From the corner of his eye, Ladekhan sees the man beside him looking excruciatingly stoic even as he seems to blaze and burn in the dim light of the sunset. It's fitting, though, that he glows like a coal in a cooling fire, that he radiates heat. They're so close that he even smells like smoke and desert air, beneath his pungent cologne and the sweet aroma of the celestial tree's blossoms as it wafts over the terrace. He remembers visiting the Empire as a little boy, back when it still smelled of earth and not everything was coated in a heavy carapace of gold.
"Do you have any regrets?" Ladekhan asks slowly, taking another nostalgic breath.
The man continues to sit, unmoved and apathetic. Perhaps he has fallen asleep, Ladekhan thinks. He lets it pass, the question still hanging uncomfortably in the air. Then the man beside him stirs and lets out a small rush of breath and looks over at him, a shadow passing almost unnoticed over his eyes. "Hm?"
Ladekhan starts and turns. "What?"
"I do believe you had an inquiry," the man sneers. "Did you not?"
"I... ah," Ladekhan stammers, before finally mumbling, "Yes." He neglects to mention that the inquiry in question had been uttered a good two minutes ago.
"And what was it, pray tell?" The man smirks. "My aging mind addles me so terribly, you see."
Ladekhan looks out over the balcony, taking in a deep breath of the celestial flowers' sweet fragrance. "If you have any regrets." He inhales again. This time the flowers are stifled by bursts of acrid smoke and perfumes as the man chuckles softly.
"Regrets." He seems to mull this over slowly, as if tasting a fine wine. Then he reclines in his seat and closes his eyes. "Doubtful," he murmurs.
Ladekhan feels a quiet sort of anger bubbling up inside of him.
"You have no regrets, Emperor Geldoblame?" he says quietly, barely trusting himself to speak. Images of fire and death flash before his eyes. They were defenseless, they were his own people, how could a leader do such a thing? Ladekhan thinks, and he can't just bear it. "None to speak of?"
Geldoblame cracks an eye open, seeming almost exasperated. "You are most correct."
The resentment burns him, and he realizes that this is exactly what Geldoblame wants. Ladekhan seethes as Geldoblame stretches languidly, subtly throwing a layer of acrimony over the stunted conversation, like shaking a grimy sheet down over an already filthy mattress.
"Not a single thing," Ladekhan sighs to himself. Then, with a bitter tinge to his voice that he doesn't much care for, "Don't you have any civility left in you?"
Geldoblame seems to tense beside him, no longer smugly lounging.
Ladekhan scoffs ever so slightly. "Are you so used to your exaltation that you have lost any decency? Don't you ever feel as though you've done wrong?"
The emperor no longer finds this conversation funny. He smooths his hands over his thighs slowly, his brow furrowing.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Ladekhan is surprised and even a bit upset with himself, but he continues. "Do you not grieve?" he nearly shouts. "Do you no longer feel anything? Are all your people just toys for you to play with and then throw out when they cease to amuse you?"
A moment of silence passes over the two men, and then Geldoblame stands so abruptly that his chair is dashed to the ground. His shoulders are hunched, and he looms over Ladekhan, looking menacing and crude and yet somehow forlorn with his teeth bared and his eyes wide and gleaming. Ladekhan stares defiantly up at the older man, his hands twitching in his lap. The smell of hazy machina gas is suffocating.
But then Geldoblame seems to fight for control with himself, and he quietly straightens to his full height, squaring his hulking shoulders and splitting his lips into his customary smirk - but his eyes still betray him. They shine not with malice or pride, but with anger and confusion and sadness. The kohl around them shimmers with moisture.
"Wouldn't you know it, King Ladekhan," he growls, glancing nonchalantly down at the felled chair; "I believe I do indeed have something to regret now." He adjusts his robes, painstakingly smoothing his hair. "I think I'll be taking my leave of you now, my dear king," he informs Ladekhan slowly, still running slightly trembling fingers through his hair. Ladekhan bids him goodbye with a small nod, willing his own hands not to shake.
Geldoblame walks in calculated strides to the door, before wresting in open and standing in the doorway, a shadow outlined in the reds and oranges of the setting sun. "Please do inform Corellia of the mess you've made of her fine possessions," he suggests brightly, before picking up a particularly lovely vase from a table beside the door and hurling it against the wall, splattering stale water and flower petals everywhere.
As the door slams shut, Ladekhan places his face in his hands and wishes the universe had any justice.