New Equilibrium II

She held her breath as she saw them walk onto the Terrace. For all of her anger and the contemplation she had poured into how the encounter would unfold, she was almost rendered speechless. They looked happy, locked in light conversation as their things were moved to the landing pad by servants. But when her brother’s gaze fell upon her, she remembered how much she loathed him. Time slowed down as his smile became the unreadable stoic expression of the nobility, a court-pressed slight smile that was supposed to lull a person into a sense of security. She expected that that’s how he perceived her–not as his sister, but as a noblewoman. The distance between them was staggering. Suddenly, it didn’t even matter that Katerina offered a greeting–she could only feel the anger pent up within her finally erupting.

She folded her arms, trying to keep her outburst as dignified as possible, “You didn’t invite me. It’s all over the IGS and you didn’t invite me.”

Kat narrowed her gaze upon the half-Achuran noblewoman, “We didn’t have time to invite anyone. The only people who were there were my parents, because Reginald had already flown them out for something unrelated. It was spur of the moment.”

“No one flies their finacee’s parents for ‘something unrelated,'” Naomi whined, like a spoiled child that had received too small a portion of dessert. She turned her gaze to her half-brother, “I was only a few jumps away and I’m your closest living blood relative!”

“Like Katerina said, it was very sudden,” He frowned.

She could hear the reluctance in his voice. He was going to let Katerina wage this battle while not taking part. How shrewd to let his new wife hit the ground running. Coward. He always let someone else fight his battle while he looked on from relative safety.

“Hmph,” She turned away, looking back at Katerina, “So then, if not for an apology, why did you want to see me?”

She was surprised to feel Kat’s hand upon her arm, “Reginald had flown them out as a surprise for me, since I mentioned I hadn’t seen them in close to a year, and he wanted to meet them.” After the explanation, Kat motioned to some couches.

Naomi followed her gaze, then nodded towards them, indicating she understood, “All right.” She gave another fierce glance in the direction of her brother–who had already started to converse with Joni–then started to calm down. She hated him with a passion and everything that he stood for–stagnation, status quo, regression, tradition, secrets. But then, she had secrets of her own, didn’t she?

Kat walked slowly, continuing the conversation, “As for why I wanted to see you… We’re going away for a few days, and we need someone to take care of the family affairs for while we are gone.”

“So?” Naomi quirked a brow, “You needed recommendations for a steward? There’s my aunt Ashessa, though she’s grieving her son’s death currently.”

What a waste of time. No apology and she would just empower someone who was already strong. But there were no other candidates for steward that would stand with her. Ashessa was isolated enough to not cause any issues, old enough to keep out of affairs, and wouldn’t act as long as Naomi still had Rebecca.

Kat took a seat on one of the couches, “If you’re mad at us, I understand. I’m sure we can find someone else.”

For all of her hatred for Reginald, she had few qualms about Kat, no real quarrel. Kat was just a commoner after all and was far easier for Naomi to relate to than any family she had grown up with. Naomi’s expression softened–there was no need to hurt her. At least, not yet.

“I’m sorry if I seem a little abrasive,” She apologized, “I just would’ve liked to have been at the ceremony.”

Kat nodded, “I understand that, believe me. There wasn’t even enough time for me to find a ring! Reginald’s wearing my father’s wedding band right now.” After a moment, Kat added, “Do you remember what you asked me on Myyhera?”

Naomi couldn’t help but giggle that her brother was wearing a commoner’s wedding ring. It took a while for Kat’s question to sink in, piquing Naomi’s interest, “I do. You spoke with him, then?”

Kat’s expression turned deadly serious, “Well, you wanted a shot, and with Aunt Ashessa in mourning, and no other suitable candidates…”

Naomi’s eyes widened. She felt her heart skip a beat. It was impossible. There was no way.

She glanced at Reginald then looked at Kat in disbelief, “There’s no way he would consent to that…”

Kat chuckled, “Well, we’re married. And he said if I trusted you, he’d be willing to trust you for a few days.”

Kat was an angel. In less than three days, she had done more for Naomi than the entire “family” had done for the entirety of her life. Of course, she had guessed this would happen. Her brother was infatuated by the red-haired Khanid girl, after all.

“I–I don’t know what to say!” Naomi jumped out of her seat and wrapped her arms around Kat–she hoped it would be convincing, “Thank you! Thank you!” She added, for good measure, “And… congratulations, Lady Sakakibara.”

Kat smiled, “Thank you. But! A few things first.”

Naomi didn’t like the sound of that. Power would be coming with strings attached. Katerina was likely smarter than she let on. Naomi nodded attentively, acting as respectful as she could with a sober look on her face.

Kat said, “First, I want you to look me in the eyes, and promise that I’m not going to regret this.”

Naomi looked at Kat soberly, squarely in the eyes, “You won’t regret this.” She tried not to swallow, keeping her attention on maintaining a relaxed face–if she could convince her here, she’d have won, “I promise.”

Kat nodded, “Alright. And I want you to trust me when I say you won’t need to fear the family anymore either. That means you definitely won’t need  a hostage.”

Naomi let hesitation flicker across her face. At first, she cursed herself for it, but then realized that a rational person would also be upset at the notion of losing their one bargaining chip. She replied with a whisper, “I may not need to fear my brother with you in his bed, but you can’t claim that for the rest of the family. At least, not yet. I’ll have to see the impact you make before agreeing with you about Rebecca.”

Katerina looked fierce, “Anyone who does anything to anyone in my new family is going to regret it in a way few non-capsuleers can understand. That goes for you, as well as everyone else in this family. I’m not asking you to agree about Rebecca right this second, but I want to keep it in mind.”

Naomi nodded solemnly, “I don’t doubt your sincerity. But aren’t you acting a bit much like CONCORD? I have Rebecca to prevent bad things from happening to me. Your enforcement of order is in response to something happening to me.”

Katerina nodded, “I understand, and I’m not disputing it. That’s why I’m not saying do it now. What I am saying, is prove to me you want to be part of the family, and that you can be part of the family, and I will do everything in my power to make it happen. Fair enough?”

Naomi smiled, “Yes, my lady.” She added, again for effect, “You won’t regret this at all.”

“See to it I don’t, Naomi,” Kat rose, “In any case, it’s time for us to leave.”

Naomi stood up respectfully, “Will I be able to reach you should an issue arise-not that I foresee any shall.”

She was lying through her teeth, but Kat hadn’t had a noble’s upbringing. Beneath the long eyelashes and expression of serenity, machinations were already at work. She needed to draw out DENT and remove as many of them as possible, but there was no way her own cabal could hope to challenge their combat expertise. She had spent so much on the first attempt in Saikamon that almost neutralized her brother, then another that had resulted in Orion’s death. She was obtaining power at the wrong time.

“You can reach either of us via neocomm,” Kat replied.

Naomi smiled, then curtsied politely, “Please enjoy your honeymoon, my lady.”

Kat smiled back, collecting Reginald in the process, “We shall.”

Enjoy your honeymoon, for it is all you will enjoy. 

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