Marking of the Days

by Sincline Koutaishi


As I prepare for the afternoon departure to Mycenea Hanta comes running into my chambers and trips up on the carpeting. I catch her before she falls.

"What is the rush, woman??"

"Baika... You will never believe!" She straightens herself out.

"Believe what?"

"The crews that have been clearing the site for the new castle at the Eastern Port... They have found something!!"

"Found what? Come to the point!"

"Ajekna." Her eyes are wide.

"Ehnn??" Now my eyes are just as wide as hers.

"An enormous vein of it! And it is a powerful one too! Mallune was very excited!"

"Gods... More wealth for the empire." I laugh.

"They are busy trying to assess how much there is. It could power all of the new Eastern Port! Congratulations!"

"At least there is good news before the bad from this coming journey."

"What's Ajekna?" Laila asks from where she has been laying out clothing for me. She has only caught Hanta's excitement and that word out of what little of our trade language that she knows so far.

"It is a crystalline power source. Very strong, very valuable for both the power it can give and the beauty of its form. Apparently the clearing of the rubble for the new castle at the Eastern Port revealed a large amount of it to be mined. It is very difficult to find for the way that it blends with the stone around it and so this is a great surprise."

"Wow. Are you happy?"

"Very." I smile. "The Empire is wealthier still. More to help our people. Had father suspected that the castle sat upon such a thing he might have torn it down himself to get to it!"

I leave Laila and Menoh behind for this trip. It may be too dangerous. Hanta is used to it all and though she shows her nerves she is doing well. She watches the swarm of cruisers that surround ours on the journey to Mycenea. They fan out in all directions to ensure our safe passage so close to the human borders. We will be gone for seven suns and so Yuki had seen her off with a long embrace that I had the misfortune to come across and interrupt, thus earning some of Hanta's anger for myself. He has become accustomed to having his wife home with him at night and it is obvious from her expression as she stares out the window that she is not happy about their separation either.

I go and sit with her after a while, leaning against her to bother her. She ignores me. I lean harder. She smiles slowly.

"Baika, you are annoying." She says gently.

"I wanted to see you smile. You are missing Yuki already."

"Nnnh hnn." She sighs, "I am too used to being with him now."

"You will be back with him soon enough."

"I know." Another sigh.

"When are you going to start having children with that man?"

"We have been trying. Unfortunately I missed being with him during my last season because I was at Galrea." Her face returns to a frown.

"Ahht... I remember. Forgive my poor timing. Next time you will be with him. I guarantee."

"Oh really?" She looks at me sidelong, doubtful.

"On my honor... Things are going well and you do not need to take care of all of my life now. Laila and Menoh are doing their best with me. You have trained them too well already! I can hear your voice when they speak to me at times. They are not afraid to tell me what to do."

"Good... Do you know that they have a little game with you every day?"

"A game?"

"Yes. Apparently they feel that you frown too much. Their game is to be the first to make you smile every day. They are keeping a score."

"That explains much of their odd behavior."

"They mean well and they both care for you. Do not stop their game, nnh?"

"I will not. Now that I know what it is they are doing, I appreciate it. Perhaps I will make it more of a challenge for them..."

"I am so proud of you, Kou. You have done more than I would have ever imagined you would and still you are doing more. You have turned your stubborn nature to a good task. Being King to the Empire and our people."

"Do you think so?"

"Yes. Do not give up. It will take time to see results but they will come."

"I have already seen much of that. I enjoy knowing that I can be more than a well trained killer."

"I enjoy seeing that too." She turns and smiles at me then kisses my cheek, "Remember that you are more than your title."

"I will. I will."

We sit and read together for several taik then Hanta brings me back to working on the details that I have left behind and those that are ahead of me. Mycenea will be an enormous challenge. The challenge of releasing the slaves on Forth has been addressed now that the list of those who are privately held has been produced. I have sent the members of the 89th to take care of finding what these slaves want of their lives along with members of local enforcement.

I am pleased with High Commander Aiwulan and his ability to assist the empire in recovery. His troops have been visiting every town and city on Forth bringing the relief packages from Galrea and so they are familiar with the local situations. After interviewing his sub-commanders I am satisfied that they will put aside their feelings about the humans and the conflict we have been in to free the privately held slaves appropriately while working with the local governments.

Sholan is doing fine works at the Ministry of Finance. After my subtle—and some not so subtle—threats to those that will serve under him there is a great outpouring of assistance. He has even worked with the Ministry of Education to provide funding for meals for the children when they are at the youth academies that are rapidly reopening their doors. This will be helpful to those families who have not enough to feed their children well yet. Things will change for them as many cities and towns have followed my example in opening their own strange restaurants, staffed by the unemployed to feed the unemployed, but the children should not starve while waiting for things to turn. I remember how constantly hungry I was as I grew. In my growth spurts I was ravenous. I wonder if I would have been larger had I all of the food my body wanted so much. I might have been more the size of a southerner.

In the two standard days travel it takes to reach Mycenea I have done much work with the patient assistance of Hanta. Many of the thoughts I have been moving about in my head are now settled and I can concentrate on this upcoming meeting.

We arrive at the palace on Mycenea where the highest of the Mycenean government keep their offices and homes. Shilne moves the men about us skillfully enough that I hardly notice their defensive motions. The High Governor comes to greet us in the main hall and bows low.

"Welcome, Ishinoa. Welcome back to Mycenea, the world your troops freed. Welcome."

He is from the time before the human occupation. The way things have been is that the Myceneans have clung to what things were before the humans came, and so many of the former government personnel that survived the occupation are still in power. Gautauma has been High Governor for tens of years and knows his people well. He also knows very well that I was High Commander of the division that freed them so he is very respectful and thankful.

Mycenea is a small-town type of world, mostly agricultural, and has long been regarded as the best farming colony in the Empire. Formalities are few here and so rather than immediately start to talk of politics Gautauma ensures that we are made comfortable. We are settled in rooms, their local enforcement are placed in deference to the soldiers I have brought with me and then we are sat down to a lunch on a sunny terrace with Gau, his wife Sataya, and some of his local Ministers. They feed us what is grown on Mycenea quite proudly, telling us of how fine the harvests have been and how fine they will be in the future. They talk of how pleased they have been that I have sent them food and seed from the stores in Galrea, how grateful the people are for this assistance.

The Mycenean recovery was my first major command against the troops of the human so-called Alliance. I had fought humans before in skirmishes and proven myself when I was younger, but not to the extent of the work we had to do to retake what was ours. Most of my career in the Military was made fighting on the far western borders against pirate incursions. For a long while the resources of the Empire had been focused upon keeping security for our people out there, protecting the planets and colonies we had trade agreements and defense agreements with. While the home port of my division was Gyokete we were often stationed far from there... And then further I went still after the passing of my mother, though no longer in the service of the Empire.

Many years later, with my own Imperial Division in hand, father chose to call us from the western borders for a challenge. It was time to pay more attention to the human insult that was pressing from the east. It was time for a Prince to prove himself to a new enemy.

"... Do not fail to return Mycenea to the Empire." My father had said to me, a fine scowl on his harsh face.

"It will be done, father." I assured him.

"No mercy." He added and with a snarl he turned and marched off down a far hall with his second—the now deceased High Commander Namden.

"Your father has given you a large challenge." Shilne remarked once they were out of earshot, raising an eyebrow at myself and Banrek.

"Your father has done more than that." Banrek—who was then my second—snarled and we turned to walk off in the opposite direction, "One division to retake a world? He wants to see you fail." He muttered.

"I know this."

"What are we going to do?" Shilne hisses, trying to keep his voice down so that our conversation is not listened to by the many who were moving in the hall we had entered.

"We are going to make him very... Very... Angry." A sharp grin took my face.

"What??" Banrek was confused indeed.

"We are going to succeed... If only to spite him." I clarified with certainty.

"How can you think this?? It is impossible."

"Nothing is impossible. Banrek, you said as much when we formed the 102nd Division with the poorest members that we could have been given. We gave them challenge and they rose to it. Now they have pride in our division for years of fine service, great combat skill and respect from the other divisions... We will challenge them again. We will win... And then we will be known by all of the Empire as the finest division..." I laughed, my head wrapped in the comfort of the dark voices that drove me so much in those days. "Father will not have the satisfaction of our failure. I will have the satisfaction of facing his surprise at our victory... Shilne... Go and work your charms on the armory master. We will need some things. Banrek, gather our commanders. I have ideas..."

Not only did we win; I kept my reputation for a low troop loss rate. It was a great victory and I was proud of my men for rising to the challenge. Once we had gone to ground to fight them the battle was won. The troops moved swiftly through the many towns and soon I stood on the terrace where we now have such a friendly meal, crouching over one of the captured human military men where he lay with his jaw dislocated from the force of my strike to his face.

"I am finished with you..." I told the wounded man, "I have shown you all my mercy. I could have destroyed all of your people... Is that what you would like? For me to command my troops to take the lives of every man, woman, and child that you have brought here? Do you think that is a good idea?" I watched the blood trickle from his mouth with great satisfaction.

"No..." He looked up at me in a dazed manner, struggling to keep his consciousness.

"I would not mind so much... For it is nearly what you have done to my own people... Yet honor says that I should not kill if I do not have to." I reached down and drew a finger through the man's blood, looking at it, "So very red..."

"Sire! The human officials have been brought!" A Sergeant called from inside, interrupting my entertainment.

"Good! Bring them in. I will gut them all, one by one." I smiled down upon my captive audience.

"No..." The man below me gurgled. "They're good people."

"How can they be? They have kept good people as their prisoners, as their slaves."

"You haven't done much better..." He said with as much venom as he could muster through the obvious pain I had caused him.

"I have seen what you have done... Experimentation... Torture... All out slaughter. There is no honor in you. You simply follow the wills of your fat pink politicians."

I reached down then, snapping his jaw back into the proper placement as the human government officials were brought in... Just in time to hear the man shriek in pain from the adjustment. A hue and cry went up in the inner chamber at the sound and I stood from his shaking body as my men were busy containing the group that had come. Some of the former Mycenean government personnel had arrived along with the group of humans and I noted that they seemed pleased with my form of entertainment.

"SILENCE or you will be NEXT!!" I bellowed at the noisy human group and then strode off the terrace toward them, keeping my eyes fixed to the man I knew to be their government leader from our intelligence—yet another fat pink human male. Though beaten he is still behaving as though we are merely an inconvenience that will soon see some punishment for irritating him, "Take that look off your face...Things are different now... What did they call you? Governor? Magistrate?" I stood before him.

"Governor." He scowled at me.

"You have enjoyed your stay here... Your people claim to be starving and so in need of our fertile lands yet you do not look to be starving." I prodded the man in his large stomach with the dagger I had removed from my belt.

"Stop it!!" The girl beside him shrieked at me.

"Ahhlll... Such an awful sound." I turned my attention to her noise, "Be quiet, girl."

"Leave my daddy alone!!" Came screaming out of her next.

"You would prefer I spend my time with you instead?" I went to stand before her, looking way down at the young woman who suddenly realized that I was unmoved by her commands and backed away from me as I put away my dagger.

"No..." She gulped.

"You are rather pretty for a human." I smirked, fixing my eyes on her and enjoying her look of discomfort. "Would you like to warm my bed for me tonight little one? Neh?"

"Don't you touch her..." Her father warned.

"It would be wise for you to keep your mouth shut." I growled at the man, turning to face him again, "Your circumstances have changed. You are no longer in control and dare you not give me an order... You are now the slaves. I am your new master, for you have found yourself within the borders of the Empire. You will bow to me as your lord and you will offer me your humble respect, for I am Prince to the Empire."

"Prince of an empire of animals." He spat back.

"Suit yourself. Do not cooperate. See where it will take you... All of you..."

I scowled upon their group and suddenly my ears picked up the sounds of a man intent upon a kill. I turned in time to see that I was correct. One of the military men in the group was rushing me, hoping to take me unaware. Brave, but foolish.

Before my own men could move in my defense I drew my sword and with one slash nearly cut the man in half. His surprised, dead body fell to the floor with a thump. The women in the group of politicians shrieked in horror and another hue went up, quickly settling when I turned about to face them again with a blood soaked blade in my hand.

"SILENCE!!" I bellowed, "Learn from this example! Do not attempt to defy us! Your days of luxury at our expense are over! There will be no one coming to save you! Be content with your new lives or die! I care not which you choose do... YOU will help us to sort out the foolishness that has gone on here." I cast a finger at the man who had been the human Governor.

"I will not help you with anything!"

"We shall see about that... Banrek! Ensure that the man there has medical attention." I nodded toward the one man I had left lying in a pool of blood on the terrace. "Take the rest of these military fools out of here before they lose more of their lives to my blade... And then when I am finished with them, take the fine Governor and all of his people into the prisons until we decide what to do with them..."

"Yes, my lord."

Banrek gestured to his men who descended on the group, taking the military men away—live, wounded or dead. A Sergeant handed me a cloth so that I could clean my blade then bowed away.

"Gau." I half turned toward Gautauma and his group of former ministers and such, "This man WILL be helping you or he will suffer the consequences of his disobedience."

"Thank you." Gau bowed.

"My people, you have seen enough unpleasantness. Go and find yourselves rooms in this place that was your home and get some rest. In the morning we will begin anew."

They departed with thanks and praise for their Prince and the 102nd Division, leaving me with the group of 23 human politicians as I sheathed my freshly cleaned blade.

"Hnnn... I do believe we will be sending you all to a night in the prisons. There you will have an opportunity to consider what you will do with your lives... Cooperate and live or do not and die... Except for you." With that I took the angry girl by the arm, "You will stay with me."

"No!!" She shrieked and tried her best to pull herself free of my grip. "Daddy!!"

"Leave her alone! You bastard!!" He lunged in our direction only to be contained by some of the Imperial soldiers still in the room with us, "Let her go!!"

"Tomorrow you may have her back, if you change your behavior. We go!" I dragged her along with me out into the main hall, she shrieking and struggling but unable to resist for my being much taller and stronger. "You are full of fight!" I laughed at her.

"Let go!!" She screeched in response.

She pulled back hard again to which I responded by obeying her command and releasing her, causing her to fall hard to the marble flooring and shriek. Then she shrieked once again when I dragged her to her feet by the bindings on her wrists.

"Saich you are loud..." I yanked her closer, leaning down to face her, "Spoiled little politician's daughter... You do not get everything you ask for." I sneered, enjoying her look of fear.

"Sire, should we take her for you?" One of my personal guard inquired.

"Ahht, no." I stood up again, "I believe that I can manage this one small rebel. Find someone to send up a meal. I am sure that this little one is used to fine meals. Are you not?"

"Oooh!!" She struggled again, rapidly putting aside her fear in trade for anger with me.

I laughed at her renewed attempts to free herself and dragged her onward through the wide halls of the palace, "A nice place, this. I am glad we did not have to destroy it to eradicate your people." I ignored her little fight to admire the architecture.

"I hope the Alliance comes here and strings you up!"

"There is a fine thought. I hope they will come. It will be a chance to destroy more of your people's weaponry." I smiled down at her quite happily until she kicked my leg, "Hnnn... Are you finished?"

"No!!" Another kick.

"Best to let you rid yourself of this venom now." I let her go free and then she tried to strike me with her tied wrists, only succeeding at injuring herself against my armored jacket to my amusement. "Are you finished now?"

"I hate you!" She grabbed a metal candle holder off one of the consoles in the wide hall and brandished it, "You big jerk!" She swung and I held out an arm, letting it glance harmlessly off the armored plating of my sleeve. Several more blows landed upon me as the men in the hall stopped their motion, amused by the scene.

"Are you yet finished?" I growled.


"I disagree... You are finished."

My sense of humor had reached the end and my hand shot forward, taking hold of her throat. The candle holder fell with a clatter to the marble flooring. The echo of it faded and all that I could then hear was the sound of her strangled breathing, her fingers clawing at my glove to free her breath.

"Quiet is wonderful thing..." I told her with a smirk growing on my face, "You can hear so much... Realize that no matter how quiet it becomes there is always some small noise that remains. You should learn to enjoy quiet... I am enjoying it now... Hearing your breath growing less and less... The sounds of your heart fighting to move... How will it sound when your life passes from you? Would you like to hear?"

"Gghhhkkk... Hhhkkggg."

Her brown eyes were enormous as they stared at me, tears streaming down her face which was rapidly changing color. I found myself fighting to restrain myself from crushing her throat.

"Feel the heat of her blood... Feel the moment of her death. Her life is for you to take..."

"Perhaps not now, hnn?"

I shuddered and released her at last. She crumbled to the floor, drawing in her breath, filling her lungs as much as she could as I watched her.

"She is not so strong as she thinks." One of the senior marksmen who passed by said to me. My blood was still rushing from the near kill combined with lack of sleep for several days, and so I growled at him viciously for his interruption, "My lord, forgive me!" He backed away quickly, bowing down low.

"Get away!" I snarled and then gathered the wheezing human up into my arms, taking her away to one of the finer upper chambers of the palace with me.

I wonder what became of that girl. Once her father began to cooperate with our officials she was returned to him, likely relieved never to have to see me again after the few hard days she had spent in my keeping. I was not kind to her...

While the rules of war dictated that Mycenea was acquired for my name and holdings as I lead the campaign that took it from the Alliance, I did not claim it. Instead I was pleased to bow before my father and surprise him further by humbly returning Mycenea to the Imperial holdings, effectively returning it to his rule. In the end, it has come full circle and is mine for I rule all of the Imperial holdings. Now here I sit, smirking at my memories and my present circumstances.

"... We have been struggling to rebuild here and this is a wonderful addition to what we have done already. Thank you thank you." Gautauma raises his cup to me in gratitude for the supplies.

"It is what I do these days. I help feed our people. I will give you more if it is needed."

"We will happily let you know!" He smiles.

"As to the reason for my journey here..."

"Yes. I have a good sense of your purpose, Ishinoa. Please speak it without decoration." He chuckles.

"Very well. I will be direct. I am here to tell you that the slaves will be freed."

"Mmh. This will not go over well." He knocks his fist on the wooden table.

"I know this. I have spoken with those members of the 133 who remained behind to become local enforcement after the expulsion of the Human Alliance. They have been keeping the balance between our people and the humans that are now slaves. I know that our people are still angry over what happened. I am angry too... Yet it is not the fault of these we have kept as slaves. I know from speaking with them in the past that they had no idea that they were being brought to a world that belonged to us. They are farmers, Gau. Farmers... Those of the human military that were left behind have been rather poorly treated, I know. When things swing hard one way they swing back hard the other."

He holds up a hand, "Say no more. You are not speaking anything that is new to us. The 133 has been very good about keeping the balance, I agree. I agree too that the military humans have been poorly treated. You should be proud of your men, Ishinoa. They were able to keep level heads regardless of the insults the humans have caused."

"Nnh... Will you refuse my request?"

"No. I will agree. I have heard of what you have done with Aykovas and that will work here too if we are able to retain those of the 133 in our local enforcement."

"Done done. How many colonies are there?"

"Almost two hundred."

"Aich..." I sit back in my seat. "That many??"

"Yes. Their numbers have grown over the years and so we have had to open more lands to accommodate the manner in which the humans tend to breed so quickly! It is strange they can do this and their children grow so slowly. It takes so long before they are able to even walk on their own. Such delicate things... It is good that we have so much fertile soil! Just feeding them is a chore."

"They must all become citizens of the Empire, Gau. They cannot be returned to the human territories. I am sure that if they all left here that it would have an immediate and negative impact upon the economy both here and abroad... But that is not my only reason for keeping them... I will visit a number of these colonies while I am here. I want to see with my own eyes that conditions are tolerable. I will see to it that you are given assistance to better the conditions that exist. We must make some reparation to them for their captivity and for being involved in this conflict through no fault of their own."

"Their people should be the ones making reparation to them, Ishinoa. For misleading them."

"Granted. But they cannot. I will be the better man and make it in their stead. I believe you will find that the humans will become fine citizens if given the opportunity to be."

"I will do what I can to give you what you ask. Offer your support and it will come to pass. There will be many that I will have to have long hard talks with in order to have their agreement."

"I do believe this." I nod. "You will have all the support that you need."

"What will you have us do with the military humans?"

"Disperse them amongst the colonies. They should have the opportunity to interact with their own, to settle in and find mates."

"Ahhll. More breeding. I think they like children more than we do!" One of the regional Ministers joins in.

"Their females are in season more frequently and their men cannot control their fertility. Perhaps you should provide them with some type of reproductive control."

"Now there is a novel idea." He rolls his eyes. "We had been thinking of sterilizing some of the male population."

"That is not acceptable. It must be an elective. We cannot treat them like livestock."

"Agreed." Gau nods, "I have been High Governor of a world that is half human for a long while... Yet this will be a new experience."

"I hope that it will be a good one in some way."

"So far it has been much better as of late than what I had been given to deal with. Your father had been difficult."

I smile slowly, "For true? I could not imagine him being as you say."

Over that comment, we all share a laugh.

I visit three of the colonies myself to have a look. In two of them, things are like they are at Aykovas. One is a little more divided. I find the reason for this to be the separations of families. They are still angry over it. I speak to the elected head of the humans about it at length.

"... Provide the list of names to the enforcers. They will work with you to find your lost families. I am here to find a family myself for one who lives on Forth now."

I watch his expression as so suddenly his ire ends.


"Yes." I take out my katsuna and show him and image of Laila as I have shown the other two colony heads, "That is Laila Fisher. She is looking for her parents. Do you know them?"

"No. Sorry. Wish I did. Looks like a nice girl."

"She is. I will keep searching on her behalf."

One thing that needs to be done is linking the colonies so that the humans can talk to each other. Perhaps they would be able to find one another in this way.

I go next to the detention center and find the military humans—those who were left behind after the recapture of Mycenea, and those who were taken in the battle we fought to return the planet to the empire. They are tense at first and my soldiers stand ready for a fight.

"Have your men stand down." I tell the human commanding officer in his language, "We are not here to fight with you. We are here to make things better for you."

"Bullshit." He snaps.

"Ehnn? What does that mean? Stop speaking your slang to me."

"It is a bad word for meaning he does not believe you." Hanta clarifies.

"Rrrhh... Colonel James, I advise you to change your attitude with me rapidly." I let him see that my patience is nearing the end by laying my hand on the hilt of my sword.

"Prince, I will not. You are the enemy, here to serve your father's vicious, murderous will."

I growl and resist the urge to draw my sword to end his insolence with death.

"Much has changed since you have been here. The only will I serve is my own and that of my people. I am Prince no more. I am Emperor. My father is dead. You would all be dead too if I so closely served his will during his life and you would not be seeing me here now if he still lived. Why not keep your mouth respectful and I will tell you how we intend to end your current living situation?"

"Extermination?" He tries sarcasm and I feel my hands tighten into fists.

"Believe me I have no worries over allowing my men to use yours as practice kill. If that is what you would choose for yourselves, so be it. I had other ideas. Would you like to hear them or is that your final decision for you and your men?"

He does not like it but he lets me speak, seeing that my expression and tone is matching my patience. Hanta has also taken a few steps away from me during my speech, fearing an impending attack.

"I will be freeing the slaves here. I have already freed the slaves on our home world and our Eastern Port. You will not be allowed to return to human territory for reasons I will not discuss with you. If you wish it you may go to join with any of the newly freed colonies here and become part of their community. If you would rather remain incarcerated here, you are welcome to do so. Those are your choices. I would imagine that going to a colony where you will be free to wander about and work and Gods willing you may find yourself a mate... Would be the better choice. What say you?"

"I hate to agree with you, but the choice you're offering is a good one all things considered. I can't speak for the rest of my men, but I would like to take you up on your offer to go to a colony."

"Keep in mind that you will be back here quite rapidly if you choose to take your freedom and then seek to rebel. If you have thoughts of fighting our people and retaking this world for your Alliance or further still freeing yourselves to return to combat duty with the Alliance... You are thinking of things that will bring you back here quickly. I have ended the war with your people and closed the borders. This world is under protection from the 76th division of the Imperial Armed Forces and some members of the 133rd who are acting as local enforcement. You would not succeed. Do you understand?"


"Be content with what you are given."

"We will be."

"Those of you who wish to join with a colony, gather your things in the next taik. You will be taken to one of two colonies to start. One that is more tropical or one that has seasonal changes including... Snow." I remember Laila teaching me this word. "Go now."

They file out quickly and within the taik they are gathering in the same hall, looking over images of the two colonies that have room to take them in, making their choices. One of them comes over and bows to me quite surprisingly. I hold up a hand to prevent the sergeants who flank me in defense from harming him.

"Sergeant Phillips, sire." He says in introduction.


"You shot me down yourself, sire. Good shot."

"I do my best."

"You're a damn good pilot. Hate to say so, but you are. Good to meet you. Thanks for letting us go."

"You are welcome. Thank you for the compliment."

"Well deserved... Hey, is the war really over?"

"It is. There is some ongoing argument over trade routes but that is all."

"Amazing. Thanks." He goes on his way.

The transports are loaded and off they go onward to their new lives. I hope for their sakes that they keep low and quiet and just enjoy them. To the other colonies I send out a formal proclamation of their freedom and the conditions. I empower the remaining enforcers to continue with their work and thank them for their service. The last of it is to leave an image of Laila and ask for any information regarding her family. Now all I can do is wait to see what comes of things. Laila can wait to see if she can find her family again.

My last day is spent going over reports with the local ministers and then at last relaxing a little, sitting out on one of the expansive palace balconies. As I am sitting and dozing in there in the sun I hear someone calling to me.

"Prince? Is that you?"

I open my eyes and look off to the side where a young human woman is bowing down to me.

"I thought it was!" She smiles.

"Hnn? I am Prince no longer." I return her smile, very glad to see that the girl I had so terrified has turned into a lovely young woman, "I am Baika to the Forth House now. Ishinoa to the Empire."

"That's right. I'm sorry. I guess I'll just always think of you as Prince." She shrugs.

"I am not offended... How are you Sara?" I sit up in the chair I had been reclining upon.

"I'm doing pretty good, thanks."

"You may rise up and join me."

"Thank you." She gets up and comes over, seeming a little nervous, "I'm surprised you remember me. It's been years now."

"I do not forget so easily... You have grown some since last I saw you. In more than one way... I see you have a child coming along, nnh?" Her belly is quite round with her pregnancy.

"Yes... Another couple of months to go." She smiles happily.

"What has become of you? Do you live in a colony near this town?"

"We... My father and I still live here in the palace." She hedges, "We've... Been trying to keep out of the way while you've been here but I just couldn't keep from saying hello to you."

"Ahht... Gau has been hiding you for worry over my temper."

"Pretty much." She agrees with a shrug.

"I am surprised to hear that you and your father have remained here instead of going off to one of the colonies."

"Well... It was our home for a while and we weren't so ready to give it up I guess... And Governor Gau and my father made amends and became friends. I started to help the Governor's wife with their children so she could focus on the rebuilding efforts... In the beginning it was hard but it has all been very friendly overall."

"Good good... You have found yourself a mate amongst your people. A husband."

"Not exactly." She laughs.

"What do you mean?"

"Well... Umm..." She pulls up her right sleeve and to my amazement there is an intricate silver band there on her wrist. A matrai—symbol of marriage. "Governor Gautauma's oldest son..."

"You... Have married his son?" I laugh in surprise.

"Yep." She nods. "It's not exactly a happy thing elsewhere in his family." She made her eyes wide at the understatement and pulled her sleeve down again.

"Hnn..." I smirk, "For all your anger toward us you have taken yourself a blue husband."

"Sure did... He came home from the army, from the Imperial Forces after your troops took over... And we met and... It just didn't matter what color he was. I just loved him. He loved me. Now we have a little one on the way... I'm very happy."

"I am pleased for you... Is your husband good to you?"

"Mmh mhh. Very. He left his commission in the Imperial Forces and joined the Mycenean Local Enforcement. He's very excited about the baby."

"He should be! Have you everything you need for your child?"

"Yes. We've been collecting loads of stuff."

"Good good... Will this be a girl or a boy child?"

"A little girl. Maybe not so little. She weighs a ton! Excuse me, I don't mean to be rude but I really have to sit down."

"Understandable. What name have you chosen?" I pour her a cup of the local tea as she eases herself into a chair beside mine with some amusing effort.

"Thank you... I'm trying to pick between a few. It was so funny when Nandesh told me I would be responsible for choosing. That it's tradition in your culture for the woman to choose."

"It is indeed. A woman has the right to name her children. It is the way."

"I have learned a lot about your people these past few years." She nods and sips at her cup, "Baika... I wanted to say thank you to you."

"Thank me? For what? Tormenting you when you were younger?"

"Yes actually... I was a spoiled little brat really. My father sheltered me so much when my mother died. Let's just say you were a real wake up call." She shakes her head, perhaps remembering my hard words to her years before... "You could have wiped us all out, just killed us... But you didn't... So I thank you for that too...I can't believe how awfully we treated your people... So I am sorry too."

I find myself very surprised by her words, "The Gods have strange ways of making our lives, girl. It is time now to just move onward. Your people are being freed here and elsewhere in the Empire, you know."

"Yes, I was told. Thank you for that too."

Still she looks worried.

"The war is over." I offer.

"I hope so." She sighs and sips her tea.

"What do you mean by that?"

"From what I have learned I wonder if our people will let the war really end."

"They will not be able to cross our borders again. The war is done. I have made certain that there will be quiet here. Quiet for you and your children. Seeing you happy in this life you have chosen gives me hope for our futures."

"I have a lot of hopes too... Hopes that one day his family will accept me aside from his father and mother. Hopes that our daughter will be healthy and happy. Hopes that one day Nandesh will be able to say proudly that he is my husband to all people and not have them feel annoyed. That will take a while."

"But he is good to you..."

"Yes. Yes he is... Really! You don't have to look like that."

"Nnh... I will meet your husband perhaps before I leave."

"He'll be at dinner tonight if you're staying."

"I am. I will have some words with your husband."

"Believe me my father already did! Loads of them. Big, loud, loads of them."

"Then your father is a good man." I laugh.

"Yeah he is, despite what you thought when you met him."

Another enjoyable meal comes, surrounded by friendly faces including the children of the Governor. I see that Nandesh is a fine husband for Sara so I no longer worry about confronting him. The families are well settled together with a child coming to complete the bond between them. The mother-to-be shows us her skills with an instrument called 'violin' that she had brought with her from Earth. She then turns over the violin to the oldest of the Governor's girls, Nasima, and she plays for a while. So she has been teaching them and very well too.

Shilne calls praises for her when she finishes along with the rest as she bows to her appreciative audience. She wears a large smile, pleased that she has done well.

"I think I should like my daughter to learn this instrument." Shilne muses.

"You do not have a daughter." I remind.

"Not yet. One day I will." He grins and scoops up Nitia, the youngest, as she goes by. "Helloooo little one."

"Hello! You are big like my brother, Nandesh." She remarks and pokes at his chest.

"Yes. We have both been in the military for a while so that is how we grow so large." He agrees, "Do you think I would be a good father?"

"I do not know." She shrugs her little shoulders, "Your hair is funny. Why does it look that way?"

"Ahht. They say when I was inside my mama she was very startled by something and that her shock went into me so my hair will not lay flat when it is short like this. It tries to run away in every direction it can."

"It is very funny, High Commander." She grins. "Do you feel scared?"

"Only of my own reflection in the morning." He grins back.

"He frightens me quite often with the way he looks." I tell her.

"You seem nice though. Maybe you would be a good father."

"I think I would be. I am going to have many children."

"That will be good. I like having sisters to play with."

"I thank you for confirming my suspicions." He hugs her until she squeals and laughs. "Governor, can I keep this one? You have many!"

"I think her mama might be irritated if I give her away to you." He chuckles. "Find a wife for yourself and ask her for a daughter."

"I have been looking!" He assures.

"The Gods know he has!" Hanta laughs at him.

I come away from Mycenea happy with the results of my journey. I am pleased to see that things have been going well for people near and far, that they are making the best of their lives despite my father's rule. My only regret it that I have not found anything to give Laila hope of finding her family.

Laila and Menoh are glad to see me at home again and make sure to see that my first meal at home again a fine one. Since I have more than enough for myself I invite my two alarm clocks to sit with me and we all enjoy some simple conversation. They fill me with stories of life in the Palace and I enjoy the simplicity of listening. Laila and Menoh go on with their contest to make me smile. I do my best to make it more difficult for them now that I know how the game is played...

On to 16