VI

"It's so good to be home." Daline moaned, stretching her back over the back of her brother's armchair.

It was the sole piece of furniture that had been exclusively decided to be the Master's. He was the only one who ever sat in it's seat, occasionally allowing Hiken to sit next to him for a bedtime story. It's construction was that of something from a fairy tale, with it's back tall enough that Nash couldn't even see fully over the back of it, and it's width spaced enough for either two people of his Master's and Daline's waist sizes, or an exceptionally large man. When his Master sat in it, he required either assistance or a suitable amount of leverage to get into the seat, and his feet always dangled far enough off the floor that he always resembled a Human-sized doll in a Giant-sized chair.

As Nash prepared tea for them all, his Master sighed and reclined against the back of his armchair. His sigh sounded like the moan of a cat curling up and preparing to take a nap. Nash didn't think he'd ever heard his Master do that – his Master had always slept light, and been groggy in his periods of wakefulness, but always too stubborn to nap during the day. Maybe that was why he depended on Nash's tea, for caffeine to keep him awake, and then suffered for it at night with restlessness.

It almost sounded like he was finally able to feel real exhaustion. Nash wasn't sure how much he liked that possibility.

"Sister, why the Devil did you make a chair like this?"

His Master had asked that the first time Daline had let them into the House and showed his Master the chair she'd made for him.

"Well, this way, it could be for anyone."

That had been her answer.

"Then, why did you just tell me that I am the only one allowed to sit in it?"

"Because I made it for YOU."

Nash had long ago stopped questioning the logic of his Master's sister. This was how she had always been. At least, that was what Nash assumed, both from knowing her for a mere ten years and from his Master's silence about her personality from their youth.

As Nash carried the tea over to the table beside the chair, the House tilted. It did nothing to disturb Nash's footing – he was accustomed to the House being temperamental when in flight. Everyone was.

Of all the tendencies of Daline's, this was the one he'd understood the least. Daline had been the one to build the House, from top to bottom. It had also been her engineering and design decision to enable the rooms to move – most would have logically assumed it was through a mechanical feat, but Nash knew there was more to the twins than just usual Earthly powers – and to make every last detail of the House's construction incomprehensible. There wasn't a single right angle in the whole of the house. The windows were bizarre shapes, from enormous trapezoids to tiny isosceles, and with irregular boarders. Footboards would end several meters before the wall did, or at least change into a different pattern or cut. Not a single corner of any room was a square, and any round rooms with domes for the ceilings had their chandeliers hanging far off center. The vaults in the ceiling would be uneven and even the windows wouldn't be uniform.

It was the perfect house for a man to lose himself in. One of Nash's greatest fears was waking up one morning and being unable to leave his own quarters.

"So, we're headed to Pari, if I heard correctly." Daline continued, finally sliding off the chair back and managing to land in a heap on the floor. It was either completely accidental, or completely intentional, and it looked graceless and careful at the same time.

"Indeed, Milady." Nash agreed, setting the tray down. He started to add cream and sugar, "Milord thought it would be best, since you got us tangled up in the affair with the Salas children and Sieur Swift."

"Tangled?" Daline queried, almost pouting at the suggestion that she'd directly caused the event to occur, "I wouldn't say I got anyone tangled up. Brother did it of his own free will, right, Brother?"

Nash's Master didn't reply. Daline rapped her knuckles on the back of his chair. Still, no response.

"Brother?"

Nash peered around the chair's back. His Master's eyes were closed, and his chest rose and fell evenly. It was as though he'd left the world of the living, were it not for the meager coloration still in his face.

"Milady..." Nash whispered. It was enough that Daline ceased to make a racket. Indeed, she silently peered around the other side of the chair, then quietly smiled and tiptoed out of the room.

"I'll make sure we stay on route to Pari. Let me know if there's anything you need, Nash."

The door quietly clicked shut behind her.

This left Nash alone with his Master, staring down at the pot of tea that was now going to go cold. Instead of peace, he felt rather uneasy – as though awakening his Master would break the spell, and awaken a demon in his stead.


'Uncle Nash, why has Big Brother started dressing like a girl all the time, again?' Jacci asked, sitting next to Nash in the work room without asking to be invited. Not that Nash could say he minded – he'd grown used to Daline doing whatever she pleased, his Master was the one who gave orders, and there were more than a few members of the Household whom were not adult enough to understand the intricacies of etiquette. The only ones whom really seemed to follow strict protocol when they were just inside the House were himself and Haid.

Nash set down the needlework he'd been doing. At the end of the day, there was still mending to do, and who was going to do it, but himself?

"He didn't deign to share his reasons with me, Miss Jacci." Nash replied. Jacci didn't seemed perturbed by his lack of emotional response.

'But you understand him better than anyone else. I thought for sure you'd know, even if he hadn't told you.' Jacci pointed out. Nash quickly picked the needle and shirt back up – it was one of Suna's if he remembered correctly.

"Your brother has his reasons for not wanting to share with any of us. We should respect his privacy." Was the best lie he could manage.

Jacci paused, obviously trying to think of a clever way around that argument, before Nash picked up some printed articles. Ouduar and Haid had found the publications and given Nash the printouts upon directions from "The Countess" – whom they'd thought was Nash's Master, but was really Daline. To stop Jacci from continuing to "talk", Nash handed her the sheets.

"We're going to arrive in Pari in a matter of days, Miss Jacci." Nash pointed out, "If any of us are going to fit in, I'll need to know what the latest fashions are. And you know that I can't read."

Jacci met Nash's gaze, then glanced back at articles. Nash could see bright pictures, some of ladies modeling dresses, some of the most stylish suits among the elite ranks, some of fine automobiles, bags, jewelry, hats, scarves, boots, canes, and hairstyles. He could guess from that what the details were, but he was also fairly confident there were more instructions in the writing.

Finally, Jacci pulled a face.

'It's all in Parinese.' She groused.

This didn't faze Nash, in the least. He finished repairing the seam in Suna's shirt, then picked up one of the blouses that Dreja wore. There was a stain on the bottom hem of the shirt, one which Nash had no desire to sniff and identify.

"You should learn how to read Parinese. Who knows how long we'll be there." Nash pointed out.

Jacci huffed, then semi-willingly started to scan the articles, occasionally spelling out a word that she did recognize. Satin, gauze, taffeta, chenille. Nash could guess these were the materials that were fashionable in Pari. Crimson and scarlet, indigo, ivory, copper. All colors that were stylish.

Nash mended the clothes as best he could, adjusting to the styles. The cuffs that had been proper in Briston had to be turned inside out and let flow. Slender neckties were too austere, and scarves that tied like neckties, then were tucked into caravats were appropriate for an aristocrat. Any dresses that had required frills and corsets for the ladies could be let a little looser, and the petticoats could be lessened and the bustles and crinolines were removed.

Nash and Jacci stayed up well past Jacci's bedtime, Jacci instructing Nash to what styles were en vogue. Occasionally, Nash would tell her what an odd word meant, or correct her grammar. They progressed until easily past midnight, when Jacci began to nod off and kept yawning and leaning against Nash's shoulder.

'We're going to see Benedict Swift and his cousins again, aren't we?' Jacci finally asked. Her fingers moved awkwardly, encumbered with exhaustion.

Nash sighed. He should have known better than to think Jacci wouldn't have guessed.

'You and Big Brother aren't going to fight again, are you?' Nash's fingers paused in the embroidering he'd been attempting on one of Jacci's dresses. The twisted silk was taking a shape that could have been flowery, or that of the negative space around a crossbones and skull, or both – abstract embroidery was apparently the height of fashion in Pari.

"We haven't had a fight." He finally said, but Jacci's eyes had closed and any chance that she was still awake was well precluded by how the articles had slid out of her fingertips.

Resigned, Nash set aside his work and proceeded to carry Jacci to her bedroom. As if he didn't have enough troubles – if Jacci had noticed the tension between himself and her brother, tension that Nash hadn't even realized had been there, then what else had he not noticed?


"Is everything strapped down?" Nash heard his Master's voice over the communication pipes. He was back in the pilot's room, taking over after Daline had been running the engines for the first few days. Pari was just a matter of hours ahead, and their port was crowded and slow. Nash had been running around the House, ensuring that everything was secure. The other members of the Household had done what they could, but it still felt to him to do the brunt of the work. After all, was Suna supposed to strap down all the furniture when she wasn't even able to tie her own shoelaces? Was Haid supposed to secure bookshelves from her chair? Did anyone expect Hiken to lock the chinaware into a motion-resistant cabinet?

"I believe so, Milady." Nash replied, "Just let me check everything, one last time."

"You shall have plenty of time for that." His Master's voice sounded derisive, "Nash, remind me why I did not want to try to land the House in Roma for carnival?"

Nash ran as quickly as he could into the next room, giving everything a glance to check it's security from his position near the communication pipe.

"You didn't think we'd find room to land in Roma's port, My Lady." He replied.

His Master huffed.

"Roma was a ghost town, compared to this port." He sneered, "Have not any of the pilots or conductors heard of organization?"

Nash didn't deign a reply as he continued his sweep of the House.

It would be just as Nash finished checking all of the residents' quarters that a hand dragged him to the side in the hallway.

"Nash." It was Daline, "Let's go."

Whatever Daline meant by that, Nash didn't have a chance to find out – she began to drag him along the hallway. She took him through a few twists, down one of the less treacherous stairwells, and came to a halt near the garage.

"Daline." Nash began – he was going to have to do that, for his own sanity, if his Master was going to insist on being addressed as the lady of the Household, "...What are we doing?"

"We're going to pay our mediator into Parinese society a call." Daline replied. Nash gave her a hard look – and her suit didn't go unnoticed. It was one of the frocks that Nash had altered, just a few night ago, with bell-like sleeves and ruffles around the lapels of the jacket.

Still, for her manly attire, it just accented the femininity in her face and figure. Nash supposed that was why she did it – and why she was insisting that her brother wear the dresses. Had Daline been wearing the gowns and Nash's Master in his suits, they would have looked far too different to pull off a switching act like this was going to require.

Nash didn't argue as Daline pressed a button to open the garage door, and signal a smaller ferry from below where to come to fetch the automobile. Honestly, given everything that he'd seen happen so far, he had to wonder why Daline was bothering to bring him along. Why not leave him behind so he could keep some order in the House? Why not bring along someone else – Suna and Hiken had to be itching for some time outdoors. Why not even go by herself? Surely, she could manage it...

"Daline, with all due respect..." Nash began, in a tone that both himself and Daline knew was just a formality because Nash had made it a habit as a butler, "...But what do you need to drag ME along for?"

Leaning against the communications box as she waited for a confirmation from the ferry, Daline cocked her head in an uncomfortable angle to frown at him. It was as though she expected him to read her mind, and already have known.

"Nash, I'm gonna be posing as the Great CMC – what if I need someone to open the car doors for me?" Nash could not think of any appropriate response, other than to stand and stare at her. Daline's smile wavered, just a little, before she took a single step forward and tapped her finger against her temple, "Think, man!"

'She's crazy.' But why was Nash only thinking of this, just now? Especially when he'd already known this to be true for some time, now.

The communication box lit up. A mechanically garbled voice filtered through when Daline pressed a filed-down and painted nail against the button.

"Demande acceptée. Confirmant emplacement et de l'envoi des transports." Which, if Nash was still up on his understanding of Parinese, basically meant they were sending the ferry up.

As though Daline hadn't even needed the message to inform her, the lady of the Household proceeded to clamber into the driver's seat of her automobile and start the engine. Just like the rest of the House, Daline's automobile had been her creation, and it looked every bit as odd and bizarre as anything else. It's elongated forward body was two meters wide at the front of the hood, but narrowed down to a single meter's width as it met the windshield. The hood started in a point in the center and that too sloped down towards the seats of the vehicle. Daline's mechanized terror was one of the few of it's type, which also had the ability to detach the seats and controls from the engine and act as a carriage or buggy. Nash didn't understand why she'd done it, but the result was a truly monstrous-looking machine.

"Nash." Daline piped up as Nash prepared to open the garage doors. He had to turn fully to see her, hidden behind the car as she was.

"What is it?" He asked.

"Use those eyes – find out what little Benedict is up to." Nash remained motionless, thinking his question hard enough that he wasn't surprised when Daline responded without needing to hear it, "It wouldn't be very courteous of us to show up at a bad moment."

Nash wondered if it would avail him at all to point out that he knew it would have no effect if he checked or if she'd decide not to show up.

'No. She'll say we're going, no matter what.'

Nash closed his eyes and let them change, until they changed into the special eyeballs.

He opened them again, and saw down to the planet's surface.


Morning found Benedict Swift still wrapped up in his bedroom sheets like a chrysalis.

This was also how his mother found him, and what she proceeded to destroy, by yanking the sheets from directly beneath her son. Benedict did a few barrel rolls as he rolled out of bed and landed on the floor.

"Look at you – a sniper could get you through the window and you wouldn't even know until it was too late." Why his mother chose to put it like that, Benedict would never understand.

"I'd never know if a sniper shot at me, anyway." He mumbled, trying to rebury himself in the sheets. All his mother did was pull them completely away.

"Get up – you said yourself that we were expecting a guest today." She snapped. Benedict didn't respond, but did, eventually, pull himself to his feet.

About a week ago, he'd gotten a hand-e-gram from the Countess, informing him that she would be arriving in Pari within the week and would he kindly be her mediator? Well, since he owed the Countess his life, he couldn't very well say no. He'd sent back a gram confirming that, of course, he'd be delighted.

Then, came the difficulty of explaining to his parents that an eccentric aristocrat was coming to Pari and had no contacts or connections except for himself and Jack and Jill. Neither his mother or father had been very pleased that this person had asked a thirteen-year-old boy to be her mediator, especially not when that boy was their son. And Benedict hadn't even told them that he was indebted to this woman, nor, indeed, about any of his adventure in Roma. How he was going to stop the Countess from mentioning it, he was still trying to plan. In the meantime, his mother was in a foul mood and his father had been preoccupied with business in the Temple.

Thus, he was surprised this morning by, not only his father, but also Jack, Jill and their parents – Benedict's Uncle Huber and Aunt Leah – joining himself and his mother for breakfast.

"Bon Matin, Uncle Hube." Benedict greeted. Of all his family, he was closer to his uncle than any of them. Part of that was due to his parents having left him in the care of his aunt and uncle during their campaign in the Vit-Hong War, but there was a deeper kinship Benedict felt with Uncle Huber than his parents. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and tanned in the face – the epitome of manliness and strength – and held a ship's steering wheel with all the expertise of a captain, but the relaxed manner of a rogue loner, for he was the Captain of his own ship and owned a Barony in trading. Compared to Benedict's own father – shorter, smaller, and softer-spoken – Benedict would have rather been like his Uncle Huber.

"Mequetrefe!" His uncle replied in Porguish – the dialect from his native homeland that Benedict wished he understood. Still, the affectionately demeaning tone in his uncle's voice made Benedict beam with pride.

"Bon Aurore, Ben." His aunt also interjected as Uncle Huber pulled out a cigar and popped it in his mouth.

"Hube, please." Benedict's father chastened as he cradled a bowl of tea in his hands, "Not in the Temple." Benedict did his best to imitate his uncle's sullen posture.

"Just chewin' on it, Linus."

"Huber." Aunt Leah was now giving her husband a sweet smile, "Take it out or I'll break your kneecaps." And Uncle Huber did.

Just as Uncle Huber was a contrast to Benedict's father, his Aunt Leah was a contrast to Benedict's mother. She was small and slender, but curved in just the right places and soft, yet firm. Everything about her skin was flawless, and her dark hair always shone like polished gold when it was up in it's tight buns, but rippled like silk when it hung down her back. She really did look like a woman of standing in Pari – both the wife of a famous Captain and with comfortable seat in the House of Ladies – compared to Benedict's mother with weather-beaten skin, ragged red hair, and curves broken by solid musculature.

Benedict's father said they both liked their creature comforts and were too attached to them to give it up. Benedict's mother said they were too attached to their appearances. All Benedict could hope was that those were just as much compliments as they were critiques.

"So..." His aunt began, giving her brother a glance over her own bowl of tea. Everyone at the table had one, except for Benedict's uncle and Benedict himself. It was a drink that all members of the Jade Order were supposed to have every morning as part of their meditative ritual, but Benedict was still too young and his Uncle Huber wasn't a member of the Order. Benedict's father took his first sip, then met eyes with his sister, "There is a guest arriving today, est'ce vrai?"

After Benedict's father set down his bowl, Jack and Jill picked theirs up and took their first sips.

"Someone Ben and your children met in Roma, yes." He replied, pausing to give Benedict a considerably long glance.

"Someone calling themselves Le'Conte'di'Maria'Colegia." Jill filled in. And then, it was Jack's turn to speak.

"Little lady, dressed all in black. Either quite eccentric or some kind of radical."

All eyes in the room turned to Benedict's mother, waiting for her to finish with her tea. Benedict was kind of glad he didn't have to take part in this ritual – it was so boring, it took so long, and the whole point was to do things in turns, but you had to pay attention to what the person before you did at the same time.

"And she asked you three to be her mediator?" Benedict's mother sounded incredibly suspicious, as though she knew that the Countess had only recently sent the hand-e-gram to Benedict, and not made any mention of it to Jack or Jill. Aunt Leah took her sip.

"And none of you saw fit to tell any of us?" She had the same tone in her voice, and it was enough of a scolding voice that Jack and Jill, despite fully fledged adults and in their thirties, both looked appropriately ashamed, like they were one-third their age.

Benedict's father started the cycle over again.

"Perhaps they forgot along with the story about Romian bandits." At which, it became perfectly clear to Benedict that the point of this family meal was just to chew him and his cousins out for not mentioning it, before.

Jill and Jack each took their turns with the tea, only saying non-committal remarks too quietly for anyone to hear them clearly. Benedict knew he wasn't allowed to speak, but he was also itching to know which of his family had found out, and who they'd gotten it out of.

"On a related note..." Benedict's mother took her turn, just as leisurely as before, "Jill, you need to work on that drinking problem of yours."

Great. That could only mean his mother had teased it out of Jill. And as if his mother being the one to find out wasn't bad enough, the fact that she'd only needed to ply Jill with alcohol was probably smarting her pride. The tone Benedict heard in his mother's voice clearly said 'At least give me some credit and make it HARD for me to squeeze information out of you'.

And when his mother was upset with having had information withheld from her, but then being able to get it just by getting her informer drunk, that was a mood he did not care to meet his mother in.

"Mary, just because you're her mentor doesn't mean you can help her with everything." Aunt Leah also sounded perturbed with the notion that Benedict's mother had used alcohol in her discussion with Jill, but for quite a different reason.

Watching everyone, Benedict wondered if Uncle Huber was as bored as he was, or if he was just waiting for the ritual to end.

Benedict saw his father finish his tea and politely set the bowl down.

"It's early, yet." Was all he said. Whether this was a response to something said by anyone else, or just a statement, Benedict couldn't tell.

Jill took it as a statement.

"If her Excellency will be coming here, directly, perhaps it would make a better impression if all of us were present."

Benedict heard his Uncle Huber snort, obviously asking 'Oh yeah?'

"She's a sharp one, and just odd enough that she'd be able to tell when she's being insulted." Jack put in, not looking at his father. Benedict saw Uncle Huber give Jack a very dirty look, one which was obviously unhappy with being read so easily and rebutted by his own children. Likewise, Benedict was making a concerted effort not to meet his own father's eyes – inside, he knew that the Grand Master of the Order was giving him a similarly disappointed look.

"It's nobody's business but their own if they feel insulted." Benedict's mother pointed out, while Aunt Leah took her final sip of tea.

"But it does show poor consideration to willingly dismiss their opinions." She replied.

This was another difference between Benedict's mother and his aunt. Of course, Benedict understood that, as a Master in the Temple, his mother had to keep to a different standard of relating to other people, but she was much less agreeable than his aunt, whom was just a member of the Order, but also held a place in the government. For that, Aunt Leah had to be more aware of the other people around her.

Of course, this was also the case for Benedict's father and uncle – Uncle Huber knew what was his business and what he cared about, and anyone else could leave him alone for all he cared, while Benedict's father also had the same attitude that people should be concerned with being better people, being better TO other people, and that was all anyone needed. It just didn't seem right – not to mention it made life very difficult when Benedict had to talk with anyone that wasn't directly related to him and get all sorts of strange looks and treated oddly because his acquaintance either thought he was – to use their word – le'retarde, or because they immediately heard that he was the son of the Grand Master of the Jade Order.

It was a great relief when Benedict heard his parents agree to meet the Countess, themselves – somehow, he couldn't wait to see her again, if only to have a tiny escape back to someone who WASN'T from the usual Pari he was so sick of.


Nash was ever so relieved that he was allowed to drive the way along the streets of Pari – part of that was because Daline wanted some time to think and plot in the backseat, but also part was because she claimed that, if she was really a Countess, she had to act so unbelievably rich that she had a chauffeur.

None of that bothered Nash – he'd need to know his way around Pari, anyhow, and what better way to do it than drive around the streets, himself?

Unlike Lond – or any city he'd been in before, for that matter, – the capitol of Pari was sleek and glamorous, but overcrowded and glitzy. There were buildings that were set in solid stone and clean marble, with every indication of being weather blown and classic, with steep tile roofs, but then tall constructs of glass and steel. In some cases, there were old buildings that might have once been the home and shop of a poor baker in the Renaissance, but a tube of wires and gossamer thin glass sprouting out the roof and up several stories to connect with a completely different building. There were domes made of concrete piled on top of each other, a pyramid constructed of beams of steel with meter long television screens covering it's exterior, and buildings that were giant floating balloons only anchored to the ground with pillars of stone.

Every street had what looked like a million people pushing and bustling around. The footpaths had menial workers in drab and wrinkled suits, cheap dresses and rogue, and bent, broken shoes crowding to stay as far from the curb as they could. Above the street level, there was a second footpath – one that was a construct of the concrete and iron street poles and lampposts with a solidly wooden path. Nash glimpsed better dressed sorts – not the heights of fashion that were in the articles, but at the very least colored as though they were attempting to mimic the fashions. If Nash had to guess, they were probably less menial workers – managers in firms, secretaries for lawyers and politicians, the like. Then, in the streets with elaborate vehicles and unbelievably refined contraptions, Nash could see selectively fewer people. Some were automobiles like Daline's, some were horse-drawn carriages, and some were an odd combination of both.

"Nash!" Daline called from the backseat. Nash sat up straight, expecting her to jolt forward and lean around the driver's seat, but she did nothing of the sort. In the mirror, he could actually see her reclining, "Are you enjoying the sights as we go?"

"Somewhat." He replied. Daline chuckled.

Never a good sign.

"We need to get out more." She finally said, as though pondering something of grave importance, "To-morrow, we shall travel about Pari on foot, dressed in our finest, but as though we were one of the rabble!"

Nash considered a response to this, bit it back, considered another response, held that one back as well, then finally settled on,

"Shall we?"

Daline laughed her airiest and haughtiest laugh.

"Nash, the Great CMC is second in rank and peerage to no-one. Normal social boundaries do not restrain her, and she is eccentric and rich enough to do whatever she pleases. One day, she will walk about like a coffeehouse clerk; the next, she shall call on members of the Parinese parliament to carry her about in a covered sedan chair." Was her reply. She sounded rather like she was enjoying herself, immensely.

'Sounds like quite the persona you're constructing for the CMC.' Nash pondered, 'However will Milord take in all of this information?'

"She sounds perfectly horrid." Nash finally managed, hoping against hope that he sounded like he was in on some joke that Daline was playing. Daline simply snickered.

This did not reassure Nash.

"But of course." Now, she did lean forward and perch her chin on Nash's shoulder, "That's how she'll be able to do anything and everything without a word of explanation to anyone – least of all her servants – and she needn't even be consistent. It'll make the game so much more interesting for everyone if they never know what she'll do, next."

"Ah." Nash remarked, internally realizing that this was how Daline planned to pull off the switching act between herself and her brother without rousing suspicion.

In a matter of moments, Nash had driven the length and width of the capitol, finally pulling the automobile up before possibly the tallest building in the city that was a single structure. It was built of straight concrete, only with glass in the windows for solid decoration and on the door. The pillars had reliefs of plants and animals carved around them, making the building look almost like it was covered in a forest of its own with animals making their homes inside. Just on one of the grand main doors, Nash could see such details as individual carvings of leaves and ivy vines and the occasional sparrow's head emerging from behind them.

It was hard to believe this was the Temple of the Jade Order, and even more astounding that this was also the home of it's Grand Master and his family.

"Speechless, Nash?" Daline asked from the backseat as Nash pulled the vehicle to a full stop and put on the break.

"Not hardly." He replied, more to hide the fact that the sight had truly stolen his breath.

"Important figures in religious doctrines are all given titles of rank in Pari. Looks like the Grand Master Swift decided to put his peerage to some use other than personal benefit." Daline mused. Nash couldn't tell from her tone if this meant she thought better of him or worse, and he honestly wasn't sure, himself. If nothing else, he did wish he could think better of the man, just for how utterly stunning this estate was, and that he'd made it into the Temple for the Order, rather than an ordinary Comte'domaine.

"Nash?" Daline kicked the back of his seat. Nash started, then looked back. Daline was knocking on her window, "The door."

'Right. I was brought along to open doors and carry her hat and gloves.' Nash had to remind himself. He unseated himself, then dutifully paced his way around the vehicle to release the CMC. She easily pulled herself out of the seat, then purposefully strode past, ignoring Nash and sauntering up the steps to the enormous front doors. Standing right before them, she looked impossibly unreal – part of that might have been the size of the doors, but the fact that she was a tiny lady in a suit as black as the grave and standing imperiously before the brilliantly clean and white doors of a Temple.

Nash tried to make closing the door to the automobile as great a chore as possible. He wasn't sure if the CMC's mood for the day was one of allowing her own help to stand beside her, or if he was to wait for each order as it came.

"I'm waiting!" The CMC called, impatiently, and Nash almost felt as though she were directing her command to the doors, themselves. But, after a second, he realized she intended to have him sound the buzzer for her, as though it were both too much trouble and far too beneath her.

Hastily apologetic, Nash bounded up the steps and pulled on the chord. A chime sounded from somewhere above his head, and then echoed from several places inside the Temple. It was silent for several minutes, long enough for Nash to wonder if it was the size of the Temple impeding anyone's haste to answer it or if they were just being ignored, before there was a thunk of metal bars being moved on the other side of the door.

Then, the door creaked open and it was time to meet their would-be hosts while they were in Pari.