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Edward was quite impressed with the ceremony, and that was not something that he had ever expected of this. The fact was that, frankly, he was surprised that Sethius could have pulled it off. For the second time in Invoria’s history, beauty had married a beast – and this monster had been so patient
about the whole thing. His hands were barely more than a smidgeon dirty, each line of his uniform straight as ever: how had Sethius had the patience? Edward suddenly respected him a great deal for it. The time that the commander had taken to rise to power was far greater than his own, considerably more premeditated, and because of this, it was so incredibly subtle
. He was struck by how much he suddenly appreciated the work of the man Edward had thought of as nothing more than the Queen’s whore up until then. He had wormed so effortlessly into the life of the Lancreteroux family, and now here he was, all but crowned. There were some who might question the new husband of the Hydriad leader – a man of honour or deceit? – but Edward didn’t need to wonder: he knew. They were two bound to exist the same way, misleading and evading the questions of their power, while quietly laughing at their own genius.
But sharing that genius made Edward feel threatened. He was more experienced than Sethius in the public eye, and surely more dangerous, but every time the Siren moved, he was uncomfortably aware of just how big
he was. Did the man cross his arms so simply to attest his size? That aside, he was clean-shaven, revealing fresh marks on his face, three thin lines. For what purpose? Did he exaggerate pain in his step, and did showing to prove that he was weak or that he was a survivor? It didn’t matter, really, for the man looked something just short of a savage, with his thick eyebrows and dark hair peeking out beneath his sleeves. He looked ridiculous
, like a man who threw stones and had spitting contests trying on the wear of a military man. But however he degraded Sethius, his size caused Edward to falter. Caterina, the strongest leader that perhaps the world had ever known, alongside somebody devious and sizeable; the thought made Edward uncertain where he stood and, though he knew he wasn’t such an expert at drinking, as the ceremonies concluded and the evening fell away into the reception, he tipped back an entire glass of champagne, feeling bubbles incessantly prickling his throat. Certain that no liquid was left to drip into his mouth, he placed the glass down on a tray and touched Lenore’s hand affectionately, masking his newly-arisen political insecurity beneath a smile which suggested he might be thinking back to their wedding.
Which he wasn’t.
As per usual, Edward was seeking comfort in his routine. Insecurity was such an absurd thing, but yet here he was. His actions were so engrained into his behaviour that he wasn’t even aware as his mouth formed the familiar smile, fingers combing back through his hair as he bashfully bit his lower lip, feigning ease and a boyish curiosity. The reception seemed to have components both indoor and out, and so, depending on the cooperation of the evening, either place was suitable. Edward eased indoors and out in the first few minutes of transfer between ceremony and reception, chatting with those it seemed appropriate to chat with. Somewhere, he had separated himself from Lenore, mostly by choice in the fear that she would see through him. Edward wasn’t in the mood to play games with the only person he was truly afraid he couldn’t fool. The King had chosen instead to wander with less aim and no fixed companion, enjoying that he could feel lightness in his head already from his drink. Though he had taken it first out of politeness, he wasn’t at all regretting his decision to down it. Tipsy? No, not Edward. Buzzed might have been more accurate. He was so absorbed in sticking to routine and thinking that he was more drunk than he was that he didn’t even realize he hadn’t surrendered his coat until it was mentioned to him: “If Your Majesty intends to remain indoors, it might be beneficial to deposit your coat.
Of course, the man was entirely correct, and Edward laughed with him, making a comment he was sure was witty but had already forgotten, and moved towards the coat check. He was stopped in his tracks when he caught the sight of a delicate face he surely recognized. While it wasn’t unrealistic to expect her to be there – rumour had it that she had some involvement in Caterina’s dress’ construction – it seemed so nasty that fate would align them in such a way which would inevitably cause them to collide. He took great, unintentionally-obvious steps back, pausing in the midst of traffic to think of how to behave. The most pleasing of these options was to not deal with it
and pardon himself early. But then – he had been feeling unsettled since their last encounter, like something was incomplete, and slowly he was coming to terms with what exactly that was.
It upset and contradicted everything Edward believed in to here let rank fall second to emotion. Women, occupations, class – all of it held such value in his world that it was unfathomable he would pardon it. He had thought with parts of his body that weren’t his head before, and that physical, irrational process had gotten him in trouble. But Sophie was innocent, and the closest thing to a friend he had known since Soren. He had to make amends with her for his coldness, his conceited cruelty. It was unusual that anything should put him in the line of kindness like this – oh, and how difficult it was to get these thoughts organized! Each was more conflicted than the last. Probably without thinking, and without paying a great deal of attention as to who saw him (except to make sure that it wasn’t Lenore), the King ducked through the open door. He told himself he wanted to deposit his coat without the hassle of pretence between he and the seamstress – he lied to himself, but not so poorly that he left. The room was surprisingly dark, and Edward pretended to look for a hanger.
He was waiting for her, of course, like a suicidal man running amuck with delusion. This wasn’t something that would ever reach a good place. This was a dead end. This was going to fuck him over eventually, even if it wasn’t today. Who would have thought that Edward Raymer’s soft sport was his extramarital affiliations, when he had played his cards so well everywhere else? But when Sophie extended her hand to him, using the title which he himself had coldly informed her to use, he lifted his hand in reflex, fingers pushing lightly down on her wrist and lowering it as he stepped closer to her, “I would rather if you didn’t.”
He said quietly, though his coat was quite forgotten as his fingers drifted down her hand slowly after they parted from her wrist, deliberately tangling with her fingers, slipping along each as he pulled his hand back to his body. Once more without contact, he said what Edward rarely saw reason to say: “I’m sorry for my behaviour. It was unwarranted, undignified, even.
<br><br><br>“And quite selfish,”
he added, “But I didn’t –”
the pause was for effect, something which naturally slipped into his voice for no reason other than to prolong his statement and present him as the humble King he was, “I didn’t think it would be wise for us to see each other after the storm. I think you know why.”
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CATxSETH WEDDING IN
NOTHING TO SAY. (;