything else on top of that was a bonus.

That’s what used to be the case.

Recently, it had become a bit different. One worry, one outside element, had decided to join Emi here this evening, like several before it, and prevent her from fully enjoying herself: no matter what she tried, she couldn’t stop thinking about Beatrice.

Was she in love?

And here was the age-old question that we all pose to ourselves. Is what we’re feeling right now, the way we think of that certain someone, really special enough to warrant using such an important term? Words are words, but when you’re wondering if you’re in love, words are like a barrel of blast powder waiting to be lit.

Was it love? And, was it love from first sight? I don’t know.

And as for Emi, she didn’t know either. Every time she saw Beatrice’s face, every time her arm brushed up against hers, she felt her core temperature rising, her cheeks blushing, her breaths staggering. A lump would form in her throat, as if she were about to spill tears.

She couldn’t even pretend what she felt was close friendship, or treasured kinship. They’d known each other, what, a month? But after their last meeting… Gods, that night.

It was undeniably, incontrovertibly, absolutely a romantic feeling that Emi felt. It was impossible to act like she didn’t dream about the idea of kissing her every time she saw her, every time she THOUGHT of her. Spending a whole lot of time fretting and skirting around the idea just seemed like a waste.

But that didn’t mean that she was in love. Surely love wasn’t her heart beating fast every time she saw someone. She could say the same thing if she saw a wolf or a boar. There had to be some specific identifiable trigger where she just… knew it.

Since she didn’t know what the trigger was, clearly she still wasn’t there yet.

It wasn’t love. Not yet.

Emi sank deeper into the bathtub and gurgled bubbles up to the surface. What a situation she was in right now…

If it wasn’t love, then it was a conundrum.

She kind of liked that. “She was in a conundrum with Beatrice Ragnell,” Emi said to herself.

Emi let the bath soak over her and she tried to enjoy herself.


“You look pleased with yourself,” Mother told Emi as they ate chilled clams at the supper table.

“Y-yeah,” she replied.

It was just Emi and her parents tonight, and her plates were set out for her right across from them, on the lonely side of a very long dining table. Something about this made Emi gulp. She felt an interrogation coming on.

“Ms. Khami tells us you haven’t been doing as well in your studies lately,” Father said.

“And you have been sneaking out,” Mother added.

Tonight was a scold-a-thon after all.

“I…” She couldn’t think of any good excuses for her actions without divulging her private romantic, uh, conundrum.

“We know she’s been too hard on you, but she just wants you to be the best version of yourself you can possibly be,” said Father. “We do too.”

“But what if I’m already the best version of myself?”

“Nobody’s the best version of themselves, Emi; that’s why we have to work hard.”

Emi vehemently disagreed but she decided to keep it in. She would be the mature one this time.

“You won’t have to worry about Miss Khami too much longer, though,” Mother said. “You’ll be traveling the world with your wife soon enough.”

Ugh. Not this again. How come she didn’t get a say on her own future? How come she was being married off like some painting being put up for auction? Nobody even asked her if she liked girls in the first place…

She did, but that was beside the point.

“By the way, Lady Khara is finally coming down to the city once her term as Bureau Governess is up. You’ll finally be able to meet her once and for all.”

“But what if I don’t want to meet her?”

Father scoffed, waving his hand about as if Emi had just told a funny joke.“Oh trust us, you will. She’s amazing; she personally brought public education to the entire city of Cannapak. Within ten years, every young boy and girl will know how to read and write and perform arithmetic, just like in Balarand.”

What did that matter to Emi? Anything at all? Anything?

“And there’s more,” Mother added. “As promised, Lady Khara has written a letter for you.” A servant appeared behind Emi, spooking her, and handed over an unopened letter, sealed with a bright red wax stamp and the insignia “KHARA” written on it.

Emi took the letter.

“Go ahead,” Mother said. “Read it. We want to know what it says.”

She did:

“To my Emi,

I find that these are troubling times that we live in, fraught with conflict and chaos. When I think of you, however, all that melts away. You are the solid object that keeps me grounded lest I float away into the etherflow. 

Your parents have been kind enough to tell tales of your beauty and sing great praises of your intellect. With a sharp nose and a sharp wit, you have been able to cut a great path for yourself in Balarand, and when we are united we shall cut an image for ourselves across the continent. Together we could bring peace between Doros and Dannark. Together we could shape mountains.

Your visage appears often before me in my slumber. A wife to call my own that will accompany me on this quest of my life, someone to bring me closer to the Gods, is all I have wished for in my years in this mortal world, and I am so grateful that you wish to be the one to fulfill this for me. I could not ask for more.”

What senseless drivel was this? Emi was almost taken aback by how inane Lady Khara’s letter was. She hadn’t expected much, but… this was even less than that.

She continued to read:

“I have talked a great deal about the timing of our engagement. It has been a long, arduous five years since we were first brought together by your family and mine, and in that time I am sure we have both grown immensely in our lives. As you have now come of age and I have entered the final stages of my role as Bureau Governess here in Zahn, I have begun to realize that we can put off no longer what we were made to do. I wish to finally meet you for the first time.

Our wedding shall be this spring, I have decided, and it shall commence on schedule with Balarand’s famed Moon Festivals. We will be married right under the stars and fireworks, a beautiful ceremony to befit a beautiful woman such as yourself. I tremble with excitement as I put this announcement to my pen. I apologize if my sloppy hand has tainted this letter, but I am too far gone in anticipation to hold my wrist still.

Please, write me back at your earliest convenience. I would love nothing more than to hear from my future wife before I hold you in my arms for the first time.



Oh my. I can’t say that was a particularly innovative letter. Honestly quite embarrassing. Emi was practically exhausted, the letter was such a chore to get through. She did think a wedding under the stars sounded romantic, but it was also–

Wait, spring? That was just months away. The winter would begin, and then in a flash… the wedding would be here. It had been years and years that her parents had been talking up this engagement and this Lady Khara woman, to the point that she had almost considered if it were an elaborate practical joke. But… it was finally happening. And there was little time left. Emi lowered the letter to her side and stared across the table at her parents. They both looked positively giddy. 

“Well, what did it say?” Father asked. “Did she perhaps mention something about… a wedding?” His eyebrows raised.

“Are you excited? Aren’t you proud such a wonderful woman? …Emi?”

There wasn’t a trigger to set it off. She didn’t even feel it coming until a drop hit the back of her hand. But for some reason, tears poured out of her eyes.

“Emi, what’s wrong?” Mother asked.

She pushed back her chair, ran off, and headed back into her bedroom. With a slammed door and a crash on the bed, she let her sobs run loose in the only place she felt free anymore.

She didn’t want to be married. She just wanted to spend her life here, just like now– a happy life for her friends and family and maybe Beatrice too. But that might be about to end, she realized. All in a matter of months, it was all going to be over.

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