It always took a few days to get used to the change. Not just jetlag, but the shift from the noise of city life, the shift in temperatures, in attitudes, even. Ema had finally unpacked her bags from her trip, and things in Khura'in were more or less normal now. At least, as normal as this place ever got. Even small things were so ritualistic here, Ema felt like she was constantly catching up, which was at once both thrilling and exhausting. To say nothing of the workload. After their holiday, she was fighting to catch up, which often led to fighting of another kind.
But then, that'd lead to intense make up sex, so it was all just a part of the intricacies that made up their relationship.
Nahyuta threw himself into work whenever possible--work that involved summoning ghosts, no less. Which left them having to steal moments outside of work. So much so that Ema had to sneak past a former queen, and future queen most every night she didn't want to sleep alone.
However, this time it was noon, not midnight. And she wasn't sneaking alone, or sneaking at all.
The pink and lustrous hanging flowers and thin green leaves tickled her cheeks as Ema left the empty tomb and gardens of the courtyard behind. Nahyuta's braid shifted from his shoulder as he ducked down, and under them. The bells to announce a break for lunch had already rung. Nahyuta had a canvas bag of something that smelled utterly delicious, and they headed towards his room. To be fair, Ema was pretty sure the only thing they were going to do was eat, talk, and maybe make out for a few minutes if they had any time left. They probably couldn't fit in both eating and sex, unless they combined them. Which was certainly an option, depending on what was in that bag.
The stone walls were covered with paintings of the old times, many of Queen Amara herself. In many of them she seemed more mythical, with a halo and lotuses surrounding her. The scent of flowers from the garden wafted in, sweet and sensual.
"So, what's for lunch? Snackoos or m--"
Ema was cut off as the future ruler of the country came in front of them, with the past queen right behind her.
Her robes of a queen-to-be were longer, in shades of pink and white. They were similar to Queen Amara's own, with a pattern of gold lotuses embroidered around the cuffs and bodice. Her gaze was intense, filled with that ever-present anger and pride.
"Princess Rayfa, is something the matter?"
Princess Rayfa suddenly held out a brilliant green magatama towards him. It glimmered in the noon sun.
He stared down impassively at it. She knew Nahyuta had several around his office, in his bags, and even in his room. Anyone in Khura'in always had one of these magic rocks shaped like nines nearby. And yes, Ema had seen an exorcism with them a couple times. It still seemed so--unscientific. Like something out of a fantasy novel, not real life.
But she hadn't exactly found a way to disprove it, either.
Princess Rayfa looked on the verge of tears, yet she lifted her chin defiantly. "Braidhead--You are being haunted by a ghost!"
Nahyuta looked concerned, and took the magatama from her. "A ghost?"
"Last night, I heard it clearly from your room. Moaning 'oh, Nahyuta...' and there was creaking, so much creaking!"
The bells at the edge of her pink robes began to chime as she clutched her hands together. "Even the walls seemed to rattle! It was horrible!"
Ema's face had turned slowly redder and redder. Queen Amara lifted her sleeves to hide a smile. Nahyuta's hands gently closed about the magatama.
"Fear not, Princess Rayfa. I shall satisfy the ghost--"
Ema choked at this, and broke out coughing. Nahyuta gently rested his hands on her back.
"--and ensure that she can achieve happiness. After all, I am a monk. I am well trained in such things."
"This wasn't the first time it happened. I was up late trying to banish the ghost, but I wasn't strong enough, and it came back every single night after that. I-I d-do not want you to be cursed or harmed!"
Queen Amara could barely contain her laughter behind a fake cough. Even though her mouth was hidden, Ema could see the mirth in her bright green eyes. Her robes were similar to the ones Princess Rayfa now wore, but slightly lower cut, with a triangle patchwork of skin covered by her mandala.
"Yes, I have heard the 'ghost' as well," Queen Amara said.
Rayfa looked alarmed. "Mother, the ghost is after you as well?"
"Hohoho. No, no. This ghost only likes Nahyuta that way."
"Will that one magatama be enough? You are very important to m--the country! It would be very bad if you were to be harmed."
"It will be fine. The ghost may have a temper, but she means me no harm," Nahyuta said.
Ema narrowed her eyes at that, though he only smiled.
"All right...I will trust in your abilities, Regent," Princess Rayfa said.
"Come now, Rayfa, dear. It isn't good to keep Ema waiting when lunch time comes," Queen Amara said.
"Yes, Ema taught me a word which is very relevant. 'Hangry.' The intersection of hunger and anger, and anger caused by hunger," Nahyuta said.
"Hangry. How utterly delightful. I shall have to remember that. It is so useful, especially in concern to my dear Rayfa, and my future daughter-in-law," Queen Amara said.
"Mother!" Rayfa gasped.
"It's no shame, love. We all get 'hangry' at times. Now, let us go to lunch."
Rayfa fought for composure, and straightened her shoulders as she faced Nahyuta.
"Fine, Regent. I will trust you to exorcise the ghost. But....if you need help then...I will assist you."
"Many thanks, but there is no need."
Ema could barely hold her tongue, and was more than glad when they turned and left.
When they finally got back to his room, Ema collapsed on the bed and let out a long groan. The bed creaked under her weight, which only added insult to injury. At least the large yak-fur blanket was warm and comforting against her skin.
"I'm never going be able to look them in the eyes again," Ema said.
"I wouldn't worry. Mother is...precocious. And Rayfa is too young to even understand what she actually heard."
Ema let out a breath. Having his chambers so close to his sister and mother's was really causing problems for them. Ema was stuck in the in-between. Her clothes were in a room around the staff quarters, which was quite a long walk away. And being as it was Khura'in, she couldn't just go buy another toothbrush when she forgot hers.
And they certainly couldn't have him sneaking in to visit her. The guards would see, and then one of them would get him to talking. For all his courtroom sermons, Nahyuta was surprisingly unskilled in telling people to fuck off.
Or at least, the innocent people of Khura'in.
Ema had tried to force patience on this issue, even if it didn't come naturally. He'd been separated from his family for such a long time. He'd want to be close to them. But it was becoming a daily nuisance, and getting in the way of their sex life.
It wasn't like they were a secret, but that didn't mean she wanted anyone to catch her sneaking into his rooms at night, or overhear them. There were some things she'd rather not the entirety of the country know. The whole reason they were headed back towards his rooms to eat lunch was because of how hard it was to be alone. There were bodyguards everywhere, adoring staff, to say nothing of the adoring populace. And Nahyuta always indulged them.
Even his quarters were a bit cramped. She couldn't even fit her own things within his wardrobe. Another whole wall was covered with a bookcase filled to the brim with books. The queen-sized bed barely fit between the wardrobe and bookcases. The room seemed more the size of a staff member than a Regent. More than once, Ema had fallen off the bed and banged her elbow on the sharp edges of the too-close bookcase.
There wasn't even enough room to house a religious shrine to offer incense and prayers at in the morning. Something that had to be galling to him, though being Nahyuta, he never let it show.
Nahyuta began to open up the bag. It rustled as he pulled free something--Ema couldn't quite see, but it smelled delicious.
"The western style bed is a bit louder than I thought it would be," he said.
Ema massaged her temples. She was still reeling from the fact that her future mother-in-law and sister-in-law had both heard her and Nahyuta being intimate. Several times, even.
Never mind that one day it could be one of those amusing anecdotes. Right now her cheeks still burned at the memory.
Prior to Ema coming here, he'd slept on futons, or even the cold floor of temples. He had a surprising amount of fortitude, considering that Ema couldn't even sleep right if her pillow wasn't fluffed enough.
But, once they'd gotten together he'd tried to modernize where he could. And one of those modernizations was a big western style bed.
"M-Maybe we can get memory foam next time," Ema said.
Nahyuta glanced up from the bag. "You're dissatisfied with the bed?"
"I don't want to waste a perfectly good mattress. We can pass it on to someone else. Put it in a guest room or something. But everyone hears us!" Ema blushed bright at the memory. "I just hope Princess Rayfa never realizes what she heard."
"Ema, dear, it isn't merely the bed which caused others to hear."
Ema clutched her blushing cheeks. "Eeep!"
"I rather like it...though I prefer my family not hearing you during such...amorous times."
"W-well, it's your fault! I can't just keep quiet when you do things like that, and do that thing with your tongue and--" Ema broke off and puffed her cheeks out.
He lifted his eyebrows. "Ah, yes. You did not seem to mind announcing such things when we were at that Wright Anything Agency party," Nahyuta said.
"Okay, that's a low blow! First of all I was seriously drunk and probably wouldn't have said quite so much otherwise. Secondly this is your mother and sister. It's a whole lot different than talking to Athena and Maya!"
He chuckled. "Ema, love, I am teasing you. Besides, I am not blaming you. The truth is, we need a new place to stay. The chambers are too small for the both of us, and having mother and Rayfa so near is causing certain issues."
"Where, though? Probably not outside of the castle, unless you built some kind of bunker or something," Ema said.
"No, that would not do. However... There is Inga's residence," Nahyuta said.
She'd never known the guy, not like Princess Rayfa, who still mourned her adoptive father, even when he'd shown such darker sides. Still, it felt a little weird. Not that they had a lot of choice.
Ema patted the bed beside her.
To her surprise, he set aside everything, and laid out beside her without a single complaint. The bag was left on the bed beside them. For once, Ema chose something else before food. His hand rested against her hip and he leaned in to push her hair aside. His lips were warm against her skin. Ema closed her eyes, and breathed in the scent of incense that clung to him.
From the morning prayers he led, from the cases he demanded he take on, even as his responsibilities multiplied as Regent. Nahyuta couldn't bring himself to let go, even if his sleep suffered.
And he had the utter temerity to still look fantastic when he was pulling constant all-nighters. He didn't even have dark circles under his eyes, for fuck's sake. If Ema did even half of what he was doing, she'd look like a zombie panda before the week was over.
"Or we could build something new. After all, we would need new, larger residence if...we were to have have a larger family." His voice was soft against her ear.
Ema shifted, to better catch a glimpse of him. He smiled indulgently, and reached to touch her cheek. Somehow, she'd seen him all these times and she still got a rush every time she looked at that beautiful damn monk.
She reached out to curl her fingers in his silvery hair. He leaned down, and all she saw was a hint of gold as he covered her mouth with his. It was gentle, and asked nothing of her but her continued affection, which was easy to give when it came to him.
And the kiss was exquisite, delicious and warm. And even enough to make her delay lunch--which was saying something, given that this was her.
He didn't linger, or try and push her down to use their lunch hour for something else.
When he pulled back, she rested her head against his chest.
"The courtyard's getting pretty crowded. I'm not even sure where you'd put it. Unless you want to place it right next to the Tomb of Queen Amara, and that'd be...awkward."
"You avoided that quite deftly. I'm almost impressed," he said.
Ema rolled her eyes. "We aren't even married yet. I know it's hard for you to do, Mr. Workaholic, but let's focus on one thing at a time. ...Or is that a dealbreaker for you?"
Ema glanced up to catch his gaze.
"You don't wish to have children?" Nahyuta said softly.
His expression had gone completely unreadable. Ema had to push down frustration that he was putting up the walls again. According to those who knew him before, Nahyuta had always been like this. Stubborn, inscrutable and enigmatic. But his years under Ga'ran's regime had only worsened it. In the face of that--monstrous woman who had targeted his family, blackmailed and done far worse things to him than Ema could even voice, he'd pushed down every feeling and bit of his personality to keep those he loved from getting harmed.
And he'd constructed another personality, one so unlike him. The mask of a Khura'inese prosecutor. Sharp-tongued, cold, and merciless. Every time he talked of it, he referred to it as 'the role fate had given him.' And even worse, that was what she knew about. Ema knew there was so much more that had happened that he hadn't spoken about, and knowing him, never would.
It made her ache to think that he'd been shouldering that weight for so long by himself.
Ema got up and picked up her bag of Snackoos from her bag. She took a bite, then handed him the bag to take a bite as well.
Nahyuta leaned up and took it from her. Ema crawled back onto the bed to sit near him. It creaked loudly under both their weights.
"I mean, it's always been in the plans more or less. I figured one day I'd settle down with someone and have kids. I didn't see myself as marrying a Khura'inese Prosecutor who's also royalty, and with a 50 percent chance of having spirit channeling kids. I didn't even believe things like that existed.," Ema said.
"Does it bother you?" he said gently.
"Look, I didn't say it was a bad thing. Just how could I even imagine you would crash into my life when I was a teenager? This is all such a culture clash, it's taking everything I have just to keep up with the customs, the language, the constant flagrant attacks on science..."
Ema took another bite.
"In the end, it'd be the same. One of us is always going to feel out of sorts. We're always going to have to be explaining and meet each other halfway on things. Our cultures are always going to feel so foreign to each other. Things that seem obvious to you are completely nonsensical to me, and vice versa."
Back then she'd still been figuring out what she'd name the kids she'd have with Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth. Something she didn't quite mention. Nahyuta was still a bit touchy about her other favorite prosecutor. Even though Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth was totally gay, and she'd gotten over that crush years ago after she'd realized that.
Ema didn't even think it was a romantic jealousy, more a latent fear that one day Ema would regret her choice to abandon all those dreams of working with Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth to impulsively follow Nahyuta to the edges of the earth.
As much as she reassured him, it always lingered. Only appearing when in the unreadable way he became when she spoke of other prosecutors and other lives she could've lived.
She saw shades of it now, in his expression, in the way his breath caught.
"I had hoped you would eventually come to love Khura'in like I do, but that is foolish, I suppose. I was raised here. Of course it would be beautiful to me..."
"I didn't say that was a bad thing, or I didn't like it here. I'm a forensic scientist, remember? I like figuring things out. Meeting you halfway is all part of the fun. But it takes a lot of me. It isn't just a heavy workload, it's a heavy workload while juggling trying to make sure I didn't accidentally insult someone because I mispronouced a word. There's a lot to learn, and you've got a whole lot more years on me about understanding American things than I do on understanding this country. It's still all really foreign to me."
"Ema, love, most of the time your insults are not accidental."
Ema took another bite of the Snackoos. "Yeah, yeah. They deserved it, anyways."
"They always do," he said.
She glanced up from her bag, and back towards him.
"So, I take it that you definitely want kids?"
He reached into her bag of Snackoos, and pulled out several pieces. He slowly ate them, one by one. Apparently Nahyuta had picked up her own habit of delaying difficult moments with food.
When he finally met her gaze again, there was sadness in his green eyes.
"...I had not even considered it for many years. I did not think I would live long enough to ever to experience such love, let alone being happily wedded and raising children. But since I met you, things changed. Now that I am free of Queen Ga'ran, I can believe in a future again. And it is a future I want to spend with you."
She reached back and held her hand out. He stared down at her outstretched hand.
"Take it already," Ema said.
He gently entwined his hand with hers.
"Ema... There is no dealbreaker. I will be with you if you wish children or not. I love you and wish to spend the rest of my days by your side. I simply wanted to know if I should prepare to make more room in my life, in our lives."
Ema picked up another Snackoo and took a bite, uncaring if it left crumbs all over the bed.
"Listen, it complicates things, sure...but I'd like us to have a family eventually. Though I'd prefer it not to be this second. I can't even imagine juggling parenthood and my job, and planning the wedding, and all the time you've got with that Regent job. Even if there's a chance your kids call ghosts up in the middle of breakfast, I'd still do it just because damn if those aren't some great lashes. Hope they pass down to our kids. They'll thank me for it."
He laughed. "That's it? That's your reasoning?"
"Well, that's not the only reason. It'd be a real adventure, and the trying is fun, too. I don't want to have a ton, though. One or two at most, preferably later on. Though... If they got any of our personality traits, it'd be a challenge raising them. Just imagine if they got your stubbornness."
"Ema, love, you are just as stubborn as I, if not moreso."
"We're pretty evenly matched in being stubborn. Nobody butts heads with you like me," Ema said.
"Yes, nobody challenges me like you do. I have truly met my match when it comes to you."
He sat up and reached down to bring up the bag he'd brought along.
"We could prolong the move if you wish," he said.
"Oh, hell no. I can't take your family overhearing us, and I'm going to hurt my head falling out of this bed one day--and frankly? I'm really tired of the long walk to spend time with you, with all those guards smirking as I go by and tell them I have 'urgent business' with you at midnight. We'll try out the one across the way. It'll be big enough for the both of us, and it's not like I'm worried about the supernatural or something."
He smiled slightly. "Ema, love. You're marrying a monk. You shall never have to fear about such things."
Ema rolled her eyes. "I meant because I don't believe in them."
"Just because you don't believe in certain things does not mean they do not exist."
"Proof or it's a legend, superstition or myth," Ema said.
It was an argument so well worn that it'd turned into banter.
"Proof, you say?" He held up the magatama that Rayfa gave him, with a slight smirk.
Which of course was shorthand for by the way, you take in the Divination Seance as evidence every single day of your working life.
"Okay, fine. Certain things can't be understood yet and may exist within this life. That doesn't mean I'm worried about any black cats or the number thirteen," Ema said.
"Much better," he said.
"Besides, we can move later on if it doesn't work," Ema said.
But really, the more she got used to the idea of the move, the better it sounded. No more late night walks. No more smirks from the guards as she passed through with claims of 'business' with Nahyuta. No more heading back across the entire castle in yesterday's dirty clothes, because she forgot to leave a change in his room again. They could wake up together and just linger in bed, without worrying that she'd wake up a future or past queen in the process. It might not have been what she imagined for their first place together, but nothing about him matched any of her plans. Every moment with him had been throwing away all sense and caution, taking his hand and flying across the sea to an entirely different country just because the way he smiled. By comparison, this was well thought out and reasonable.
Two days later, Ema had packed her possessions up again, and took some of them towards their new place. She carried an armful of clothes--cardboard boxes weren't easily gotten in Khura'in--and pushed the door open with her hip. The thick and sweet scent of incense greeted her.
A table had been brought in. Upon it was a gold burner inscribed with fancy Khura'inese script embossed into the sides. Inside, Nahyuta burned some kind of herb that procuded a thick, fragrant smoke.
Ema laid the clothes aside in a corner, as neat as she could. Nahyuta abhorred messiness, after all. Half their fights were about how she left crumbs in the bed constantly. The rest were split between him overworking and leaving no time for her, cultural differences, and disagreeing on cases.
Ema glanced across the chambers. She still had so much hauling to do. The room had been emptied out of everything that the previous tenet had. But, there was a lot more room. And more important, no family members close enough to hear.
"Is it okay if I watch?"
He glanced up from the tiny fire he watched and stoked. The leaves slowly turned to ash.
"I did not think such things interested you," Nahyuta said.
"Just because we've got different beliefs doesn't mean I don't find things like this interesting," Ema said.
"Go on, then. But please keep your sharp-tongue in check. Mocking would destroy the sanctity of the ceremony."
Ema puffed out her cheeks. "I'm not that rude."
He said nothing, but his raised eyebrows said otherwise. Ema bit her tongue, but still rolled her eyes. But, he had already turned his back, so he didn't see that little bit of sass.
She sat on the bed to better see the ceremony.
Nahyuta chanted a low sutra that she couldn't even begin to translate. He held out the magatama to banish any ghosts or evil spirits. He brought out two more things from his bag. A bowl of--salt? Was he going to sprinkle it on his lunch or something?
She'd been here in Khura'in so long that she even knew that particular ceremony. Not the house banishing one, that was definitely different, but now she had a magic green stone right next to her extra set of handcuffs.
He looked intense as he performed the ceremony, and honestly, it made him seem even hotter. She always found him attractive, but when he got deep into his jobs, channeling his inner prosecutor or steadfast monk, then she'd just have to catch her breath.
As he put more leaves onto the fire, smoke filled the air in thicker plumes. He opened the windows, and finally poured water upon the fire from a golden container etched with deep, dark script.
When he was done, he bowed his head and spoke more words she could not catch, other than 'house' and 'protection' and some form she was pretty sure of 'Holy Mother.'
He picked up the bowl of salt, and walked outside. She got up, and watched as he began to throw from the bowl what seemed to be coarse mountain salt around the entirety of the building.
Finally, he hung a magatama above the door, and attached several to the shades.
"There. It is done."
"Is there anything you can't do?" Ema said.
"Some things, I suppose. I could've called in another monk here, but there is no need. I am well versed in the ceremony. Besides, my lovely fiancée would surely scare away any ghost that should come visit."
Ema glared his way. "Excuse me?"
"It's a compliment. I find your nature charming. I believe the word is 'feisty?'"
"Remember that next time we're arguing over a case," Ema said.
He smiled. "Oh, I shall."
Maybe it'd even get rid of the weird feeling that they were taking over a dead man's quarters. Even though Ema knew it was unscientific, there was definitely a weirdness to it. Oh well. It wasn't like they had a whole lot of choices in lodging. She'd take all these memories and replace them with good ones.
The Princess stood just at the edge of her quarters.
Every morning when Princess Rayfa looked out at Inga's former rooms, sadness would cross her face. But this time, the sadness was dispelled at the sight of her brother. Even if Princess Rayfa was loath to admit it, the harsh edges dropped when she saw her brother.
"Br--Ahem, Regent! Were you successful?"
He nodded. "The ghost has gone."
"There were ghosts there as well?" Princess Rayfa glanced downward towards the building. She continued on, more softly. "Of course there would be. It was where he..."
"I performed a house cleaning ceremony. Ema and I moving there soon."
Princess Rayfa put her hand across her mouth to hide her shock. The bells at the edge of her long sleeves tinkled at the sudden movement.
"I know this is sudden, however we needed the space," Nahyuta said.
Princess Rayfa's lower lip trembled, but she lifted her chin and strove on past the pain. "If anyone took his rooms, then I would hope it would be you. And...ahem...I am glad you helped his spirit into the afterlife."
Nahyuta smiled. "Thank you for understanding."
He reached out then, gently, as not to spook her. Princess Rayfa looked indignant at the gesture, yet she allowed the embrace. But, like a cat, she only allowed a few moments of closeness before she pulled sharply away.
Princess Rayfa cleared her throat, and stepped away. Her lip trembled, and she quickly ducked her head to hide away her face. "I have things to attend to. Immediately. Right now."
She left with her head held high, and her cheeks flushed from the little bit of emotion she'd dare shown. Some things never changed, and Princess Rayfa's prickliness was one of them.
Ema stepped out of the doorway into the bright noonday sun. It was a milestone for both of them.
Maybe it wasn't scientific, but Ema was starting to understand the kind of comfort Nahyuta brought people. He laid the souls of their loved ones to rest, and guided them to the afterlife through ceremonies. Death was such an expanse, a mystery for so many people. And these kinds of rituals offered people solace when there was none.
"You did a really good job back there," Ema said.
He smiled at this. "Could it be my ears deceive me? My dear Ema has released her steadfast skepticism for belief in the unknown?"
Ema puffed out her cheeks. "Oh, don't push your luck. There's value in comforting ceremonies. That's just simple psychology."
He chuckled. "Ah, you must have so many sharp quips to tell, given you had to hold your tongue for such a long time."
"I do, and you'll hear all of them if you keep it up," Ema said crossly.
He leaned down to kiss her cheek. "Then tell me them all, love."
"You're stuck with me, so you'll have to hear them for the rest of your life," Ema said.
"Ah, how lucky I am," he said.
And it wasn't said with sarcasm, but love.
He brushed her hair back. "In truth, the ceremony isn't quite over. I've done the first part: the cleansing. However, the second part involves a feast for monks. You are to partake in it as well."
"A feast? Now that sounds like my kind of thing," Ema said.
Several of the staff helped fill the house back up, now that the house cleansing ceremony had been done. It was still bare bones, but enough. Of course, his shrine at the corner was one of the first things to come in, followed shortly by the bed. The whole place was big enough to fit a bed, with a few small rooms off to the side--a space for kitchens, and some kind of bathroom. Though it'd have to be plumbed, because Ema demanded hot water on demand and plumbing wherever she worked. She even stipulated it in her contract.
Wreaths of white flowers she didn't know the name of were hung from the rafters. It filled the room with a subtle sweet scent that mixed with the incense of before.
He wrapped white string about her wrist. His own white string dangled from his wrist and tickled her skin as he tied it on. A similar string was tied around the picture of the Holy Mother which had been installed before even an hour had passed. Right below it was a picture of Dhurke, with rice left to feed his spirit in death.
Ema glanced at her wrist. "What does this mean?"
"Purity, and protection. I blessed it before I put it over us. They appear at weddings sometimes, as well, as much of other religious ceremonies. Though given that I did the blessing myself, I'd say it also represents 'continued connection,'" Nahyuta said.
"Traditionally, there's an odd number of monks gathered. They bless the house, and sprinkle blessed water over the house. A donation is give to the order of monks to help promote luck."
Ema smiled. "Technically, there is an odd number of monks. One is an odd number, after all."
He closed his eyes, and smiled. "Indeed. My thinking exactly."
With no table, they ate cross-legged in the middle of the room. Already several cooked goods had been brought in. Ema gladly dished herself some.
"Usually, it is a celebration that spans the entire household, and many of the neighbors, and many more monks. However, I wanted at least for a short while, to just be with you. The rest of the family and then some will come to visit us later. With food and well wishes to welcome us into our new place."
"Then some? Is the whole population going to come through here?"
"No, simply some monks to offer more blessings," Nahyuta said.
She should've known. At least he wasn't having a public parade straight through their relatively new bedroom.
Ema picked up the first dish. She soon became very aware at the first taste that it had quite a bit of strong raw garlic sprinkled on top.
Nahyuta smiled. "Garlic is common in Khura'inese dishes. The potent flavor drives out impurities and demons."
"Oh!" Ema's eyes lit up, "There's actually science behind that. Like did you know that the legend of vampirism accurately reflects the symptoms of rabies? Like that, the 'demons' the garlic is driving away is actually pathogens. See? It's perfectly scientific."
Nahyuta gazed at her tenderly. "I love it when you speak sermons."
She laughed. "I wouldn't call it a sermon, more a lecture."
She took a bite of the bright orange curry. Inside were long, thin pale noodles with a nutty flavor to them.
"They translate to 'longevity noodles.' Fittingly enough, they are also served at weddings, to promote a long and healthy life together."
"I like them. I wouldn't mind having some at our wedding. Though, I'm still not even sure where it's going to be held..."
"Would you prefer multiple weddings, one within Khura'in and one overseas?" Nahyuta said.
"You'd seriously do that?" Ema said.
"If you have a wish, then I will do whatever it is within my power to make it come true."
On one hand, planning one wedding would be stressful enough, let alone two. On the other hand, it would be an unforgettable experience twice over. The mere fact that he'd offer to give her something so grand left her feeling warm and fuzzy. And she'd pretty much have bragging rights forever.
"Thanks... I'll think about it," Ema said.
One of the flowers fluttered down from the rafters. Nahyuta picked up the large white bloom, brushed her hair back, and slipped it behind her ear.
"If a flower falling down is lucky, I bet you think every Spring is full of good fortune," Ema said with a smile.
"Not simply that. The fact that I met you at all. An ocean separated us, and in a thousand lifetimes we could have never crossed paths. But despite it all, we did. I am very lucky to have you in my life. And.. I'm glad we had this moment together alone with you," Nahyuta said.
His fingers lingered there, tangled in her hair. Ema smiled, but could only offer a whisper of me too.
He always overwhelmed her with all the grand romance, which she never would've guessed could've been hers before him. He'd give such good and affectionate compliments, and truly heartfelt comments that it was just hard to make a follow up.
He glanced away towards the door.
"They're coming, aren't they?" Ema said.
Nahyuta nodded, and mere minutes later, several monks in bright saffron robes filed in. Queen Amara, and Princess Rayfa followed, and even Apollo. While Princess Rayfa looked wary when she first came in, Queen Amara laid a shawl across her shoulders, and spoke softly to her.
It was all a flurry of noise and brightness. Ema didn't always understand the language, but Nahyuta kept close, and translated everything that wasn't said in English. And that was how it always was for them. Her explaining Santa Claus and him explaining sutras.
There was laughter and chanting, songs and more food than even Ema could eat, even if she was really hungry. She tried to sample every dish she could manage. The sweet round treats she couldn't pronounce were a favorite. They had a hint of sweetness, with a very smooth texture.
Nahyuta leaned in. She could hear him above the din of the celebration. "I always wanted you to feel comfortable in this land, to know its beauty and even more, to be loved by its people as much as I love you. From the very first moment we met, I wanted to share this with you."
His hand grazed her cheek with such gentleness.
"But I also wanted to explore the world with you, and share those lovely experiences together."
"Even way back then?" she teased.
"You made an impression on me," he said.
"Same here. I was actually really happy when you offered to take me. No one else had ever complimented me like that, or offered me an opportunity like that. And I got to see the world. Plus...I got to spend more time with you."
"I am glad you said yes, and that my bit of impulsive foolishness had nothing but happy consequences."
Everything had led to this moment. And she wouldn't have it any other way.
The uncomfortable feelings of the past of this place started to fade. She took another bite, and he shared more of the ceremony, his culture, his family. They'd always be outsiders looking in on each other's countries, but as long as they could guide each other, then they'd never be truly lost.