Chapter 41: What The Future May Hold
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A small and quiet humming sounded within Amaragi's office, seemingly cheerful, yet, beneath its surface, one could evidently hear the subtle undertone in its wake. 


If only one were to pay close attention, which Maren always did. 


As he was currently sitting at the side of Amaragi's long desk, sharing the multitude of her parchments and work at his insistence, he could only look at her back from behind as she almost forcefully continued her humming. 


"... you have done so very much already today in so little time, would you not like to take a break…?" a slight tremor coursed through her body the moment he gently broke the silence, her shoulders tensing almost unnoticeably. 


"... h-hm…? Oh no, I'm still feeling well, thank you a lot for worrying about me…" as if her slightly higher pitched voice were not already an indication, the nervous chuckle that immediately followed was almost as blank and obvious as it could get. 


An unusual occurrence, for someone who could normally mask their emotions so very well. 


When Maren did not reply for a long time, Amaragi didn't even need to glance behind herself to know that his eyes were upon her back. 


And she knew that expression he was holding in that very moment…! 


Thus, her humming merely continued, as if undisturbed and oblivious. 


A barely audible huff sounded from Maren's nose. He pursed his lips ever so slightly as he reluctantly faced the parchments in front of him again, half heartedly going through them once more. 


Military reports, economics, everything mostly related to Almera's currently weakened state… a land that has to be repaired, and another new annexation of territory that has to be rebuilt… all with limited resources and split forces.


Maren closed his eyes with an internal sigh, not even truly acknowledging the continuation of reports of other matters that only added to the list. 


What mattered the most was that this could never possibly be all done and properly reviewed even if a hundred more of themselves were to currently work on all these parchments. 


Amaragi knew that fully well


And he knew why she was purposefully doing that. 


"... and you are surely not saying that to simply overload yourself with work to forget about certain other matters…?" 


Again, Amaragi's form visibly tightened the moment these gently spoken words escaped his lips, but this time, it was accompanied with a gasp. 


Her hand on the quill stopped in its motions, and even though Maren couldn't see it, her face was all but about to break from the emotions that were hiding beneath her facade. Not truly because of his words alone, but… but… 


She knew that he was looking at her like this again, and she hated it that it always worked…! 


The slightly pursed lips, the quietness, the lack of even trying or wanting to counter her arguments when it came down to it… 


'... I'm not angry at you… I'm simply disappointed…' 


that was everything that accursed expression was standing for! 


And she hated to see it. 


The disappointment. 


With an exasperated sigh, Amaragi suddenly dropped the quill as the back of her head slumped against her chair, and Maren immediately perked up at this with big, hopeful eyes of appreciation and gratitude. 


"What problems of mine exactly do you want to hear from me about…?" with a reluctant glance behind herself to look at him, she already couldn't stop herself from feeling weak at the way Maren softly clasped his hands together at his lap, his back straightened, and his eyes big with genuine concern. 


"... everything…"


As her resolve threatened to crumble entirely, she heaved another sigh before she faced the wall in front of her again. But this time, with a quiet shuffle, she suppressed the content sigh of relaxation and glee when suddenly, Maren had stood up from his own seat to place his cheek against her shoulder, his head carefully leaning against her own while his arms lightly wrapped around her chair so that his hands could rest against her stomach. 


"You wanted to see Kiel, did you not…? Is that why you are so intent on forcing so much work on yourself…?" 


Her chest tightened, and her expression alone was enough to tell that Maren's words held truth. But forcing her to admit anything would never be his goal. 


Instead, he gently rubbed his cheek against her shoulder with affection. 


"We go together when you want to see him, and once we talk, you will feel so much better… trust me…" for once, to Amaragi's ears, Maren's words were as soft as silk, and his affectionate acts were only adding to her inner mind wanting to believe his words. 


Thus, after what felt like a long while, her body actually relaxed. 


And she leaned her head against Maren's own in return, her arms moving upwards from her chair so that her hands could gently grasp the side of his face to hold him right where he was, leaning him even further against herself. 


Truthfully, she was scared. Scared of a lot of things. 


She had learned to be scared of the future. Of its potential to take away what she loved the most. Of its potential to destroy the bonds that she held dear, just as it had done such a short time ago. 


And not only that… she was so very uncertain about the future. Of what would become of her when her father should truly pass away. Things that she didn't have to think and ponder about for so long, even though she knew that it might happen one day… and the amount of work she was currently loading upon herself could not do anything to take her mind away from it. Quite the contrary. 


She did not want to become Emperor


She did not want to take the full and unbridled responsibility of ruling over all of the Empire. She never minded her current responsibilities, of being the crown princess, of helping her people in whatever way she could as long as she was not at the very top


The mere thought scared her… the sheer amount of fear alone at the thought of whether or not she would truly remain herself after becoming the sole ruler of an entire nation. 


The only person who kept her grounded, who never ceased to remind her of herself and how much joy she had experienced during this time, it was him


As these things flooded her mind, Amaragi did only one thing as she all but turned her chair around to grasp Maren's back instead before she wordlessly pulled him upon her lap and against herself entirely. 


And when she buried her head against his neck, Maren never moved an inch, allowing her to hold him however she wanted as he held her in return, if only it brought her comfort, even though he did not yet know about each and every of her fears. 


His eyes shut tight as he set his mind upon one thing. 


What she needed was to be around those she knew and loved, to remind her of the familiar, of what she knew and could trust. For it was then when the future could throw at them whatever it wanted, he firmly believed in that. 


So, he promised that she would always have and be able to count on that. 


No matter what happened. 





A small quill, making a quick but rough stroke through a note on a personal to-do list. 




Another rough stroke, followed by another and yet another as line for line certain requirements were met. 


But in between, Namagi would always take a glance upward from her list to regard the progress that was made around her. In a small and relatively humble garden area, located at the very back of the palace grounds and thus away from most prying eyes, a multitude of Imperial soldiers were currently hurrying about as they promptly tried to arrange a beautiful scenery just as Namagi imagined it in her head. 


A long red carpet laid on the floor, multiple crimson flowers adorning the walkway at the sides, leading up to a beautifully decorated altar where, in her mind, Namagi could already imagine a certain pair standing together. The mere thought filled her with excitement. 


"I want more benches and a hedge in the shape of an arc above the altar. And don't forget the flowers." as if stating a matter of fact, Namagi was merely holding up her quill with closed eyes and slightly raised eyebrows as she addressed the soldiers. 


All of whom momentarily stopped in their actions before they nodded once, albeit they were clearly not used to any of this. The mere sight of the usual, monotone and stoic military force being used as a means to set up a wedding place was in itself quite a sight to behold. 


And for once, Namagi's large saber was simply resting against a nearby wall. 


Not that anyone besides herself and her chosen units under her command knew about these preparations… at least not yet. It was meant to be a hidden surprise, above all from her sister and Maren, Kiel, and even all the other servants of the palace. 


She was more than aware how quickly these infos could spread, especially amongst some of the servants… hence why she handpicked and chose her own people. 


"Milady, the floral wreath, as requested." 


Namagi turned her head towards the slightly shorter woman who approached, the small, red cape adorning her shoulder, along with a few golden markings, implying her position as a general. Clearly it was handmade with great care and skill, much to Namagi's inner satisfaction. 


Another quick stroke of the quill upon the parchment followed. 


"... and check~ one should dare to say that our military can't be used for more sophisticated tasks. Thanks Rena, it looks amazing."


The woman in question blushed slightly at the outward compliment, her emerald eyes glancing at the ground. 


"You honor me too much, milady… if I may ask, are the crown princess and her chosen even aware of these preparations yet?" general Rena lifted her head slightly with a small but reserved smile, her short, brown hair swaying slightly in the cold wind. 


For a moment, Namagi said nothing as she scratched her quill through a few other notes on her list, but the growing smile and the sheer mischief glimmering in her eyes said already enough. 


"It will be a surprise, just before winter arrives and the flowers threaten to wither… it will be perfect…" as if she muttered the last words to herself, Namagi came to a finish upon her list before she faced her trusted general and friend once more. 


"But until then, this has to be kept as a secret. No exceptions towards anyone." Namagi gestured towards Rena with a tilt of the quill in her hand, and the woman in question confidently placed an armored fist against her chest. 


"You may count on me, milady." with a bow, Rena spun on her heel and took her leave, just before Namagi turned her head again to look at her soldiers still at work. With a few of them working together to cut the hedge at the altar just as she had instructed. 


"... I want every last curve to be properly pronounced, if that isn't too much to ask. And quickly, there are more flowerbeds waiting."


And despite their vehement nods during their work, their continuous struggle only increased beneath the pressure. 




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