"Indeed," Algini said, "and he is young, nandi. Youth is always a cipher, when it comes to what his influence may become. You are the fixed point. No one believes you will break man'chi."
"You will not leave the aiji," Algini said.
"Or the heir," he said. "Or the dowager."
Algini nodded. "A point of certainty. You are stability in these matters. More than the dowager herself, you represent a simple, sure number in all calculations. This reassures even your enemies, nandi."
He was startled into a grim, soft laugh. "One is glad to perform a service."
"A vital service, at a time when the aiji has issued a call."
His heart sped. "Has he, Gini-ji?"
"As of this morning," Algini said. "But certain people were already coming."
"The Kadagidi have issued a call, on their side."
"Momentum. Momentum and the will of the people. One wonders where the summons will bring a muster."
"Well," Bren said, "I shall not leave him, and he will not leave the people out there, and you for some reason a human can never understand will not leave me, so here we sit, one supposes, until the sun goes down, deeply appreciative of your analysis, Gini-ji, ever so appreciative."
"Salads," Algini said.
He had to laugh. He had to laugh aloud, touched to the heart. "Extraordinary salads, Gini-ji."
Algini was a grim fellow. But he smiled, all the same. "Aiji-ma," he said, not nandi. Not nand' paidhi, not even Bren-ji. And one could hardly believe one had just heard that word. He supposed he stared at Algini for a second.