“Oh my,” muttered Ley to her husband Edan as they watched his older sister, Mayin, being guided around the dance floor by the man with a cybernetic hand and eye and wearing the foreign military uniform, “physical competence is very attractive, isn’t it?”
“You think he looks attractive?” Edan looked surprised. “I thought he’s rather…sallow.”
“I’m talking about the way he moves,” his wife gently corrected him, “and he does fill out that uniform well. Plus, of course, he just saved Mayin from the embarrassment of being abandoned mid-dinner.”
At the same time, out on the dance floor, Oberxiao Huhn Jan-li was murmuring, “Although I am happy not to have to drive off my rivals, I could wish, for your sake, that they were more circumspect in withdrawing their suit.”
“Tonight was our first meeting, he didn’t count as a suitor,” Mayin dismissed her brother’s acquaintance with a shrug.
“All the more reason to stay till the end of the evening,” Jan-li said disapprovingly. “If he runs off like that in the middle of introductions, he’ll soon run out of people who’re prepared to introduce him to potential brides. Besides, I could see you were hurt.”
“I’d been beginning to like him,” Mayin confessed, “but he didn’t care for my service history.”
“He doesn’t like for Shadows in the Dark?” Jan-li smiled as he used his people’s nickname for Mayin’s old unit.
“The stories they tell about us are collectively true, if not true for all individuals.” She admitted, “As a group we could be said to lack social couth.”
“That doesn’t change my mind,” he told her as he steered them between two corporate-looking couples. “Now that the music is ending, allow me to present you to my colleagues before I return you to your brother and his wife.” He added, “I’ve been researching your family.”
“Legally?” She tilted her head consideringly.
“Barely,” he admitted. “I’m afraid that since I forced our acquaintance, you have a file other than your service one with your government’s intelligence organisations. I must admit I am tempted to add comments to their notes but I feel that would be overplaying my hand.”
“Almost certainly,” Mayin replied as the music ended and they turned to applaude the orchestra. The Oberxiao had manoeuvred them to be so close to his table at the end of their dance that to refuse to meet his colleagues would have been a public snub. She allowed him to usher her up to the older man at the head of the table.
“Sir,” her dance partner addressed his superior in their own language, “I would like to make known to you my luck witch, the former Shadow in the Night May-in.”
“A pleasure, I’m sure.” The ambassador smiled and the expression around his eyes was amusement.
“Admiral Perger,” Mayin replied in the same language. “It’s an honour. There was a time when I would have worked very hard to be this close to you.”
“I’m sure there was,” the ambassador chuckled, “but those days are behind us now. So,” he leaned back in his chair, “now you have Oberxiao Huhn’s attention, what do you intend to do with him?”