This “Lucky Encounter” themed chapter takes place between Chapters 65 and 66, so it’s near the end of the story. Please enjoy!
It was so warm this afternoon that Beatrice had rolled up her sleeves and tied back her hair. She had to actually take off her jacket and stuff it into her knapsack–it was either that or tie it around her waist, and she wasn’t a grade schooler, so into the bag it went.
The first tidings of spring were here, and so she and Emi were enjoying the day together in that normal way they did when they couldn’t think of anything better: Aimlessly walking around Balarand until they stumbled on something interesting.
So with that in mind, the two of them sat hand-in-hand, rolling gently across the water as a silent gondolier pushed them across the narrow canal. The surface was covered in small white petals blown off from the blossoming bogbean trees, and every stroke the gondolier made with his oar, the petals flowed around and bunched up together.
It wouldn’t be long before the two women could no longer enjoy the pleasures of just killing time together. Emi’s fiance was coming to Balarand next week, and Beatrice would set off for her convent soon after. But Beatrice put that out of her mind and decided to simply enjoy her girlfriend–er, best friend she loved–in the moment. Today was a warm, sunny day and one worth celebrating. She nuzzled her cheek against Emi’s shoulder and squeezed her hand so tight it made the other girl yelp.
“What’s wrong?” Emi asked.
“Nothing. I’m just really excited.”
“Eh? For what?”
“I don’t know. I just have a good feeling about today.” A beam of extra bright light hit Beatrice’s face, like even the Gods agreed with her.
“A good feeling, huh? You think something fun’s going to happen today?”
“It always does when I’m with you, honey,” Beatrice said.
Emi narrowed her eyes. “Don’t call me honey unless I can call you babe.”
“Call me whatever you want. As long as you call me.”
“…On second thought, Emi, I was wrong.”
“Oh, Beatrice.” Emi giggled. “You know, though? I think I feel it too. Today’s going to be a really good day. Already is.”
Suddenly, the gondolier spoke: “Have you gone to the Saint’s Feast yet?”
“The Saint’s Feast? What’s that?” Emi asked.
“At Saint Teàrlach’s temple,” he told them. “They have a festival today to celebrate his birthday. Lots of free food and dancing. It’s on the Eldin side of Balarand.”
“Oh, really?” Emi turned to Beatrice and let her eyes go all sparkly. “Wanna go?”
The truth was, well, this “Saint Teàrlach,” whoever he was, certainly wasn’t consecrated by the Church; they hadn’t designated a new saint or demigod in over two hundred years, and the leadership was altogether against the idea of expanding it in this time of war. If he wasn’t an official heretic right now, he was at least part of a sacred cult, and those were rarely Church-affiliated at all.
For Beatrice, a young priest just about to begin her education, going to an unsanctioned saint’s temple and celebrating in a religious ceremony would be… Well, her seniors probably wouldn’t look kindly on it.
But then Beatrice looked on into those beautiful brown eyes of the woman she loved and sighed, smiling. There was a real chance this could be the last time they ever got to explore the city, either of them, and passing that up just sounded… really lame. As long as she didn’t get caught, it’d be alright. She could expand her education while she was at it.
“Yeah, let’s go see what this feast is all about,” Beatrice said. “I can’t turn down free food.”
The gondolier rowed out to the river and towards the eastern bridges. The parts of Balarand outside the main island, across the waters, were much more sparsely populated, much more filled with farms and fresh air. Eldin wasn’t the kind of place you stumbled on accidentally and visited on a whim. But as luck would have it, they just happened to find out about a fun local festival.
So Emi and Beatrice got off the boat and went into Eldin proper. It took an hour’s walk across a row of rice fields to finally reach Saint Teàrlach’s temple, but when they finally did they were greeted with a wonderful, sharp aroma.
“Cheese…” Emi muttered. “I love cheese…”
“If the smell is half as good as the food, I’m probably going to die of overeating,” Beatrice said.
The two women were in agreement about many things in life, but there was nothing they agreed on more than the fact that tasty food was the pinnacle of happiness.
They reached the temple, where a group of priests (or some other unlicensed clergy in unfamiliar garb) stood behind long tables and handed out food to hundreds of shiny, happy people. The tables were filled with bowls and plates and all kinds of foods. Everything from salmon binds to macaroni casserole to fried okra to striderskin was on display, and all of it looked fantastic. They took paper plates and took as big of portions as they could possibly handle.
Yes, the priests tried to spread the good work of Saint Teàrlach and his supernatural powers that sounded eerily like Emi’s own. Apparently, he was a kind man who helped out this small Eldin town when it was in dire need, and the glory of the Gods shined down on him. Or something like that. Beatrice tried to tune it out so that she wouldn’t compromise herself in case the other priests interrogated her (she was very much overblowing this), but she felt oddly drawn to the story. This one man saved an entire town with his kindness, and that kindness had stretched on for two generations since his passing in the form of the Saint’s Feast.
Maybe it was against her religion to worship the man, but she certainly respected him. If she could do half the things that Saint Teàrlach accomplished, she’d feel completely fulfilled in her life path.
Emi’s plate was so full that the paper was bowing to its weight. “Ah! Let’s find somewhere to sit down before all my food falls off!”
“Hmm… All the tables are taken,” Beatrice said. She looked around the outside of the temple for a good spot. No tables, no chairs, no stair steps even. Well… Ah-ha. “What about there?”
Beatrice pointed to a single bogbean tree off to the side, shedding its pale petals every time the breeze blew by. There was a nice patch of dirt right underneath the branches where they could sit down and eat together in peace.
“Right under a bogbean tree!” Emi exclaimed. “That’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard of.” She darted over to the tree–and then a brownie fell off her plate and plopped on the grass. “Noooooooooo–”
“Leave it. You can get seconds if you’re still hungry,” Beatrice said.
“That poor brownie…”
They sat down underneath the tree and chowed down on some of the most scrumptious food they’d ever eaten. Beatrice felt her body shift into a whole new magical realm, one where her tongue and stomach were encased in an aura of absolute bliss.
A few petals fell on top of her macaroni casserole, but that was okay. She just had to blow them off. She puffed up her cheeks, and–Emi poked her.
She let out the puff in a high-pitched squeak and Emi burst into a fit of giggles.
“And here I thought I’d be the one to do all the teasing today,” Beatrice said. “You’re getting stronger.”
“I’m the strongest being in Tsubasa,” Emi said with such pride that Beatrice couldn’t even tell whether she was joking or not.
“The strongest being at poking girls in the cheek?”
“And more,” Emi said. She lifted her hand into the air and closed her eyes.
Above them, the bogbean tree branches rattled. Slowly, at first, then faster and faster until they shook violently.
Suddenly, a whole mess of petals crashed onto Emi and Beatrice, showering their heads and their clothes and all of their food. Their entire beings were covered in white.
Beatrice stared at Emi. Emi stared back with the blankest expression imaginable.
“Emi, why did you do that?”
“It… It was supposed to be cool and romantic and magical…”
“Emi, you just got petals all over us. How is that cool or romantic?”
Emi’s face lit up in flames, just as they always did when, well, when anything ever happened. “Because… blossoming trees are pretty?”
“Yeah, right.” Beatrice shook her head and frowned. But she could only keep up her consternation for a few seconds before she, too, was captured by the insurmountable power of giggling.
She leaned up to Emi’s face and kissed her on the lips. “Never change, Miss L’Hime.”
“I never will…” Emi said, grumbling.
They brushed the petals off as best as they could and continued their meal… Then got seconds when that method proved highly unsuccessful. But all in all, the delicious food made for an unstoppably happy afternoon.
By sheer luck of it, they stumbled on a random festival on the outskirts of Balarand. An encounter with the right gondolier gave them one more loving memory together, and that’s the best thing either of them could have ever asked for.
Years in the future, long after Emi had married into the Khara family, long after Beatrice had risen in the ranks of the Church, both of them would remember that day at Saint Teàrlach’s temple. And both of them returned to that town a few more times over the years, just because those brownies really were THAT good.
People often wondered why Emi and Beatrice loved to wander the city without any real plan. Days like this were the answer.