There was no escaping her forefathers’ eyes. No matter how far she walked down the hall, they continued to follow.
Baron Eichel’s face was the worst of them. Not because he looked particularly stern and angry (as was customary in portrait art, for whatever reason), but because he wore the expression of a man who’d just had a fish put in his shirt. His popped-out eyes did the best job of tracking her movements.
Ellie Navarrete ducked away from his gaze, heading towards the Archives. She decided that if Shreya was going to have a Stockbrunnian history book, she’d have one of the best ones possible: something special and official.
She remembered playing in the Archives when she was little, maybe when she was five. Her parents would go to one of their council meetings, and she’d get to play among the books. The archivists would have to double as babysitters on those days, a task made more palatable by them being paid handsomely for it. Then, when they’d finish with their meeting, her parents would take her to the local bakery, where they’d all share cornet cakes and other treats.
Things changed only a year after that.
“Heiress Navarrete, are you here to attend today’s meeting?” Didier Rasulov, the Scrivener, pulled her out of her thoughts. She’d been so lost in her memories that she hadn’t noticed him coming up behind her. A stout man, he had a full moustache as white as his cropped hair. Didier had served on her grandparents council, doing the same job for them as he did for her parents. He was one of the few council members they’d retained from the last Chiefs’ Council, partly due to his unparalleled quill speed.
“Oh, no. I’m on my way to the Archives, actually,” Ellie said, flashing him a smile. “I wanna do some reading. Gotta peruse some texts, y’know.”
“I wish you the best in finding reading material that’s suitable, Heiress Navarrete.”
Remembering that he was her subordinate, Ellie stood a little straighter and cleaned up the way she was talking. “Thank you, Scrivener Didier, I mean, Scrivener Rasulov.” Formalities. “Thanks to your wish, I’m sure I will.”
“Elspeth’s here for the meeting?” Ellie turned to see her aunt Catalina Navarrete approaching them. She was all buttoned up in her royal court dress, the outfit she’d wear when administering her legal duties. “Please tell me I’m not dreaming.”
“I wasn’t planning on it,” she replied. “I’m just paying a visit to the Archives.”
“That’s disappointing,” Catalina said. “What has you so interested in the Archives all of a sudden?”
“I wanted to double-check something.”
Ellie rifled through some possible answers in her mind before settling on one. “Chief Baron Eichel’s reign. What did he do?”
“He was a valiant man known for being instrumental in goatherding efforts,” Scrivener Rasulov explained. “We have his autobiography, and the biography he wrote on Chieftess Irenka Eichel. He embellished quite a bit, but he had a way with words.”
“Your side of the family never ceases to amaze me,” Catalina said. She grinned. “Valiant goat herding.”
“What’s so funny about that?” Ellie asked.
“I wonder if that’s your true calling. You may do better at that than certain other things.” Had Scrivener Rasulov not been there, Catalina may have been more specific with her sentence. “I’d like to see you trying to wrangle a goat.”
“How about no?”
“Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I can have you stay with one of the goatherd families for a month. Better yet, why don’t you live with the goats themselves?”
“I’m going to pass.”
Heels clicking towards them indicated another person coming their way. The Intendant of External Affairs, Aika Fonseca, never failed to dress her best. She wore an elegant dress (no doubt an import from a northern city) finished with a layered skirt. Seeing Ellie made her speed up her walk to join the small group.
“Hi Aika,” Ellie greeted. Catalina cleared her throat. “Intendant Fonseca, rather. Good morning.”
“Good morning to you, too. I must say that it’s nice to see you growing up so well, Heiress Navarrete,” Intendant Fonseca said. “I’d love to stay and chat some more, but I don’t want to be late.”
“Ten minutes early is late to her,” Catalina whispered to Ellie.
“I heard that,” the other woman said. “There’s nothing wrong with being early.”
“No harm, no foul,” the Intendant of Internal Affairs replied. “I’ll see you at the meeting.”
“Yes, I’ll see you and Scrivener Rasulov there.” Intendant Fonseca waved, then took her leave.
Renata Pascual and Ivon Kabede walked past them next. They looked as serious as their respective roles of Intendant of the Treasury and Intendant of the Economy and Public Finances were. Prim, proper, high collars, and similar pairs of glasses on their face earned from years of examining financial documents.
They were in the midst of talking over a shared book when they came near. At first, Ellie assumed it to be money-related, but when they got closer, she realized it was a sketch of a farm house. She hadn’t taken either of them to be artists. The trio exchanged greetings with the pair, and the two continued on their way.
“Aren’t you gonna go, too?” Ellie asked her aunt.
“In a rush to read your goatherding book?” Catalina teased her. “No, I’m waiting to see the look on your mother’s face when she sees you here.”
“She’s not going to see me, ’cause I’m going to the Archives now. See you later,” Ellie said. Catalina threw her arm out in front of her.
“Not so fast, Elspeth.”
“The next time you call me that, I’m going to call you a name you hate.”
“What would that be?”
“I don’t know, but I have my sources, and I’ll find out. I’m sure Uncle Federico would help me out.” Federico was the oldest of the three of them, Catalina being the middle child, and her father being the youngest. Uncle Federico was bound to have some good dirt on Catalina that Ellie could use on her.
“Don’t try and cross me, Elspeth,” she said. “You won’t like what happens when you cross me.”
Even though Aunt Catalina was only a year younger than her mother, it was in moments like these that she felt like the older sister Ellie never had. “I’ll cross you as much as I want, Kitty.”
“Are you sure you want to call me that with your mother coming this way?”
“No way, move—” She tried to edge around her, but Catalina kept blocking her. Scrivener Rasulov, wisely, stayed out of it, not saying a word or doing anything to help either of them. “Stop it!” By the time Catalina got out of Ellie’s way, it was too late. Hildegarde had spotted her daughter, a priceless look of shock on her face. There was no getting out of this.
Hilda blinked rapidly. She hurried her way over to them. “Ellie, what are you doing here? Are you here for the meeting?”
“Wouldn’t that be lovely if she was?” Catalina asked, knowing full well what Ellie’s plans were. I’m going to get you for that…
“It would be,” Hilda said, clasping her hands together. Guilty of using the same move when hiding her excitement, Ellie understood the hand holding for what it was.
“Yeah, lovely…” Ellie mumbled.
“If I had known you’d be here, I would’ve been able to prepare you,” she replied, “but this is fine. This is more than fine, actually. Scrivener Rasulov, please add a chair to the roundtable for Heiress Navarrete.”
“Shall I seat her next to you, Chieftess Navarrete?” Didier asked. Ellie was grateful that he didn’t voice any confusion he may have had about her sudden change in plans.
“Yes, please do that.”
“Right away, Chieftess Navarrete. I’ll inform everyone of her joining us today.” He left in the direction the others had.
Once he was gone, Hilda gave her daughter some words of warning. “It’s best that you spend this meeting in observation, as a silent presence taking everything in. It can take a few sessions to get acclimated and have a proper grasp on what’s happening with our town.”
“How long do these meetings take? Not that I’m in a rush getting anywhere, but…” Ellie trailed off. Ideally, she’d be out of here, history book in hand, well ahead of the afternoon sun. She didn’t want to keep Shreya waiting forever.
“It depends on how intense things get,” Catalina said. “We had a five hour meeting once. Remember that, Hilda? Things got heated. I thought your brother was going to break a chair over Sandro’s head.”
Hilda explained, “your Uncle Cornelius can get…passionate when it comes to his department. This meeting should only be two hours maximum. I don’t want to hold anyone longer than that.”
“Did you see Cornelius on your way here?”
“No, I didn’t. I was running an errand before I came here.”
“I’ll see if I can do the impossible and finally get to the meeting before him, then. See you two in the chambers.” Catalina walked off.
Ellie waited long enough to make sure Catalina wouldn’t overhear her. “Mom, what’s the worst nickname you can think of for Aunt Catalina?”
“Did you try Kitty?”
“I did, but I need a worse one. It’s to get back at her for calling me Elspeth all the time.”
“Elspeth is a beautiful, powerful name fit for a beautiful and powerful woman. You shouldn’t think ill of it.” She bent slightly at the knees, and swept Ellie into a tight hug. “Thank you for being here. I know there’s so many other places you’d rather be, but I see the effort you’re making and I appreciate it so much.”
Ellie patted her mother’s back, unused to this level of affection from her.
“Traditionally, I’m meant to enter last, but I’d like you to have that honor today.” Hilda let her go.
“Thanks,” and maybe it was because she was caught in the moment, but Ellie said to her, “I’ll do my best. I won’t let you down.”
“You’re my daughter. You can’t let me down.” Hilda hugged her a second time, and then started walking. “We’ve delayed our entrance for long enough. Follow after me.”
~ * ~ * ~
The brightness of the meeting hall was harsh against Ellie’s eyes. Offensively so, she might say. Decorations were kept minimalist, free of any portraiture or artwork. The closest thing to a decoration they had was a giant chalkboard. Ellie was glad there weren’t any portraits in here. She was under the watchful eye of enough relatives as it was. Her mother, her aunt, her uncle.
Ellie sucked in her lip, trying her best to copy the other nine attendees’ expressions. Neutral. Mildly grim. The jovial energy they’d had prior to the meeting had been extinquished in favor of absolute seriousness. Seeing Aunt Catalina looking so straight-faced was strangely funny to her, to the point that she made sure to avoid looking in her direction. She wasn’t going to let “Kitty” mess this up for her.
She was used to seeing her Uncle Cornelius’ face graveyard serious. It would’ve been weirder to see him crack a smile. Come to think of it, did he ever smile, even around his partner, Uncle Marinus and their child? He’d always had a harsh edge, like he’d modeled himself after his older sister’s stoic traits and magnified them. He carried that same attitude into the meeting in triplicate.
“We shall begin this meeting by hearing the agenda. Scrivener Rasulov?” Hilda, or rather, Chieftess Navarrete announced. In this meeting hall, they were their titles, and Ellie had to regard everyone as such.
“We shall hear reports from each Intendant, and then from the Chieftess. From there, we will open the floor up to any suggested topics, provided we have time to discuss them,” Rasulov said, his eyes down at his stack of papers. He dipped his quill into his ink well. “Intendant of External Affairs, Aika Fonseca, is the first.”
Intendant Fonseca nodded. “I’ve heard back from my representatives in Nystad. We have some news that Intendant Kabede may like,” she said.”The diplomatic mission sounds like it was a success. Every mission gets us closer to cleaning up Stockbrunnian-Nystadian relations. We’re still paying for last year’s disaster and the subsequent price hikes, but it looks like things are on their way to improving.”
“And what of Vaide? How are the diplomatic missions doing there, because it looks like they’ve risen their prices?” Ivon Kabede, Intendant of the Economy and Public Finances, said. Part of his job was keeping abreast of economic and commerce trends throughout Casterne.”Did something happen on one of your representative’s missions?”
“I’ll have to look into that. Scrivener Rasulov, underline that for me,” Intendant Fonseca replied. “Unfortunately, correspondence from Vaide takes a long time. It may be a month before I have a definitive reply for you.” The forest made it difficult for letters to get back and forth.
“See? It’s things like this that should remind us of why it’s important we establish our own electrical grid,” Sandro Liibaan, Intendant of Public Works, said. He was mainly in charge of Stockbrunn’s maintenance and overall upkeep. “We build an electrical plant and after that, we move onto starting an electric telegraph program. It’s done wonders for Baekstadt.”
“We’d be dabbling in something we know nothing about,” Renata Pascual, the Intendant of the Treasury, said. She flipped her long braid over her shoulder. “It’d be a foolish allocation of funds.”
“It’d improve the way of life for so many people. Fuel prices are hard enough on citizens as it is,” Intendant Liibaan responded.
“It’d be ten times harder for Stockbrunn to switch to electricity. When Baekstadt implemented their program, they already had the proper infrastructure in place,” Intendant Pascual said. “Stockbrunn doesn’t. We’d have to uproot our entire way of living.”
Cornelius Dietrich, the Intendant of Agriculture, spoke up, his low voice booming. “Moreover, where would we put an electric power station? We’d run the risk of cutting into the forest, and possibly poisoning the ground soil for miles.”
“Do you remember what happened to Graudel when they tried to switch from gas to electric power?” Intendant Fonseca asked. “They tried hydroelectric power, but it proved to be too costly, and they had to go back to gas.”
“We’d have to hire well-educated foreigners from outside towns to run the power station. We don’t have the manpower here,” Chanchai Beridze, the Intendant of Social Welfare, said. He oversaw the health, labor, and education sectors of Stockbrunn.
“I call for a re-examination of our budget,” Intendant Liibaan proposed. “Stockbrunn needs to advance. We’re going to get left behind.”
“In what?” Intendant Pascual glared at him through her glasses. “Pursuing this project is going to sink the town. It’s radical, and unnecessary. Funds are tight enough as it is.”
“We could ask for a loan,” Intendant Liibaan said. “There are towns willing to give us a bail-out if we ask.”
“We won’t be doing that. We’re not going to be in another town’s debt,” Chieftess Navarrete said. Ellie looked around the room. Everyone sat up in their chair a little bit straighter as her mother talked. “Intendants Pascual, Kabede, and Liibaan, I’d like the three of you to research what it would cost to establish and maintain a small electrical grid. I’m defining small as a grid that encompasses two Districts, as a way to test the feasibility of it spreading throughout the town. Get me those exact figures before we deliberate on this subject any further.”
The people in question voiced their agreement.
The Chieftess continued, “Intendant Fonseca, are you finished with your briefing?”
“Yes. I have nothing new to report from any of the other towns,” she replied. “As soon as I hear more information, I will let you know.”
“Intendant Navarrete, do you have anything to report?” Chieftess Navarrete asked.
“There hasn’t been anything too unusual. We swiftly dealt with a robbery in the merchants’ district,” she reported. “We’ll have an increase in enforcer presence in that area because of that for the next week or two. Preparations are also moving ahead for the upcoming trial.”
“Is this about the criminal that was brought up at the last meeting?” Intendant Beridze asked.
Intendant Navarrete made eye contact with Ellie. “I’d like to spare the Heiress the details of the crime, but yes, it is for that criminal. He claimed he was driven to madness.”
“It used to be that you could exile freaks like that,” Intendant Kabede said. He rubbed his knuckle into his eyebrow. “You could let the wolves do what they will with them.”
“Now there’s generations of those ‘freaks’ living in the woods,” Intendant Pascual said, “and that was a poor decision on everyone’s part. We’re not going to repeat the mistakes that our mothers and fathers made.”
Freaks? Writing off every woods dweller and their families as ‘freaks’… They had no idea what they were talking about. Ellie stopped herself from saying anything. She’d done well so far. She didn’t want to get herself in trouble for an outburst like that. Hold it together, Ellie…
“It’s fortunate that our legal system has evolved past that point,” Chieftess Navarrete said. “Is there anything you’d like to add to your report, Intendant Navarrete?”
“I don’t. All I’d like to say is that an adequate punishment for the crime will be dispensed soon after the trial,” she answered.
“Intendant Pascual? What would you like to report?” The Chieftess asked.
“I’ve looked into our accounts for whether or not we can support Luzna’s R&D project,” Intendant Pascual said. Luzna was one of the towns that hugged the border between Casterne and Erzya. “It’ll be a difficult prospect for us. We’ll have to negotiate to bring the costs down.”
“You’re actually entertaining this frivolous idea?” Intendant Liibaan nearly stood out of his chair. “You’d rather put our government’s money towards toys instead of electricity? Intendant Beridze, you should be on my side here. And Intendant Fonseca. Think about what electricity could do for Stockbrunn. Think about how we’ll be able to better communicate with towns across the country.”
“Intendant Liibaan, that subject is shelved. I already gave you your assignment regarding that,” the Chieftess said, glaring at him for good measure.
“I’m sorry, Chieftess, but I don’t see how we’re going to move forward on this project. I don’t understand the need for it,” he said. “It’s a vanity project at best.”
Intendant Navarrete jumped in. “Better defense for the town is not a vanity project. We’ll be untouchable.”
“We’ve made it through the warring times. We have to look more towards Stockbrunn’s future,” Intendant Liibaan replied.
“It was only a quarter of a century ago that we were fighting the Erzzyans. Who’s to say that won’t happen again?” Intendant Navarrete argued. “This project is the stop-gap that ensures nothing can happen to us.”
Intendant Liibaan wasn’t budging. “It’s possible that the Erzyans have already developed their own weapons. Does it matter either way? Peace has been established between us. Just because we used to be a warrior town doesn’t mean we have to permanently stay that way.” He focused his attention on Chieftess Navarrete. “You’re a Chieftess, not a War Chieftess. Things are different now.”
Chieftess Navarrete held up her hand. “I hear your concerns, but this isn’t about the Erzyans. Intendant Pascual, can we afford a prototype shipment?”
“We’d have to pay for a demonstration, as well,” Intendant Pascual said. She looked down at her stack of notes. “There’s certainly enough room in our budget for that, but full-on pursuit of this…that’s going to be difficult.”
Intendant Kabede grumbled to himself. “Nearly all of these budgetary issues we’re having could be helped by stronger agriculture. We’re not exporting like we used to. We’re buying more than we’re selling.” He ran his hand through his hair in frustration. “I was going to wait until it was my turn to say this, but our economy continues to tank on that end. We either have to get better faster, or diversify.”
That got Intendant Dietrich’s attention. “Why don’t we get a closer look into what we’re trading? Could it be that our salesman is doing a poor job of things? Do more research on the national market before you start pointing fingers at my sector.”
“There’s only so much economic diversification we can do at this point,” Intendant Beridze said. “Any projects we start now might not be able to turn a profit in time.”
“We’re going to have to tread water,” Intendant Pascual said. “We should discuss cost-saving measures at the next meeting.
“My sector’s doing the best that it can. We’re strained,” Intendant Dietrich said. “Perhaps Intendant Fonseca can drum up more sales? Improve relations?”
“Your sector’s always strained,” Intendant Kabede started.
Intendant Fonseca cut them off. “Okay, it’s going to take some time, but I’ll see what I can do.”
“Intendant Pascual, do you have more to add to your report?” The Chieftess asked.
“We’ve basically gone over what I wanted to say already,” he answered. “We’re not in complete dire straits but we’re going to need to figure out some improvements to work towards in the longterm.”
“And Intendant Liibaan, how about you?” Chieftess Navarrete asked.
“My department is revisiting its draft of the clean-up program. We’ll have more information about that in the coming weeks.”
“Thank you, Intendant Liibaan. Intendant Beridze?”
“There’s been a noticeable increase in the number of clinic visits,” he said. “We don’t have enough clinics for the load, nor do we have enough medical professionals for the amount of house visits being requested. I’d like to request that we bring in professionals from other towns to fill in the gaps.”
Intendant Pascual looked up from her budget sheet. “I thought you said that situation was under control.”
“The situation changes from week to week. If hiring outside help is an issue, we can raise the prices at the apothecary in order to offset things,” Intendant Beridze said. “Those who can afford the medication can help pay for the foreign doctors we bring in.”
“It’d have to be a huge incentive,” Intendant Fonseca supposed.
“Ridiculously so,” Intendant Liibaan added.
“That money is primarily for the drugmakers,” Intendant Dietrich, his distaste apparent. “You can’t use that to entice foreign hires.”
“Something has to bring them in. Let it be the extra money from the upcharging,” Intendant Beridze said.
Ellie couldn’t stop herself. The words flew out of her mouth. “What are you saying? You can’t raise the prices of medicine for no good reason. The prices are bad enough as they are.” Her mother shot her a look, but she kept on talking anyway. “Aren’t you supposed to be the People’s Intendant? People are struggling enough when it comes to the apothecaries.”
“Heiress Navarrete, the money has to come from somewhere. Healthcare is free,” Intendant Beridze explained. “It’s the medication that isn’t.”
“And it’s the taxes that help keep healthcare free,” Intendant Pascual added.
“Why isn’t the apothecary included in all that? It doesn’t make sense to divide it,” Ellie said. “These are the things that people need to live.” The things that make girls like Zinnia have to go to Arntzen District just to get by. Nevermind what people from Arntzen proper have to do to survive.
“To do what you’re proposing, we’d have to raise taxes. Then, there’d be many more things that people couldn’t afford beside medication,” Intendant Dietrich said.
“We can’t let people suffer just because Stockbrunn’s in financial ruin. The clinics are full! I’ve seen it myself,” Ellie said.
“I’m sorry, Heiress Navarrete, but you don’t have the full grasp on the situation here.” Intendant Pascual looked over at the Chieftess for some help.
“There’s no room in the budget for, like, a public assistance kind of program? You’ve got people in Arntzen who are barely making it. They’re dying out there,” Ellie explained. “They don’t need a tax increase but what they could use is some sort of subsidy thing so they can afford medication.”
Intendant Beridze sighed. “We can’t single out a particular District above others. That’s not how we do things, Heiress Navarrete.” He, too, looked at the Chieftess to make the Heiress stop her tirade.
“But you guys are planning on possibly rolling out electricity to certain districts first. I bet one of them will be Seide. Isn’t that singling out districts?”
“Ellie, don’t assume so much,” Intendant Dietrich said. He winced at his slip-up.
“How about singling out groups based on income level? You can assist people who need it the most, no matter what district they come from,” Ellie tried again.
Intendant Beridze wasn’t having it. “It has to be universal assistance or nothing at all.”
“It can’t be done,” Intendant Pascual said.
“Now the Heiress knows how I feel… Getting roadblocked every step of the way,” Intendant Liibaan said.
“This is so stupid…” Ellie looked around the round table. “There’s a possible health crisis happening, and you don’t want to do anything to help anyone?”
“I’ve proposed a possibility, a logical one,” Intendant Beridze said. “You obviously haven’t been paying enough attention.”
“Beridze,” Intendant Navarrete warned him.
“You guys care less about your citizens than what? Electricity, money, and whatever this Luzna project thingy is. You’re supposed to care about this town,” Ellie said. She slammed her hands down on the table. “You’re dysfunctional.”
The Chieftess’ tone was cool and calm, a counter to the Heiress’. “Thank you for observing the meeting thus far, Heiress Navarrete. Please wait for me in my office, and I’ll go over the rest of today’s meeting with you.”
Ellie got out of her chair. She didn’t fight it. There was no point in making this into any more of a scene. She’d made enough of a mess already, if Catalina hiding her face in her hands was anything to go by.
~ * ~ * ~
“What was that in there? I told you to observe and stay silent.”
“I don’t know.”
Ellie sat at her mother’s desk, while her mother stood with her back to the door. The desk wasn’t enough to protect her from her mother’s quiet fury, however. Hildegarde crossed her arms, and took in a deep breath.
“You do know,” Hilda said. “Don’t pretend like you don’t.”
“Okay, I do know, or whatever,” Ellie said. “I didn’t like what they were saying in there. I mean, did you like what they were saying? Is that what the council meetings are all like? Oh, boo hoo, we can’t do this or that thing because of the budget. Is there anything that they can do?”
“They do what they can.”
“And no one else was bothered by what Beridze was saying. What the hell was that, Mom? If everyone’s letting that kind of attitude slide, then what are they doing as leaders of this town? What the hell’s happened at other meetings?” Ellie felt sick to her stomach. “No wonder Stockbrunn’s this screwed up.”
“There are better ways to go about saying what you need to say. You can be passionate about an issue, but you have to be professional about it,” Hilda said. “You don’t resort to name calling under any circumstance. Playground antics make it impossible for anyone to take you seriously.”
“Sorry, I couldn’t help it… It’s just…when no one jumped in to tell him off, it got to me. The closest thing we got was Uncle Cornelius being concerned about the apothecaries not being paid for their work.”
“Each Intendant is hyper-focused on their own area. They can sometimes fail to see the bigger picture,” Hilda said. “That’s what we’re there to help them with. We listen to their reports, give our advice, and try to look out for the town the best that we can.”
“We’ve got the ultimate say, though, don’t we? So what are we doing listening to people like that?”
“If we were as hyper-focused on each sector like they are, then we’d lose our heads. That being said, we still have to know about what’s happening so we are better equipped to make decisions. You have to know their departments, and know how to bring them into balance,” she said. “That’s leadership. It’s not about forcing your decision on everyone and acting like you automatically know the right answer.”
Ellie put her head down on the desk. “Did I do that today?”
“What you did was out of line. The next time you come to a meeting, you’re going to listen to me or else I’m going to have you sit in a corner facing the wall,” Hilda said. “But…your heart was in the right place. You care about Stockbrunn, and that’s a good thing.”
“Maybe,” Ellie said with a shrug. She didn’t want to think about that too deeply. She’d spent too long not caring (more like actively disliking almost everything) about the town to suddenly start liking it. “Am I in trouble?”
“No, you’re not. It’s like this, Ellie… You can’t farm. Una told me all about your little accident with the sickle,” Hilda said, pointing at her palm. “You can’t hunt. Catalina told me you have to go back to the fundamentals.”
“In what way?”
“You can’t load a crossbow.”
“Yeah… I’m hopeless.”
“But where you’re not hopeless is this. You’re the Heiress. This is your town, and this is where you need to be,” Hilda said. “You can do this.”
“If you say so.” Ellie looked towards the window. “Um, I’m supposed to be meeting up with Zinnia, so…”
“We can talk more about this tonight at dinner. I’ve got some paperwork to deal with,” she said. “Thanks for keeping my seat warm. Now, get out of it.” Hilda smiled.
“Heh, see ya.”
Maybe she could get used to this whole leadership sort of thing.
A/N: Sorry, I had to prioritize some things happening in real life over RWC. The update day kept getting pushed further and further back because of that. Things kept piling up. This chapter was definitely the most physically taxing to write.
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