2021-08-28: A Farewell to ARMS

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===========================<* Klein Central Ward *>===========================

The central ward of Klein City is dominated by the great, imposing castle of House Klein, black stones with great spires stretching up to the sky atop a high cliff overlooking the rest of the city, with a fine view of the sea far below. ...But while the fortress could be imposing, it is largely open to the public, the government offices of the city sprawling from within the castle itself into the sprawling buildings that have sprung up somewhat less securely. The bureaucratic machine that oversees most of the trade of Meria Boule with other nations requires a great deal of upkeep, and many industries have sprung up to provide for and cater to the officials and merchants involved in the process. Klein City occupies a notable place at the east coast of Meria Boule, and it is in many ways its gateway to the rest of Filgaia, particularly outside Aquvy. Accordingly it is fairly cosmopolitan, favoring bright fashions and a sophistication that can sometimes grate on those who prefer more straightforward talk and manner. The rocky terrain means people are often closer together than not, but it is not known for its great machinery or production as a rule, even if it is one of the more bustling cities of Meria Boule.

BGM: Chrono Cross - Another Termina
<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

It has been a beautiful sunny day in Klein, and the time has come for the wedding of one Eleanor Klein and one Montgomery Curie. It is a spectacle through the whole city, localized at the oldest Granasian cathedral in the province. Colorful banners and a truly staggering amount of beautiful flowers are everywhere, and the citizenry attending are in their finest. The church itself is old-fashioned, angular and black stone, with dark wooden pews and stained glass windows, all full of people in finery. The colors vary, but the decorations are all in white and yellow and honey-gold and orange, summery colors that most of the guests as well as the wedding party have elected to match. The sea air from the nearby port district is bracing; the last shine of summer is here, for a wedding.

The sun is low in the sky now, and nobles from Syvlaland and Meria fill the church, as well as guests from all over Aquvy and in some cases beyond. It is a formal occasion--tuxedos and gowns, each lovelier than the last. There are more common entries as well, of course--some people in the city have simply brought their best, expensive or not, for the marriage of the heir to their ruler, and the excitement in the air is palpable. Indeed, it's obvious in everyone except, perhaps, a few members of the wedding party. But most of those aren't immediately visible; the priest waits at the altar, dressed in severe robes as appropriate to a man of Granas, and anticipation lingers on the air.

The reception is already planned and prepared; the tall, beautiful cake is on display. It has many tiers, the proud work of the Irington Bakery in Meria Boule.

There has been time to mingle and meet and talk, and indeed early on people are largely standing at their seats, mingling with one another. Even nobles and commoners talk here, an occasion meant to unite the entire city and province, though one wouldn't be surprised to note a lot more socializing happens within social circles. Even so it's bright and cheerful, and only begins to quiet down once the organ in the alcove begins to play the entrance music, and people gradually take their seats.

What follows is a procession of important personages to the wedding, including various bridesmaids in honey-gold and groomsmen in suits with accents that match. Notable personages include Eleanor's brother Tristan escorting her mother, the Marchioness of Klein. A strong resemblance to Eleanor is apparent as they walk down the aisle, Montgomery's brother escorting Eleanor's sister Danielle who looks much like her sister but in honey-gold, and Montgomery himself, with his mother the Lady Curie. Montgomery is a tall elf with black hair and green eyes, though he and Eleanor are the only elves in their families--he wears a fine dark suit and indeed has a ceremonial sword belted on, a symbol of his incoming responsibility to protect the Marquessate. He is a stoic young man, showing little emotion save for a small smile here and there as appropriate when he makes it to the altar, largely waiting with patience. He exchanges a few words with a tall boy among the groomsmen in quiet, Eleanor's younger brother Shelton.

Special guests take their seats; members of the wedding party take up positions near the altar, in front of the guests, including another of Eleanor's sisters, the adolescent Millicent Klein. And eventually, the music changes:

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tDYMayp6Dk

Last of all the wedding party to arrive, Eleanor Klein appears at the entrance to the church, with her father the Marquess of Klein, a distinguished man of red hair in his early forties all done up in fancy suit for his daughter's wedding. Eleanor herself is a young elf, orange-haired and yellow-eyed, wearing a lovely white dress and carrying flowers. Her pointed ears are plain through her hair, which falls over her bared shoulders down her back, long and loose. Her engagement ring shines on her left hand, the yellow roses and other flowers of her bouquet setting off the other colors of the room neatly.

Image: https://dreamchasers.space/images/3/39/Eleanor_Wedding.png

Stepping down the aisle with her father, Eleanor looks around at the assembled guests with a small smile on her face, conscious of the eyes on her. She has insisted that this will be a happy occasion, and she looks the part, if appropriately restrained about it. Her steps are light in yellow shoes, her presence ethereal. She is preceded by a pair of young girls who look like her, spreading flowers in her path, and Eleanor watches her younger sisters Abigail and Emmeline for a moment before looking up and around again. (Abigail's bakset of flowers has a lovely green ribbon on it.) It's a little overwhelming, being the focus of all this, and perhaps that is why there is a touch of nerves in her expression, as she looks about the wedding party at the altar, eyes lingering briefly on her maid of honor... and then on her groom.

Eleanor smiles at Monty as she comes to a stop in front of him, her father moving to sit down with a smile of his own. A quiet comes over the cathedral, save for stray whispers here and there, as eyes turn to the couple and to the priest, about to speak.

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Mariel may be a bit of an unexpected appearance to some people. She doesn't know Eleanor well, and she doesn't know Monty at all. She doesn't really get involved in ARMS business or nobles' business because she doesn't like to get involved in political issues, except where they touch on her friends.

But some of her friends are in ARMS. Marivel. Boudicca - and it's Boudicca who made a request on Eleanor's behalf, one that Mariel was very happy to help with.

And that's why there are flowers.

The grounds have rather more flowers than most cathedrals in Filgaia. The green-lined paths in the courtyard have sprouted a tasteful spread of wildflowers that look like they've been there for years, though anyone who checked last week probably wouldn't remember them. Up against the building, there are long rectangular planters that have taller, brighter blooms that guide the follower inside.

Even inside has not been left alone, though the manner is a little unusual. Instead of vases, Mariel has set out tiny pots that look like a gritty stone but feel more like clay, and hold riots of living flowers. There's soil in there, but a cunning, nearly invisible fine mesh keeps it in but still lets the plants through. Many of them are local wildflowers, though surprisingly healthy for being temporarily relocated indoors; she favours whites, yellows, golds and the occasional orange or red for accent. Larger pots or planters are at corners, or against walls near windows, or at other well-chosen locations.

Mariel's plants are hard to miss, but Mariel herself is relatively easy to overlook because she doesn't draw attention to herself. She rarely wears anything but green and today is not an exception, but the gown is a different style annd cut than she normally wears, with a complex geometric pattern in yellow diamonds and triangles down the sides and around the cuffs and hem; it looks formal, but formal from a different culture and faintly out of place in a Granasite cathedral. Her head is bare, as are her hands, so the light tuft of fur on the back of her hands and wrist and her short, blunt claws are visible.

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

Zhang Xiumei is one of the people in the procession. She is near the front, as the maid of honor. She has a honey-gold dress on -- with shoulder straps, and with a rose of just a slightly darker shade of gold pinned to one of the straps. She walks next to Montgomery's best man, with her glasses on. They catch the light for part of the walk, reflecting and hiding her green eyes.

To say she feels nervous is an understatement. To say that she feels conflicted... well, that need not be said. She walks with a practiced smile, though, her composure unflinching. She always knew this day would come.

She glances sideways at her companion and smiles.

Then, when she gets to the front, she turns around. A cathedral full of people; some of whom she knows. Simple anxiety kicks in, then: she isn't the center of attention for the day, but she is for a few passing seconds, and there must be hundreds of people in here. She recognizes some; she lifts a hand, waving with a couple of curled fingers at the contingent from ARMS.

The wedding march starts to play. She keeps herself from exhaling too loudly, and turns. She smiles as Eleanor enters -- with her father, too, who she knows -- though there is a practiced look. The bright lights inside the cathedral make her glasses reflect again, hiding her eyes for a second. But when they fade, she stays quiet with the rest of the cathedral.

<...You okay, kid?> Varius asks in her mind.

"...Mm."

The lights stop catching her glasses. Her green eyes are on Eleanor, warm but resigned. She smiles and lifts her hand in a subtle, tiny wave as the bride approaches the altar.

<Pose Tracker> Violet Salazar has posed.

Violet has eschewed her usual widow's weeds in favor of a long sky-blue and silver gown, with her silvery-white hair and mane enmeshed in a matching likely-not-real-silver chainmaille snood embellished with probably-glass sapphire gems. The dress, while conservative and severe in cut and style, is expertly tailored, unlike her usual garments, and follows the latest Marze fashions, right up to the matching bolero jacket she wears in spite of the Filgaian heat, and if you look closely you can spot the tips of matching slippers peeking out from under her dress's hem. Her tail serves as a natural bustle and is worn loose today. Her rifle-length ARM is nowhere to be seen, although the perceptive might take note of several dressy pouches on her rather ornate belt. She is still wearing a locket and wedding ring, even though people who know her are aware her husband was killed years ago. She is a fountain of conflicting emotions -- happy for the wedding couple yet ill-at-ease in a house of worship. She puts on a smile and exhanges greeting with her friends and acquaintances. She recognizes more people than she expected! Her ears flick foward as she notices a hush fall over the cathedral. The priest looks ready to start officiating. She sidles into an available seat posthaste, not wanting to draw any attention. This is the bride's day, after all!

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

        There is a lovely green ribbon on Abby's flower basket, and the flowers she and Emmy (different Emmy!) spread are spread far and wide by a breeze which very well seem to be helping them make the most impressive petal-throws they can.

        Indeed --

        Boudicca Helps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xx178XZ7_gA

        Somehow this occasional soft ooo-ooo-ooo is carried with the flower petals, and just, an incredible soft filter over EVERYTHING, especially Eleanor.

        And Abby's flowers, in particular, have a shining quality to them, which seem to shimmer in the light as they reach the apex of their arc, only to sparkle back down to the basket and the flowers still waiting.

        You see, the Wind Seraph, Boudicca...

        ... is a flower girl.

        She is a girl. In the flowers.

        And she's helping these flower girls be the best flower girls that Klein has ever seen.

        (Of course, possessing the flowers means that Boudicca herself isn't particularly visible, but that's fine; Boudicca isn't particularly visible even when she's taking normal form to most of the guests here.)

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

RELATIVELY EASY TO OVERLOOK

At least until Marivel steps in, seemingly out of nowhere, and falls in line next to her. "Hey Mariel, how have YOU been?"

She wraps an arm around Mariel in a one armed hug.

Marivel lowers her voice into a soft whisper, certain to be missed by most. "I'm surprised you came. I thought you didn't like disasters. I suspect this one's going to make Lord Blazer look like a chump."

Then louder she adds, "I hope you're having SO MUCH FUN. It'll be a gas. I've met most of these cuties before. But I can count on you to keep little old me some company, can't you?"

She looks up towards the nobles as they start stepping into place.

She wonders what great heroes will rise up and sacrifice themselves to prevent this catastrophic end. SHE'S certainly not going to be the one to do it.

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Kamui is, of course, also present. She's spent the last few in discussion with Eleanor and Montgomery, and she's been in the fringes with a light touch nonetheless; however this ends up going, she'll be there to support her friends to the last. It does make her think, for a moment, how she and Gami never had a formal wedding... ah, perhaps that's something she should press her, now that they have the time. What would that even look like?

        The Reploid is not dressed in armour nor her ancient robes. No, today, she comes bearing the noble regalia of the Crimson Castle, an impossibly immaculate three-piece silken black suit with a high-collared cape with a twilight red trimming, an elegant white cravat, and accoutrements of gold. It's her Best Dracula Duds, and she's rocking them wonderfully.

        "Hm..." Kamui chuckles very quietly, appearing next to her mother. "... I have faith, is all I will say for the matter." A pause, as she nods to Mariel. "Hello. Are you acquainted with my mother? My name is Kamui, a Reploid."

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

The Fangs were not invited to this wedding. The Fangs are explicitly not welcome at this wedding. But not to worry! They've come in disguise, so no one ever needs to know they were here. Although... the reason they've come to the wedding at all is to feel out whether they should try to sabotage the ceremony to save(?) their frenemy Eleanor from a loveless marriage, which does stand some chance of blowing their cover.

Whether their disguises are effective is an open question. For Riley's part, he seems to have both stolen and exaggerated some tongue-in-cheek idea of Xander's aesthetic, arriving with his hair alchemically dyed black -- that includes the brows and lashes -- and decked out in a gothic-flavored all-black suit and waistcoat, complete with a cravat at his neck, lace trim, and some embossed detailing.

The only color to him is his amber colored eyes--hopefully no one took too much note of that distinctive feature when he was a redhead.

To anyone he met on the way in, he has given pseudonyms for himself and Xander, which are also the height of sublety: Xander is Glitz, and Riley is Glamour.

Unfortunately, it's not until the ceremony is in motion that they even catch sight of either Eleanor or Xiumei. Eventually, the bridal party appears, including Xiumei with her empty smile, at which point Riley leans toward Xander in his seat to bump his shoulder with his own, whispering at a volume for only him to hear: "If you want to do something, just say the word. We could fill the place with thorns so people run out screaming..."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

        It's a nice day. Seraph Lanval, Oracle to Schturdark, was ready to try and bend any oncoming rain if it were to be a thing, but it turns out the natural world's indifference to what life does around it has worked out. While he continues to not wear shoes due to some fey and obscure vow that many Seraphim do take for their own reasons, he's made sure his manifestation's robes - such as anyone can see him - are as cleanly and bright as can be, though he doesn't move past his color about the aquamarine swatch compared to the autumn-like hues.
 
        He's not free of some of his particular brand of behavior - there's so much eating going on, and he knows a lot of people here put their heart out to make such great food, and it'd be a shame if any crumbs or stuff were left uneaten. No mortals eat stuff off the floor, therefore...
 
        INCIDENTALLY (AT THE SAME TIME)
 
        There is a horrid gray blob with a pseudopod crawling about the chapel floor, unnoticed. It continues to exist in a capacity that is harmless but also really gross, leaving behind a little trail and everything.
 
        INCIDENTALLY (NOT THAT LONG LATER)
 
        There's a horrible spill of plates between upper-crust Klein people! Apologies and the like are made, at least one glares direly at the other, and Lanval decides he's just going to make good on this by reaching down and scooping up some of it right there into his mouth.
 
        ...
 
        Huh. It tastes really greasy and it feels like it's wriggling. He'd describe it as a color, somehow: gray. A few blinks of shock later, he smiles and decides no, food is meant to be enjoyed, he's sure whoever made it is happy someone ate it. Whatever it is.
 
        AND NOW THE PROCESSION
 
        The Oracle of Schturdark is now doing an okay job at sitting upright and not slipping back down onto the floor. He's doing his best to radiate his Domain, that which enhances small joys and make them something more to savor, but even he can feel and notice some of the unease present.
 
        That or it might be what he ate. He can't be too sure on that one just yet.

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Don't think Mariel didn't spot you, Boudicca. She's just not going to say anything.

She is also surprised by catching a hug from the side, but it's Marivel so she doesn't duck it, instead reaching slightly back to return it. "Is it?" Mariel seems taken aback by this advisement from Marivel. "I thought it seemed lovely... I thought I would help with the flowers. It's such a nice change to be asked for something like that instead of for medicine."

Mariel does not know Eleanor or Monty well. That means she didn't see the disaster coming, either.

She looks toward Kamui with a slight smile. "Do you mean Marivel?" She knows that kind of outfit. "Then... yes. She is one of my close friends... My name is Mariel; it is nice to meet you."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

Nimue is well aware that half of the people here, at minimum, cannot see her. Unfortunately, half of them *can*, which means she has had to at least opt for a sundress that has been washed in the last year, and not her usual traveling clothes. We make small sacrifices, here and there, for those we care about.

She is trying very hard to be unobtrusive (so, the usual activity, but increased to maximum). The extent to which this is her goal *sharply* spikes as the organ starts providing more than incidental background music, and she practically begins melting into the wall. Not literally, of course; that would be disrespectful.

"D-does every damn planet have to invent the same instrument for the same place," she mumbles to herself, louder than she probably planned to (though not loud enough to interrupt the flow of proceedings, thankfully). She looks a lot smaller than five foot nothing, for a little bit.

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

Xander has made a terrible mistake. He has made several terrible mistakes, and today has its own unique handful. All of them lead back to listening to any of Riley's ideas. It's all Xander can do to keep from groaning out loud when Riley gives pseudonyms, and at the first of such introductions, Xander had to claim he had a small headache as the excuse for his visible pain.

It's not quite a lie. The color of his ensemble is enough to give him one. (Any color is enough to give him one...) Because -- once again, thanks to Riley -- Xander's disguise is him in an entirely red suit. A deep, rich color to match his disguised crimson hair that's been pulled uncharacteristically back into several tight braids that feed into each other. Even his eyepatch is red. And embroidered! Agonizing.

But he can't deny that it's a beautiful wedding. It seems no expense was spared for the celebration. Maybe this is a mistake. Maybe he's truly misread this whole situation. Even so, there's still that nagging thought that leaves him sighing at the sight of it all instead of sparing any admiration. Not that anyone would expect that from Xander. Glitz. Whatever Riley's named him.

Once they're settled and he sees the bride-to-be arriving with her wedding party, Xiumei among them, his expression darkens even further. He glances uneasily to his partner. "There's too many people here," he hisses, voice low, which is as much a general complaint as a protest. But he glances back toward Eleanor, then toward the groom and church in general, and chews on his lip as he works through the possibilities.

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

 
"I feel like a creme brulee," murmurs Venetia Vuong, to other members of the invited party, before the ceremony.

Venetia has purchased a new dress which does not exactly suit her. It is in honey-gold with orange lace round the cuffs and the hem. It is in a local style, which is sitting dowdily on her. She has obtained a very simple white-lace mask, probably because she had to have one made here and they weren't able to do a lot of patterns. Her hair is done up and the barrette holding it into place has, at least, some relief from the summery-sunrise colors with green and blue chips of stone in an abstract-butterfly pattern within it.

Venetia is not going to try to sacrifice herself for this wedding. Perhaps its participants.

"That's quite the impressive cake," Venetia muses. "I wonder if it's been chilled. You know, it's decadent but I've heard of things like that, have you? They make something with ice cream and then they pack it around some pastry and the result delicious, but of course you don't want ice cream in the winter, now do you? So it's a challenge to serve..."

BUT, IN TIME

Venetia is properly seated, amongst the other members of ARMS. (It's not so bad being in a group sometimes, is it, Venetia thinks, although she is in the corner adjacent to the Galadish scholar types who were with the groom's party, about whom she had a brief conversation about the mystery of soil.)

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        It's a wedding! Dean's never been to a wedding before, or at least, not one nearly as showy as this one. He's technically not really interested in this sort of thing, so he would've settled for sending Eleanor some well-wishes without showing up... except Rebecca is one of the bridesmaids, and he gathers this is really important to her. As such, he's shown up in fancy clothes with Avril to support his friends.
        
        He looks slightly uncomfortable, but he puts up without complaining, even if he does frequently fidget with his tie. The colors are nice, at least--yellow suit, orange tie, and white shirt and shoes, to match the overall theme of the wedding. (It is, of course, rented. Something this nice wouldn't last long with the Drifter lifestyle.)
        
        "Everything looks really nice," he remarks to Avril as he looks around at the hall, the flowers... the cake... It looks SO delicious. He pauses, fidgeting again with his tie; then he adds, "They serve the cake after the wedding, right? Sure hope it goes the way Eleanor wants it to." He has a vague idea that there's some drama involved; he's just fine with keeping it at a vague idea. If Eleanor's happy, and he gets to eat cake and other delicious things, that's fine by him.
        
        For now, he beams at Rebecca. "You must be super excited! You love this kind of thing, right? Romantic weddings and pretty dresses and stuff? I hope you get to have a wedding as nice as this for yourself one day!"
        
        Eventually, though, Dean is seated where he's supposed to be seated. Avril is probably next to him. Rebecca is definitely not next to him, since she's part of the procession of bridesmaids.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida follows Xiumei, straight-backed and dignified, the very image of polite, genteel celebration. She, too, is wearing a honey-golden dress, cut to flatter her figure--the neckline is low but not scandalously so, the sleeves just hinting at the musculature beneath, while hiding the scars. There are several layers to her skirt, and discreet touches of lace here and there--little hints of femininity. She is a warrior, and she wants to show that, but she's also a Society Woman, and that needs equal time.

        Even if there's a part of Ida that doesn't want to be here at all--that wants to grab Eleanor and haul her out of here before she makes a terrible mistake. Before she suborns her life and wishes to her family's desires. (There might just be a bit of projection going on here.)

        Ida takes up position with the rest of the bridesmaids, smiling politely as Eleanor makes her way down the aisle. Everything is so lovely, thanks to what can only be Mariel's hard work. If only this didn't feel like a premature goodbye to a good friend.

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

SPEAKING OF LORD BLAZER

If a conceptual avatar of oblivion, annihilation and utter devastation could have allergies, it would certainly be allergic to weddings. In fact, this ENTIRE TIME that Ashley Winchester has been working on the baked goods for one of the most high profile weddings of the year, he could swear he could hear the Blazer screaming in mortal agony in the deepest depths of his soul.

Or, maybe that's just his hopeful imagination. Maybe... The only thing that's screaming is his anxiety about making sure absolutely everything was up to the standards of the local nobility. This is by far the fanciest shindig they've had to cater for, after all! The bakery's reputation is riding on this!!

Ashley casts a long, thoughtful stare at the looming tower of matrimonial bliss at the center of the ceremonial feast, and wonders to himself whether he'd put enough torque on the twisty, spiralling frosting peaks.

But he is soon distracted by something else, because someone has appeared. The lady of the hour, the one whom so many people from all over Filgaia (and perhaps even beyond) have gathered together to celebrate. Ashley, in the only tuxedo he has ever owned, casts Eleanor a proud, awed smile and leans over to whisper aside to his FELLOW BAKER AND CHILDHOOD FRIEND, MARINA IRINGTON, "She looks amazing, the decorations look amazing, this whole thing is something else, isn't it? It's like bein' in some kind of wonderland, this wedding...!"

oh ashley

<Pose Tracker> Tio has posed.


        As one of the bridesmaids, Tio follows after Xiumei and Ida, escorted by one of the groomsmen. The small blue automaton dressed in a honey-gold dress matching the other bridesmaids, with a necklace containing a sapphire cut to match the emerald in Eleanor's necklace. For her part, Tio is approaching this calmly and carefully, just as she did at the rehearsal dinners. This is, admittedly, the first wedding she's ever been to, but she's taking the event seriously. She said she'd support Eleanor with what she wanted.

        Even if it isn't what she wants most.

        As she takes her position, Tio looks to the maid of honor, trying not to let the concern show on her face. Despite her best efforts, this seems to be the path things will take.Still, she can present a front, a smile mimicking the other guests. She looks up to Ida and Danielle cautiously.

        Is this really the right thing?

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine has her misgivings about this event, but she feels it is important to be here for Eleanor's sake. She doesn't understand it, why something like this would be arranged. It may just be the way of mortals. But it is not her part to interfere, it is her part to be there to support a friend. ...Multiple friends, she notes, spotting Xiumei.

She sits at a table that is, by appearances to all but the most spiritually receptive, completely empty. Despite this, she has elected to dress for the occasion. She doesn't really have very many opportunities to dress nicely, which is a shame for someone for whom one of their closest friends is an incredibly talented tailor.

She has chosen to wear a simple but elegant evening gown, of a softly-shimmering silver color reminiscent of the light of the moon. Which is because it is, being made of cloth woven from the moon's light courtesy of techniques learned from her time spent with the spirits of Macalania Forest. It is accompanied by a sash, a hairband, and a pair of long gloves which, contrasting the silver of her dress, are woven from the golden-yellow light of the sun.

She sits there quietly, uncertain... though she does pause for a moment, looking toward Nimue as she shrinks down a little.

"Nimue... will you be alright?" Clarine murmurs, concerned.

Clarine has also contributed a bouquet of flowers - white, orange, and gold flowers sourced from the hidden places of Biroclef Ridge. Few people here may have likely seen them before. There is no name, but it may be recognizable who they're from to those who know Clarine by the silver vase they were donated in.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"I mean it could go off without a hitch," Marivel admits. "But that'd be a disaster in its own right, I'd say."

She looks to Kamui. "Oh! Yes. Mariel. She's a friend of mine. It's like the name Marivel except without the vampirism. That's what the V stands for in my name, you see. Vampire."

She winks once. Kamui probably knows she's just making stuff up as usual.

Marivel is actually dressed pretty similarly to Kamui in the sense that she's wearing a cape but she's also wearing an overly billowy dress alongside it instead. of similar coloring.

"Kamui's my daughter." She explains to Mariel, since it seems she didn't know. It's a happy occassion so she doesn't clarify outside of that. "Honestly she fills out the wardrobe better than I do."

She smiles with intense momnergy.

It's busy enough that even Marivel can't keep tabs on everything so she doesn't bother.

"I bet you're the best at floral arrangements in Filgaia, just by taking a look at what I can see."

Her eyes slant towards....Riley for a moment though which might give the impression that she actually does know they are ne'erdowells but it's just a jumpscare.

Marivel's racetype means she can inflict this upon anyone at any moment.

<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        The wedding photographer is not normally also a guest, but Acacia has never really been one to split hairs about these things, nor turn down a chance for a job. She's going to be there and taking photographs anyway, and she's got a lot of confidence in her skills, so why not let her handle the event itself? She can have fun while making sure she captures everyone and everything going on. It'll just be like a day at the office, only with canapés.

        Frustration curls quietly beneath her skin, but she'd promised Eleanor no funny business, up to and including quietly putting the groom on sarcastic blast. She's got to hold herself to that promise - so instead she soothes herself by keeping tabs on everyone through the lensfinder of her camera, watching Xiumei's fidget. "Cheese," she notes suddenly as she sits next to her, and quickly snaps a photo of both her - though the smirk suggests that one isn't going near the album, and she quickly diverts to capture the bride at the altar.

        (You'd also think a wedding photographer would be subtle. Acacia is a subtle as brick, if the brick were currently also on fire.)

        The dress is perhaps a surprising choice for her, but she's wearing it well. Predominantly white, but with a black strip around the hem and edges, and a similar band of colour at the waist. She's managed to find herself a large floral pin to tie her ponytail with, though taming the rest of her hair is as impossible as ever. Part of her had been thinking about just coming in something more casual, but part of her wanted to push the boat out a little bit... for Minder's sake, especially. Maybe also Yue's.

<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

 
Rebecca tried to look neutral as Dean mentions how excited she must be. Until he mentions... getting to have a wedding as nice as this one day, which causes her to instantly blurt out in embarrassment, "Dean!" Rebecca is glad she's wearing makeup today(another bridesmaid had to help her) otherwise she'd be blushing hard, but instead she looks away a little shyly, "I-I mean... it wouldn't be so bad. In fact... it'd be pretty alright."
 
'Pretty alright' Says Rebecca, who's spent literally a decade or so of her life mentally planning her future fantasy wedding.
 
"Anyhow! I think I see Danielle waving- looks like it's time."
 
Passing by Avril, she stops momentarily to whispers, "See you after... at the reception." Before hurrying off.
 
Within the procession of bridesmaids is a girl in a honey-gold dress. For the occasion her fiery sunset colored hair is down all the way to mid-thigh, unbound by anything save a yellow ribbon adorned by darker gold flowers near the end. She has a pair of kitten heels on that match the color of the flowers. Despite never having been seen in heels her entire life, her steps are as just as sure as any of the other bridesmaids. A bouquet of dark gold flowers held in hand, she's two spaces behind Xiumei in the procession.
 
Dean's probably the only person in the audience who has seen her in a dress, and not for over ten years... certainly never one like this.
 
Her eyes are forward during the entire procession, in an attempt to look just as elegant and mature as the role requires. It's only once she turns around at the front, that her eyes do a quick search for...
 
... two someones in the crowd. A glance, a smile, and the closing of an eye into a momentary wink that's so fast that anyone who isn't looking straight at just her probably missed it.
 
Her eyes go forward again as the music starts to play. She tries not to look two spaces to her right, and instead keep her focus on the bride. She tries her hardest.
 
It's the mature thing to do.
 

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        SPEAKING OF MINDER

        ...

        ...

        One of the bridesmaids is an incredibly short, approximately eight-year old... girl? It's kind of hard to distinguish, given the being appears to be wearing a pale-orange environmental suit of Veruni design, if one has an eye and knowledge for it.

        She's wearing a matte black space helmet that apparently displays her emotions. Currently, it's a very candid :3.

        Minder's not about to be defeated, though, because she's wearing a tiny honey-gold dress... ontop... of her suit... and has a little flower pinned to the side of her helmet.

        ... she's trying her best, okay.

        Really...

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

"I think it helps to be tall if you wear capes," Mariel agrees with Marivel, which may be as close as she gets to teasing her friend.

Mariel does not wear capes.

"Thank you. I'm glad to have gotten the opportunity. ...I think we should probably find our seats, though. I am not familiar with Granasite weddings... I haven't been to one in..." She has to stop and think about that. "...I'm not sure I have. I think the last one was Nisan." Mariel, of course, follows neither religion.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

        "You look lovely, Rebecca."

        It is in all likelihood not the first wedding that Avril has ever had reason to attend in her life, but it is unquestionably the first that she can ever remember attending. There had likely been a series of questions before -- ones that might have stumped even her long-time friends -- but now that the event is underway...

        Avril is dressed in a yellow so pale it may as well be white. The gown is a long one, featuring a fitted bodice and gold-on-gold bead embroidery with a tulle skirt. There are no gloves involved, or even straps: only strips of tulle loop about her upper arms. Her hair has been braided and rolled up into a looped bun at the back of her neck. A few accents of blue jewelry -- neck, ears, hair -- complete the look.

        "Yes, it does," she agrees, looking Dean's way. She is not a part of the wedding party for one very practical reason: it would have been a little awkward for Eleanor to have a queen as a bridesmaid. "...Hmm, I believe so. There will be a meal as well, I think Rebecca had said." ...There had been a long, long discussion about what to do at a wedding.

        Possibly interspersed with what not to do.

        "Oh? So you must go already? Very well," she says, and as Rebecca leans in to whisper to her...

        ...reaches over to fleetingly touch her hand.

        That will need to serve as a 'see you then'.

        "I, too, hope that she has a wedding as beautiful as this someday," Avril says to Dean once Rebecca has gone. Gently, she smiles, her gaze for the moment hooded as if she were in deep thought regarding something or another.

        She turns to Dean after a few moments more. "...And everyone may only have one wedding? Or is another permitted?"

        She hadn't asked that question last night.

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

Marivel's ominous sideye gets only a smile and friendly wave from Riley.

At Xander's concerns about there being too many witnesses, he says, "Well, exactly. That's how we'll get rid of them all." There are no flaws in any of his plans today, they are all perfect.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

"Huh?" The idea of someone actually caring about Nimue's subjective experience of the world gets her to startle, and she glances up to see Clarine. "Oh, I. Uhm. Is it that obvious?" she asks, rubbing at the back of her head. "L-listen, it's... I can deal. It's --" she looks down, then to one side. Then to the other side. "It's old world stuff," she says, in that way that one has, when one is hoping that's all the explaining necessary. "Besides, um. If I really think about it, n..." She takes a deep breath and tries to make herself believe what she's about to say. "No one here is going to let me get hurt."

Actually saying it out loud doesn't magically solve all of Nimue's problems, but it does get her to at least fix her stance and pry herself out of the corner. She's still very much folded in on herself, but she's at least not actively chasing 'be in an enclosed space and freeze.' She forces a smile, though it's one of those awkward, too-forced crescent moons you see on her face... actually kind of a lot. "Having fun?" she asks Clarine instead, pushing her hair back a bit.

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        There's a quiet nod to Mariel, with a smile. "And it is nice o meet you as well," she bows her head gently, turning towards the procession as it happens. It's rather nice to see her mother with her other friends, especially one she hasn't seen before.

        "Hmm, do you think so, mother? I think you look quite dashing in our clothes too," Kamui laughs, looking about as Marivel spots Riley. She doesn't know who he is, though, so he's safe.

        "I see... V for Vampirism... Model V--" A pause. "Varius is a vampire too, I see."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

        A flower petal flutters past Eleanor. Boudicca croons, "ooo-ooo-ooo..." This is Seraph magic which may leave half the reception in the dark, but the people who are Resonant enough to appreciate Eleanor's Romance Filter will surely be very impressed at how pretty she is. Boudicca has been at this for the entire march up and shows no sign of slowing down. Maybe she really is happy for Eleanor..?

<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        To be entirely fair to her-- her date? Are they at that point? -- Acacia didn't for a moment imagine that the Veruni prisoner would feel comfortable at Eleanor's wedding - both in terms of her being there, and in terms of how the presence of a woman in shackles would reflect on Eleanor in turn. It _is_ kind of a shame, if she's honest, but she understands. She'll send photos along later... or maybe just hand photos over, so she can watch the reaction in real-time.

        And to that end, she breaks into a beaming smile at the sight of Minder. A lifetime of improvisation meant she knew the perfect way to stick the flower onto the side of the girl's helmet without it drooping, and she's feeling not a little relief and pride at the fact it's staying in place.

        She makes absolutely sure to get a shot of the procession, and then decides to hammer the shutter several times just in case. This is something where she wants to make sure she picks the best shot, to keep hold of the memories.

<Pose Tracker> Brad Evans has posed.

Brad Evans is not a man known for his place or fit within high society. He is a tall block of a man, muscular and broad, dark-skinned and dark-haired, with his long straight hair usually left to sway about wildly. Habitually he wears virtually nothing but leather straps, jeans, and a compression shirt; utilitarian wear for a man who has lived a life of scrapping for his life. It is vanishingly unlikely he owns anything else, considering the state of his life; a criminal, a prisoner, a vigilante and a malcontent, made free solely by the possibly-crazed whim of a single noble man.

Which is probably who technically owns the tux he's wearing right now, which is cut with immaculate fit to the lines of his body. He is practically bulging out of the tight black coat, not in a sense of ill-fit so much as precise, clean lines making the sheer power in that body extremely clear. Someone even got him into shined-to-the-point-of-glowing dress shoes, which is its own minor miracle. He is half-consciously fiddling with the cufflinks as he all but apparates next to Marivel, emerging silently from the crowd. "Pretty sure if you took a shot in here it'd get stuck in all the tension," he mutters.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        The problem with having a small amount of clothing is that, for special occasions, you're kind of limited. Sure, Gwen could splurge and get a nice dress, but getting it tailored just right and finding something to cover all the necessary bits (ie, her entire right ARM) without it looking lopsided, and finding such an item of clothing in a place where such dresses are more towards the lighter, airy end of the fabrics spectrum?

        And she'd likely wear it once, anyway, and besides, the point is Eleanor!

        The upside? Blouses can be paired with anything, and she has some fancy things to dress up even further.

        She is wearing one of the fancier end of her white blouses, each pleat expertly pressed and starched just enough. There's a rare appearance of that pair of diamond earrings she once gained in a bet with a Certain Person on her earlobes, and, as a splash of color, an amber brooch, done in silver, pinned to the neckline of her high-collared blouse. She did splurge for a calf-length high-waisted skirt this time, with some thick tights to cover any sinful calf flesh that may show underneath, paired with a pair of low-heeled laced boots. Even her hair is nicely coiffed and set with a silver comb, with another citrine orange stone.

        Naturally, Gwen's first order of business is THE CAKE. "Guardians, look at this thing... It's *gorgeous*." Her next order is: Locate The Bride, who is not out, so it goes to the next part: Locate Ashley. Who is not too far away, with a Friend! With a look of intense glee, she steps over, the hem of her skirt swaying with her step. "Is this the cake? The one you were gettin' the flavor profile for-- oh!" She quiets, seeing Eleanor come in with her bridesmaids.

        ".... Gosh. That's definitely her colors, there." The tone of her voice is conflicted, as if the courier was trying to find something to say in the space of not knowing what to say in the first place. At an appropriate point, Gwen turns back. "Oh, ah! Forgot to introduce myself to your friend there! I'm Gwen Whitlock, super courier. Ashley's helped me in a number of jams."

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        "What?" Dean utters, blinking owlishly when Rebecca gets embarrassed. "It's the truth, isn't it?" He pauses. "...isn't it??"
        
        It would be pretty embarrassing to him if he were just now learning that Rebecca... he doesn't know, outgrew her fascination with romance. They've known each other a long time, after all! He can be pretty dense, but he thinks he'd notice something like *that*.
        
        Just like how he'd notice if someone had a crush on him. Or how he'd notice if his best friends started dating. Ahem.
        
        Though he did at least remember about the meal, Dean still perks up when Avril mentions that part. "Yeah! I wonder what they're serving? I can't wait to taste! Hopefully it doesn't take too long!" ...poor Dean. For all that Rebecca explained things at length to him and Avril, he really doesn't get what an involved process a wedding is.
        
        Regardless: "Okay! See you later, and good luck!" he tells her when she heads off. To Avril, he nods, also smiling, although without the deep thought. He blinks at the follow-up question. "Uh... Hm." He scratches his head. "I'm not sure? I'm sure Rebecca would know, but..." It's a little late for that.
        
        Later, once the guests are seated and the procession's passing by, he notices Rebecca's wink and grins and gives her a little wave. (It *has* been a long time since he's seen her in a dress. Dean thinks absolutely nothing of it, beyond that he's happy for her.) He waves to Boudicca too--she seems like she's having fun, being the flower girl--but since there are people who can't see her, probably, he tries to be discreet about it. He doesn't want anyone feeling bad or upset because there's people around they can't see.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"That's absolutely correct," Marivel lies though, really, if you think about it--Varius was not brought back to his life by his own will so maybe he IS a vampire.

She places a hand on her cheek at Kamui's kind words.

"You're so sweet,"

Marina is wearing uh. A nice dress that's probably the most expensive thing she owns but still decidedly feels humble and out of place here, even with a lot of the weirdos. Maybe SHE is the secret spy.

She has no idea about any of the intrigue involved and she says, "Yeah..." with the sort of soft sigh of someone who has been trying to get SOMEONE to take a hint for years now and still hasn't been successful. "She's so lucky."

MEANWHILE

Brad appears by Marivel?! AS if by MANGIC.

"Yeah, yeah. But you know, I'm sure there own't be any kind of THAT kind of trouble. I mean, I'd like to think that even Ganondorf, Ancient Demon King of Darkness, is not the type to interrupt a wedding. They've got to have SOME standards."

Her tone is already skeptical at her own words.

MARIEL TEASES HER.

"Ah--well..." Marivel says. "It's the family style, so I have no choice...!"

She nods once and adds, "Yeah, we might as well sit down."

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

         If Marina was suspicious of Gwen, perhaps the next moment will help assure her, as Gwen's eyes move from the cake to... Brad. ".... Gosh.... that's... definitely.... nicely cut... Someone give that tailor an award, because that's... a really, really good job!"

         Is the room hot or are Gwen's cheeks just red

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

"Ah, I see..." Clarine replies with a nod. 'Old world stuff'... indeed, that's all that Nimue needs to say for Clarine to understand. She doesn't inquire further, instead offering her a small smile. "Yes, of course."

It won't solve everything, but she'll try to lend support how she can. Nimue asks if she's having fun, then, and Clarine... hesistates. That might be telling enough.

"Ah, well... It is nice to talk to you, at least." Clarine replies. "But besides that, it is... difficult."

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

Xander hasn't foolishly tried to murder Marivel (yet), so he decides it's Riley's fault anyone would be looking in their direction.

He looks at Riley flatly. "I swear if this turns out to be another plan to get me killed..." He elects not to finish that. "There's enough flowers here to be subtle. Maybe." Pause. "Wait. Are you capable of subtlety?"

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

I swear if this turns out to be another plan to get me killed...

Riley gives him a look of chagrin. "I am hurt that you think I would go back on my promise! Wait, I've got another plan, listen, hear me out," Riley whispers to Xander. "At a pivotal moment, a giant flower erupts from beneath Eleanor and swallows her. Um. Nonviolently."

He squints, trying to picture how that would play out. "... Do you think they'd still finish the wedding after they got her out? They obviously put a lot of money into today."

A beat. "Eugh, is that Rebecca up there with the bridesmaids...?" Oh well, there's probably plenty of people here who know they're murderers. That's why they're in disguise!

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

The cake is a thing of absolute splendor. A veritable fortress of culinary delight whose white walls sparkle with immaculately applied frosting and delectable and only halfway decorative fruit. Whipped icing has been deposited in identical dollops in perfect concentric rings on each tier. Around each miniature molehill of sugary delight is a pattern of delicate rosettes and flourishing floral designs that nearly disappear into a stately but beautiful pearly white culinary landscape. It is the very most regal kind of wedding cake, the kind a bakery might stake their reputation on.

It is also no fewer than five layers, and is possibly even more fancily dressed than the two people who worked tirelessly to make it.

"Oh, hey Gwen!" Ashley smiles brightly, because this is a bright and sunny and undeniably happy day. A mountain of meat and bone who if Ashley is being honest has featured in at least one HEROIC DREAM in the middle of the night mentions something about tension and Ashley honestly has no idea what he's talking about. "It is in fact the cake! We spent hooours getting it just right, didn't we?" Ashley says with a proud, beaming grin as he... takes Marina by the hand and pulls her in to BASK IN CULINARY GLORY. "Oh, Gwen, this is Marina! My..."

A: LITERALLY MOST IMPORTANT PERSON

B: LONG-SUFFERING ROMANTIC INTEREST

C: BEST FRIEND SINCE FOREVER

"Marina, this is Gwen. We've gotten into a few scrapes together in the course of usual ARMS business. She's not an official member, but still!"

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Monty's best man is a perfectly pleasant guy to walk down the aisle with. Xiumei probably even knows his name. But that's fine enough.

Those who sneak in are noticed but not by the wrong people; Xander and Riley--ah, Glitz and Glamour--are welcomed just fine. No one grabs Nimue. A few people--not many, but a few--are capable of seeing Seraphim, and that includes someone amazed by Clarine's beautiful light-woven cloth. Also they notice Boudicca's romance filter.

"Oh, that would be perfect for summer..." Thanks to Venetia, someone wants ice cream now. Lanval saves the day by eating. That could've been a big problem. ...But pseudopods aside, most people here genuinely do seem to be having a good time; the tension is not at all obvious to most of the room.

Abby loves her basket of flowers and ribbon. Violet's dress is lovely. Kamui and Marivel both look very dashing. And Mariel's flowers are beautiful. Gwen's outfit gets a few looks; Brad gets a lot more.

...Minder and Abby have gotten along wonderfully. But as all the talking dies down, as the procession goes, and when Eleanor and Monty are both at the altar... The priest speaks up.

"Honored guests and friends, we have come together today to observe and commemorate a marriage, an unshakable bond that will be forged today between two families and two young people. Montgomery Curie and Eleanor Klein will marry today, and through their marriage bond the houses of Klein and Curie irrevocobly." The priest is a man of advanced years, a kindly-looking fellow in fine robes holding a book of Granasian scriptures in his hand, currently closed.

"Our groom is a talented young man, adept in business and prepared for the responsibility of helping his future wife to guide the province of Klein in the future. He comes from the beautiful country of Sylvaland and House Curie, has studied in Guild Galad, and now comes to make his home in Meria, here in Klein itself." As he speaks, he gestures and moves his hands, referring to Montgomery and then Eleanor in turn. "Our bride is a scholar and a diplomat, the youngest graduate of Sielje's Academy in its history, set to carry on our late Queen's legacy of learning and understanding into the whole nation. She works with allies abroad and at home to protect our fair nation and others from the threats of the world in these troubled times, but has not forgotten her home and obligations."

"Together, they will take on great responsibility--but we should remember not only their place in the world, but their duties to one another. Today we provide our heiress with the solid foundation of her future rule, an ally and companion on whom she can rely for all her days. We provide this noble son of Sylvaland a new home in Klein, and a bright young wife who will surely in turn bring out the best in her protector. In marriage they will share joys and sorrows, hardships and triumphs. It is a privilege and a responsibility both, and their lives will forever be changed by this day."

The sun shines, approaching its setting, and the beautiful colors of its light cast over the cathedral and all within.

"And so we come to a ceremony that celebrates two noble families and their joining, that represents the hopes of our people for a brighter dawn, an alliance that will benefit Meria and Sylvaland both and draw our nations closer together still. But above all, two blessed lives joined into one, a partnership and, perhaps, a love that will see them through the future."

The priest looks to the happy couple, regarding Montgomery and Eleanor both in turn, before he turns to look between them, out to the room. "...Now," he says. "If anyone should have just cause that these two should not be joined in matrimony, let him speak now, or forever hold his peace."

He smiles out at the crowd. He does not expect anyone to have anything to say here, but it is a nice moment to pause, and let the gravity of this situation sink in for the young couple and others.

Thanks to the light and the angle, Eleanor's face is hard to see for everyone but Monty himself.

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

"Ah!" Xiumei cries out, a little surprised. "Miss Acacia--"

She still does that. She has trouble letting go of little formalities, even with someone who ended up being a dear friend. She smiles at her, though, and she relaxes a little. "Thank you."

She gives a glance at Ida -- and at Rebecca, who she only really met the day before. She seems nice, though. She smiles at her and Minder, who remains a little bit of a surprise.

But then her eyes are back on the bride.

She listens while the priest speaks. It isn't a bad speech, she thinks. She has her own, tucked away in a little purse -- which is stored where it should be -- but she only half listens. Once, she would have fumed quietly at the praise of Montgomery... but he hadn't proven himself to be a bad person. He was talented; he was kind; he was thorough and smart. It was all very fair. She keeps looking forward.

It isn't, Xiumei thinks, a bad match. He will live as long as she does. She looks forward and things Eleanor told her ring out in her ears.

'If I can... if I can just move forward, then... then maybe we can both still be happy.'
'These have been the best years of my life so far, I think. ...Even with all the danger and the awfulness. I've been happy, to be with you...'

Her eyes glance downward. She hears the statement that the Granasian priest says. A formality; an offer that no one would ever, ever dream to take up. After all, half of Klein is in here, watching the heir to the city.

TWELVE YEARS AGO

"So smart, Eleanor, Eleanor~"
"But what a bore, Eleanor!"

The song went on and on at the schoolyard of the Arcadia Lyceum. The premium preparatory school in Meria Boule, nobility and wealthy citizens alike sent their children there. The term had just started -- and for the next four years, it would be the home of Zhang Xiumei. Only nine years old, she had her pressed coat and skirt on, loafers worn, and too-big glasses dipping down her face.

But she had a soccer ball under one arm, and back then, she was tall for her age. She frowned as she looked across the yard -- and found them, a cluster of children, all around a seven year-old elf in tears.

"But what a bore, Ele--"

"Stop that!" Xiumei cried out, stomping forward.

"It's Xiumei!"
"W-We gotta go!"

They bolted away, leaving Eleanor there. Xiumei walked closer -- blinked her eyes a couple of times -- then crouched down a little. She smiled at her and extended a hand. Her accent was thicker, then; her parents didn't speak the more common language at home.

"...Hi," she said. "I'm Zhang Xiumei. Um... Xiumei's my first name."

PRESENT DAY

Xiumei's hand balls into a fist at her side. At first, when she speaks, it's quiet; her head is half-lowered, and light from the stained glass windows catches her glasses. It reflects and covers her eyes. Her voice is quiet enough that only Ida and Rebecca, really, can hear her. "I object."

Then, it registers that she has to actually speak up for once. It might be quiet, but it's a large cathedral and a tiny voice won't carry. So she raises her chin, and her eyes go wide. She wasn't the center of attention before. She is now, and she turns red-faced and starts to literally and metaphorically wilt.

But she manages to look at the bride and to say, louder: "I-I object! This--Nora, you shouldn't do this!"

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Mariel does not get invited to many weddings. It's been a long time... and this isn't the awkward part. It's not like he's preaching (which does get a little awkward).

Also, Mariel is the kind of person who cries at weddings. Or anything emotional, really. She can try to hide it, but she's not very good at it! Fortunately, she brought her own little handkerchief and she hasn't really needed it yet.

And look, there's no disaster. Marivel was totally wrong!

...

"...ah?" Mariel has read this happening in a book, but she's never actually *seen* it. She didn't know it actually happened. Nobody seemed to be expecting it. She half-rises to see who it was, because that's the only way she can actually see over enough heads to manage it.

She looks at Marivel, a little helplessly. Was she correct after all??

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

"That's Rebecca," Xander confirms, wide eyed. He looks through the audience, but there's too many people to see if Dean and Avril are here with her. They must be, he decides. But as the wedding proceeds, and the priest speaks, Xander's hit with an increasing dread: they could interrupt this entire affair, but with everyone as resolved as they are to go through with it in responsibility this and legacy that... wouldn't they be drawing out the suffering everyone's already decided on?

He can't see Eleanor's face, so he watches Xiumei instead. And even though he can't hear her, he sees her lips move. Xander seizes hold of Riley's shoulder, glancing to him and back. His lips twitch. "Don't think we'll need thorns," he says, quiet, like he'll chase the moment away otherwise.

But Xiumei does not disappoint, speaking out her objection in full. Xander squeezes his fingers into Riley and looks expectantly toward Eleanor.

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        These processions certainly are formal, aren't they? The only thing approaching such formality would be diplomatic receptions as she's remembered them in her past, Kamui thinks. Ironically, parliamentary duties are a touch less formal...

        Minder seems extremely enthused to have a new friend, and has been chattering with Abby, about Young ARMS and her time in Meria Boule and also trying to bashfully avoid questions about her environmental suit and her terminal illness.

        "Hmm..." Kamui does quietly note the language used for bride and groom, and the quietly charged lines of politics within. There's another chuckle, as the priest asks if anyone has an objection and...

        Xiumei speaks up!!

        "... my faith is not misplaced after all," Kamui speaks knowingly, one eye closed with her smile. Now where will this lead?

        Minder, meanwhile, looks a lot more surprised, such that she's thrown up the Lala-style arms up look of surprise, her helmet emoji turned to a very yellow (read: anxious) :O.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

"... yeah, this kinda thing isn't really my scene either, uh, music aside," Nimue admits to Clarine, with a slightly self-deprecating laugh. "It's for her, you know? It's..." She lets out a breath, which leaves a stray strand of hair flopping around awkwardly. "Well. It'll be over in a couple hours, I guess."

The event formally starts. A man is talking. Nimue is utterly uninterested, but does Eleanor the courtesy of not making blah-blah-blah gestures with her hands. (The priest himself is beneath her consideration on this front. He is barely a real person and Nimue has been considering giving him a wedgie.)

Then Xiumei actually does it. Nimue turns to look at her, expression utterly gobsmacked. As someone who, not *that* long ago in the cosmic sweep of her life, was literally so checked out of what she wanted that she was perfectly content to walk herself into her own death without seriously thinking about it, this is unthinkable. Acting?? On what you want???? In a way that might cause problems for other people???????

It's not enough to get her to join in, of course. Eleanor... Nimue is honestly weirdly deferential to her. She doesn't feel like it's her place to even say anything until Eleanor does (even if she has made no secret of thinking Monty is boring and sucks).

Instead, she just -- waits for some sort of cue as to what to do.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marina says, "Um."

She tugs on Ashley's sleeve.

"Isn't that your .... teammate?" She asks, looking to Xiumei as she objects. She seems confused because---this is the sort of thing that only happens in FICTIONAL STORIES, not real life! "Do you know what's going on, Ashley?"

Marivel Armitage sits herself down, crossing one leg over the other. She doesn't raise a hand or voice an objection--despite what she knows--and she likely isn't going to. She closes her eyes with a faint sigh. She isn't crying, except inside her head, because this is so painful for her to watch.

It isn't until Xiumei objects that she opens her eyes again, eyes slanting towards Mariel.
5r"Pewww." She says to Mariel and then gestures with her hands as if a bomb had just dropped.

She says, "It shouldn't have gotten this far," to Kamui. "This sort of thing doesn't happen in reality, especially between nobles, because it's dangerous."

If Eleanor's family wasn't as KIND as it was, people could've died over it. And it's not like that isn't out of the question even.

She doesn't stand. Hob and Nob are keeping an aerial watch as part of security and she can hear and smell just fine.

"But still," Marivel admits. "Better to be honest at the worst time, than to lie forever."

She looks to Mariel with a faint smile. "Sorry about this."

<Pose Tracker> Violet Salazar has posed.

Violet is flabbergasted to hear someone actually object to this wedding! She's heard of such things happening, but dismissed them as unfounded rumors.

Her bias is showing: her own marriage was a love match, and she can't even imagine someone consenting to one of convenience. She stirs uncomfortably in her seat and waits to see what happens next. Does the objection mean the wedding is off? Will the bride and groom have to answer the speaker's concerns? She steals a glance at the priest, trying to see if he's as flummoxed as she is. Or is this a common thing in Meria?

<Pose Tracker> Tio has posed.


        Tio watches as the priest speaks, staying silent throughout the ceremony. She keeps the lights of her antennae off- she doesn't want them to distract. Would that she could see how Eleanor is reacting. Would that she couldn't see the tension in the other bridesmaids. This should be joyous, and for most of the audience it is. But...

        And then Xiumei speaks up, and Tio's eyes widen, her antennae flash a number of colours, and then she smiles. More genuinely then the mimic's smile she had earlier. Xiumei has finally spoken up.

        *Please, Eleanor. Listen to your heart this time.*

        The automaton turns to Minder, with her startled helmet, and gives a small thumbs up. "Do not worry," she whispers. "I believe it will be all right."

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        The wedding proceeds for a while! The priest calls for someone to object or forever hold their silence, then smiles like of course everyone will forever hold their silence.
        
        Then Xiumei objects.
        
        Dean blinks rapidly. He looks around, baffled and trying to gauge how he should react; a moment later, he gives up on that and leans in towards Avril. "Is that supposed to happen?" he whispers. "You think we'll still get to eat dinner and cake?"

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

As the ceremony carries on toward its inevitable conclusion, Riley keeps glancing at Xander for permission he never gets.

But then Xiumei does something that neither of the Fangs ever managed to do -- she makes a move before it's too late.

As an undoubtedly uncomfortable silence sweeps over the room in the wake of Xiumei's dramatic interruption, Riley lets out a whooping cheer of encouragement and calls upon Valmar for something rather unconventional.

And because this prayer is silly and stupid, it gets answered: Flowers wind around the legs of his chair and creep up in front of him, and bloom, each shaped roughly like a tiny instrument, wind and brass and strings.

And whatever Xiumei says or does next, she does it accompanied by a sweeping, emotional orchestral accompaniment.

<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Acacia's reporter senses suddenly prickle. If anything were going to happen at the wedding, it's right at this moment. Will it be Odessa, crashing in to make a mess of things? Will a bunch of demons suddenly attack? Will Blazer just decide to come out? Will the cake get smushed?

        What actually happens is nothing of the sort, and also something infinitely more devastating in scope. Some little spark lights the touchpaper sat next to her, and Acacia is glancing over at Xiumei with her eyebrows practically shooting up through her hair and heading straight for the ceiling. "Whuh," is all she can get out at first, because while a part of her is laughing and going 'hell yes', this is the absolute last way she expected any of it to happen. It's like a small puppy just walked up and slugged her.

        Then the wedding photographer neatly steps aside, and the little shit of a reporter comes back to claim her place. "Hell yes," she decides to give into that impulse after all, even if she's too blindsided to do anything but say it under her voice. Her camera lines up a shot she can't resist - of Xiumei pleading up to the altar - and she finds herself grinning. Every bone in her body wants to heckle with a 'me too', but she's not _that_ crass. ... not while Xiumei might have more to say.

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

Behind Dean, there are two strange men. Both are wearing large formal coats and tophats. Both, also, have huge lizard snouts -- one is mottled green and white, the other brown and white. The one with green and white, the shorter of the two, answers his question in a whisper:

"Join the Nintendo Fun Club today, Mac."

"Ard... Ard!"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

        Lanval is, surprisingly enough, a little detached to the proceedings beyond keeping a pleasant smile. While never as grand a venue, he has seen marriages take place a few times - especially early on during his tenure as a Lord of the Land over on Lunar, well over five hundred years ago by now. He's seen a lot of... things go wrong, after the fact, and sometimes even before. He's just doing what part he can from a passive standpoint, trying to keep the little things a bit happier.
 
        But even he is not ignorant to some of the tension, and when an objection is raised, both of his eyes are about fully open.
 
        "Mmmm." It's easy for Seraphim to get detached to the finer, fiddlier bits of mortal life and ceremony. He's paying attention now.

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

 
Venetia Vuong has not been to many weddings. Oh, a few here and there, usually smaller things among the poor church-mice (so to speak) of the School of Mineralogy, and once for a two-steps-away relative when she was a child. As a child she had not understood; the smaller parties she was used to, at least, had a certain interior reality. Commitment, formalized. It made sense.

This has not made sense to Venetia. However: objectivity has demanded that she not command others, unless she has good reason to know they are unwise. She had spoken her peace, but her heart wasn't in it. Eleanor was a friend of hers.

She is more to others.

Like Xiumei, for instance. Yes, Venetia thinks as she nods once to herself, straightening up in her unflattering dress. Yes, there we go.

The most surprising thing is how there is surprise out there, Venetia thinks, but really, would I have been shocked either way? I -

- Venetia frowns.

("is that a ****ing orchestra," Venetia asks people immediately proximate to her. She is keeping her voice low so this is only clearly audible for like three rows around her.)

<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

 
Avril's compliment causes Rebecca to momentarily raise her bouquet to hide her face. "T-Thanks." She does sound pretty happy about it. Mercifully, she is not present for the questions about whether one can have one wedding or more. Wheras Dean's questions causes her to redden further and further. "Dean come on! You should save talk like that for after the ceremonies! It's uh - bad luck otherwise!"
 
Rebecca figures it must be bad luck somewhere. Otherwise... well.
 
The brief touch of Avril's fingertips causes a pause... "Won't be long. Promise." It's not like she thinks Avril isn't mature enough to be patient. It's just... she doesn't like to be away from her for long if she can help it.
 
Rebecca has absolutely no idea that Riley and Xander are here. If she did, she'd be grateful for the addition of a small accessory to her bridesmaid attire.
 
Once the bride and groom are at the altar, Rebecca starts to listen to the priest speak. And there's this faint cant to her side as he speaks of their skills, as if the marriage was entirely utilitarian.
 
'Where's the romance?'
 
Rebecca thinks with a remorseful, but entirely mental sigh. She already knew it was going to be like this, but at least the priest could pretend that love factored into it.
 
And then... 'I object.' Rebecca's brow furrows, and she suddenly does look at Xiumei. She'd only met her recently, but she'd heard PLENTY about her from Eleanor. She'd been doing her best to support her decision, no matter her own feelings about it. At first she wonders if she misheard. And then...
 
louder
 
And Rebecca steps back and raises her bouquet to her lips, looking somewhat scandalized. In truth however she might be pretty delighted. This is like just out of the romance stories she always liked to read growing up. In her heart of hearts, she's happy that Xiu did this but...
 
... well, each of them has their roles, and she made the decision to play her own part. Besides, a challenge is only a challenge if there's opposition. "Don't make this any harder on her." Rebecca says quickly, hushed but still quite audible, "Shouldn't you just respect her decision...? She told me you talked about this..."
 
Maybe it'll put her in disfavor with Xiumei in the short term but... part of her thinks that goading her with some light resistance might make this more likely to turn out to have a fairy tale ending.
 

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

        We have come together, and this is Boudicca's very first wedding, did you know? She was awfully confused on the details, but Eleanor said there were flower girls, so she sent for the floweriest girl to bring the most flowers to the girls.

        In all this, it's difficult to say how much Boudicca understands about the complexities. She's been enthusiastic, to Ida, before they retire to bed at night. She's been enthusastic to Rebecca and Dean and Avril. She's been enthusiastic to Marivel, and to Lanval and Nimue and Clarine.

        She...

        ... might know a little more than her ignorance seems.

        And she isn't part of the procession, until she is.

        Light sparkles from the flowers; the ribbons about Abby's basket suddenly flutters in a breeze which sends those petals scattering over the crowds. Few will realise the true reasoning behind this; to them, those ribbons might as well just disappear in the spectacle.

        The real reason, of course, is the way they twist and twist together, weaving and woven; hair braids itself and then braids again, two braids becoming one very large braid -- a braid at the back of one SERAPH BOUDICCA, who is looking particularly fancy for the occasion. Horns of the Black Dragon stretch from her black hair in a metal tiara, which traps her bangs and sweeps them back along her head in a more formal style; her broad shoulders are now unconstrained by metal, and the green silk of her sleeves puffs up at her shoulders. Her curved neckline is defined by an orange leaflike ruff; her wrists are adorned with twisting ribbons like vines. A metal corset pulls her chest in, all clasped at the front like claws, and a voluminous silk skirt pools out from under it, large as she is, falling down to her ankles. Her battle heels have been replaced by, it seems, peace heels, iron metal with orange straps.

        Boudicca considered the elements of true fanciness, and this is what she came up with. There is still a flower or two caught in her metal horns, when she comes to stand beside Abigail. They're autumnal yellow.

        She's ended up next to Minder, too, so she puts a hand on her shoulder, reassuringly. She doesn't know Minder, but she can see that she's having an emotion. It's written on her helmet.

        Rebecca says not to make it harder on her, and maybe she has a point. Maybe that's why everyone is muttering, and no one is speaking. But --

        "Xiumei is right," Boudicca is bold enough to add her voice to Xiumei's, in the hush of the shock, loud enough to be heard by any with the ears to hear. She looks to the groom, not the bride, after she offers that support. "And... are you satisfied with taking this supporting role, Montgomery? This arrangement carries with it particular assumptions. Is it all right?" She turns, now, to the bride. "Is this really all right, Eleanor?"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

"Yes... And it is much too crowded for my tastes." Clarine agrees with a sheepish laugh of her own. There's way too many people here for her well-being. Even if most of them can't see or even interact with her, it's still a lot of people. She wonders how many of them actually know Eleanor personally. She nods, then, in agreement. "Yes... for her."

A couple hours... well, to a Seraph that's nothing, so she can wait. And as she does, the ceremony continues, until those dramatic words are said - as Xiumei raises her voice.

Surprised, Clarine stands from her chair. She looks from Xiumei, then back to Eleanor, and briefly to Nimue, then back to Xiumei.

Clarine says nothing, though. Instead she just stands there. Tense, but... hopeful. Hopeful that this will turn out alright, for the best.

But if it doesn't, well... she's ready to lend a hand, if necessary.

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

If this was an Elw wedding...

Well, nobody except Mariel and maybe Marivel is likely to remember what one of those is like. And the bonding ceremony they would have is nothing like a wedding in a cathedral. But certainly, nobody would object to it - because Mariel doesn't really understand arranged marriages, despite her age and experience. Arranged treaties, certainly. Fostering, even. But marriage? To be bonded to someone else isn't something you can just decide. It's something deeper. Something -

Mariel's head suddenly jerks to one side as she feels something completely unexpected. A sudden change in the feeling of plants, of life, except not with the same sense of interconnection and - for lack of a better word - nature that she would find.

She is looking directly at Riley. *Directly* at him. Someone noticed.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        As the priest speaks, Ida puts on her best poker face. He isn't wrong. On paper. Montgomery and Eleanor seem at least compatible. When she was younger, she was taken to worse high-society weddings, featuring couples who married purely for status.

        But she can practically feel Xiumei vibrating with repressed emotion from here, and while 'from here' isn't that far away, it means something. At that first 'I object,' Ida's mouth forms a little 'o' for half a second. Then, she does the unthinkable. "Louder," she says, her voice insistent, encouraging. As Xiumei starts to voice her thoughts in earnest, Ida steps forward, taking her place at the maid of honor's flank. The polite facade dissolves into the tight, determined look she's worn so often on the battlefield.

        She reaches out, and if Xiumei will allow, she places a grounding hand on her shoulder.

        It's to ground her as much as Xiumei. She feels, abruptly, like she's falling--like she's tipped over an edge and reached a new level of defiance of the prescribed social order. But if that's how she feels, then what is Xiumei experiencing?

        As the sweeping, orchestral accompaniment comes out of nowhere, Ida turns to Eleanor, her hand still supporting Xiumei. "It is your decision," Ida says, her voice hushed, but forceful. "Make it honestly, or regret what might have been."

<Pose Tracker> Brad Evans has posed.

Brad sure does stand out like that, even as he fidgets with the suit. It's perfectly cut to him, but Brad Evans is not a man who is accustomed to dressing like this.

He takes his seat because he is not an ACTUAL alien, though he's so tall he probably causes some problems just sort of by incident of existing. This will not be the first time his mere presence causes a stir, nor will it be the last, despite his quiet nature. And indeed, quiet by nature he is, listening as the ceremony begins without fuss. This is....ultimately, not a fight for him. He has shown what support he can merely by his presence, rather than banging on Gears in the Chateau garage. If they need a villa to 'collapse' under 'mysterious circumstances' then they'll whistle him up.

He does grimace as the priest simultaneously does and does not address the strength of the personal bond.

'I object!!'

"Oh is that actually how you do that?" Brad says to nobody in particular, turning in his seat to regard Xiumei. He can see her struggling. He finds his hands on his cuffs, uneasy.

He made the joke, earlier, but the change in his posture is visible and physical as the tension spikes. This...this isn't a kind of tension he's familiar with, and he struggles to focus through it. Bullets, bombshells, Gears and cyborgs, that's easy. This...political tension and emotional weight...his teeth creek as his jaw tightens.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        "Yeah, bein' a courier makes official affliations tough, but it don't stop me from helpin'." Gwen holds out a hand to Marina.
        
        And does not mention she's actually lying, since she's technically a part of the Vile Fiends, if they could be called an actual *team* than 'a rag-tag group of people who have sworn to help each other out'.

        Which... isn't that what ARMs is, too? ANYWAY.

        Gwen quiets as the ceremony begins, watching on with a certain degree of obliviousness. She doesn't entirely know Eleanor's situation, and honestly, feels a little guilty that she hasn't looked further into it. Eleanor has saved her life, after all, and...

        Call it a courier's intuition, or a Brad's intuition, since he's just flat out pointed it out.

        "... I was kinda hopin' since everything's been hopin' along that things were just fine, but I guess that ain't the case," Gwen murmurs, one hand fiddling with her brooch, as Xiumei voices her objection, leading to a chorus of reactions from the other bridesmaids. "Best thing we can all do is just... go with the flow of what Eleanor decides. I mean, usually, in books, the husband or wife to be has some secret, but this ain't like that at all."

<Pose Tracker> Tio has posed.


        As Rebecca counterargues, Tio shakes her head. "Eleanor also told me they had both accepted it." Tio is quick, quiet and curt. "And even when she said it, even I could tell it was not the case." Tio looks to Eleanor again, her mechanical eyes staring at the back of Eleanor's head. "What do you want most?"

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Something happens.

Of course something happens. That is how life and the universe in general operate. Things Happen. But this is something that is honestly utterly unexpected (for anyone whose name is Ashley Winchester, but probably not for literally any other member of ARMS). "That's... Xiumei...?" Ashley answers Marina with a look of concern across his face. "What's she doing...? Objecting to the wedding? But--"

If the wedding is stopped... The cake, it will be nothing more than an ordinary everyday cake! And that would be absolutely tragic! But more importantly...

"Did she have feelings for-- Oh gosh, this is just like in the stories...!" Complete with a swelling orchestra! "Marina, is this... Where she gets swept off her feet by the one who has always harbored feelings for her deep in their heart, but never had the courage or self-confidence to dare think that they could ever be reciprocated...?"

Look. Corny pulp fiction novels aren't the only things he reads.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

        "Hmm? Well, actually... I didn't ask," she says to Dean, shaking her head. "I am certain it will be wonderful. It seems no expense is spared when it comes to a wedding." Is that why they only do them once?

        Or maybe more than one is allowed?

        "...Yes, I suppose so," she says, shoulders rising and falling with a constrained sigh. Well, she can certainly wait until after the ceremony.

        Every time she thinks that she has these things worked out, there is always a catch or a unique circumstance that was omitted. It is a little bit... frustrating, at times, she considers, turning to scan the crowd. Boudicca will earn a small 'royal wave' as it were (other people will just have to wonder who Avril is waving at), and she spots more than a few other familiar faces as the procession moves along.

        And there's the bride and the groom before long, at the altar.

        "Binding... their families..." Avril murmurs. There's something about that which almost stirs something within her. Hadn't Rebecca told her that the point of a marriage was...

        And there, moments after the priest asks -- the question was a formality, she'd been told -- if anyone objects, Xiumei speaks up.

        Dean will find that Avril is...

        ...just as clueless as he is on this front. "Dean, is this meant to happen? Rebecca had said it was merely a formality," she whispers, glancing between her friend and Xiumei. And Eleanor.
        Worry, muted, colors her expression. Something is amiss here, something she's only just failed to grasp--

        "Ah?"

        She, too, has caught the content of a particular whisper directed Dean's way (she is right next to him). The sort of paralysis that occurs when something truly stunning has been said is well in process.

        "Have we met?" she utters sotto voce towards the lizardy duo, because in her case it's never not a valid question.

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

Xander drops his face into his hand when Riley lets out a cheer in the silence, but if you look closely enough, it's because he's trying to hide, of all things, a silent laugh. Music swells, and Xander pulls his hand down his face over his mouth. "You lost all your somber points," he chides, echoing a previous conversation. "...But I suppose you're being extra unfathomable to make up for it.

But this stands to call attention to them. Xander's guarded and ready, because, as the priest failed to mention, sometimes bonds means defending your partner's tiny orchestra that's there to support someone else from making a mistake that will haunt them for years.

Maybe he'd try to murder them a third time if he had to, but that's all the more reason for them to get this sorted out before something terrible happens to one or both of them...!

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

'I-I object! This--Nora, you shouldn't do this!'

A hush falls over the entire cathedral. Eleanor herself stops completely still, staring wide-eyed at--well, at Monty, at first. But then she turns her head, and slowly looks towards Xiumei.

The priest, for the record, is thoroughly flummoxed as it happens, turning to stare for a moment at Xiumei outright before he gains his composure back. Much of the wedding party is various states of shock; the guests for the most part are silent. Eleanor's parents are staring at Eleanor, not at Xiumei.

"...Xiu...?"

Eleanor's voice is soft, but over the quiet it resounds anyway.

So too does Venetia's question. But Eleanor continues: "Why?" Eleanor asks, and moves to face Xiumei, taking a step towards her. Rebecca speaks up, and it helps Eleanor steady herself. She said... Yes. She did say that, didn't she?

"Rebecca," she says. "Thank you. But..."

"But why?" she asks of Xiu, and takes another step. "Why!? You--you have to tell me, or--or I--"

Tears glisten in her eyes that she can no longer conceal. Whispers start to break out, the silence destroyed. People on Montgomery's side of the cathedral start to rise in the front rows, important nobles preparing to say something--

Montgomery himself raises a hand for quiet. "No," he says to his family, speaking firmly. He does not answer Boudicca's question, not at first, not obviously. Instead he says: "I want to hear this as well."

Eleanor stares at Xiumei, her hands dropping, though she does not let go her flowers. She waits. She doesn't answer anyone else--indeed she shakes her head at Ida and Boudicca and says, "Xiu!"

She doesn't answer Rebecca or Tio, or the crowd. But Danielle gasps, putting a hand up on her heart, and looking to Xiumei.

But the cathedral is quiet again for now.

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

Xiumei looks ready to wilt. This time, it is her turn to want to melt into the wall or hide in a corner. She hears the whispers and the murmurs. Her mind produces, unprompted, all the figures she ran for this wedding. She did the bookkeeping; she knows exactly how much every decoration, every table setting, the catering, and the venues cost. She knows, very precisely, the cost of her action. Including the cost to two families.

Rebecca asks her the very reasonable thing. Minder looks anxious. She looks sideways at Rebecca, her green eyes wide, and like she might be about ready to run. The way her neck tenses, cords visible under the skin, she looks like she might be about to throw up with anxiety. "I--"

The answer doesn't come. Boudicca speaks up -- voicing her own critique -- and Xiumei feels gratitude, but also like her knees might be about to give out. It gets worse as the bridesmaids enter into a debate. She doesn't retreat because Ida puts a hand on her shoulder, and that keeps her from trying to run away.

Her fingers actually tremble. She looks halfway to tears of panic.

But then there is an orchestra. Her head snaps around -- there isn't supposed to be that kind of band here, she recalls who they hired -- and she spots flowers blooming from a chair. Not the flowers procured from Mariel. And she spots Riley and Xander. Her eyes widen -- but she sucks a breath in, as she finds that despite everything, it gives just a little courage. She needs that, as Eleanor turns to face her.

And Montgomery wants to hear it, too.

She is quiet for a second. Her hands are trembling, until she clasps them together. "B-Because..." Part of her wishes she wasn't doing this in front of a hundred people. "...because you don't want this, Nora. You... you want to want this. And--"

She looks at Montgomery and swallows. She was never very kind to him; she wasn't rude, but she never had a conversation longer than five sentences. She never spoke with him at length. "And I don't think you do, either. I... I remember, when we were on the train that Odessa attacked. How you looked, when you supported your friend. The things you thought about the world. You do have passion. But... but it's not enough to want to want something."

She hesitates a second. She steps out of Ida's grasp, a little closer to Eleanor. And she looks over the crowd, her face pale as she looks at friends and enemies and people she has never met. Even her father and mother are in the back, expressions utterly shocked.

"You... you both deserve more than something practical and sensible. A good match isn't enough," she says. Her voice shakes. She hesitates a moment more.

"And I--" She looks back at Nora. "You said you want us to both be happy. But... we're happiest when we're together. So I--I don't want to give that up. And..."

She looks at Montgomery, then bites her lip. "...And I want you to have something that makes you truly happy. Not what you think you should do."

She looks back at Eleanor. Her lips tremble. "And we should, too."

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel's eyebrow twitches when some ARMS agents start voicing their opposition to the marriage.

She reaches over to give Brad's arm a few pats. It's true, she probably prefers bombshells to this too but she says, "No usually you don't do this because it's incredibly embarrassing for everybody involved. You'd do it before the wedding. In many cases, the marriage is not even formally certified at the wedding but rather some time before."

She raises her voice to say, "ARMS! Quit yer murmurings! We're guests, so show some decorum and professional 'disinterest'. Thank you."

She leans back again in her chair.

"They're all sort of adults here and don't need no nannies."

She isn't going to make the same demand from Montgomery's family when he has done it so firmly himself. Frankly, pissing off a noble family (that isn't openly engaged in treasonous crimes) is not really part of the ARMS operation right now.

Xiumei speaks up. As diplomatically as one can interrupt a wedding and cause a diplomatic mess that will give Marivel like ALL the headaches.

She crosses one leg over the other and doesn't interfere any further. Xiumei said what she wanted to say. Now it's time to see just how reasonable everyone really is.

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

 
"Yes," Venetia answers Ashley, having moved out of her seat and gotten to the far end of the row, moving up one of the outside aisles of the sanctuary and checking under chairs for -- something.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        Dean scratches his head, feeling significantly more uncomfortable now that this wedding stuff has gotten exponentially more emotionally fraught. Fortunately, he doesn't have to do anything but sit there and let the people who are going to object, object. (Ida and Boudicca are doing it too, or at least encouraging it, while Rebecca--on the surface--seems to be against it. That conflict just makes Dean *even more* uncomfortable.)
        
        "Yeah, that's what I thought, too," he whispers back to Avril. It's a comfort, at least, to know he's not the only one who felt like this came out of nowhere.
        
        Someone tells him to join the Nintendo Fan Club.
        
        Dean stares behind him at a pair of lizardmen. "The what what what now?" he whispers. A lot is going on. There's even an abrupt mini-orchestra playing. And Eleanor *and* her fiance seem to want to hear more of this objection out of Xiumei. At least Marivel makes it easy by calling for ARMS to be quiet. Dean isn't in ARMS, but he can at least take a cue. He grimaces, gives Avril another bewildered look, and settles down.
        
        He's going to be *so* disappointed if dinner ends up canceled. What a waste of cake...

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        "We are both, in our very long lives, very guilty of only being honest at the worst time," Kamui points out to Marivel. "But you are right. Better that than to lie forever... succumbing to a woolen falsehood for the rest of your life, wondering, if I could have done something... should I have done something?"

        A quiet, appreciative hum. Eleanor asks why, of Xiumei, and Xiumei... speaks from the heart. She doesn't want this. She...

        "... wants to want this..." Kamui murmurs quietly, pausing as she finds it strikingly nostalgic. "That is a powerful force, is it not...? We spend so much of our energy and time fooling ourselves into believing we want things that we do not, purely to satisfy... our social anxieties, our desire to be validated, to be seen as good and right and approved of."

        There's just the most quiet of laughs as Marivel tries to chide ARMS. Maybe even right now, Marivel's got to play her own role too...

        Meanwhile, poor Minder is having an incredibly stressful time grappling with all these developments, looking back and forth and back and forth and eventually her helmet emotions have descended down into a very solid -_-. "... I'm scared," she mumbles at Abby and Tio near her. "Are the adults... going to be mad now...?"

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida's said what she needs to. She turns to Marivel, and nods in quiet acknowledgment, even as sympathy and annoyance and anger tighten around her heart. They're of like minds, even if Ida doesn't overhear--this never should've come this far, but sometimes people don't realize what they really want until they really have to stare at it.

        It was like that for her. Xiumei steps forward. Ida's hand falls to her side.

        The part of her that is deeply and truly sick of noble politics decides: both the Kleins and the Curies are very rich, and they can deal.

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

Mariel actually understands part of Xiumei's position, here.

Both the 'I don't want to do this in public' part and the rest of it, as it turns out. At least in part. Mariel would never have the courage to admit something like that in front of a crowd.

But as for the rest of it, it's not like she's lost anymore so much as that she isn't sure what she, an onlooker who doesn't know anyone involved very well, should say or do. Her innate awkwardness is coming back out!

She shoots another glance at Marivel and says, quietly, "I think I understand what you mean." Her ears flatten down slightly afterwards, and when Kamui speaks. "But you're right, too. To have to live like that..." She trails off, then picks up, even more quietly. "...I don't even think it's better than being alone."

And 'alone' isn't even what's being discussed, here.

<Pose Tracker> Tio has posed.

        Eleanor asks why, and even to Tio- often oblivious in the face of social norms- that this is the time for Xiumei, and only Xiumei, to speak. Xiumei has Ida and Boudicca's support, so Tio looks to Eleanor. She doesn't speak to her, but merely nods.

        Marivel's shout causes her pause- not that long ago, she would simply have fallen silent and accepted an order. But it chafes against her now. She may be a member of ARMS- but she's Eleanor's friend first. Still, right now it's not her place.

        Tio offers a hand to Minder. "...Maybe some of them," she answers truthfully, "but not at you. And if they are, they can leave. Do not worry, we are more than able to make them take their rage elsewhere."

        Tio has no compunctions about blasting a noble out the wall with a torrent of water should someone pick a fight here.

        Someone should really talk to her about that.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

Clarine listens as Xiumei makes her plea. Clarine doesn't comment. She's decided it isn't her place to interfere, though she'll move to protect people if things get violent. She trusts Eleanor, Xiumei, and Montgomery to handle things respectfully... but she doesn't know their families as well. But for now, she waits.

She is proud, though - proud that Xiumei was able to speak honestly of her feelings, despite her fears. She can only hope she'll be rewarded for it, in the end.

<Pose Tracker> Brad Evans has posed.

Marivel and Brad make a good team for a reason; even that pat and a few words helps him recover his senses. He relaxes into his seat. Marivel's called the play, and he understands his place in the world again. "Makes sense," he says, back to thinking about processes. Society is, after all, in some ways just a big machine, and those he is good at comprehending.

He can't help but smile a little at Xiumei's words, though. Passion. Yeah. Having to stand up and shout from your soul even if the rest of the world thinks you're mad...

Yeah. He knows what that's like.

<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Xiumei makes an impassioned plea; Marivel asks everyone for calm and decorum. Acacia only flicks a gigawatt smile in the vampire's direction, glances for a moment at the smug sort of warmth around Kamui, and decides that this is the time for her to butt in-- or at least she does until she catches another in the bridesmaids in need of some support, and sucks in a quiet breath.

        Heckling Eleanor is all well and good, but she's got priorities to think of. She's used to nudging her way urgently through crowds, and there's only a couple of quick 'scuse me's as she pushes past gawking guests and places a hand on top of Minder's helmet, careful not to dislodge the flower.

        Kneeling down a little to let out a breath, she frantically grasps for how to start for a moment. "... I think... they're probably going to be relieved. I hope so, anyway," she whispers. "They've all kept a lot of stuff cooped up, 'cause they've been scared to say anything--" she pauses to nearly snort at Tio's comment, and the grin nearly plasters itself back onto her face, but she manages to school it down and look back to Minder. "--but hopefully, they'll come out of this happier."

<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

 
Rebecca understood by saying what she'd say that she'd be in the minority to begin with. She'd made the decision to support her friend's decision even if she didn't agree with it. How could she? So when others speak up, she gives them cross looks. Feeling worried for Xiumei. Is she gonna do it? Is she gonna keep going? Or is she gonna run off the stage?
 
Yet Eleanor herself says 'Thank you. But...'
 
That's the moment she falls quiet. The moment Eleanor starts talking is the moment her opposition ends because...
 
... Eleanor wants the answer to a question. And the answer might alter the decision Rebecca put it in her head to support.
 
Rebecca looks intently at Xiumei, looking like she's about to cry - anxious, nervous and...
 
... never more courageous...
 
Because she starts, and doesn't stop. She speaks to both Bride and Groom... speaks her heart... and articulates her feelings, in public, in front of everyone.
 
Rebecca finds herself smiling despite herself, unable to help it. Even having pretended to oppose this.
 
It's such romantic drama - how could she not be hooked? Dean was absolutely right...
 
... her enjoyment of all things romantic has never abated.
 
"Well... when she puts that way..."
 
Rebecca says so quietly, as if ceding any ground in her own feeble opposition. Yet in the end...
 
... what matters most of all now is what Eleanor thinks.
 

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        There's a quiet, terrified look from Minder... as evidenced by her helmet, as she looks up at Boudicca. She quietly nods towards her, the hand on her shoulder comforting and necessary, at the moment. She doesn't... really understand any of this.

        The entire context of her life has been that she'll never actually have her own wedding, because every doctor and physician she's seen have -- indirectly, through hushed words beyond the medical screen and thinking she can't hear them -- a dire prognosis for her.

        So the only chance she has to see a wedding is... to see someone else's. And to see it twist like this is... is this right? Is this wrong? She's too young to really understand.

        "... mm," she quietly nods at both Boudicca and Tio. She knows who's safe to stand around right now, at least.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

Nimue, like Clarine, stays silent. It feels -- weird, to consciously choose silence in a tense moment, for Nimue. Maybe that's a sign of growth. Maybe it's a sign of fear! She doesn't know. She isn't sure she wants to.

The index finger and thumb of her right hand grip the index finger of her left, and start fidgeting. She needs to do *something* with herself to keep from losing it.

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Hey, for Ashley's part, he's not voicing his support either which way, mostly the baker is worrying about whether or not all their hard work will have been for naught... And quietly nursing that one specific feeling that you have in your gut when you know you're witnessing an Important Moment and aren't sure whichever way it might go.

Whatever might happen, though-- Eleanor's the one to decide, and ARMS will be there to support her choice, no matter what it may be. Or what kind of political fallout might result.

...Or at least, Ashley will be. But he's sure the others will too, right!?

He wonders, in some small part of himself, whether he'd be able to cope with the same agonizing torment of emotions that must be playing out within Xiumei and Eleanor right now. If he had to give up everything for the sake of love... Would he be able to...?

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

Xander can see the way Eleanor's wavering, and he thinks he knows what it is she's hoping to hear.

"Say it," he hisses, but it's still so quiet only Riley's going to hear him. "Say why." He clenches his jaw, trying to will it to happen instead of interfering. Some things you can't do for other people.

For all the it's none of our business talk, he's certainly invested.

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

Riley is busily conducting a tiny orchestra of evil plants to perform a poignant song of courage and the conquering power of love for Xiumei as she speaks the truth of her heart, but briefly looks over and spares a shrug for Mariel as he senses her eyes on him, gesturing up at the scene at the altar, an expression on his face that reads, 'how could I not?' as if this were the most natural thing to be doing in the world.

...But I suppose you're being extra unfathomable to make up for it.

"I try," Riley says, with a quirk of a smile toward his partner. He saw that laugh out of the corner of his eye, too, Xander, and his heart is warmer for it, especially as Xander begins to quietly cheer Xiumei on.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VPsdr-2enU&list=RDVakMMUqsPMw&index=50

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

        Avril would consider Eleanor a friend of hers -- indeed, she's not certain she can (still) repay the debt she feels she owes her for helping her reunite with her friends. But, that doesn't mean that she is all that aware of the particular intricacies of what has been going on. She isn't that close to Eleanor's group, for one thing. And for another... well...

        If anything, Avril had taken the impending marriage to be a thing of joy. Not only is it becoming clear it was perhaps more for the sake of alliances than anything else, it's becoming increasingly clear that this is far more fraught than she'd realized. Looking sidelong at Dean, she can see that he feels the same way.

        For now, what can they do but watch on? This is a decision that Eleanor and Xiumei -- and Monty -- need to make among themselves. She glances over at Dean and smiles slightly, as if to suggest, 'I'm sure it will be alright'.

        ...Those lizardpeople are probably still behind them, too.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

 "Well..." Gwen rubs her chin. "I mean, maybe this is a good thing? Get everything laid out on the table, where no one can deny them the advantage of witnesses. And, no matter what, after that, people are going to want something rich in calories that tastes great, after all that careful pleaing and emotions, and so on. So, I think, the cake will still be a Wedding cake, but of a different kind. A true celebration cake, instead of, like, the wedding cake the people more interested in this politics business want."

She's voicing this to Marina and Ashley on the downlow, due to Marivel's request. Sure, like Dean, she's not ARMs, but it's a fair request.

And also, it seems like she's on the same wavelength as Ashley. And maybe Marina?

..... wait, Ashley read those novels too? No wonder he has an appetite for calorie-rich sweet foods with lots of decoration! One naturally flows into the other! "... I mean, they'll still have to rehash the details, and the groom seems to be a decent guy, so..."

She has no clue about how this might apply to Marina, just yet. But give her time. She'll definitely get it, as she is She Who Ships.

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Xiumei could wilt. Eleanor knows how much Xiumei doesn't really like public speaking. Eleanor can see how Xiumei must feel--but she has to ask, she has to know, she has to know. She doesn't answer Marivel and her caution, but she will greatly appreciate her later.

Abby reaches out to take Minder's hand. "...I dunno," she answers, "But big sis looks..."

Because, Xiumei says. And because... she doesn't want this. Because... Montgomery doesn't want this? Monty looks to Xiumei; it's true that they have never particularly gotten along. And yet...

"Xiu, I..."

Eleanor hesitates, but she finds nothing untrue in what Xiumei says. Instead she takes another step towards her, bites her lip. "I... I really do want..."

She looks back, and Montgomery inclines his head. "...Seems like you'll have to choose."

Eleanor bites her lip--and steps towards Xiumei. "I--Xiu, what if we...?"

"This is an outrage!" Montgomery's mother starts, rising to her feet again, as Montgomery himself turns towards his family and shakes his head. "...No," he says.

Eleanor, meanwhile, takes Xiumei's hand in hers, not dropping her flowers, and can't quite voice the question. But she makes her choice, finally. She makes it, and....

Chaos begins to erupt. The cake is still safe, but whatever's about to happen, it's sure happening.

"...Is this what you want?" Eleanor's mother asks, standing up. She looks at Eleanor.

"...Y-yes, Mother, I..."

She brings up her other hand, stil holding the flowers, and fingers nervously at her necklace.

Her mother watches Xiumei, too. In fact, the whole cathedral is watching Xiumei. ...Including Danielle, except that she looks between her and the others and bites her lip, thoughtful.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"..." Marivel is totally called out by Kamui.

"Well," Marivel admits softly to Kamui "It's only natural for me to not want to see mistakes repeated."

She feels for poor Minder. Poor wonderful Minder. She doesn't know what the adults will do.

Marina is weirdly and clearly invested in this drama. Perhaps she might have to be MORE OVERT herself. You better watch yourself Ashley. She's coming for you. There's no escape....From Fate.

She gestures with two fingers otwards Acacia in a 'howdy!' sort of way but she seems content to leave it at that for the moment.

She can't help but smile at Brad. They ARE a good team. It IS a little weird, all told. Brad's return has clearly been PSYCHOLOGICALLY good for the vampire with her crazy monster outbursts being more along the 'playing the part' kind rather than the 'genuinely trying to eat someone's soul' kind.

"If it is within my power, you will never be." She says to Mariel. "But perhaps, you scarcely need me for that anymore. You've made countless friends and each friend is like another flower planted."

Her cheeks flush blue briefly as she thinks about how that sounds.

"I'm gonna move closer to the Montgomery Family in case they need someone to yell at," She tells her friends, but not before giving Mariel one last hug, as if it were for the road.

<Pose Tracker> Violet Salazar has posed.

In all the confusion, Violet is certain of two things. One, no one expected this. And two, the groom has class. She admires him for giving Eleanor the physical and emotional space to make her decision unimpeded, in spite of his offended family. And what a momentous decision it is. She watches as Eleanor takes the objector's hand. If that's Eleanor's final declaration, she sincerely hopes Monty will find his *own* love-match someday.

A lifetime partnership was too important to leave to politics...

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

When Dean looks back, Liz and Ard have vanished.

Xiumei doesn't feel terribly alone. Even though Marivel calls out, there are cries of support for her. Those cries buoy her a little bit more. She looks back at Eleanor, and she bites her lip. It starts to whiten when she does, and she hesitates.

Her hand is held by Nora, which surprises her. She breathes out, staring at her, and her fingers curl around Eleanor's. She blinks at her. "I--I want to stay with you," she manages.

'This is an outrage!'

Xiumei turns her head, staring at Montgomery's mother. She begins to wilt again -- though the way that Monty tells her no makes it a little easier.

But a moment later, a man's loud voice calls out: "Xiumei!" Zhang Liu says. A middle-aged man, balding and with a mustache, who looks stern. "I understand. Recent events have been difficult, these last years. Come here, right now, and--"

He gets cut off by a few more cries.

Xiumei swallows, hesitates, and takes a look at Eleanor's mother. Then, she looks back at Eleanor. She hesitates. "What--what do you want?" she asks. Then, she looks at Montgomery. "And... what do you want?"

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

"That - I didn't mean it that way!" Mariel is slightly taken aback by Marivel's words. "I know you wouldn't; that isn't what I meant, really, just..."

She trails off. She is In Public and that makes it much, much easier for her to either fluster herself or just be awkward in general.

Instead, she nods - and doesn't volunteer to come with Marivel, because one, she doesn't like being yelled at, and two, it wouldn't help anyway even if she did. It's not like she had anything to do with it.

She is having a combination of second-hand embarrassment and general social awkwardness, because she's really lived out in the wilderness too long. Very quietly, she asks Kamui, "Do I have to change the flower assortment if the wedding continues with two women?"

Mariel really doesn't know, and unable to handle the bigger problems, she's decided to focus on the small one that *is* her responsibility. She's never been to any wedding where the participants changed halfway through - if it was an Elw ceremony, it would only be to celebrate a bond that already existed.

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Ashley has read a lot of novels. He's actually kind of a huge literature nerd, underneath all that MANLY MUSKETEER BLUSTER (of which Ashley assuredly has a WHOLE BUNCH for real you guys). And with Marina at his side for so many years, he... absolutely has read a few romance novels...

(How is he still so dense? It's a goddamn mystery, is what it is.)

Still, reading something and seeing it play out in real time are two completely different things. Ashley finds his heart racing as the tension builds to a breaking point, beyond which even the musketeer's neutron star-dense skull cannot ignore. He finds his hand grasping for Marina's, for reasons his brain cannot fathom in the moment.

Why does his face feel so warm? His eyes can't peel away from everything playing out in front of them...

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        It's Eleanor's time to react to Xiumei's beautiful words -- yes, Kamui thinks them beautiful, because they are honest in a time when honesty is needed most. Montgomery's mother yells, but Monty himself is standing up.

        In truth, Kamui's hoping that Monty himself has figured it out at this point; where he stands in all this, how his own feelings factor into it... because, Kamui understands, it isn't as if he's a strawman who's an obstacle to be removed. It's one thing she was too late to get to, but she's always been wondering how he actually felt about it.

        Is this what Eleanor wants? Her mother asks, and... yes. It's coming close to the moment of truth...

        Kamui intuits the meaning behind Mariel's words for a moment, takes a moment to digest them and sort her thoughts. They weren't talking about being alone. But... she understands well what she means. "... I can only hope that company from fellow lonesome, long-lived beings such as my mother and I can lessen the pain. I know it will not take it away. Because similar as they are, our pains are not one and the same."

        Marivel's standing up to tank the Montgomery Family, so she stays with Mariel for the time being. She kinda looks like she could use company right now. But then she asks a salient question. ... does she have to change the flowers for two women?

        "Ah... hm. To be honest, do flowers even understand genders? I do not think they do, nor do they care. It is about the meaning and intent behind it, is itn not?"

        Minder, meanwhile, looks to each of the people gathered around her, then up at Acacia as she kneels down next to her. She clings gently to Abby's hand. She grips her own hand tighter against it, so much that she can hear the rubber and silicon squeeze as she balls it up into a fist.

        Then... she turns to Xiumei's father.

        "Don't interrupt her," she finds herself speaking in a rare moment of courage, her expression changing straight to >:I. "You adults... you adults who've spent all your time and energy building silly fortresses of money and connections and favours to make yourselves feel better... so much that the only thing you care about is how your children will fit as a building block into that...!!"

        She hesitates for a moment. "Listen to what your own daughter actually wants for once...!!"

        ... it's only just dawning that she might be projecting extremely hard right now.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        'This is an outrage!'

        Ida takes a single step forward, putting herself bodily between the crowd and Xiumei. "Mr. Zhang," Ida says, raising her voice so as to be heard over the commotion. "I know you love your daughter dearly. I saw it, when you risked your life for her sake." She grasps the fingertips of her left dress glove with her right hand, but makes no effort to take it off--not yet. The gloves coming off is a clear signal, and she doesn't want to send it yet.

        "Then stand down."

        Surprisingly(?), one of the guests seems to agree with her; Ida watches Minder as she interjects, as well. Where did she even get that helmet, and how is it so... adorable?

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

"..." Kamui is a lot more insightful than Mariel first expected. "...It's not what I meant at all. I'm sorry to bring it up... I just can't imagine lying to yourself about it for so long..."

She, too, may be projecting a little.

Fortunately, there are easier responses. "I agree," Mariel replies to Kamui, "but I haven't been to a Granasite wedding before and they apparently have quite a lot of rules I'm not familiar with..."

<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

 
Rebecca waits with bated breath for Eleanor's answer. And...
 
... she feels surprise when her husband to be doesn't put up a fight for her, even verbally. Just cedes to her will...
 
While she's grateful for that on one hand, just the sheer willingness to step aside and abide by her decision takes her off guard. Her eyes shoot towards Montgomery's mother, shooting her a momentary look. However... then Eleanor...
 
... brings her attention right back. It's not quite an answer. She's too nervous.
 
Rather than say anything, she gives her a look of support.
 
And Xiumei asks the question again. What does Eleanor want? What does the Groom want?
 
The only thing she knows, is that whatever Eleanor decides, she'll still have her support - even if her heart might not be in one of the paths before her.
 
Then again, it wasn't before. Not really. Marriage in her eyes... well to her it's about one thing, and one thing only. No matter how much she grows up, she doubts that will ever change.
 
Minder and Ida however do draw a momentary glance... but she's not saying anything...
 
... instead letting her eyes wander out into the crowd at Avril and Dean while she waits. Does she look, a little apologetic?
 
... Well maybe just a little.
 

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

 
Someone calls out to -- Xiumei?

Venetia turns her head to look at a balding man. She glances from him to Xiumei and back, quickly estimating their relationship. Venetia reaches behind her head to tighten the bow ribbon keeping her mask on and steps forwards.

By the time she gets to him, she sees that she has but to add something to the combination. Leaning in, Venetia says to him, in a low voice, "If you stop her, right now, you may avoid an embarrassment, and you will quite likely lose a daughter in the process."

Venetia stares from three inches away.

"How do you like that kind of exchange, sir."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

'It seems like you'll have to choose.' Surprisingly, Nimue seems momentarily relieved at that; the fact that the moment is so tense, though, still kind of cows her. She doesn't outright leave the situation, but she does mostly continue shifting uneasily and looking back and forth.

<Pose Tracker> Tio has posed.

        In the back of her head, Tio assesses the situation. She is built and programmed for combat, after all. She could close the distance between herself and any guest in a matter of seconds- the Glass Slippers that she wears with her honey-gold dress allow for that. And her Mana Egg is secured on her person. Admittedly, she half expected that Odessa would try to attack a wedding with this many drifters, ARMS members and nobles at it.

        But this is not a solution Eleanor or Xiumei would be happy with. Or Marivel. Or any number of people.

        Fortyunately, Minder and Ida speak up. The young girl has a strong speech, and Tio reflexively repositions herself in case anyone DOES decide to yell at a small child.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

        Carefully -- with care -- Boudicca waits, for Eleanor and Montgomery's replies. She raises her free hand to her cheek, tilting her head in an apologetic gesture to Marivel, but she doesn't, notably, apologise for interrupting the wedding. Perhaps it would be ridiculous for her to, given how visible she is (not).

        She stays beside Minder, because Minder seems quite young and quite distressed, but she doesn't press her in any way. It's probably scary enough right now! For poor Abby, too, even if Abby probably can't see her dutiful flower assistant. (Boudicca spares a glance to the other Emmy, too, to make sure she's still all right. She's quite young, so Boudicca wouldn't be surprised if this was alarming for her. It's not how everyone said it was going to go. It's not how everyone told Boudicca it was going to go, either.)

        And the flowers have a backing track, again, but this one doesn't come from Boudicca, which is surprising. She looks to Mariel, but no, Mariel doesn't tend to create orchestral interruptions with her flowers. Of course, she has no clue who Glitz and Glamour are, so the truth is veiled to her.

        "It is not so bad to be outrageous," Boudicca says, in support. "At times, it may even be the logical decision," she adds, with a look to Montgomery. When Minder speaks up with her impassioned rejoinder to their parents, Boudicca clasps her hands together, dipping her head in a more formal nod. "... it is the nature of all beings to defy their parents' will, in time. This is the nature of becoming grown." She is, perhaps, assuming that these people who look like them are their parents. This may reveal something about Boudicca, too.

        She looks to Eleanor, now, with that same alto formality. "It seems you have spoken your will in this name, once and again. Have you the courage to state it plainly? We are here for you, Eleanor. This is your moment." Cake and all. Boudicca is glad Ida is here to say it, too. What Boudicca says... it's only for some people's ears, one way or another.

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

Xander's finally lost his patience for staying completely out of it. If Riley hasn't already exposed them, then nothing much will at this point.

"Hey," he calls out, and maybe he's giving away who he is, but he figures that's already been shot, the way Xiumei's looked at them. He turns to Xiumei's father. "Don't get so caught up in trying to fight for her stability that you lose sight of the life she's forging."

He turns his attention toward Eleanor, Xiumei, and even the groom, though he's not necessarily speaking to them. "Making them bury this part of themselves... Do you think the three of them will ever be able to give their best for the rest of you after something like that?"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

        Lanval is no stranger to family drama, but he doesn't speak up - some of it is that they can't hear him, some of it is that he's just used to the idea of watching a lot of complicated things unfold with the resultant consequences. Some emotional detachment remains inevitable, compared to the passion his fellow Oracle shows in this sort of thing.
 
        He sees Nimue's shifting glances, holds up a finger, and sees if her eyes follow it.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"Well technically the embarrassment already happened," Marivel says shortly after Venetia shares her own peace because she is, in fact, secretly pretty honest. "So you might as well go all in on your kids."

She looks to Minder though and gives her a genuine, big smile.

It's important to give children smiles.

"I'll be all too happy to hear complaints outside of the Cathedral. This is a holy place after all."

<Pose Tracker> Brad Evans has posed.

Brad flicks his fingers to Marivel in an ultra-casual barely-a-wave farewell, and then...settles in. This is a moment for different heads than his, he can tell. And the words are well spoken, he reckons.

He fiddles with his cuffs, and smiles. "Is this the world you wanted to see, Billy?" he murmurs. A place where the tyrannical desires of power can be broken by spirit and courage?

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        Gwen spots Ashley hand, going to Marina's, and...

        Gets it, with the force of a First Class I'm Already Shipping This dork and this girl he calls his Best Friend because of course he does.

        But really, if Marina is fully into this (which Marina may or may not be), how is the man this dense

        "To be able to see the moment of my potential death, but to not know quite what your own heart wants... Great idea for a novel, terrible for real life.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

        She has a lot of rather burning questions in this instant. Is it acceptable to change your mind? And, for that matter, is it typical for one to marry for status rather than for love? Perhaps a slight mistake had been made in getting the rundown from Rebecca Streisand, known romantic. But Avril doesn't dare say a word in this moment.

        Particularly not as Eleanor makes her decision. Glancing once at Dean, then across the distance towards Rebecca, what can she do but smile?

        Understandingly, at that.

        It's quite all right if it ends up being a little while longer before Rebecca can rejoin them.

        And hopefully, for Dean's sake, there will still be cake in the end.

<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Letting out a slow breath, Acacia nods - almost to herself, but along to Tio and Minder as well. Minder's ultimate realisation is one she's made herself, thinking about the situation between Eleanor and Xiumei. She knows too many parents, too many people, who are stuck in the status quo. Feeling trapped by anxiety or fear isn't their fault, but... well, all she can do is be there for them when they want to try to reach out, and maybe spur them on a bit.

        That thought makes her look to Minder for a silent moment, and then think of Yue; she huffs quietly to herself, closing her eyes. Prayer isn't something that comes naturally to her, and she's pretty sure that it probably doesn't count for Veruni - but she murmurs out a few words of hope for the future anyway.

        "Well said," she says, more fond than she expects of herself. "That's kinda why, whatever happens, I've got to stand behind them. You know?" Her camera is put away, at least for a little while... but she can't resist a little smirk towards Marivel. "In front of the press, even. Uh-- well, scratch that. Eleanor would really kill me, then."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

Lanval's finger grabs Nimue's attention. It's a meaningful change in the situation. Once she's acknowledged it's just Lanval, though, she returns to the natural fret state.

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

There are still musical flowers for Riley to lead in their song-- most recently, a group of partly opened buds have joined in to add an angelic chorale of "ahhs" as the moment tips toward hope of validation for Eleanor and Xiumei's bond in spite of the audacity of the timing and politics.

 But even so, approximately 25 percent of Riley's brain portions off to process his shock as Xander calls out from the crowd to voice his support for Xiumei and Eleanor.

Riley flashes him a jaw-dropped wow look of disbelieving excitement.

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Eleanor doesn't notice Liz or Ard; she has eyes only for a few people right now, and she is aware of her friends, but Xiumei... says she wants to stay with her. Eleanor barely pays attention to Montgomery's mother in the moment; she stares her strange yellow eyes into Xiu's green... and then smiles. "What I want..."

Her mother asked; Xiumei asked. And Montgomery seems to want to know, too. So Eleanor looks down for a moment... and makes a decision, for sure. "Please hold these, Xiu." Her beautiful bouquet, grown by Mariel, is passed to her best friend's hands. She turns--to Monty.

She steps forward, reaches out for his hands. "...Monty..."

"Thank you," Eleanor says. "For standing by me. And for being willing to marry me. But I think... I'm going to follow my heart, after all. And it looks like you...?"

"...I accept," he answers with a small proud look, a glance to Boudicca, and then again to Eleanor. "You have been a good partner. I look forward to working with you in the future, Eleanor Klein." His attention goes to his mother, "Which we will."

Eleanor breaks into a smile, though she's still crying a little. Her eyes are wet. She breathes for a moment--and then reaches to her hand, to take off her diamond engagement ring, and put it into Montgomery's hand. "...Then I look forward to working with you, Montgomery." And she takes Boudicca's cue, and looks to Xiumei again with a smile. "...I love you, Xiu."

"Mother..."

"Hold," Eleanor's mother says, the Marchioness of Klein raising her voice for a moment. "...It would be a poor exchange indeed, to lose a daughter for even fortune. Mister Zhang, it would appear that we have some negotiations to make of our own. I invite you to discuss them with me... at the party tonight."

Montgomery looks to Xiumei and says, "To be honest... I want to be known for my work, not for my marriage. Nevertheless, I will miss you and your energy."

"Really?" Eleanor answers him, surprised. "...Your stoicism was starting to grow on me a little." Danielle steps out towards Montgomery, and murmurs something. It's easy to miss what it is, as the Marchioness turns to look at the others.

She gives Minder a gentle look, Xander a thoughtful one. Ida a measured one. "My daughter has many fine friends. While I regret that I will not be adding a son to my family today... What my daughter wishes is what is most important to me. ...Unless I should still expect a marriage today, young lady? We have already made arrangements for a party."

If someone looks, Eleanor's father on the other hand is already moving towards Montgomery's mother to rather more quietly discuss the matter with her.

...Almost nobody has commented on the mood music, somehow.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

        For the amount of time he has Nimue's attention, however fleeting, Lanval waves his finger around in eccentric patterns. It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a super-- actually nah as far as index fingers go, Lanval's is all right. It's nothing special. Nothing super.
 
        Nimue returns to fretting, and Lanval lets that hand go limp, as Eleanor makes her decision, and Montgomery accepts. Without looking towards them, he just gives that dopey little smile.
 
        "It'sh all right." He says to Nimue, leaning over the back of the chair he was sitting in but now looks ready to flop over the back of. "Mortalsh are gonna do what they're gonna."
 
        Now he looks over his shoulder towards them, one eye opening up a bit more. "'n I'm pretty shure... they're gonna be happy 'bout what they're gonna do." Beat. "Did! Ha ha ha!"

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        It turns out it *is* turning out okay! Rebecca might shoot Dean and Avril an apologetic look, but Dean only smiles, both at her and at Avril and at the proceedings in general. A happy ending for everyone! He assumes!

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

"What--" Liu starts at Minder, his face reddening. His voice falters, that way that a proud person does when his pride is hit. "Don't speak to me in such a way! You don't--"

But Ida also interjects. "Miss Everstead-Rey, surely, you can see--" But Venetia, too, makes her thoughts known. He doesn't recognize her -- or Xander. His eyes widen. "I--I am simply keeping their best interests in mind!"

He tries to insist this to Xander, but his voice falters at the end. His face flushes red. And more than one person, as it happens, is enough. He hangs his head; he doesn't answer aloud, at first.

"...very well," he says, and he hangs his head.

Xiumei looks at Boudicca. She doesn't speak up to add more on; the Seraph asks her a question, and that is enough that hse lets her answer it. She looks at Eleanor -- blinks at her -- and she takes the bouquet. She blinks at Eleanor, and resists that urge to reach out with her hand and wipe her tears away.

"S-Sure," she says, taking Mariel's bouquet. She can appreciate Riley's musical accompaniment -- and the 'ahhs' that go with it -- as Eleanor speaks to her mother. She listens, carefully, as they speak. She looks back at Eleanor, then.

She smiles back. Her cheeks turn red; it's in public, after all. But, they came this far, and she can't simply ignore the moment. "...I love you too, Nora. I--ah--"

She looks back at Eleanor's mother. Her eyes widen. "Y-You--ah. Arrangements?"

Liu looks up. He blinks -- but, cowed, he nods. "Y...yes, your grace. I understand."

Xiumei looks back at the Marchioness. She laughs, half-nervous and half-awkward, and steps backward. "Wh-what?" she asks. "I-I--ah--I think... maybe we should... should have some time, to figure everything out--"

But, she is a clerk. "...but we did spend quite a few gella, and make arrangements, and..."

Eleanor may need to step in. Or, perhaps, someone else will.

As all this drama has played out, though, another drama has played out. An object of legendary craftsmanship. Something that many people in this room seek. A source of another conflict, ready to brew.

The cake.

"Ard! The power of love has become the phenomenon known as 'a distraction!' Become the night! BECOME THE NIGHT!" shouts a lizardman in a lab coat, as he runs out from the crowd. His other fancy coat and top hat are cast aside -- and so is another. There, a brown-and-red lizard man, much larger, rushes forward. He wears a breastplate and a helmet.

"Ard... Ard!"

Liz runs. He lands in front of the cake, and then raises his hand up into the air. Two fingers are extended up towards the ceiling. "On the wings of a Pearl Jam... make a miracle happen! Go, Ard! The probiscus has nothing to lose but its chains!"

  1. -1 FUNCTION (ANSI) EXPECTS 2 ARGUMENTS BUT GOT 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSoJXpCjzGY


Ard leaps into the air, straight over Liz's head. He does a midair turn, coming down belly first towards the multi-tiered wedding cake. His massive lizard snout is open to try to consume it whole.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARD!"

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        "... as someone who has had moments of living lies for a great portion of their life, it does slowly destroy you, from the inside out," Kamui explains rather gently, with all the effort and gravity of talking about whether they have to replace the flowers or not. Granasite wedding rules, however... hmmm.

        Eleanor makes her decision. She is going to follow her heart. Kamui can't help but have a smile at that; and one too for Monty, as he accepts it gracefully -- and puts the thumb under his own mother at that.

        And Xiumei in turn accepts; she says those wonderful three words, the three words that can make anyone feel the world is still going to turn out okay. Ah...

        ...

        There's a quiet moment as Minder finds herself rallied by those around her; it's a strange, foreign feeling, something she hasn't ever experienced before. To be supported, instead of... the exacting demands of her mother, to be followed without fail.

        Tio stands to protect her. Marivel is giving her a big smile. Ida and Venetia and Xander have joined in berating Xiumei's father, who starts at her and makes her flinch... but... she has everyone's support right now... she's not going to be scared.

        She's not going to be scared!

        Then Boudicca speaks words that seem to resonate with her: that it is the nature of all things to defy their parents' will. And she watches, as Liu, from their combined wishes, backs down gently.

        Is that... is that where she is, at the moment? "Does that mean I'm... 'growing up' too?" she asks to Boudicca, gently.

        Then she looks at Acacia, puffing out and trying to work out her nerves. So much that she also blurts, while she's at it and venting her frustrations: "So when are you going to be as honest as Xiumei and Eleanor are being, with... Yue?"

        Wow, way to put Acacia right on the spot, Minder!!

        ... but then--

        The cake??

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

        A happy ending for everyone!
        
        Then a lizardman dives for the cake, voracious mouth open wide to consume it in one gulp.
        
        Dean is far too far away to stop it. He can only open his eyes wide, leap to his feet, and stretch out a devastated hand.
        
        "NOOOOOOOOO!!" he wails. He might even do it in slow motion.

<Pose Tracker> Acacia Saitani has posed.

        Okay, even the Marchioness is joking about things. At least, Acacia thinks so, but does recognize how politics can often go - so she searches for a moment to pick out any signs of tightness in the noble's voice, trying to gauge how upset she might actually be before she risks opening her mouth to stuff her foot into it.

        It doesn't really matter, though. There was only so long she could hold out anyway, and she's already found herself turning to where Xiumei and Eleanor are reconnecting and holding hands, where the former is dithering. Her hands come up to cup her mouth and call over the crowd without even really thinking about it, the universal call of 'ha ha we've got you on the spot': "Speech!" she yells openly, and then slightly lower, as she cuts off halfway: "Speeurk."

        Slightly scandalized, she blinks at Minder, her mouth opening and closing for a moment. "It's not for want of trying!" she blurts back, folding her arms as she protests. "You know how she is!" She frowns, and softens a little; she can't really deny Minder this, not on a day like today. "... I'm trying," she promises again, more solemnly this time.

<Pose Tracker> Mariel has posed.

"..."

Mariel really has no response to Kamui. Not to someone she just met (and, honestly, not to someone she didn't; this touches on things Mariel is not good at talking about).

But at least there is a happy ending. Mariel feels her heart surge, and then she *does* dig out her handkerchief, just in case. Except...

"Oh - the cake...!"

<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

 
Avril's understanding smile makes her feel a bit... light.
 
Dean's smile... is he really more into romance than she than she thought??? Well...
 
... she wishes, but nah, Rebecca at least knows Dean well enough to understand it's probably not that. More the upcoming reception and general positive vibes.
 
When Eleanor speaks again, Rebecca's attention moves towards her. And her 'I love you.'... suddenly she has her hands folded over her flowers, over her chest, as Xiu answers with the same...
 
"Now kiss her." Rebecca says, mutely. So hushed that maybe the only bridesmaid beside her might hear her, if even then.
 
Even if it doesn't happen, she can't say exactly she's disappointed.
 
And then... there are two figures... running for the cake. And Rebecca suddenly hikes up her skirt on one leg, to reveal a leg holster. Putting her hand on the grip, she draws it, and lets her skirt fall.
 
"Security... Code Wh-"
 
She doesn't point it though, going cross eyed as they descend - and as Dean leaps towards them. There's something too absurd about pointing an ARM at two weirdos for cake crimes. She thought they were making a move towards the bride...
 
"... Cake. Code Cake." She amends, with a note of surreal abstraction.
 

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

"Ah... I am so glad..." Clarine says with a sigh as Eleanor and Xiumei admit their feeling. Her heart, metaphorically speaking, blossoms. She was afraid this day would only bring suffering, but it seems happiness may bloom here after all. She's pleased, but then...!

"Ah!" Clarine gasps, as a pair of lizardmen rush onto the scene! It's Liz and Ard! Their aim appears to be... the cake??

...Clarine can't be too sure that's the only thing they're after, so she looks to Nimue and Lanval.

"Pardon me...!" She says, hurrying closer to where Eleanor and everyone are gathered.

"Pardon the intrusion...!" She says. She holds out her hands, drawing upon her Seraphic powers to generate a transparent barrier around Eleanor, Xiumei, Monty, and family.

People can pass through it just fine in either direction but it will hopefully, at least, prevent cake splatter(or worse) from ruining their lovely outfits, should the worst come to pass.

She may not be able to do much else here, but she can at least offer this Important Service...

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

Xander catches Riley's look and smooshes his palm to Riley's face to cover it, as much to guard himself from that look as to protect himself from Riley seeing how red it makes him. "Shut up," he whispers.

(Riley didn't say anything.)

But he relents quickly, because confessions are afoot and Riley needs to see that, obviously.

When Xiumei stammers about maybe doing the 'reasonable' thing of more time, Xander speaks out again. There's a certain gloom in his expression. "Xiumei." He's about to do the opposite of steeping in, sorry. "I hesitated a lot under the delusion of being rational. Reasonable. There's nothing I regret more. So..."

He shrugs at her -- and covers Riley's face again, preemptively, without even looking back at him. But then he needs that hand to cover his face when lizards attack a cake.

"..."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

        They care for each other. Boudicca knew, knew it from speaking to both of them; still she smiles, to see it, here. And they can care for each other without being in love. Love is a thing which can be shared with everyone.

        She nods to Montgomery, smiling. "We shall know you by your works," she assures him, and perhaps the 'we' in that sentence is ARMS, even if he doesn't wish to be part of them. She wipes something like a tear from an eye as she looks to Xiumei, now, and says: "I believe the bouquet suits you."

        Is she calling Xiumei a good wife..?!

        At least she doesn't directly tell her to get married right here.

        But -- is she growing up..? It's a gentle little question, amidst Eleanor's resolution. Boudicca looks to Minder, and she is quiet, but entirely attentive: "Yes, and I am sure you shall be a fine young woman, whatever you choose." She knows nothing of this girl in her very expressive helmet, of course; but any youth who has come to ask that question, Boudicca knows, must be at the crossroads of their soul, and this is the day for crossroads, after all. They are a liminal space, commanded by that same moonlight Clarine has dressed in; in this is written all potential.

        Which is to say, Boudicca thinks encouraging her is worthwhile, no matter what she's specifically dealing with.

        She might have asked Minder what precisely she meant to choose, except --

        In the crowd --

        There's a lizard --

        "Goodness gracious!" Boudicca exclaims, as Liz and Ard leap into action, a hand grasping her heart as if perhaps it may well stop.

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

Confessions are afoot.

"They actually did it," Riley whispers, in wonder, as he's bringing in the triumphant brass for the big finale.

Then Xander speaks up again.

There's nothing I regret more. So...

"Xmdrrr," Riley says, misty eyed, as his face is pre-emptively smooshed to stop him from fully witnessing or reacting to this.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

        Just as the cake is in danger, Lanval goes from dopey, silly, detached laughter to suddenly looking back over to the commotion.
 
        "...One shec," Lanval says as he doesn't flop over the chair so much as somersault over it in mid-air with a grace and agility one would not commonly associate with his manifestation's body build or outward manner - but Ragnell has warned others, several times over, underestimating Lanval is dangerous.
 
        He lands on a nearby table without so much as shifting its weight or disturbing it, reaching down to grab an unopened wine bottle nearby, setting the drinking gourd down on the table (which does cause a little movement, like something heavy has been put there) as his now freed hand runs across the length of it with closed eyes as a Seraphic glyph forms around him.
 
        "This joy that doth carry the wish of wellness by those who would give to a world they would never meet...!" The wine's contents glow as Lanval steps forward, leaps up, and swings the bottle towards the larger, descending Ard with explosive force - and an incredible, voluminous explosion of liquid matter that seems to far exceed the scope of what could possibly fit within the wine bottle.
 
        Not even the droplets will be left to waste, a free hand sweeping out to maneuver each and every drop of said wine - free of glass shards - into waiting, unused champagne glasses.
 
        "May the mirth of generations past be delivered unto all this moment!" He finishes as he fails to land clean on the table, bonks his face against the side of it, and sees the drinking gourd roll off towards him.
 
        A hand reaches up to snatch that and pull it down gently. "Mmmph."

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

Somehow, it all worked out. Love triumphed in the end. Xiumei finally had the courage to declare her love, and Eleanor accepted it and for once, for once something has an unapologetically happy ending. Ashley feels his heart melt at the sight of it. Is there still going to be a wedding, though? Is it going to be a happy one? If it is, that'd be wonderful. After all, there's still a ca--

A chill runs down Ashley Winchester's spine. The world suddenly moves in slow motion. He turns his head at the preternatural sense of wrongness pervading his consciousness. A voice he only barely recognizes shouts in incandescent fury at the back of his brain, but inexplicably in the very opposite corner from where the usual guy's wroth urging.

And then he sees it. A lizard... Unhinging its jaw... TO EAT THE CAKE.

THE CAKE THAT HE AND MARINA SPENT DAYS PREPARING.

THEIR LITERAL AND FIGURATIVE CAKE BABY!!

He feels himself move before he can even register that it's happening. Ashley Winchester, as a Musketeer, has learned a number of important skills in his tenure. One of those skills is...

Ashley... grasps hold of a knife.

But not just any knife.

A cake knife.

There's a sound like exactly ten hearts and/or ammunition item of your choosing being consumed as a halo of frigid energy crackles into being around him-- a lingering aftereffect of an adventure through a certain Water Shrine in Spira. A mere visual flourish, perhaps, or perhaps it is more, as Ashley Winchester unleashes his hidden Baker Arte...

                          ITEM CRASH - CAKE KNIFE

Ashley throws the cake knife.

In a split second, it is replaced by an identical copy of said cake knife, which may or may not have condensed, by the miracle of Lunarian magic, out of the moisture in the air. Or maybe he just grabbed it from another table. Maybe, inexplicably, Marina Irington is shoving knives into Ashley's hands as quickly as he can throw them. Perhaps both? Whatever the case, the result is a torrential deluge of hurled kitchen cutlery perfectly aimed to catch the falling lizard- already possibly stunned by Lanval's own intervention- and pin it to the church's far wall.

This is the power... of a true Cake Boss.

<Pose Tracker> Tio has posed.

        As Eleanor finally says it, as the happy ending comes to be, Tio's antennae flash a number of colours, and she looks relieved. She smiles at Minder. "See. I told you." She looks to Eleanor and Xiumei. "I am happy for-" She pauses.

        Threat detected.

        There was a bridesmaid at the altar. She's gone now.

        Instead, Tio is moving like a blur as Ard charges for the wedding cake. She's way too tiny to BLOCK Ard. Instead, she raises a hand above her head. Range is about right. "Light blue!"

        A blast of water surges from the air above Tio and slams into Ard with- hopefully- force enough to redirect him.

        The fact that someone might get splashed due to a sheer quirk of angle, timing and Ard's ballistic arc.

        The cake is perfectly out of the splash zone.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Nimue has posed.

Nimue is not the type to cry at weddings. In fact, she finds the whole affair a little offputting! Too many things in common with her trauma, which, she sees everywhere, because, she is Nimue.

This, though? This is right across center plate. She actually does start crying, now; it's moments like these that make her think maybe the world *is* a little better than she feared it was, just a little kinder, a little warmer.

Of course it's instantly ruined by Liz and Ard. She's aware enough of Movement(tm) that she sees that happening quickly, but she's too stuck in her Complicated Happy Feelings to do anything about it. When Ard goes for the cake --

"... Nnnnoooooooo!!"

Transitioning from happy crying to pleading for the cake makes her sound just a LITTLE too mournful.

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

 
Having successfully helped bully a parent, Venetia seems pleased with herself. And - there is a look of wonder on her face, half-guarded, as she glances briefly at Marivel (with a sort of guarded approval) and then towards --

"Heh," Venetia remarks. "I wonder if she suspected... she's taking this easier than I thought." ("of course it likely helps that the groom's on board," Venetia continues, quietly, "and if there's any family who want to force the issue, they're not here... hm...")

And then...

Something happens.

Venetia slowly turns her head around to gaze upon the enormous reptiles who are currently threatening the piece de resistance. She moves with a leisurely slowness that comes from someone who is, in this moment, being animated with loving and highly budgeted care. She rolls her shoulders, bringing herself backwards with a clack of slightly-heeled pumps, raises one arm as she crouches just a bit, putting spring into her step.

Magic happens -- not with her --

"I'm going to do this anyway," Venetia tells Ashley, even if she takes another moment to take a deep breath and THEN crouch down and THEN hurl herself forwards in a flying jump kick towards the helmeted head of the dreaded d'Ard!

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

        Slowly, Avril blinks.

        "Oh," Avril cannot help but utter aloud. "I see."

        There will be no wedding bells today.

        Avril may still be assembling her understanding of various intricacies of custom and tradition, but it doesn't mean that she's at all silly or unobservant. The potential brides-to-be are not quite ready to plunge directly into that level of commitment immediately (and also Xiumei may perhaps desire something more befitting her role), which means that...

        This won't be a wedding but instead a party.

        'Go, Ard!'

        It's that lizardperson, Avril realizes, and she turns her head just in time to see that...

        "Had they come here intending to steal the cake? ...That cake is the symbol of their bond! I cannot permit you to have it!"

        Rebecca is not the only one who came here armed. All around the room other parties make their attempts to save the cake, ranging from water Artes to flying kicks to thrown knives. Avril...

        Avril pulls out Absolute Zero (in hilt form) from some place it had been secured under her gown and pulls the trigger. A bolt of plasmic light extends in a long arc a distance across the room.

        But will it be in time...?!

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        This is... so sweet. Bittersweet. Gwen feels tears welling in her eyes as she looks on, and takes out a hankerchief to wipe her eyes. "Like a well-done play. A surprising confession of love, echoed by two hearts about to part ways!"

        Gwen can be flowery, when she's inspired enough. Or when she is full up on the wine of Ship.

        But this goes straight out the window when Liz and Ard show their lizardy faces. "Wait, wh--"

        Desperate times call for desperate measures.

        Thankfully, Gwen got a skirt that can move with her.

        As everyone focuses on the leaping Ard, Gwen hops over a table, ducking expertly past a jump-kicking Venetia (very good form) and many knives to aim a fist towards the side of Liz's head. Right in the ear, if she remembers her lizard anatomy correctly.

        "JAM THIS IN YOUR PEARL!"

        Gwen's moment for flowery language is officially through.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida stands firm. As Mr. Zhang acquiesces, she nods once, in silent acknowledgment. He reminds her of her own father; even if he objects, she can't hate him for it. But as all three parties express their heart's desires, Ida's steady resolve melts into a warm, bright smile. Tears glimmer in her eyes as Eleanor's mother speaks out in support. "Xiumei and Eleanor are treasured friends," she says. "And Montgomery has proven himself both brave and kind. The absolute least we can do to--"

        Tio senses a threat, and is off like a shot. Time starts to slow as impulses shift from human nerves to Hyadean ones. She reaches behind her, whipping the fancy cloth off the altar and trailing it behind her. Her conscious mind catches up a moment later as the situation resolves itself--the cake is in danger, and that needs to be addressed immediately because Ashley might never (emotionally) recover, otherwise. ARMS and allies are moving in to deal with the key offender. Ida darts in beside Gwen, unfurling the altar cloth with both hands and lashing out with it, trying to wrap it around Liz and forcibly eject him. "Do you have an invite, sir," she says, her voice cold and stern.

<Pose Tracker> Violet Salazar has posed.

There's a mad scramble to rescue the cake from the rampaging lizard, and little Violet can do but cheer the people on. She didn't bring her ARM to this wedding, she has no magic, and her stiletto has a *very* limited range.

                That was a rude lizard.

                                A rude, rude lizard!

<Pose Tracker> Brad Evans has posed.

Brad has been content to let the drama play out. That's not his place, he reckons. He's thinking about his precious friend, who convinced him to fight for a world where victories like this can happen.

Then a lizard starts shouting about claiming a cake and Brad is immediately On. He sees the leap for the cake, the yawning maw - and also the three different people jumping for him as well.

But there was a mastermind, too, and Brad turns his attention...to Liz.

The big man is gigantic but he's not particularly fast. Nonetheless he rushes in with all that BIG GALUMPHING MASS. Gwen gets to the punch first.

Brad swings in from the other side in a move that may in fact just fully flatten Liz's skull.

It's ok he'll be fine, there's nothing in there.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel listens for a bit. It seems like all's well may be what ends well. At least as far as the the three people in the love triangle are concerned. She's not sure what the daddies and mommies in general are gonna think about this but it seems that it might be a little less dramatic than she expected.

UNTIL LIZ AND ARD EAT THE CAKE.

Marivel stares, words briefly taken from her mouth.

Her eyes glow red. "...You wasted Marina's cake..."

Deadly sorcerous power crackles around Marivel Armitage.... DANGEROUSLY.

"We spent FROEVER getting it just right..." Marina complains.

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

On this day, of all days, it is a day when Eleanor has no eyes for cake. This is rare, but there is something she treasures more than cake, and it is her very best friend in the whole world. Thanks to Clarine's barrier, she doesn't have to care about what goes on over there for right now; she can be safe to do nothing more than look to Xiumei as she stammers out reasonability.

Her mother notices the barrier, though not who puts it up, and instinctively moves in front of her other children as trouble begins... but it appears that the trouble concerns a cake. Rebecca will be getting an award later for her quick defense, as will Tio. ARMS in general will be well-regarded for keeping security in the face of the terrible Liz-Ard threat. Venetia's fierce kick will be noted; Avril's bolt of plasmic light gets oohs and aahs. Ida and Rebecca in particular get surprise for being bridesmaids and also action stars in the moment, and Gwen says.. something rude. Ashley... Well, people expect the baker to protect his cake, that's just normal and good. But Lanval? Lanval's only reward will be the satisfaction of a party that goes on with good wine and good cake without being ruined.

Eventually Eleanor notices all of this, but she focuses on Xiumei first. "That's okay!" she says, and waves her hands--her ringless hands--in front of herself with a nerovus laugh, "Ahahah, Mother, you're so funny!"

Though for the record, she'd probably have gone for it. ...She doesn't mind waiting, though.

As Liz and Ard get their just desserts, Eleanor moves to Xiumei to take her hand again, the flowers between them, and lean forward to set her forehead to Xiumei's, for perhaps her last act as bride-and-maid-of-honor. She smiles at her. And then--

"...Mother! I'll meet you at the party later!" she says as she pulls back, and, still holding Xiumei's hand, reaches up to her necklace and--

Blip. She activates the Teleport Gem that was set there. They disappear in green light.

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

"M-Miss Boudicca!" Xiumei calls out to Boudicca, and she doesn't lose any of her redness in her cheeks. "I-I--I'm not sure if--"

'Now, kiss her.'

Xiumei finds out she can turn redder in front of a crowd of hundred people. She looks back at Rebecca, with alarm. And then Xander calls out, too -- about hesitating under the delusion of rationality and being reasonable. She looks up at him.

Her eyes blink a couple of times. Then, she smiles at the Fangs; for now, she seems to forget -- for at least a day -- the conflict between them. "I--I understand. Thank you."

Lizards are attacking the cake. Xiumei stares as she hears Nimue's mournful cry, with a jaw open -- and a barrier appears around her, Eleanor, and the rest of the wedding party. "Th... thank you, Clarine."

Dean cries out. Liz turns and looks at him. "Yes... yes, good, GOOD! Let the tape flow through you! Pears lead to crimson! Crimson leads to bangers! And bangers lead to the wall. But Golbashoff cannot tear it down!"

Ard is not stopped by cries of dismay. He is five hundred pounds of lizard muscle and fat. He is clad in strange armor. He is under gravity's pull, his soul drawn down inexorably to his destiny. He cannot, by his will, escape it.

However, Lanval's will is wine. Ard is suddenly held back -- he hits the huge amount of wine in the air, and starts trying to swim through. Also, he drinks as he swims. "Ard... ARD--"

The cake knife hits him, thrown so expert. He spins -- and Tio collides with him with a loud 'ARD!' of protest. He flies away from the cake -- and slams into the ground, rolling a few times.

Venetia kicks him as he stands up. He falls back down and moans lowly. Avril's shot fires -- but it narrowly misses, thanks to Ard being knocked down. It shoots,instead, just over the cake -- and burns a hole in the wall. And then Liz looks back at Gwen.

"I am undone!" he yells, as he is decked down. Then, Ida's altar cloth wraps him up. "Nnngh--" He calls out. "I am always invited to every event because--ARD! Our Sun Tzu has come to Waterloo! Egress! EGRESS!"

Brad punches him. He flies out the window, shattering it -- and several pigeons fly after him. He vanishes over the horizon. Ard, for a moment, stares.

He shrugs. "Ard."

Then he leaps out the window too.

"How... strange," Xiumei says after they leave. Then, she looks back at Eleanor. She smiles, forehead against hers, and her eyes close. She sighs, a little relieved.

Then she blinks. There is a laugh, that's cut off as they both vanish in green light.

But there is cake. And, thanks to Lanval, there is also wine!

<Pose Tracker> Ashley Winchester has posed.

The cake is saved from falling lizards. Xiumei and Eleanor are off eloping on their teleporter honeymoon and definitely were not just blink-hijacked into some kind of Odessa cloning pod nightmare. Finally, Ashley picks a knife up from a table and looks around at the dinner party. "Well," he starts, "Technically the married couple was supposed to cut the first slice, but..."

They're gone. Teleported away. So instead...

"Don't worry everyone, we're all still having cake. Marina!" Ashley... takes her by the hand, and presses the knife('s hilt, despite Lord Blazer's protestations) into her palm. "Let's do the honors in their stead, eh?"

Fact: Ashley is incredibly dense.

Also fact: Sometimes... sometimes Ashley could also be pretty smooth...

<Pose Tracker> Kamui has posed.

        Kamui doesn't really expect a response from Mariel -- it is a heavy topic, after all.

        The Minder folds her arms for a moment and peers at Acacia... before relenting eventually. "Hmm... I'll accept that for now... but I'm going to get all of these people to help, if it still is going nowhere...!!"

        She looks up towards Boudicca again, when she says she'll be a fine young woman.

        ...

        "... that's all I want, with the time I have," the Minder says with lucidity that she wouldn't know is 'mature', but perhaps right now... but she watches with rapt attention, at the very brief battle happening, if you can even call it a battle. Lanval's powerful wine hit! The cake knife! And Gwen and Brad's double strike. Avril and Venetia's shot and kick...

        "... does this always happen in weddings too?"

        But before long, Xiumei and Eleanor wisk themselves away, and there's a quaint wave from Kamui as she rises up and looks towards the cake with a satisfied smile at Ashley's declaration that it should not go to waste.

        "Finally, I can relax a little... mui," she expresses as she loosens her cravat, THROWS her cape off (it covers the camera for a moment, because all Draculas have that skill), and then plonks her head in front of an empty cake plate, expecting to be served. "Cake! Cake!"

        Her body dizzily stumbles a moment later, gets snagged by her own thrown cape, and rams into a pillar.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Clarine has posed.

The Terrible Cake Thieves are dealt with, the cake itself is preserved, and Eleanor and Xiumei have teleported away to spend some well-deserved time alone. Not that she had much stake in the cake game herself - her piece is likely to be donated to Nimue, anyway.

But with the danger passed, Clarine allows her barrier to recede, relaxing a little before she turns to address Montgomery.

"As a friend of Eleanor and Xiumei's... thank you." Clarine says. She's not entirely sure yet whether he can perceive her, but it's worth saying. "...Will you be alright? Do you require anything?"

As much as she had her misgivings about this event, Montgomery himself was never the real issue.

<Pose Tracker> Eleanor Klein has posed.

Montgomery actually smiles for a moment as he looks to the space where Eleanor and Xiumei disappeared, before shaking his head and turning. He did see Lanval's trick with the wine, and gives an impressed look towards the glasses, perhaps a little more willing to show emotion after all this. Just a little. It helps that whatever the question Danielle had for him, she seems to be happy with the answer, and is now standing beside him as Clarine approaches.

Montgomery nods to her, at her thanks. "You are welcome," he answers. "...I only did what I felt was best for all involved, however. Myself included." He pauses however--at her question--and actually takes a moment to think about it.

"...I'll think on that. I suppose I need to take some time to consider what I require, now that I'm single again. But I appreciate that you would ask."

"For now... What I request is that you have a good time. After all, we spent quite a lot on it!"

That might've even been a joke.