One Step Closer

Started by Marshal at Apr 12, 2021 8:05 PM
50 Posts

24 Posts

Marshal, as much as he wouldn't admit it, was starting to feel highly uncomfortable now. He had come here to apologize, brought a gift, and now... Now he was standing there with a paw out, still out there awkwardly hanging after the chef's kiss motion. Had he really done that? It seemed appropriate for the name of the painting and all. But then, the name of the painting... the subject of the painting... Marshal started to feel the sweat coming on and he lowered his paw, worrying them together.

"Do you... not like it?" he asked, because Raymond was the coolest person he knew--besides himself, of course--and the fact that he had gone silent and still didn't seem to him like positive things.

"The woman I bought it from assured me it's of the highest quality!" he said, wondering if it was too ugly for Raymond's taste or just not up to his high standards. Looking around at roses and paved stone walkways, he didn't know how to address this. Marshal liked to pretend he was an artiste of the highest level himself--he often told Raymond of the plays and novels he wrote! But...

Paintings... were not really in his wheelhouse...

"It's one of a kind. An original. Expensive."

He was hoping one of these things would impress Raymond.

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"Oh." These were words Raymond enjoyed hearing. Highest quality--why yes, everything he owned was of the highest quality. Original. Raymond was a patron; naturally he valued one-of-a-kind pieces of art. And lastly, expensive. It was true--all too true--that some of the most expensive pieces of art were also... the ugliest.

He looked at the painting again, aware of Marshal's mounting desperation and discomfort. The painting did have a sort of... charm to it. He supposed. "It is..." Raymond began slowly, "It has a surreal quality to it." That was the nicest way of phrasing the fact that he was a little creeped out by it. The Kiss. 

"Er... and... I don't dislike it." Hm... not convincing enough. "I mean--I like it. I do." He looked up at Marshal, who had been kind enough to stop by and give him this birthday gift. This expensive, original, high-quality birthday gift. Perhaps it would grow on him, if he hung it up in his bedroom and stared at it some more. Finally, Raymond smiled--if stiffly, prim and proper, as was his way.

"I like it," he repeated and his tone was warm and genial. "Thank you, Marshal. I will hang this up in my bedroom." Raymond turned and propped the painting up against the wall, so that he didn't have to hold such a heavy thing whilst conversing with his friend and neighbor. "By the way, Marshal. I received a rather exclusive invite to the King's Winter Ball this year." He cleared his throat quite delicately--ahem, ahem. "Would you be interested in joining me? We will be seated at table with King Nook." Quite an honor, for anybody who was anybody.

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His bedroom? Was that the highest honor?! Or was it... Marshal didn't know. It was a place where Raymond slept, so he no doubt wanted it close to inspect it as he lay in bed. But if he was really impressed with it, wouldn't he hang it in the living room, where everybody who visited could see it? Marshal couldn't tell which it was so he only nodded knowingly.

"Where else would you hang it?" he asked, as if it were a rhetorical question--but really, he kinda honestly wanted to know for real.

All of the painting and play nonsense was blasted right out of his mind at the revelation that Raymond had not only been invited to the exclusive holiday ball in the palace but that he also had a seat at the king's own table! How did he come by such an exclusive invite, when even Marshal's brother, Fin, didn't even get one?! Well, he did. Just not... as a guest.

"What? What?" Marshal couldn't believe it. For a moment, he danced in place, nervous energy filling him and then he pounced forward, grasping onto one of Raymond's arms.

"Of course I'd be honored to go with you!" This was a far cry from their interactions earlier. "You mean it? A place by the king? He must have all kinds of stories to tell..."

Marshal, as a squire, should have had more to do with him but squires were way too low on the list to be going around seeing the king all willy-nilly!

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It was an extreme good fortune that fell into Raymond's lap, he had no doubts about that. An exclusive invitation to sit at table with King Nook was practically unheard-of for mere gentry. Perhaps even some nobles were excluded! At first Raymond thought that it was a hoax. A prank. He even suspected his dozy neighbor Stitches, but the workmanship of the invitation was far too elaborate for Stitches to imitate.

Raymond had somehow fallen into favor with King Nook. He imagined that it had something to do with his ingenious invention for an early warning system to ward off pirates--in particular, that felon and ne'er-do-well Redd. Rumor had it that the Knights wanted to install his system by the docks for a test run! That was an honor in and of itself, but for a seasoned entrepreneur and inventor like Raymond, he imagined that he was merely getting his due. (Not to be... big-headed, of course.)

With Marshal's eyes lighting up and his delight immediate and obvious, Raymond grew rather smug. He nodded, as if he'd been there before. (He definitely had not.) Nothing to be excited about, though he enjoyed the pleasure this piece of news brought to Marshal. Impressing Marshal was important. After all, they were best friends.

"It came by personal invitation. Signed by King Nook himself. Come inside, I'll show you." Raymond pulled him in and closed the door--though not after a sneak peek at his roses, in case that pesky Stitches and his bugs were loitering there. "I'm going to have it framed," he continued airily, leading Marshal by the paw to his neat study. "Ah but it's a masquerade, Marshal. Will you have a mask done in time?"

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See, he knew Raymond was the coolest person he knew! Well, other than his older brother, Finlay! But Raymond was the coolest person outside his family! Raymond had obviously been raised by those who were similarly cultured and that put them on the same level. Except that Marshal had a bit of a inferiority complex; he didn't always feel like he lived up to his own family's name and he feared he wasn't cool enough for somebody like Raymond to actually take notice of. But here he was! Taking notice. Not only that, but inviting him to an exclusive place at the biggest event of the holiday season!

"I can't wait to see it," he confessed to Raymond, not even doubting that the invitation itself had to be as glorious as everything else about the King. "I'm sure he spared no expense and he sent it on the prettiest paper with gold leaf lettering. I've always wanted to write a letter in gold leaf--I even have some at home but I'm always worried I'll mess up and get it all over my paws instead of on the paper... My handwriting is impeccable, though!"

He had to add that last bit in, just in case Raymond somehow forgot how stylized his handwriting was.

Then he put up both paws to his face.

"Oh! I'm sure I can make a mask in time! I'm already thinking something gold to go with my tail stripe~!" He turned slightly to show Raymond the golden stripe--just in case he had never noticed it before!

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"You have the best handwriting on the island," Raymond agreed, nodding wisely as he led Marshal through the living area and into his study, which doubled as an office. "It's positively professional." Even Raymond himself didn't have the neat curls and dips and straight lines that Marshal did! Sometimes, when he got carried away, his writing tended to slant. (Of course, he never showed those drafts to anyone, only the finished product.)

"You should write me a letter in gold leaf." Raymond glanced over his shoulder at Marshal. "And I will write you back. Also in gold leaf. I think that would elevate our correspondence, don't you?" They did silly things like mail one another letters--even though they were neighbors and side-by-side neighbors at that! But there was something rather thrilling about receiving mail and rifling through it to discover a letter from a dear friend. 

Inside his study, Raymond made a beeline for a very officious-looking envelope. It seemed to scream authority, not merely insinuate it. No one could mistake it for normal mail, that was certain. Raymond had it in hand to show Marshal, but Marshal was showing him that attractive stripe along his tail. "Mm. That would look dashing. Perhaps midnight purple around the edges, to highlight the gold? I'll be wearing a rose gold mask with peacock pearls, we would match delightfully." 

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Of course Marshal preened under the compliments. If there was anything that Marshal loved more than... actually, there was nothing he loved more than flattery. There was something about hearing about his good qualities that made him practically glow. Of course, in reverse, he was just as easy to hurt and sink like a ship full of boulders.

"I should!" Marshal marveled over the idea of becoming penpals with his neighbor. While most would have thought it was a waste of time and penmanship and stationery, Marshal only loved the idea of using all those things to craft beauty. Along with flattery, Marshal was a lover of beauty. Even more so, creating beauty. He could spend an entire afternoon on a letter when he could have spoken the words to Raymond in person--and he wouldn't find any minute of it wasted.

He fell silent as they entered the study, and then let out a gasp when he saw the invitation in person. There it was; real and in his paws! He turned it over, read the words over and over again. Raymond's name was there, too, no mistaking it for an invitation to somebody else.

"You really impressed somebody!" he said, a little jealous, if he was honest. But no, no. No jealousy! Because... because he had become Raymond's +one and he was definitely taking him up on that offer! Looking up, his tail moved from side to side for a moment, at the excitement of making another beautiful something. This time, a mask for the event!

"Have you seen me in midnight purple? Or navy?" he asked. "I don't mean to brag but, they bring out the cream and ivory in my fur..." He danced in place as he continued. "It'll be perfect! And I'll wear a little ruff and coat! Should I bring a cane? Canes are prestigious, right? Or would that make me look like an old man...."

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Raymond's preening and self-satisfaction took on a much more subtle form. Most of it was directed inward. He might tell himself that, yes, he was a genius. That he deserved all of these good things and many more besides, for his superior intellect and mighty fine breeding dictated that he be surrounded only by the best.

Outwardly, he maybe tilted his head a few degrees off to the side and elevated his nose ever so slightly, so as to appear more noble and less... peasant-y. 

"I think a cane would look most distinguished," he said stuffily, nodding. "I shall be bringing one as well." It pleased him that they were to match. It pleased his sense of aesthetics as well, because Marshal was his companion and how he was perceived also reflected on Raymond himself! He refused to be made a fool of before King Nook. 

Which was why he invited Marshal. Marshal, Raymond knew, would not let him down. 

"I will arrange for a carriage to pick us up here, and take us to the ball." He nodded decisively. They were to arrive in style, or not at all. "Now, I think you had better get to work on your handsome outfit, Marshal." Because if he kept daydreaming and talking about it, it would never get done!

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"Of course!"

Raymond was correct, of course. Marshal had a terrible habit of talking about all the things he wanted to do... and then never getting them done. He wasn't nearly as neat and organized as Raymond was. But that wasn't to say he was messy, either. He, too, had a particular love of the aesthetic and he needed his home and clothing to reflect the beautiful things he appreciated. Now he would have to hurry home and get dressed and show Raymond that he wasn't all talk!

Backing up toward the door, he nodded his head toward Raymond.

"I'll see you later, then! At the--at the ball?"

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"At the ball," promised Raymond with a nod of his own head, quite pleased that everything seemed to have slotted neatly together. He had a companion--one might say a date?--for the ball, they were distinguished guests of King Nook himself, and their outfits would match. 

After seeing Marshal to the door and waving him off, Raymond turned back to the painting that he'd leant against the wall. He perused it again as an unexpected shudder ran down his spine and fluffed out his tail to twice its normal size. There was just something... terrifyingly unique about this piece that he couldn't place his finger on.

Still, since he'd promised, he grabbed it and went to hang it up on his bedroom wall. Maybe if he stared at it long enough, he'd find something to... enjoy about it.

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