William came up to meet with Sector 40's lead civil services administrator, the former prince Redlin, alone.
He took a seat in front of his desk.
" No Lyena?" Redlin asked.
" It's rather late," William answered. " He's sleeping."
" So why aren't you?"
William smiled, setting his elbows on the cluttered desk.
" We agreed to pardon the niece," William informed him. " With the caveat that she'll be extradited here. And become a staff member on the Theologica."
Redlin looked a bit surprised.
" He... actually agreed to something like that?" he asked.
" Did you think he wouldn't?"
" Well... Yes. But Ulgir was so desperate, I felt like if there was any chance, I kind of had to ask," Redlin said, hesitant.
William sighed, setting his chin in his hand.
" It did take some convincing," he said after a moment.
" Really, the fact that someone got him to change his mind about something is the most shocking thing I've heard in years," Redlin said. " He's been stubborn as a stone wall since he was a little kid. I can't imagine what anyone would have to do to get him to agree to something like this."
" Is he really so bad?" William asked.
" He nearly killed me, so yeah," Redlin answered bluntly. " He was still... kind of a kid, then, granted. Ho-sha-ku, that's uhh... like, twenty-four in DASS standard?"
He rubbed his forehead.
" I should be used to the time thing by now, huh," he said. " The 360 convention."
" It is standardized to prevent this sort of stress," William said.
Another pause; Redlin looked back up at him.
" What do you want that kid, Ulgir's niece, on your ship for, anyway?" he asked. " I heard you've been catching a lot of flack for associating with our kind too much recently. You're just gonna throw more heat onto your sector."
" It'd be nice for the Starka from Thrace to have a specialized doctor," William said. He paused again, for a moment, choosing his words carefully. " Besides... In this case, wouldn't it be better for me to have crew members without inconvenient ties?"
Redlin gave him a bit of a look.
" So being from Diurn's Reltal isn't an inconvenience for your agenda?" he asked.
" Why would it be? I got Lyewa-Prima from him," William said.
" You got Lyewa-Prima?" Redlin asked, catching on the phrasing.
" Well, yes. I won a duel against Lyewa-Diurn. Nova had nothing to do with it," William said.
Redlin's ear flicked.
" ... You're close with Lyena?" he asked.
" We're... as he says... raeli," he informed Redlin with no small degree of smugness.
Redlin's eyes went wide, and he jumped up.
" You're fucking kidding me," he exclaimed. " Lyena's with that judge's brother. I'd believe that Sturm's sun froze over before I believed that kind of bullshit! What are you up to?"
William hadn't expected such a strong reaction, and so was taken aback. It also displeased him to hear mention of Mordau.
" I'm... not up to anything?" he said placidly, a bit confused. " Even if I was, why would I lie about something like that?"
Redlin was still looking down at him with an expression William couldn't quite read.
" That's what I want to know," he said. " I can accept the Lyena being in DASS... I can accept that he'd change his mind about Ulgir's niece, even... but..."
His brow furrowed as he contemplated William.
" What's so difficult to understand about us being together, then?" William inquired politely.
The air felt tense, in the sort of electric way William felt when someone didn't want to fight him. Shock. A difficult to navigate situation.
" Lyena... Was always close with the former Lyena, after all," Redlin said. " And... he never accepted me and Ulgir."
His evaluatory gaze towards William remained hard.
" You're... a human being. And the one who defeated him in the war. The Lyena I know would sooner kill you."
Hearing this left William with a uncomfortable feeling.
" Nova loves me," he said.
" Love and rae are different things," Redlin replied stiffly.
William did not let it show that this statement took him off-guard, so he continued.
" I don't know what sort of 'Lyena' you know, administrator, but he's evidently not Nova," he said.
Redlin's judgment didn't soften.