To say that the revolution ended well for everyone would be a lie.
To say that it has brought great happiness to Bronquia is an undeniable fact; the people all rejoice in the switch to a ruler more competent in management and celebrate the rapid elevation in the quality of life that follows. They flock with starry eyes to watch him speak, join and form militias to demonstrate their allegiance, and speak to foreigners with pride about their great and noble country.
Patriotism rises to an all-new high and continues soaring up and up, because, quite suddenly, it is good to be Bronquian. They are no longer a little country in northern Ancardia that is collapsing in on itself and struggling to get by. They are Bronquia.
But to say that it ended well for everyone would be, quite simply, a lie.
There are dissenters, of course, among the upper classes and the commoners alike. Some spit upon the name Gulcasa and question who exactly he is, anyway, this long-haired brat insisting that the blood of the royal line burns in his veins. Those who were once in positions of power plot against him, as the sweeping reforms he makes are evening out the class divide and making life good for everyone, rather than just a chosen few. They curse him and his level head and the fact that he actually knows how to handle the paperwork that comes with his job, as he is not so easy to manipulate as his brother was, back in the days when their lives were corrupt and absolutely easy.
Those on the border with Fantasinia also sit uneasy with their new Emperor, as the threat of war with their southern neighbours seems to be more imminent than ever. Ordene has made no move (yet) to mobilize his army and Gulcasa keeps quiet on the matter if he is asked, but they can feel it, like the warning pulse of a headache oncoming: conflict will always always come. And Brongaa only knows that their country has seen enough of war.
Most surprising, however -- to those that do not know him -- is the sorrow that rests heavy in the heart of the Emperor himself.
His country is at peace, his revolution uncontested, but still his dreams are troubled and his nights are sleepless messes. The distinctive marks beneath his eyes are swallowed up and lost to the shadows that creep up and catch him unawares, even if all those around him can see them, plain as day. It's not that he's not tired -- because he is -- so much as it is that with sleeping comes dreaming, and with dreaming comes--
He dreams of the backs of Jenon and Medoute all stiff and wide and lonely as they walk towards the sea.
He dreams of the fear in Velleman's eyes and the pathetic way in which he died.
He dreams of Siskier. Falling.
And, quite frankly, he does not sleep.
Emilia is only young, only little, but she isn't a baby; she watches her brother and knows that behind every I'm fine is a pained and whimpered no, I'm not. She watches the bruises growing beneath his eyes and the way that his shoulders slump more and more every day, and she knows that everything isn't okay.
She is only little and her hand is small within his own, but the strength with which she clasps it belies the awesome power of her blood. Their blood. More than anything, she wants to support him and be there for him like the sibling she is -- not the little sister, but the sister.
She wants to be his strength.
And so every day she trains with the army, side by side with the rest of the soldiers, throwing herself into the work and the sweat and the bruises all over her body. She works tirelessly, endlessly, feeling at the muscles on her arms whenever she bathes, yearning and yearning and yearning for them to grow. To be enough. She is but eleven years old, but she does not let that stop her or let that serve as an excuse; if a soldier three times her age overpowers her in combat, the shame of it frustrates her right down into her bones.
She aches all over and yet it is never enough, and she has only to look at her brother and how tired he is to know that she is not yet able to support him. If she were sufficient, he would not look so exhausted. If she were sufficient, he might ask for her help.
It begins to wear her down and grind her down as if into nothing, reducing her to a shadow of her energetically bouncing self. Nothing more. She is so intent upon the marks the sleeplessness beneath her brother's eyes that she does not notice her own, steadily growing, or the looks of concerns that the rest of Gram Blaze cast her way.
She simply believes that such sideways glances are reserved for her brother, as that is simply how it should be.
Nessiah is lost. The revolution is done with and perfectly executed, just as he wished it to be. Or, more precisely, just as he hoped it would be; for there was once a time when he had questioned if this rag-tag group that called itself Gram Blaze would be enough to burn out the ills of Bronquia and make it fit for the war he needs. He is grateful, now, that he put trust in Eimi's tiny hands and followed her on her quest to find Garlot, for it serendipitously led him to precisely where he needed to be.
It had seemed most serendipitous at the time, and then yet more so when he thought about it afterwards, but now-- he is not so sure. Oh, the revolution went as planned and did exactly what he needed it to do, yes. It is he who makes the situation imperfect.
Simply because, as it currently stands, he is not sure if he can steel himself to push these people into yet another war. Coming to love them was not something he had foreseen, and as such, he had no plans or contingencies to use against it, and that left him where he was sitting now: lost in the limbo between his dreams of revenge and the new-found dreams of the present that are budding slowly in his heart.
He can see himself stagnating here, slowing on his quest towards strengthening the Gran Centurio, to the point where he stops moving forward at all. With him, any stagnation would be quite literal, as this body of his is trapped in eternity; if he rests here unchanging, even his face will follow suit.
But he cannot cannot cannot afford that, for in the back of his mind, he can already feel the pull of rot at his true body, chained lonely beneath the sea in its unbreakable bonds. Once upon a time, the drive to return to it before it was simply gone had been enough to push him past any forged allegiance, striving ever onwards towards his goal. That the strength of emotion here is enough to give him pause is just-- unfathomable.
But he waits. For now. Because the smile on Emilia's face whenever she sees her brother or the way that Gulcasa's eyes soften when they embrace is enough to stay his hand, and he thinks that maybe, just maybe, he can give up a few toes if it means that their happiness can exist for just one more day.
And so, although uneasy, he still sleeps -- not that anyone can tell either way, as any shadows beneath his eyes are lost behind the brilliant gold of his mask.
There is more to being an Emperor than just filling out paperwork, of course, and so he is not always chained to his desk. And there is more to being Gulcasa than just the title of Emperor; he is, after all, a brother.
He takes time off from his job to spend it with Emilia, passing his duties off to Baldus or sometimes Eudy, if he is feeling particularly adventurous. They are both too old to fill in the gaps of their childhood that they might have spent playing together, but there is no boredom to be found in the brief few hours that they snatch up for themselves.
She likes to spend time with her brother, as he is one of the few people to completely disregard her age and speak to her as she is. She is just sister, not little sister, and there is nothing else she would rather be. And he always looks rejuvenated after they spend some time together, and so. So. So she snuggles in close to his side and wraps his monstrous hands up in her own and holds him there, safe from his duties, so that he might relax into these quiet moments and leave feeling more refreshed than ever.
He enjoys the time just as much as she; Emilia is one smart kid -- one tough kid -- and every hour with her, sitting together in the gardens of Flarewerk, feels like an hour spent protecting her from the world. He is not ignorant to how hard she pushes herself -- the bruises that peek out at him from within her sleeves or from beneath the hem of her shirt break his heart at each quickly snatched-up glimpse -- and if she is here with him, then she is not out there on the field.
Nessiah just watches. He's good at that, considering that he does not have any eyes. He watches and he listens and he thinks, quiet and kept to himself, that for all the talking they do every day, they never manage to say quite the things that they need to.
He looks at his hand and flexes his fingers and wonders if maybe, maybe, it is possible to play chess with the world if goodness is the only goal in your heart.
He goes to them one day when they are sitting together, and because they are the noblest of people that he has ever met upon this world, it is with grace that they move to accommodate him on the bench, even if he is a stranger intruding upon their sacred time alone. He acknowledges the space they have cleared but does not move to fill it, instead kneeling on the ground before them, nestled into that scant space between the loose triangle formed by their knees.
They're holding hands on their inside lines, fingers clasped and twining, so he reaches for them -- Gulcasa on his left and Emilia on his right -- to join in and make a circle. The gesture is delicate, silent, and odd; with his sight spells to watch them both at once, he can see the look of confusion that they exchange. Already, they are tuned to such fine gestures together, such subtle distinctions that for some take years to become discernible. Not so, for these two. It makes him smile.
He draws their hands towards his chest and leans down to rest his chin upon the mass of fingers, looking downright devious from where they sit. But before either can say a word, his whole body loosens and unwinds, unfolding so that he stands above them, looking down. His arms follow through with the motion and uncurl as he leans forward and disengages his fingers, only to press the hands that were once claimed by his own together. Now so joined twice over, they look at each other, look at him, and blink.
He just smiles.
"You are my favourite pair of fools," he says, in his very best chess-master voice; "look at you. Joined so closely--"
(he taps the knuckles of one joined mass of hands, and then the other)
"--and yet you do not share what is in your hearts. Really," and he sighs as if for emphasis, "it's almost as if you do it to purposefully make the others worry. Do be good and confide in each other from time to time -- that's what siblings do."
And with that he straightens, smirking enormously -- and giggles once and walks away.
For a moment they stare after him, their expressions the same identical sort of blank, before turning to look at each other in absolute confusion. And in that moment, they see in each other's eyes not only the sibling they adore but themselves, reflected all small and pale, and with that observation comes a shock of recognition, and a release of something that neither knew had built up in their chests.
"He's a brat," Gulcasa growls, voice tinged with a defeated sigh.
"A bigger brat than me," Emilia agrees. She sounds a little bit awed.
"Tch. You're not a brat. Sometimes."
And he reaches out to ruffle her hair, all gruff and mock-violent, and the motion bowls her over right into the circle of his arms in a giggling, squirming mass.
Things change a bit after that, and for the watching eyes of Gram Blaze, each progressive step and shift is met with a collective sigh of relief.
Even a fool can see that Gulcasa sleeps more easily and that he has the energy now to move with great purpose and better his kingdom yet more, working with tireless confidence for his people his people his people. And as for Emilia, well. She spends less time in the infirmary every day, and the strength and skill of her combat does not suffer for it.
(to even the most uniformed eyes, the distance between the siblings is smaller than ever)
Nessiah just smiles and thinks that his toes be damned -- he's doing the right thing.