He swore the minute this was over, he’d rip that _thing_ off of him. He cursed under his breath once more and tried to take a deep breath, only to find it impossible.
He gritted his teeth. “If I ever find the one who thought of that thing… And I’m never listening to my sister again!”, he whispered, thinking about how he got himself in this situation.
_“Oh you look amazing, dear brother! Dashing even, I dare say”, Lux said, clapping her hands with joy. Her face was lit up by her smile._
_“But it’s so tight. And it’s itching me under the armpits. I think I can’t breathe properly with that thing”, Garen said, looking at his reflection in the mirror. This is how corsets must feel like, he thought to himself._
_“Nonsense. I’m sure you can handle it. And it’s called a doublet. Your girl will find you irresistible”, Lux answered with a giggle._
_Garen tried to calm himself down and look indifferent. “For the last time, this is not about a woman”, he said, trying to sound convincing._
_“Yeah, yeah. We know.” Lux rolled her eyes and waved her hand. “It’s about the masquerade ball. I wonder though, all the previous years you didn’t care that much for your attire. This is actually the first time you ask me for advice on your clothing”, Lux giggled and looked at her brother._
_“And quite probably, the last”, he said, cutting her giggle short. “I won’t be needing you anymore, dear sister. You can go”, he added._
_“Aw, fine. But since I am such a nice helpful sister, I’m buying this for you”, she said and went off looking for the shop assistant. “Thank me later!”, she sang, trailing off with a small vibrato._
The cool Demacian breeze snapped him back to reality. It was a sweet evening tonight. Garen gazed at the scenery.
He was waiting by the large fountain on the center of the palace gardens. The neatly trimmed shrubs, trees and bushes gave off a pleasant smell, along with the flowers. Roses, he thought, I wonder if she likes them.
His ears caught up the music coming from the grand hall. As usual, Sona was the composer of the event and tonight, she really outdid herself. He had listened to her a few times during rehearsal and the only thing he could think about was dancing to a specific waltz with a specific woman.
A soft rustle made him tense. Steps. On the grass, he thought. Suddenly, his doublet was the last thing that mattered to him.
A beautiful young woman emerged from the shadows. Her mask was the first thing he noticed on her. It was an Ionian bird. It gleamed under the moonlight. The colors of the feathers matched her dress perfectly.
It was a long, really dark turquoise strapless dress that hugged her silhouette perfectly. There were small pearls sewn on it that made her dress look as if there were stars on it.
She was also wearing matching gloves, all the way to her elbow. She was hiding something; Her left hand was behind her back. Apart from a square turquoise necklace with an elegant knot on it, her neck was bare. Her hair was falling in a cascade of curls on her shapely shoulders. Golden earrings were adorned on her ears. Her lips were as red as her hair.
His eyes finally rested on her green eyes.
“Lovely outfit. You look…dashing”, she said with a smile.
“Thank you. You’re… beautiful. No, dazzling. But that’s an understatement too”, he answered, trying to find the right word.
She let a soft laugh escape her lips. “I brought us something”, she said and brought her left hand forward. A bottle of very expensive wine was revealed, along with two wine glasses. Garen was sure he saw this earlier at the buffet. He smirked. He wouldn’t ask her any questions, not tonight.
He retracted his gaze from the bottle. “I’m not going to drink. Why dull my senses when I’m in such pleasant company?”, he asked looking straight in her eyes.
“Do you plan to compliment me all evening?”, she answered back quickly with a sly smile.
“I plan to tell you only the truth”, he answered sincerely.
They both smiled. Katarina placed the bottle and the glasses on the ground as Garen approached her and offered his arm. She gladly took it and they began strolling around the garden, talking and occasionally laughing. He even asked her to dance with him when he heard the waltz. In the end, they sat on a marble bench, silent.
After a few minutes, Katarina stood up. She gazed at the sky.
He looked at her. She looked back at him.
It was time for her to leave.
Garen felt as if only five minutes have passed since they met tonight. He wanted her to stay longer, but he knew it was impossible. If she was caught, she would be thrown to prison on the very next second.
They needn’t say any words, only exchange a look. Neither of them was good with that kind of words anyway.
He watched her figure as she walked, eventually losing her as she turned in a corner. He glanced at the sky. She had an hour or two before sunrise. More than enough for her to leave the city unnoticed.
Because after sunrise, they were sworn enemies again. He would be dodging her daggers on the battlefield and she would be dancing around his sword.
_A partnership_, Garen recalled how Katarina had once described their relationship._ Our very own unique partnership_.
Word count: 940
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