Epilogue: A Changed Future
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Hey, thanks for getting this far! I just want to remind you that if you'd like a copy of this novella for yourself, with a few additional chapters, you can find a digital or physical copy on Amazon here or from several other retailers here.

Alena finished signing the latest series of documents and rolled them up into a scroll. Once she’d tied them up, Alena placed all her collected scrolls onto a small tray. She got up to pull a cord next to the wall to summon an assistant.

Working at the Prefecture Estate was a much different experience than working out of her parents’ home. Not just the assistants. Her office, to begin with, was incredibly extravagant, with large windows, velvet curtains, live plants, and landscape portraits on the walls.

It had taken her a little bit of time to settle into the new role as Minister of Public Information. In hindsight, it made sense, though. She’d started her resistance by trying to spread information about Torben’s cruelty. Now, she had access to all the tools she needed to promote better attitudes toward the marginalized people in Marusta. No more blaming poor people and immigrants for the town’s flaws, no more insisting that disabled people who needed help had to earn it through work, and no more decrying queer folk as a threat to the fabric of society. The new material that Alena ordered was all about welcoming diversity and providing help to those in need.

An assistant, having heard the bell from where they were stationed, arrived to take the finished documents from Alena. With her work done for the day, Alena locked the door and began walking toward the prefect’s office. An idle guard passed her in the hallway, giving Alena a nod. She tensed up as she passed him, trying to force herself to remember that the town guard wasn’t quite what it used to be. It would be a while before she was comfortable around people in armor again.

When Alena stepped into the prefect’s office, Ursel and Margarete looked up from the document they were poring over. Margarete’s face lit up and Ursel leaned back in her seat. Alena walked up to the desk, pulling a thick bundle of paper from her pocket.

“Here’s the information on the people whom I want to hire,” she said, handing the packet over. “I’m fairly confident that none of them are spies.”

“We’ll see,” Ursel replied, glancing at a few pages before setting them aside. “I’ll have Kurt double-check, just to be sure.”

Ursel hadn’t initially been planned to take the role of prefect. However, it had been her who made the announcement to Marusta that Torben had been killed, and her who ultimately managed to quell the riot. That, coupled with the knowledge that she had been one of the leaders of the Resistance, had made her a face that everyone recognized. When it came time for the general election, Gernot, who had been going to run as a representative of the Resistance, had stepped aside once he realized how popular Ursel was. Though the race was a little tight, Ursel hadn’t seemed surprised to learn that she won, and immediately got to work replacing key members of the government’s infrastructure with people she could trust: Alena as Minister for Public Information, Claus as the head of the guard, Margarete as her personal assistant, Kurt as spymaster, et cetera.

In her heart, Alena wondered if Ursel hadn’t been planning several steps ahead of everyone else all along.

Instead of confronting that, though, she said, “I really think that expanding my crew is going to be instrumental in getting word of our new social programs out to the people who really need it. We can’t afford to let people slip through the cracks, especially with more and more vulnerable people moving in.”

After Ursel’s election, there had been a definite shift in the population as people more invested in Torben’s rule had started to move out. But the growing reputation of Marusta as a haven for vulnerable people had generated an influx of newcomers as well. Because the majority of Marusta’s wealth came from the harvest of arcane pearls off the coast, the egress of wealthy patrons hadn’t hurt the town too much.

“Don’t worry, Alena,” Margarete said. “I’ll ensure that Kurt gets back to you as soon as possible with his results.”

“Thank you,” Alena replied. “If that’s all, may I head home early? Today’s the day.”

“Of course,” Ursel replied. “Tell Lotte that I wish her the best.”

Alena nodded and took her leave. One she was out of the gates of the Prefecture Estate, she began the trek to her new home. It wasn’t quite as far as where she used to live, and her walk brought her to a moderately well-kept district of the town. Her place was a terraced home, smaller than the houses on either side.

The front door was unlocked, and Alena walked in. She put her cloak up on a hook in the entranceway before heading to the smaller bedroom. She could hear her sisters inside chatting, so she knocked on the doorway to announce herself and walked inside.

“How are you getting settled in?” Alena asked Edith, who was moving clothes from her bag to the small chest of drawers.

“Almost done!” Edith proclaimed. “Thank you so much for this, Alena! I promise that I’ll make dinner every night to make up for it.”

“It’s no problem at all,” Alena assured her, walking up and giving Edith a hug. “And you don’t have to do anything to repay me.” To Zensi, she asked, “Are Mother and Father still upset about this?”

“They refused to even speak to Edith as we left,” Zensi replied. “They’d probably disown me for supporting this if they didn’t need an heir to take over for them once they retired. Though, now that we need to hire some people to take up the slack, I plan to introduce some changes to consolidate my power over the business over the next few years.”

“You can be scary when you want to be, Zensi,” Alena said quietly.

“I can,” Zensi agreed, smiling softly. “Do let me know if you ever need anything, Alena. Regardless of what Mother or Father want, I won’t leave my sisters without financial support because of who they love.”

“That means a lot, thank you.”

Edith whined a little bit.

“Can we not talk about this right now?” she asked.

Alena nodded, replying, “Of course. How about you and I get started on an early dinner. Zensi, will you be staying with us?”

“I have some work that needs wrapping up… but I guess it’s not going to walk away. Alright, I’ll stay for a bit.”

“Great.” Alena let go of Edith. “Now, I just need to say goodbye to Lotte.”

Alena’s own bedroom was significantly bigger than her old one. It was going to feel awfully lonely for a while, sleeping in there by herself. It would take a while, no doubt, for her to learn how to sleep comfortably without Lotte by her side.

Lotte was just tying up her bag when Alena walked in. She turned to look at Alena with a grin on her face. Slinging the bag over her shoulder, Lotte walked up and kissed her on the lips.

“I’m ready to go,” Lotte said. “You arrived just in time.”

“I’m going to miss you,” Alena replied, resting her arms on Lotte’s shoulders. “Hurry back.”

“As soon as I can,” Lotte promised.

She had been sending letters across the country for the past couple of months, getting in contact with various independent magic users who could better teach her how to use her power. Lotte’s plan was to spend a year traveling and learning from them. Apparently, she’d reached the limit of what she could learn from practicing with Zisald.

“If you get lonely—” Lotte began.

“I know that you’re coming back.”

“But even still,” Lotte continued, “it’s okay if you have other partners while you wait for me to return. I won’t get jealous; nobody can compare to me, anyway.”

Alena chuckled.

“That much is true, at least,” she admitted. “But I’m in no rush to find anyone else. I’ll probably have my hands full taking care of my sister. Hopefully, by the time you get back, I’ll know for sure if I’m ready for children of our own.”

“Better get the wanderlust out of my system now, then,” Lotte replied, placing her hands on Alena’s hips. “I’m really going to miss you, you know.”

“I’ll miss you, too.”

The two kissed again, for much longer this time. Eventually, a knock at the door interrupted them. It was Edith, coming to ask if Alena was going to help her with dinner. Alena laughed and nuzzled Lotte on the cheek before stepping out of the room.

As night started to fall, Lotte packed her bags onto the horse Alena had bought her. Traveling in the dark would be no problem for her, with her night vision, and she needed to leave as soon as possible. The lamplighters were already out and beginning their work by the time Alena helped Lotte onto her horse.

“Hurry back,” Alena told her. “This town needs a new magic user. And I need you, too.”

“It’ll be worth the wait, I promise,” Lotte replied, letting her ears and tail spring forth as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. “Keep Marusta safe until I return.”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Lotte took the reins and started her horse at a trot, heading for the town gate. The night was silent except for her. It was going to be a long, peaceful journey into the unknown.

Aww, that's a little sad, isn't it? After everything they've been through, the two of them don't even get to stay together right away. It's not the end of the world, though. She'll be back, and stronger than ever.

I don't know right now if I want to do a sequel, but this was a very popular story and I might like to revisit these characters and their world sometime if I can come up with an interesting enough premise. What would all of you like to see?

Gentle reminder: I have a Patreon. All patrons get access to each chapter at least a week early, and higher-level contributors get access to Patreon-exclusive stories every month. You can find my page here if you're interested. If you're interested in commissioning a short story or micro fic from me, you can do so at my ko-fi here. Other ways to show support are to leave comments, rate the story, read my other works, and share this story with friends who might be interested. Every little bit helps, and thank you in advance!

Special thanks to my patrons of honor: Grymmette, Alex, Zoey, and Chloe.

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