The dinner table was crowded with an assortment of far too many dishes, and it seemed William wasn't sure what half of them were; Nova could not blame him, as the food was largely not only in Moyar tradition, but Moyar i Noahl, which he himself was entirely unfamiliar with. The only things he recognized were DASS cuisine he'd seen in the Theologica's cafeteria.

" So how has the diplomatic tour been so far, brother?" Redlin asked genially, pouring himself a drink.

" Largely uneventful," Nova commented stiffly.

" I heard tell that you involved yourself in some political matters in the Larananda system and Siluria."

" ...I wasn't personally involved, so much as the Commodore General's fleet was," Nova responded. " I attended some affairs as an observing party."

" And then the matter of Lyewa-Diurn and Lyewa-Prima..." Redlin took a small sip of his drink. " You've been courting progressive stances quite a bit recently."

William cut in.

" Isn't it politically advantageous for him to do so? After all, the imperial center on Sturm has completely capitulated to DASS, and Nova's continued cooperation is necessary for a smooth transition of power," he said.

Nova's ear flicked.

" ...You forgot my title again," he stated. " Call me properly."

William smugly smiled at him.

" You haven't requested that in a long while," he said.

" It's a matter of propriety," Nova responded, still as stone. " We are having a discussion with my elder brother, after all."

" I'm surprised you afford me any such dignity," Redlin said, observing the tight back and forth. " Considering... not only my disgrace and exile, but my position in DASS as it is."

" ...As Masterson said, it's advantageous for us to be on friendly terms, given the current state of politics," Nova responded, with little give.

Redlin gave him a rather pointed look.

" How often is it, then, that you defer to Commodore General Masterson's expertise?" he asked.

" I do not defer to anyone," Nova said.

" It's rather that we came to the same general consensus," William followed up. " As I mentioned to you before, Nova and I are... on amiable terms."

His eyes slid over to Nova, as though gauging how he would confirm it.

... The insults that Diurn had levied against him still burnt in his chest, acrid. The fact that Redlin was familiar with his humiliation hung heavy over him, an executioner's sword.

... He wasn't sure what to say, and it made his throat tight and dry.

" ...I would hope that you did not use any excessively colorful terms," Nova said after a moment. " To describe our professional relationship."

" Of course not," William replied. By how he was smiling, Nova could already guess what he'd said. It riled him. William was not an exceptionally loose person, but if he had disclosed their affections... To Redlin...

It hadn't mattered when it was his family at the capital. He didn't care about their opinions, and wanted to spite them.

...But he was the one who willfully, angrily, tore Redlin to shreds for wanting to be with someone he loved.

He was the one who drove Redlin to leave the empire so that he could stay with that woman who even now hung off of his neck, loudly proclaiming their partnership at every turn.

" I brought unvyel-nyur!" Ulgir loudly proclaimed, striding in with a hot pan and a smile.