" Spokes... intercepts... sectors... The way your people divide up space is so confusing," Nova complained.

They were getting ready to go retrieve the chunk of the fleet that had been surreptitiously borrowed by Dawson and Chzgurit.

" It's for bureaucracy's sake," William replied. " Much as your Empire's provinces are divided up by whichever prince holds them at the moment. Though I'm not sure I ever received a satisfactory explanation about that."

" It's not complicated at all. It's just about holding favor and political power," Nova replied dismissively. " Uncle likes to place the ones he's not fond of around the fringes of our territory."

" Such as you?"

" I mostly kept to myself and didn't get involved with the governing of land until he forced me to," Nova said. " I was only in charge of Thera for about six or seven years."

" Why'd you agree to it?"

" Hm... I thought that perhaps enough time had passed that he didn't hate me anymore. That, of course, turned out to be wrong." Nova laughed harshly. " He just wanted me to take the fall for Thera failing. He wanted to disgrace me by any means possible. That's the sort of ruthlessness he holds. Even if no one can beat me, even if I'm Lyena, I can still have my reputation dragged through the mud."

" Ruthlessness, huh..."

" It's not as I though... I ever did anything to wrong him. It wasn't me."

" Ah, it wasn't you."

" ... You never told me how you got all those scars, Wille."

" Ah? Why bring that up, all of a sudden?"

" If you do tell me that... I'll tell you about my scars, as well."

...William's gaze glided over him, looking at pristine expanses of skin.

" I'll think about it," he said.