Chapter 14: One Fine Day
Estelle walked rather stiffly across the dais and felt all eyes of the vast audience lining the castle courtyard on her. Having traded her previous coronation gown for a simpler, pale blue satin one with white and gold chiffon trim, she knelt down on both knees over the large, purple velvet cushion that the page boys had previously laid out for her. Her simple red sateen cape flowed out around her in an elegant semi-circle. This was the only other article of clothing she owned that had the royal insignia on it. Estelle felt a twinge of regret for the beautifully embroidered velvet cape she had previously worn that had been discarded as a result of Mimula burning a significantly large hole through it. Thought it was heavy and burdensome and Estelle was really grateful she would never have to wear it again, it was, after all, a family heirloom having lasted nearly a century before she touched it. The elders of the council still hadn't forgiven her for allowing it to be destroyed.
"By Royal Decree," said a voice that sounded clear and unfaltering through the courtyard. "We hereby appoint you Guardian of the Realm, Royal Inspector of the Empire. Go forth and do Our bidding, and bring to light any injustices that require Our attention." The heavy silver scepter sparkled in the sunlight before it came down and landed on Estelle's shoulder. She flinched a little and looked up at her cousin who had let it fall a little more heavily than anticipated. Ioder gave her an apologetic smile. Having been poisoned for months, he was still recovering from the effects and the use of his muscles were still unpredictable.
"I swear my undying loyalty you, my Emperor, for the glory and honor of our ancestors. Long live the Empire," she said clearly with full dedication as her voice rang out like a silver bell. The crowd cheered warmly for the girl who had once again, saved the Empire.
Although, the Council was quick to point out, it was indirectly her fault that her cousin was nearly killed and the Empire almost crumbled without a ruler, due to her choices in companions. However, just as before, Estelle had righted whatever wrongs she had caused, directly or indirectly, with the help and strength of her friends. If Ioder was willing to forgive, then the Council had nothing else to say.
Estelle recalled the prior afternoon she had spent alone with her cousin. Now a full month after the incident with Mimula, the coronation date was moved and the Council made clear that they preferred Ioder over the princess. Estelle harbored no grudge nor did she voice any complaint to that conclusion.
"What can I do for you to repay you for your undying loyalty and kindness?" asked Ioder as they had tea in the royal gardens. The stained glass windows of the gazebo where they were seated played with the sunlight and spread an array of color all around them. For the first time in a long while, she could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
"You have to understand, Ioder, that as much as I care about you as my cousin, I also did it for myself," she had honestly confessed.
"Well then, let me kill two birds with one stone. I am determined to have you serve me, as your Emperor, so as to not waste your usefulness. And though your Yuri showed mercy, I want to make it clear that Mimula is to be found and brought to justice for having made attempts on both our lives. But in gratitude I will also grant you your truest wish."
His words had puzzled her at the time, not knowing his meaning. But, Estelle didn't have much time to ponder them. As soon as her friends had heard the Council no longer intended her for the throne, they cheered and decided to throw her a party the night before. Although, Estelle thought it was really just another reason for everyone to get into a drunken stupor. And much to her chagrin, they did.
With Karol and Yuri fully recovered, and Brave Vesperia having received payment for their services from the Commandant, all of them retreated to the tavern in the Lower Quarter last night. Estelle thought it ironic that they had come full circle from that point. After all, had Yuri not spotted her escaping the city that fateful night that felt so far away now, this adventure would never have begun.
Surprisingly, Flynn also graced the Lower Quarter with his presence and caught up with many of his old friends there, especially Master Hanks and his wife. Raven, of course, was the first to suggest a drinking game. Repede looked down his nose at his human companion's folly and spent most of the evening curled comfortably in front of the fireplace. Karol, not used to drinking as he had just come of age, was wiped out in the first round and Estelle with him. Holding out through round three was Rita, who was later trumped by Judy in round four. Raven and Yuri made it to round nine until the old man made a saucy pass at a busty bar maid and was clocked over the head with a frying pan, though no one could say for sure whether it was the bar maid or the Krytian who had done it, thus eliminating him from the game. As usual, Yuri won though no one was left awake to celebrate with him.
The Commandant had enough sense to declare himself the "designated driver" before the game began, and ever the true gentleman, took the ladies back to the castle in his horse drawn carriage. The men he decided to leave sprawled and passed out in the tavern and let them pay the tab in the morning.
While the crowd was still cheering in the courtyard, Estelle stepped aside as her friends were approaching the dais led by two royal pages. The two young men parted ways on either side and bowed as Rita, Thomas, Karol, Yuri, Judith, Repede and Raven moved past them, up the dais steps. They bowed respectfully in unison.
"Brave Vesperia," said Ioder as the audience quieted down once again. "We are truly grateful for your service. Time and again, you have shown your bravery, quick thinking, and exemplary skills. We will forever be impressed by your fortitude. As a show of Our appreciation, We award you with these medals," declared Ioder. Five royal pages brought forth a small, circular medal, each on its own velvet cushion, and presented them to the members of the guild. Upon closer inspection the medallions bore the imprint of the royal emblem. On the back was the symbol for Vesperia's guild, the flying Ba'ul, with the words intrepidi et constantes engraved at the bottom.
"These medallions will serve as universal passports throughout the Empire, granting you both passage and quarter anywhere the royal banner is flown. They are permanent reminders of the service Brave Vesperia has done for the Emperor," smiled Ioder.
"Thomas Kaufman, and Rita Mordio, please come forward," requested Ioder. The pair did so with Thomas bowing low and Rita managing a graceful curtsey in her mint green gown of chiffon and lace.
"You have done Us a great personal favor, with your fiery thirst for knowledge and your prowess in the scientific arts. We are forever grateful. Thus, in Our gratitude we bestow upon you the titles of Lord and Lady of the Realm. Please accept these ruby broaches which channel the power of Efreet, the spirit of fire, as a token of our appreciation." Both Thomas and Rita stepped forward as Ioder pinned his gifts to their collars.
The members of the guild, Rita and Thomas stepped aside when Ioder asked Yuri to stay.
"Kneel, Yuri Lowell," commanded Ioder as he raised his scepter again. Yuri did as he was told.
"Your loyalty to Our Cousin, Princess Estellise is known to us. Will you swear to continue to protect her for as long as you are able?" asked Ioder.
"I swear it," responded Yuri solemnly. "On my life."
"Good. We hereby grant you the Empiric Sword of Terca Lumereis, a royal heirloom, and appoint you Protector of house of Heurassein. Your will is Our will, and with this sword We grant permission for you to use it as you see fit to protect Princess Estellise." Ioder lowered the sword into Yuri's raised hands.
As Yuri rose to his feet, the crowd started to cheer again, and their shouts and applause echoed throughout the courtyard. The members of Brave Vesperia, along with Rita, and Estelle, gathered together at the foot of the dais in the sunlight.
"I'm not really used to all this hoopla," said Raven, picking one of his ears in a rather graceless fashion. "Ow, ow, ow..." he grimaced as Judith squeezed his hand and forced it painfully back to his side.
"I'm not really one to complain. I kind of like this attention," she said calmly through her charming smile towards the crowd. Several of the men in the front were already quite enamored of her.
"It's kinda embarrassing," laughed Karol nervously as his hands fidgeted in front of him, as if he was uncertain as to what to do with them. "I mean, we were only helping our friend. It's what we do."
Estelle stepped up to the young man and kissed him lightly on the cheek. "For that, I will be forever grateful," she beamed as Karol turned bright red. Repede barked at him as if to make fun of their leader.
"Can we go now?" asked Rita under her breath as her expression turned a bit impatient. She was eager to return to her lab in New Aspio to discern the uses of the ruby broach the Emperor had just given her.
"You should all have some refreshment in my chambers before you go," offered Estelle. She was still reluctant to let them go. It was anyone's guess as to when she would see them all together again. But, with her new title, the Emperor had given her leave to travel the world. No longer the caged bird of the castle, Terca Lumereis had just opened up at her feet and Estelle now had the freedom to go wherever she wanted to, with the Empire's blessing. Perhaps the Council was just eager to see her go before she could destroy any other royal heirlooms.
Estelle hoped she would be able to visit the guild in Dahngrest before long. Perhaps she would invent a reason to entice Rita to come out of the hole she called home again and join them.
"I just need some ice for my head," said Yuri with a sigh. Estelle slipped her hand in his and let out a little laugh. She was glad they all managed not to trip, stumble or keel over while Ioder was presenting them with gifts and titles. After all, everyone was still severely hung over from the night before but they had endured it bravely. She expected nothing less of her friends.
Raven opened his eyes and awoke to the sound of fighting. Instinctually, his hand reached over to the short dagger he kept under his pillow but then he thought he recognized the voices of those sparring outside his window. He got up and looked out to see Judy and Karol practicing in the yard outside of their guild headquarters. Repede was watching them with an amused smile on his face.
The old knight looked at the sky and frowned disapprovingly. The sun had barely just made it over the horizon.
"For cryin' out loud, Karol, what gives?" he demanded from his perch.
"I'm practicing...trying to be more useful...for next time," the young man said breathlessly in between thrusts and parries from Judy's attacks. Raven could tell she was not holding back, which meant Karol was becoming stronger. Raven smirked in approval. When their sparring was done, Raven walked over and handed a towel to both of them.
"I'm the only one who was out of commission last time," pouted Karol boyishly. "I'm not going to let that happen again. I'm the leader of Brave Vesperia so I have to at least be useful. How can I face Nan again, otherwise?"
"You're more useful than you realize," smiled Judy before taking a drink from her flask. "We already have our next assignment. Thanks to the recognition from the Capital, business is booming."
"Should we wait until Yuri returns from Halure before heading out?" asked Karol innocently.
"Oh, I don't think we need to do that. Let him take his time there. We can finish several of these jobs before he gets back," smiled Judy mischievously.
"There'll be plenty of chances for you to get yerself killed, boy," laughed Raven. "Be patient."
The sun was climbing higher now and his stomach was growling. Raven decided he would make breakfast this morning, even though he had no talent for it.
"How about some bacon and eggs?" he asked. With that, Repede got up and walked away.
"Yech," exclaimed Karol with a disdainful expression. "Your eggs are too runny and your bacon is always black. I'll pass."
"Maybe one day I'll locate the Wonder Chef and take lessons," laughed Raven, in spite of himself.
"I look forward to it," smiled Judy, patting him on the cheek. "But until then, I'll make breakfast."
"You're a sweetheart, Judy darlin'."
Rita had just made it back to her home in New Aspio a few days prior. The city Elders were more than happy to see her return as many of her "experiments" had run amok in her absence. Her gas powered dirigible had somehow gotten itself stuck in the clock tower; while her self-perpetuating camp fire had somehow burned her neighbor's outhouse down and her automated clothes dryer was somewhere in town terrorizing small children. It was really one headache after another and she wondered if she should have taken up Thomas' offer to go with him and do research on another continent. Rita declined if only because Ioder had commissioned her previously to find new power sources for the Empire, and she had not yet finished her 200 page report to the capital's Academy of Sciences.
She looked at the pile of paper that was the almost finished report with disdain. She groaned both inwardly and outwardly as she lacked the motivation to complete the task. Looking at her food cupboard Rita sighed as she knew there was only a moldy lemon gel in there even without opening it. She was usually too preoccupied with her work to go shopping. At times like these, she even missed Estelle's or Raven's cooking.
She went about the first floor, picking up random parts and tools in an attempt to tidy up the place before she started working again, when there was a surprising knock on the door. Dumping whatever she had in her hands into the shoe rack, Rita opened the door and looked at the man standing on her porch blankly. His vest bore an emblem of Fortune's Market and in the crook of his arm he carried a covered basket.
What on earth did this guy want? Is he collecting donations? Is he selling Fortune's cookies? These thoughts crossed her mind as she asked, "Yeah?" in an ungracious manner, as if she couldn't really be bothered with him for much longer.
Rita blinked in surprise as the man pulled a beautiful bouquet of lilies with several Lilies of the Valley displayed prominently in its center and handed them over to her. The sweet fragrance tickled her nose.
"To a girl who can appreciate flowers that don't kill people, even though she doesn't have any growing near her," said the messenger as he read from a note he pulled out of his pocket. As he turned to go, Rita caught his sleeve.
"Wait, that's it?" she asked. The messenger shrugged.
"That's it. All I know is that the order came via messenger from the Capital."
Rita stood there gawking in her doorway for some time even after he left. The scent of the lilies was chiding her now. Perhaps she had found some motivation to return to Zaphias one day soon after all.
She looked around and realized she had never owned a vase. In the end, she watered the flowers in a large, glass beaker.
"Well, should I buy it?" asked Estelle as she gazed eagerly at the vacant house. It was happily situated in the middle level of the town, closer to the large trunk of Halure's famous tree. From below, they could see the rest of the town, with houses and lush green and flowers sprinkled throughout the landscape. The voices of the townspeople, playful sounds of children, and seasonal birds were heard intermittently through the calm morning air. There was a distinct fragrance of sweet grass and fresh earth that made this town so endearing.
As she stood amid the perpetually falling petals of the giant blossoming tree, Yuri marveled at how accurately he had envisioned this scene before. The way the light played on her face, the way her hair and skirt touched the wind, and the way her gentle smile lit up the entire atmosphere was exactly as he remembered it, from the very first time they had traveled to this place together.
"If you like it that much, I think you should," smiled Yuri. He had followed her, as her protector, to the town where she had always dreamed of living. The Emperor had given her a stipend as the Inspector and Guardian of the realm, and so she had enough money to finally purchase a place where she could be herself and write her children's stories when she had time. Her title meant that she would have to travel wherever the Empire sent her, but when there was no job for her, she was free to live and travel as she pleased.
"Do you think," she began shyly, "do you think this is somewhere you'd like to live?"
"I think so," he said, giving her a warm smile. "I could get used to a place like this when I'm not on the job or when the guild doesn't need me. As long as you're close to me, I wouldn't mind that at all." He cupped her chin in his hand and leaned down to kiss her until they were suddenly interrupted by a group of little children watching and giggling.
"Ooooh! He's gonna kiss her!" said one little girl.
"Kiss her! Kiss her!" said the smallest child in the group who seemed prone to simply repeat what the others said.
"Ew, get a room," said another boy, looking away, although his cheeks were turning red.
"Are you gonna marry her?" asked who appeared to be the leader of the group. Yuri raised an eyebrow at the question and looked at Estelle for a reaction. The princess had turned scarlet at that moment, and she looked away to hide her flustered expression. But Yuri gently turned her chin towards him again, and kissed her lightly on the lips.
"Yeah," he answered in a voice only she could hear. "Maybe someday soon."
I'm starting to think their parties always end in a drunken stupor... Leave it to Flynn to just abandon his best friend passed out on the floor. lol
"intrepidi et constantes" is Latin, meaning "fearless and determined"
Why didn't they just save Ioder they way they saved Yuri? 1. to extend the plot. 2. Ioder wasn't dead, so there's no point is resurrecting someone who isn't dead. 3. Saving Yuri was a last minute, ad hoc decision made by the group because there wasn't enough time to create an antidote for him. I'm not even sure they thought it would work.
For some reason, I had "One Fine Day" by the Chiffons playing through my head for the longest time when I decided on the ending. Everything ends on a hopeful, open-ended note, which is fitting for the title of this fanfic. I actually thought up the Rita scenario when I did the Rita x Flynn scene in Chapter 12. Isn't she cute? I decided to save it for the end.
Yuri and Estelle finally found a place for themselves! I'm happy. It only took me 14 Chapters to explain it, heh. Originally I intended for Chapter 13 to wrap it all up, but there was too much to squeeze in. I kept seeing these snippets of scenes in my head and decided that Chapter 14 should be the final chapter with a snapshot montage of what became of these characters I've come to love. I hope I did them all justice over the years I've written this fiction.
Thanks again for everyone who read this, and reviewed it and stayed with it until the end. This was a tricky fiction to finish, and I sure did take my time, but I'm glad I did. This is the last fiction I have in the works so I'm also a little nostalgic that this is the end as well. I don't know when I'll have time to pick up writing again, so this is goodbye for now. I hope you enjoyed the ride.