" Doesn't it wear on you, to have to oversee so many executions?"

An unexpected face.

" I thought I told you to stay away from me when I sent you back from the 4th fleet," Nova said coldly.

" I'm studying law, and brother wanted me to come witness your slaughter," Mordau replied, seating himself. " He referred to it as an 'unprecedented waste of resources'."

" I don't want a fleet built of honorless murderers, rapists, and thieves," Nova responded.

Blood on glass.

Mordau leaned forward, into his field of vision.

" Did you really hate Lyena-Ifrit so much?" he asked, casually curious. " You sent me away just because I happened to mention him."

Nova's nails dug into the arms of his chair.

" If you didn't know, and you still don't, then I have no reason to tell you anything," he said. " I would prefer you not mention it again."

A disquieting silence.

" Is it really so painful?" Mordau asked.

" Am I going to have to banish you from my sight yet again?"

" You know, the DASS is going to take advantage of such a critical weak spot as this," Mordau said. " It's an entire fleet."

" If Uncle wanted to stop me, he would've stopped me," Nova replied.

" I suppose so."

More silence.

" Lyena-Nova, will you allow me into your cabinet?" Mordau asked.

" I don't have one," Nova replied shortly.

" Though Brother is a favored fixture in the court system, and even personally serves Lorn and Lorhe, he does little for me. He finds me disgraceful because I have a father. Because Mother moved to an outer settlement to raise me. Being on Sturm for my college education has left me with few allies," Mordau said, at length.

" How does any of that concern me?"

" I've heard... rumors... that Lorn doesn't speak with you. And to be alone in one's own country... Is something that I understand."