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Daughter

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Sometimes, Rhen thinks that her daughter was solely her husband's spawn. Rhiannon's eyes and face might've been her own, but the green hair? The skin? The unbelievable mischief the child puts on? That's definitely Lars right there.

That isn't to say Rhen hates her child. Oh, why would she? Rhiannon is a genius. She made contributions to the study of magic as a child, and she is in charge of the charities for magically gifted children born to the lower classes. The Empire loves her for her wits; Thais loves her for her compassion. Rhen loves her, undoubtedly. It's just that Rhiannon sometimes makes decisions that are, well... Rhiannon always tests her mother's patience.

(Rhen doesn't know how Lars puts up with this. His mischievous streak probably allows Rhianon to be this hard-headed, or that he's become numb to it.)

And today, Rhiannon tests her patience again.

"What are you wearing?!" asks Rhen as she gestures to her daughter's clothes.

"A dress fit for my coronation?" replies the young girl. She looks confused, and she looks horrible.

Rhen eyes the girl's "dress" from head to toe, toe to head. It has mixed elements of the Thaisian royal fashion and the Eastern Empire's figure-hugging clothes, but it is still absolutely terrible.

What is Rhiannon thinking, using half a crinoline to hold up an overskirt behind her? And her actual dress has a train!

The colors was more or less fine - pink, yellow, white, purple - and typical of the palette the rich can afford. Just fine. Rhen can excuse that. Rhiannon and her dad like clothes with intricate embellishments that explodes in color, like the native flora of the Eastern Empire.

But the form... and the crinoline, the overskirt... are those flowers from the royal garden???

"I demand you change immediately, young lady. I can't have you look like a festive solstice pinata for your coronation as the official heir!"

"But Mooooooom!" Rhiannon casts her the Lars scowl. "I like it!"

"It's horrendous. Wear something else!"

"This is supposed to symbolize me! And the unity and camaraderie of the Kingdom and the Empire!"

"I get that you want to be a good symbol for our people, but you should stick to a proper crinoline and gown. You look like a disaster!"

"I am a trendsetter!"

"And you're also the official Crown Princess! Young lady, you're in Thais right now, and you're the one who's going to inherit the throne."

"But I'm not even pure Thaisian! You don't even act Thaisian!"

Rhen fakes being offended - because it's true, and it is a clever retort. It briefly takes her back to the times Lars one-ups her - but this is not the time to let the other party one-up her.

"What? I'm right!" Rhiannon whines. Everything about her right now is so Lars!

Rhen gives a deep sigh and turns to her husband. She glares at him, and Lars rolls his eyes as he massages his temple.

"Rhiannon," he says with a tone of finality, "You have two options. You take off that crinoline and that overskirt, or you wear a proper crinoline and a gown."

Rhiannon puffs her cheeks. "How about Option 3 where I keep this whole ensemble?" She won't give up!

"Negative."

"Don't side with Mom just because she's the one who said I should change!"

"No, she makes perfect sense."

"But the symbol...!"

"Great idea, bad execution. Do it again some other day."

"But I want to do it today."

"If you're going to lead Thais one day, you better become a good citizen of Thais and wear the clothes of Thais."

"And what about my personal feelings in this, Dad? I can't live my life chained to stupid customs and traditions!"

Lars buries his face in his hands. He too is on the verge of giving up. Even Rhen can't bring herself to argue. Lots of truths were spoken from Rhiannon's side today. Why did they ever decide to have a daughter?

Finally, Lars says, "Listen. When, when you're older, you can change laws."

Lars isn't even done speaking, but visibly, gears whir in Rhiannon's head, and she immediately runs for the door.

"Where are you going?" Rhen asks.

"To change."

And the girl leaves the parlor. Her parents drape themselves over the sofa with loud relieved sighs.

"Your daughter is becoming difficult to argue with," Lars drawls from his side.

Rhen laughs. "That's your daughter we're talking about!"

"Right. Of course."

Oh, but what is there to do about a daughter so smart for her age, so full of energy and ideas?

Like a young lover, Rhen plops herself right into Lars' arms. They've been next to each other since they were teens, kicking butt, saving the day, and dealing with all sorts of creatures. A 16-year-old girl is nothing compared to their perilous journey.

Or, she should've been nothing compared to that.

"How do you put up with her, o Queen of Thais, Rhenellaine Pendragon?" Lars asks, his eyes gentle and disbelieving and amazed.

"Well, how do you put up with her, my Lord Lars Setiah Tenobor?" Rhen smiles. "I imagine she's you."

"How funny. I imagine she's you."

"Without the sword, I reckon?"

"Her words can be sharp swords so, no."

Rhen closes her eyes and relaxes against her husband's chest. She remembers how a younger Rhiannon refused to be royalty, because they were living off other people's hard work (the taxes), because they were too removed from what they loved (magic and adventure), because they needed to conform to a set of stupid rules (that one is true and strikes a deep pang inside Rhen). Rhen remembers how, a few months back, Rhiannon made a speech to calm the again-rising pro-slavery movement, a speech that both nobles and commoners ought to remember (Rhen loves that speech). Rhen remembers how her child discovered various problems in the Empire, in Thais, and every single place they went to, spoke of, thought of, and how that child cried and swore to better people's lives in ethical ways (Rhen can't believe it).

The fire in that child's eyes is definitely her own, Rhen thinks. It's a flame fueled by her passion to help, by the heart that beats for the people she meets. Rhiannon wields magic, speaks with an almost hypnotic voice, but the heart cannot be deceived with magic, and Rhen knows that very well.

The door bursts open again, and Rhen sits up. Rhiannon is pouting as she parades a proper gown with a burst of more demure colors.

"How about this?" she asks, "Is this an outfit for a future queen who's about to change the stupid laws for the better?"

"You're doing well, darling." Rhen approves as Lars laughs boisterously next to her. There are a few more stupid laws she still needs to repeal, she wonders at the back of her mind. "You're off to a great start."

"You think?"

And Rhiannon's smile mirrors her own. Rhen grins. "Duh! Who do you think started the trend?!"