Dannark’s response to the rebellion was swift and harsh.
In the end, none of the rebels’ planned executions had occurred; the chaos caused by the homunculus helped Dannark retake the castle and any remaining prisoners had been freed soon after. It was unclear whether or not they ever planned to do anything beyond imprison and intimidate, anyway. The rebels were a mix of idealists and novices, so mass execution never truly seemed in the cards.
Dannark, on the other hand, had been carrying out sentencing from the moment the rebel leaders were captured. Beatrice’s teacher was one of them. Ulric Statusian was already scheduled to be shipped off to the Frozen Desert to mine for ore for twenty years. Nobody really came back from sentences like those.
Even after the main forces were defeated, pockets of resistance still sprang up throughout the city, ambushing patrols and trying to rally the people back towards their cause. It was futile but the honorable way to go out, Emi thought. It had been a week since the rebellion, and the fighting had died down, but it was not over completely, not yet.
The Jewel of Elince was placed back in the National Museum; the Balarand Circle halted publication; a full battalion of soldiers took up residence in the city barracks. King Kline had been spared an execution and returned to exile in Fathie, but everything else had gone completely in the direction of Dannark’s rule.
A new normal that would be here to stay.
Emi’s house had been damaged by the fires that spread across the city, but it was not completely destroyed, so it was already better off than the nearly completely destroyed Castle Balarand. Workers were currently rebuilding the parts of the house that did not survive, which included her bedroom and, of course, Ms. Khami’s entire brand-new third-floor balcony. Poor woman.
Her parents had zipped back to Zahn for yet another emergency mission. They offered to take Emi with them, but she insisted on staying. They hadn’t said anything about Beatrice, not a single mention. That was their way, and Emi realized she preferred it that way.
Fortunately, the southern portion of Balarand was almost completely unharmed. Beatrice’s parents were worried sick when their daughter (and Runa) never came back home, but when they returned he next day they had a reunion filled with tears from all sides.
It was almost like everything had returned to normal, since then.
Everything–including Emi and Beatrice.
Emi had stayed at Beatrice’s apartment for almost a week now, while her own home was under repair. It was about how you’d expect, after everything that happened.
While Beatrice cooked up some omelettes with rice for breakfast, Emi laid in the rock-hard bed in her bedroom. Their bedroom? It was nice to think about it that way, at least.
She looked out the window of the apartment and at the rising sun making its way towards the sky. The city, aside from the wreckage, was shining The trees bright green, their leaves swaying gently in the wind. Soon it would be day, and soon it would be spring as well. Something so haunting should never have been so pretty.
Beatrice finished up the eggs and entered her bedroom, sitting down at the foot of the bed. “My parents said it would be a good idea to get out of the city for a while,” she said. “Dannark is sending a regional governor with a direct line to the Empress, and… well, you know what that will mean.” Emi knew. Curfews, secret police, stricter laws, crackdowns on national flags and songs, the works.
Emi sat up. “I guess now’s a better time than ever to run away together, huh? I hear Mammoth Pass is lovely this time of year. We could go see the Mammoths again before they migrate north, then we could travel up the mountains and meet some striderskin hunters.”
“Oh stop,” Beatrice gently chided. She rested her hand on Emi’s cheek.
“I’m just kidding, Tris.”
Things had gone back to normal. But for Emi and Beatrice there were too many pained memories, too many shed tears, to ever truly revert to the status quo.
It was too complicated, and so they let things stay the way they were. A new normal.
“You know, Beatrice, I just realized something,” Emi said. “You still have that centaur carving sitting on your desk. That… really means a lot to me, you know. You actually kept it.”
“I couldn’t bear to break it,” Beatrice said. She sat down on the bed, facing away from Emi. “I tried my best, but… I loved you too much to hurt you that way.” Emi thought she heard a sniffle.
“It’s the same for me,” Emi said. “I kept your notebook safe on my d–” She cut herself off and gasped. “Gods, no. Your notebook.”
“My… Oh, Emi…”
The tears came immediately. “All my stuff, I can live without. I can always buy more clothes and gears and books. But your notebook… Beatrice, your notebook burned up. I’m…”
“Have the centaur carving back,” Beatrice said.
“No, that’s yours now!”
“It wasn’t a gift, it was just borrowing each other’s things. Remember? We said that.”
“We did say that…”
“So please, take it back,” Beatrice said. “I insist.”
Emi sat up and put her hands on Beatrice. She turned her head around and peered at her face, looked deep into those eyes whose irises swirled in a rainstorm. That same rainstorm that pulled her into the best months of her life.
“…I’ll take it,” she said, finally. She knew what it meant symbolically to take back something as important as that carving, but… she didn’t care about symbolism and all that Mammoth crap.
“So, uh, are your parents awake yet, Beatrice?” she asked.
Beatrice turned around and faced her body towards Emi, who was still sitting up next to her. “Not yet. They’re sleeping late this morning.”
“Let’s not wake them just yet. The rice won’t be done for a while,” Emi suggested.
“Yeah.” Beatrice leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek. She pushed her down onto the bed, then shut the door with her foot.
Emi, Beatrice, and Emi’s Mom and Dad sat around the kitchen table, silently eating breakfast together. The omelettes were certainly… okay, but nothing special or worth remarking about. That didn’t really matter to Emi, though. She just appreciated that Beatrice had cooked for her, had made something just for her. Every meal was a delight.
Beatrice’s Dad was reading a book in one hand and holding chopsticks in the other as he picked apart his eggs, and chuckled a bit. Emi looked closer at the book’s cover– it showed a single shrugging man with the title, What Do You Talk About When You Talk About Love? It didn’t look very appealing from this information alone, but Earl certainly appeared entertained.
Earl had looked a little sad recently, something Emi had never seen in the man before. Beatrice told her that Ulric Statusian had been a friend of his, and that he was still shaken up about everything. But with the library intact and a good book in his hands, it was good to see him in higher spirits, at least for the morning.
Beatrice stared at Emi, smiling. Uh, hey. What’s up? Emi took a big mouthful of rice. It was so sticky she couldn’t actually open her mouth to say anything.
She didn’t need to. All she needed to do was look into the gentle waves in Beatrice’s eyes and smile back.
“We have something to tell you two,” Beatrice’s Mom said, suddenly. “Your father and I…” She trailed off for a moment, and Emi averted her eyes. “Earl and I are taking a vacation.”
Beatrice jolted her head towards them in shock. She didn’t even have any words coming out of her mouth, just a couple grains of rice.
“Shizuka,” Beatrice’s Dad said. “Why now? I thought we were going to mention this after…”
“I thought they’d like to know.”
“Well… fine.” He set his book down, spine-up. “So, I got an opportunity to take a look at a large private book collection next week down in Kent, right next to the coast,” he said. “It’s not a certain opportunity, but… I’ve been told there’s a teaching position open at the local college if I want one.”
Beatrice gasped. “But you… but the library…”
“Well, we’re just going to check the place out and get out of Balarand for a few days, with everything going on right now. Since you have the exams coming up, Beatrice, we figured you’d, uh… want the house to yourself. So you could, uh, focus. On your studies.”
Beatrice glanced at Emi and then her face turned a vibrant shade of crimson. “Oh, uh, thank you. Thank you very much, Dad. And Mom. And… I really do hope you take the job. You should have been a teacher your whole life. I’ve always thought so.”
“You’ve… really?” Her Dad raised an eyebrow. “You never mentioned anything like that before. How come you never encouraged me, huh?”
Emi felt very much like leaving the table right now but she was only halfway done with her meal, so instead she sighed and let the family squabble go on around her.
For the short time it lasted, it was nice.