Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Amethyst


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Domitia Viriatus & Liviana Viriatus

“Liviana, come on, we’re gonna be late!” Domitia called, pounding on the bathroom door for what felt like the hundredth time. (In truth, it was only the thirty-sixth such interaction this morning.) “What’s taking so long?”

“Go- just go to brunch without me, please. please.” Liv whimpered in Latin. From the sound of her voice she was clearly standing very close behind the door but refusing to open it.

Dom knew what this was about. Precisely four minutes and thirty-three seconds after the live coverage of the welcome gala had ended, Liviana’s cell phone started ringing. It was midnight in Lynston, which meant it was six-thirty-seven in the morning in Lusitania (Yes, Lusitania is one of those places that insists on having its own timezone, and not on a half hour like a sensible kingdom would, rather being precisely twenty-three minutes slower than Athenian Standard Time. Just to make them mad.) It also meant that their family had stayed up all night to watch the coverage, which meant in turn that they were likely grumpy.

Liv had dashed up to the room and locked herself in the restroom, but Dom could hear the shouting through the phone and the wall – if not well enough to make out the rapid fire Greek and Latin. The family certainly had a lot to say, given that Liv hadn’t emerged until nearly 3:30, and had crawled into bed and into Dom’s arms altogether wordlessly, curling up against their chest and badly feigning sleep.

She still hadn’t said a damn thing about what the problem was, but Dom figured they could guess as the bathroom door opened once more.

Liv looked, to put it politely, rather like a grandma. Not a trace of makeup was on her face, her eyes visibly puffy and red from the night’s phone call, and what little of her hair was visible seemed to be plaited and pinned tightly to her head to minimize its dramatic effect. Her long tunic was a plain grey-brown-pink color (someone more romantic might have called it ‘mauve’) of thin linen, shapeless around her frame, and surmounted by a half-sheer veil in a cream color, which draped over her head and shoulders, collecting on the left side of her body. Her stare was firmly fixed on the floor.

“Grandfather said something to you, didn’t he?” Dom extended their arms to their young aunt, catching her body against their side. Without looking up, Liv nodded, dumbly wrapping her arms around Dom’s waist and burying her head even further, so there was no chance of catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror.

They pursed their lips, wondering. The last thing they wanted to do was make things harder on their aunt. “Does the something extend to me? Do I need to change?” They wore a very simple short sleeved (and decidedly Aciran-styled) dress, in a neutral green color, with grey leggings, a (legit, thank you!) pair of Lusitanian legion combat sandals, and a men’s-fit grey suit jacket over the top of it all, unbuttoned. Their hair was fluffed up in its usual disarrayed bob (and eyebrows fluffed to match), and their trademark three-dot eyeliner on point, but otherwise they wore minimal makeup.

Liv looked them over briefly, cursorily, but buried her head again before she would meet Dom’s gaze. “No. You’re Britannia’s problem now. We’ll have to see what the tabloids there say, but they quite like you from the initial coverage. According to Father. And at the end of the day he- doesn’t have a say. Edwin-“ she swallowed, blinking rapidly. “Edwin is your… keeper, at least, as Father sees it. And Ed seemed to adore the way you two matched last night, especially while you were dancing. I could see it in his eyes. He- really likes you, you know.” She deliberately refused to meet Dom’s gaze. To change the subject, she quite abruptly asked, “Where’s Ana?”

I really don’t know how to respond to that. After a goodly amount of time, Dom simply ruffled Liv’s hair (gently, so as not to move the veil.) “She took Qvi out and went to go find food for herself. I sent her with her notebooks, she’s going to meet up with us after brunch for lessons.”

Liv nodded, peeling away from Dom’s side and crossing the room, picking up her cello case and easing it across her shoulders in one smooth motion.

“What? Where are you going?”

“To practice. Isn’t that obvious?” Liv turned on her heel, quickly walking out the door before she could do something stupid like break down and cry, again. She made it halfway down the corridor before the tears started, sniffling and biting down on her lip in an effort to stifle the sounds as she hurried up a flight of stairs, finding a room that seemed unused – maybe more of a breezeway between a few other rooms, but there was no one and no furniture to get in her way here, at least not obviously seen.

The folding stool was taken from where it was strapped to the back of the instrument case (never before had she been so glad to have brought it, finickiness of getting it on the airplane and all) and quickly unfolded, her instrument quickly tuned and soon settled. Though she hadn’t practiced in nearly a week now, what with travel and preparations, it took only a short time for the instrument to be warmed up and playing well. She had neglected to grab the folding music stand from the room, of course, so she didn’t even bother to fight with the sheet music, closing her eyes and visualizing the notes to her favorite concerto streaming out in front of her, fingers finding them nearly-automatically.

Damn that Livi. Dom saw her go, of course, but made no move to follow- perhaps it was the sniffling sound that just barely reached their ears, but they knew their aunt needed some alone time. On a good day, interrupting Liv’s practices would earn you a glare. Today it would probably incite a meltdown.

Dom turned smartly and descended the stairs, expertly remembering their way through the Aciran palace (which, though more spacious, was still not as confusing as the Lusitanian one, what with the thirteen different imperial expansions that had been done and later half-reversed on it!) soon walking into the parlor where the brunch was being held. They found themself a spot at a corner of the table, one that was as yet unoccupied, and there set up a perch to watch the other royals interacting.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Ezmeralda
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"Thank you." Ivy smiled at them both and took a seat next to Lea and Rhia. She patted the seat next to her for Mai so they could continue their conversation.

Ivelynne nodded, "I agree and wrong isn't exactly what I was implying. It's just....there's a great many that just don't get makeup as an art form, and I think it makes it harder for them to interpret it as such. On my last stream there were some new folks saying I looked like a clown in my chat because I wear a lot of makeup.... They were promptly pounced on by my regulars, but it got me thinking about it and how that could be changed, if at all possible.... Do you think someone could be taught to appreciate such things? Or do you think it's just hardwired into their brain to not understand?"

"I would love one! Thank you." she nodded, delicately taking the cream puff from the other woman, and popped it into her mouth just as daintily. She finished chewing and swallowed it before speaking again, "Oh my, they really are delicious!"

Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by madmonarchist


Member Seen 6 mos ago

The time zone difference from Notia to Aciras made it difficult for Talya to sleep the night after the ball. She laid awake, replaying the events of the ball in her head. Her conversation with Yu had been interesting, and Princess Lea seemed like an absolute sweetheart. Her obsession with pink was…. questionable. Now that she thought about it, all Talya really did was observe. It was sort of out of character for her, but she felt it was a smart thing to do. After all, one could learn more from observation than just about anything - or so she believed.

Around three in the morning, the young woman decided that checking her social media would be better than staring at the ceiling of her guest room. #ThatHat was absolutely everywhere. It seemed that Quentins face was plaster everywhere from every angle. Though it was only one of the most stand out fashion choices, the Prince had most definitely made a statement. The last thing on the agenda was to check her email. A link to one of the Aciran tabloids had found it's way there (Talya tried to make it a point to keep up with what was going on in the world, but sometimes it just got to hectic).

Reading all of it thoroughly, the thing that would stick out the most to her would be the part about herself. Not because she was self absorbed, but because of what was written. Was this writer trying to expose Erik? Was she trying to make her betrothals invalid? Make Talya and Erik seem like not so royal royals? Of course she was. That's what tabloid were all about. Angry and anxious, the princess tossed her phone on the bedside table before rolling over with a huff. Somehow, she eventually managed to fall asleep.


Waking up to the sound of her alarm (Set precisely to ten) Talya would take a minute to select her outfit. Said outfit consisted of a blue t-shirt, skinny jeans and knee high, dark brown, leather boots. Always prepared, she tied a flannel shirt around her waist in case it got cold. She tied her hair back into a ponytail, applied mascara, a little clear lip gloss and was on her way. The information swarming around from the tabloid was still fresh in her mind, and soon Talya found herself making a detour - right to Erika room.

Knocking on the door a few quick times, the princess stood on the outside, arms crossed and waited on her betrothed to answer.


After the ball, Erik returned to his room. He had refrained from checking his phone the entirety of the time of the ball and the minute he did, he found several messages, most of them from his sister, a few from Yelena and his other friends.

Taking off his tie, Erik began to unbutton his shirt as he skimmed over the messages, walking over to his dresser to retrieve his night clothes. Placing the phone on the dresser, Erik continued to read the messages as he changed into his night clothes- blue and white stripped pajama pants. Carefully folding the rest of his clothes, Erik skimmed through the applications on his phone eventually reaching to a video-calling application that had been developed by Veredunian technologists for the royal family- the servers couldn’t be hacked externally. That was the main appeal of this application really- it gave Erik complete privacy, or the illusion of it anyway. Privacy didn’t quite exist in Veredun, but that was a topic for another day.

Within minutes, the screen filled with the familiar face of his sister’s smiling face. Seeing that, Erik’s lips curved into a wide grin as well.

“Why hello there,” she greeted with a wide grin. “How was your night? You had a ball, didn’t you?” she asked as Erik nodded in response.

“It was alright, and the ball was pretty much what I expected- lots of glitter, diamonds, designer dresses- you know,” he answered as he walked towards his bed, collapsing on the covers. He held his left arm above him as he continued to speak to his sister.

“Was it fun?” she asked but all she got from Erik was a shrugged response.

“It was okay I suppose,” he answered cryptically. Truthfully, Erik detested formal events like that. They gave him no freedom of movement and choice at all.

Erik’s conversation with his sister continued for about another hour, during which she had informed him on all the latest developments in Veredun. She had always been like that. Since they grew up separately, Juliet had always insisted on informing Erik about everything in her life when she communicated with him, right from the most mundane of things. She’d said that it helped her feel closer to him. And once Erik began to travel, she’d text him religiously twice a day- once in the morning and once at night. Every week, they’d have a video conversation, well whenever the connection was good anyway.

But their conversation was not all mundane. Juliet had informed him of a rather disturbing development- some Acrian gossip tabloid had apparently reported that Erik was not committed to Talya and had a secret girlfriend. All true of course, but it was the most inconvenient thing. Erik had never intended to marry Talya, and he suspected the same from her. Naturally they’d never had a conversation about this. Ever since the engagement had been announced, Erik and Talya had spoken of everything but the impending reality of their situation. Because of this, both of them had ended up becoming friends. But now, Erik suspected that it was time to talk to Talya- he had to tell her the truth. She deserved that much.

With that, Erik had fallen asleep. He awoke next morning to the earliest rays of the morning sun and did his usual routine- a quick morning workout, a shower and changed into his outfit for the brunch. Crisp white pants, a grey-ish blue blazer, and a printed blue and white shirt underneath. As Erik continued to get ready, he answered texts from Yelena and his sister. He had never intended to lie to Talya at all, but the circumstances had made it that way. When his engagement to Talya was announced, Yelena was nothing but a friend- there was no reason to say anything at all. Until very recently, he was not sure about Yelena. He liked her sure, but he was not sure that he could commit to her. Or that she’d commit to him in a long-term perspective. But things had changed. Over the course of the last few weeks, Erik had realized that he truly did love Yelena and would never love anyone else the way he loved her. He wanted to spend every waking moment with her. And when he couldn’t, Erik would spend his time talking to her- they would text every single day. Over the course of the last few months, he had opened up to Yelena in a way that he never could to someone who he hadn’t known since childhood. He had told her everything- about his parents, his siblings, his grandmother. Everything. She was easy to talk to and when he did, Erik realized just how strong and supportive she could be.

He needed her. Probably far more than she needed him to be honest.


And that was when he heard the echo of knocking on the door. The knocking sounded different- angrier. Impatient. Erik could guess who was at the door- Talya. He highly doubted Vera would be as patient, and Anatole’s knocks were far calmer.

Sighing, Erik inhaled sharply and headed to the door. It is now or never, Erik thought to himself silently as he reached for his brown leather belt, looping it around his waist as he opened the door. And as suspected, Talya it was.

“Hey,” he greeted, standing aside so that she could enter.

She looked slightly upset and Erik had a pretty good idea as to why she would be. She had read the silly tabloid, he thought to himself silently.

“What’s up?” he asked, though he knew exactly what was on her mind.

Fortunately for Erik, it didn't take him forever to open the door. He seemed just as calm, cool and casual as ever. Talya, however, was on a sort of mission - one to protect her kingdom, her family, and her reputation, as well as Eriks. Though they had never really discussed their feelings for one another, Talya had developed a crush on him long ago - one that she did her very best to keep hidden. She was all but sure that Erik only seen her as a friend. The way she looked at it, it could be worse. She'd take what she could get. Besides, it wasn't like he had ever lied to her about Yelena. Any feelings Talya developed were entirely her fault.
Walking in the room, taking a seat in the foot of the bed, Talya closed her eyes and took a deep breath in hopes of calming her nerves.

”Have you seen it? That stupid, ghastly tabloid?”

As Erik suspected, Talya had seen it. At that point, Erik craved some sort of liquid courage- vodka, tequila, whiskey, anything.

Briefly Erik closed his eyes to compose himself and inhaled sharply. Snapping his eyes open, Erik slowly exhaled and found the rhythm of his heart once more.

It was now or never, he reminded himself.

“About that….,” Erik began slowly. He saw Talya sitting down. Good, he thought to himself silently. That should make this a lot easier.

“So, I wouldn’t say that it’s entirely inaccurate,” Erik chose his words carefully, not wanting to upset Talya more than she already was. Though, he suspected that anything he said would only make her more upset and he couldn’t blame her for it. This was all on Erik. He should have handled it better, more maturely. She deserved better, he thought to himself silently. But what was done was done. Now all that was left was to deal with it.

”What do you mean?” she said, her expression full of thought.

Wow, this was much harder than he had anticipated, Erik thought to himself.
“So,” he began slowly. “You remember when we first got well… engaged right?” he asked rather awkwardly.

“My grandmother obviously didn’t bother to tell me and I only found out months after the actual arrangement was completed. During that time, I was talking to someone- she was just a friend back then,” Erik explained.

“I didn’t even know who she was,” he recalled with a small smile. “I met her for the first time in some seedy Rustavyan bar my crew used to visit. I had no idea why she was there. We just spent all night talking. After that, we exchanged numbers and kept in touch. I’d see her every time I went to Rustavya, which was quite a bit considering we share borders,” he explained.

“She’d show me around Rustavya, and before I knew it, she became one of my closest friends. At that time, the engagement was announced, and I didn’t think much of it. All I knew was that I didn’t want someone else to control my fate. But I said nothing because well… I could say nothing, you know what my grandmother is like.”

Empress Catherine did not take no for an answer. Her word was the law in Veredun, a law applied equally to everyone for the most part anyway. If she wanted Erik engaged, he would be engaged. But he had always planned on rebelling at some point- running away if he absolutely had to from the wedding. He would not be controlled by her. She would not dictate who he would marry and spend the rest of his life with. She didn’t have that power over him. Naturally, he said none of this to her face.

“And as time passed, we got closer. I eventually found out who she was- Yelena Fabergé,” he stated. “She wasn’t a part of the Rustavyan royal family, but she was a Rustavyan noble. And she was very close to Vera I mean, Princess Verena,” he corrected himself quickly. “I was introduced to Princess Verena through her. And Princess Verena recognized who I was after a background check. I’d said nothing to Yelena about my background because I didn’t think it mattered at the time.”

“Eventually, we became closer and about a year or so ago, I started to date her. But I knew my grandmother wouldn’t take it well so we decided not to tell anyone about it. She would be upset that I ruined her engagement plans and ‘embarrassed Veredun on a global scale’,” he quoted, resisting the urge to roll his eyes as he spoke. “But more than that, she would brand me a traitor for having anything to do with Yelena as she is Rustavyan,” he continued. “You know the relationship between our countries. Even when its ‘good’ its hardly amicable. So we decided that it was safest not to say anything to anyone about this for the both of us. And at the time, it was just supposed to be innocent fun,” he explained. Even on Yelena’s side, being involved with Erik was not the best. Relationships with Veredunians was tolerated, but one with a high-born Veredunian noble, a Veredunian prince and one who obviously had seemingly close ties to the Veredunian Crown was not. While Erik wasn’t as well-versed in their diplomatic history as some of his older siblings, Erik knew enough to know that the ties between Rustavya and Veredun had been strained far before the disappearance of the Rustavyan Queen.

“But over time, it stopped being just fun,” he stated. “I found that I could talk to her about you know… stuff,” Erik answered cryptically. He could talk to Yelena about everything, Erik realized. She didn’t judge him, she just listened. She supported him, consoled him. She was the first person he had actually told important things to- about his childhood, his relationship with his older siblings, Juliet, Ferdinand, his parents, his cousins, his grandmother and Empress Catherine’s supposed involvement in Ferdinand’s death- everything.

“It began with Ferdinand’s… you know,” he trailed off. The world knew Erik’s older brother had died. Veredunian media had spun it to make it seem like Ferdinand was a martyr, a war hero. He was of course. Ferdinand had been one of the most capable soldiers Erik had ever known- honorable and humble. He was a strategic genius and was well-liked by everyone, even those who hadn’t directly served under him. He exemplified a war hero. But the media highlighting that aspect of his life was just a cover-up to hide the more sinister circumstances of Ferdinand’s death, particularly what he had uncovered about the Veredunian genetic research. That wasn’t the Veredun Ferdinand had sworn to defend and protect. Ferdinand was the kind of person who would die for Veredun in a heartbeat, but not like this. Apart from Juliet, it was only Erik who had known. But now, Yelena did too.

“She helped me through it a lot,” Erik continued. “Had it not been for her, I don’t even want to think about what could have happened. I wasn’t in a good place you know.” That had been the most significant loss Erik had suffered since the death of his own parents. Erik had grown up almost exclusively with Ferdinand and his loss opened up several painful memories and traumas associated with the loss of their parents that had been long suppressed by both Erik and his siblings.God, he had been so close to doing absolutely stupid things- openly confronting Konrad and Anastasia for their involvement in Ferdinand’s death topping the list. He owed Yelena his life to be honest. Had it not been for her, Erik would have done so, along with a list of other reckless things and his grandmother would have his head on a platter in the imperial palace. On several occasions, Yelena had stopped him. He’d confided in her- the recurring nightmares, everything. He’d told her things he had never told anyone else before, not even Juliet. And for the first time, Erik felt as if he was not entirely alone. He wasn’t ready to give that up in order to appease his grandmother. He was already out of favor with her and Erik doubted that going through with a simple marriage arrangement would change any of that.

“And ever since then, our relationship changed. It became more serious,” he added, pausing to inhale sharply. “And I never intended to hide anything from you. I just didn’t want to cause problems for nothing. I didn’t want to say anything until I was absolutely sure, which I am now. I had intended to tell you in a much better way, under much more… positive circumstances, but I don’t think that is possible anymore,” he continued.

“I’m so sorry Talya, I never intended to hurt or embarrass you at all,” he stated sincerely.

Talya sat on the edge of the bed, legs crossed as she took in the information. She remembered Erik mentioning a good friend from home a few times named Yelena. So it wasn't as if he lied, right? She ought to be yelling at him right now, but instead she felt only very, very slightly angry. Said anger was only directed at herself. The feelings she had for Erik were small, but they were still there. How was she supposed to marry someone who she knew was in love with someone else? She couldn't. Erik was her friend, and she wasn't about to mess up his relationship, even if she wished she was Yelena.

”It's fine, Erik. You didn't upset me. But… we have to make people think that we're together. That we're in love. At least for the time being. If not, this tabloid will keep printing our names amidst it's speculations. We have to go through with the engagement while we're here in Aciras. Maybe not the whole time… but enough to let the situation die down. I'll even help explain all this to Yelena if you wish.” She took a deep breath. ”And I don't expect you to marry me, Erik.”

Erik hadn’t expected that. Not at all. He’d expected Talya to be upset, after all anyone in her situation had the right to be so. Erik had handled it all very poorly. Thus, for Talya to react this way… Erik couldn’t help but be grateful. Incredibly grateful.

And so, all Erik could do was nod in agreement. She had a point. Although this was just some Acrian tabloid, Empress Catherine would not take it lightly. All of this happening in Veredun was one thing, but this happening outside Veredun was something entirely different. At least for now, this was what had to be done.

Erik was fairly certain that he didn’t have to pretend to be in love with Talya. Marriage arrangements of this caliber were common among royalty and nobility. However, what he did have to do was pretend as if he was committed to Talya, at least on the surface.

“You’re right,” he agreed with a light nod.

“However, I have a plan for that too,” he continued. “I’m sure you’ve heard the statements from Veredun about me, about how… different I am from the rest of my family,” Erik began carefully. Yes, he wasn’t a high-functioning sociopath, psychopath or a war criminal. God forbid that he was as close to normal on the spectrum, Erik thought to himself sarcastically. “For years now, they have been painting me as an immature, frivolous child who only cares about having a good time. Now, naturally that’s not entirely inaccurate, but it is exaggerated quite a bit,” Erik continued. “And by ‘they,’ I mean my cousins specifically,” he clarified.
“I mean, it’s not been all bad,” he added with a light shrug. “People don’t expect too much from me and I get to live my life the way I want for the most part, I get quite a bit of freedom as compared to my older siblings,” he continued calmly. “But under this guise, I have foundations that people don’t quite question my private relationships much. People expect me to be scandalous, they don’t expect me to be monogamous to anyone,” he continued. Why this was the case Erik didn’t know. He’d never been unfaithful to anyone in his life-cheating on his girlfriends was something Erik just never did. But again, he never questioned those accusations, mostly because he didn’t care to be embroiled any more in the media than he already was.

“I’ve been using this cover for the most part to hide my relationship with Yelena,” he explained. “And until now, it’s been going quite well,” he added, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. For once, he shared and understood his other relatives’ distaste for the media. “Anyway, what I am trying to say is that we should probably increase our public appearances a bit more. But don’t respond to any of these allegations, let them go on. It would be far more suspicious if I was faithful to you,” he explained.

There was no doubt that eyebrows would be raised if Erik would be faithful to Talya all of a sudden- it had been years since they were formally engaged and since then, neither Erik nor Talya had ever shown romantic interest in each other publically. Of course, that could have been easily explained by the fact that the engagement itself was an argument between their two countries and was nothing short of a business deal to be honest But such things were common practice among royalty and nobility. The suspicious part would be Erik’s sudden devotion to Talya- why now, would be the first question people would ask. Given his reputation, no one would believe that Erik intended to be faithful to Talya at all. It would be far more believable for the media to believe that Erik had his own relationships and scandalous affairs outside his engagement to Talya as opposed to suddenly being completely devoted to upholding the engagement all of a sudden.

”You are completely and undeniably right,” Talya said with a small smirk as she stood up from the bed. ”Should we make one of those public appearances going to brunch together?”

“I suppose so,” Erik answered, nodding a little.

Waking over to the wooden cabinet, Erik folded a black handkerchief and placed it in yen pocket of his blazer and reached for his black sunglasses. As he was doing so, he continued to speak to Talya.

“I really can't thank you enough for this,”he began. “I know not many people in your situation would have reacted similarly. You really are something else you know,” he continued with a smile as he walked over to the mirror to check his hair one last time.

“And one day, I'd like you to meet Yelena. I think you'd really like her,” he added, turning around to face her with a smile.

“Well then,” he began, turning to face her. “Shall we?” he asked with a bright grin.

”You know I've always considered you a friend, Erik.” Walking across the room to open the door, she turned to look at him one last time before starting her descent down the stairs. ”I hope they at least have mimosas.”

Erik grinned in response at that. “If all else fails, I'll make you mimosas,” as he followed her. From what he had seen at the ball, Erik was not impressed by the selection of alcohol. He didn't hold his breath for mimosas. Princess Lea seemed far more of a chocolate lover than a connoisseur of alcoholic spirits and wines.

And as they entered the parlor, Erik’s suspicions had been confirmed. It was very… green and pink, Erik thought to himself silently as his eyes skimmed the decor of the room. He could see several plants and green motifs around the room and from what he could see, the furniture was late nineteenth-century. Everywhere he turned, all Erik could see was deserts and chocolate. The brunch looked more like a chocolate factory in Erik’s opinion. Brunch to Erik was usually on some yacht filled to the brim with various forms of alcohols and liquiers, but obviously this was not that kind of brunch. Though he much preferred the latter. Erik truly believed that anything on water was just far better than its counterpart on land.

He could see a few people had already arrived, Princess Lea being one of them. From the corner of his eye, he recognized Alejandro and turned to flash him a wide grin.

“I don’t see your mimosas,” he spoke to Talya, his eyes still skimming around the room.

Walking into the room, it was apparent that Barbie had barfed all over the place. While Talya had been hoping for chicken and waffles and maybe some fresh fruit, it looked like she'd be settling for chocolate covered… everything. She gave a small nod towards her sister Ivy. ”I'll see you later, alright?” she said to Erik before taking a seat across from Ivy.

“Sounds good,” Erik replied with a curt nodd.

Walking over to the courtyard, Erik opted for a rather secluded place, and pulled out his phone. Quickly scrolling through his contacts, he found Vera’s name and began to text her. Yelena already knew that Erik was going to tell Talya- he’d messaged her about it, though she hadn’t replied Suspicious, he thought to himself silently. Yelena was usually quite quick to respond.

Returning his attention to the phone screen before him, Erik inhaled sharply and began to text Vera. It was better to tell her himself instead of her finding out from someone else… right? She already thought that he wasn’t serious enough about Yelena and Erik really didn’t need that stupid tabloid stirring up more problems than it already had. Something told him that he would not be leaving this brunch alive.

Hidden 6 mos ago Post by lady horatio
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lady horatio

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Genevieve slept until 10:25 a.m., still jet-lagged and having not yet adjusted to local time.

When Natalie woke her up and alerted her to the hour, the Marisian princess paled.

"It's fine, Gen, really," Natalie said soothingly. "The brunch is on the first floor, right? It can't take that long to find. Let's say five minutes, ten tops. That gives us almost thirty to get you ready, and the invite says this is a much more casual affair."

Genevieve nodded, but still sat, the wheels of her mind spinning without traction, until Natalie pulled her gently to her feet and shooed her in the direction of the bathroom. "Shower. Fast. I'll lay out some clothes for you in the meantime."

Genevieve did as she was told.

Fifteen minutes later, she was wrapped in a towel, hair mostly dry, as Natalie tried to reconcile the makeup looks Genevieve usually favored on social media with the more understated sort more appropriate for a light brunch. Dark eyeliner with a bit of a shimmer, mascara—Gen's mortal enemy—and a lip color just this side of red turned out to be a fair compromise.

After that, it only took a few minutes to select an outfit from the impressive array Natalie had laid out on the bed: a soft tunic the color of butterscotch, belted at the waist; a pair of dark, narrow-legged jeans; and simple ballet flats to give her feet a break from yesterday's heels.

"Is it going to look weird if we braid my hair two days in a row?" Genevieve asked. "Especially since this is more casual?"

"Not if we make the braids look different," Natalie said, already going to work. "Besides, maybe this can become your signature thing while you're here, since you can't wear your Twitter-lipstick with everything."

At exactly 10:53, Genevieve stepped out of her room, a loose French braid falling artfully over one shoulder, and tried to orient herself based on map of the palace's layout she'd just been looking at.

As she walked, she pulled her phone out of the small purse she'd brought in lieu of using Christopher as a walking handbag. She'd left her "bodyguard" behind, afraid he would be out of place at such a low-key event and not wanting to offend her hosts with the implication that she could be in any danger in such a private room, without the chaos and foot traffic of last night's ball.

"Hey, Liv," she texted, reaching out to the one person with whom she'd managed to exchange numbers the night before, "I'm heading down to brunch, just barely on time. If you're already there, will you save me a seat?"

Yes, it was probably lame, trying to set up an event-buddy before she even walked in the door. But, Genevieve reasoned, Liviana would probably be just as happy to see a familiar face…and she really wanted to avoid the awkwardness of entering the party and not knowing where to go.

(Interacting with @Amethyst, but it's up to her whether or not Liv responds, and I would be delighted if anyone wants to bump into Genevieve en route)
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by DracarysBitch
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DracarysBitch drownedinmoonlight

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Vera retired at the earliest possible convenience during the ball, not so early so as to seem rude, but she was certainly not staying up til the wee hours for frolicking. She had work to do. Well, she didn’t, technically, but she always was a micromanager, and finance budgets were a delight. She was quick to change out of her clothes and jewels when she returned to her room and toss them aside, with the exception of her crown and ring, before looking over the budget on a tablet by a window, illuminated by moonlight. All very romantic, just with legislative papers, and minus the recipient of her affections. After she finished looking it over and sent back her desired changes, she read through emails sent by her Ministers of Foreign and Internal Affairs, just general updates about key persons and organizations of interests, nothing serious, unfortunately. If there was something like a coup d’etat or rebellion on the forefront, she could go home to deal with it. She was slightly tempted to ask Nikita to stage another Yusupov rebellion, but that thought was ridiculous, and would complicate things far too much. He was already branded as the son of traitors, lest she ask him to become one. Despite the nuisance, an extended foreign trip full of pointless frolicking about was far more preferable to another Yusupov rebellion.

She sighed, before moving over to the bed with her tablet. It was early morning in Rustavya, far too early for anyone to be awake, but, if she remembered her programming correctly, Русtавя1 would be rerunning last year’s Голубой огонек, and Sergey Lazarev’s voice was always a nice one to fall asleep to. Settled into the sheets, she barely noticed the servants cleaning up her mess and turning off the lights as she nodded off.

The Rustavyan princess did not wake at any hour on the dot. She never did, mornings were her mortal enemy, and she loathed them. Oh sure, she always showed up to her appointments on time, but in between the aforementioned appointment and getting the woman out of bed? She was not a trooper, she was cranky, and uncooperative, and very much insufferable. There were some tolerable days, ones where she was even nice, but this was not one of those days. Vera was not happy to be woken by sunlight beaming through her window the next morning. Her maids had opted to pull the windows open, a well learned routine, shaking Vera awake by force usually results in biting and/or thrown objects, sunlight on the other hand provides a groan, a grumbled; “it’s too bright, have Vronsky fire a nuke at it”, another huff, and a turn to the opposing side of the bed. Her tablet had died over night, to be expected, she’d fallen asleep around the time Sergey was singing Новый Год. And as usual, a maid handed her, her phone just as Dominika Vororina, head of her personal guard, came in to update her on the status of her security, and generally just to do her job.

Tuning out Dominika, Vera rolled onto her back, she was awake now, so the curtains were drawn again to spare her from it’s neverending assault (and her maids from a persistently crabby mood). The daily security assessment was irrelevant; Vera trusted Dominika to handle anything that came their way, and she was far more preoccupied with the personal messages she had received yesterday and overnight when she was too busy frolicking and squeezing some work in. As usual, there seemed to be an infinite number from Yelena, annoying taunts from her brother, ever the businessman, Vlas was curious about the cuts of the various diamonds and gemstones worn by others, and of course memes and jokes from her ever disinterested cousins, but first to be opened were the splendidly adorable and infuriating ones from Nikita. His cosmonautics conference was going well it seemed, bastard even sent her pictures of goofy poses in front of a new model of Pluto. He did fulfil his promise of a knock-off moon rock though, plus a witty comment and autograph from her favourite cosmonaut to go with it. He sure does know the way to a girls heart.

“Ma’am,” said Dominika a little harshly, pulling Vera out of her little day dreamy world, “if you could please pay attention today.”

Vera pouted in turn. “What does it matter Dominika, you’ll kill anyone before they can get anywhere near me.”

“True,” Dominika conceded, “but it’s not a physical threat. Well, it’s not particularly a big threat at all politically either, but perhaps you should take a look at this paper, it’s an Aciran tabloid, the Lyston Daily.”

Vera rolled her eyes, and honestly, felt quite betrayed, how long had you been working for me Dominika? she thought. “What could a rag such as that possibly contain to either interest or hurt me?”

“It concerns your friends.” she said, handing Vera a newspaper. “Well, friend, and barely tolerated companion.”

Sighing, Vera took the paper and skimmed through the contents, feeling her blood boil. “Game of thrones? GAME OF THRONES? It’s A Song of Ice and Fire you uncultured swine!” she shouted, tossing the papers across the room, and scatting them over the floor. Though her servants didn’t jump at the display. They were used to this. Largely speaking, their Princess was a calm, rational person, but when it came to her passions, she was, well… passionate.

“Every time some stupid plebeian calls my most beloved series game of fucking thrones, 3 years are shaved off my life.” Vera huffed, very much crossing her arms and pouting like a child.

“Yes, ma’am, we’re all aware.” Dominka recalled a poor newbie ISO guard trying to connect with Vera over it once. The guard was swiftly reassigned and never seen in the capital again, though, from the trauma he received that day, Dominika was certain he’s pleased to never have to step foot in Vokshod again.

Growling, Vera reexamined the section about her friends(-ish). “I also don’t appreciate this nonsense about Yelena and Erik. I presume we can’t simply… relocate this woman, say to siberia?”

Dominika simply shrugged. “We could, but not quietly. Otherwise I already would’ve done so. I still could deal with if her if you’d like, but wasn’t the reason you were commanded by His Majesty to attend instead of the Grand Duke to avoid such a diplomatic incident?”

Vera sighed. “That’s true. Hate him as I do, my father still is King, and I cannot simply disregard a genuine command. But keep an eye on this paper, particularly so that I don’t have to lay my eyes on this trash ever again. Send a report to Sokolov, Gagarina, and Volkova as well. This doesn’t print in Rustavya, if it can’t be completely avoided, make sure to report it as a personal attack on the Crown and those dear to us. And be sure pull any press access this company may have, and deny them and all extended relations entry into the country. Block their website too. Rustavya does not take kindly to this form of journalism. It’s an insult an otherwise noble profession.”

Dominika nodded, deciding to keep her comments about Vera’s treatment of genuine journalists to herself, she’d bring it up later once the Princess’s Game of Thrones rage was out of her system. After another nod, this time in form of respect instead of “mission-accepted”, she made her exit to fulfill in a timely and succinct manner.

As for the Princess, she pettily blacked out the bit reading Game of Thrones, before rereading the paper yet again, more attentively this time; viewing it as a poorly written report by an inept local mayor trying his best to force herself to get through it. It was trash, just as she had initially thought, and not particularly coherent. Well, not to her at least. She didn’t understand all the fuss about a hat. The meme Natalia sent her last night about Coriolanous was far more hilarious. The end of the piece did make her laugh though. “Team Venera’s BFF”, Yelena would not like that. She had fame in her own right. She is no one’s daughter, sister, nor friend, she is Yelena Fabergé; supermodel, humanitarian, and budding actress.

Tossing the paper aside, Vera finally rolled out of bed to get ready for the brunch. It was only breakfast, in the midmorning, but she was the official representative of Rustavya and trousers and a blouse simply would not do. It was a semi-formal occasion, not a meeting of the Royal Republic Council after all. She opted for her mauve dress, it was light and simple, relatively speaking, Thin traps, a nice little v cut in the back, and decorated with elaborate beads and flowers running down it. She even remembered the designer this time, Giorgio Armani, though only because Yelena had dragged everyone to Armani’s show. She chose less jewels this time around, well, she decided to go for nearly none. One didn’t need to break out the Fabergé originals for eggs and muffins, though she did wear the forget-me-not ring again, but for sentimental reasons. And, course, some diamonds needed to adorn her head. Just a simple band, nothing too elaborate nor heavy, but shiny all the same. She kept her makeup simple, light and breezy, well, as light and breezy as Vera could get. Just a pale eyeshadow, winged eyeliner, and what's the point of lipstick if it's not a shade of murder red?

Once dressed, Vera didn’t actually head down to the brunch until a bit later. Vokshod was 8 hours ahead, meaning all the news channels would be reporting the events of the day, and there was a propaganda bill she hoped the Duma would overturn. It was a stupid law anyway designed by the former Minister of Internal Affairs. Also, she didn’t want to be too early to the brunch. It’s too early to socialize with strangers! After watching the news for awhile, she decided to brace herself and go through all of Yelena’s texts. And Vasily once called her a jealous hoe. Confident as she is, Yelena was, expectedly, not pleased about Erik and “Princess whatever of whatever”, as Yelena texted, being anywhere within the same vicinity of each other. She was, expectedly, irritated by the tabloid too. Vera assumed she got a copy before they pulled it. Or someone from ISO informed her. Or possibly Erik himself.

First of all, there are no teams. I’ve already won bitch.

Ah, Vera could envision the brunette now. If this were Rustavya, they would probably be in Vera’s study in the east wing, Vera pouring over some document as Yelena paced around ranting and correcting every small incorrect fact, even typo, as well as pulling out a random book and giving it to vera in guise of “helping” with her work. The book was always completely irrelevant, the stack of books was a nuisance, but it made Yelena feel better, so whatever.

Second, tf does she mean by “Team Vera’s BFF”, I have a name. And it’s worth more than her entire fucking paper.

That’s actually true. The Fabergé’s have a networth equal to a few small countries combined. In Rustavya, their wealth is only second to Vera’s, mostly because her wealth is the entire country’s wealth (there is a big gap between their networth’s though).

Also, where tf does she get off not using titles? I don’t care if it’s trash, respect your rulers.

Okay, you may not be their Queen, one day, but you’re royal!

And did you see that stupid thing about a catfight? Bitch please!

And I know you’ll say something like “cats are too good for this”, or whatever, but like it’s so stupid anyway. Has she seen me? I love Erik, but I don’t need to fight anyone.

Okay, maybe Empress C one day.

Also, bitch, the fuck?!!?!!!

Why didn’t you wear the black dress!

It goes with the egg pendant, and has that Targaryen/Sauron’s-dad look you like.

Speaking of your dragons, did you see the thing about game of thrones?

Like urg, read a fucking book.

Also, the fuck is that shit about a hat?

That is so a massive runway faux pas from like a decade ago.

Also, also, some good news, Vasya’s latest gf dumped him, called him a bitch as she left. She’s our new best friend.

Also, also, also,

did he seriously not interact with her at all?

I mean, I trust him, but I still don’t wike it.

I’m not one to talk, but holy fuck you need to chill.

Yeah, you’re not, so shut up.

Actually no, gimme details on what’s going on.

He told me he’s going to talk to pw, he trusts her, but I don’t know her at all.

She could be a Catherine loyalist like you.

I am not, I’m just a fan!

And Idk

it’s morning here

I haven’t talked to anyone except Dominika and the maids.

Then fucking go!

I don’t wanna be mean about his friend, so I’m not talking to him right now.

“You just called her Princess whatever of whatever like 30 times!”



Urg, I’m a bad bitch, you can’t order me around and then try to pull at my heartstrings.

(I’m going, I’m going)

Stretching herself out a little, Vera made her way down to the tea parlour or wherever. She had a guard escorting her of course. She did notice the nearby library, and made a note to herself to get to it asap, though in the meantime, she did have an important reason to stick around brunch for a bit. And it kept buzzing her phone.

Don’t annoy me so early in the morning!

She texted Erik back. She was serious of course, but purposefully didn’t explain exactly what about his text was annoying her. Let him stew and suffer for a bit, she thought to herself.

When she finally got to the brunch, Vera was displeased. Like any normal human being, she certainly adored chocolate, but this much and at this early an hour (any time before 1pm is too early), not to mention the truly horrific colour scheme. If she were a commoner, she might regurgitate. But Vera was Vera, she simply sighed inwardly, plastered on her princess mask and looked for some bagels and a drink, before deciding to seek out Erik. No man on earth is truly worthy of Yelena, but she hated to admit he was indeed a close second. Even if he wasn’t, Yelena wanted him, for more than simple fun, and it would be the height of hypocrisy for Vera to deny Yelena’s right to choose her partner given Vera’s own love life.
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by MorningStar1399
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MorningStar1399 The Writer Who Never Writes

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P R I N C E o f P Ó L E M O S

w i t h a p p e a r a n c e b y D A F N I K O K I N O S , P R I N C E S S o f P Ó L E M O S

interacting with @shylarah & @ayzrules

Elias turned when he heard Rhia’s voice and the closest thing to a smile he usually let appear on his face did. “Why, Rhia.” He stood, taking his plate and cup and moving to sit with the small group, Dafni following and sitting between her brother and Alejandro. “You will have to forgive me—between Alejandro’s fashion and his hair I was blinded. The man knows how to make an impression.” He managed to give Alejandro a small smile and a wink before his usual serious expression returned.

Dafni, however, smiled at Alejandro’s compliment. “Why thank you, Alejandro, though I don’t think you need to call me ‘princess’ anymore. We’re friends now.” She gave his outfit another cursory look and smiled. “I must say you look incredible as always. Loving the flowers—as always.” She laughed. “How are you doing?”

Elias looked over, studying Alejandro’s clothes first. The shirt fit well, the jeans, too, and damn him for wearing heels yet again. Well, he looked incredible as always. He remembered just how well a chiton fit, too. However, he let himself look at Alejandro’s face, maintaining a mask as he stuck a cream puff in his mouth. Five years had done a bit to slim his face, making that jawline even sharper and those cheekbones more deadly. But it was the earrings that got him. Hadn’t Alejandro worn those while in Pólemos?

He thought of the gifts they had exchanged that last morning, waking up in twisted sheets. Alejandro had set in his hand one of the earrings he’d been wearing the day before: a large cross with more decorations than he could have thought to add. Then again, that usually summed up anything the Castilyan wore. Usually it sat in his bedside table drawer, but this morning he’d slipped it in his pocket almost accidentally.


He knew he’d see Alejandro, and thus wanted to see if he could show him beneath the table. I still remember, it would say. I still care.

But he couldn’t take it out in front of all these people, hence why he’d initially tried to draw Alejandro elsewhere, slightly more private. For now, though, it would stay in his pocket and he’d remain his usual stoic, military-trained impassive self. It was safest, if not for him, for Alejandro.

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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by MorningStar1399
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MorningStar1399 The Writer Who Never Writes

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A N A S T A S I Y & V A L E N T I N E

collab between @MorningStar1399 &@shylarah

When the song ended, Anastasiy was facing the door when he bowed as if to an audience. However, it was as he stood up again that he realized something.

He had company.

There, hiding herself behind the door frame with a camera in her hand, was a young girl. Well, young might not have been the best word, but she looked Galya’s age, and to an older brother his younger sister was young. Thus, this girl, who actually reminded him of Galya in a way (shyness and appearance at least), seemed young to him.

Anastasiy didn’t want to frighten her, but he was also afraid of butchering his words in English. Still, it was better to attempt than pretend he hadn’t noticed her.

“Forgive me, miss, I…did not know room was being used. I can leave if you would like.” He paused. “You…are princess, no? Maybe saw you at ball. Only briefly. I...did not talk to many people and left early. Too many people. Made me nervous.”

He made his way over to his bag, sitting on the floor to turn off his music and stretch out his legs after dancing so much. It was probably best he stopped anyway. He needed to get ready for brunch still.

Anastasiy looked at the camera in her hands and offered a small smile. “That is nice camera. My sister, Galya, likes taking pictures. I…cannot think of English word for name of hobby. Forgive me, my speaking English is not very good. Am better at writing and reading it.”

— —

Valentine’s eyes widened when the man addressed her, and she took an unintended step back. She considered just leaving, but the man seemed awkward himself. This was a low-pressure opportunity to work on her own pitiful social skills. She should take it.

She couldn’t quite manage a response to the question of her identity, but she did enter the room properly. “I-I...I’m sorry. No, the room’s not in use.” She spoke quietly, in a tone that would be hard to hear in a crowded room. Nor did she speak quickly, her phrases shaped as much by the spaces between them as by her tone and gentle accent. “You don’t have to leave.” Val could never displace someone else, not when they’d been there first. The thought made her hold her camera a bit tighter.

“Photography, it’s called. Um...your English is fine, though.” That was all she could manage to say, and she could feel the heat of a blush rising in her cheeks. Val ducked her head, letting her hair fall in front of her face.

— —

She was sweet. Shy, and definitely uncomfortable, but sweet. Anastasiy couldn’t help but smile warmly as she spoke, continuing to stretch his feet and ankles. “Is okay, I should probably leave anyway, after I stretch. I have to get ready for brunch. My country needs all the…what is it called, um, pee-are? Whatever that means. My brother said it a lot before he…died. Um.” He swallowed. “But Glavnya needs trade relationships in order to boost economy again, or something else. Really boring. I would rather be dancing again.”

Anastasiy sighed, pausing a moment and looking slightly stressed, before turning his head to look at the girl again. “You remind me of my sister, little bit. Small, young, shy. I too. I...I mean, me too. And thank you for compliment, my…English is not as good as siblings’, dead or alive.”

It was a painful thought, Anatoly’s death, and he hoped this sweet little thing didn’t know what that felt like. But he looked at her again, at her eyes, and a bit he’d learned while in ballet school, about one of the countries who’d contributed to ballet’s development, stuck in his head. Luxième had, in very recent history, somewhat torn itself apart, but their royal family was known for distinctively bright blue eyes. Their only heir was a young girl about Galya’s age. He remembered his sister talking about it once, about how she wouldn’t want all that pressure on her.

And to think I naively hoped she didn’t know what death and loss felt like.

Anastasiy blinked, looking away slightly, then back at the camera, then at her face again. If only his French or even Luxemi was better and existed outside his usage for ballet. But looking at her, he decided suddenly switching the language might startle her and thus was grateful he couldn’t speak her mother tongue.

“I…my name is Anastasiy…by what name may I call you?” Maybe not a good question, but it was a way to verify his discovery, no? And if she tried to bolt he would attempt to calm her by saying he didn’t need to know, just wanted to be polite.

— —

Valentine couldn’t help it. She flinched when he mentioned his dead brother, both times. It took a long moment before she found her voice again after that. She needed to change the subject back to something safe. Names were safer, but she needed more than that.

“Valentine.” A short pause, then, “I watched you dancing. How long? I mean, how long have you been studying dance?”

— —

Anastasiy smiled. He was fairly certain the Luxemi princess had not been named Valentine, but he was still fairly certain of her identity for whatever outrageous reason. “It is nice to meet you, Valentine.”

Her question led him to a long exhale. “How long…well, I…I am not anymore studying, or rather am not studying anymore, since last year throne was left to me after…the accident, but…I started at age of five for birthday present—as birthday present—and will be twenty-five in November…so twenty years? Almost twenty years? I still practice because I miss it and wish I could dance instead of one day be tsar—instead of one day becoming tsar, forgive me again, but…” Anastasiy shrugged. “My people need me. Is pitiful answer, but is only answer am given when try to ask if can dance instead of rule.” He shook his head.

He looked at her camera again and thought of another change of topic (he didn’t like the thought of ruling and he figured neither did she). “Maybe one day I can see pictures of me dancing?” He held up a hand. “Not right now. I wait until you are ready. But maybe one day? I do not need to see all pictures, just ones of me dancing.” He shrugged. “Maybe I offer to buy prints of them from you, like professional…um…picture-taker person, um…”

Anastasiy looked down and started to mutter to himself. “Let us see, photography, um, y-ending, so um…constonant, no, no, consonant, da...” He looked up at her, brow furrowed and lips pursed in nerves and confusion. “Um, is it photographer? Photographier? No, is photographer, da? Right?”

— —

His people need him.

Not hers, they just wanted to have someone there. It didn’t matter who. The Athenians and the Senate handled governing. With a wrench of thought Valentine put the matter aside. She didn’t want to think about it.

Wait, he wanted to see her pictures? She instinctively pulled the camera closer to her. She was good enough for tumblr, for a freelance dabbler. But a professional? Anastasiy’s confusion over the word distracted her enough to relax her white-knuckled grip. She nodded a confirmation, even as her thoughts kept whirring. She’d watched him dancing. It was only fair to have her share in return. Wasn’t it?

She looked down at her camera and pushed the buttons to bring up the picture roll. “I-I guess you can see.” A pause as she pulled the strap over her head. “I took some of the palace too.” Val held the camera out. “The arrow buttons move between pictures.”

— —

Anastasiy shook his head. “If you do not want me to see them just yet, I wait until you are ready.” He gave her a smile, but hesitantly held out his hand. “Are you sure you are ready now?”

When the camera remained held out, he smiled and took it carefully in his much larger hands. “Thank you,” he said quietly. He looked down at the buttons and nodded. “My sister has camera like this. She takes pictures mostly of birds.” He clicked through the pictures slowly, going back when he reached the castle shots and off of his. It felt like prying, looking at any others than the ones he’d asked to look at.

“These are very nice,” he said, nodding as he held the camera out for her to take back. “I like them. You are very good.” He smiled and nodded again as if in reassurance of the compliments.

— —

“I like birds,” Valentine ventured, glad to finally have something safe to talk about. She doubted his sister had a camera exactly the same as hers, as it was the sort of camera only someone who was serious about their photography would invest in. The folk in Athens got her photography things when they didn’t know what else to get her, part of why she had such good equipment. The rest was because of a friendship with an employee at her local store who gave her good rates for unopened items even from other places, among other things.

She reclaimed her camera swiftly when it was offered, feeling a sense of relief even though she knew it had been perfectly safe in Anastasiy’s hands. She wasn’t so sure about his compliments, though she mustered a small smile, given that she’d taken the photos just to take them. She could get a better shot composition if it was earlier in the morning, or if she’d been brave enough to venture past the doorway to take the pictures.

— —

Anastasiy nodded, and removed his ballet slippers, rubbing the soles of his feet with his thumbs. There was still tape around his toes, but he wasn’t about to take that off in front of her. He’d do it in the shower later.

He picked up his phone and nearly panicked when he saw the time. “Oh…oh dear,” he said, however contrary to his internal panic he kept his voice calm so not to startle Valentine. “I am going to be late to brunch. I had better go get ready. Cannot miss it even though I want to. My parents are expecting me to behave admirably and get it out that Glavnya is…coming back into world.”

Anastasiy sighed, but put on his other flats before putting his dance shoes back in his dance bag. He stood slowly, and offered his hand for a handshake. “It was nice to meet you, Valentine,” he said. “Maybe we can become friends before time runs out?” He offered a hopeful smile.

— —

Valentine had little to add when Anastasiy said he needed to go. She wasn’t sure she intended to attend the brunch herself, but she wouldn’t make someone else late. The offer of a handshake was met with wide eyes, but she pried her hand free of her camera long enough to accept it.

A soft sound from outside the room caught her attention. “Is that a violin?”

— —

Anastasiy gave her hand a gentle shake so not to frighten her off, but his head picked up at her question. His ears studied the sound, and it made him smile. He knew that sound, or at least he thought he did. It sounded too low in pitch to be a violin, but he was also far away.

“I…I think it may be a cello, but I am not sure. It sounds far away. Shall we see what it really is?” Anastasiy cocked his head, putting his bag over his shoulder and offering a smile. She wouldn’t have to investigate alone if she was truly curious, and he figured that, behind her shy nature, she was a curious one. Why not indulge it a little?

— —

“No...you’re probably right.” Definitely too low to be a violin. She’d spoken without thinking. Valentine rather liked the idea of having someone else with her in seeking out an unknown person, but... “Y-you said...you’ll be late.”

— —

Anastasiy shrugged. “I will already be late no matter what. Besides, I…I play cello. Maybe it will be nice meeting other cellist or maybe violinist or violist or someone else to play accompaniment or melody.” He shrugged. “So…shall we?”

— —

Valentine still hesitated, but at last she nodded. However, instead of saying anything further she just made for the door. The strains of music were soft, but she’d followed quiet things before. It was how you found the animals in nature photography, when you didn’t hope they’d just come to you.

At first, she paused at each intersection long enough to make sure she knew which direction the music came from before continuing on. Soon she didn’t need to, as the source drew closer. Once they’d found the room, however, Val turned shy. She slowed down, hoping Anastasiy would continue ahead and let her trail behind -- not that she could say as much.

— —

He followed her, watching the way she moved, her feet barely making a sound, much like his. For a moment, he wondered if that was…no, best not think of things like that. It would be better not to make assumptions about her, either. Thus, he followed along a few paces behind her, always giving her more space if he felt she needed it. When she stopped in front of the room it seemed the music was coming from, he decided to enter first, letting her enter behind him if she wanted.

The girl with the cello looked awfully young, but maybe she wasn’t much younger or older than Galya or Valentine. He wasn’t sure. Whoever she was, she was very good at playing the cello.

He glanced over at Valentine and offered a small smile as he stood in the doorway to watch the girl play. He didn’t dare interrupt—he knew how much he hated it and could only imagine how much other musicians did, too—but waited patiently, enjoying the concerto. When she was finished, he smiled and offered applause.

“You are very good,” he said. “I am sorry if am interrupting, but I, too, play. Cello, that is. And…and piano. Maybe…maybe I could practice with you later? Have to get ready for brunch—lost track of time practicing ballet—but…um…” He shrugged, looking over at Valentine, who was lingering near the door, not yet brave enough to come in. She shrugged back. If there was just the two of them, maybe she’d come. She’d have to see.

interacting with @Amethyst
Hidden 6 mos ago Post by ayzrules
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After the ball, Isabella had gone straight back to her room, practically vibrating with suppressed rage. She was supposed to marry that man? Quentin was so unbelievably...so unbelievably childish. He was quite popular within the Texan Sovereignty for just that, of course; his friendliness and willingness to engage with the population endeared him to those living in the cities, at the very least.

But Isabella could not imagine that the descendants of the indigenous peoples who had lived on the land that the TS claimed as their own for hundreds of years were particularly happy about seeing that fool frolic about making vlogs when there were so many other problems to worry about. She supposed that was what their betrothal was all about; a princess with indigenous heritage would placate those dissenters, in theory. And so-here she was.

Isabella dismissed Doña Agustina and the rest of her maids as soon as she set food inside the chambers that were to be hers during her stay in Aciras. A quick glance towards her things revealed nothing, but Isabella was more than certain that Agustina had gone through them, in search of anything that could be relayed back to her father. That was alright, though. She wouldn't find anything.

Isabella eventually went to sleep, knowing that her every movement was being watched, even in a country so far and so different from home.


The next morning, Isabella got up with plenty of time to get ready, checking the weather in Aciras. She wrinkled her nose-it was so hot. At this time of year, it was autumn in Evalusia, and besides. There were glaciers not two hour's drive from the royal palace. Although Evalusia itself went through a record number of biomes and ecosystems, Isabella had the fortune (or misfortune?) of residing in the southern tip. Where aforementioned glaciers were.

Isabella scanned through the news as she let her maids do her hair and make-up (it was no use arguing with Doña Agustina about it; Isabella knew that the only reason the other woman was getting her maids to do things Isabella could do perfectly well herself was so that she would not be left alone for any significant amount of time. Well, so be it, then. If Doña Agustina wanted to keep an eye on her, then she could keep an eye on her. Isabella was not fool enough to do anything of any particular importance in her own chambers). She rolled her eyes at all the photos of her betrothed in his ridiculous hat-we are about the same age, and he is but a child-and idly flicked through various reports on the previous day's festivities.

A mention of her in a tabloid caught her eye. Isabella read it, snorted, and moved on. Well, I can't say that whoever this writer is isn't correct, she thought to herself, dryly. I am sure Father would have disowned me, had it not been for the fact that he could also use me to his own advantage.

Soon enough, the maids were done with Isabella's hair and make-up. Isabella gave them a cursory glance. "Out," she said, sweeping her eyes around the room and letting her icy gaze land on Doña Agustina. "You too. I should like to get dressed in private, thank you very much."

Thankfully, Doña Agustina obliged, and a minute later, Isabella had the room to herself.

"Válgame dios, how am I ever going to get through this entire trip with that maldita woman hovering around me the whole time?" Isabella muttered to herself as she opened the wardrobe and selected a dress for the day-a sleek pencil dress that cinched in slightly at the waist with a skirt that ended halfway in between her knees and her ankles, featuring bell sleeves and a Catholic Church-approved neckline (that is, a neckline showing nothing but her clavicle. Even upper sternums were too much for God-fearing women to bare, apparently). She slipped into a pair of black kitten heels and put her cell phone and a few other necessities (mostly make-up related) into a shimmery black clutch.

Isabella strode out into the hallway without another word, headed towards the tea parlor that they would be having brunch in. Once she arrived, she took a quick look around the room (the colors were so bright that they almost hurt her eyes). She murmured polite greetings to the other princes and princesses as she made her way to the back, where she poured herself a cup of coffee and sweetened it with three sugar cubes and a spoonful of milk.

Once she had taken care of her daily caffeine fix, Isabella scanned the room once more, searching for faces of interest. Her betrothed had not arrived yet (thank the heavens), so that meant Isabella did not have to put up with Prince Quentin's foolishness just now.

Another surreptitious glance around the parlor told her that Venera and Erik, a prince and a princess from two different kingdoms who were pretty much giving her father everything he needed to stay in power (and ruin a bunch of peoples' lives at that), were chatting with each other, not five feet away from her. Mm. Interesting. Maybe I will go say hi.

Hidden 6 mos ago Post by MorningStar1399
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MorningStar1399 The Writer Who Never Writes

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R H I A , A L E J A N D R O , & E L I A S

“Doesn't he though?" Rhia commented, giving first Elias and then Alejandro a wicked grin. "I think he does it on purpose," she teased, knowing Alejandro put a great deal of effort into his appearance.

— —

Alejandro laughed at Rhia and Elias’ comments, and part of him was slightly surprised to see a hint of the Elias he had once known show through his otherwise stoic facade. “Oh, but you flatter me,” he replied mischievously, giving them a nonchalant look. “I merely, ah, dress to my tastes. Which, as I am sure you are both well aware of, are quite...colorful.” He threw the two of them a cheeky grin.

He then turned to Dafni, beaming. “And you, of course, look even more incredible. Though you have my sincerest thanks. Flowers are quite nice, no? Even on chitons.” Another cheeky grin. “I am doing quite well. There is gorgeous decor, good food, and good company. I do hope that you and Prince Elias are doing well, too?”

Alejandro felt Elias’ eyes on him as he talked to Dafni. He gave the other prince a sidelong glance, a nigh-on imperceptible arch of an eyebrow-as if to say, well?

— —

Elias nodded. “In other words, it’s on purpose.”

Dafni looked at her brother, expecting a smirk or something, but instead being met with his serious straight-line.

Elias closed his eyes at the chiton comment. He could remember the looks he got when requesting that fabric, then leaving it in Alejandro’s room for him to figure out. The Pólemesian prince had always assumed Dafni had taught him, though it seemed a bit strange a thought now. Alejandro was clever. He could have figured it out on his own.

But seeing him in it…dear gods.

Dafni smiled. “We are doing well, yes.”

Elias nodded, catching that look. “Yes,” he simply said, leaving it at that.

— —

“I think chitons are less about the fabric and more about the legs,” Rhia commented, bringing to mind the various times she’d seen Elias in one. “That and what you can get away with for the pins.” The last time she’d been to Polémos she’d had fun with the latter. “Actually, Alejandro, I bet you could pull off a chiton. It’s not an easy look, but you’re good at pulling off...well, just about anything.”

— —

“I am glad to hear it,” he said to Dafni. “Is this your first time in Aciras? How do you like it so far?”

Alejandro then turned to Rhia, beaming. “Now, now, you are much too kind,” he said, giving her a dazzling smile. “As for a chiton, well...Prince Elias was kind enough to help me find one in floral print, when I visited Pólemos a couple years ago.” He winked. “Chitons, I believe, are one of the most excellent forms of clothing on this planet. With high heels as a close second, of course.”

— —

“Oh no, heels come in first. Back me up here, Dafni - there are many patterns which allow a person to show a little leg, but there is nothing quite like a good heeled shoe.” Rhia leaned into her words with a passion. She didn’t always wear heels, but a good pair of heels could make or break an outfit.

— —

Dafni laughed. “I’m an athlete. I live in sandals and sneakers. Tennis shoes, some people call them. But I dunno, I’ve seen Alejandro here in heels but I do not remember the chiton incident.” She gave her brother a look. “You wouldn’t happen to have proof this occured, would you?”

Her brother cleared his throat. “Uh, no, no I do not. Not on me, at least.”

Dafni frowned slightly. “Hmm, pity.” She looked at Alejandro again. “And as for your question, Alejandro, yes, this is my first time in Aciras. Elias’ too, I do believe. You know, you promised me we’d go see fashion shows at some point, and yet you never invited me to any. And yet, I sent you a ticket to my very first Olympics like you asked. Had to convince my father that one extra guard was not necessary considering we had Elias with us, and you’ve had the good fortune as well as the misfortune of seeing him in action.”

Elias cleared his throat again, shaking his head. “Not now, Dafni,” he said in Pólemesian. She merely shrugged it off. He saw no good in bringing up the first assassination attempt on his brother’s life, the one that gave him two of the three scars on his face.

— —

Alejandro let out a huff of laughter. “Well, you have a point,” he said to Rhia, grinning, “though I suppose the…versatility of chitons is what makes them appeal to me, personally.” And the fact that they are very easy to remove, I suppose, he added silently.

He shot Dafni a sheepish smile. “Well, I would love to see a fashion show with you, but unfortunately fashion month has already passed. Come to Portaya one day, yes?” He furrowed his brow, slightly. “I don’t know if you would rather see the Spring/Summer shows or the Fall/Winter ones. Women’s Fall/Winter is usually during early spring, so maybe you would prefer that? The weather would be warming up.” He winked cheerfully at her, breezing over the last bit of Dafni’s reply, as well as Elias’ subsequent lapse into Pólemesian. “Let me know when you’re free.”

— —

“I say choose based on how much skin you like seeing,” Rhia advised. “Winter tends to feature more jackets and coats, longer sleeves, pullovers, stuff like that.” She flashed a self-conscious smile, but she knew those she talked to well enough to be comfortable continuing. “I like the ladies’ shows better, to be honest. Sure, the lads are hot enough, but you can do so much more with women’s clothing — and the models are gorgeous.” It was an open secret that she swung both ways, but she wasn’t always comfortable confirming it.

“If it’s your first time in Aciras, I can show you around a little,” she offered. “Or rope Lea into it. We’re cousins, and I know she won’t mind. Beneath all the talk of clothes she’s got some interesting depths. She’s got an animal sanctuary that’s actually a lot of fun, if you don’t mind getting a little dirty. Or you can look from a distance, I suppose.”

— —

Dafni pouted. “Mmm, well, I have no use for long sleeves in a country that only sees cold weather in the mountains towards the north, so I suppose it would be best if I saw the Spring/Summer stuff. Besides, Pólemos is hardly one to shirk away from a little…bodily exposure.”

“Almost nudity,” Elias deadpanned.

His sister rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Besides, colder weather could be fun considering I’ve…never actually seen snow. Though it is a little odd to show summery stuff when it’s cold outside, don’t you think?”

The talk of animals made Dafni turn her attention even more towards Rhia. “Animals?” She laughed lightly. “I’m an Olympian and I’ve completed military training. I think a little dirt won’t hurt me.” She nudged her brother, almost spilling her tea. “You should join us.”

Elias blinked. “Only to protect you.”

“Since when have I needed protecting? I can hold my own. Besides, you need to lighten up. Maybe holding a baby goat or something will cheer you up.”

He merely shook his head. “I am fine watching.”

Dafni made a hand gesture as if brushing him away. “Ignore him. He’s been almost boorish these last few years. I’d blame Prince Sunshine over here but I know it isn’t his fault.”

— —

Alejandro gave the two siblings and amused look. “The point of the couture shows is to display what the fashion houses will have for the upcoming season,” he explained. “So Fall/Winter shows are in early spring, because they’re showing pieces designed for the, well, fall and winter of that year. And Spring/Summer shows are in autumn, because the pieces are meant for the spring and summer of the following year.”

At the mention of Lea and animals, Alejandro laughed out loud. “Darlingest Lea is a big fan of animals, yes,” he said-the understatement of the year. Alejandro himself knew that he was one who would be more than happy to simply watch from a distance...animals had a habit of mussing one’s hair and ripping one’s clothing, to say the least.

And then...Alejandro would have stiffened at Dafni’s next words, had he been the type to react to things the way a normal, sane, not ridiculously sparkly and/or outrageous person would. Princess Dafni is on very dangerous ground, here, he thought to himself, darkly. It would be wise if we did not linger on that...topic.

And so Alejandro steered the conversation in a different direction. “What are the animals like in Pólemos?” he asked, casual-as-can-be. “I’d imagine they are quite different from those in the area surrounding Lynston.”

— —

Dafni nodded. “I suppose that makes sense.” She frowned thoughtfully. “I dunno,” she said honestly. “I hardly even think about them, the animals around us. There are lots of stray cats and dogs in Agrios, not that I don’t wish I could find them homes. But there are a lot of birds. We hear them all the time in the olive groves. Believe it or not, flamingos are natives. Big ol’ pink things. They’re great. Stupid, but great. Maybe that’s why I never understand the hype over lawn flamingos. I see too many of them at home.”

— —

Rhia picked up on darker undercurrent in the conversation, but she skimmed past it with practiced ease. “Flamingos, huh? You know, if Alejandro wasn’t such a peacock, I could see him as a flamingo. Bright, vibrant...noisy.” Laughter danced in her eyes. “Elias, I think you’re more...hmm. Ah! I know. A moose!”

Elias suddenly looked at her with murder in his eyes. “Take that back.”

Dafni laughed.

“Shan’t!” Rhia’s expression told him she was only half-serious. “Consider the following: moose are huge creatures. They look all stern, but mostly harmless—”

“Oh I assure you, Rhia, I am plenty capable of harm,” Elias interrupted sternly.

“—but they’re actually quite dangerous if you rile them. Just like you.” Rhia’s expression softened. “Are you really so bothered by the comparison? Moose are majestic. Have you never seen one?”

Dafni couldn’t stop laughing, and Elias gave her a look. “No I have never seen a moose.”

“I can’t help but picture antlers over your head now oh my gods,” Dafni wheezed.

Elias narrowed his eyes at her. “I think I’d prefer a wolf comparison.”

“Wolves run in packs, Elias. And they’re not serious enough,” Rhia interjected.

“But Elimoose!” Dafni exclaimed.

Elias groaned, setting his plate and cup down on the nearest horizontal surface and holding his face in his hands.

Dafni laughed and laughed. “Elimoose! Elimoose!” she teased, earning her quite the glare and a string of Pólemesian curses.

“Alright, Dafni, take it easy.” Rhia hadn’t realized the sister would take her comparison and run with it, though perhaps she should have. She’d always thought a younger sister would be less wild than her brothers.

Dafni forced herself to breathe, shaking her head. “I’m sorry, that’s hilarious. You’d better be grateful Stefanos isn’t here to use that one against you.”

Elias gave her a look but picked up his plate and put a random piece of food in his mouth to keep himself from talking.

— —

Elimoose, is it? Alejandro thought to himself, idly, chuckling as Dafni, Elias, and Rhia argued over what animal Elias would be. Elias’ reaction, however, was not at all how he would have reacted five years ago.

Alejandro leaned back in his seat, slightly, taking a sip of tea. “Well, I for one am perfectly fine with being a peacock. Or a flamingo,” he said with a laugh, even as he surreptitiously studied Elias as the other prince started eating again. In that moment, Alejandro could feel the weight of all the words that had yet to be said hanging between them, but he brushed it aside. They would have plenty of time, later.

— —

“Well, I know that I am a bloody unicorn,” Rhia declared with a smile. “Bright, majestic, and with the ability to stab anyone as needs it. Also attracted to lovely ladies. Fits me to a t.”

Dafni nodded. “That’s fair. I’d fit that too, except I think I’m more of a pegasus. I mean, they seem so much more playful. Unicorns tend to be serious or make people think serious things. Pegasi, though, are energetic and athletic and who wouldn’t want to fly?”

— —

Alejandro had been searching for an opening to confront Elias about...about, well, what needed to be confronted, when Lea Lynton gave him the perfect opportunity.

She turned towards their little half-circle, a wide grin on her face. “Did someone say unicorns? Oh my gosh I love love love unicorns,” said Lea. “Pegasi are so cool, too. Have either of you played Robot Unicorn Attack 2? That is the prettiest unicorn game in existence.”

As Lea chattered away, Alejandro glanced at Elias, again. He leaned towards him, lowering his voice slightly. “You know, Prince Elias,” he began, musingly, “I seem to recall seeing a moose display in one of the libraries, the last time I visited.” He let his trademark grin flash across his face, though his eyes were uncharacteristically somber. “Care to join me as I, ah, re-familiarize myself with it?” His voice was light, playful, but even Alejandro could hear the tense undercurrent in his own words.

— —

Elias gave Alejandro a look. “Seriously? More moose?” He sighed, but finished his tea and the last bit of food on his plate before setting both the plate and cup down and standing. He adjusted his jacket and nodded. “Let’s go then.”

He rested a hand on Dafni’s shoulder. “Excuse me, sister, but I will return.

Dafni nodded and said a quiet, “Yeah, of course,” as she focused on Lea’s babbling.

She’d be fine. Elias looked at Alejandro and nodded once more. The two exited the room, Alejandro in the lead, Elias in tow. Quite opposite most of the last time they’d seen each other almost five years ago.

(Collab between @Morningstar1399, @shylarah, @ayzrules)
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by buffykdh
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The welcome ball was over, and Amaranthine had been exhausted merely by observing the other royals who were populating the palace for the time being. Even having stayed near the edges observing, she’d found herself feeling quite out of place, no matter how often Elinoire reminded her that she was basically what Perse saw as a princess. She didn’t like disbelieving her grandmother, but upon seeing the actual royals, she’d felt out of place. Even given her headdress of stars, it didn’t hold a candle to the accessories the other girls had been wearing, and she’d been grateful when she was able to retire to her rooms for the night.

Only to find herself pestered by late night texts from Echo and Wisteria wanting to know everything she was seeing. Everything she was experiencing, and it only made Amaranthine feel more exhausted. She’d sent a few surreptitious photos she’d taken to the girls to appease them, but then found she couldn’t sleep. It had been her own decision not to take any companions with her to Aciras, but she wouldn’t have minded her grandmother being there. But Elinoire had republic business to handle, especially with her being away and knowing it skewed the council. Three Loveridges to place their votes instead of four, but she’d agreed that her grandmother could vote for her if any situations occurred while she was away. As far as the other council members, Echo and Wisteria excluded, knew, she was on a diplomatic mission. If anyone here was apt to deal with her country as ide from the usual trade agreements.
She was beginning to feel as if everyone else thought she didn’t belong nearly as much as she felt she did, but that wasn’t going to stop her from enjoying herself. Even if, instead of getting a good night’s sleep, she had woken at dawn and sat down cross-legged on the floor of her room to do a Tarot reading for herself.

Whatever that had told her, she’d decided she wasn’t going to skip the brunch. Changing from her pajamas into black jeans and a white camisole under a loose white button-down shirt, she brushed her hair out smooth before glancing at the purple velvet box her grandmother had given her before she’d come here. She hadn’t looked at the contents yet, but something drew her to it now and she opened it to find a gorgeous layered necklace showcasing a large amethyst below a small star. Representing herself, and she decided to slip it around her neck instead of her usual satin or velvet ribbon before she slid a simple pair of flats onto her feet. Now she was ready.

Heading down to the parlor, she pretended that the obvious difference between her attire and a large portion of the others who had arrived before her didn’t bother her as she’d walked over to the table and nibbled on a berry. She’d work her way up to the sweets.

Hidden 6 mos ago Post by madmonarchist


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Breakfast Banter

collab between @madmonarchist & @dracarysbitch

While it was supposed to be a brunch, Erik didn’t make any inclination towards the food at all. If you could even call it that. All Erik saw was chocolate. And while Erik enjoyed deserts, it was far too early in the morning for a chocolate fountain. But besides the obvious clash of culinary palettes between himself and Princess Lea, Erik’s mind was also far too preoccupied to eat. As a result of this, he spent most of his time on the phone, almost obsessively checking his messages and refreshing the page of the gossip tabloid. Never before had he been so invested in his phone before.

So far, he had heard nothing about the tabloid from his relatives. His sister Juliet had said that she’d do her best to keep that tabloid away from their grandmother, but Erik could only wonder for how long. It was not that they’d take a gossip tabloid seriously anyway. If this was Veredun, such a situation would have never taken place at all. Despite all their talk of cultural diversity and intellectual freedom, the Veredunian media was closely monitored and heavily censored. And while there would be no scandalous news being reported, Erik knew for a fact that he’d also not be able to have a relationship with Yelena at all. They could never be seen in public, which is why Erik only ever met Yelena when he was overseas or in Rustavya. Erik could never even admit that he was in a relationship with her. Because of this, Juliet was quite literally the only one of his family members who even knew about their relationship. Because of these realities, Erik insisted on keeping close tabs of his phone, no matter how obsessive it seemed to others around him.

The main issue with the tabloid was the fact that they’d referred to Yelena as a close friend of Vera’s. This was both a good and a bad thing according to Erik. They hadn’t yet mentioned her nationality explicitly, but they had mentioned that Yelena was exceedingly close to Vera. Now this was problematic because Vera just happened to be the crown princess of Rustavya. If Yelena was just another Rustavyian girl, he was sure that his family would be less than pleased, but they really wouldn’t care as much. After all, why should anyone care about the personal life of “an inconspicuous pawn in Empress Catherine’s imperial chess board,” he thought to himself silently, suddenly recalling Anastasia’s words in his head. But the fact that she was close to Vera complicated things quite a bit. Empress Catherine had made it clear on several occasions that Veredun and Rustaya were not allies. So for Erik to be romantically involved with Yelena was nothing short of being romantically involved with Vera herself. Because of this, Erik knew for a fact that if any one of his relatives [with the exception of Juliet of course] were to see this tabloid, nothing would prevent them from going to Empress Catherine themselves. But since he hadn’t, Erik could only assume that they hadn’t seen it. And that meant that Juliet had succeeded in concealing the tabloid from them… for now anyway.

Briefly glancing up to run his fingers through his hair, Erik turned to the doors to make a note of who was entering. So far, the only familiar faces he’d seen were of Alejandro’s and Genevieve’s, apart from Talya of course. But when he saw a familiar blonde walking in a grey-clad maxi dress, he knew it was Vera. She radiated anger and irritation.

Inhaling sharply once more, Erik kept away his phone and readied himself. He had no idea if she was annoyed primarily at him or if she had generally just woken up with anger towards the world. Both were highly likely. In his past experience, Vera was not really a morning person. Of course, in his past experience, he’d also tease Vera extraordinarily for the same reason… but alas, this was not one of those situations. So far, all he’d gotten back in response to his text was “don’t annoy me so early in the morning.” What did that even mean? She didn’t mention the tabloid at all, which left him to wonder if she’d seen it or not. Erik had to know. And the uncertainty was killing him.

Reading himself mentally, he exhaled slowly and closed his eyes momentarily to steady his heart beat. When he felt calm enough, Erik opened his eyes again and made his way towards Vera. I can do this, it’s just Vera. I can do this, he thought to himself reassuringly.

“Hey,” Erik greeted, flashing her a grin. Act natural or else she’ll know, Erik chided himself mentally. People like Vera… they could smell fear.

“Urg, those pearly whites are reflecting the sun, put them away.” Vera groaned as she took a bite of her bagel, plain, barely toasted, she did not trust butter, despite the illogicality of it, she suspected it somehow had excessive chocolate inside it.

“Alright then,” Erik responded calmly. A facade of calmness rather. Normally, he’d tease her about several things- her grouchiness in the morning, the fact that the sun’s rays couldn’t reflect off the surface of his teeth because that’s not how physics works, and he’d throw in a few other jokes, you know free-styling it. But not today, for once Erik’s mind was preoccupied with things other than his hair, alcohol and having a good time. From what he had observed so far, Vera she seemed upset. Now, Erik couldn’t make out what she was upset about- waking up, being drowned in chocolate, the decor, the rather jarring color scheme, the weather, or the tabloid. But at the moment, he was inclined to suspect all of them.

In that moment, Erik recalled his older sister, Evangeline’s voice ringing in his head: always be prepared for the worst in any situation. Normally, Erik tended to take anything his older siblings said with a grain of salt. But it sounded like pretty good advice in the moment. According to that assessment, the ‘worst case scenario’ would of course be Erik’s death. Now, that was highly unlikely for 2 reasons, the first being that he was physically not in Veredun. Secondly, even if his grandmother were to see the tabloid, he highly doubted that things would escalate to his death. That seemed like an overreaction, even for her. Though, Erik was no authority on his grandmother. Therefore, even if she did order his death, Erik would not be surprised. Anyway, even if that were to happen, it would take a few hours at the least. Which meant that other things had to be considered in the meantime. The second outcome of all of this, the one that worried him far more, was Yelena hating him or breaking up with him. He’d texted Yelena the whole thing- he was far too afraid to actually call her last night. And it had been literal hours. So even with the time difference, he knew that she had chosen not to respond. And that worried him even more. Briefly, he had considered that she might be otherwise occupied. He knew she had a life and things to do but this was serious! He’d even texted Anatole to find out if she was alright- again no response. The latter was not as suspicious though. But Yelena not responding to him was. He didn't like it. It was too tense for him- oh wow, my heart was racing, he thought to himself as he subconsciously raised his right palm to his chest. He needed to calm down. But that was easier said than done.

In both cases, he’d be punished, he thought to himself. If Yelena ended up breaking up with him over this, he’d be alone. Well, not alone really because he would be marrying Talya then. But that was not something he looked forward to at all. From the talk they had this morning, Erik got the impression that both of them saw each other as friends. Besides, he really didn’t want his grandmother to dictate his life, more than she already had. And it had been a while since Erik flirted- he was quite rusty in that department. So even if he were to move on and get another girlfriend, it would be a very long and tedious process. And from his grandmother’s perspective well… who even knew what she’d do?

I was in the Veredunian military for years. I was trained for all situations, he reminded himself silently. Years and years of rigorous military training. He technically had been thoroughly prepared for all situations, but those mostly involved times of war and on the battlefield. This was not one of them. I manage to survive 23 years with my family. I can do this. Erik thought to himself as he closed his eyes momentarily to collect his thoughts and compose himself. Yes I can do this, he thought to himself reassuringly.

Oh, Erik. Vera thought to herself, she almost pitied him in his current state. In a slightly different setting, all the panicked little expressions shifting through his face would be hilarious, but she was feeling bad for him now. Normally he'd make a dumb joke, certainly about that goddamned breakfast debacle he still hasn't let go of particularly when they're surrounded by breakfast foods. “Wow, you’re not being petulant for once. Has the sky fallen?”

Erik barely heard Vera, consumed in his own thoughts. “It might have, but I can’t say that I would notice,” Erik mumbled in an uncharacteristically dry tone. Well, uncharacteristic towards Vera and almost everyone who wasn’t in one way or the other related or involved with his family. His relatives- his older siblings and cousins in particular, were more than familiar with this tone.

“In any case,” Erik continued, quickly changing the subject. “Did you see the gossip tabloid,” he asked. He wasn’t sure if Vera had or not. He didn’t think Vera was the kind of person who would take the news reported in gossip tabloid too seriously, but at the same time, it did involve Yelena. At least it did indirectly. “More importantly, did Yelena see it?” he asked. Now, he fully expected Yelena to see it. Unlike him, Yelena was a lot more… social. Now, it wasn’t that Erik wasn’t social. He was- in fact, he was quite extroverted. But his presence online was minimal to say the least. Even if one searched thoroughly, they were unlikely to find anything about Erik online with the exception of minor details about his family and employment. And that was intentional. In Veredun, Erik knew for a fact that every breath of his was being carefully monitored and watched by someone at all times. He didn’t need to give them more information than what they already had. Erik appreciated his freedom greatly, even if it was a mere illusion at times. Yelena on the other hand, was quite active on social media- millions of followers on Instagram and other social media sites, a pretty successful modeling career- the usual from someone of her caliber. But to give Yelena credit, apart from the occasional post, she made sure Erik didn’t receive too much attention. It was odd that Erik would end up dating someone so open about their lives but it was far too late to speculate about that one.

“And was she upset about it?” he asked. But the question extended to Vera as well. Vaguely, Erik recalled Yelena and Vera were quite invested in that show that was referenced in the tabloid article- Game of Thrones was it? Erik hardly watched television at all. Growing up on a military base, that was not a luxury Ferdinand and Erik were allowed. That mentality continued well into his adult life. The only time he ever watched television at all was when he was either with Yelena or his sister Juliet. After all, getting reliable connection on the seas was quite difficult. Because of this, he really didn’t understand their obsession with the show or the book series, but he didn’t question it either. After all, Erik knew how to read his audience.

Vera sighed. So much chit-chat so early in the morning, and a glaring lack of her favourite caffeinated drink. At the moment, he suddenly reminded her of Yelena. Although his bombardment of questions were verbal as opposed to texted and juxtaposed with various other thoughts and comments. “I feel mildly insulted you’d think I’d read a rag like that.” She was joking, mostly, she understood he meant this specific instance, but his serious demeanour was slightly freaking her out. An Erik that is not insufferably annoying is not Erik at all. “I did see it, and so has she. I wouldn’t say that she’s upset. At least, not at you, so take a breath. You’re acting like a hyperventilating robot.”

Well… he couldn’t say that she was wrong. He did seem a bit more aloof than what she was accustomed to, but it was hardly robotic. But she had a point. He had to calm down, center himself again. Man, he should have run a little more this morning, he thought to himself. Physical exercise always seemed to calm him down after all.

“You can relax.” she said, trying to be reassuring, but it’s hard to be nice to someone you find incredibly annoying. Her tone was not as friendly as she wanted it to be. “Tabloids are hardly worth the attention, but of course, being who we are, it’s still been blocked. I haven’t heard of it being reported in Veredun, and doubt it will ever see the light of day there, and we’ve blocked the paper all together in Rustavya, I loathe slanderous publications.”

“My sister is entirely to credit for that,” Erik answered coolly. Though he wondered exactly how long that would last for. When it came to media and propaganda in general, Veredun was controlled by two figures- his uncle, Mattias and his cousin, Anastasia. Now, his uncle and Erik were on amicably cordial in general. Unless Erik explicitly did something offend Empress Catherine, Mattias would not be involved. But Anastasia… while the rest of the world saw Konrad as the favored candidate for the position of Empress Catherine’s heir apparent, Erik assessed that Anastasia was far more likely to win that position. There was a saying in Veredun, or at least among his own friends: ‘the silver lady is watching you’. Erik truly considered her to be one of the most dangerous people in Veredun- she was entirely to credit for the development of the Veredunian intelligence, especially the more notorious aspects of the institution. There was a reason as to why Empress Catherine had such absolute control over the Veredunian public sphere and that was entirely because of Mattias and Anastasia. Even their grandmother’s open affections towards Juliet didn’t help her much against Anastasia. And that of course meant that Erik was even more powerless against her- he’d spent his entire life trying to stay under Anastasia’s radar and didn’t intend to change it now. “Though I wonder just how long that will last for,” Erik speculated. Erik had heard of Vera’s… admiration for his grandmother on more than one occasion, and he really didn’t need to be subject to Vera’s thoughts on his cousin. Ordinarily, Erik would be entirely inclined to agree with Vera, but this was not one of those situations.

“I also hate idiots who call it game of fucking complete bullshit thrones,” Vera muttered to herself, she almost didn’t hear Erik’s explanation since she was still angry about it. Was that the most important thing, at all, about this tabloid issue? No. But is it what caught her attention and rage the most? Absolutely yes. Fucking D&D going around ruining everything. Valo jaelza zaldrīzes dohaeriros iksos daor.

“But we do have a still little bit of a problem here,” she said, moving on from her nerd problems, well, as much as she could. “Well, you have a problem. The public may remain ignorant, but not the Crowns. My father isn’t exactly a fan of your Grandmother, and vice versa, with good reason on her part too.” She wanted to add that it’s because her father is a little bitch, but even if it’s Erik, best not to make foreigners privy to those feelings of hers. The existence of the article is not so much the issue, as knowledge of its contents is. Now, Vera completely and utterly admired Empress Catherine. She truly was #lifegoals for her, as the kids or whatever say. Knowing both the Empress, and even herself, she wouldn’t put it past her to hurt Yelena, and most likely Erik, but he was of far less significance to Vera. It’s what Vera would do if she had Catherine and her father’s relationship. But she doesn’t, and it’s not her reign. There’s also the added bonus of Yelena’s lack of place in the government, which protects Yelena, but none of this protects Erik. “Our countries are similar, but not the same. Yelena doesn’t have a major political position, so she’s rather free to consort with whomever she pleases. They’re not going to be thrilled, but she certainly won’t lose her head, maybe just some money and get a few cold shoulders, and of course, that’s only until I take throne. You, on the other hand, seem far more likely to lose a limb or two.”

Erik did his best to keep a straight face as he heard Vera speak. As suspected, he thought to himself silently. “To put it lightly,” Erik commented dryly. The main defining difference between their states was the leaders according to Erik. Now, he didn’t really know much about Nikolas other than what he had grown up hearing about him from his grandmother- ’a neanderthal will always remain a neanderthal even if you dress him up in fine silks and put a crown on his head.’ Now, Erik hardly knew if that was true or not. What he did know is that Veredun and Rustavya were not allies and as long as his grandmother and Nikolas were in power (perhaps even after them), they would never be either.

At her last comment, Erik flashed her a forced smile in agreement. “Not yet,” he answered calmly. Well, he hoped anyway. He didn’t think Empress Catherine kill him over this. Not until Veredun and Rustavya were engaged in war against one another. And even if she did, Erik knew he wouldn’t simply die. No, that would be far too benevolent of his grandmother. She’d make him suffer enormously first. And that was where his cousins came in. She would probably gift him to Anastasia or Konrad to be enslaved for the rest of his life, Erik thought to himself. A shudder running down his spine at the very thought of that.

Vera nodded at Erik’s words in agreement and her eyes briefly flickered across the brunch buffet spread. “Well, I suppose you're a dead man walking for now,” she began, shrugging her shoulders lightly. What was done was done, there was no use in fretting about it now. All that mattered was how it was handled. “Besides,” she continued, her attention returning to him. “It’s not all bad. I think I actually did see some kind of food substance here,” she stated in an attempt to raise his spirits. “So, let’s go get some breakfast,” she suggested, rolling her eyes as she said those words. It was a bad inside joke really- a while back Erik had spent the night with Yelena and Vera had encountered him the next morning. This was back when she barely knew him and he had invited her for ‘breakfast,’ which she had misinterpreted to be some sort of sexual act. Since then, he’d never let it go. So, when she’d hinted at that, she’d fully expected Erik to reference that joke once again as he usually did. The fact that he didn’t showed her just how much this was weighing on his mind. Really, the boy was irritating in every possible way- angry, depressed, even when he panicked. God, he was so annoying, she thought to herself silently. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to sleep with you,” she added dryly in an attempt to distract him from his current troubles.

But Erik only heard the last part and raised a questioning eyebrow in response. “What?” he asked, clearly confused. Sleep with him? What was she talking about?

“Breakfast,” Vera clarified flatly- this was not something she had ever thought she’d do. She’d desperately hoped he’d eventually let the joke go. After all, it was immature to keep laughing about such a trivial thing for so long. And now, she was the one bringing it up. Willingly that too. God, what had the world come to?

“Yes?” Erik asked, hoping that she’d clarify the statement.

But that just infuriated Vera further. “Oh, come on, don’t you remember?” she snapped. “It’s literally the only thing you tease me about,” she added, rolling her eyes in annoyance as she did. Well, that wasn’t entirely true, but that was a different story.

And at that moment, Erik finally understood what she was referencing and nodded a little, flashing her a forced smile. “Oh right, yeah,” he answered.

“Chin up kiddo, the world hasn’t ended yet,” she said, pulling him along to find something of quality to eat. Though, buffets were not her thing. Nor a Vasaätten thing either, to quote her brother in one of his finer moments; rule number 86, never eat or drink anything you have to place or pour yourself. Drizzle it on for me, I’m not your maid. “Do you think there’s sausage? I only saw revolting bacon earlier,” she added, trying to keep the conversation going and light. Like fucking Erik, she couldn’t believe she almost missed his jokes. “Can we make requests of the staff? There’s this very specific bagel with egg and sausage that they make at my favourite coffee shop, it’s to d-LIVE for.” She quickly corrected her. Die was probably not the best word to use around robo-Erik.

As Erik walked beside her, he only raised a curious eyebrow at Vera’s last statement but said nothing about it. Instead, he chose to comment on her earlier ones regarding the content of the buffet spread. “From what I have observed, the Acrian charm seems to rest on doing things for yourself,” he commented dryly. Well, in certain cases such an attitude clearly had its advantages but not always. But he was curious about the requests though. “However, that’s not the worst idea,” he agreed. After all, his physical training demanded a very specific diet and so far, he’d seen nothing that he could eat. There was just far too much dessert for Erik’s palette. And the other breakfast foods did not seem too appealing to Erik either. He’d never once seen oatmeal served anywhere else except for in mess halls of military forces. It was rather odd to see the likes of oatmeal at such an event. Although it was informal, it still was being attended by royalty from across the world. Erik had expected something a little more… impressive, and from the conversation he was currently having with Vera, he was not alone in that thought. This spread almost reminded him of a buffet at a hotel as opposed to one at a palace.

While they looked something palatable at this time of day, Vera’s scanned the room and observed a head of dark hair wearing an outfit she could only describe as grunge, though she was fairly certain Yelena was out there correcting her about the exact specifics of the style. Recalling the ever-detailed files of the SVR, that girl was most likely Talya of Notia. She looked to be about as tall as Vera, though Vera was definitely taller with her shoes. There’s a reason she always has heels, regardless of the ice or exact type of footwear. “Is that her then,” Vera asked Erik with a discreet nod, and unnecessary mocking tone. “The scorned betrothed? She seems unbearably sweet.”

Erik welcomed the change in topic and his eyes flickered across the room to Talya. “I wouldn’t say scorned,” Erik began, nodding a little in confirmation. “She is kind though,” he added. “Most women in her position wouldn’t readily agree to concealing my relationship with Yelena the way she did,” he explained. Although, if his grandmother were to find out, all of this would be for naught. Empress Catherine constantly reminded him that her generosity and affection towards his older sister Juliet was not bound by blood and did not extend to him.

“Plenty of noble women pretend their husband’s lovers don’t exist.” Vera scoffed. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but something about this little princess set off a few red flags.

Vera had a point there, Erik thought to himself. “But the difference is that those women usually had something to gain- ulterior motivations if you will,” he explained. Those women usually had social reputations and families to maintain. And at times, women often lacked the financial agency awarded to men depending on their locations and thus, were forced to remain with their husbands. In such situations, ignoring the mistress was the only coping mechanism available to them. He had made it clear that if he did intend to marry anyone, it would be Yelena and not Talya. And the only thing he could think of that Talya would potentially gain in this situation was the protection of her own reputation and that of Notia. However, Erik was even skeptical of that- eventually, he was going to end the engagement whether his grandmother liked it or not. At that point, this would all technically have been for naught. Therefore, Erik liked to think that Talya agreed to all this from the goodness of her heart, because she saw him as a friend. “Talya clearly doesn’t in this case.”

“Oh, so she’s a nice girl, is she?” Vera was skeptical about that. Fair enough, she couldn’t see the angle here, but unselfish people are rare, and she highly doubted a completely unselfish and entirely good person existed at all. Sure, there’s Yelena and Nikita, but this isn’t Naruto. The power of friendship and love only goes so far. There’s something missing here, and she supposed she’d have to talk to this princess herself to find out what that something is, but whatever, that can wait for later. This is why party people like Vasily and Sergei come in handy, they can do all the social interacting and subtle secret prying she loathes to do! Also Yelena, but in this particular case, that’s probably not a good idea.

Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Ezmeralda
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M A I & I V Y

As Ivy helped herself to a cream puff, Mai mulled over her words. Is this what she occupies with herself, all day? Mai wondered to herself, incredulously. Video game...streaming? Mai had never touched a single video game in her life. It wasn't her thing, and besides, it's not like she had the chance to do so.

"I think that people are already starting to appreciate such things as artful and artistic make-up," Mai said, slowly. "I am by no means any expert at all on make-up artists, but I do recall seeing some pictures online of people who could create the prettiest designs and scenes with just a make-up palette." Mai let a ghost of a smile flit over her face. "It seems like fun."

Ivy tilted her head to the side slightly as she thought, "I know a lot do, but that doesn't really answer my question. I suppose it was more a question about the human psyche than makeup." she smiled at Mai, "It is fun, and they can. I've done some myself, although I don't think they've been popular enough to get noticed online. I'm very good at doing my usual look with some variations and that helps make them look clean, but I'm not a professional either...."

Mai chuckled, softly. "I suppose. I am not the person to ask about matters regarding psychology, I'm afraid," she said, giving Ivy a sheepish grin. "And I second that sentiment. I know nothing, beyond what works for me, personally."

She studied the girl's face for a moment, "Is something wrong? You look a little peeved about something, although I can tell you're trying to hide it. I'm not bugging you am I?"

At Ivy's next words, Mai stilled, though she regained her composure a split second later. Was it really that obvious? she wondered to herself, carefully arranging her features into the expression of pleasant interest that she usually wore in such occasions. I am usually not so...careless. I should be more attentive of these things from now on, mm.

"Nothing is wrong," Mai reassured Ivy, smiling warmly at her. "And of course you are not 'bugging' me! I never have such a chance to discuss make-up with someone who understands it," she continued, laughing lightly.

Ivelynne smiled at Mai, "Oh good, I thought I said something bad Or maybe my enthusiasm was annoying. Sorry, I get excited easily sometimes. I don't often the chance to talk about makeup much either. I usually only talk to my sister about such things and she's....well....not as into it as I am. Let's just say that."

Ivy nodded, "I'm not really either. I suppose I just want everyone to be nice and happy, but unfortunately the world doesn't work like that, does it?"

"Mmm. Unfortunately, it does not."

She turned more towards Mai, "How about colors? Do you prefer to stick with only a couple colors or go all out with them?"

At Ivy's next question, Mai tilted her head to the side, considering. "Well, I am most definitely not the most creative of people," she admitted ruefully, giving Ivy a crooked grin. "I tend to stick with reds and blacks and grays. I like-" Mai paused for a second, considering. What is the English term for it, again? Smokey eyes?

"I like the smokey eye-shadow," she said, laughing lightly. "I do apologize. I was having trouble remembering what it is called."

Ivy smiled at her, "I bet you're more creative than you give yourself credit." she gave a couple of small claps of excitement involuntarily, and her smile widened, "Oh, I love reds and blacks." She nodded again, "I like the smokey eye look as well. I use it a lot although I don't use black sometimes. I'll go blue like yesterday, or a green to match my eyes. Maybe even pink. I experiment with a lot of colors....maybe THAT's why I looked like a clown." she giggled.

"Do you ever wear other colors of lipstick? I tend to match the other makeup I'm wearing, but I can tell you're very fond of that red."

At Ivy's comment about her lipstick, Mai flashed her another wry grin. "Indeed."

Mai tilted her head to the side, considering Ivy's response. She gave her a wry grin. "I am sure that you give me too much credit," she responded. "Really. I rarely ever use any other colors. Though I feel that it would be fun, one day, to do so." She shrugged. "Maybe sometime in Aciras?"

Ivy nodded, "Colors are fun!" she paused a moment and grinned, "Are you implying we get together to do makeup? I would love that! My sister is the only person who lets me put makeup on her, but I can tell she's just doing it to indulge me. It'd be nice to have a model that's excited about it for once! Just let me know when you want to and I'll be there in a flash!"

Mai raised an eyebrow. Getting together to do make-up? I've never done that...before. Nevertheless, she nodded, slowly. "It seems like it would be fun," she said, neutrally, flicking her eyes towards Princess Ayleanna before back to Ivy. "I am sure Princess Lea would be willing to host, at least."

Ivy nodded vigorously, "It is! Well...for me, anyway..." she followed her eyes to Ayleanna, she giggled a little, "What? Afraid to be alone with me? I see no reason to make it a big thing but if she wants, the more the merrier, I suppose. I'm sure the other girls, and maybe guys, might enjoy some makeup fun. I'll talk to her about it later and get back to you, okay?" she smiled at Mai, and looked at Lea who seemed busy with her own conversation.

She waved at her sister as she entered the room, finally, "For now though, I need to go talk to my sister. Please excuse me." she got up and gave Mai, Rhia, and Lea a curtsy before heading over to her sister. "Good afternoon, my lovely sister! It's good to see that you can get dressed without my help sometimes." she smiled at her, as she sat down next to her. She lowered her voice so only Talya could hear, "We need to talk, but it can wait till later...."
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by madmonarchist


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The human form of the 100 emoji.

collab between @madmonarchist, @ayzrules & @dracarysbitch

Isabella’s eyes scanned the room for the umpteenth time. Alejandro and Elias were getting up and leaving, while Lea, Rhia, and Dafni seemed to be chattering amongst themselves. Mai and Ivelynne were conversing, too, while Domitia sat by themself.

Her gaze flitted back toward Venera and Erik, who had moved closer to where she was standing. The two of them were talking to each other; it seemed like they were old friends. Mm. I would find it odd-last I checked, Veredun and Rustavya were not too fond of each other-but with everything that people are saying about Erik’s Agirlfriend…

Isabella felt sorry for Talya; the Notian princess must have been humiliated. Isabella knew that she herself would have been furious.

Isabella was about to go find a place to sit (perhaps near Domitia…?) when her eyes met Venera’s, briefly. Inadvertently. Nevertheless, Isabella didn’t want to come off as rude, so she supposed that she was now obligated to speak to them.

How wonderful, she thought to herself, half-bitterly. The crown princess and one of the princes that are most probably trying to use Father for their own purposes. Now, I wonder how they would feel, should they know of the people talking of revolution…

Did the Rustavyans and the Veredunians know, by any chance? Isabella thought that it was not likely; despite the fact that the Rustavyans pretty much won Gabriel I the throne and that the Veredunians helped him retain it through the necessary technology to keep tabs on anything and everything communications-wise, the two other nations were not physically present in Evalusia. And, even if they did manage to intercept any form of correspondence, well...Isabella was fairly certain that most of the Frente Popular, the so-called ‘popular front’, limited all written communication to a dying indigenous dialect, one that didn’t even have its own Wikipedia page. She had no concrete proof, of course-she was sure that the popular front did not have a particularly flattering opinion of her-but she had a hunch. A hunch that was one-hundred percent influenced by the fact that Isabella had seen her older sister studying this dialect in the months preceding her alleged suicide.

Isabella clenched her teeth, imperceptibly. Thinking about Elena always created a confusing mess of emotions within her; there was everything from guilt (I should have helped her, I should have known, I should have stopped Father) to sadness (I miss her, I miss her, I miss her, I miss her, is she even alive?) and even anger (She told me to wait for her. She told me to wait, espérame she said, but why hasn’t she said anything???).

It would be better if I did not think about her at all, in public. Isabella forced herself to relax. The last thing she wanted to do was to lose her cool in front of all these people.

Isabella smiled at Venera and Erik, knowing very well that the smile didn’t reach her eyes. Her smiles hadn’t reached her eyes for a long time, now. “Princess Venera, it is a pleasure to see you again.” A slight pause. “And Prince Erik, it is an honor to meet you.”

Erik was extremely preoccupied by his thoughts, and his conversation with Vera. Usually quite alert, Erik didn’t even notice Isabella walk up to them. He barely heard her. But when he did, Erik turned to greet Isabella with a smile- slightly forced, and very different from his usual expressive smiles.

“Princess Isabella,” Erik acknowledged with a curt nod. “It’s a pleasure to be acquainted with you as well,” he greeted smoothly.

Now, Erik really wasn’t familiar with the princess or with Evalusia. All he knew was that Veredun had some sort of trade agreement with Evalusia but didn’t know the specifics and didn’t care to learn them either. After all, foreign policy and external relations was something his aunt and uncles, and cousins, Konrad and Anastasia usually handled. And Erik tried to minimize contact with them.

Vera sighed internally as she noted Princess Isabella making her way over. If she was with another Veredunian this little get together would be such a hassle. Evalusia was a spot of contention for her country and Veredun, a prime example of the nation’s two heads of state constantly trying to one up each other. Rustavya may have won them their government, but they were relying on Veredunian technology to keep it, Nikolas III was not a fan of that, and honestly, neither was Vera. Remember who was gracious enough to put that crown upon your head you false god worshipping buffoon. She couldn’t say she was too fond of the aforementioned buffoon either. You don’t take over the world with gaudy displays of violence; real control is surgical, invisible. People don’t question it, because they don’t even notice it’s there. It only takes a firm hand when it has to. Though, in all honesty, what really pissed Vera off most about Gabriel I of Evalusia was that he forced her to acknowledge that her own father is not the worst possible ruler in the world.

“Ah, Princess Isabella, it’s been quite a while,” Vera said with her own forced and plastered smile, though it was more convincing than either of the other royals, after all, she’s been perfecting hers since she was a child. Every few get to see her true smile. “And how is god’s favourite King doing?” She said with a friendly tone, but it was anything but, and she doubted her contempt would go unnoticed.

Isabella nodded at Erik and gave a mental eye-roll at Vera’s response. He is as stupid and irritating as ever, of course, she thought, though of course she couldn’t say that. Isabella wasn’t unaware of what the Veredunians and the Rustavyans thought of her father, but frankly, she didn’t particularly care if they saw him in a less-than-positive light. It wasn’t like Isabella herself was any fonder of him, anyway.

Isabella let a moment pass before replying. “It certainly has,” she said, a ghost of another polite smile twitching at the corner of her lip as she resolutely ignored the fact that Princess Venera’s official state visit to Evalusia had been less than a month before Elena’s ‘suicide’. She paused again, lifting her cool gaze to meet Vera’s. “And my father is...well. Blessed be our Lord,” she answered, her features devoid of any expression and her voice completely deadpan.

Isabella knew what foreigners thought of Evalusia and her father’s obsession with religion. Again, she couldn’t say that she particularly cared. She felt the same exact way.

“And how is your father doing, Princess Venera?” Isabella asked politely. “I trust that he is also doing well?”

“He is doing splendidly,” replied Vera. Too splendidly, she thought to herself. Her ideal life plan requires that he die within the next 3-4 years in order for her to have everything she wants, but his never-failing health was proving to be quite the thorn in her side.

Erik quietly listened to both Vera and Isabella converse- well, he half-listened anyway. Instead, his eyes were scouring the buffet table. If he knew little about Evalusia, he knew even less about Nikolas. Splendidly, Erik thought to himself dryly. That was something his grandmother would not like to hear. All his life, Erik had learned one thing about Rustavya- Nikolas was an idiot. Well, he’d heard worse things, but his earlier statement essentially summed it all up. All he knew was that his grandmother despised the man for whatever reason. Ever since he could remember, she had for reason completely rededicated her entire life to destroying and outshining his in every possible way. And Erik did not care to find out why. When it came to Rustavya, only one thing mattered to him- being able to be with Yelena.

Isabella nodded politely in response to Vera, before turning slightly so that her gaze was directed towards Erik. “How is your grandmother?” she asked, more because the rules of etiquette demanded it, not because she particularly cared about what Erik had to say in response to the inquiry. “She is well, I hope?”

When he heard his name, Erik returned his attention to Isabella once more when she addressed him. As if I'd know, is what Erik really wanted to say. However, after the tabloid, he was determined to be on his best behavior. “She is indeed,” he answered, nodding curtly. Erik knew for a fact that people considered the Veredunian royal family to be close-knit. That was the illusion his grandmother liked to give to the external world. She liked everyone to believe that the Veredunian royal family was a united front, which it most clearly was not. Based on the tabloid, Erik had done enough damage already. He was not about to go ahead and reveal the inner workings of the Veredunian royal family, especially not to someone like Isabella who he was unfamiliar with.

The side of Isabella’s lip twitched upwards in amusement. “That is good to hear.” She paused, delicately, assessingly. “I do apologize for being forward, Princess Venera, Prince Erik,” she began, “but I am...curious, shall we say, about how the Empress is...handling the situation with the newspaper that went into print this morning.” There was a vaguely wolfish look in her blue-green eyes as she glanced at Erik. “My father...he will not be particularly happy, if he has not seen it already.” Not that I particularly care, of course. But he’s irritating when things don’t go his way.

Isabella shrugged, nonchalantly. “Will you explain to her that paper is merely a tabloid, one of the more peculiar aspects of Aciran culture? I will try with my father, of course, but I cannot guarantee that he will understand. At all.”

“I can’t speak for the Empress, but I, for one, am most certainly not pleased by the allowance of this by the Acrians.” Vera interjected. “Tabloids may be idiotic, but they have real potential to cause damage. People, in large part, are easy to fool and manipulate. Not to mention that their very existence is what allows morons like those alt-right nutters to claim rubbish like “fake news” and “alternative facts” and sway the aforementioned foolish public.” That’s exactly what we do when we meddle with your silly little elections. Though she kept that thought to herself, it may be accepted intelligence amongst the world that Rustavya meddles wherever it pleases, but she wasn’t about to admit to that “allegation”.

Erik nodded at Vera’s words in agreement. Both Veredun and Rustavya did not have press freedom the way Acrias obviously did. Therefore, Erik was expecting such a comment- everyone would be curious as to how Empress Catherine and King Nikolas was reacting to the tabloid. Erik was not too familiar with the nature of the Rustavyan media. However, he knew that Veredun did not have freedom of speech, it just had the illusion of it. The department of public relations censored everything- any media-related product first had to be approved by the department before it could be shared with the public. And for those who did not comply… well, they were never heard from again. Erik was sure that neither tabloid nor Chrissy would have survived in their countries. Freedom of speech is a nationally protected right, not a global one. She should have understood that by now. “It certainly is surprising,” Erik began, referring to the pervasiveness of Acrian freedom of speech. “But I couldn’t agree more,” he stated, nodding lightly at Vera’s words. “My grandmother holds a distinct distaste towards tabloids,” he explained, “she finds them to be exceedingly slanderous in nature.” In the hierarchy of media, tabloids occupied the lowest strata according to Empress Catherine- a view most of the royal family also held. “I do not believe she would be too concerned with information reported in a gossip tabloid,” he added. Tabloids were not reputable sources of news. But Erik knew that this would be of little consequence to his grandmother…. If she knew that was.

Based on his conversation with his sister the previous night, Erik knew that Juliet had intercepted the gossip tabloid and was burying it Veredun. But things had a nasty way of revealing themselves in Veredun- nothing stayed hidden for too long. Empress Catherine saw and heard everything when it concerned the citizens of Veredun. It hardly mattered that they were on Veredunian land or not. Erik’s older brother Ferdinand had learned of this the hard way. Therefore, Erik couldn’t help but wonder how long the tabloid would be hidden from his grandmother for. She was bound to find out at some point. And when she did, Erik could only hope that Juliet would find some way of keeping him alive, as she always did of course. What’s done is done. There is no point worrying over the past anymore.

“But I am glad to see that we are not the only ones who find the pervasiveness of Acrian freedom peculiar,” Erik commented calmly.

Vera internally sighed again. Pleased as she was with having a similar viewpoint with her role model, in large part, certainly outside of Eastern Europe, the world did not share this view, and prattled on and on about “Freedom of speech”. Admittedly, she can see the side of those working to expose corruption or some such, but those celebrity focused “papers” that genuinely have countdowns to when a young girl reaches the legal age of consent, online blogs that spread unverified slander simply for clicks, that’s some fucked up bullshit that she is not willing to permit nor protect. Freedom of speech means the government can’t punish you for satire, not “I’m to rape you” type bullshit. Of course, she personally prefers neither. In any case, the resulting debate was always annoying, and it’s far too early for that shit, so she instead opted to move on to a marginally less irritating topic.

“Speaking of peculiar Aciran interests, perhaps you’ll be able to explain this to me Princess Isabella. Apart from the insult to my nation, and my personal interests,” was she still salty as shit about Game of Thrones? Yes! And this is nothing compared to when she found out Nika was a fan of that bullshit fanfiction. “I was quite perplexed by the fascination with your betrotheds’ hat. I simply cannot comprehend all the fuss. It’s just a silly hat, and I thought common to his land.”

Isabella said nothing as Vera and Erik gave their respective opinions. Isabella was not a fan of censorship by any means, and frankly, she was quite skeptical of the positions presented by the other two. I suppose the difference in opinion comes from being the person doing the censoring, and being the person affected by said censorship, she mused to herself. In Evalusia, not even the daughter of the king had the privilege of viewing whatever she wanted. Sure, she had exponentially more access to news outlets and media than most, but there were still...limitations.

However, Isabella kept these thoughts to herself. Personally, she wasn’t that big of a fan of other countries meddling with the internal affairs of others (Rustavyan meddling, for example, put her father on the throne. Isabella supposed that she should be grateful. She wasn’t), and from what she knew about Acirans, there would be quite an amusing outcry if Erik or Vera voiced these opinions regarding free speech publicly. Which, Isabella knew, they wouldn’t.

At Vera’s comment about Quentin’s damned hat, Isabella let out a surprised laugh. She supposed that she shouldn’t say anything too cruel about the hat, but…

“You and me both, Princess Venera,” she answered, dryly. “The Acirans seem to be of the opinion that it’s...amusing.” She shrugged, as if to say who knows?

Once more, Erik nodded in response. Truthfully, he had only really registered the part of the tabloid that mentioned him and Talya, and Yelena indirectly of course. He really couldn’t remember anything else that was mentioned in the tabloid, although he did vaguely recall the mention of a hat somewhere in there. But he hadn’t paid attention to it obviously. But based on the current conversation, Erik didn’t feel all too bad about omitting that piece of information. Were hats so uncommon in Acrias? He made a mental note of asking Alejandro to explain the relevance of the hat to him. Perhaps this was what was considered couture in Acrian fashion.
Hidden 6 mos ago Post by bloonewb
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Hui-Bawa sent his cheap rental car up the road again, bumping along as it made its way towards the palace gates. He resided in a hotel quite a ways away from any of the tourist hotspots, but that still didn’t dispel the guilt in his head. He was on holiday, or at least that’s how it felt to him, and his people were funding it. Worse yet, he didn’t have a single outfit that fit the nice man who runs the nearest clothing store’s definition of “dressy casual”. The man had tried to explain it to him, but Hui-Bawa could not seem to grasp it, beyond that he didn’t have anything of that category. This meant, of course, that he had to buy some. One less meal for the hardworking Du-Wassi citizen.

Quickly, and with loud protests from the car’s engine, he managed to park the pile of scraps upon one of the designated guest parking spaces. It was a reasonable walk from the gates proper, which Hui-Bawa actually appreciated. A walk might do well to clear his head. With a long leg, he pushed himself towards the entrance, even allowing himself to hum a bit. Admittedly, the day was rather lovely. He would be a fool not to enjoy it. The song was a slow and even tune, an old folk song from home. It paired well with the endless sky and its sun.

The previous night had gone well enough for Leon. Just like he had hoped for, neither he nor Mila had drawn the eye of the ‘journalists’ if Leon could even bring himself to call them that. Sure by the time the welcoming ball was over Mila had become about as red as a tomato but this morning things should be much calmer.

As was usual, Leon found himself waking fairly early. It was a habit he had instilled in himself so that he could seize the day as much as possible. Unfortunately, here in a place not his home his own schedule was much more relaxed than normal so he had way to much free time than he needed. So, he had decided to get a nice long workout. Afterwards he had taken a shower and in order to waste time until brunch he decided to just simply take a walk around the palace. After walking for awhile Leon heard a quite pleasant tune coming from somewhere nearby.

Rounding a corner he saw a man much taller than himself. Leon looked at this man but for some reason could not place a name to the face. He felt like he had seen his picture somewhere before but he just couldn’t remember. Deciding not to be rude Leon introduced himself. ”Hello. I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Prince Leonard Fords. And may I say that is a fine melody. Do you mind my asking what it’s called?”

A voice called to Hui-Bawa, belonging to a man with a wide smile. Leonard Fords, he said his name was. He returned theirs with one of his own. Is the stranger’s garb a more proper example of “dressy casual”? It was a sharp outfit, and more importantly, fit him better than a glove. Unfortunately, the man at the little clothing store didn’t have anything that quite fit his lanky frame. So once again, he found himself in some too-small outfit, this time a hooded sweater sold secondhand from New Lincoln University, along with a pair of itchy woolen sweatpants.

Leonard was still waiting for a response, so Hui-Bawa felt it best that he give one. “An honour, Lord Leonard. I am called Hui-Bawa Du-Butha Hui-Hooseng.” He extended a hand for the other to shake. “The song, I fear, is without name, for it is a folk song as old as my people. We have never ascribed a name to it, nor any other folk songs. It is a matter of culture.”

”It is an honor to meet you as well.” He reached out and shook the larger man's hand. It was unfortunate that he likely wouldn’t be able to find that tune anywhere else. But it was Hui-Bawa’s people’s song. Leon didn’t mind. ”Well, the events last night were interesting. Did you have a pleasant first day of the festivities?”

“It was . . . certainly an experience,” Hui-Bawa said. This Leonard was a nice man, and Hui-Bawa wanted not to hurt him. Yet, as pleasant as the people were, and as magnificent the setting, the palace, much like his own expansive home, was unable to sit well within him. It was too wealthy, too arrogant, too simply much, to live this life of parties and chocolates and sparkling water. “Everything is so large here. I find myself humbled by these great towers that stretch into the clouds.” He glanced over to the palace gates, standing wide open awaiting their entry. “Come, the weather is sublime, but I would still much rather have this conversation within. Shall we?”

[Collab with alexfangtalon, who is no longer present.]
Hidden 5 mos ago Post by shylarah
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shylarah the crazy one

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Valentine Blanchefleur and Akio Bai

It was the middle of the afternoon when a soft knock came at Akio’s door. It had taken Valentine quite some time to get her nerve up to seek him out, and she was in a way glad that he wasn’t out doing something. She would have been hesitant to interrupt otherwise. She still wore the jeans and graphic tee she’d selected earlier that day, though her camera was back in her room. As she waited for someone to answer the door she tried to figure out what she was going to say. An apology, of course. But what else?

Akio had been in his room, reading a book he had brought along on the cultures and traditions of Acrias. He wanted to be proper here and if he had done anything taboo his mother would have his head. He heard the soft knock on the door, finishing his sentence before placing the small gold ribbon bookmark in between the pages and walking to the door. He opened it up and saw Valentine. He smiled at her then bit his lip. “One moment please.” He said before shutting the door. He quickly walked over to the table where a new vase sat with the flowers that he had gotten Valentine, sitting inside. He grabbed the vase and quickly shoved it into a cabinet. He then walked back over to the door with a hope that nothing else in this room could trigger her to freak out and have another panic attack. The last thing he wanted was a crying princess and another bruise. He opened the door again, this time holding it ajar to let Valentine in. He then shut it behind her and pointed to the back glass door. “Do you want to talk on the balcony?” He asked her softly.

Valentine blinked at the closed door. Prince Akio had answered it and then immediately closed it again -- but perhaps he wanted to put away whatever he’d been doing before her arrival? She clasped her hands in front of her and tried to act like she wasn’t second guessing her every action. There, he was back. And with a question. It took her a moment to find her voice. “Okay.” She let him lead the way outside, looking out over the yard instead of at the man with her. That was easier. “I-I’m sorry,” she added, hands finding the railing and curling around it. “For earlier. ...Your face, does it hurt less now?”

Akio led her out to the balcony and leaned against the railing. His arms crossed on top of the railing bar. He looked out into the city that was visible from the view of his room. He then shrugged and sighed. “It’s ok. It never hurt that bad. It’s just a bruise. There is no need for you to apologize.” Akio had wanted an apology but not from her. If anything he should be the one apologizing to her. He had said some terrible things this morning and he didn’t know if Valentine had heard them but he felt bad for it nonetheless. He took a glance at her and then sighed. “I’m sorry for anything I may have done to upset you. Know that I didn’t mean it. I just want to make you and everyone else happy and some times that is a hard goal to live up to.”

Val knew the flowers had been accidental. She wasn’t so sure about what she’d heard before stopping the argument, but she’d not heard much, and Prince Akio had been upset. Still. “Apology accepted.” It was easier than telling him that she knew she was broken, that royalty didn’t get to be happy, that the last thing she wanted was a marriage and a crown. She looked down at the railing under her hands, tracing the stipple of encroaching rust with a finger. She ought to say something more, but what else was there to talk about?

Akio nodded, thanking her for her forgiveness. He then looked down, staring out at the grounds below him. He had to tell her that he didn’t want this. He had to tell her that he didn’t want to marry her. He had to be honest with her. If he was honest then maybe she would be too. He looked down and took in a shaky breath. “I’m gay.” He said to her softly, beginning to feel nervous and anxious.

Val blinked. At first she thought she’d misheard. Where had this come from, all of a sudden? “Okay?” Oh no, she sounded like an idiot, and a rude one at that. “I mean...I’m sorry you’re stuck with me, but....” And there she went making it worse. Val put her elbows on the railing and hid her face in her hands. What was he expecting her to say, anyhow? Instead of trying to finish her trainwreck of a sentence, Val let it end there.

Akio looked at her as she spoke, not expecting so many words to come out but also these words. He sighed and shook his head again. “No Val. I don’t think I will be… you’re sweet and all but I can’t- I won’t marry you. I want to marry for love.” He said and sighed. “Talulia would be happy to have an alliance and try to help your people but I can’t marry you Val. That’s not fair to either of us.” He said before pushing of the rail and going to sit against the wall. He didn’t want to upset her but marrying just for financial advantage and a pure alliance seemed stupid to Akio. He wanted to actually love the one he married.

“Royalty doesn’t get to do what they want,” Valentine mumbled into her hands. Of course the arrangement wasn’t fair to either of them. But if he’d had no intention of going through with it, then why agree to the engagement in the first place? Or was she just so broken that she wasn’t worth the trouble? She suspected the latter. She gathered her nerve. She wasn’t sad, not really, but it was hard to stand up straight, to turn around and look in Prince Akio’s direction. “I should go.”

((collab between @BurningWaterfa and me))
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by ayzrules
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E L I A S & A L E J A N D R O

Alejandro led the way down the hall away from the parlor, eyes discreetly scanning the corridors for any passerby. Most of the people they passed were part of the palace staff, and they paid him and Elias no attention as they hurried about. Alejandro was grateful that they didn’t run into anyone else; it would not be too terribly difficult to send them on their way to the parlor, of course, but it was still a bit of a hassle.

The library was one of the less well-known ones, located in the eastern wing of the palace. From his previous visits to the palace, Alejandro knew that this library was the one with materials regarding anything about the natural world, and that it happened to be one of Lea’s personal favorites. There were encyclopedias on geology, biology, bathymetry and oceanology, environmental and/or earth science, and the like, as well as animal husbandry guides and books filled with gorgeous illustrations. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the library was, however, the animal displays. The moose display was towards the back of the library, but Alejandro pulled Elias into one of the secluded reading rooms. A quick glance around the room showed that it was empty; hopefully, they would have some privacy in there.

Alejandro turned to the other prince. “I do apologize for not bringing you to the moose display immediately,” he began, laughing lightly, “but I believe that this location will provide more...privacy.” A delicate pause. “Elias, I-I know you have something to say. Whatever it is, I will hear it.” There was a noticeable shift in the quality of Alejandro’s voice; gone was all the light teasing and playful mischief. Instead, he was about as serious as he ever got, bringing his eyes up to meet Elias’.

— —

It felt odd, wearing pants, but at the same time that he wasn’t used to wearing them he also was so it…was a confusing matter nonetheless. Not that it felt uncomfortable, per sé, just that it felt wrong, confining everything in a much-too-small space and expecting it all to be happy about it. I wouldn’t be comfortable cooped up in a very tiny space either, Elias thought grumpily, but dismissed the thought as they entered the library.

It was impressive for sure, though he was fairly certain he caught the sight of antlers in the back before he was dragged into another room, a reading room.

He gave at Alejandro glare as he brought up the moose again, before sighing. Elias crossed his arms over his chest, legs adjusting to an “at ease” stance. He shook his head. “No, not really,” he said.

It wasn’t entirely true of course. There was a lot he wanted to say, actually, but none of it would come out right or work or really do much. They had a fling, that was it.

“It was a fling, I need to accept that,” he said. “Dafni didn’t mean anything by her remark, mind you. Sure, I was a little sad when you were gone—hell, I missed you—and more than just the—” Elias looked around, then lowered his voice. “And more than just the sex, mind you.” He raised his voice to a normal speaking volume. “I like you. You’re a good person, a good friend, and a wonderful lover, and I miss you. You were right. It never would work out between us. Castilya would have a heart attack and I doubt the alliance would hold. The secrecy would kill us.”

He sighed, relaxing his stance. For a moment, there was a bit of that nineteen-year-old romantic back in his body as he sat and allowed himself to relax some. “But I look at you and I see the parts of me I lost over the years. I see the flirtatious side, I see laughter, I see smiles, I see someone who isn’t afraid to hold nothing back. I look at you, I see the old me, and it kills me. Alejandro, back then I thought I loved you, and maybe I did, and maybe I still do. But seeing the old me…” Elias shook his head slowly. “Makes me miss him.”

He exhaled, hanging his head as he braced his arms on his legs and tapped his fingertips together between his knees. “That’s all I want. I want to be myself again, to not be constantly on-guard, to not be so angry, so bitter, so alone. I used to be able to take a joke like Elimoose. Hell, back then I would have embraced it. My father is proud of how ‘mature’ I have become. I haven’t had a lover in four years. I’m cold. I’m nothing but a soldier. Commander Supreme indeed.”

Elias shook his head. “I have nothing to say to you about being angry with your or blaming you or hating you, because I don’t. None of that is true. I just hate the me that I became when you went away.”

— —

Alejandro let out a breath and ran a hand through his hair. You give me far too much credit, Prince Elias, he thought to himself. A good person? Maybe, five years ago. But not so much anymore, I would imagine.

Oh, it wasn’t that he had done anything particularly atrocious or cruel, specifically, but five years was a considerable amount of time when one was as young as he and Elias were.

On the surface, he was still the same Alejandro-what was it that Rhia had said? Noisy, vibrant, and bright. Anyone with even half a brain cell could see that, well, that’s what he was. Noisy, vibrant, and bright, with his teasing grins and loud florals and sparkly accessories.

Mmm. Well, I truly am quite fond of sparkles and floral print, but that is beside the point. Alejandro was the very definition of ‘outrageous’, yes, but just as Mai had her gorgeous matte lipsticks and high heels, Alejandro had his outrageousness. Instead of showing no emotion to hide his true feelings, Alejandro went the opposite way-an excess of emotion, to conceal what he did not wish for others to see.

After all, most people didn’t expect a person covered in head to toe with sheer silks and bright flowers and an overabundance of sparkly baubles to be quite so...ruthless.

Most do not understand the meaning of the word ‘ruthless’, Alejandro reflected. They think it means cruel, or ambitious, or cunning, or a combination of all three. I do not believe that it’s about being cruel or ambitious. It’s about seeing the bright, clear line that leads from point A to point B; motive to means, beginning to end. It’s about seeing that line and not caring about anything but the perfection of the solution, of that line.

At Elias’ comment about sex, Alejandro had to suppress a grimace. It wasn’t that the sex wasn’t good-it had been fantastic, actually-but now that Alejandro knew himself a little better, he was quite aware that his intentions hadn’t exactly been the most honorable, back then. The years between his mother finding him with Eduardo and his trip to Pólemos had been...rocky, to say the least. Although Portaya, and Castilya as a whole, was growing more accepting with each passing year, most of the people Alejandro lived and worked with were still quite conservative about such matters. In the two years between being separated from Eduardo and meeting Elias, Alejandro had taken every opportunity he could get to…experiment, as much as he could, without being caught.

It had been stupid, yes. Unbelievably so. But after years of being led to believe that he was some sort of abomination, Alejandro had been sick and tired of feeling so ashamed for what he was. The numerous encounters that he’d had seemed to numb the pain and loneliness, for awhile. And when Elias had so openly expressed his interest-well, who was Alejandro to refuse?

Sometimes, he wondered whether or not he would have agreed to, er, a relationship of sorts with someone else-one of Elias’ friends, for instance-while he had been in Pólemos, if they had gotten to him first. Alejandro was strongly inclined to believe that the answer was yes. It didn’t matter that Alejandro had grown to like Elias as a person; the night that they were intimate for the first time, Alejandro had barely known the other prince. And yet he had still ended up spending the night (and a good part of the morning, too) in his rooms.

Alejandro nodded, slowly. He wasn’t sure that there was very much he could say, in this situation; those years were far behind them, now. Neither of them were the same people they had been five years ago. “For what it’s worth, Elias, I miss you, too.” He paused. “Five years is a long time. I understand.”

He took a step back and studied Elias for a moment. “I’m glad you are here,” he said, finally. “I think Aciras will do you some good.”

— —

Elias chuffed. “That’s it? No, ‘it is a good thing we parted ways because this is not the man I liked before,’ or even perhaps a soul-crushing ‘I never loved you, only ever lusted for you?’” He shook his head. “Gods, how far we have come indeed.”

He sighed. “Dafni thinks so as well. Me, I am not so sure. As much of a bastard Stefanos is, he is still my brother, and the amount of incompetence shown by our guards would make anyone planning to kill him strike now, while I am not there to protect him.”

He ran a hand through his hair and shook his head. It was probably best he didn’t think like that right now. “No matter. Right now this is supposed to be a bit of a party, no? If we stay away much longer, I fear they may think we are up to something, and for the sake of your reputation it may be best that we not let that happen.”

— —

Alejandro stayed silent at Elias’ response. He would have told him that it wasn’t true, that part of him did love him, and still did-but no, that would not be fair to Elias. Alejandro wasn’t going to lie to him, or tell him half-truths. Elias deserved more than that. Alejandro himself wasn’t completely certain what exactly it had been, five years ago; perhaps it could have been love, if he didn’t have to go back to Castilya and if Elias’ brother was not such an asshole. Perhaps. But now? Alejandro didn’t know.

Alejandro let out a puff of air. If they had been in this same situation five years ago, during that single month in Pólemos, Alejandro would have already been moving towards Elias, leaning in for a kiss.

But that was five years ago.

“Forget about that, for now,” Alejandro said, softly. He should not put so much faith in his brother. Stefanos, if anything, is a power-hungry dictator. Or, he would be, if he were king. But Elias is either blind to his faults because they are brothers, or tolerates these faults for the same reason. I suspect that it is a combination of both.

“I have a question,” he began, carefully. “Is there a reason why Stefanos decided not to come to Aciras? Lea would have invited him, no?”

— —

Elias shook his head. “He is the heir. He has a lot more to worry about than making an appearance at a party or a wedding. An heir should not be able to reasonably get away with abandoning their people and shirking responsibilities to their governments for two-three months. Believe me—we are much better off without him here, even if it means Pólemos risks suffering because I am not there to question him.”

He shook his head. “You’ve met my brother. You know how he is. At worst he is going to get things he wants done without me there to try to stop him and gain the Council’s favor to oppose him. Without me there, the Council will side with him because he is future king and they would rather get on his good side. In Agrios I stand as the only barrier between his wishes for this country and what is actually good for the people.”

— —

Alejandro raised an eyebrow. There were, of course, heirs that were present in Aciras-Edwin Drakewine, for example, or Leonard Ford, not to mention Venera-but Alejandro supposed that Stefanos had his reasons.

If I were to hazard a guess, I would agree with Elias’ assessment, he thought to himself. It does seem like something Stefanos would do.

Still, though. That left him with another question-“If you think Stefanos is going to do what you say he will, why are you here, then?” Alejandro asked casually, an expression of mild curiosity flickering over his features.

— —

Elias sighed and gave him a look. “The same reason half of these people are playing nice with each other. Politics. My brother the schmooze isn’t here to play them, so someone with more influence than Dafni has to. Besides…” He felt his back straighten some as he forced himself into something resembling at ease. “I’m not just playing them here, on an international scale. I’m playing them at home, too. Doing this business here is going to hopefully make me look better at home. ‘See, I play nice with foreign dignitaries that we may not agree with. I manage to keep the peace.’”

He exhaled, back relaxing and head lowering slightly. “I don’t want to play their games anymore. I’m so tired. But the moment I attempt to turn off the soldier is the moment I’m going to need it again.”

Elias looked at Alejandro with a silent “thank you” in his eyes. “Thank you for letting me unload this on you. There’s no one else I trust and no one else who understands what Stefanos is like. Dafni doesn’t even see half of what I see, else she’d be more vocal in court about it.”

— —

Alejandro shrugged nonchalantly. “Fair enough.” He gave Elias a long, assessing look, and hesitated, his mouth strangely dry. “Despite what you may think, I do consider you a friend, Prince Elias. A very good friend.” He paused, glancing up at Elias’ dark eyes. “Perhaps we could have been something more, but it seems like the world has other plans for us.”

Alejandro chuckled, then, shaking his head to himself. “Though if you’re here to ‘play nice’ with foreign dignitaries, you may want to consider frowning...less.” He threw a cheeky grin over his shoulder as he strode towards the door, pausing as he placed a hand on the doorknob. “Well, are you coming? I wasn’t lying when I said there was a stuffed moose in this library, you know.”

— —

Elias looked at Alejandro carefully. This was an unusual admission for the blond, someone who had never been keen on expressing how he really felt at all. He found himself nodding appreciatively. “Maybe we could have been.”

Maybe I am in love with a time, with the idea of you, and not you yourself, he thought. You deserve better.

He rolled his eyes. “Smiling does not exactly fit a soldier.” He sighed. “But I see your point. Dafni has the same position, same belief. It is good she is here and Stefanos is not if we want me to attempt smiling more again.”

However, the mention of the moose made him glare at Alejandro, but forced himself to follow along. “That moose thing will never die now will it?”

— —

Alejandro chuckled at Elias’ words. “You’re too serious. If you’re here to play nice, I would suggest getting rid of the whole ‘grumpy soldier’ look.”

He led the way to the moose, grinning mischievously. “Here it is,” he said, gesturing towards the moose display. It was mounted on a low platform, head lifted towards the ceiling. Alejandro gave Elias a quick once-over. “Mmm. Now, if this moose had been frowning, I dare say it would have been a perfect match.”

— —

Elias frowned. “It is not intentionally a…grumpy soldier, just…a soldier who is very good at his job, very focused on his job. A professional soldier. A focused soldier.”

He stared at the moose, then gave Alejandro a look at his frowning remark. Still, he looked at the moose again and, dare he say it, frowned. “Moose are bigger than I thought if this is lifesize.”

— —

Alejandro gave Elias a sidelong glance, rolling his eyes playfully. “So a grumpy soldier, then,” he said, his voice light and teasing. “And yes, I have been told that they can be quite intimidating. Princess Lea says that they are known to traipse freely through some of the cities in the northern parts of Aciras.” Alejandro shrugged nonchalantly. “I believe her.”

Alejandro glanced at the time, briefly. “We should be heading back soon, I suppose. I promised Lea that I would let her show me her latest makeup obsession.” Alejandro grinned at Elias. “Something that would bore you to death, no doubt.”

— —

Elias sighed, shaking his head. “Asshole,” he murmured in Pólemesian. He sighed, but nodded. “You are right. If we spend too much time alone, Dafni may get the wrong impression, and I’d hate to ruin your reputation right off the bat.”

— —

Alejandro paid no heed to the muttered insult, instead flashing Elias a winning smile. “How considerate of you,” he teased, before turning on his heel and heading back towards the door that they entered from. “Come on, Prince Elias. I’ll lead the way.”

— —

Elias rolled his eyes but followed his old friend away from the moose sculpture and out of the library. He sat beside Dafni once more once in the parlor again, offering her a small smile.

(Collab between @Morningstar1399 and @ayzrules)
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by ayzrules
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ayzrules Tree-Hugger Extraordinaire

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It was a gorgeous day; there was golden sunshine and blue skies and pretty flowers, plus there was a light breeze that felt absolutely heavenly against Lea's face. What more could you ask for?

It was around three in the afternoon, the day after the day after the day after the welcome ball. So, what-three days after? Yeah, that seemed about right. The third day after the welcome ball.

There had been casual brunches every day so far, and it had been fun getting to know everyone better. Lea had given the grand tour of the palace the day before, and there'd been a fancier dinner that night, but otherwise, everything had been pretty casual so far. They were gearing up for the masquerade ball this upcoming Friday-Lea still had no idea if she was going to go through with the mask she picked out a month ago for that event, but oh well. She'd decide on something eventually.

In a couple minutes, Lea would be heading downstairs to one of the bigger libraries-the agreed upon meet-up point. See, Lea was totally not hip to anything related to video games, and she'd only started playing Pokemon Go like, two months ago. And very sporadically at that; she was much too flighty to focus on finding and catching Pokemon all the time. But there had been people on social media who had asked if Lea and the other princes and princesses would play any Pokemon Go while they were in Aciras, and Lea had thought, why not?

She figured that the palace was as good of a place as any to play the game, anyway. Not only was the palace itself like, pretty huge, but there were also courtyards and gardens galore...and outside, Lea had her wildlife refuges and forest trails and whatnot. If they walked far enough, they'd get to a river, which meant that there would be some cool water-type Pokemon they could catch, hopefully.

All in all, Lea knew that the temperate woodlands biome that Lynston was part of was not really that exciting, compared to tropical rainforests or coral reefs or whatever, but Lea firmly believed that there was still a ton of super dope wildlife that they could find. So like, catching Pokemon plus being outdoors plus getting to walk through forests and stuff??? That was a win, in her book.

Lea took a moment to check her reflection in the mirror, pausing to adjust the funky gold jewelry adorning her wrists and to straighten out the sleeves on her lacy pink romper, before slipping into a pair of strappy gold sandals and breezing out the door. She had all the essentials packed in her glittery pink Gucci bag-portable charger and wire, water, lip gloss, chapstick, sunscreen, compact mirror, mascara, nail file, tissues, sunglasses, and a reusable water bottle filled with homemade trail mix, which the palace chefs were kind enough to provide her with like, every day. Sometimes two or three times a day. Oops?

Anyway, this Gucci bag was one of her favorites. Lea's brother-in-law, AKA the king consort of Aciras (or whatever the official title was, anyway. Lea wasn't all fancy and shmancy like that) said that it reminded him of Hermione's purse in the last Harry Potter book-the one where she could put anything inside, and it'd still fit. Lea was inclined to agree with him, honestly. She herself didn't even know how all her stuff fit into the designer handbag, but here she was.

Soon enough, Lea was approaching the Leopold Library, which had been named in honor of Aldo Leopold, the dude who wrote A Sand County Almanac. Lea had read that book a couple years ago, and loved every word of it; she supposed that it was only fitting that the Leopold Library was one of her favorites. It was one of the libraries on the first floor, which meant that it was usually open to the public during the regular visiting hours. But since visiting hours were suspended until after Lea's wedding, the libraries were also technically closed. It was kind of eerie, walking through the first floor with nobody there-Lea was so used to seeing a bunch of tourists milling about.

Lea met up with Sparks (whose real name was Jonathan, but he went by Sparks. Lea thought that 'Sparks' was an awesome nickname. Someday, she aspired to have a nickname as cool as Sparks did) in front of the library, an easy, cheerful grin lighting up her face. "Hey!!!" she greeted, beaming at him. "Thanks for agreeing to do this, by the way. I'm absolutely useless at technology when it comes to anything other than, like, Snapchat." She rolled her eyes playfully. "A tech genius, I am not."

Lea pulled up the Pokemon Go app, waiting for the welcome screen to load. "I wonder what teams everybody else is on?" she mused out loud. Lea herself was on Team Instinct, which, as she understood it, was supposed to be like a combination of Gryffindor and Hufflepuff from Harry Potter. Lea thought her team was pretty cool-the yellow was nice, though she did wish that the team leader would change his outfit every once in a while. Or maybe his hair? Why didn't the team leaders do anything with their appearances? Sure, they were NPCs, but still. Half the fun was making her avatar look cute, after all.

(Interacting with @shylarah)
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by shylarah
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shylarah the crazy one

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> S P A R K S , A C I R A S I T
status: Pokemon master

> > "Yeah, you got it, your highness." Sparks had been tickled pink to hear that the princess was having a Pokemon Go! event. He was wearing a casual-tier cosplay in honor of his team -- goldenrod shirt and a faux leather jacket he'd probably end up taking off later. Even with blue hair and the matching highlights on his jacket, his outfit echoed Instinct's Spark enough to be recognizable to those in the know. Of course his own nickname long predated the game, but he hardly minded sharing.

As the guests filed into the library he finished setting up the projector and the quick slideshow he'd put together at Princess Lea's request. He waited several minutes after the appointed time to let stragglers arrive, and then dimmed the lights and started the show. He'd covered the basic premise of the game, and then went into the mechanics. The three different teams he knew by heart, Mystic with their analytical approach, Valor who believed in strength, and Instinct -- his favorite (but he was biased). The game itself was pretty easy to explain, but Sparks said that anyone with questions was welcome to ask an experienced player, including himself.

"The goal of course is to have fun," he said in conclusion. Trite, perhaps, but definitely true. "I suggest trying to hit up the pokestops in the gardens to get some eggs before starting to ramble. That way you can work on hatching them while you explore. Good luck!"

With the lights back on some people left right away, but as he'd expected the rest lingered. He put away the projector and waited to see if any of the royals needed help.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Ezmeralda
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Ivelynne was already up and about. She just liked to walk around the castle and it's perimeter. She wore a long pink, frilly sundress and matching slippers. She actually decided to not wear much makeup today. Making her really look like a twin of her sister but younger...

As she was walking she spotted a Lea and stealthily snuck up behind her. She pounced and gave her a big hug, wrapping her arms around her neck, "Hey Lea!" she noticed Pokemon Go loading up on Lea's phone. "Oh man, it's been forever since I played that! I walk a lot, but it got kinda boring seeing the same Pokemon everywhere. Maybe you see different ones here though. I might have to reinstall it while I'm here, but it's so pretty here. I'd hate to miss out on it because I'm paying attention to the game." Ivy giggled.

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