The Oberxiao had handed her into her chair, bowed and returned to his own party. Their next course was served almost immediately and Mayin noticed that the fourth place setting had already been removed.
“He is a fine figure of a man,” commented Ley neutrally as they ate, “and he does dance very well.”
“He does do that,” Mayin agreed quietly, between bites. “He also just did the closest thing he can to introducing me to his family.”
“Should you reciprocate?” Edan speared a piece of vegetable and made sure it was coated with the sauce from the main item on his plate.
“If I was considering saying yes,” Mayin said slowly, “but I really have no idea what I want to do about him at the moment.” Then she added, “Do either of you know the woman in apricot coming towards us with a determined look on her face?”
Edan and Ley both looked.
“Never seen her before.” Edan resumed his quest to transfer as much sauce from his plate to his mouth as possible without dripping any down his front.
“No,” Ley emphasised her answer with a shake of her head. “What do you think she wants?”
“How dare you!” The woman in apricot launched into a splutter of outrage at Mayin as soon as she reached the table. “Dancing with the enemy!” Then she narrowed down to an envenomed, “Don’t you know what they did to my brother?”
“Probably nothing worse than the things we did to them,” replied Mayin quietly, “and unlike you, I choose not to make a scene in a public place. I’m sorry if your brother is dead or damaged but there are places you and he, if he’s still alive, can receive help or support.”
The woman’s face went red. “Help? Support? It doesn’t bring him back the way he used to be!”
“After ten years away, none of us are the people we used to be, for good or ill,” Mayin told her.
“There’s no need for you to be nice to them!” The woman rounded back on her, “Flirting and who knows what else!”
“He was being nice to me,” Mayin told her. “Besides, you want payback for whatever happened to your brother? The odds are,” she jerked a thumb at the Ambassador’s table, missing that the Oberxiao was looking concernedly in her direction, “each of those men is now the sole survivor of his extended family. The odds are anyone who actually did anything to your brother is now dead, along with their entire family.” She dropped her voice to a near whisper and the woman in apricot leaned down to keep listening, “Besides, worrying about what you think isn’t my biggest problem. That man I was dancing with, I gave him those injuries. Not our side, not my unit, me personally and he knows that, yet he still seeks out my company. What would you think in those circumstances?”
This is followed by An Old Friend.