Caius grinned at her continued blushing, the hint of some other color on the blue skin of the Eídisi a curious phenomenon that admittedly caught his less than studious attention,
"You're just saying I'm peculiar as a person, then?"
He laughed, not at all offended at her accusations of his conceit but obviously more aware of how he measured against other nobles back home in Rynmere. The mischievousness that had been in his grin faltered at her compliment and it was the young Gawyne's turn to look away, exhaling a cloud of wordless thought with a roll of his eyes as if making a face made such a kindness go away. It sarding well did not, "Well, I think I should say thank you."
There it was again, the wry tone, covering any hint of actual sincerity. It was easier to be aloof and play games than it was to reveal real feelings, unsure of how Maebella's people really worked, moreso now that she admitted to feeling like an outsider among her peers. He understood the sentiment, he did, and when she continued to bring up their first meeting, Caius waved his free hand dismissively,
"It doesn't sarding matter—I was no less rude. I'm still not."
He shrugged his narrow shoulders, her hand still tucked against his arm. For a few bits, there was a lull in their conversation and the northern noble watched her think things through out of the corner of his eye, leading them along the icy streets toward their destination. Did the pair get a couple of second glances? He hardly cared, but found the notice they received at least once interesting if not deviously encouraging.
Maebella was taunting him now, however, calling him out on his scandalous comment. It would have been his turn to blush had his aquiline features not already been flushed red from the cold. He bit his bottom lip at her question, teeth holding back his coy admission for a few bits too many, the bright amusement in his now-green irises giving all of him away,
"Fek you. I've got nothing, Mae."
He laughed, chagrined, admitting that his words were just a bluff, that he'd been playing with her. Shaking his head, Caius looked away again, stepping them onto the street down which the Devil's Advocate could be found on. This street was busier, and at this break, it would only get more so as the afternoon faded into evening under the suns of Saun. Students would crawl away from their studies for entertainment, food, and distraction, much like the pair were, and shortly, the both of them would be joining a table of other people the young Gawyne had come to call acquaintances and friends while studying in Viden.
Her giggling pulled his attention back to the blue-skinned woman's face, though, Caius' sarcasm softening at her teasing, "I think I'm past the point of being able to scandalize you with anything that I say. It would have to come down to something I do at this point, given that you seem to keep up verbally and intellectually just fine, but—"
He paused purposefully, aware that the next logical words from his mischievous mouth would have been physically
, but he didn't say them. Instead, he watched her face for a moment, curiously anticipating her reaction, before he chuckled and arched an eyebrow with what could only be called an air of challenge,
"—Anyway, it appears we've arrived, Mae."
The young Gawyne cleared his throat with a hint of shyness or even reluctance, slipping his arm from hers to hold the door for her again, this time meeting her gaze warmly as he did so. The heat from the tavern rushed out and the cold air took its place as they entered. For a moment, the warmth stung his face and made his ears ring, so different was the shift in temperature. There was a modest coat room of sorts in the dingy, sticky tavern's entrance, and Caius readily began to free himself from layers of warmth, far too hot-blooded to stand an evening drinking in his coat. If the Eídisi began to do the same, he'd reveal more of his strangely out of character etiquette knowledge, offering to assist her with her coat.
At a table near the back of the small, cramped space which clearly looked as though it could use a renovation sat Rylan, two other humans (one male, one female), and a third Eídisi who was also female. They had drinks on the table and a few other chairs had been pulled up around the rickety circle. It was Rylan who flashed them a smile and rose his blue-skinned hand to wave, apparently far more relaxed outside of the campus setting, for clearly he couldn't have arrived that much sooner than the noble and his guest.
Caius' warm hand came to rest with a casual thoughtlessness on Mae's lower back and his other returned the wave, leaning to speak quietly, to almost whisper in the woman's ear, "It's really only Mateo you've got to look out for. He's a touchy drunk. Everyone else is sarding good people. I promise."
He winked then, inviting her to join them all at the table together with a gentle nudge. The other male human, a pale, dark-haired young man with hazel eyes who must have been Mateo smiled at the pair as they approached and kicked out a chair, nodding toward Maebella before he grinned in Caius' direction,
"You never bring a guest, Ser Gawyne."
"That's not true. I brought Esine once."
Caius' laughter was calculated but wicked, and the grin that split his face told of why he'd once invited her and yet also of who she was sitting with now. The human woman whose hair was auburn and worn up in a fashionable braid, refused to look at the northern noble for his comment, but she laughed with everyone else at the table none the less. Clearly, whatever had passed between the three of them was water under the bridge now, but he couldn't help but make his point one more time. Offering Maebella the chair, Caius introduced his friends in turn as he made sure she was comfortably sat at the table,
"So you did, you clever bastard."
Mateo grinned back, the tone of his voice almost possessive before he reached for his mug of almost lukewarm ale, "Come on, introduce us. Get comfortable. We're a sorry-arsed lot, mind you—"
"Oh yes, and you're the sorriest."
Grinned the other female Eídisi, her smile warm at their guest. She let Caius speak, the northern noble indicating everyone with a pair of ink-stained fingers for pointing,
"Rylan, Mateo, Esine, and Danya. This is Maebella. Cheers."
With that, he sat next to his Eídisi guest and also next to Rylan, the pale Gawyne in the middle. While he caught the attention of the rather swarthy, busty server, she seemed neither concerned nor in a hurry, so he settled into his seat and had no idea what to do with himself, suddenly uncomfortable under the curious glances of his usual companions.
"I'd love to say everything, or even something, is particularly good here,"
Rylan apologized, smiling at Mae from over the rim of his own mug, "But it's more or less just mediocre. The point here is to just endure something alcoholic and not disgusting while enjoying the company."