Emi was pretty weary of all this already, and it was only the second day in Mammoth Pass.
There was just so much wealth around her, no matter where she went. It was almost intoxicating, and not in a good way. She waddled through the snow alongside a large pack of rich individuals who all wore clothes that cost more than an month’s rent for apartment in Balarand. Emi knew that because she had checked listings for one-bedroom apartments across the city quite recently, not for any specific reason like that she was thinking about offering Beatrice a place for them to live together or anything. She was just curious, was all.
Of course, she was one to talk when complaining about rich people clothing, seeing as just this morning she had worn an ornate white dress dotted with pearls for the breakfast social. It was beautiful, but she felt its value deprecating by a coin every time she took a step.
Now, of course, she had on something much more, um, sensible. A custom design by her tailor Javert that looked cute, but had one fundamental flaw–its skirt went down only to her knees… She could feel her butt slowly morphing into an icicle just standing out here.
Right now, Emi, Beatrice, and the other people in their party were up on the cliffs of the Plebias Mountains. They watched the herds of Mammoths roam at the edges of the Frozen Desert, a vast wasteland taking up most of northern Tsubasa. Other than the Mammoths themselves and a few pridecow herds and hunter tribes, practically nothing could survive out there. In a way, that made the sight even prettier than it already was. Emi wasn’t sure why.
Her rich companions were using tiny handheld binoculars to watch the scene without straining their eyes, but Emi looked on from afar with her own two eyes. It was more fun to take it all in at once, she thought.
The Mammoths grazed the snowy ground, looking for shrubs and grasses, marching in their slow dance across the tundra. It was a sight that Emi knew well, from all her trips here with her parents, but, after all that had happened in her life these past few months, she felt like she was seeing them with a fresh mind. It was certainly interesting to see them while next to someone actually religious, someone whose entire life was predicated around keeping the same Harmony these Mammoths protected.
The way they moved around was so majestic and pretty, even as all they did was walk in a slow-moving herd, marching in a line so slowly it looked like Emi’s gear machine, but if it were being cranked too slowly. Beatrice must have been amazed to see the Mammoths, but Emi suddenly realized she was much more interested in seeing Beatrice as she looked at them.
Beatrice looked as uncomfortable as Emi felt, somehow just as weary of all this rich people activity as her, though not quite as shivering. Beatrice was probably getting the better end of the deal here. She was wearing her very nicest dress, the same Ancient Balarandian-style outfit she had worn to Emi’s house party all those months ago, but she had a coat over it and wore thick stockings to cover up her legs. It was still a bit thin, but unlike Emi, Beatrice could actually handle the cold because she was a grown lady.
Emi, on the other hand, was a child. A chilled child.
Gods, how do you even make a being like Beatrice Ragnell? With no conscious effort put into her appearance, she looked less like a pretty girl on a trip, and more like a frostbitten hallucination of a heavenly being who takes you away to the afterlife.
This girl was hers, Emi thought. Beatrice was hers, and she was Beatrice’s. She had snagged the ultimate prize– a woman who was not only beautiful, not only smart, not only so stubborn she would stop at nothing to achieve her goals, but someone who managed all of that without even thinking about it. Emi loved her so much.
Those stockings on her slender legs were stronger, more captivating than a fairy’s song. Gods, if it were just the two of them right now… Emi shivered and realized her fantasies were incredibly unrealistic sometimes.
Lord Lau crept up to Beatrice and tapped her on the shoulder, giving her a bit of a fright. Emi watched as the two of them exchanged friendly banter. She wasn’t sure wh the old man would think when she brought a woman who was very obviously not Lady Khara, but he hadn’t said a word, yet. Maybe he didn’t even realize it. Or maybe he was just on her side.
“This is your first time here, is it not?” Lord Lau asked Beatrice. He handed a pair of fancy binoculars to Beatrice. “The Mammoths are a glorious sight indeed.”
Beatrice took the binoculars. “Thank you.” She watched the Mammoths through them, and Emi watched her watching.
“These creatures can live for three hundred years, sometimes longer,” Lord Lau said. “Because humans are able to coexist with them peacefully, they have become increasingly plentiful across the continent. If you were to venture north into the Frozen Desert, you could find herds of them stretching on for a hundred miles as they migrate north and south along with the seasons. It is truly a thing of beauty.”
So was Beatrice, Emi thought. The beauty part, not the stretching on for hundreds of miles part.
Emi was currently shivering her butt off, wondering why in Phyra’s name she was fitted for a winter dress whose hem only stretched down to her knees, and she actually wore this dress to the mountains. In the middle of the snow. Javert finally got back at her for all those years of whining and fidgeting around… and she deserved everything she got.
What a price to pay to look as cute as she did!
Suddenly, Beatrice turned her binoculars and faced them towards Emi, as if she were observing her like a natural specimen.
One would suspect Emi would begin blushing and acting flustered by her girlfriend’s actions. One would be extremely correct.
“Tris, w-w-hat are you doing?” Emi said through chattering teeth.
Beatrice put down the binoculars and made a weird face. “Uh, nothing.”
“Give me those,” she said before yanking the binoculars away. “Maybe I should stare at you the same way, huh? How would you like that?”
“Please, like you didn’t all l–”
“I love you,” Beatrice said.
Emi blushed, and then put her free hand around her upper arm to show she cared.
She was so warm…
But then Beatrice shivered and pushed Emi away from her. “Why are you so cold?” she asked.
Besides that, this moment was almost perfect. The two of them standing next to each other, overlooking the quiet serenity of the most beautiful creatures in Tsubasa. Or, rather, the second-most beautiful creatures, ranked just behind this absolute monster of a woman. If the horde of other rich onlookers weren’t ogling the Mammoths all around them, this would be perfect. But Emi was okay with it being pretty close.