Today marked the arrival of Emi’s future wife.
To mark the occasion, she wore a light blue springtime dress and tied her hair back into a ponytail, something she never did except on the most very special of occasions. She placed her bowtie on the top of her head, over her left ear.
Emi sat outside in her front yard, basking in the warm sunny weather and reading a book. It was the ninth entry in The Elf Cycle, just released, titled The Rise of Soonworld. And it was the final book in the series, she was starting to realize. Just twenty pages from the end, and the Golem and Ghost had finally confessed their love to one another. But it was too late–the Ghost’s spiritual energy was fading. Her mana had run out, and her energies were falling back into nature. The Golem had offered to absorb her, for them to become one, a single being living together forever. But the Ghost refused him; it was her time to leave and return to the astral dimension.
It was clearly rushed out in less than half a year just to cash in on the popularity of the eighth one… And Emi never felt more disappointed in her life.
Well, with the final book in The Elf Cycle a huge letdown, it was finally time to discard those last little bits of childhood that still lingered on Emi’s person and fully embrace the woman she was meant to be. Just kidding. Emi would never grow up, and she had come to accept that with the joy that only the silliest of weirdos could embrace in themselves.
Without even bothering to stand up, she closed the book, let it levitate around her, and then sent it through the window to her barren rebuilt bedroom. That was the only fitting way she could send off such a wreck of a novel.
Ms. Khami, followed closely behind by Pip, came out through the front door and looked down at Emi. The old woman put her hands on her hips and shook her head. “Still spending all your time reading cheap fiction, I see.”
“I’m a little devil,” said Emi.
“My little devil.” Ms. Khami looked better than ever. Back during the rebellion, she saw a side of her that she had never been privy to before– vulnerability, hopelessness, genuine anger. But all of that was gone, just like the third floor balcony that had been completely repaired. “They still aren’t here, are they? What could be the hold-up?”
“Customs must be difficult these days,” Emi said. “You’re the one that taught me all about trade and tariffs, so you should know.”
“Not me. Just the books I assigned.”
“This conversation is real weird,” chimed Pip. “It’s like you’re friends or something.”
Ms. Khami briefly smiled, then faked a stern look. “I’ll leave you be, then. Come, Pip. We have rooms to clean.” They went back inside.
Her heart started to fill with a sort of mix of dread and anticipation. She’d made peace with all of what was going to happen in her life, because that was the L’Hime Family way. She was going to take what might happen and turn it into something excellent. She would make something that her parents, that Reo and Touma, that Ms. Khami, could all be proud of. Something Beatrice herself could be proud of. She would certainly achieve all of that. But that assurance didn’t stop her from being incredibly nervous anyway.
Finally, a single carriage pulled up to the house gate, and out stepped a portly man with a large waistcoat carrying large, clearly heavy bags. “Calling for the arrival of Lady Novella Khara,” the man shouted. “She is here.”
She was here.
Emi gulped, and then approached the carriage. She steeled herself, adopting straight posture and as serious a face as someone like her could make.
The door opened, and out stepped a slender, tall woman with rings on six of her fingers. She wore gallant black suit with a narrow white tie. Her hair was stringy, auburn, and her face was narrow, pink. Very handsome, if I do say so myself. One thing immediately struck Emi, though– Lady Khara was much younger than she ever thought.
In fact, she seemed nearly the same age as her.
“So this is Emi L’Hime, isn’t it?” the woman asked, her face entirely neutral. She used to always suppress her emotions in public as some sort of power move.
“It is she,” Emi replied. “Welcome, Lady Khara.”
Lady Khara stepped down from the carriage and extended her hand. “Call me Novella,” she said. “I’m going to marry you, after all. I don’t want you to sound like a servant or anything.” The woman extended her hand forward. “Nice to meet you.”
Emi took her hand and shook it with a firm grip. “Likewise.”
Emi did as well.
She had always imagined that Lady Khara was some middle-aged woman who wore long gowns that went down to her feet and had a serious expression on her face at all times. She wasn’t sure why the gowns part. But… this was certainly a surprise. Emi didn’t mind that she was a young woman herself, not that she had on a very well-fitting suit.
“So, is this your first time in Balarand?” she asked, keeping her grip steady.
“Actually, yes,” Novella said. “I wanted to arrive for the Moon Festivals precisely because that they your city’s most famous celebrations. I heard they are wonderful.”
“Well, the moons certainly are nice this time of year. But the Moon Festivals aren’t for a few more weeks. You know, when our wedding is set.”
“That’s okay. I’d like to get a feel for the city, anyway,” she said. “Perhaps you can show me around, Emi.”
Emi waited for Novella to relent, to let go of her hand and end the shaking. She wasn’t going to let Novella get the upper hand here (literally), so she was going to keep shaking until her fiancee gave out. Novella seemed to be thinking the same thing.
“I must say, your hairstyle is exquisite, Novella said. “I expected much, but you exceeded all expectations.”
“Thanks. I changed it just for you.”
“I am incredibly flattered.”
“Don’t be. It’s only proper, after all,” Emi said.
The portly man folded his arms. “Ladies? Should we not be going inside, now?”
“After you, Emi.” Novella said.
“No, Novella, after you.”
Today marked the start of a new friendship.