“Never seen the midnight sun before?”
Chiyo tilts her head to her left. An old woman, hunched, dressed in much finer clothes than Chiyo can ever afford, stands next to her.
“No,” she says after a moment. “Have you?”
“Many times,” the woman says. “I’ve always taken this ship route down to the capital.”
“You go to the capital often? It’s quite expensive after all.”
The woman shoots a glance at Chiyo, almost affronted. “Expensive? Why, I go there almost every year with my family. We all make a trip out of it.”
Chiyo bites back a remark that she decidedly should not verbalize.
“What about you? Where are you from? Your accent is quite provincial.” The woman’s eyes narrow as she seems to regard Chiyo in a way that Chiyo despises. Malicious curiosity, perhaps? Or, more likely, plain curiosity, and Chiyo is simply nervous.
“I picked up my accent from talking a lot to some out-of-system friends,” Chiyo replies as easily as she can. “I’m Tellurian, though.” The lie slips from her tongue like a lead weight.
“Ah.” The woman’s gaze loosens its grip slightly. “You won’t make many friends at the Jovian Queen’s ball speaking with that accent.” Her tone is almost friendly.
Chiyo weights the options on what to say. “What makes you think I’m here for the ball? I’m here to take advantage of the discounted ferry prices.”
The woman snorts a laugh, though it holds a condescending undertone. “That’s a shame. To see the Jovian Queen in person… It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Chiyo does not ask the woman if she knows why the Jovian government restricted immigration and emigration. Chiyo does not ask the woman if she knows how the Queen acquired the Ganymede cloth of her dress, or the thread spun from the kelp of Europa, or her dazzlingly beautiful jewels. Chiyo says nothing, but in her head she goes over what supplies she bought at the port market.