They continued to stand by the graves long after the other mourners had left. Mikoto had eventually stopped crying, and was now staring silently at the resting places of her parents. Wallens wanted desperately to comfort her, but he had no idea how - he didn’t remember his parents, and none of the other people he had been close to had died suddenly like her parents had. So he stood, watched, and waited, as was his job.
“Why?” the little princess asked at last. “Why did they have to die?”
“Because…” he hesitated, not entirely sure how to address the subject. “They were very ill, and they didn’t weren’t able to get better even with the medicine they were given.”
“I know that…but wasn’t the medicine supposed to help them?” Mikoto sounded so lost that Wallens knelt down and placed a hand on her shoulder.
“It did help, at least a little.” The medicine had eased the suffering her parents had gone through, but it wasn’t enough to cure them. “Princess Mikoto, I know it’s difficult to hear, but there was nothing you could have done.”
Mikoto bit her lip, looking like she was about to cry again. Wallens held back a sigh, giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze instead. “Ready to go home?”
“No!” she shook her head so violently that he was afraid that she would hurt her neck, and stepped away from his hand.
“Just a little longer, please?” Unable to say no to the pleading tone in her voice, he simply rose and watched as she crouched down in front of the graves and reached for the piles of flowers the mourners had left. To his surprise, she picked up several and started to tie the stems together, repeating the process every minute or so.
“What are you doing?” he asked eventually, stepping closer to peer over her shoulder. The flowers formed two chains that she had coiled in her lap, the bright blossoms contrasting with her dark mourning dress.
“They need crowns,” she said, reaching for another flower. “So I’m making them.” The royal crowns would be put in storage until she came of age, but he supposed that to Mikoto, her parents still needed to wear some sort of crown.
“May I help?” He had watched girls do something similar when he was a child, and the process seemed simple enough.
“Could you hold it so I can make a circle?” she asked, finally looking up at him.
“Certainly.” Kneeling down beside her, he held his hands still as she placed the flower chain in them and arranged it into a circle, brows knitted as she tied the last flower to the first one in the chain. She then carefully lifted it and placed it on top of her father’s grave, pausing a moment to look at it. Wallens watched her do the same with the other chain, gently putting the second crown on her mother’s grave.
“I guess we better go back…” she murmured sadly, eyes still fixed on her parents’ resting spot.
“Yes, but not quite yet.” She look at him in surprise, eyes widening as he reached for some of the remaining flowers and began to thread them together. The blossoms were bright blue, the colour Mikoto normally wore, and he hoped they would cheer her up a little. When his rather misshapen crown was finished, he placed it on her head and rose, offering her a hand. “You need a crown as well, Princess Mikoto.”
She smiled up at him and took his hand, allowing him to help her to her feet. She didn’t let go either, holding it all the way back to the castle.