Ardent set Mirohirokon down in the vast entrance hall of the Moon Palace. It was ostentatiously large, irritatingly so since the Queen did not permit her subjects to teleport into any room closer to the court. It looked as if it had been carved from a single giant block of polished gray-black granite. Fanciful draconic columns supported silver crescent arches inset in a dark ceiling. The space was empty save for two impassive unicorn golems guarding the door to the antechamber.
Ardent covered her face with her hands and leaned against one of the draconic pillars. “Justice! I’d forgotten how annoying High Court is, and I remembered it being bad enough that I left to escape it. And we’re not even to it yet! Do I look as ridiculous as I feel?”
“You look magnificent, my lady,” Mirohirokon said, with a sincerity that made her peek between her fingers at him. “Just as you were magnificent holding court before three mortals in Try Again’s green,” he added, and she snorted back a laugh. “I am sorry that their manners brought you pain. But you remain a wonder to behold; nothing a clothier could do would lessen you.”
“What did I say about those pretty Sun Host courtesies?” She made a face at him. He smiled at her, unrepentant. He did look amazing. Especially with all that long straight hair flowing behind him like a cloak. She wondered if Katsura’s instinct – dress him as a Sun prince, and you’ll be even grander for having caught such a one – had been wrong. Would his polished Sun Host look and manners make the chaos of the Moon Court seem clumsy and childish by contrast? But she couldn’t have put him through any of Katsura’s other suggestions. Dress him like a slave? No. Ardent sighed. “C’mon, kid. Let’s get this over with.”
She started forward, but his touch on her hand made her pause. “My lady,” he said, gravely. “I am fifty-three years old. I realize that seems little to you, but my great-grandfather was only a few years older than I when he died of old age. I am not a child. Please, do not call me ‘kid’.”
She was on the point of protesting – I’m two centuries older than you! Everyone seems like a kid to me. I call Katsura ‘kid’ and she’s almost twice your age. It doesn’t mean anything.
But it meant something to him.
And he was here, surrendering his freedom and risking his life to save his father. He’d have little enough dignity in this part. What right did she have to take what remained away? “I’m sorry, sugar,” she said, contrite. “Of course you aren’t.” She gave a little laugh. “Guess I shouldn’t call you ‘sugar’ either, Mirohirokon.”
“‘Sugar’ is fine,” he said, mouth solemn but brown eyes mischievous. “I’ve no objections to ‘sweetie’, either. Or Miro, if you like. Or pet or slave, if need be. We do not always get to choose our roles.”
She grimaced. “No, we don’t.” She patted his back. “Miro.” Together, they walked the long hall towards the court.
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