Fanfic: Auf der Jagd

Chapter: Thunderous reception

Once again, Merle felt wrong.
From the ramp of her airship, she stared in amazement at the avenue of soldiers in dazzling parade uniforms and presented spears. Behind them stood a sea of ​​cheering people who waved brightly colored scarves. At the head of the formation was Sophia, Chuzario's ruler herself, with a small staff of high-ranking officers and richly dressed officials. Or was it even their ministers?
Instead of piloting their ship to a military airport, it had been landed in a market square in the temporary capital of Chuzario. Of course no one had said anything to her. Bastards! No wonder she'd been forced into one of her most voluptuous dresses.
Smiling nervously, she raised her hand in greeting. After endless moments full of uneasiness, she nudged Gesgan from behind and she followed his wake-up call. She walked slowly down the smooth metal to the first cobblestone. Hopefully she wasn't moving as clumsily as she felt.
"Welcome, Your Royal Highness!", Sophia greeted them warmly below. The monarch was actually younger than the cat girl, but in her dark turquoise, modest dress and thanks to the pinned up hair, she looked older and more elegant ... more mature. Once more Merle was shown what was wrong with her. How was she ever going to live up to all the expectations that met her?
"Thank you, it is nice to be here, your Majesty.", She replied, embarrassed, and paid the ruler the honor. After an uncomfortable moment of standstill, the cat princess turned around and introduced everyone present to both Serena, who curtly curtseyed in her sky-blue dress, and her two male companions. She wisely concealed the fact that the young man was a convicted thief and Gesgan, the older one, a former spy of the Zaibacher family. In return, she emphasized his status as her mentor. She had never seen the thief show his nerve. When Sophia gave him her hand to kiss, the time had finally come.
Chuzario's ruler then introduced her entourage. Merle's impression was confirmed. It was her top generals and ministers. Why the whole outline? During the following chat, none of those present got tired of expressing their sympathy. The girl was surprised to find that empty platitudes were hardly used. Van had fought together with Chuzario's troops in the last battle against the Zaibacher and the bond that was tied in this way apparently still held.
Finally, Sophia gently interrupted the onslaught of condolences. She hooked herself up with the girl and led her past the guardsmen who were standing in a trellis and into a covered carriage, in front of which four white horses were harnessed. The two of them sat together alone on the upholstered bench inside, engrossed in a trivial conversation about the journey, until the vehicle began to move. Immediately after the horses' hooves began to hit loudly, Sophia hugged her friend deeply.
"How are you?" She asked worriedly.
"It works. Thank you.", Merle calmed her with a smile and swallowed the toilet in her throat. But he didn't really want to disappear. Sophia let go of her a little, but kept her arm on the girl's narrow shoulders.
"We didn't have time to talk at Van's funeral," she regretted. "You didn't have a minute to yourself!"
"Hitomi's behavior caused a lot of uncertainty. People wanted to talk about it. And since I was a member of the court ..." Merle reported and repeated in his mind: I can't!
"Yes, the announcement of their renewed engagement was sure not to go down well.", Sophia agreed." How did you take her in? "
"How do you think?" Merle replied dryly. "I was hurt, felt betrayed and hit the ceiling when she offered her hand to Aston."
"You were there?"
"Yes!", Merle spat, twisting her mouth into a grimace full of gallows humor. "The bomb hit me all over the place. I ticked off and ran ... like a little girl ... in front of everyone who has rank and name in Farnellia!"
"You mustn't think badly of Hitomi.", Sophia explained carefully. "She marries Aston out of love for Farnellia."
"No, she doesn't feel at home with Farnellia," Merle corrected her harshly. "She only loves Van. His people were important to him, so she sacrifices herself."
"Then you know why she's doing that?" Asked Sophia, relieved. "I was worried!"
“I could hate her?” Merle shook his head with a smile. "No, she explained everything to me. She needs Astoria's army to keep Farnellia's neighbors at bay." The girl paused and pressed her nails into her palms. The pain eased her conscience a little. "I understand your reasons, but I don't agree. There must be a better way!"
Sophia tortured her brain in search of another topic. Something to distract a girl ...
"Who really is the young man you brought with you? He didn't look like a guard."
"He's more of a shadow than a shield. He fights with daggers like me and can attach himself to a target without being noticed. It doesn't matter whether someone is protecting or following ... or both. I was hoping you could know him and Gesgan Both can be very discreet for your safety. "
Wrong topic!
"With pleasure. Anyone can start with me with your recommendation."
At the exuberant assurance, Merle slumped.
"What do you have?" Asked Sophia, while she leaned down slightly to catch her gaze again.
"Nothing.", She assured ashamed. "I'm just tired."
"You really haven't had a spare minute lately, haven't you? I live in the town hall. There you have a few rooms to yourself. Nobody will bother you if you wish. Antheia will take care of that."
"Your secretary.", Sophia explained. "She works for you and will read all your wishes from your lips as long as you stay. She has a lot of experience in organizing appointments and getting things."
"Appointments?", Merle replied confused.
"But yes! Do you think Chuzario just lets his heroine go after such a reception? Tomorrow there will even be a ball in your honor.", Sophia doubted cheerfully and then added with mild severity: "Even if you are supposed to relax here, you have to visit at least a few barracks, hospitals or schools from time to time. There are many there who have lost everything in Sarion because of the marks and need your encouragement. "
"Heroine? !!!" the cat girl snapped in horror.
"You don't even know it yet.", Sophia realized astonished. "The report from the units you led during the massacre in our capital has somehow got publicly. Virtually every household in Chuzario has a copy of it. They all know firsthand how much you risked for us." Her lips put on a smug smile. "It is said that the soldier you kissed on the forehead has not washed her to this day." Merle clapped her hands over her face, whimpering and the ruler asked in astonishment: "Are you embarrassed?"
"I just can't do it!" The cat girl shouted desperately. "I'm not a heroine, I'm not even a princess!A con man, that's me! "
"Come here.", Consoled Sophia and hugged her. "You are so much more. Never forget that!" Her delicate hand scratched the thick head of hair just behind the pointy ears. "Thousands of Chuzario citizens owe their lives to you. Without your warning and your commitment, the slaves of the Marked would have overrun the city without resistance. Only through you did we have time to evacuate."
"Van had sent me. Without all of them I couldn't have done any of this!"
"And? You had help. Wasn't it you who had your back when I took my throne?"
"But now I have no one!", Merle burst out. "Van is dead and my unit no longer exists!"
"You're in the way of Hitomi's wedding plans too.", Sophia continued her thoughts while she searched for alternatives. "What about everyone?"
Merle bit her lip. His name alone was enough to throw her emotions into chaos.
"He attacked Farnellia."
"To protect his sister and in full confidence that Hitomi would stop him. At least she told me."
"That doesn't excuse anything!" Hissed Merle. "Besides, he's somewhere else right now!"
"Is that why you keep his sister close to you?" Asked Sophia with a smile. "So that he can come back and ask your forgiveness?"
"No comment." Merle announced, crossing her arms and pouting. Her friend couldn't help but chuckle. After that, she joined the silence and finally came to a decision.
"Rely on me," she suggested softly.
“What?” Merle couldn't believe her ears.
"Rely on me!" She repeated a little louder. "If you have a concern that Antheia cannot solve, let her arrange an appointment for you with me. If you can't wait that long, come immediately. I'll help you as best I can. And as the ruler of this country, I can do a lot . "
"Can you step in as Farnellia's protective power?" Merle jumped into the breach.
"No.", Sophia declined with a sigh and was confronted with a disappointed cat. “I can do a lot, but not everything.” As Merle fell silent again, she continued: “I hate the thought, but Hitomi did the right thing for us all. Farnellia remains open to trade and is safe. I can do this balancing act impossible to achieve. "
"Do you have any idea what she's going to have to endure for that?" Merle snapped at her, horrified. "She's going to be raped by Aston! Every night!"
"No, I haven't.", Sophia admitted dejectedly. "Fortunately, I love my fiancé."
"It is thanks to me that you could choose him."
"I know."
The cat girl dropped her head.
"Arrange a meeting with Dryden Fasa for me," Merle demanded, barely audible.
"What why?"
"I'm not going to leave Hitomi alone in Astoria! And Dryden will help me with that."