Marking of the Daysby Sincline Koutaishi
Time travels past us quickly as so many things are changing all around. One thing changes and leads to more of the same, pulling us toward the future like a tide. Manaleh becomes more my home as I decide that I will not soon be moved from it after my journey to Mycenea. If people want to see me, they can come to me. I will not deliver myself to the demands of the kingdoms no matter how they continue to request my presence. I despise foolish formalities.
The Kingdoms respond indignantly to my refusals as expected. Then Raaebarel, King of the 10th house, planet Gyokete, comes to make a visit to me bringing his wife and many children along.
"... If I will travel so far I should make it a family journey." He smiles and meets me with his usual warmth in the entry hall at the rear of the palace.
"Ahht... I am glad you are here... and not dressed so finely." I take him by the arm in greeting.
"I have been gathering from watching the news feeds that you are in the mood for some calm and so we have arrived as regular citizens might be clothed. I am happy for it." He pats his chest happily.
"I am happy for it as well. Welcome then to my home, family Tahur."
"Thank you thank you!" He bows.
"Go with my attendant Menoh. She will bring you to chambers where you can settle, then when you are ready she will bring you to me in the courtyard. The children can play and we can have a drink. Talk of our youth."
"Most welcome, Ishinoa."
Soon I sit to tea with Raae and his wife Mautia and there in the small courtyard we enjoy watching their children playing after so long having to contain their energy during the flight. His visit reaffirms his will to be bonded to my rule and his friendship too.
Father and he had often traded hard words over the years and so he is not upset by the change of rule. While he did not have any love for father, Uncle Mia was a great friend of his and I expect he still is for when he left the Diya he went to Gyokete.
Though Raae was older I had often spent time with him when he was a Prince, attending royal matching events where we were shown the eligible women who were worthy of our interest. He hated these events for his father had already chosen a daughter of the 23rd house on Pvyoula to be his wife. They were already in discussion over whose Diya had the greater power to see which Diya name would be kept in their union. Raae would cringe when she was announced at these events. He did not like her at all.
"Ehnnn..." My eyes widened at seeing her coming down the main stairs with another slightly older female, "Now... That is a fine compliment for your future wife, Raae. Stop your wincing and look there." I took him by the shoulder and turned him toward the women.
"Sho..." His eyes grew wide too, "She is beautiful! Who is that??"
"The listing says that she is the eldest sister of your future wife. Her name is Mautia." I read off the introduction book pages. "She is not so finely dressed but I have heard that she decided that she would not marry so she is not here for pairing, just for the social event. You will have a very fine new sister, Raae. Very fine." I admired her as she passed us yet not as much as Raae did.
"Is there nothing else about her?" He snatched the book from me.
"Of course not. She is not here for-"
"I have to find my father!" He interrupted. His look was desperate and off he ran.
After much begging he convinced his father to speak to the Pvyoulan King to have Mautia for his wife instead of the youngest girl in the family. Mautia was not interested in marriage—instead she was interested in her education in architecture and so the begging went on. Finally she agreed to meet with him and when she did she apparently felt him quite handsome and acceptable in other ways as well for the joining ceremony happened soon afterward. They have been happy and prolific ever since that time, having ten children in rapid succession. They had three already when his father passed the throne on to him.
When no kingdom would give me a chance in their divisions, Raae gave me a sergeant position in the 55th out of Gyokete. I had refused to serve in my father's own division, saying that I would rather be a farmer than submit to Namden's will as a superior. Namden made no argument for he detested every breath I took. There I began to prove myself, and prove myself well. I know that Uncle Mia had something to do with this position I was given, for though I had been an acquaintance to Raae it hurt his power to give me chance. I did not fail his kind offer. Quickly I became a commander and would have likely moved on farther had things been different.
Regardless of the fates' strange plans for me, I was pleased to see Raae again. His is a fine family and I was almost sad to see them leave.
When the news of his visit to me spread, the other houses could not make appointments with Hanta fast enough. The landing pads behind the palace became busy as a result and the head of house was compelled to hire more staff to see to all of the very particular royalty that comes to be seen and entertained.
Along with this flow of annoyance come marriage offers. Every house that has an eligible daughter offers her to me. These offers have come before but not with the frenzy that they do now that I have the empire in my hand. The palace guard does a fine job of graciously intercepting royal females on their way to my chambers.
"You don't like any of them, do you?" Laila makes a face of distaste.
"Not at all." I assure her, "They do not meet your approval I see."
"Not at all." She replies in kind, finishing her straightening of my clothing so that I am ready for the next meeting.
But still the offers come. Invitations to matching occasions too. Apparently the peace has lead to the Diyas beginning the matching pools again with great fervor.
"... Your Diya feels they cannot host a matching pool without your presence. You are, after all, the highest of their eligible males." Hanta tells me.
"I have no time for playing at romance." I growl and put on my exercise attire to go for a run.
"Or no desire to." She mutters.
"What did you say?"
"Nothing nothing." She waves her hand, "You will have to at least give them leave to carry on without you. They do not want to appear rude."
"Do so. Far be it from me to keep my people from finding partners."
"Very good of you, Baika." She laughs. "I will inform Saitiri to carry on without you."
"Wish her well on my behalf. Is there anything else?"
"Nothing that will not keep. Enjoy your run! Do not wear out the palace guard too much."
"It is my intention to bring their stamina up! For a man who sits to so many meetings I can still carry on longer than they. Shameful."
"Sha sha sha... Go on then."
Laila greets me when I return, handing me a robe and towels for a wash with one hand, holding her nose closed with the other.
"You have some humor to you." I growl.
"You have little humor to you. Hopefully you'll be in a better mood when you get out of the tub."
When I immerge I am in a better mood indeed for my 'breakfast' is ready. I believe I am learning more human language than Laila is learning northern.
"You smell lovely now, Sifu!" Laila pours some morning tea for me as I read the news.
"But you're still not acting lovely."
"I have many things on my mind."
"Maybe you can help me with my language homework and that will snap you out of it!"
"You are being lazy and hoping I will do your work for you!" I smile at last.
I have attempted to become her adoptive parent in an official capacity and so she now refers to me as Sifu accordingly. My Diya has refused to write her name into the Diya book of names as my Sianta for she is human. No amount of argument can persuade them. Saitiri simply sighs and congratulates me even so.
"They cannot prevent you from being to one another what you wish to be." She told me with a smile, "Call her Sianta and mean it. It will irritate the Diya very much!"
With or without the Diya name, Laila has been fitting in quite well with the staff at Manaleh. While most of them do not speak her language she is making do and trying her best to learn the northern language with myself, Mehoh and Hanta to assist her along with the tutor that comes from the university to sit with her. She seems to be thriving in my reclaimed home, enjoying even the simplicity of the new clothing she has been given by the tailors and the time she has to herself to wander in the wooded lands around the palace. I have asked of her not to wander outside of the grounds of Manaleh for fear of what might happen to her if she finds herself alone amongst our people who are still feeling their anger toward her kind.
Menoh and she are the perfect pair and when they are not working they are studying together or finding other diversions. Soon she will be going for a visit to Aykovas to spend some uninterrupted time with her own people and to sit in on a few classes in their school. She seems to be half looking forward to it and half not, explaining to me when pressed that she will miss being at home. In a way, I am glad she feels this.
She comes to me one afternoon while I am working at the table in the main room of my chambers, pulling along a large young man with dark blue hair that is part of the palace staff. I raise my head from the papers it has been consumed by at the sudden interruption.
"Excuse me." She bobs up and down quickly—a formal movement which she calls a 'curtsy'—and the young man bows to me then returns to trying to persuade her not to stay in the room.
"He is a very busy man." He is saying to her in northern though he is a southerner, tugging on her hand, "We should not bother him."
"What is he saying?" She asks, pointing up at the fellow that she will not allow to retreat from me.
"He is telling you that I am very busy and you should not be bothering me." I smirk. "What is going on?"
"I met him in the library here while I was studying. He has been talking to me." She explains, "And I don't understand him. I mean I do a little bit but my northern really isn't that good yet... He gave me a flower..." She slows as my eyebrow raises at her dialogue, "He seems very nice and I just... Um... I just want to know what he's saying to me."
"Probably that he likes you." I laugh, "Is that not apparent to you from his behavior?"
"Well it is..." She looks up at him and smiles. He smiles back nervously, still worried by being before me. "Oh! I know. What's his name? Can you ask him that?"
"What is your name, boy?" I ask him.
"Ryuaki Diya Hikatsu." He says and bows again, "Forgive the intrusion, Majesty."
My eyes narrow on him at the sound of his Diya name.
"Hikatsu..." I mutter.
Ours have not seen eye to eye over the years. He seems to lose color under my gaze, likely aware of the differences just as much as I.
"No worries of interruption. She simply wishes to know you and so she brought you to me for translation. Her name is Laila."
"Yes, Majesty. I know that much, Majesty." More bowing.
"Do you speak any galactic trade?"
"Very very little." He says.
"His name is Ryuaki. If you speak no galactic trade language you are out of luck, Laila. You will have to study your northern harder if you wish to communicate with him."
"Hmmm." She sighs, "I suppose it will be worth it. He's cute."
"I would not comment on that. At least he young like you are." I shrug. "Now take him out of here for I have much to do."
"Okay. Thank you!"
She pulls him out of the room with her and I laugh. The fear of southerners she has felt seems to have found an exception. She is not at all afraid of his size or his appearance. From what little I remember of people speaking of this young man he has been respectful and appreciated by the staff. I had not yet heard his Diya name mentioned. People are being very careful to keep my temper low and quiet including censoring their conversations apparently.
"Mmmh." I scowl at my thoughts, tapping my stylus on the table edge, "What is a boy from a wealthy southern Diya doing in the north working under the roof of an enemy Diya? Rrrrhhh... Why am I talking to myself??"
It seems to be a good time to end my toil for a while and have some spice tea. This I prepare myself then stand with it out on the balcony, watching the movement in the open courts below, watching the movement in the city far far beyond the palace walls and the sun shining off the lake.
"Hikatsu..." I scowl again and finish my tea, going out of my chambers into the hall, "Where does that Hikatsu boy work?" I ask of the guards at my door.
"The library, sire."
Well, that does make some sense. Off I go. I find young Ryuaki tidying up his things at one of the library tables, making to leave from his duties for the day.
"Hikatsu!" I say sharply and he jumps a little then bows to me, down to his knees, hands on the floor.
"Rise up, boy." He joins me in standing again, keeping his head bowed slightly and turned to the side, adequately displaying his submission. "Hikatsu... What are you doing here in the cold north in and amongst so many impure ones? Hnn??"
"I am making my way toward university, Majesty. I am saving my funds to pay my way. Soon I will have enough and be attending Namida University."
"The justice and law school, Majesty."
I smirk at his continuing to address me in the southern term of respect for my title. It has been a while since I have had to use my familiar southern tongue and so while I am annoyed I am also enjoying myself. It is far easier to express my anger in the southern language.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Why are you here in my home working? Why does your family not fund your schooling to keep you in their Diya tradition of wealth and legal defense??"
"They have left me to my own way, Majesty. If you will allow I will explain."
"My family prefers to choose marriages for their children. My family chose a wife for me. I would not marry her for I did not love her or even know her for true. Father refused to know me. Many high relatives refused to know me. I am here for I am not wealthy, yet I have a love for our family tradition of defense and so I work toward my education... Majesty, I am no purist." He adds and nods to me again.
"I see... Why not stay in the south?"
"I wished to leave it behind, to make it all new... It is cold here though, I will admit. The people are warmer in their humor however."
"Have I offended you, Majesty?"
"No... I find your presence here strange. You are in the home of an enemy."
"You are not my enemy, Majesty. Nor are your Diya. That which comes between our Diyas is not something I agree with. Please see me as separate from that."
"If you are willing to admit your disagreement with your Diya's position... I will see you as separate."
"I do disagree. I disagree with them on many things." He tries a smile then drops it quickly.
"Good... You were speaking with the girl I consider my adopted daughter. Do you know that?"
"No, Majesty. I did not know anything about her."
"Why did you bother her?"
"I did not intend to bother her... I do not think that she felt that. Does she?"
"Hnnn... No. I worry for her... Since you are no purist fool, I can only assume that you have interest in her."
Now my frown is quite impressive, showing the rage that I feel rising inside of me. I can tell this for his face is again losing color more and more.
"You... Keep yourself honorable with her or I swear to you that I will give your Diya a new reason to hate mine for I will gut you and send you back to them piece by piece. Understood??"
Ryuaki gulps, "Yes, Majesty. Clearly understood. I would never harm her or allow her to be harmed."
"Then we will have no quarrel."
With that I turn my back on him and march out of the room, satisfied with myself for his look of fear from my threat. In the halls I surprise Hanta and a group of interns from the University who are trailing behind her. They all fall to the floor around her with their bows and nervous greetings as I march on by. Hanta raises an eyebrow at me and I just growl.
I watch them closely for the next few days. I want to be sure young Ryuaki is not just playing with her but it seems his affection for her is quite genuine. I find out from Hanta that he is completing his contract at the palace shortly. He was hired during my father's reign, surprisingly enough. His task was to take inventory of the texts in the extensive library, to repair those that need it. That is one thing I shared with my father even in his worst days, his love of books. Ryuaki begins his day very early and ends about the time that the palace staff is taking their midday meal, so it does not surprise me that Laila had not come across him before.
He takes her outside of Manaleh with my grudging permission to show her the city for the first time. I wonder what they will find there. I hope it is not a good bit of anger at their pairing for they make no effort to hide their affection for one another. I send a few of the palace guards to keep watch over them at a distance and they return without incident.
The days pass with them spending their free time together and though they cannot understand one another they seem to be quite happy even so. Often Menoh finds herself translating for them so they can talk to each other. She is too happy with her adopted sister having a love interest. I know this for she tells me of how wonderful he is and how wonderfully he treats Laila every moment that she is in my presence.
Laila has poured a great new devotion into her schooling to learn to speak to him. She begins to surprise me by speaking to me in northern as much as she can. Sometimes in whole sentences, sometimes mixing in northern words amongst the human. She is happy and so I resist my urge to return to him to offer more threats. If he worries her, she will tell me. She has never hesitated to tell me when things worry her.
Ryu sits with her and reads her poetry from old texts. She holds his arm and sits close to him with her head on his shoulder. I would have never imagined such a thing. They are still young and Ryuaki has not been in the armed forces. He has no feelings of ill will toward humans. It seems a good omen. Their affection is rather warming and fitting for the spring weather that is so fully upon us.
Soon Laila came to realize that Ryuaki was not going to be working at the palace any longer. It was time for him be in university, learning of law. Once again Ryu and Laila stand before me seeking translation for Menoh is not about. Laila had been studying hard but only understood that he was going away from what he was saying yet she didn't know why or for how long.
"...And so you see he will not be working here at the palace any longer. He wants you to understand all of what he will be doing. Apparently his Diya Hikatsu is from a long history of legal involvement. He is carrying on his family tradition in becoming a defender of people." I explain to her.
She nods, clinging to Ryuaki's hand, "You're leaving..." She says to him.
"He is not going far. He will be studying at the university in Namida. He will simply be very busy with his studying and not be working here. He has been working here to save funds for his education and books. He says that he will bring his books and studying here so that he may be with you as much as possible."
"Really?" She brightens.
"Yes." I listen more to Ryu and continue with my summary translation, "He wishes you to know that he loves you and intends to take you as his wife once he is finished with his education. He promises you a good life if you agree to be his and that he will always care for you... Gods woman. What have you done to this young man without even talking to him properly??"
"I don't know but I am glad of whatever it is I have done." She hugs herself to Ryuaki and he relaxes noticeably, holding her. "If it's only that he's going to school then why does he look so upset?"
I ask him this, "He wanted you to understand his absence and not think he had left you. He wanted to be sure he would not lose you to another man. We southern males tend to become very attached to our mates, our chosen ones. He wants to know if you will have him."
"Of course I will."
"What did she say, Majesty?" He asks anxiously.
"She said she will have you. You have made her quite happy, Ryuaki. Are you certain you want to take a human for a wife? A human you have barely even spoken with? And known such a short while?"
"Yes I want her for my wife. She is all of my heart."
"She has no family other than myself and I am only acting as a poor substitute. You can be sure I will be good at least at this one thing and will watch you well."
"Yes, Majesty." He nods, "In another matter, Majesty... Strangely enough my family will be coming to celebrate my induction into the university's legal program. I have been talking to my brother Anyoaki as usual and through him they have learned of not only my coming induction but of Laila. They have renewed their interest in my life as a result it seems... I want for them to meet her... Yet I am worried it will cause her nothing but pain. They do not know that the woman I have been telling my brother I love is human."
"You will have to tell them at some point. Are you ashamed of her?"
"No. Never. I am not a fool, however. I know how they will react." He sighs, "Will you ask her if she would be willing to meet them? It is her decision."
We talk for some time of the situation. She agrees to meet his family if I will be present. She is nervous for she realizes the implications. Ryu has reserved a meeting room in one of the fine old hotels in the city to impress his wealthy family. I tell him to cancel it. If they will come to meet my daughter, they will meet her in her own grand home—the Palace Manaleh. I put Hanta and her interns to work on bringing together a fitting celebration of Ryu's induction to the University, given to him by the woman who has chosen to share life with him. I will be damned if I will let that Diya look down upon her. It will be a lavish occasion indeed.
In a few more days Ryu's family arrives. Things go as decently as can be expected for the first meeting. His father is not pleased at all with this surprise and that is painfully obvious for he leaves before the celebration can begin, taking his wife with him. The brothers and sisters of Ryu show their independence and remain, coming to know Laila for who she is instead of what she is.
They say he has often been lead by his heart and would have none of the young women that they had sought to pair him with from other powerful Diyas. They are surprised though that Ryu and Laila have developed such an obvious closeness regardless of their lack of a shared language and species. I am thankful she speaks no southern so that she does not feel more worried than she already does at their initial meeting. I find myself leaving the meeting with disgust for those who have already decided to hate my adopted little daughter and a new respect for Ryu despite my want to hold a fatherly anger for Laila's suitor.
Soon Ryuaki is off to the university for his induction phase short classes. He takes to his education well and spends his study time with Laila, which I supervise as much as I can. She works on her lessons as they rest against each other on the window seats of the library in a variety of ways. She takes his stylus and draws 'hearts' on the paper, making him smile and kiss her. He is settled with her and bit by bit they are learning to speak to each other.
There are times that he will steal off to her bedroom with her. I find that this is so she can sleep and he can still be beside her while he sees to the volumes of his induction phase schoolwork. I will have to confront him about this... It seems innocent enough for the moment. I am glad that I have not ruined her for this chance to find love and trust with one of my people. It gives me great hope.
"Do you like him?" She asks as she clears my morning meal away one bright day.
"It is not important that I like him. It is important that you do." I turn more pages of reports regarding the rebuilding of Galrea.
"But do you?"
"He seems to be an intelligent young man."
"Can't you just say if you like him or not??"
"No. I cannot. From what little I know of him he seems a fine young man. I am not offended by anything he says. I will make my decision later."
"Meanie." She makes a face at me.
"If you do not want me to answer you honestly you should simply say so." I smirk.
She sighs and shakes her head, continuing with her chores.
"I had an interesting talk with the palace guard this morning when I went for my run..." I mention.
"Yes... They stated that they saw young Ryuaki making a quick path out of the gates very early this morning..." I put down my work and give her a hard look, "Wearing what he had on the day before, I might add."
She shrugs, trying to keep herself steady, but I can see her pulse increasing, "Their powers of observation are very strong, Sifu."
"The boy stayed here with you last night." I say bluntly, "That will not happen again, Laila. You are not his wife yet."
She blushes then, "Nothing happened. He just fell asleep while he was studying and I woke up with him still there. He usually leaves when I fall asleep." She bites her tongue as she realizes she has given me additional information that she should not have.
"Oh really?" I sit up, "So this is not a first time..." I will play this as though I do not yet know these things.
"Sifu, he just likes to study near me. The induction phase is very difficult and he seems to be able to concentrate better when he's with me. That's all." Her excuse flows out of her.
"I am sure, for I know how men are, being one myself and having been so able to keep myself from the pleasures of a woman through my life." I say with sarcasm and knock my fist on the table, "He will not stay within these walls through the night, Laila."
"Yes, Sifu." She gives up her little fight.
"I am not trying to punish you, girl. I am trying to protect your young heart and your future."
"I know." She nods, "I just love him so much and I miss him when we're apart. I wish I could explain to you..."
"You do not have to. Your look speaks for you. Go on then. He will be with you soon."
"I hope so!" She takes my plates away with a worried look on her face.
I am pleased for her regardless of my outward display. I have come to see that Ryuaki is a man of some honor and dedication and their love appears to be unbreakable though I still do not understand its origins. It makes my thoughts turn to what I have lost in my life... So much lost.
An amon goes by this way, myself meeting, working, having more unwanted royal visitors, and Laila spending her free time with Ryuaki and Menoh... And then he finds me late in the day after his short induction classes are done for the spring season. The guards let him into the room where I am working and Ryuaki approaches then goes to his hands and knees in a respectful bow.
"Majesty. Thank you for seeing me." He says humbly.
"Rise... What brings you?"
He stands again, "I seek recommendation. I am making an attempt for a position at the Namidan Legal Archives."
"So soon? You are quite ambitious, Ryuaki."
"I have good reason to be." He nods, "I would be honored if you would give them your honest opinion of me whether it be good or bad."
"Why in such a hurry for employment? You will slow your schooling."
"Perhaps by a bit, but I will also be gaining valuable experience which will aid me in finding a more advanced position once I am finished with my education. I wish to have income that I might take Laila as my wife more quickly. I want to be able to provide for her. Give her a good life."
"You are moving things quickly in all directions." I sit back, amused by this, "You seem to be eager to have my adopted daughter as your own. I can only assume that this means you have done something regrettable to her that you are trying to hurry to cover the impropriety of. Have you?"
"No Majesty." He shakes his head with conviction, "The fact of the matter is that I miss her terribly when I am away from her. I want to marry her so that we can live together, have our daily comings and goings from a home that we share."
"Nnh... I had been meaning to talk to you about your sneaking into her room..." I grow an impressive frown and Ryuaki gulps.
"I only did that because I had so much work to do and she needed her sleep. Induction phase is so difficult and I find that I can study better when she is beside me. This is truth."
"Ahht yes... I believe you." I say with some sarcasm.
"I am not sure how you can think me so dishonorable when I am in a great rush to join with her and keep her well." He says, beginning to show me a bit of his southern fire instead of the usual calm he keeps when in my presence.
"I know this much... You are young. So is she. This has happened very quickly..."
"I love her." He insists. "I will be a good husband to her regardless of my youth."
"If you will not give me recommendation I will understand. I will do what I can on my own as usual." He bows curtly and turns to go.
"Admirable... I have not told you to go. Get back here!" I snap.
Ryuaki stops stiffly and turns about, coming back to stand before me with a more polite bow. "Forgive me." His tone is humble again instead of angry.
"Forgiven... Why not come to live here with your new wife? The housing costs nothing. Laila earns a bit of currency for her work here. You can continue to work in the library as you are able and still be in school full time."
"I want to care for her myself."
"Suck in your ego, boy. You will do so when you are finished with your schooling. Do you think you will survive for three cycles of schooling without marrying her? So far you have not even made it through a full section. Do you want to marry her or not?"
"Of course I do."
"Then accept my kind offer to you. In three cycles you will be done with your basic university classes and be able to take an intern position. Then you will begin to provide for her completely. This will also satisfy me as I will be able to keep watch over your treatment of her." I smirk.
He stands still, thinking it over. "I will ask her what she thinks."
"As you wish." I nod.
"You are kind... And I thank you." He bows again.
"You may go."
"Thank you." He departs to seek out Laila.
Soon again they stand before me, both struggling to restrain their smiles and behave formally, "Majesty, after consulting with Laila we have come here to accept your kind offer if you are still of a mind to keep it open."
"I am. Will you marry my adopted daughter and keep her care in your mind at all times?"
"Laila, will you have him as your husband?"
"Yes." She smiles happily.
"Good. Ryuaki, as I am serving as father to Laila I believe you know what you have to do, nnh?"
"Yes, Majesty." He looks less than happy to face this fine southern tradition.
"Since my Diya will not own her, this challenge can be met here instead of at the Kaitenshi. Is now a good time?"
"As good as ever a time will be."
I get up from my seat and go to the armory cabinet on the wall behind my desk to find two swords and then return to them.
"What are you doing?" Laila asks as Ryu releases her hand to take the blade I am offering him.
"It is southern tradition and both Ryu and I are southern men. Since he wishes to take you—my daughter—from me he must best me in combat."
"What?? No! He can't do that! He doesn't know how to fight!" She stands between us.
"He has to." I say.
"No!! You'll kill him!"
"It is the way. It is a matter of pride and honor. Stand aside."
"Laila... Trust me." I say firmly and she backs down, moving aside. "Hikatsu... Do your best."
"Yes, Majesty." He shakes before me as I come and stand before him.
"We will go slowly since you have no experience... I will allow you first strike. Go."
He does not even know how to hold a sword, never having been in the military and it has been a long while since he had been in youth academy. When he comes at me I hardly move to block his poor strike. His greater height will do him no good. It is rather pitiful. I could kill him with one motion.
"Gods help me." He breathes, going paler now than I have yet seen him.
"Wondering what you were thinking to pursue my daughter and having to face me?" I smirk.
"I only regret that the woman I love has a father that is one of the finest swordsmen in the empire."
"You flatter me." I nod and resist the urge to laugh at his look of fear, "My strike."
I move forward and take a very weak strike at him. It almost causes him to fall over as he defends himself from it. I have struck at his blade instead of his body yet Laila screams in horror. The guards outside my chamber come rushing in from the sound and I hold up my hand to them.
"It is a challenge for my daughter's joining. Stand down."
They move back to the doors to wait and watch.
"Your strike." I invite Ryu.
He tries again and again I block easily.
"Do you yield?" I ask him.
I come at him again and almost knock him over.
"No." His turn and I knock his blade aside.
"At least I am giving you an advantage, Ryu."
"Oh?" He swallows hard. His face is losing its color even further.
"Yes. I am not using my own blade Toumai. Just the same practice weapon you have. It is different in balance than my own blade. So it may give you some advantage."
"Your blade is called Toumai??" His eyes grow wide at the reference to death bliss.
"It is. Would you prefer I change to that blade?"
"No... No thank you." He prepares to defend himself again.
My next strike throws him against the far wall, knocking the air out of him and causing another shriek from Laila.
"Do you yield?"
"No." He comes again and I easily take hold of the blade as he thrusts it toward me. He is surprised as I direct it to my chest and hold it there, a hair of space between it and my person.
"Ahht, look at that. Lucky strike, Ryu. You have won. I yield."
"What?" He gasps in shock.
"You do not think you have won? We can continue if you like."
"I am satisfied." He gulps and I remove the blade from myself then come very close to him, eye to eye with him, breathing in the scent of his fear and giving him a very hard look.
"I do hope you will remember this moment, Ryuaki. Remember it well."
"I assure you I will remember, Majesty. Thank you. Thank you."
"You are welcome." I step back from him to turn my attention to Laila whose color matches Ryu nicely at this moment, "Laila, Ryu has won. He can now claim you from me and so you may work together on your joining arrangements." I come to her now and lift her up onto a footstool so that she is face to face with me somewhat, "Laila... If he ever treats you poorly, you will let me know. I will give you a fine joining ceremony, my daughter."
She whimpers then hugs me tightly, "Thank you."
"You are very welcome my little one."
When I open my eyes I see that Ryu is leaning against the wall, his color still not returning... And I laugh, releasing Laila and going to him, taking away the blade he still holds in his shaking hand. The two guards are grinning at the scene.
"You need a drink." I clap a hand on his shoulder, peeling him away from the wall to bring him to the sofa, "You may go." I say to the guard who chuckle and depart.
Laila brings Ryu a cup of cold tea that he gulps at for a while then looks at her regretfully, "I am not a warrior."
She just smiles, strokes his hair and kisses him, "I am just glad your color is coming back."
"Are you angry?" He asks her.
"No. I am happy."
"Enough of your affections. I have work to do. Go along and we will talk of your plans later." Then I send them out.
So strange. They still do not understand each other's words completely but they are happy regardless.
On his way out of the palace that evening I have Ryu stopped by the palace guard and brought to me on the wide north terrace that faces the city. Here he finds me having a smoke and relaxing. There are many things on my mind here at the end of this eventful day.
"Majesty..." He bows, "You wanted to speak with me?"
"I do. Come here."
I wave the guards away so we may have some privacy in our talk. Ryu comes to my side where I stand looking over the shining night vista that Namida provides. Before I speak to him I offer a glass of wine which he accepts and drinks.
"Ryuaki... We will be family." I say to him and raise an eyebrow at that strange thought.
"Our Diyas have not been friends over the years as you well know..."
"What will you do with your name?"
Ryu stands up straighter at the question. He had not thought of this it seems. "I do not know..."
"Will you try to give her your name?"
"Yours is the more powerful Diya, Majesty."
"Yes, yet my Diya will not yet allow me to write her name in the book for she is human. Her Diya name in a way is 'Fisher'. Humans do not have Diya names. They have 'last' names."
"Ahht. My family will not allow her to have the Hikatsu name I am sure." He sighs, looking into his wine.
"And mine will not allow her to have ours. Will you become Ryuaki Fisher??" I laugh at the prospect.
"In honesty I had not a care for name taking, just for being with Laila."
"I would like for her to have my Diya name."
"You will likely have much work to do with your Diya then. If you do give her your name I will put aside Hikatsu gladly."
"Nnh... I have some work for you, Ryuaki."
"Here in the library?"
"Well... You have done a fine job there, I will admit. There is still more work for you if you wish it... I would like you to look through the history books to find for me if there has been a situation where any other species has been given a Diya name through adoption. Will you do this for me? I need to make a case for Laila."
"I will do this for you gladly, Majesty. I know it would make her happy for she does love you."
I nod slowly, "It will earn you some funds to see to the support of your new wife."
"I would not ask for compensation for such a thing, Majesty."
"You did not ask, I told you that it would happen." I smirk and take a long drink, "Also... I know she aches to give you children though I would like it if she would wait..."
"We are very much looking forward to our children." He blurts before I can finish my thought. It appears that they are equally determined to have children.
"Her room is not large enough to keep you both and those many children she seems determined to give you."
"I will do my best to earn some funds so that we may have a home of our own soon." He assures immediately.
"Saich... Be quiet Ryu... You will see your education through living under this roof. I will see to it that my daughter has a finer set of rooms for herself. You will simply be the lucky man that she allows to share them with her."
"Ahht... Thank you. You are being most generous."
"I want for her happiness. For some reason she finds that with you. You are not what I would have wanted for her..."
"I will yet prove myself to you, Majesty."
"You have proven yourself or I would not have been beaten by such a lucky strike." I chuckle. "Be good to her. She is my daughter in my heart even if not in blood... I think that you will be."
"I will. Gods know that I will."
"Still... While it is not the first time I have seen this, it surprises me that one of my own should come together with a human." I take another long drink from my glass, my brow furrowed with my own thoughts.
"I do not see her as different from me, Majesty... You know that I looked upon marriage with dread for having been told so long that I must marry a woman I did not know... When I saw Laila sitting there studying in the library, I knew the Goddess Fao had brought her to me, to show me my heart and that I was wrong about marriage. She did not even speak my language and yet I knew in a moment that she was my wife. I have never felt so much in my life as I have felt since I have known her..." I watch his expression shift from reverie to realizing he has been going on for a while. "Forgive me for talking on so long about this... I know you do not believe in the Gods and I hope you have not been offended."
There is another strange thing... The Gods... The great Goddess Fao. The Goddess Umutiri whose name Commander Kiatan has so often called out even to my irritation with him. The great God Vikoa whose name I have likely offended in my life.
"Ryu..." I sigh, "It is not that I do not believe in them... I have just been gone from them for a long while. I am not offended." I take a final sip of my wine and then examine the empty glass, "War has been my God, and wine my lover... I offend myself!" I smile regretfully then change the topic, "Has your father spoken to you since your induction?"
"Once... To tell me I am insane again. My brothers and sisters support me."
"Ahht... Your brother Anyoaki I like. I have had some contracts directed his way."
"So perhaps our angry Diyas can have a small bond, neh?"
"We shall see... One last thing, Ryu... Laila is scheduled to go to Aykovas to spend some time with her own people and for summer classes there.. Let her go. She needs to be with humans so she does not forget herself."
"For how long?" His face has gone into worry.
"It will give you time to do what you must to secure your future... Think of how wonderful it will feel to see her again after so long a time. Nnh?" I clap a hand on his shoulder.
"I will not cage her, Majesty." He nods.
"Good."On to 17