Beatrice rode back to Balarand in a carriage of her own. There was a lot of room to study, and the quiet beauty of northern Dannark filled the car with a pleasant gray hue.
She couldn’t stop crying.
Her notebook was already stained with tears, almost completely unusable. She set aside her pencil and buried her face in her gloves.
What kind of monster was she, pushing her away like that? Why did she have such an outrageous outburst when she knew full well she was nowhere near innocent?
Beatrice was a hypocrite and a liar.
Of course she hadn’t decided not to join the priesthood. For all her years in school, it was all she had ever been interested in, learning the full capabilities of magic and spreading the harmony of the Church to the rest of Tsubasa. It had all been going swimmingly right up until that stupid rich girl shoved herself right into her life and crystalized her heart.
And now that same heart had shattered.
No– Beatrice had shattered.
This five-day trip back to Balarand was like her own personal prison, and she deserved every second she got.
Beatrice didn’t want to think about this anymore.
She didn’t want to think about anything.
And yet, it was the only thing that her mind gravitated towards. No amount of crying was going to stop that now.
Perhaps she would make it back to the city, go back to her home, look back at her family, and tell them that everything they feared about that rich girl came true. Tell them that everything they hoped for was a visage shrouded over the face of reality like a woman in a wedding veil. But, somehow, she knew she wouldn’t tell anyone else. She would carry the burden all by herself because that’s all she ever knew how to do.
All this time, Beatrice had felt so conflicted, so divided about the Will of the Gods, to the point that maybe she wasn’t even sure if they were… Gods, she was so sorry for everything. To think she would be so deluded. So deluded to think that she could go down the path to priesthood and then turn away at the last second… All for some girl. She lied to that girl and broke her heart.
And at the same time, her own heart had already crumbled into dust, swept away by the icy winds.
Beatrice picked up the metallic box sitting across from her. It was the present that Emi had made for her, that she had tinkered on for ages, that she had designed completely on her own from the parts up, that she had cried about when she didn’t think she’d finish on time, that she made specifically for her.
She cranked the lever and watched the animation play out, the figure walking and then jumping over a hill. It was beautiful. It was like magic, the way the image seemed to move all on its own.
And then Beatrice dropped it.
At that moment, and for the rest of her life, Beatrice would never be able to remember the truth. She would never be able to know for sure whether it was on accident, or whether it was on purpose–whether it slipped from her feeble hands, or whether it was tossed down with the strength of her arms.
The intention was irrelevant, because seconds later, it collided with the floor of the carriage and broke apart into countless tiny gears, springs, and other unrecognizable pieces.
Whatever the intention was, Emi’s machine was now Beatrice’s heart.
Later, the caravan stopped for a rest break and the hordes of rich people left their carriages to stretch their legs and relieve themselves. Beatrice saw Emi in the distance, just the back of her long, dark hair. It was only a one-second glimpse before Beatrice turned away to look elsewhere. She was sure nobody else had noticed. But deep inside of her, in the gap where her heart used to be, in the remains of the machine she had broken, welled up a brand-new sense that she had never felt before, but nonetheless instantly recognized: shame.
Beatrice hated Emi almost as much as she hated herself.