After hours of watching Runa Arakawa bumble around trying to repeat her apparent transmutation of insects into bunnies, Emi and Beatrice had finally left her house. She was never able to succeed at replicating that first step, let alone the step where she ended up incinerating the bunnies instead of merging their consciousnesses. It was horrific as it was entertaining.
Since they were so close to the river, they went to the harbor and took a late-night stroll down a nearby boardwalk. It was nearly empty; the floating docks had already closed up and the workers had gone home. All Beatrice could see were the lights on the boats shipping cargo up and down the river, and the sparks flying out of the still-operating smelt mill.
There were also two Dannark guards patrolling the area. They passed by the two girls, and one turned his pointed helmet in their direction. The helmet obscured his face except for his mouth, but he appeared to be giving them a look before he passed too far away to see them anymore. Apparently young women being out this late, this far out into the city, was definitely something to look down upon, even if not a crime to be punished for.
Beatrice noticed Emi grimacing at the soldiers, but grabbed her hand to distract her from her frustrations. Emi looked at her and smiled softly.
“Our day today ended up being a bit unfun, Emi,” said Beatrice. “I’m sorry we couldn’t go to Gonda Tower like you wanted.”.
“What? No, it was great!” Emi exclaimed. “Wherever you dug up that Runa girl, she’s the definition of fun. And Mrs. Arakawa’s cooking is delicious.”
“Oh, isn’t it?”
“Those pastries were to die for. You should have told me to eat them before Runa got her paws all over the plate!”
“Well, I’m glad I didn’t ruin the date, anyway,” she said.
“Tris… is that what this is?” Emi asked. “A date?”
“Uh, well, I don’t know. Is it?”
“I was hoping you’d tell me. Because I’m not sure.” Emi smiled broadly but for some reason it made Beatrice’s heart sink
She thought for sure that… well, with all the time they had spent together, all the romantic gestures, that surely this was a date. But… Well, Beatrice had called it a ‘date’ in her head, but she hadn’t confirmed it or anything. Neither of them had actually said the word. “Nevermind. It was just a joke,” she mumbled.
They sat at the boardwalk pier for a while and held hands while watching the ships float by. Behind them, the smelt mill blew sparks into the night sky, orange dots glowing behind them. It was very calm, but it had begun to snow as well. Emi was shivering, as usual. Beatrice didn’t understand how a girl born and raised in Balarand could have such a low tolerance for the cold.
“You think it’s about time to go home?” Beatrice asked.
“Yeah. I’m freezing out here.”
They walked back from the harbor, mostly silent as the two tried to keep warm for the forty minutes or so before they reached Beatrice’s apartment. This time, Beatrice had brought a scarf after all, just so she could hand it to Emi and make her smile. And smile she did. She took the scarf, pressed it up against her cheek, and then wrapped it around her neck. Seeing her happy made Beatrice tear up a little bit, she was so pleased. Was that normal?
Emi looked at her. She wiped off her face quickly so she wouldn’t notice anything. “So, Tris, I have an important question.”
“Why are you so cute?” Emi asked.
“Oh, stop it.”
“No, I seriously need an answer,” Emi said. “I demand one.”
“You demand one? Why don’t you ask your many servants to explain it, then?” Beatrice giggled, but she hoped that her joke didn’t go too far.
But Emi seemed to take it in stride. “My many servants couldn’t come up with a consensus. There was simply too much data.”
“Oh yeah? What was one data point?”
“There was a lot of debate over your eyes,” Emi said. “Some of them wanted to describe them as ‘sparkling like the Balarand River’ and some wanted to call them ‘glowing beacons lighting the way home.’ The research was split into two camps and the vote was very tough.”
“Wow, what trite phrases to describe my eyes,” Beatrice said. “Copying some romance book, I see. Your many servants should learn how to write with more poetry in their words.”
“Okay then, how would you describe them?” Emi asked.
“I can’t really describe my own eyes… But yours? That I can do.”
“Go ahead.” Emi looked into Beatrice’s eyes and fluttered her eyelashes.
“I would say, ‘Brown. Bountiful like soil. Bold like an autumn tree. Beautiful like roasted salmon on a cold night.’ How about that?”
“Am I a farmer now?”
“If your hair wasn’t so perfectly straight, you could be mistaken for one,” Beatrice said.
“Hm, I’d kill to have curls like yours. They’re so…” Emi took her free hand and began tousling it through Beatrice’s head of hair. “What do you do to get it like this?”
“Uh, it just comes this way. I actually thought it was kind of… bad?”
“That’s where you would be sorely mistaken,” Emi said. “Your hair and your freckles are like a two-part unit. They work together to create this beautiful woman nobody can look away from. And despite my high abilities, I too am afflicted by the curse. You are simply too powerful.”
“I never knew I was powerful. I have trouble carrying the groceries sometimes.”
“Power comes in many forms,” said the sagely Emi.
Finally, they came to the library, the midway point where they needed to separate as their homes were in the opposite directions. “I guess I’ll see you some other time,” Emi said.
“Yeah. Whenever that will be.” Beatrice smiled. She turned around and began walking away. Beatrice had briefly considered saying something overly sappy or romantic to her, but this day was good enough as it was. Having to handle Runa was probably enough for the both of them, so–
Beatrice stopped. “What is it?” she asked.
“I love you.”
Beatrice and Emi stood silently, looking at one another for an indeterminable amount of time. Beatrice needed to take a moment to process this and take it in her mind before she could respond.
Emi’s smile quickly disappeared as she scrunched the sides of her mouth together, and tears welled up in her eyes. She began to wrap her arms around herself. “I’m s–”
But then Beatrice smiled. “I love you, too, Emi,” Beatrice said.
There was a crystal explosion inside of Beatrice’s soul.
She had finally said it.
She said that she loved Emi.
“Good night,” Beatrice added.
Emi wiped her face off and grinned again, shedding a few of the tears that had built up. Beatrice took out a handkerchief and wiped her face. “Good night, Tris. Have a good rest before practice tomorrow.”
“I will, for sure.”
But Beatrice didn’t get any sleep that night. She was too busy screaming in excitement.