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Ginyuu Mokushiroku Meine Liebe
Eduard/Ludwig, Marin, Camus

Chapter title is Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland.
I have given Ed’s older sister’s names, because of their part in this chapter. So, just to make sure it’s clear with the names of them. Since they don’t have canon names, I gave the oldest one the name Margarete, which is supposed to mean pearl, the second one Katarina, which means pure, and the third Angelika, which means angelic.

-----


“You have too little black clothing,” Angelika said, frowning at the selection of black clothes laid out on Eduard’s bed. She picked up a shirt to scrutinize it but she seemed to decide against having her brother pack it, and put it back down. She picked up another one, though Eduard couldn’t see the difference between the two.
“Do I?” he asked, one leg pulled up on the bed where he sat beside all the clothes two of his older sisters were looking through.
“You do,” came Katarina’s voice from the closet, where she was sifting through the clothes in search of an outfit for the wedding. All three of his older sisters had already declared, not shortly after they found out that he was going to it, that he needed help in choosing clothes for the two events, particularly when one of the two were the event of the year, this year even bigger than the Christmas celebration or New Years. Royal weddings were rare, and everyone were excited about it.

Almost everyone, Ed thought to himself, thinking about his friend in mourning. “I could always borrow something from you,” he said as he obediently stood when his youngest older sister gestured for him to do so. Angelika held up a shirt against his chest, a critical gaze on it and on him.

“I know you’re just joking, but please don’t,” the two young women said at the same time. It was far too easy to tell they were sisters sometimes, without even needing to take their similar appearances into consideration. It made the corners of Ed’s mouth twitch upwards in an amused smile. “They wear skirts in Scotland,” he pointed out. “Well, they call them kilts but there it’s manly to wear them.” Angelika looked up at him, hands still holding up the shirt. He could see Katarina look away from the closet’s content through the corner of his eye.
“I’m not going to wear a skirt to the funeral, don’t worry.” He wouldn’t do that. He already was enough of a scandal, going to the king’s younger sister’s funeral in a skirt would ruin the family’s reputation. Not to mention it would be seen as disrespectful and he didn’t want to insult his friend in any way. But he had worn his sisters’ skirts on occasion in the past, when their mother had not seen it. It was pretty comfortable, easy to move in as long as the skirts were not too long or too short. Plus, his sisters had thought it was fun once upon a time. But they were all grown up now, so he supposed that it made things different.

“Good,” Katerina said. She brought over a few articles of clothing, laying them on an unoccupied spot on the bed. Which resulted in the place Eduard had been sitting on being taken over by clothes he usually never wore because they were too fancy for his taste.

She returned to the wardrobe to give its contents another throughout look-over. “Do you even have anything suitable for a royal wedding? Really, we should have taken you out shopping for it. It’s a shame we have been so busy.”

“Sister,” Eduard looked at Katarina as she continued rifling through his wardrobe. “You always try to bring me out to shop clothes. You know I’m not very fond of it.”
“Yes, but,” his middle older sister turned to him and Angelika, while Angelika instructed him to strip so he could try on a set of clothes, “this would have been for an actual reason.”
“So you’re admitting that usually it’s for no real reason.” He pulled off his shirt as he said it, and when he emerged from it he noticed that Katarina had crossed the room to step up to him.
She tugged at his cheeks. “You are so cheeky!” she said, but she sounded more amused than anything, because there was laughter in her voice. Eduard only grinned at her, ignoring her fingers still gripping his face. “Very,” he agreed, then took a step back so he could take the shirt Angelika had chosen for him to try, and slipped it on. His sisters both pointedly turned away when he changed to the trousers she had picked. “Am I supposed to wear a tie?”

“Did you forget the explanation I gave you before, Ed?”

Eduard turned toward the door, head tilted and gaze on his oldest sisters. “Yeah, more or less. Clothes isn’t my expertise, you know.” Margarete sighed, moving across the room. “You don’t really have any appropriate ties either way. I borrowed one from father.” She stepped up to her brother, turned up the collar of his shirt and wound the tie about it.

“I have plenty of ties,” Eduard pointed out with a slight pout, and Angelica giggled as Margarete sighed when she patted Eduard on the shoulder to let him tie the tie for himself, and Katarina turned to look at the collection of ties hanging on the inside of the closet door. “You have plenty of ties, that is true. But I wonder where in the world you get them from. Over half are absolutely ridiculous. You can’t expect to wear those in public.” Eduard’s pout only grew, even as his hands worked on the knot.

“In another world, another time, I guess,” he murmured, and he was met with three identically quizzical looks. “Never mind,” he added, shaking his head. If there were a world, a time, a country, where people weren’t judged so harshly by what they wore, how they acted, where they came from, then he would like to see it. But he doubted he would. The world was in unrest, the whispers of an incoming war wandering through the streets and parlors, though Eduard knew that His Majesty intended to make sure Kuchen remained neutral in hopes that it wouldn’t be dragged into it. They would still be affected though, even if they didn’t part-take in battle. They were too closely located to countries worse off than theirs. And the world was a place filled with unfairness, harsh and difficult to live in for many. It was years since Eduard had lived on the street, and it had not been for as long a time as it were for many, but he remembered it all too well. In another world, time, country, maybe nobody would starve or live with the fear that the sunrise they’re watching may be their last one.

“Eduard?”

The hands on his face snaps him out of his thoughts, and, startled, he meets Margarete’s worries gaze. He made a confused noise, and she frowned. “Are you alright, Eduard?” Eduard grinned broadly, pushing the dark thoughts away. They were unnecessary, particularly when he was supposed to pay attention to his sisters. “Yeah, I’m fine. Why?”

“You spaced out,” Angelika said from somewhere behind him, and Eduard shrugged, pulling away to walk over to the most often neglected mirror. “I was just thinking, didn’t I have a dark tie? I must have forgotten it at the dorm.” It was a lie, and he wasn’t sure his sisters were going to believe it. But on the other hand it was true that he probably had an appropriate tie or two lying back in his dorm room. He had completely forgotten about that when he packed what he needed to bring with him.

“Sure thing,” Katarina was the one who spoke, though she didn’t sound entirely convinced. But she may only sound that way because Eduard knew that he wasn’t telling the truth. Generally, he wasn’t bad at reading the tones of their voices or the nuances of their expressions, but when his mind started to grow darker the way it momentarily did, his judgment became worse and he became worse at reading people. Yet reading people had become a necessity to survive back when he lived on the street, and was equally necessary for a politician.

He looked up from his reflection when he heard the sound of footsteps outside the room, and turned to see Henriette at the door. His sisters paused in what they were doing as well, which was scrutinizing his clothes and discussing the particulars of the upcoming wedding. Both Katarina and Angelika were engaged, and Angelika had asked Ed to make sure to remember as many details about the royal wedding as possible. Not everything made the news after all, and perhaps they could get some inspiration for their own weddings from it.

“Mother.” The four siblings greeted her, and she nodded shortly back. Henriette was silent for several moments, simply watching her husband’s son, whom she had despised and resented for so many years. “Don’t make a fool of yourself,” she then finally said. Eduard blinked in silent surprise at the comment, then nodded. “I won’t, mother.” She watched him another few moments without saying a word, then turned, disappearing out of the doorway.

“That’s her way of saying good luck to you,” Margarete said, once Henriette was out of earshot. Eduard nodded at her words. “Probably,” he agreed. It was the first time she had ever said anything that came even remotely close to ‘’good luck’’ to him, and it made him feel oddly warm. She didn’t want him to make a fool of himself because it would harm the family’s reputation even further, he knew that and he would do his very best to not damage the Braunschweig reputation. He understood that she may have said something similar but with a much colder tone than the one she had used, if this had been before the last incident where she tried to kill him. “So,” he said, not wanting to talk about Mother’s words due to a worry that the warmth he felt from them had been unfounded - which he knew he would think if he thought too much about it - and he turned to his sisters. “Does this outfit work?”

*****


The church was cold and unwelcoming, despite the nice weather outside. People had started to arrive a little while ago, and to escape talking to anyone for a while longer, Ludwig had fled into a small sacristy that was used more for storing less valuable items, rather than for preparing for service, and the scent of candles was strong in there.

Ludwig leaned against a shelf, careful to not jostle any of the items on it. He stood opposite of a small barred window, looking out at what he could see of people making their way to the church. He knew Killian was asleep in the front row of the pews, and that Elise was watching over him. Ludwig should be there with them as well, but he needed some time away from the eyes of people hungry for scandal and the misfortune of others.

He thought that a priest or other had come to fetch something when he heard a knock on the door, but he rationalized that if that were the case, they would not knock. So it had to be someone who knew he was in there. Moving away from the shelf, he went to the door to open it, and he looked down at a face he had not seen out of her group in quite some time. He stepped aside after making sure nobody was watching, and she stepped inside after doing the same. Once he closed the door behind him, he instantly grunted because she wrapped her arms around him. As she was much shorter than him, her arms were around his waist. “Marin, don’t.”

The girl stepped away, folding her hands over her black skirts. Her red hair was gathered differently today, he noticed. It was not in its usual high twin-tails. Instead, it came in a single long braid resting over one of her shoulders.

Ludwig had never been very good at making friends. With his personality, and with the way he was used to people trying to exploit his father through him, he was suspicious of people. Had he met Marin for the first time at Rosenstolz, he never would have become friends with her. But things were different, because they met much earlier than that.

Their relationship has always been split into two different kinds, completely opposite of one another. Having known each other since they were children, Marin was an ally nobody would expect him to have. Likewise, he was her ally though nobody thought him to be. In truth, he found her overly cheerful, pushy attitude pretty annoying, but he was one of few who knew that she could be pretty insightful on occasion. She was someone who knew his secret, and would never tell a soul because she shared that fault with him. Though that was something nobody would ever expect from her, considering the way she acted in public.

“You looked like you needed one,” she said, big eyes locked on him. He could see the concern in them, and the sincerity. Shy she didn’t show all her sides in public, he didn’t understand. People didn’t expect as much of women these days though to be fair, he supposed, they didn’t really expect them to be intelligent or have their own desires. Particularly not women of the aristocracy. They were supposed to comply to their father’s and husband’s decisions, marrying whoever was the most suitable to raise the family and uphold the name of the family they were born into and the family they would eventually marry into.

“There is no need.” Ludwig shook his head, and Marin pouted. “You don’t need to lie when it’s just us, Lui.”

“No ‘Lord Ludwig’ today?” he asked her, and she pouted even worse at him. Ludwig crossed his arms over his chest. He knew she was right, she was the only one that he didn’t need to lie to about who he really was, but it was an old habit by now, and his posture was defensive, his arms a barrier separating him from her, and from the rest of the world. It wasn’t so easy as to just stop hiding it in front of one single person. Maybe it was easier for her, he knew how easily she could turn back into the bubbly, talkative girl everyone else at school knew her as, but for him it wasn’t the least bit easy to do something like that. He couldn’t alter his personality, only his level of politeness, and he only lowered that when he was among people he considered friends. And he did not have many of those. A few more than before, perhaps. The shift in the Strahl class had made him closer to a few more people, beyond the little group he got along with and Orpherus. “I’m not lying,” he persisted. “I don’t need any hugs.” Because he didn’t. “If you are so insistent on hugging someone, go hug my siblings.”

The smile on Marin’s face had a weird look in it. Was it sadness? She was easier to read than most because they knew each other well, but sometimes she made expressions that made no sense. Then she sighed, one of her hands moving to her hip and the other waving at him. “Fine, but turn around so I can have a look at your ribbon.” Ludwig sighed in turn, but did as he was asked. “As I thought. You need to stop tying it upside down. How do you even do that? Still? How many years will it take before you get it right? Also you’re too tall, let me reach properly. Are you still growing by the way?” She never did manage to stay away from talking for long, and once she got started it was better to just let her be instead of trying to interrupt her. He had learned the hard way that if you tried to make her be quiet, it would only make it worse. He crouched down, a hand against a shelf for support and his other arm resting against his legs. This girl could be a menace, but she was the only close female friend that he had, and he knew that she had her own troubles. Being a girl in love with another girl was almost as bad as being a man attracted to another man. It was a little easier to get away with, though. That much he had noticed from watching the girls interact with each other.

There was another knock on the door, and before Ludwig could stop her, Marin had bounced over to it to see who it was, the dark ribbon he had used to tie up his hair still in hand. “Lord Camus~” she chirped, slipping into her public personality as easily as striking flame to a match. Ludwig’s shoulders, which had tensed at the sound of knuckles against wood, relaxed a little. Marin stepped aside to let the other Strahl candidate into the room, and he closed the door behind him as he looked over the situation with a confused look. “Apparently I didn’t get the ribbon right,” Ludwig explained to his cousin, speaking only loud enough to be heard past the sound of Marin’s heels hitting the stone floor as she walked up behind him again. He felt her gather his hair in her hands, and would have shot her a glare for the way she tugged to gather it all up in a tail if they had been alone. “Mmm, you do need a bit more practice with ribbons,” Camus agreed, and Ludwig could sense Marin nod behind him. “There you go, Lord Ludwig,” she said and stepped away once she was done. “What do you think, Lord Camus? Does it look good? I think it turned out pretty good.” Inwardly, Ludwig winced at the tone in her voice. He didn’t like public Marin very much, the her she hid away was much more preferable.

But Camus was smiling, and seemed to agree with her. “It does look good. Marin, you’re very talented with ribbons. Perhaps you could teach Lui about the proper way of tying them some time.” Camus only missed the thought the other two shared, the one that said that she has been trying to do that for years now, because of the lack of flowers in the room.

“Brother,” was heard after a knock, and the door opened from the outside. Elise was peering inside the room. “Are you coming?”

Ludwig nodded, watching Marin leave to find her family. “I’ll be there in a moment,” he said. Elise nodded, a motion identical to her brother’s, and closed the door again. Camus stepped up to him, and placed a hand on his arm. “Lui, do you, um..” Ludwig frowned slightly, and raised an eyebrow. “I’m fine. You should go and find uncle, Camus.” He didn’t need hugs. He had a feeling that that was one of the things Camus had considered asking. “Ah, yes. I’ll talk to you properly later, okay?”

“Yes. And I’ll be right out,” he assured his cousin, who lingered a few moments, but then left him alone. Ludwig forced his shoulders to relax as he momentarily leaned against a shelf again, drawing a few deep breaths. He wished that this wasn’t happening. He wished that his mother was excitedly dragging them along to look at clothes in preparation for her niece’s wedding. But that was impossible, and having the funeral looming in front of him like a big, snarling beast was making it all the more real, and he wished that it didn’t.
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