Disclaimer: The characters of the Tortall realm belong to Tamora Pierce, I simply am borrowing them, as I am a particular line of dialogue from Lady Knight.
Notes will be at the end this time.
"Why do I need a date for this wedding, Peachblossom?" Kel sighed miserably as she stroked her horse. She knew which of her friends she wanted to go with, but she didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. She was pretty sure Dom liked her, thanks to increasingly blunt comments of Raoul's. She thought Neal might as well, although she was less certain about that one. Both cousins had such a manner that it was difficult to tell whether or not they were serious or simply being flirtatious.
"Kel! Are you in here?" Dom's voice echoed through the stable.
"Yes, Dom," she responded, heart skipping its customary beat, "I'm with Peachblossom!"
The sergeant strode over and leaned on the stall door, only to get a face-full of horse breath.
"Okay horsie, no leaning on your door, I got it," Dom stepped back slowly. "Kel, could you come out here for a minute?"
"Afraid of my horse?" She teased, even as she exited.
"Simply appropriately cautious, Lady Knight," Dom smiled, "Your horse is as smart as you are… and just as protective."
"Was there something you wanted?"
"Yeah, I," Dom was cut off by Neal's voice calling out, "Are you here Kel?"
"Over here, Neal," Kel replied.
"Kel," Dom started quickly, looking uncharacteristically nervous, "Would you go…"
"Kel, would you go to the wedding with with me?" Neal blurted out approaching them, just as Dom finished the same question.
"Um," Kel paused. She remembered her own words as the cousins glared at each other. 'If two men declare an interest in a woman, it is her duty to choose which one she prefers, if she does prefer one.'
That would be a lot easier if she wasn't worried about hurting her friend's feeling.
"Um, Dom, Neal, I'm…" she took a breath, "flattered by being asked by you both."
"But you can only go with one of us," Dom stepped backward. Kel looked between them. One was the man she'd come to care for, one was a good friend, someone who had been a never ending source of support. Denying one was difficult.
"Neal," she turned to the mage, "I'm sorry but you're going to have to find someone else to go with."
Both men looked surprised, but only Neal's gaze turned scared. "No, please Kel you have to go with me. Otherwise I have to ask her."
"Lady Yukimi!" He looked at her with wide, pleading eyes.
"What's wrong with Yuki?" Kel had thought they got along.
"Nothing, she's perfect!" The lanky mage ran his hands through his hair. Dom obviously understood before Kel because he spoke up.
"You're afraid she'll deny you if you ask her, or you'll make such a fool of yourself she'll never agree to talk to you again."
The knight nodded dismally.
"Neal," Kel spoke up, 'I'm not going to be your safety blanket. Go ask her." Neal appeared about to complain so Kel drew on a tone of voice she had perfected while leading the refugee camps. "Now!"
"Fine," he grumbled, looking both annoyed and slightly nauseous. He made his way out of the stables, leaving Keladry and his cousin alone.
The two looked at each other, then looked away.
"So you'll go with me," Dom smiled at her, his look just slightly bashful. Kel nodded.
"Princess Shinkonami's orders, I need a date. Since I just sent the only other person who asked me away… well I suppose I'm stuck with you."
"Lucky me. Would you care for a sword fight, Lady Knight?" Dom extended his arm and Kel laughed at his chivalry combined with such a question.
"I would love one," she replied.
Distracted by her own date, Kel gave little thought to Neal and his.
Neal paced back and forth in front of the door. Behind it was Lady Yukimi noh Daimoru, the woman he'd long thought of as the epitome of intelligence, grace, and beauty. He thought she was beautiful, short where he was tall, plump where he was skinny. He'd been attracted to her for some time, since before his Ordeal, but hadn't ever gotten the courage to ask her for a courtship.
Before he could summon the courage to open the door, it opened of its own accord. The Princess Shinkonami stood there and Neal bowed.
"Your highness," he greeted her. She took one look at him and nodded before closing the door. When it reopened a moment later, she stepped out and walked away. Behind her, stealing Neal's attention instantly, was the very woman he had come to see.
"Sir Nealan," Yukimi greeted him with a bow.
"Lady Yukimi," he returned her bow wth a fumbling motion. His tongue seemed to stick to the top of his mouth.
"Was there something you wanted?" A smile seemed to be pulling at the corners of her mouth.
"I was wondering if you had an escort to the wedding?" He managed to say.
"I do not," she replied in a teasing tone.
"Wouldgoyouwithme?" He said, a little too quickly, tripping over his words.
"I'm sorry, what was that?"
"Would you go to the wedding with me?"
"I would be glad to," He was rewarded with an unusual smile from the young woman, "It took you long enough to ask me?"
"I've been waiting. The Princess was about to ask you for me."
"Oh," Neal was a little dumbstruck. Then the implication of her words sunk in. "Ohhh."
"Was that all? A few of us were going to play with the shukusen."
"May I join you?" He asked, giving her a smile.
"You may," she replied. He offered her his arm.
Maybe this could work out after all.
And so it ends, ten years after it began. I must say, it feels good to have fixed it. Like many of my early stories on this site, I've avoided this one for many years, because I couldn't look at it without cringing. I hope, if anyone else is still around to read this, that the updates are welcome. To everyone who supported me the first time around, thank you. To those who will read this now, thank you as well. I appreciate every bit of support I get; it keeps me publishing.
Happy reading, everyone.