With bated breath, Amaragi's hand was hovering mere inches over the wooden texture of the door that was separating her from her personal guilt.
But with a deep exhale, a gentle knock sounded not soon afterwards.
There was a short moment of silence before, at last, a small voice barely sounded from the other side.
"... you can come in, Magi."
The moment her own name registered in her ears, Amaragi's eyes widened slightly, not quite unlike Maren's, whose eyebrows were equally raised in surprise.
How did he already know…?
Not needing to be told twice, Amaragi carefully opened the door towards Kiel's little chamber, allowing both herself and Maren to step inside.
A slightly stifling air was present inside the room, and there were multiple candles standing around in various places, scattered on a few desks and also close to Kiel's bed. Indicating that the young prince had taken solace in his own room for quite a long while, if the rather messy state of it was also any indication.
There, close to the largest window and sitting cross-legged on the ground, was Kiel's slightly curled together form, almost solemnly gazing outside into the darkened sky. At least, until the door closed behind Amaragi again.
Before Amaragi could even try to gather her courage once more, Kiel slightly turned his head to gaze at his sister. There were wrinkles visible beneath his eyes, and it was more than apparent just how tired he was feeling inside, with seemingly all the life having been drained from his face.
However, when his eyes shifted from her and towards Maren, who was staring at Kiel with more and more growing concern by the second, the young prince suddenly rose from his place on the ground.
Wordlessly, and without ever losing sight of his destination, Kiel slowly but steadily walked over to Maren before he abruptly wrapped his arms around his waist, hugging himself against him.
"You're… you're back…"
Again, his words were frail, but with each moment that passed, the liveliness seemed to return upon the prince's face. Amaragi was left standing in place, her lips trembling slightly as she wanted so desperately to speak, her mind trying to force itself to finally find the right words…
… but after a while, Kiel merely opened his eyes again, the side of his head still hugged against Maren's stomach, as he stared at her with an unreadable gaze.
"... you can be scary… very scary…"
Each weakly whispered word caused Amaragi's breath to shake, but still, as her eyes began to water slightly, she refused to look away.
"... but… I know why you were acting this way… I'm not… I'm not a small child anymore."
Slowly but surely, Kiel's arms unwrapped from Maren's waist before he steadily raised his head to look into Maren's eyes.
"Namagi was here before, she told me that you were most likely going to come see me sooner or later…" a light giggle escaped his lips, honest and innocent, seemingly cutting through the drowning silence as he briefly closed his eyes with a small smile.
For a moment, Amaragi's lips parted, but the words in her mouth almost died immediately afterwards as she faced the ground beside her instead.
However, even upon her lips, the edges were curling up ever so slightly.
"Knowing me inside and out, isn't it so…?"
"Who would she be if she didn't? I've seen it in her eyes, the way she was speaking to me… I know she has long forgiven you again, and so did I…"
A sharp gasp tore through her lips, and upon instinct, her eyes shot back towards the ones of her young sibling with a hopeful glint, her hands clasped together.
And all that she could see was that he meant it.
Without being able to hold it back anymore, Amaragi's eyes finally began to shed tears as her entire expression fell apart, showing just her inner emotional turmoil before she suddenly stepped forward, wrapping not only Kiel, but also Maren together into a tight embrace.
With each second, she slowly began to kneel upon the ground as she felt the strength leaving her, however, internally, she could have never expressed with words how it felt when that burden was finally lifted from her heart.
"W-what would I… what would I do if I didn't have all of you…?" Amaragi's voice was trembling and thick with emotion, and just as the last word escaped her lips, a new wave of tears escaped her eyes as she tightened her hold on them both. Causing Kiel to shift his head so that his cheek was pressing against her shoulder with an innocent smile.
Truly, she could never be thankful enough.
A strong wind was sweeping across the streets of the marketplace, only indicating that a storm was about to occur if one took a glance upward at the pitch black sky.
"Colin, dear, help me pack together our wares, we can't stay outside!"
A woman, owning one of the various market stands, was only one of many to close her stand far earlier than usual as the harsh winds only began to pick up in strength.
Citizens hurried along the streets, intent on getting back to their homes as quickly as possible before the storm would hit, thus creating many crowds along the way.
However, upon the end of the main street, closely in front of the city gate which was leading outside the capital, a group of Imperial soldiers was standing in a coordinated fashion beside a large caravan.
"It's only a matter of time until the storm hits, I can't send you out there like this!"
Namagi was more than just a bit agitated as general Rena merely held a fist to her chest while she bowed her head, intent on reassuring the princess.
"Do not worry about us, milady, I will see to it that the caravan arrives in our mining facilities in time. As you yourself have stated, we are in dire need of more iron for our productions, and we cannot put up with any delays, no matter the cost."
Inside of Namagi's eyes, a growing concern was beginning to overshadow any other emotions, perhaps far more concern than she would ever want to admit.
"It won't do us any good if you get lost out there…!"
But once again, Rena simply took one step closer towards her before she bowed.
However, unseen from any of the other soldiers under her command, Rena used the close proximity to subtly wink at Namagi, whispering her next words just so that she may hear them.
"You worry too much about me, milady, when have I ever broken a promise between us in the past?"
In a mere second, Namagi's lips pressed together into a firm line with the faintest traces of a pout, but in the end, she remained silent as Rena stepped back again with a last salute before she ordered for the caravan to start moving.
But even as Rena and her soldiers departed, Namagi remained standing in place, watching her trusted friend taking her leave with just the same amount of concern as before.
Only when the caravan was nothing more than a distant dot in the far distance did Namagi finally step away from the city gate, two Imperial guards accompanying her back to the palace grounds.
As much as she was lost in thought, she clenched her eyes together for a moment to try and suppress her concern, trying to reason with herself that, indeed, her friend had never broken a promise before.
However, when she opened her eyes again, Namagi caught sight of something at the corner of her vision.
Easily missed among the crowds of people who were hurrying to get back to their homes, there was a strangely clothed person, their entire leathery cloak colored in black and their face partially hidden behind a black piece of cloth as well.
They were just about leaving from the middle of the marketplace, away from the well that was located there. Looking around as though they were not quite sure where to go, or as if they were searching for someone among the crowds of people.
Shaking her head, as she was internally still more than caught up with her own concerns, Namagi simply dismissed it as she eyed the street in front of her again, taking only a last glance upward at the menacing, black sky.
The growls of impending lightning almost seemed like a bad omen, and she couldn't wait to be inside again.
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