The gardens of Rex Eden were covered in brown leaves. The Crown Tower looked as ugly as always, like a crumpled exuviae of some giant white insect.

Reeanna still had no idea where the tower part came from, it was more like an ordinary building. She hated being summoned here. Everybody here just looked at the debt hanging over her. She owed the Royal Family her life but damn, could they be obnoxious about it. Hung this teal halo over her head as a reminder. Reeanna hoped that Lyre summoned her this time. You could at least have a comfortable conversation with Lyre.

She was soon disappointed as the large doors to the main hall opened and she was greeted by Lady Marrow.
“So glad you decided to come!” Marrow took Ree’s hand into both of hers.
“Glad to be here.” Reeanna smiled.
“We have lots to discuss. But not here…” her gloved hand urged her towards the tea room with a swatting motion.
Lady Marrow was a good head taller than Ree but skinnier. Sometimes Ree wondered how much of that body she was actually born with. Even with ones of her own, it was hard for Ree to tell mechanical body parts from natural ones.
Marrow sat on the couch with the pattern matching the tea cups and a golden frame around it like someone felt it needed to look like a shitty three-dimensional painting. Ree took the less tacky wooden chair across from her.
“You still walking around in that dreadful shirt? A halo’d person ought to look better.”
“It would hardly be the correct attire for my line of work, I fear.”
“You aren’t here to work dear. Please care for milk and sugar yourself.” Marrow said as she poured Ree a cup of tea she never asked for.
After filling her own cup she put her hands in her lap and licked her black lips.
“Do you know the Rainbow Runner?”
“I’ve heard of her.” Ree took her time with her tea so Marrow wouldn’t be inclined to pour her a second one. This woman made one of the weakest teas in the Upper Seas.
“I had hoped you were in contact. I heard Akaname shared a special bond.”
“Not a psychic one unfortunately.” Ree felt she got a little too sarcastic and accidentally finished her tea waiting for Marrow’s reaction.
“Yes, unfortunately.” Marrow poured her another tea. “She’s doing good work fighting off the Apology occupation, but one wonders if her motivations are truly good ones. I’d like to have a talk with her. Unfortunately, Rainbows tend to steer clear of Royals.”
Ree wondered what Marrow could want with her. “I will talk with her, should we meet.”
“Excellent.” Marrow picked up her cup. Then she just sat and stared at her while stirring her tea. She truly mastered the art of bending up the edges of her mouth without it looking like a smile.

“So, anything else I can help you with?”
Marrow drank her tea in one sip. “How would you describe your relationship with Lyre?”
“We’re on good terms.”
“That’s agreeable. What about Canis Thornholt?”
“I respect her.”
“Let me translate: You are afraid of her, correct?”
Canis the Red was a beast of a person. Hearsay has it she could crush three skulls at once in her jaw and one using two fingers. Ree nodded.
“Drink, dear.”
Ree did. Then Canis entered the room and she almost choked.
“Greetings, darling.” Marrow waved her eyelids at her then looked at Reeanna. “I want you to get to know her. You really don’t need to be afraid.”
“Yeah, sorry, Marrow makes me meet all of her protégés because apparently everybody thinks I’m dangerous.” Canis said, shrugged and reached out her hand. Ree purposefully gave her her non-dominant hand to shake, although she wasn’t as massive as she had pictured.
She took place next to her. She had long dark brown hair and a light beard on her cheeks. Her clothes were no more formal than Ree’s but Marrow took no note of it.
“No thanks.”
Marrow waited for Reeanna to put her cup down to pour her a third one, which she did awkwardly with her elbows clenched to her sides.
Canis showed Ree an honest smile, which was much warmer than Marrow’s not-smile, despite the fangs. “Sucks they don’t allow weapons in here, I would’ve loved to see your sword.”
“Weaponry may not be the best topic to shake off the propaganda of-”
“Candle-douche, yeah, I got it.”
Ree almost fell off her chair when Marrow dropped her stiff demeanor to whisper-scold at Canis: “You’re in the Crown Tower, be careful with your words if you wanna wake up tomorrow!”
“I don’t see why we’re all so afraid of the little man.” Canis crossed her arms.
“Anyways.” Marrow replicated Canis’ motion with her legs and put on her face again, “I’m hoping to get Candle Day voted out of the royal family and replaced with Canis. And I want you to support me. When it comes to a voting, you know what to do right?”
Ree gave her an affirmative hum.
“Good. Canis has a good heart and Candle has no place in the royal family, the filthy vermin.”
“Are you looking to get executed, Marrow?” Canis mocked her.
“Oh, shush, you ugly goat. I know how to keep my voice down.”
Reeanna knew Marrow was usually done by the third cup. She drank up and prepared to leave.
“Wait a second, Ree.” Marrow halted her.
Marrow directed her gaze at a corner of the room, then faced her with a bright smile.
“...That’ll be all.”
Canis put a hand on her shoulder on the way out and hugged her for a second with one arm.
“I’m glad I got to meet you.”
Ree felt a sort of panic rise up in her but not out of fear. She wasn’t sure what it was but she couldn’t bear being in this room any longer. With a warm face the door clicked behind her.