Marking of the Days

by Sincline Koutaishi

Avasjan Port Kyerst

I head down the corridors of the port of Kyerst with wide eyes and pounding heart. I cannot believe this turn in the path of my life. I am anxious and overwhelmed by emotions unfamiliar to me. I try to fight it all back as it crashes against me like waves. She will live and I am grateful, wondering if the Gods had heard my prayers to let her live longer. I have let these emotions well up while beside her in that hospital bed... Feeling the soft warmth of her hand in mine, and wished to speak of sweetness to her yet held my tongue when it began to betray me.

I find the quarters that have been given to me for my comfort and the clothing that the Avasjans have been gracious enough to provide. Though it is strange to my tastes, I will wear it to please these people who have been kind enough to see to my whims over the years and now have taken her in for healing without question, without hesitation.

I want to go back to her, to be beside her, offering her comfort as best I can. Instead I go to the window that looks down upon the planet and rest my forehead against the cool clear pane, closing my eyes.

What am I doing? What is happening to me?

My katsuna chimes and I reach for it absently, then look. It is Hanta hailing me. She must have been watching the news feeds and seen that I have returned here. I had been watching them myself earlier, seeing that the Altean people are now missing their Princess publicly.

"Yes Hanta." I say.

"What is going on? I am hearing the strangest things! Why are you not on your vacation?"

"A horrible thing and a wonderful thing, Hanta. That is what is going on." And I explain how I have found her, saved her and brought her here for healing.

"What will you do?" She inquires after a moment of silence.

"I will let her people know she is safe for I have been watching the news as well and know they are missing her."

"They will not believe you have rescued her. They will be furious."

"This I know..."

"Are you alright?" She asks for my voice is so thin, distracted.

"I am wonderful... Hanta... I love her. Gods I do love her."

"I know. I am glad you have finally said it." She shows her mercy with a gentle smile instead of one filled with her having said as much for a number of years.

"She will never have me... What will I do?" I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to keep back unwelcome tears. "Huuaaa... Gods..."

"Tshhh... Settle yourself. You will see things through."

"How can I? I am everything that she despises... I have behaved most dishonorably in her presence over the years."

"Perhaps... But calm yourself and let her see you. Let her see who you are now. That is my advice to you... Shall I let her people know that she is safe or do you prefer to do that yourself?"

"I will ask her what she thinks on the subject. They are her people after all. I should not take liberty to presume how they wish to find this out."

"Will you take advice on this subject now? You forbade me to speak of it..."

"Yes. Advise me as you will."

"Then listen to me and listen to me well. Try to put aside your ego for a moment... She is not yours, you will never own her. Never think that you have that right. Love is something that comes to you, is a gift that you should never fully possess. You cannot take it and you cannot force it. I know your father has done you a grave disservice in letting you believe that whatever you set your mind to wanting should be yours and that you can take it by force if necessary because it is your right. It is not. You have seen the failure of this so you know I am telling you true. Do not tell her that she is yours. If you say anything close to that, you are finished. She has had some time with you to see you in a different way... She sees you as someone who has concern for her, someone who has saved her life from attackers. Let her keep seeing you as this person, this person with a heart for her... And stop being Emperor for the moment... Be just a man. She will never be impressed with your title but she may be impressed with you. I have had occasion to see her response to suitors and know that she is not pleased with men who are full of their titles and holdings. Show her some of your humor and try not to talk too much about politics... Does this make sense to you?"

"Yes, Hanta. Everything you say I believe to be true." For over the past few days I have seen it working.

"And for the love of the Gods, if she should show you some softness, do not set upon her like a hungry animal! While you may be far far less than pure, she is not like you... And Gods help her that you should be the one to be with her first."

"Rrrrhh... I would not do that. Cruel thing you are."

"There may yet be hope for you." She smiles neatly, "You know that I want the best for you and the Gods have provided you a chance to have what you have longed for in the face of what you are forced to out of obligation. If you need me I will be available. Now stop looking so... Pull your wits into you!"

"Yes mother." I grumble.

"Saich..." She clicks her tongue and closes the communication, leaving me alone again.

Hanta is right about everything... When she had asked if I would release her if she survived... I felt myself thinking that I would not, that I would tell her that she was mine if she lived. I wanted to own her still, out of my panic to keep her beside me, to keep these feelings that she brings. While it was easier than expected to push back that darkness, it was still there and I need to be mindful of that, feeling it press at me even now. I do not want an arranged marriage, I want her. She is the only one that I have ever wished to be beside.

I lean on the clear pane that separates me from the vacuum of space, feeling the coolness of it relax me.

What do I want of this?

There come the whisperings of my old enemies with a ready response...

Show her your power. Make her yours. She will love you.

I frown heartily, anger rising in response to these internal sounds.

You think I will listen to you from my fear of losing her, but I will not. You can gain me nothing but failure. I want that which is in my dreams. I want the gaze that I see from her there. It is not born of her fear of me. It did not come because I forced her to be mine. I felt that she was there with me happily. That is what I want. I want for her to love me just for the fact that she does, not that I have frightened her to it or forced her to it. If she should not find her heart for me, then she will be free. I must be willing to accept that.

"Huuaaaa, I do love you... I would be so happy to call you wife... So happy."

And so I set out to challenge these fears and feelings, closing my eyes to imagine her with me at Manaleh as my beloved wife, advisor and friend... She smiling while I tell her of the Gods we know and all of what I have seen since last I set my eyes upon her. There is a feeling of completion, contentment, and satisfaction, looking forward to life.

I see then too, letting her go back to her people to live out her life in her own way, apart from me... That is the pain, the fear, which drives me. That in the face of the possibility of her being with me, instead I am alone and longing not to be. There is a feeling of unending emptiness.

As I release fear and panic the tears flow, the voices are silent once again in the wake of powerful emotion. The Vidons were right about this... I am discovering that many people have been right about many things that I have denied over the years. There I sink to the floor, resting against the wall of my borrowed rooms. I am exhausted in many ways and find even the hard floor a comfortable bed.

When I drag myself off the floor from my sudden rest I feel rather in need of a wash. Using the travel cleaning cloths is fine for a while, but it will never replace the soothing cleansing of flowing water. I go to the bathing facilities and sort out the directions then find some small bliss as the hot water showers upon me. As I wash I wince. My shoulder is aching. I can feel a new wound. Upon further examination in the reflecting pane I can see extensive bruising and indeed a wound. It must have been from using my own flesh to try and move such heavy metal. Signs of my rescue work that I had not noticed until now from so much distraction. At least it is properly cleaned off now and shows the beginnings of healing.

Cleaned and dried and brushed I put on the overly colorful garments I have been given by my hosts and frown at myself in a reflecting pane. I have never been much for such coloration, but it will do until I can go back to my ship for clothing. I want to be with her again, regardless of my appearance... But it is late now and I wonder if she will have fallen asleep. I go to look just in the case that she is awake.

The nursing staff had already turned down the lights by the time I arrive in her room again so I approach her bedside quietly. She is awake indeed and looking at me surprisingly enough.

"Ehnn... What are you doing still awake?" I pull up a chair to sit beside her bed.

"I couldn't sleep... I'm so tired but I just can't."

"Would you like me to get the nurse to bring you something to help you rest?"

"No, thank you... No more medicine... I feel better now that you're here again."

"I am flattered." My heart begins to pound inside my chest.

"Don't be... I think I just became used to your snoring on the trip here." She smiles wearily at her joke with me but I know there is truth behind it.

I laugh, "Thank you for not making my ego too large."

"You are very welcome... What have you been off doing?"

"Horrible and boring political things." I make a face for her and she smiles more.

"You can be very funny when you try." I turn up one of the lights a little bit and she notices my odd clothing, "Goodness! What are you wearing?"

"Some of the local attire. Avasjans seem to enjoy a great deal of color in their wardrobes." I pick at the colorful linens, "It is not to my tastes, yet it seems to please them that visiting royalty should dress as they do. As they have been kind enough to help us out and give me some rather nice lodgings, I thought it would be rude to dismiss their attempts to clothe me as they wish."

"It may be a little bright... But it is actually quite attractive on you."

"Thank you again. My ego may yet grow!" By Gods... She can actually find me attractive and my heart is continuing to race.

"I promise not to compliment you any further." She smiles sleepily again.

"Please do. I rather enjoy it instead of the taunts."

"Your hair is different too."

"Yes... I have enjoyed a long wash and it all came down in the bathing."

"You usually have it all pulled back... I like this. It makes you look softer."

"Softer... I am not sure I like that." I smirk and rake my damp hair back with my fingers.

"May I?" She reaches out, "I'm curious."

I lean closer and she touches my hair, "It is somewhat wet still..."

"Amazing." She says.


"I imagined your hair might be coarse... It's very soft." She lets go, "I'm sorry I am so curious about you... But I have never been close to one of your people before where I had the opportunity to just be curious. I hope it doesn't make you uncomfortable. You've been very patient."

I nod, "And it is not one of my more notable qualities at that... I do not mind your curiosity. Better that than being afraid... I am rather curious about humans as well."


"Yes... You seem like such a fragile people. You do not tolerate temperature changes well. If you are out in the sun too long your skin starts to cook..."

"We get sunburns. Don't you?"

"No. Our skin will turn to a darker shade after a while but not burn and peel like yours."

"And even though our eyes are very different, we both know we can see colors well." She gestures toward my outfit.

"True, yet you do not need to see it well to notice this!" And we are both smiling. "What else are you curious about?"

"Well... I do wonder if things look differently out of your yellow eyes beyond color."

"Our vision is sharper than yours." I nod, "And we see better in darkness. So say the scientists."

"I thought you might... Your irises are so wide now in this low light that your eyes almost look human."

"Shame upon them." I pretend at anger.

"There is nothing wrong with being human... Do you really hate us so much? You are partly human after all."

"That fact has never brought me any peace, but I have never hated humans."


"No... It is not your race... I have a great deal of anger toward your leaders. They have lied to you, they have killed my people to take their land. They have fashioned my people into monsters to make it easier for your people to think of us as worthless and not much to worry over killing. We are what your people tell their children of to frighten them into being good."

She sighs, "You're right about that. I haven't heard a nice thing about your people from our side of the border."

"I have seen the drawings and stories. I am quite the frightening creature in ink."

"You are quite the frightening creature in reality at times too."

"This I will admit... But I am not so terrible a creature as you might have thought, Princess."

"I know." She nods.

"I have done my share of wrong indeed. I am not denying any of it, will claim it all as my own doing... And I do apologize for frightening you so much over the years. I was not so much of my right mind."

"I understand." She says and then surprises me further, "I forgive you."

"I am honored."

I bow my head in a combination of gratitude and shame. I feel I should apologize to her for the death of her father, but now is not the time. I want her to know that I would have stopped it if I could have. That I have tried to make amends for things I have done in my life that would have been far from her estimation of good and that I have lived my life from then by keeping her in my mind.

The silence is broken by her gentle voice, "Tell me about Vidon."

She is changing the subject and I am glad of it. I am awash in emotion as I tell her of this place that I have kept such a secret. I have dreamed of being there with her, watching the sun set. I ask her again to not speak of it to anyone.

"I won't... Will you go there now that I am safe?"

"Eventually. I meant to stay there for some time. I will likely have to get back to the center of the Empire for a while and reset time, in a way. It will be a while before I can return you to your home so I will work from here until then. Perhaps if they do not kill me on my arrival with you, I will leave from your world for my vacation... Do us both a favor and stay grounded for a while."

"Oh, don't worry, I will." She nods, wincing a bit as she shifts. It still hurts her to move, even with the new medication.

"Tsshhh... Lay still."

I reach out to her, stroking the back of her hand to comfort her, then realizing what I have done I begin to pull away... But she reaches for me and takes hold of my hand... My fingers find their ways about hers gladly and I can hardly tear my gaze from hers. She looks upon me so softly with those beautiful eyes and I ache to know what she is thinking in this moment.

I finally find my tongue again, "I should go... You should have your beauty rest, Princess." I say gently, "The Gods know you need it, looking as you do now."

"You are so mean to me." She sighs and smiles a little.

"I would not want to behave too much in a way that you are not used to my being."

"Very funny, again. Perhaps you should be a comedian and not a King."

"Perhaps." I nod.

"Would you at least stay until I fall asleep? I think I am just very nervous to be here, so far away from everything I know."

"Understandable. I will stay with you if you promise to stop talking and try sleeping."

"I promise."

She yawns and turns her head away from the light so I switch it off completely. In the near dark, I watch over her as she falls to sleeping, still holding my hand with hers. There are cuts decorating it, but still it is beautiful, especially since it is showing signs of healing already. Her breathing grows deeper and slower, her hand becomes limp.

"Dream well, my love. Gods know that you deserve soft dreams to make amends for these difficult times." I say at last and rise slowly, placing her hand gently beside her on the bed. It hurts to let go but she must rest and I must see to some things to ensure her safety.

I walk the halls for a while, having been wanting a bit of exercise. Those who are still awake in this simulation night, bow to me as I pass. I make my way to the operations center and am allowed access to the commanding officer on duty. He bows to me as well.

"Thank you for taking time to see me."

"There is always time, Emperor. What can we do for you?"

"I will be needing to acquire a channel to use for secure communications. I am capable of setting up the routing myself, however I did not wish to without obtaining your permission first."

"That is not a problem at all. Feel welcome to."

"I will be bringing some of my troops here to keep watch over this station while the Altean Princess is here. It would make me feel more comfortable to keep you safe with members of two royal houses on your station."

"That would be most welcome."

"Good... That is all I will trouble you with. Thank you again for your time and patience with the situation."

"It is a pleasure to be of service." He bows and I excuse myself.

I return to my rooms and set up a secure link, finding Shilne rather quickly. He has been wandering about on the Imperial News feeds and sees my signal attach.

"What are you doing?" He asks in text, "You should be out of range now!"

"I am at Kyerst." I reply

"You left there days ago!"

"And now I am back."

"Open a visual channel. Nnh?" Shilne flickers onto the view screen, "Ahht, yaisht Baika!"

"Yaisht." I nod, noticing that he is in flight.

"Gods, what is that you are wearing? Some of the Avasjan finest."

"It is... I need you to come here and quickly."

"Immediately I will. What is happening? Hanta is being odd too..."

"I will tell you when you get here. Bring only a small contingent, I do not want to worry these people too much. I will need you here by their morning."

"How many taik is that?"

"About 7."

"Nnhh..." He checks his nav panel, "We can make that."

"Assume a defensive posture around the station. This is just a precaution. Then come aboard yourself and see me."

"As you wish, Baika. I will see you shortly." He cuts the transmission.

Now I hail the Altean Minister for the first time in a number of years. He looks rather confused to see me on his own personal view screen.

"Excuse me for waking you." I say, for he is not in his day attire.

"That is quite alright... Dare I worry of the nature of this call in the middle of the night after so many years?"

I smirk, "Even if I say you should not, you will... I have hailed you alone so as not to put worry into the rest of your staff."


"I have noticed that you are missing your Princess from reading the news feeds."

"Yes, we are... You wouldn't have anything to do with that, would you?"

"No... Not with her disappearance. That was entirely her doing. She is with me however, though a little worse for wear." I watch his expression and his sudden pallor.

"What have you done?" He breathes.

"Calm yourself. She is quite safe. It appears that you should be keeping better watch of her as she went wandering into dangerous territory by herself and found just that. Danger. It is fortunate for her that I was in the area and heard her distress call. For a change I have been a savior rather than the danger to her."

"Have you?" His shoulders drop, "Is this true or some verbal torture to entertain yourself with?"

"It is the truth." And I have been speaking an enormous amount of it lately, "I will be contacting you in the morning to have her speak with you and let you know she is safe. What signature would you like me to contact you on at that time?"

He gives me the details for another of the castle's receivers. "Where are you?"

"All of your questions will be answered tomorrow. I would have you speak with her now but she is resting herself. Be patient. Good evening."

I cut the transmission before he can begin a trace. The last thing I need is to have them arriving at the station before I have established defense.

For the remainder of the port's simulation of night I work, tending to the affairs of the Empire, napping a bit before their morning. The morning brings a visitor—The Overseer of the medical center. I tie my borrowed robes about myself and yawn.

"Forgive me for waking you so early, highness."

"No matter."

"I have come to speak with you about the condition of our new patient."

"Nnh? Is the Princess somehow worse??"

"Keep calm, Emperor. She is fine." He smiles at my worry, "She is quite charming, and very willing to be attended to despite the stress of her condition and the strange surroundings. She speaks galactic trade very well too!" He gestures for me to have a seat at the table and joins me, "This morning when the Princess woke I examined her, removed her bandages and assessed her body's ability to recover from her wounds."


"She is doing very well, a strong young woman. I asked if she would mind if we examined a previous surgery she had and she agreed so I gave her medication to sedate her while I worked. It was something I had seen on her scans when she came in, but as it was not part of her current condition, we left it alone." He searches in his front pocket then places a small metal rod on the table in front of me. "This is what we found... She is soaking in a mineral bath again while she rouses. We will redress her wounds when she wakes."

"What is that thing?" I squint at it and the strange markings.

"It is no longer a danger to anyone but it was an explosive device." He says quite casually.

My eyes widen in shock, "What?? Inside of the Princess??"

"Yes. I brought it to the security technicians for further investigation after we removed it. It was made to trigger remotely but it seems that its power source has gone out. Even so the arms teams ensured that the triggering mechanism was disconnected and the explosive material removed from it, disposed of safely... We can only assume it was intended to be of harm to your person, Emperor."

"She would have let them kill her to kill me??"

I cannot believe it. So kind and sweet a creature that she cannot even kill an insect... She could not have meant this to happen!

"Calm calm... We do not think that she knew of it. Do you think she would be so calm were she to believe she contained an explosive? Would you be?"

"No... Certainly not."

I eye it in disbelief... The Alliance... They must have hoped I would capture her and then... Then they would have used her to destroy me. Every muscle in my body tightens with rage.


"What..." I growl.

"Do not upset her with this news. She is still quite weak and this would not help her." He suggests and goes to take the thing away from me but I stop him.

"I will keep this... Leave me."

"Yes, Emperor." He stands and bows, "Please do know that you have been of great assistance to her. Had you not closed her wounds and given her the pain meds that immobilized her, she might not have survived this ordeal... She will be ready for morning meal in a short while, you may wish to join her." One more bow and he is gone, leaving me with my anger.

I take the thing into my hand and close my fist around it.

"I will never forgive you." I growl, "NEVER."

When I compose myself, I return to her room to find she is beginning her morning meal. The little piece of metal is in my pocket. I have resolved to keep it with me always, to remember their treachery... The Alliance who had professed to be her protector and instead have been a greater enemy than even I.

My troops have just arrived and are assuming a defensive posture around the station so I am now prepared to talk to her people. However I am still furious and also uncomfortable in this latest set of clothing I have been given to wear. It must not have made my expression very nice for she laughs when she sees me and I frown further.

"Such a look!" She exclaims, "How can you possibly be angry when you are wearing such bright clothing?"

"You will forgive me if I change the subject immediately." I find energy for a bit of a smirk at her humor, "Once you have finished your meal I will open a channel so you may communicate to your concerned parties that you are safe and cared for. The news feeds have shown that your people are worried for you after having been missing for so long and so last night while you slept I contacted your minister."

"Oh really? He must have been upset to see you."

"He was indeed. I simply let him know that you were no longer lost and that you would speak with him this morning. I have known him to be steadier than your defense team, hence I spoke to him privately. I assume that they will all be eager to speak to you. Would you like to speak with them yourself or should I stand and be yelled at and threatened instead?"

"Perhaps we should both speak with them. I am betting that you would at least like to relive some of your former glories by being threatened by my Alliance guard." She giggles.

"You may be correct in this." I smirk again and sit down to my own meal when the nurses set it out on the table in the room. "I am glad to see your appetite is healthy again."

"Ummh. It's wonderful to taste so many different things. Another positive part of this experience. And the leader of this medical center is wonderful too. I practiced my galactic trade with him this morning."

"He mentioned that. Said you were a wonderful patient."

"Really? I'm glad. They've been so nice to me. I've never even heard of these people. Or the Trellestrans. A few of them are here learning from the doctors and have never met a human before so I guess I'm a bit of an interesting specimen. It's quite funny, really."

"I am relieved to see that you are in such a fine mood, my happy Princess."

"The medicine makes me a little happy from not having to feel any of my scrapes or bumps... The Trellestrans are so beautiful. Such amazing eyes and calm expressions. Have you met them before?"

"On many occasions. They are a good people, very devoted to their spiritual sides. They also create some of the most extraordinary textiles I have ever seen."

"Yes yes. Their clothing was incredible."

"Not quite so bright." I chuckle.

"That too is true."

"I will have it arranged for you to have some of this fine colorful clothing for yourself."

"Ohhh... Don't put yourself out on my account."

"No trouble at all."

I wave a hand and we argue over it for a while in a friendly manner while we finish our meals. It is such a relief to see her energy this morning. The nurses clear away our meal while I work on opening the secure channel from the hospital room. The first I find is the Minister, eager to hear news of the Princess. Then her personal defense team. As expected they are less than happy to see my face after so long a time and even less happy to hear that I have their Princess with me.

"What have you done with the Princess??" The Captain yells at me almost immediately.

I growl in response, "I have helped her, fool. Quiet yourself and let me speak to you."

"So you can ransom her??"

"No no... I do not deal in petty ransoms! I have rescued your Princess from pirates that shot down her shuttle and might have tried to ransom her to you. You are not good at keeping track of her, are you, brat?"

"Let her go!"

"I fully intend upon it... I merely wished to speak with you to let you know that she is being cared for and will be returned to you when she is well enough to travel. I had seen on the news feeds that you feared her dead, and I wished to relieve your minds now that we know she will indeed survive her ordeal." I nod mostly to the Minister who is being more patient.

"We have not heard from you in some time. You must understand that these young men are upset by your return to our lives and knowing that you have our Princess..."

"Of course I understand. They are young and quick to react..."

"I'll give you 'quick to react', you ugly blue fuck!! You hurt her you're gonna be eatin' your own damn teeth next time I see you!" The young Lieutenant suddenly erupts, causing the Princess to wince and his own team to restrain him. There is a short scuffle before he is subdued.

"Well... That was charming." I smirk, "I am afraid of the reaction when you see her... She does not look very well, yet she is in much better a condition than when I had found her." I move aside and angle the view downward so she can speak to them.

Their reaction to her state is quite dramatic indeed and she tries to settle their nerves, explaining how I had saved her and cared for her while transporting her to this place. Nothing she could say would satisfy her young guardians of her safety. They were convinced I had done this to her and continued to threaten me with violence. I am glad that I have my defenses set as the Captain and Lieutenant appear ready to make flight to Kyerst to face me. The Sergeants are more subdued, willing to accept our words as truth.

"Enough!" The Minister barks, "He has made no demand, he has said she will be returned, and he did not even need to mention that he had her! The Princess herself speaks of his care of her. We can only but trust that he has been speaking the truth to us... Highness, please let us know when you will be able to bring her back home."

"The medical staff say that her spine may be stable enough to have her fly in a seven days time. I would prefer to wait a bit longer than they recommend, to be certain that she will not become further injured in moving again."

"Of course. Thank you for your kindness to our Princess."

"You are most welcome. It is my honor. I will see to it that she is able to contact you again soon." With that I cut the communication, "And now I would not be surprised if they attack this station." I mutter.

"You do not think they might do that!" The Overseer has heard, "We are a science and commerce station! There are families here!"

"Calm yourself, Overseer. I exaggerate. They would never attack this place for true. Their Princess is inside and disabled. They would never risk causing her harm. That much I am certain of. I have also positioned my troops around the station to keep watch."

"Yes, of course, Emperor." He bows, "I should not question you."

"The safety of those on this station is my first concern. I have thought things through a bit." I placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder, and smile, "When it is all over, we will look back and laugh on it, hnn?"

"Perhaps. We are not used to such things happening here."

"Yes, I know. And I appreciate your patience."

The Overseer gives the Princess another sort of morning medication for her spine now that our traumatic meeting is over.

"You take it after food for it is strong." He smiles at her, "You are coming along well. Rest and be still yet so things may heal. Do not try to move from your bed. Call nurses for anything you need."

She nods, "Thank you, doctor."

"Excuse me." He bows to her and turns to me, "Emperor... I have seen signs of bruising on your shoulder through your neck this morning when I spoke with you. Now it is your turn to be examined." He smiles neatly.

"Not necessary. I am fine."

"Good Emperor... I would be failing your people and you if I were to allow your injuries to go unexamined. You have had a difficult time trying to save this young female and so it is not only she who is deserving of medical care."


He laughs, "I know you are not fond of such things. It will not take long. Do you want her to think you are afraid of my medical skills??" He smiles widely.

"I have no doubts of your abilities."

"Then do not argue. Simply sit down there. It will be over before you know it has begun."

"I do doubt that, however."

I suffer to sit down so he can pull back the brightly colored shirt to have a look.

"Hai yula! You have done some damage to yourself." He sighs and prepares to wash out the wound with antiseptic.

"What's happening?" She inquires.

"I have injured myself in rescuing you. The good doctor Overseer insists upon plying his trade on me despite my protestations."

"Oh my... What happened?"

"She is interested." The Overseer comments and changes to speaking galactic trade for her benefit, "This male who saved you hurt himself. You see these dark markings?"

"Yes. Is that bruising??"

"Yes it is. How did you manage this amount of tearing?" He asks me.

"There was a very strong metal beam that was holding the good Princess captive. I used my shoulder to try and move it directly and then by using another piece of metal as a lever. Perhaps that is how I managed to injure myself."

"I would not be surprised." He clicks his tongue, "And the muscle tearing has caused your skin to open from the swelling."

"Was it the main green support beam that you moved?" She asks.

"It was a green thing, yes." I nod and wince at the antiseptic.

"I am... Amazed you could move that!"

"I was too." I smirk, "But I am stubborn, as you know. I would not let it defeat me."

"I'm glad." She sighs, her wounded forehead furrowed, perhaps in worry for me? "Are you going to be alright?"

"Our good Emperor will heal quickly. He has torn some muscle, yes, but in his people that is not difficult to recover." He seals the cut with liquid skin, "You see that there is a dark color here and lighter here. He is already healing even without medical care. His people are remarkable in that way. A master work of biology and evolution."

"Ahhuu... I am proud." I chuckle.

"It is true. I have always been amazed by your people. You see, Princess, they are a very strong race. Their males grow large and densely muscled. If they are in the military those dense muscles grow even further! Compared to the races we know of, they are the largest in body of the two legged sort. Even their females exhibit such strength and muscle form, yet in a softer way. Everything in their creation seems to have been very carefully considered. Very purposeful."

"For what purpose, do you think?"

"Biological perfection." He nods.

"Oh, goodness. His head will grow huge if you say that!" She laughs a little.

"I do not say so to make the Emperor happy. I have always been fascinated by his people. Look at the symmetry in design..."

He pulls aside another part of the shirt, this time exposing some of my chest rather than my wounded shoulder and back. The Princess gasps and blushes, turning her gaze away.

"Overseer..." I stop him and cover myself again, "Not a good thing."

"I have upset you, Princess?"

"I... Well..."

"In her culture it is not acceptable for a male to simply bare himself to a female. Especially one so shy."

"Please excuse me. Not everyone shares my fascination with biology. I hoped only to satisfy any curiosity you might have regarding the Shinkau people." He bows slightly, "Not to upset you so."

"It is alright... Just not something I am used to."

"I will summarize without demonstration... I do believe that they were made for eventual biological perfection. They grow quickly as children, their lives are extensive along with their breeding period, their bodies are fit and not often prone to illness, their muscle mass is extraordinary, and their genetics are as aggressive as they are. Since our knowing the Shinkau, there have been pairings of our peoples and resulting hybrid children. There are many races whose genetics are dominated by the Shinkau when they combine. We are very pleased to know them for their protection allows our ability to live in peace. I hope you are pleased to know them too. Judging from the muscle tearing in this male's shoulder, I can state with authority that a human would not have been able to rescue you."

"We have a long history of war with these people... But I am pleased to have been rescued by him and hope there are better days ahead."

He smiles, "Excuse my want to share my interests so much... In a pair of days your shoulder should be healed, Emperor."

"Good good."

"And now I will go."

We both watch him depart as I readjust my attire. "I did not realize he might begin to disrobe me in his medical excitement..."

"He seems genuinely fascinated by your people... Shinkau, he called you?"

"That is how they call us. Imperial person is the best translation. Our word and their word pieced together."

"Interesting..." She is now looking out the window at one of the Imperial Pyatons as it keeps watch over the station.

"Nnh... What think you, Princess? Is my assumption that your defenders will keep away correct? Or will the young Lieutenant lose control enough to fly here?"

"The Minister will keep them in check. He seems to believe you." She sighs, a strange look playing across her face. "What do you think of my defense team?"

I stare at her, surprised by the question, then laugh loudly and fold my arms across my chest, "Do you honestly wish to know??"

"Yes, I honestly do." She frowns.

"Very well... Since we shall never again have cause to fight, I will tell you." I rise up from my seat and take a few steps toward the view screen, looking at the frozen faces there and trying to think of the best way to put it to her gently. "They are very... Young."

"Yes, they are... So am I."

"Nnnh... When we began to fight you and yours and then the Alliance sent them... They were young... Even two cycles further on, they were still juvenile. Unrefined. I can only guess that this has not changed much over the time that has passed since then, given their attitude and composure in addressing me just now. That and you have at least one sent to you because he was a discipline problem..." I tap on the monitor at the stilled image of her Lieutenant—face as red as the jacket of his Captain beside him.

"Yes... Well... The Lieutenant can be rather... Fiery. He doesn't do much to keep his opinions private. At least you never have to wonder what he's thinking." A slight smile drifts across her face. She is fond of him despite his outbursts.

"True. Yet that is why he was sent to you, is my thought. He likely annoyed all of his superiors until they could find a place to send him, far from their worry. Still, he is a fine pilot, and if he would channel some of that... fire as you call it... into his training and focus, he would be remarkable."

"He has done great things to train our pilots. We never thought we would have to fly in combat... The Captain and he have been wonderful for educating our enforcement to become more military in their abilities."

"Your Captain is another one, sent off because they could not find a use for him. He does have excellent hand to hand combat skills and his piloting is very textbook."

"You seem to think we got all of the Alliance throw-aways."

"You do not see that?"

"Well, no... I can see that the Lieutenant might have been given to us because of what you say... What's wrong with the Captain?"

"He sees things very... Defined. Either right or wrong and no middle place. He keeps himself by the books, by the law. He lacks the fire that your Lieutenant has too much of. He does not want to fight, but be feels he has to when pressed. He needs to have a just cause in order to fight for it, not simply the orders to do so. I offend him because I fall on the wrong side of his estimation of right and wrong. There is no place for me to be anything else but wrong in his mind."

"I've always admired his faith... And his skills. But I can see what you mean. He can be rather regimented."

"Your big human sergeant was a good pick for his fabrication and engineering skills. He has a protective nature about him that will keep you safe, and the size to face one of my men adequately. Again, he prefers not to fight, he enjoys a just cause though. Things are not as defined for him as they are for your Captain. He is willing to hear other opinions."

"True. I always feel safe around him. Very friendly man."

"Your best choice was the one that volunteered...The little Baltan sergeant who compliments the skills of the big sergeant. That one is brilliant. Perhaps not a fighter, but an excellent test pilot and engineer. At least he understands a little of our ways... Has he spoken to you of life on our side of the border?"

"Not very much. He said that they have a sort of deal with your Empire, not to communicate its business to our side of the border. They're apparently very willing to honor that deal for all that he has really said is that he misses the food at home."

"I am pleased." I smile a little, "You see, the overall problem is that the Alliance seems to be fond of youths who are given combat training only because they have some sense of loyalty and decent hand to eye coordination. They do not have the gut for real combat, yet they are compelled to fight as they have loyalty to the Alliance and the fear of alien peoples that has been pressed into their minds by propaganda... They are pushed too quickly into active combat, far before their skills are polished... I hated to have to end so many of their lives." I click my tongue and turn off the monitor.

She frowns at me more now and then closes her eyes.

"What is that expression for?" I wonder aloud.

"Oh... " She looks at me again, "I am just... Never mind.." She looks away.

"I will mind. You have asked me for my opinion, to be honest with you, and I have. I expect the same in return. Tell me what you are thinking."

She sighs and gives in, "It is difficult because for this past little while I've seen things so differently... I am just remembering that your people and mine have been at war... And that you have killed my people. I had somewhat forgotten all of that for a while..."

"If it is of any comfort to you, I did not kill those that I did not need to... You must understand duty, Princess. It was my duty. Our duty." I nod.

"Yes... I wish it hadn't been."

"It no longer is and so it has not continued. Certainly that does not erase the past... I would not have killed you." I immediately regret letting my tongue get away from me again.

"Why not?"

"There was never a need for it." I mutter.

"I have faced you in combat before."

"Yes, you have... For all of your fire, Milady... You are not the greatest of warriors." I smirk, "You were never a threat to my life."

She frowns yet again, "I did my best."

"At the time, yes you did."

"What does that mean??"

Again I laugh, glad of her returning energy. Her fire is far more charming than that of her lieutenant.

"Ahhuu, there is your fighting spirit coming up!"

"Mmh.." A lovely blush plays across her cheeks once again.

"What I mean to say is that you have potential. I did not intend to insult you... But you are rather an unrefined and untrained pilot. Those boys will never be able to instill in you the discipline necessary to become a pilot or a warrior. They haven't got it themselves. I do believe they would lay down their lives for you, however, and I was always mindful of that."

"And I suppose you would be a much better teacher..."

"Sarcasm duly noted, my lady! But yes, I would be... How many lives have you taken? Nnnh?"

"None! And I am glad of that."

"You will always falter as a result of that very sentiment. It will be your undoing... If your wanderlust does not see you to your grave first!"

"How can it be wrong to be glad I haven't killed anyone??"

"There is a difference between being glad you haven't done it and being glad you haven't needed to."

She opens her mouth and then stops, a look of understanding coming across her, "Oh... Oh..."

"You see my point."

"Yes, I suppose that I do."

"You will always avoid killing even if your own life will be forfeit. That is why it is good you have others around you to do that for you."

"I'm not a coward." Her blush grows.

"I never said that you were." I shake my head, "We should not continue this conversation. Your face is turning red."

She sighs sharply this time and I see her gripping the sheet in her fist. After a few moments she relaxes her hand and speaks again.

"I know nothing about you. I thought that I did."

"Intelligence reports do not contain the full story... Neither did my behavior in your presence. Now relax yourself." I bring her a glass of water.

She cannot even look my way, the blush staying in her cheeks. "We were so cocky with you... And you could have easily killed us all."

"This is true." I hand the glass to her, "Drink something. I do not like seeing your face that color."

She takes the glass from me at last. "Why didn't you?"

I laugh quietly, "That is another story for another day. Another day when you do not look the color of your Captain's coat."

"It can't make me look any worse than I already do."

She takes a sip of her water and I laugh louder at her joking at her own expense then still myself and speak to her from my heart.

"You will always be beautiful, regardless of your scars and bruises."

She finally looks my way again and I watch now as the blush fades from her, "Thank you." She whispers.

"You are very welcome."

The moment is broken by Shilne's arrival with two of our sergeants. The sergeants go to their knees and touch their hands to the floor with bowed heads, while Shilne who is much higher in rank merely stands and bows to me respectfully.

"My Emperor. What is your command?"

"You may send the sergeants on their way. I wish to speak to you alone."

"Yes, Emperor." He dismisses them to stand guard outside the doors.

The Princess is looking quite fascinated by their presence. More of my people for her to look at and wonder about and fortunately distract her from the angering parts of our conversation.

"You have seen the transmission to Altea?"

"Yes, as you wished. This is the battered Princess then?" He asks though he knows quite plainly.

"Nnh... She speaks no northern of course so you may speak in confidence to me. You may also test your language skills with her if you like."

"Please do make introduction. It will be the first time I have seen her so closely." He smiles.

I turn to the Princess and bow slightly, "My lady... This is my most honored High Commander, Shilne. Diya Calpuran... Shilne, greet the Princess of planet Altea."

"A pleasure to meet you formally at last." He bows to her, "I am sorry you have found such misfortune on your journey."

"So am I... Thank you, High Commander." She smiles through her bruises and scrapes.

"His men are the troops that are defending the port at this moment to ensure your safety. Of course I trust nothing more than myself and my own judgment so I have brought them here, my most trusted. My men are at your disposal. Whatever you ask of them, they will provide. Once you are able to walk the halls of this place, they will accompany you and see to your safety at all times. When it is time for us to make the journey to your home, they will fly alongside." I finish with another bow to her.

"Thank you... It is good to meet you, Shilne. To know your name after only knowing your face."

"And yourself. I have regret it is in such a manner that we first meet peacefully. Be assured that we will see to your protection."

"I am not worried at all any more."

"Good good. My Emperor?"

I return to speaking northern with him, explaining how things have happened.

"... You will take the information from my Pyaton's nav records to see where it was that I located the Princess. I would like to find out how it is that she came to be there and I would also like to find the pilots of those last pirate skiffs that I did not destroy."

"As you wish. Have you not asked her this?"

"I have. Her mind is a bit clouded. I suspect that she had some memory loss due to having her shuttle's control deck come smashing into her head." I frown.

"Yaaii." He clicks his tongue, "She is a sweet and trusting creature. I am surprised to see her wear a smile in your presence."

"We have come to speak to one another without formalities and so things have been very comfortable. This is the most formal we have been since her rescue."

"I am glad for you both. May I ask her a few questions? Perhaps her mind has returned somewhat."

"You may try." I switch language again, "Princess, I wish to have my troops investigate the situation surrounding your injury. They will attempt to find out how you came to that far place and will arrest your remaining attackers if possible. Shilne is hopeful that you may have regained some of your memory of that time. Will you speak to him of it?"

"Of course."

Shilne approaches her hospital bed and bows again before taking a chair for himself.

"Princess, what do you remember of the events leading up to your attack?"

"Nothing really... Just vague impressions of taking a journey to get away from home for a while."

"You were alone?"

"Yes... I know it was a foolish thing to do but I have done it before and I think I have learned my lesson now." She blushes again.

"You do not think anyone called to you?"

"I don't remember anything like that, no." She furrows her brow, "I do remember that my shuttle's navigation center was in warning. It didn't know where I was."

"Hnnn... Princess, do you think that perhaps you took a skip point?"

A flash of remembrance comes to her face, "Yes!" She looks at him in shock. "I did! I remember! I was taking a skip point to Andan. I wanted to go and sit by the waterfalls for a while... My God... When I came out the other side that is when the navigation center started screaming at me that it didn't know where we were. There was no sign of Andan anywhere. It couldn't find where we were... I turned around to go back through and there they were... Waiting for me by the skip point." She laid a hand on her chest in some attempt to still her heart as the memories came flowing back.

"We have been having troubles with the pirates setting up false skip points and trapping vessels. I did not know it had found its way to the Alliance spaces." He says to her. "You were merely the unlucky one that found it... Highness, we will find the skip generator and bring it here. Anyone we find with it we will bring back to Galrea. If we do not find those that are in your records, we will search for them."

"Very good. At least we can reroute the traffic from that false point until we can take it down."

"I am sorry I have caused all of this trouble." She sighs, "I... I just had this feeling of depression... As though there were something happening to my life that I could not stop that was going to hurt terribly... And it just wouldn't go away. Everyone tried to make me feel better... But I left. I thought if I just did something other than being at home, maybe I would feel differently... And instead I've caused all of this trouble."

"Your Princess has gone far out of her way to prevent your marriage." Shilne notes in northern and I give him a hard look. He shrugs, "Perhaps she sensed it coming."

"Not... Amusing." I say. But could it be true? Could the Gods have called to her on my behalf? Certainly it is an amazing coincidence... "It is not your fault, Princess. No one thinks that it is." I assure her, "Excuse me."

I take Shilne by the arm, pulling him away from her bedside, "Aich!"

"You are in rare form." I glower at him.

"I always am." He smiles quite proudly.

"There is another job I have for you to do."

"Yes yes?"

I show him the metal rod, "This... Do not lose it or I will surely have your head."

"What is it?" He takes it.

"An explosive device."


"Settle. It is disabled. The doctors found this inside of the Princess. It must have been placed there by the Alliance in hopes that I would take her. I want you to find out from those we have inside, where this came from and did she know about it. I do not believe that she did. And I am very... Very... Angry."

"Understood." He nods. "It will be done and quickly."

"Good... Go."

And so I part with my little reminder for a while and return to her bedside. She looks terribly upset. I hope that these rapid changes in her emotional state will not harm her healing process.

"I am so sorry." She says again.

"Princess... There is nothing to be sorry for. One can never tell which way the fates will turn our paths. Something good may come of this yet."

I hope that it will. I had almost completely forgotten about my impending marriage once again, having been so distracted by her. Can I even go through with it now? I don't want to. I haven't wanted to. I have put it off for so long... Could it ever be she and I facing marriage?

"I hope so." She says and I break out of my thoughts, realizing that she has answered my previous words and my thoughts all in one.

"As do I."

Shortly one of the Avasjan commanders finds me, "Forgive the intrusion." He bows.

"No intrusion."

"The sciences ministry wishes to meet with you as you are here. It appears that they come to a difficult place with Galrea. They await you on the planet below. Will you meet with them?"

"Of course. Have the landing instructions sent to my katsuna."

"Right away." He bows away.

"It is amazing to hear you speak in so many different ways." She comments.

"I am pleased that I entertain you, Princess." I find myself bowing my head to her.

She takes my hand again and I look to her upturned face, "Please stop being so formal. I like the way it was before..."

"Forgive me... I have so many things in my mind..." I take her hand with both of mine, enjoying her warmth, angered by the wounds that I see on her soft flesh. "It is habit, to fall into formality when among visiting royalty and soldiers and allied commanders..."

"I understand."

"I have to leave you for a little while. They are hoping to meet with me down on the planet proper regarding some Imperial projects. Will you feel comfortable here on your own for a while?"

"I'll be alright. I will just have to find something else to entertain me." She smiles for me.

"I hardly think you will find anything else quite as amusing."

"You may be right."

I manage to return a little smile for her before releasing her hand and leaving her alone with the medical staff.

The meeting on the planet is short. They are trying to finalize the seeding of the grounds outside of the castle Galrea and it is not so much difficulty with the doings as it is with the permissions and finances. I sign off on the project gladly and then find my way through the streets of Mertahn City.

There is something I have been noticing to be missing from my Princess and I mean to have it returned to her if possible. The circlet of gold she has always worn on her forehead to signify her standing has been lost in the crash. While she will not have the original, I have hopes that she might enjoy a replacement. I find the jeweler that has been recommended to me and show her some of the images I have from news feeds regarding the Princess.

"Can you make that?" I ask.

"Of course. We do not have the red stones though. You would have to choose something else."

"Hnn... Very well." I find that I am pleased with what I have to choose from instead and select some blue stones to match her eyes. "How soon can it be done?"

"Two days. We can have it sent to you on Kyerst if you wish."

"I do. Thank you for your speed."

I pay the woman and make the journey back to Kyerst, quite pleased with myself. Even if I cannot be with her in the future, she will at least carry part of me with her.

I return to my Princess and my occupation of her entertainment and diversion. I read to her from an human book and she provides me with definitions of words I do not yet understand. I do love this time that I spend with her. I could easily see myself this way forever. My upcoming marriage... It cannot happen. If there is any chance that I can be with my Princess, I must leave myself open to it. There is no political tie that is worth losing this possibility to.

On to 27