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Lullaby for a Stormy Night

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The rainy season was known for its jarring, turbulent climate.

Unfortunately, the month of July was no exception.

“Ahhh!” Owain yelped, jolting upright from his bed. Opening his eyes, he frantically looked around his bedroom. Something lightly nudged him on his elbow, catching his attention. He lowered his head, his stiffened shoulders somewhat relaxed when he noticed the small purple-coated puppy waddling over to him, leaning forward to nuzzle his wet snout across his chubby left cheek.

“Sorry to wake you, Zeppy,” The boy apologized in a soft tone, reaching out to stroke the puppy’s fur in an affectionate manner.

Zephyr whimpered, circling around a few times before settling himself on the latter’s chest.

Owain crinkled his lips to produce a small smile, secretly grateful to have his best friend as company. Slowly, he motioned his head to the nearby window. Outside, the shower of rain pounded heavily against the glass, with a whirlwind of debris, a mixture of pink petals and branches thrown recklessly. Before he could even blink, a bolt of lightning erupted, catching him off-guard.

Owain froze in place, completely stunned. Lowering his chin, he sniffed, his eyes becoming glossy.

Quickly, he took the puppy in his arms and clumsily jumped down from his bed. Frantically looking around, he spotted his big sister on the other side of the room, still asleep. He dashed to her general direction, flinching slightly as another flash of bright light emanated from outside

Once he managed to approach her bed, he extracted one hand and proceeded to shake his sister’s shoulder. “Sis, sis!” He cried desperately, “Please…wake up!”

“Hmm…” The young girl stirred from her sleep.

Cracking one eye open, followed by another, she took a moment to register what was going on. Releasing a tired yawn, she sat upright while rubbing her eyes tiredly. “…Owain?” She mumbled, “What’s…wrong?”

Regaining her vision, she turned her head to face her younger brother, surprised to find him in the brink of crying. Immediately, her eyes widened in size, her big sister instincts kicking in. “Owain, are you okay?” She suddenly cried, throwing the blanket to the side as she reached out to console him. “Are you hurt? What’s the matter?”

The pink-haired boy sniffed, and as he opened his mouth to speak, another flash of lightning roared from beyond the window.

“Ahhh!” Owain wailed, tightening his grip on Zephyr as the tears threatening to spill from the corners of his eyes had already flown. He dropped to his knees, dipping his head as he cowered in fear. “Sis, p-please help me…”

Eve panicked, uncertain of what to do. She peered over her shoulder, taking notice of Lambert who was already on his feet and on high-alert. She bit her lower lip, ruminating through her thoughts as she tried to figure out the best possible solution to ease her poor brother’s worries.

“It’s okay, Owain!” She assured him, forcing a bright smile. “The storm won’t hurt you, okay?” Shaping her hand into a tiny balled fist, she brought it close to her chest and cried aloud, “Because I’m here!”

Hearing this, the younger boy slowly looked up. “Y-you mean it?”

“Uh-huh!” She confirmed, followed by another chuckle. Shuffling her bottom closer to the right, she patted the empty space next to her, urging him to sit next to her.

Owain meekly nodded. Before he climbed on her bed, he loosened his grip on Zephyr, to which the puppy was quick to join his sibling on the other side of the bed. With Eve’s help, he managed to get on the bed and plopped himself down on the empty space, heaving a deep sigh.

“Good job!” Eve commented, stroking his back. Turning around, she grabbed her blanket and ever so gently, proceeded to wrap it over his small form. “Aaaand…there! That should do!”

Owain mustered a smile, blushing. “But…what about you, sis?”

“I’ll be fine!” She assured with another smile. She reached out to collect his hands, jointing them together with hers. “I’ll protect you, so don’t you worry!”

Her brother blinked. “Really?”

“Yeah!"

As soon as she delivered her words, a strike of lightning ensued, causing them to flinch and release a unanimous outburst. Owain was the first to react, wailing uncontrollably and burying his face on a nearby pillow. Next came Eve, who’s expression contorted for a few seconds, though refused to express any vulnerability in fear that it’ll heighten her poor brother’s anxiety even more. She felt Owain tighten his hold onto his sister, and inhaling a deep breath in, she allowed him to come closer, patting his head every so often to comfort him.

“I-It’s okay, Owain…” She said softly, unaware of how her voice was cracking. “It’s okay…We’re both okay…”

Eve needed to be strong for him, no matter what.

She was the oldest after all.

And yet...

The short-dark haired girl flinched as she heard the rumbling of the storm overhead.

Once again, Eve found herself in a tight spot.

With little to no options left, she turned her attention over to the door. She swallowed her saliva thickly as her heart began to race uncontrollably. Forcing herself to remain strong, she enveloped her arms around her brother, bringing him closer and tightening her hold around him.

Behind her, Zephyr recoiled in his spot and hid under the pillow while his brother, Lambert stood close to his owner, his eyes trained in on the window and ready to protect the two siblings from potential danger.

The door creaked open, startling the siblings.

“Eve? Owain?”

To their surprise and relief, the appearance of their mother came into view.

“Mommy!” They both cried in unison.

Estelle smiled, entering the room and closing the door behind her. She made her way to her children, with one hand firmly gripping onto the handle of the candle illuminating her path while the other rested comfortably on top of her growing bump. Trailing after her was the third and youngest puppy, Lamia, who kept in line with her, and as usual, was chewing on a stem of a purple flower clenched in her teeth.

Eve and Owain were quick to separate from one another, and with their tiny arms, reached out to assist their mother shortly after she put the candle on the nearby bedside table and began to settle herself down on the mattress. Once Estelle was sandwiched between them, she let out a heavy sigh of relief.

“Arf!” Lamia barked, catching their attention.

“I’ll get her!” Eve chimed in, volunteering to climb down from her bed to scoop the tiny puppy, placing her on the bed before returning to her spot. Mother and children exchanged smiles as they observed the three puppies reunited, with Lambert gesturing the latter to come over and join him under the blanket.

There was a moment of silence, all except for the monstrosity that was happening from the outside. A few minutes later, Owain took the initiative to speak up.

“…Mommy, Where’s Daddy?”

“He’s at Dahngrest with Repede, helping your Uncle Karol and Aunt Judith,” The pink-haired woman explained in a soft tone, reaching out to brush away the strands of his hair. Smiling sweetly, she added, “They should be back by tomorrow,”

She watched her younger son nodded in response, though the defeated expression on his face proved otherwise. Leaning in, she pecked him on the forehead, then proceeded to repeat the same action to her eldest daughter. “I’m sorry you had to wake up at a time like this,” She expressed, her eyes downcast. “The stormy weather must’ve frightened you…”

“No need to worry, Mommy,” Eve spoke up, flashing her a bright smile and raised her hand to give her a thumbs up.

“Yeah,” Owain agreed along, surprising their mother. “Sis here…she was protecting me…”

Registering their words, Estelle emitted a light-hearted giggle. “That’s wonderful to hear,” She replied and snuck a glance at Eve. “Thank you,” She mouthed to her, to which the latter was quick to give her another bright smile—a smile which reminded her so much of a certain swordsman.

“What about you, Mommy?” Owain brought up, “Are you and the baby okay?”

Estelle giggled. “Yes, we are sweetie,” She assured him, placing a hand slightly above her pregnancy bump. Her smile widened as she watched her two children tipped their heads closer to her stomach, leaning in a bit forward and closing their eyes to carefully listen for any signs of the baby.

Eve frowned. “They’re not kicking…” She mumbled, sounding disappointed.

“That’s probably because you guys are now with us,” Estelle explained, gaining their attention. “When I was in the office, the baby was getting riled up by the storm...but now that we’re here, they’re no longer scared,”

Owain beamed. “R-really?”

When he got a nod of confirmation from his mother, he glanced at his older sister who shared the same, neutral expression as he did.

Looking up, the pink-haired woman observed the window, frowning deeply as she noticed the harshness of the gales and hammering of the rain intensifying. She glanced back at her children who remained huddled around her, with the puppies playfully roaming around on the bed as they scurried to join them. And then a thought occurred to her.

“Say, how about we sing a song?”

“…A song?” Owain blurted out, not quite understanding the meaning behind her words.

“What kind, what kind?” Eve joined in, suddenly getting giddy.

Estelle smiled. “Well, I was thinking…” She trailed off, tipping her head to the side. “When I was little, whenever I felt scared and alone, there was this song that a special someone would sing to me…”

Her children exchanged quick glances before averting their attention to their mother.

Wrapping his tiny arms around Zephyr, Owain lifted his chin and frowned. “How does it go, Mommy?” He wondered aloud, followed by his puppy’s constant wailing.

The pink-haired woman pursed her lips, slanting her head a bit to the side as she went deep into her thoughts. “Let’s see…” She mumbled to herself, attempting to recall the lullaby. “How does it go again?” Closing her eyes, she took a moment to compose her breathing until finally, began humming a soft tune. Slowly, the image of an older woman with dark salmon hair and a gentle gaze resurfaced from the back of her mind—her mother, Queen Selena.

Remembering the words, Estelle found herself overwhelmed with melancholic nostalgia. She reopened her eyes and lowering her gaze, found her children looking back at her.

Clearing her throat, Estelle sang the first verse that came into her head.

 

Little child, be not afraid

Though rain pounds harsh against the glass

Like an unwanted stranger, there is no danger

I am here tonight

 

Eve and Owain simply watched in awe, placing their heads on her lap and listened carefully to her words, spellbound by their mother’s mesmerizing singing voice.

Meanwhile, Estelle continued to sing, enclosing her hands together and implanting them close to her chest.

 

Little child, be not afraid

Though thunder explodes and lightning flash

Illuminates your tear-stained face

I am here tonight

 

As she sang those words, Estelle suddenly found herself in her old nursery in the Imperial Palace, and there, right in front of her stood her late mother who seemed to be cradling a small bundle in her arms. Estelle motioned her head to take a quick glimpse at the castle windows, quite surprised to discover that the weather was stormy as it was in the present.

 

And someday you’ll know

That nature is so

The same rain that draws you near me

 

Looking back, the princess approached the latter, inhaling a deep breath as she lessened the distance between them. Knowing full well the identity of the baby, Estelle suppressed the urge to choke on her tears.

Her late mother, Queen Selena, young and beautiful—bearing a striking resemblance as her, was singing the same lullaby…to her.

 

Falls on rivers and land

On forests and sand

Makes the beautiful world that you’ll see

In the morning

 

The elder woman peered up, and taking notice of Estelle, offered her a warm smile.

All Estelle could do was return the gesture, bowed her head a little, and allowed herself to be embraced by the light that would take her back to the present day. As she opened her eyes, she was surprised to find her children staring back at her.

“Mommy, are you okay?”

“Why are you crying?”

Estelle blinked, surprised to find both Eve and Owain reaching out their tiny hands to wipe away her flowing tears. Her eyes widened for a second, though was quick to revert back to its natural degree as she heaved a deep breath. Returning to look back at them, she gave them a sincere smile.

Becoming reminded of her late mother, she set her gaze on her children and reached out to caress their cheeks, singing softly— “For you know, once even I was a…little child, and I was afraid,” Collecting another deep breath, she smiled and continued, “But a gentle someone always came, to dry all my tears, trade sweet sleep for fears and to give a kiss goodnight,”

 

Well now I am grown

And these years have shown

That rain’s a part of how life goes

 

Once more, Estelle encircled her arms around them, holding them close and inhaling their sweet floral scent. This whole time, the warmth was there…her mother, and now with her children…it was always there.

 

But it’s dark and it’s late

So, I’ll hold you and wait

Till your frightened eyes do close

 

As Estelle continued to sing, another voice joined in—belonging to her eldest daughter, Eve, who struggled to keep in pace with her. Locking eyes with each other, the pair—mother and daughter sang together, encouraging one another to keep going, and though it was brief, the pink-haired woman could’ve sworn she had seen a flicker of her late mother sitting alongside them, wearing the same lovely smile as she was known for.

 

And I hope that you’ll know

That nature is so

The same rain that draws you near me

 

More images of Estelle in her younger days and with her mother reappeared, both dancing in the courtyard in complete bliss, and of them huddled together as they read a book inside the pillow fort they built. for a moment, the world blurred behind them with was nothing else except for the two of them. 

Of course, the pink flower memento came into play, which was given to Estelle on her seventh birthday, the last relic she had left of her late mother when she died of a terrible illness…and along with that, her father passing shortly due to a heavy heartbreak.

And in the next few years of her youth, Estelle was raised by the castle staff and though she owed a lot to them, she could never find the strength to sing that song again…

Until now.

 

Falls on rivers and land

On forests and sand

Makes the beautiful world that you’ll see

In the morning

 

Becoming a mother granted Estelle with newfound hope and strength

Slowly and gently, Estelle sang the next few words in a gentle whisper, and as she turned her head the other way, noticed her youngest son, Owain, already falling fast-asleep with his head nestled along the crook of her neck and loosely holding onto Zephyr, who eventually released a loud yawn before nuzzling his head to join his owner.

 

Everything’s fine in the morning

 

Estelle leaned in to give him a peck on the head, rubbed their noses together then settled her gaze toward her daughter, who rocked from side to side with half-lidded eyes, almost ready to give in and enter dreamland. Estelle pressed foreheads together, and that alone was enough to reignite Eve to sing their last verse together until eventually succumbed to her sleep, resting her head on her mother’s lap, though made sure to keep a distance from the growing bump.

 

The rain will be gone in the morning

 

Now alone, Estelle tightened her grip around her two children, directing her gaze at the window. To her surprise, the stormy gales were no more and what was once a heavy rain gradually dwindled to a light shower. Finally, she turned to the ghost of her late mother who awarded her with a proud smile and a bow of her head until fading into the darkness.

Sighing in content, the princess turned to look behind her, smiling as she noticed Lambert and Lamia fast asleep on the pillow together, then switched his focus on her sleeping children. She closed her eyes as she sang the final line of the lullaby in a soft whisper, “But I’ll still be here in the morning…”