Chapter 69: Departures

Chapter 69: Departures

“Your priest robes…  They look so… so adorable….”

Emi’s reaction was, beat for beat, the exact same as her Mom’s a week prior, and her Dad’s the following morning. It was amazing how people turned into exact copies when it came to complimenting fashion.

“It’s not even the official robes,” Beatrice said. “Just a casual uniform.”

“Fair enough, but… Oh, you look great no matter what,” Emi said.

“You’re just trying to get in my skirt, aren’t you?” Beatrice smirked.

“Well, Is it working?”

“No way.”

Emi shrugged. “Worth a shot.”

There was a small group gathered here to see Beatrice off. Her parents, naturally, and Emi, of course. But also Bodhi himself had arrived, which surprised her but warmed her heart as well. For some reason, Emi’s housekeeper Pip was also here, but Beatrice was pretty sure she had never actually had a one-on-one conversation with her before, so… Well, it was good to see her anyway.

The party was almost complete, but not quite yet, until… Huh?!

Tia Knoll and Runa Arakawa strolled to the gathering site, hand-in-hand.

When Beatrice saw this, she gasped. How did those two even meet?  Certainly it wasn’t during the Battle of Balarand, was it? …Was it? In the stress of the moment, did they really look at each other and suddenly…

Wow.

Beatrice was about to join her group of new priests who would take the next several weeks to hike towards their convent. She had complained about the carriage ride taking too long, but she was now regretting ever thinking such things. Hiking for WEEKS? It was going to be ruthless, she knew already.

“You know,” she said to Emi. “In the end, it turns out my convent is right near Mammoth Pass. I feel like that’s the Gods playing a prank.”

“Probably,” Emi said. “You’re going to be in for some tough winters, though. Do you have all your winter clothes?”

“Nope. Just what’s in my bag over there.” She pointed towards a large backpack with some food, a sleeping bag, and a few other supplies attached. It was really heavy and carrying that on her back for weeks was going to prove very tough, but she tried not to think about that right now. “I’m going to try to buy new clothes when I get there, but our allowances are very low, so it might be tough.”

“Well, the Gods will provide,” Emi said. 

Beatrice wasn’t sure whether that was sarcasm or not.

“So, how’s, uh, Lady Khara?” Beatrice asked. “Is she, uh, treating you well?”

“Yeah,” Emi said. “She’s making me… uh, show her around town and stuff. She’s, uh, nice. You know.” Both of them burst into laughter just as much as they blushed. 

Emi stepped back and let Beatrice’s parents give one last hug. “We love you so much,” they said together. 

“And I love you, too,” she said. “I’ll try to see you during the Winter Ceremonies, okay?”

“You have to promise you’ll come,” Mom said. “We’ll come back up too, you know.”

“I can’t promise! That’s half a year away. I don’t know what my schedule will be like then.”

“Write often,” Dad said. “And tell me all about the convent. I have heard yours was one of the very first ever built. It must be so beautiful.”

“Dad…”

“Just asking.”

“Well, you better write often about Kent too, then,” she said. “I really hope you enjoy it down there.”

“I just hope I figure out how to be a teacher,” he replied. “I’m already getting worried about it.”

She waved goodbye to Runa and Tia. “You guys better have a good time without me,” she said.

“Tia here has promised financing my research,” Runa said. “I could not imagine a better time than that. My quest for control of the fabric of reality has grown ever closer to completion.”

“Oh, Runa, you’re never going to give that up, are you?”

“Of course not. And I cannot forgive you for your transgressions against me. Leaving me in my time of greatest need, abandoning me to work with the Church… It breaks my heart, Ms. Ragnell.” Tia laughed, but Beatrice wasn’t sure whether he realized how serious Runa really was about all of this. 

Beatrice said her goodbyes to Bodhi and Pip. “Thank you so much for coming, Bodhi. You’re a good friend, and I hope you can be a good friend to a lot of people someday.”

He snickered. “You say that like I don’t already have tons of friends.”

“Oh yeah.”

“Take care, Bea.” He tipped his hat down and gave a single not.

“Don’t call me Bea.”

Pip sobbed and blew her nose through a handkerchief. “Oh, Beatrice…”

“Oh, and, um, goodbye to you too…”

“Beatrice…!”

Uhh… Okay then…

“Well, it’s about time for me to meet up with my group,” Beatrice said. “I’m going to miss all of you so much. Thank you for coming here.”

One last thing…

She turned to Emi–

Who was holding a small metallic box in her hands. It looked a lot like the one that showed off the horse, the one Beatrice had broken so long ago.

“One last thing,” Emi said. “I made you a going-away present. For friendship.” She held the machine with both hands, and then used her magic to turn the crank. Still a show-off.

The machine showed Beatrice, her visage replicated on a board of hundreds of small squares, turned into a tiny animated woman. Her hair and all its curls flowed in the wind, and she was smiling, looking directly at the viewer.

The whole thing lasted for only two, maybe three seconds, before it looped back and started over. But she must have stared for a full minute before she looked away.

“It’s a moving portrait of you,” Emi told her. “I made it really small so that you can take it with you anywhere. But don’t try to reprogram it, or the whole thing will break. Trust me.”

“Oh, Emi…” Beatrice held a hand to her own cheek. “You know I can’t have possessions.”

“You can’t?”

“But… I love it.”

“You do?”

“I’ll let my parents have it.”

“But, if they take it, then you won’t have it. And then…”

Beatrice stepped forward and took both of Emi’s hands. “I’m never going to forget about you,” Beatrice said. “Never for my entire life. Just because we’re apart doesn’t mean you won’t have been the best thing to ever happen to me, okay? The Gods didn’t want us to be apart. They wanted us to be together, and that’s what happened.”

“I love you so much,” Emi said, tears already rolling down her cheeks. Her eyes glowed–those same bright brown eyes that sucked her into a portal of magic and romance that changed the course of her entire life. “I want to see you again, Beatrice… I know we promised not to say these things, but I can’t help it. I miss you already and you’re not even gone.”

“If the Gods Will it, we’ll meet again, okay? Whenever it may be.”

“Will you write letters?” Emi asked.

“I’m not sure if your wife will think that is appropriate.” Beatrice giggled, and then started crying as well. She let go of Emi’s hands and went back to pick up her backpack. Wow… this was so heavy. She really didn’t want to carry this on her back for ten hours a day.

“See you later,” Emi said.

Beatrice shook her head, smiling. “Farewell,” she said. Emi and Beatrice’s Dad hugged, and her Mom fiddled around with that mechanical contraption. Runa rambled about a new master plan, and Tia looked at Beatrice’s robes with a judging gaze. Bodhi’s looked off in another direction with his arms folded, clearly trying not to cry, and Pip had let her emotions flow, crying louder than anyone else around her. What a bunch of weirdos, Beatrice thought. Some amazing weirdos.

She let her mind paint a portrait of this scene, and keep it burned into her mind for the rest of her life. These were exactly the people Beatrice knew she had to protect. She was a powerful person who accomplished everything she set her mind to, and becoming a famous priest would be no harder than acing a test. But now, after everything, she finally had a reason behind her ambition. She would do everything she could to keep the smiles on these people’s faces bright and harmonious.

In her future, Beatrice would become a powerful and prominent priest. She would revolutionize the Church to actually help people, to actually bring the harmony it lacked so much in this time. Each person saved, each life given new breath, would be a new piece to bringing peace to this tumultuous continent. Everything Beatrice did would matter. It had to, or else all of this would be for nothing.

After one last moment of reflection, Beatrice waved to all her friends and family, and then walked away. 

She didn’t look back.

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