Marking of the Days

by Sincline Koutaishi

Visit to the Diya Kaitenshi

Kianumatne City, Southern territories, Forth

A long while has passed since last I spoke to my Diya. This will certainly not prove to be any fine entertainment for me. My own Diya... They have long since had their concerns that I would not be fit to lead the Diya due to my less than pure bloodline. I stand out amongst these large southerners. I have not the ridge or the sharpness of the ear that they have and I am smaller though large compared to the northerners. To them I look northern only—an offense in many ways even before the fact that my genetics are not fully that of their own people... Our people. I am part of them, whether they like it or not... Damnable purists...

The southerners are a prideful people— the ridge upon their foreheads a symbol of their purity. It is lost to mixing with northern genetics. They ache to preserve the ancient southern ways and appearances, both of which seem to be fading into the history books. Our southern tongue is complicated and the method of writing difficult to pass along to the technology of the day. The northern way had long since become the official trade language. The southern took offense to this and attempted to keep their old ways. It was simply a matter of practicality but it was a harsh blow.

Intermixings are frowned upon. I remember that Yukishanai had difficulty with his Diya when he chose to join with Hanta. Not only because she was northern and so would their children appear, but because her Diya was the greater power and he would be taking her Diya name of Sansol. A double loss for the southern ways... Then he went to live in the north with her...

For these reasons I have always had to fight for every bit of respect in this Diya and amongst my southern brothers. I will have to go about this visit in as level a fashion as possible. There will be no weakness shown. Not an ounce.

Sitting before them all in the Kaitenshi—in the seat that my father once occupied—I keep myself like a stone. I will not be moved. The discussion is racing around loudly as I scan the crowd for familiar faces.

My eyes come to rest upon one that I am familiar with and I feel a pang of worry. He is Miakuranai, the only surviving brother of my father. He stands in the back with two of his young daughters. I am surprised by his presence here for he had long ago departed from Forth, leaving behind a proud military career to move to planet Gyokete—the house of the 10th kingdom—where he made a life and a family for himself. His presence here is not a small thing for he had left on bad terms, angry with all of our Diya but mostly with father. He looks so much like him that it is rather unnerving to have his even stare fixed upon me. His youngest daughter holds to his hand and softens him to my relief. I wonder what his purpose is in being here after so long having separated himself from the Diya. Friend or foe?

I return my mind to the fray that is occurring before me now that the floor is open to addressing me directly and I fix on one man in particular who is challenging me openly. This is no surprise, particularly from this man...

"You are not one of us. You will lead us into decay! Child of a whore..."

"Nnh..." I mutter, reminding myself not to react to him sharply.

"I would wager your little mother did enjoy the pleasures of one of our people however."

The group of his usual supporters laughs at his foul humor as he continues.

"Whore or not, I can imagine she moaned with pleasure..."

He fixes his glare upon me, suddenly coming forward in aggression but I hold to my seat, just watching him. He is just trying to see if he can gain some type of reaction from me. When I do not move from his pointed approach he stops and looks rather surprised. My lack of response to his foolish actions have caused a quiet to fall across the hall and now that his mouth is finally shut I will take a turn speaking.

"Maienshin... Have you anything of worth to contribute to this discussion or would you simply care to continue on discussing the unfortunate circumstances of my birth?" I growl. If you move toward me again even slightly, I will tear you limb from limb you foul bastard.

"More than unfortunate. Insulting! You are an abomination! A disgrace upon our people and our Diya!!"

Shilne exhales hard. He is growing angry at the insults being heaped upon my head.

"I have brought honor, prosperity, and glory to our Diya. My war record speaks volumes of this fact. What has your war record spoken of? Nnnhh... Ah yes I do remember... You allowed your son—not even yet a sub-commander in the training—to lead a group of 500 men to their deaths. Glorious..."

He is taken aback by my bringing up this incident. He had thought the truth of it thoroughly buried. Suddenly the voices of anger are turned toward him and he doesn't care for it much so I continue to add to his discomfort with my words.

"There is no glory in pressing one who is not yet ready into leadership. You all know this. Yet our brother Maienshin thought it would be a quick way to Etauku's promotion. You pressed the military brothers of our Diya and forced my father's hand through honor into allowing you to lead the move on Vioal... You were to lead it, not your boy. So many lives lost and failure too. How embarassing. How disgusting... Now tell me again of how I have failed our people... How I will lead you all into decay?" Yes, I have taken a great interest in your career Maienshin... Keep insulting me and see where it will take you.

"Decay brought about by one who is stilled from combat by a woman! Your human half will be our end! You have turned away from conquer. You are weak!"

I smirk. He is going to head down that road, is he? Well fine... I will meet him half way.

"I would have thought that any full-blooded male would understand the fascination with having the purity of a beautiful young girl for himself. Certainly my father never avoided such opportunities... Like father like son, I say." There are some grunts of agreement through the crowd and I feel my courage growing.

I have picked my battle. Hopefully it is the one that will provide sufficient example of my ability to keep my calm and confidence.

"Maienshin, it is your right to seek out my title if it is your wish to. I invite you to make challenge of me and we will meet in battle. You know that I will not back down from this. So call me and I will be glad to show you of my warrior blood in this way. What say you? Do you still lead the 85th? Ah, no... You have been stripped of that duty I seem to recall. Who will fight for you? You seem not fond of it yourself."

"I will fight you myself! Come down from your stupid little throne, boy!!" He surges against the many arms that hold him back from me.

Do not move, do not react to him with motion, hold your position I remind myself... "The Kaitenshi is not the place for such things, by honor."

"Coward!!" He bellows.

"Not at all. After this is done, we will go outside and you can do your best. It has been a while since I have killed a man... Just the period of a few seyhks. You do remember Namden? A shame that... He would not bow to me, the fool... Now... Does anyone here have anything worth discussing or am I simply here to have all that has been whispered about me spoken now to my face?" I cast my gaze across the crowd.

"Baika, we do have concern over your heritage." Gehaini speaks. He is one of the elder of the Diya and well known for his level manner.

"That is not something that I can change, Gehaini. It is also not something that has mattered in my life for I have always led our troops in honor. You know this." I watch him nod in agreement. "So what is the issue?"

"You turned away from the battle with the humans, just as we were gaining their territories for our own. Why is this? Is your human side preventing you from conquering their territory as they have conquered ours in the past?"

"Hardly." I nod, "The humans are a waste of our energies and resources. We have better things to be doing with these... We have pirates pressing our borders, we have worlds that we have reclaimed to build up again, we have mouths to feed. Before all of this mess with the pink things, we had a grand empire. There was prosperity and growth all around. Where has that gone? All to athne... We have reclaimed our territory through the fine efforts of our troops and have closed the borders to the humans. If they choose to press us, we will respond with no mercy. I doubt they will bother with us since we had been crushing them to nothing. They will gladly leave us be to rebuild and carry on with their trying to expand the territories they acquired before they came pressing into ours... Are you worried we will have nothing more to fight?? There are wide borders to defend. There are still plenty of pirates pressing our western and northern borders to contend with..."

"And you are freeing the slaves, Baika. Again, it speaks of a weakness toward humans."

"They will continue to work the land and feed us from the various slave colonies. We do not need to have slaves, Gehaini. We have plenty of able-bodied citizens in need of employ. So you will have to give up your slaves, my people... You may of course retain them for wages if they are willing to stay with you and in your service... Yet I encourage you to hire our own people, who have children to feed."

"You have also fought against your father, the king. An act of high treason." Avunashi speaks up next. "Explain that."

"It is my right to face my father in combat and take his title and so I did face him... And I won the battle."

"Yet you did not end the battle. You retreated!"

"Ah, again from Maienshin." I cast my best look of disgust upon him, "Have you not finished? No... I did not retreat. I did what I had to in order to prepare to be king."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"If the Gods wanted you to know you already would be king. Keep clear of my affairs." I snap.

Mercifully there is another in the group with a level head. The women of the Diya have ringed the room in the back and have been listening patiently as usual. The eldest stands and begins to come forward. My eyes fix on her as she and two attendants make their ways through the pressing crowd, which softens and parts as they pass. She is Saitiri, eldest female of the Diya, honored and revered member of the Sisterhood of Advisors and she will either support me or I am lost in this Diya. It is not often that she speaks her mind directly to our Diya... That she is making this movement is significant.

"Bring her a place to sit." I hiss to Akti who nods and moves, going to bow to her respectfully and take a chair, following her to where she chooses to stop.

There he places the chair and bows away again as the two women who came forward with her help her to her rest in this seat. She is half facing the crowd and half facing me and my men. The hush that has fallen over the crowd is impressive. When she sighs it sounds like a roar.

"I am tired..." She began, "I am tired of all of this noise. There is no sense here. All of you have enjoyed the status this Diya has given you. You have enjoyed the bountiful harvest of success that this man has brought us. You have put him through endless trials and he has not faded from any of them. Now you hide your fear of having your luxuries removed from you by attacking him for things that are part of his life though not of his choosing. Why not spend time putting aside your fears and look to ask this man of what his intentions are? Take your example from Gehaini and not from Maienshin... Baika..." She turns her eyes to me now.

"Yes, Saitiri..."

"Why do you want to be Baika to the Forth House? Why do you want to be Ishinoa to the Empire?" She smiles slightly.

"I want to bring our people back to prosperity. I believe that I can do this with their help and I believe that I will have this help, for our people have suffered under the rule of my father as he concentrated our energies only on battle. I believe that our people are happy to have this war end. I have seen their joy. I have seen their pain. I would like to see more of their joy."

She nods slowly, "I have seen the joy and pain myself over the many years. I have seen our people celebrating at the news of your ascension and I believe that they will be glad to help you to this end. I have watched you since this began."

"I am glad that you have."

"Someone had to." She smiles again and turns back to the crowds, "None among you has the ability to do what he can. He has the happiness of our people, he has the respect and devotion of our troops. He has led us to victory, he has brought honor back to the military, he has reclaimed our lands, freed our people, defended our people. All you have done is talk of his genetics. You are all afraid and jealous, even worse. Give him your trust. I ask this of you all and you know I do not ask lightly. Do what I cannot at my age. Bow to him. He is your Baika, Ishinoa... Bow to him."

I feel myself swelling inside with pride that I have moved this woman to speak for me so well. I wonder how much she knows of what I have been doing, how many voices she has the ability to call to her to learn of the goings on in my life. I know that she has rarely had a good word for my father during his rule so she has kept herself rather silent. The women in the back go to their knees as soon as she has closed her mouth. The men in the center of the room are doubtful.

"What are you waiting for?" She asks, "Do not make me knock your knees with my cane! Or do you think you are better suited to take his position? Greedy things. Get down now!"

One by one they go down to their knees before me and then Saitiri rises from her chair.

"I would bow to you as well, however I am feeling a little brittle and so I ask you to excuse me." She nods a little.

"Of course. I thank you for your words and your attention to what I have been doing."

"You have provided me much entertainment with all of the motion you are causing. How do you propose to take in all of those slaves who are in households here and abroad?"

"Bit by bit." I say, "I will be going to Mycenea personally to discuss this matter with the officials there. I know their pains."

"And you have sent our troops to keep watch over all of our territories. I like that."

"There will be no more surprises. We have the manpower and so we will defend our people well with it. All commerce routes will have armed escort to ensure the smooth flow of supplies. I will ensure that the routes that will supply our growth are kept free of trouble."

"Good good. I suggest to you most humbly that you go and walk in the city that you call your home now. See what your people see."

"I mean to do that very soon." I agree.

"I am satisfied. Hanta... Take good care of our Baika."

"Of course taichayt Saitiri." She bows now.

Saitiri turns and heads back into the crowd, stopping short to whack Maienshin on the head with her cane where he kneels.

"Aich!!" He covers his head with his arms to ward off further blows, "Why did you do that, woman??"

"I have wanted to since you opened your mouth this morning... And I fear that if I waited until after you face our Baika, my crack on your head would be of little consequence in comparison to all of the other pains you will have." She turns her head away from him and carries on her way.

"Are there any other things that need to be said?" I ask and receive silence, "Good. I will meet you outside Maienshin, if you are still willing?"

"I am." He grumbles.

"Very well. For the rule of the Forth House then!"

With that I rise and leave the room with my entourage.

"Are you sure you want to fight him?" Shilne asks.

"I certainly do. It will be a short fight and then we will go on to make other people unhappy in this city." I pull on my gloves as we walk down the wide hall to the light of the outside, thinking more about the next stop on our journey than the fight that lies before me.

"Short fight, nnh?" He smiles and looks to Akti.

"Ready to wager already?" Akti laughs.

"20 on the King to win." Shilne nods.

"Ahhllll... I would have bet that way too. I do not accept."

A crowd has gathered outside in the center court and the soldiers in my group part their numbers so that we may pass. The courtyard is filled with life and so are the balconies that ring it for several floors. They they have all gathered here to see if my Diya will refuse to know me. What they will now see is the entertainment of a fight.

"Bow to your King!" Shilne calls to the crowd and they do so immediately. "Clear the way! There will be a fight here! MOVE!"

My men go out in an arc on either side, clearing a wide circle and warning those who are on the verge that they may be harmed. The circle grows further as a result of the warnings and I wait for my competitor, drawing my sword and throwing the sheath to Shilne. Maienshin arrives as I am stretching a bit and testing my blade on the air. He draws out his two blades to meet my one.

"Ready?" I ask with a smirk.

"Be patient." He growls and bares both of his blades to take a stretch as well. As with most southerners he is larger than I, perhaps almost my father's size. I just look at this as my advantage... There is more of him to strike.

He is taking his time and so I begin to hum something I had heard the previous day. He takes this as his opening and lunges at me suddenly, thinking I have lost my attention to what he is doing. Hardly the case. I was merely hoping to hurry him along. Blades fly and I laugh the entire time, making him very angry.

"Ah, this is too easy..." I smile as I throw him back from me and hold up my free hand, "I will put this one away." I place my hand in my sword belt on my back, palm outward. "I will fight you with one hand behind me. Come make it interesting. Wai wai... Are you still warming up?"

He cries out as he comes at me again, furious from the insult. It is only a few more moments before I end it. I am bored with this. Two more strikes and two blades go flying. The crowd scatters to get out of the way and those who still watch us instead of the airborne weapons see my boot meet the surprised face of Maienshin. He goes tumbling to the ground, rolling over and over in the loose stone that is the flooring for the center court. He looks up to find my blade at his throat. He cannot move to rise and if he strikes at me I will push the blade the little bit it would take to kill him.

"Who... Is your King?" I ask him, feeling a satisfied smirk growing on my face at his expression—mixed between surprise, defeat and hatred.

"I have no King..." He growls.

"Then you have no life."

"Eerk..." He gulps as I press the blade against him further. "No!"

"Say it then..."

"You are Baika." He mutters through set teeth.


"You are Baika!"

"I win." I laugh and take a step back, withdrawing my blade from him. "Keep your mouth shut until you have something to say that makes sense... We go!"

I turn my back on him, half expecting that he will try to be like Namden and attack. He proves to be smarter and holds his place on the ground as we leave. The crowd is half quiet and half applauding my tiny victory. I scan the crowd as we pass toward the gates but do not see my uncle or his girls.

"Good showing." Shilne mocks and gives me back my sheath, taking my thoughts away from my estranged relative's appearance.

"I am not even a bit winded. It is not any wonder he was relieved of command." I frown and think to see to it that he will go through some retraining.

Outside the walls of the Kaitenshi we reboard our transports to make the next stop. We pull away into the streets and I look over my prized blade. Hardly a new scratch. I sheathe Toumai and leave it to rest beside me.

"How long until we arrive?" I am impatient for this next meeting.

"Relax yourself, Baika." Shilne grins and enjoys some water. "So anxious for your challenges today."

"This one I look forward to... Gods it is hot in this city. I cannot wait to be at home in the cooler north."

"Ehh, this is supposed to be your home city, Baika. Do you not enjoy the sun and heat?" Akti is quite happy with it, a southerner born and raised. "It is too cold in the north, and too indecicive."


"The weather can never decide what it wants to be... Cool, rain, snow, heat. Here it is always beautiful."

"Unless you count for the heat storms!" I laugh at him loudly.

"Those are not so many." He waves me off.

"A good thing for there would not be any life left down here. I prefer the north for it is at least creative about things."

"You are southern, Baika. You should love this weather." He smiles.

"I do not. I believe that southerners claim to love the heat as some sort of foolish mark of pride. You do not love it. Admit this to me, Akti." I lean forward and raise an eyebrow at him.

"I do love it! When I have a family they will live in Vaonotiri with my Diya."

"I have hopes you enjoy their company much more than I enjoy that of my own Diya."

"Wuarikai is a fine Diya. I love them all." He grins.

"Lucky man."

"I am!"

The palace Numaiial is in view shortly—once the southern home of my father. He kept it but rarely ever lived there during my life. It has been serving as the home for the family of the highest governor in the southern territories. Today it is my fine duty to evict them. My boots find the marble stairs leading up to the fine place quickly. The local enforcement team that guards it converges rapidly at the entrance and bows to me as my men come up behind.

"Baika... We did not know you were coming to visit the governor." Their superior steps forward.

"I am not here to visit quite. Where is the governor? Stand aside!"

"Sire, we are instructed to let noone enter."

"So you are. Keep in mind who your superiors are and who this palace truly belongs to... MOVE!"

"Yes, Baika."

They part and we flow into the fine halls of this white palace by the sea.

"Bring the governor here to me, Akti. GO."

"Quickly quickly, sire." He bows and barks to the men to go with him and find the woman.

I wander about, looking at all of the finery on the walls, the furniture. This had always been my least favorite place to stay. It is too... Elaborate. Too bright. Too big. The ceilings are too high, the walls too far apart. I go to the balcony and look down upon the waves that are crashing upon the sandy brown shores below. At least the breeze off the waves relieves the damnable heat.

"Baika... Governor Michibia." Akti announces and I turn about to see her already bowing to her knees.

"My lord." She says humbly. "Forgive my state of dress. I did not know you would be coming and so was having a rare free day with my children on the beach below."

"Rise up."

She stands, half covered in sand which she tries to brush off, wearing light colored clothing and sandals, her white hair pulled back into a tail.

"What is it that brings you? May I help in some way? Perhaps you would like a drink at least?" She smiles.

Her humble nature takes me rather by surprise and I feel a pang of guilt for coming here in such a mood of hostility.

"A drink would be welcome. The heat is difficult."

"Excuse me for a moment then." She bows away.

Shortly she is back with one of the household slaves and a drink for the both of us. The human man bows as he presents the tray to me then backs away in a hurry.

"You keep humans here." I state the obvious.

"Yes, lord. I am sorry if you are offended, yet the most of them were in poor keeping in other homes and so I bought them and brought them here. Matthew, see if the others that have come would like something to drink please."

"Yes, Michibia." He goes on his way.

"Now... Of what service can I be to you?" She turns away from watching his departure to smile at me again and sip her drink.

"I have come to remove you from this house." I say plainly.

"What?" Her smile fades.

"It has been the way for the governor to live in this palace. It will not be the way any longer."

"I... Do not know what to say... We have lived here for such a long while."

"I know this."

"What will you do with the palace? What will I do with all of the humans?" She turns her head aside in thought.

"How many have you taken in?"

"Over one hundred." She smiles a little again, "Why do you think the place is so well kept? They are happy here and do good work as a result."

"All slaves are to be released at any rate."

"Yes, but... What will become of them? Where will they go?"

"You seem more concerned for the slaves than for your own family."

"Because I know I can find a new home very easily, but they cannot."

"Hnnn... Perhaps I have spoken too quickly... Michibia... I have wished to remove the government bodies from their luxuries. Luxuries that have been taken at the expense of our people. I see though that you have been doing great works at keeping this old palace in good repair."

"It is our home but it is also an imperial treasure. I do what I can to preserve it. To allow the citizens to come through and see it all... I know that it is not mine, my lord. I am quite aware of it. Yet I do have a love for this place and for seeing to its care along with my other duties... Your father was so rarely here..."

"He prefered to be in the center of the military. Not on the water."

"Will you be coming to stay here?"

"No. I have made my home in Namida... It was my intention to make this a place for officers of the military to come when they are on leave. Somewhere to spend time with their families in private, away from other family concerns and Diya interruption. Would you be willing to live here under these circumstances?"

"I would. I think that would be wonderful! It would be good for this place to have more life in it. To have the rooms be used!"

"Your humans would have some more work to do, if they are willing to stay."

"I may have to bring more here." She mused, "This change will make my husband very happy."

"Oh? Is he in the military?"

"No, he is proprietor of one of the largest hotels in the city. This will be something for his creative mind... Ahht! I will call him up to talk with us. Will you join us for late meal? We could all talk of this."

"I do not wish to interrupt your free time. I am sure you have very little of it."

"No harm. I have two more days to myself and I am quite excited by this. We have all been wondering what would happen with the freeing of the slaves. This is a fine opportunity. I know the humans will all be relieved. Please do stay! Is there anything else we should discuss before I bring my family inside?"

"Nothing of any consequence." I smile—not something I thought I would be doing this day in this place, "Perhaps I will go down to the beach with you to meet them."


"Akti, bring five. Shilne stay here and secure the premesis."

"Yes, Baika."

"Lead on, governor."

We go down the halls to the stairs that lead to the beach below where her family is relaxing. I know she is a fine governor. I have not met with her directly but I have met with her staff. They have only been helpful. I am glad to find a happy meeting here instead of the anger I had anticipated. Her family is welcoming and before long we are all being fed down by the surf. Her youngest child is stealing food from my mouth where he sits in my lap. Mercifully it is cooler down here by the water.

"Jaikois, do you think you might let me eat something?" I ask him.

"Nnhh..." He thinks it over, "No."

"Your boy thinks I am fat."

"Jaikois, are you telling the King he is fat??" Michibia laughs.

"No mama."

"The boy may be right." I pat my stomach, "I have been more than a season without any good solid exercise."

"Ahhlll, you look just fine... I have a sister that would be more than glad to tell you so herself."

"I thank you for your encouragement."

"Honestly. She is quite single."

"Very single." Her husband adds, "She is very particular."

"Enonji!" She scolds him with his name.

"Michi! She is!" He laughs, "You are better off, highness."

"She is very pretty." Michibia offers.

"Thank you thank you but I have no time for romance no matter how pretty or particular the woman might be."

I leave their company well fed and relaxed in a way I never thought I might be on this day. Numaiial Palace is in good hands and has an active future. I look back upon the white palace as we pull away from it, suddenly not finding its appearance so awful and the heat not quite so unbearable.

On the flight back to Manaleh I stare out the window, watching the towns and farms and cities go by beneath us once again. My kingdom is laid out below me and I need to attend to it as I have been reminded by Saitiri earlier in the day.



"We are going into Namida tomorrow."

"I will ready a traveling party and call to local enforcement to keep the streets clear."

"No. You and I and Akti and Hanta are going to go into the city together. No cleared streets. I want to see our people as they are. Do not argue the point with me. You will lose."

"Rrrhhh... It is my job to see to your safety. You are making it very difficult!"

"I will see to my own safety. If I am meant to find my end among my own people then so be it. I have a sense that it will not happen so. With my fortune I will die in a very embarrassing way. Perhaps I will trip on something and fall off a cliff."

He laughs at me, "I may just shove you off it myself!"

"More power to you, my friend." I continue to look out the window.

"What do you hope to see there? Nnh?"

"I hope to see how our people are living with my own eyes rather than through news feeds and economic reports. Hanta... Make arrangements for my journey to Mycenea. I will go there in 7 suns."

"Yes, Baika."

"You will allow our armed forces to accompany you on that journey." Shilne says.

"Of course. Now leave me in silence for a while."

My eyes turn back to the scenery passing below as I remember standing in the grey stone covered courtyard outside of the kaitenshi as a child. There I practiced my basic sword stances and strikes, trying so hard to please my father with my performance. I remember him sitting there beside his brother Tyonichunai, watching me... My mother sat at his feet, smiling proudly at me. I sigh and try to remember her face clearly but cannot. I only remember that she was smiling.

I remember Maienshin across the courtyard, mocking me to his peers. It did not worry me. Then he began to mock my mother and it filled me with rage. I broke from my practice and turned toward him, fixing on him, rushing at him with my practice blade... My father's voice boomed in my ears, cutting through my venom and stopping me in my tracks. I turned to see him standing from his seat, taking up his sword from where it rested beside his chair. He drew the long blade from its case and came toward me where I was halfway toward Maienshin, his expression dark... But his anger was not for me. The end of my sword found the ground in awe of his size as he towered above me.

"My son has my will to fight, if not my size to do so with success. Until he does, I will fight his battles for him, Maienshin. Your mouth moves too much. It would serve you well to let it have a rest, for one day this small boy that you goad will be a man. You may find yourself doing your last dance on the end of his blade if you are not careful... Now... You were insulting his mother? Carry on. Let your mouth move again in my hearing. I dare you..." His eyes narrowed on Maienshin and his broad shoulders squared to him. "SPEAK! Let me hear what you said to my son!!"

"I spoke nothing, Baika." He balked, no longer so bold, his friends scattering to the winds to let him stand alone in his own stupidity.

"You did speak. I heard you speak. You always speak." My father growled.

"No, sire. I would not insult your son."

"You insulted him and you insulted his mother. It will not stand. Draw your blade or I will free your body of the weight of your head!!!"

I felt so proud of him in that moment. So proud to be his son. He was defending us. Before he could cause Maienshin to be silent forever my mother had stopped him.

"Emperor..." She called to him, "Please do not fight over me."

He growled and relaxed. "How is that, Maienshin? His mother is a better man than you. Be grateful that she has saved your life today for I would love to see your expression when I show you your own foolish tongue before you die... Get out of my sight."

Maienshin did not hesitate to leave and my father took my practice blade from me, bringing me back to my mother's arms.

"They are only words." He had said to me before he released me to my mother's care.

My stomach turns over with sickness at this strange warm remembrance of my damnable dead father. It must have been from looking at those images of myself as a child. I should not have looked... I do not want to remember his clear moments when he was kind to me. I do not want to remember the times when he showed my mother affection. I want to remember the majority of his life—the violence, the hostility, the insanity. All of the things that made me glad to stand over his dying body and curse his every railing breath.

Back at home in Manaleh I attend to my responsibilities quickly and then retire to my chambers after a brief meeting with some local politicians. Here I rummage in my things to find my older clothing that I have hidden from Hanta. Inside the sleeve of one of these things is a token from my mother. She would make clothing for me as I grew during those times when she was allowed to be freer, and stitch my name into the fabric in southern characters. There they are, the three characters that make up my name and two flowers, one red and one white, stems crossed one over the other. This coat does not even half fit me any longer yet I will not part with it. Each stitch had been put there by her hand. It is one of the few things that I still have from her.

Then I dig further, finding one of the royal cloaks that Hanta had taken from my father's things during the first days when I had become King and she felt it necessary to clothe me so in a hurry. Inside of this I find the same. My father's name stitched with a single red flower beside the five characters that made up his birth name.

"Did she love him?" I wonder aloud. "Why would she take her time to do something like this? Did he love her?"

I frown. It is not a good possibility. Perhaps in his sane moments they had been close. I do not remember enough about their being together to make that picture complete... But there is evidence of this. He kept her with him though there was no real reason to. She did not bear him any other children, yet there she sat at his feet watching me practice. It had been her voice that stilled his urge to see Maienshin's blood.

"What does this red flower mean?" I hold the two things together. They are the same flowers, only there is the white one on my coat as well as the red. "And why the two? Mmhh..." Calling Hanta only serves to irritate her for my having interrupted her time with Yuki.

"Am I a cultural anthropologist? No. I am a linguist and advisor. What do I know of human culture??"

"I have no idea, angry woman."

I make a face at her through the katsun connection then click it off before she can respond, turning to look accusingly at the tin containing my father.

"You defended her... You should have kept doing so, you vile old insane thing."

I put the clothing away and go to get ready for sleeping. Before passing into my rest I watch the games. Tonight Namida University is going against Baiaryu University. It should be a fine match... It is a shame I fall asleep before the end round.

On to 14