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Explain Yourself

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Ramard was late. Perhaps not yet late enough to make a scene and leave him humiliated before the palace with some deliciously unnecessary cruelties. But late enough to sour his already sullen mood. 

Most times he was completely satisfied by simply looking at their handsome features but in times of emergency, Artois lamented the fact that he chose the Secret Police based on face. And not skills; as one may want to do. 

But Artois would wither if he was not surrounded by the most elevated aesthetics at all times. People who were pleasing to look at, and yet just plain enough never to accidentally overshadow his divine features. It was a hard task, screening people with these terms in mind. 

And things only got harder when the mundanely beautiful people he handpicked proved themselves to be below average in everything save their looks, their only redeeming quality. 

Finally, there was a knock on the door, and the Secret Police poured into the room, Ramard first. The other two followed after him: bigger trying to hide behind the smaller one, as they pulled the door shut behind themselves, careful not to make a sound.

See, now you can be careful , Artois thought to himself. 

Ramard stood straight and squared his shoulders. The bright smile he shone at Artois was insolent, considering the much different tale his stance was telling. When Artois said nothing, only stared at the three of them, his smile gradually melted off of his face. 

Ramard swallowed. 

“Your Royal Highness?” he called, cautiously. “Why… why are you wearing that...?” 

“What?” Artois looked down on his clothes.

Was there something wrong with him? The last thing he wanted to hear in the midst of his — entirely not baseless — indignation is that he dressed like some lunatic who’d earn his modest living by copying musical scores. 

“Ah… the frown,” Ramard explained quickly, scratching his head. 

He drew near, aiming to intimidate. But soon enough he found it was hard to be too intimidating when one had to tilt his head and look up at his opponent. Artois exhaled sharply and tried to ignore that fact. 

“You tell me why I am wearing it, Secret Police. I’ll wait here.” 

Ramard looked behind his shoulder, presumably for some support from his lackeys. They were both busy, trying to take cover behind him, however. Ramard laced his fingers together and began to mindlessly play with them as he spoke, a distorted smile on his face.

“So… you have heard about the mishap.” He sounded like he was about to cry.

Artois turned his back and made his way to the window. It was bright outside, perfectly unfitting with the icy cold that descended on the room. 

“I have,” he confirmed, speaking against the glass. “And I wish to hear an explanation. That is why you are here.”

“Right.” Ramard’s voice lacked his usual enthusiasm. “Which one should we start with?”

Hearing that, Artois turned back from the window.

“... what do you mean which ?