William's outfit was different than usual; and he seemed oddly shorter. Nova could not place it until he kicked his leg up and adjusted his boot; his boots had much shorter heels, when he normally wore the tall, clunky heels of the Commodore General uniform.

" Ah, Nova! You came," he said cheerfully.

" Yes. I supposed that your last words might be something of worth."

... It unsettled him, how small and slender William was.

It felt sick to him that Diurn would so easily, thoughtlessly kill this thing just to humiliate him.

" I was thinking about our differences a bit more before I slept," William said, fastening his cape.

And?" Nova quirked a brow.

" If you do care for me, is it in a normal way?"

Nova did not respond to him, watching him tidy himself and make sure everything was in place.

" Because, your brother was sort of saying I looked very young from his perspective, and you said that humans and Starka age at a different pace, so I do come across as immature or something, don't I? There's also the fact that the Starka Emperor himself, your uncle, is almost two hundred or so, isn't he? So you'll be alive long after I'm gone... Relatively speaking in like percentage, you would be... Ah, I'm going on and on about things irrelevant to what I'm asking. Which is, how do you care for me?"

He stretched.

" I don't care for you, you little rat of a man. I'd just rather not have Diurn disdain any aspect of my tour as ambassador."

" Ah, so this is about maintaining friendly relations? That's all? You don't think I'm cute or anything like that? Do I look like some kind of weird little gremlin to you?"

Nova felt. Significantly irritated.

" I come here to see if you have any last words of worth, and instead you've chosen to ramble on about nonsense like some kind of madman. It's amazing, how I find myself continually disappointed by you," he deadpanned.

" Well, you see, I'm not going to die. So I have no concern with that. I've mostly just spent my time between then and now refreshing my sword skills and wondering if you were jealous of Kirie or Neda."

Nova pursed his lips.

" To believe that this morning I was thinking I would regret going back home," he said. " I'd rather be dueling Lanta every day for the rest of my life then listen to another second of this."

William flitted over to him, tiptoe. Irritatingly close.

" I think you speak harshly to people you care about, to cover yourself if you get rejected. That's a strange thing, to me. But, either way, could you at least pretend to believe I can win?"

"...I see no point in lying about things, in either case," Nova replied. He stepped away from him. " I'm going to go join that crowd of cadets and attendants outside now. I'll consider myself impressed if you can last fifteen seconds."

William just smiled at him.