Marking of the Days

by Sincline Koutaishi

Princess' Homecoming

"Where are we going?" She inquires, surprised that I am taking her outside of the medical facility for her daily walking therapy.

"We are going to show you something different. You have come a long way to only see the inside of an Avasjan hospital, nnh?"

"I suppose I have."

She smiles a little, concentrating hard on her balance and trying to keep her steps evenly paced as recommended by the doctors. The sergeants that accompany us keep their distance, not only from her anger with their humor at her bright clothing, but from my threats to keep back enough to make her comfortable. I am perfectly capable of defending her myself... But they are there for ceremony and also so I may be less concerned with defense and more concerned with interacting with my nearly recovered young Princess. It is a great thing to enjoy her returning energy.

"Do you feel uncomfortable with this idea?"

"Oh, no. Just curious."

"How are you managing so far?"

"As well as I can be."

"We will stop for a rest shortly... This way." I gesture down another hall that leads us to an observation lounge facing the planet.

"Ooohhh... How lovely." She smiles and works her way over to the glass where she sets aside her crutch and sits down to have a look. "Is it called planet Avasjan? Or something else?"

"Vasujal. It means 'home land'."

"It's amazing. Look at all the clouds and water. Is it pretty down there?"

"I think so. Very peaceful even given the large numbers in the cities. Before, they were not so interested in association with the Empire. When I took the throne, we began a peaceful accord."

"So they weren't fond of your father."

"True. I had known them for years separately, and they did not have worry over working with me, but my father had made demands of them that they did not appreciate."

"I see. Not surprising really...The Overseer can't say enough good about your people it seems."

"We fascinate them as you have seen... And we have introduced them to many different races who also fascinate them. They are a curious people."

Shortly we are not the only ones enjoying the view. We are off to a side and so are not noticed as they enter. I smile at seeing that at least one of the Rangers I had requested has arrived... Along with what appears to be a human... And he is quite obviously intoxicated, she trying to keep him upright... Then he sits down heavily in one of the far seating areas and she joins him, kneeling beside him on the cushion.

"I swear I am never going to leave you alone with your uncle again." She says and smiles, patting his head of longish dark hair.

"Why? He is a good man. He makes good things for me to drink!"

"That is my point, Jah. Your family has been doing too much celebrating at this reunion and before such a big task too."

"Let me sing for you." He grins.


He begins into a drinking song, she laughing and trying to cover his mouth playfully until she slips off the lounge and onto the floor.

"You are drunk-er than I am." He muses and helps her up.

"For Pete's sake, Jahnaul. It's a good thing you're a happy drunk. Lush." Half of her dialogue is in human, confirming her origins.

The Princess takes note too, the first time she has heard her own language spoken correctly on this station. She looks over.

"A human?" She wonders.

"It seems so. The Rangers have arrived. That is one of them. I do not know the woman... Would you like to meet them?"

"Very much!"

I bring her over to the far lounger, the two there still conversing and laughing. Jahnaul notices me first.

"Hoy! Royalty!" He raises a hand, grinning.

"Yes." I smirk and the human turns around in surprise then bows down.


"Good day to you both."

"Good day to you, the man who has made my grandfather stop cursing Imperial rule." He remains seated.

"Jah... You should really bow..." She hisses to him.

"I cannot. I will fall over. Excuse me, Great Emperor. I am very drunk!"

"Oh, my God... What an impression." She hangs her head, again speaking in English, "Please do not be offended."

"I am not. I have been in the military long enough to see a drunk man or two celebrating before an action... Please leave your formality... I know this man enough to make introduction but who are you?"

"Katie. Diya Balumor." She sits up, still on her knees, smiling, "I am the drunk's wife."

"And beautiful too." Jahnaul chuckles.

"Tssht!" She scolds him, using his knee to rise back up to standing.

"Ahht... You are here to go with the family for the Avasjan task. You are also a Ranger but from human training?"

"Well, not so much... But I've learned a lot over the past few years."

"I understand... Princess, please meet one of our Rangers--Retired from service and drunk from a family gathering. Jahnaul, Diya Balumor and wife Katie. Family Diya Balumor, this is the Princess of the Altean planet whose time in this hospital recovering is being traded for your services here."

"Hoy, Princess. Welcome to western arm galaxy. Come to our canyon some sun for entertainment. It is good time!" Jahnaul continues to smile, eyes half drowsed, worst human language I have heard coming from him but he has learned enough to communicate despite his slurred speech.

"I'm sure it would be a good time. Nice to meet you both."

"You'll have to excuse him." Katie waves her hand in a typical Gyokete fashion, "He is not so sloppy usually." And her voice is filled with the Gyokete accent.

"It looks like you had fun." The Princess smiles.

"The family gatherings are always an event and they're all very excited to explore a new wilderness. It's just the way they are. I've never met a closer family."

"That's wonderful. What a pretty accent you have."

"It comes from years of speaking Gyokete-Nuoladn. I've nearly forgotten English!"

"Gyokete... I've been seeing the news from there." She nodded, recognizing the name, "Do you like living there?"

"Oh, completely. It's beautiful. We live in a canyon and it's always amazing to watch things change as the sun moves across the sky. I couldn't ask for more... Well... Maybe a less drunk husband." She smiles and puts her fingers into his hair as he smiles widely up at her, "But that will pass."

"Have you been married long?"

"A couple years."

"Are there a lot of humans on Gyokete?"

"No... It's kinda far from the eastern borders. Some times I forget my skin is the color that it is..." She muses and then a pair of men join us, "More trouble comes so quickly..." She uses the mocking expressions of Gyokete too.

"Naiii... Not trouble. Family! And friend... Ehnnn... Royalty." The elder speaks.

Both remain standing and bow in greeting, "Thank you for coming here."

"It is our great pleasure. You have made my father stop cursing Imperial rule."

"So said your son earlier." I smirk, "Did he curse it so often?"

"Daily, upon rising from his bed with the dawn and returning to it at the end of the day. He was quite regular about it. But you are a good Emperor. And no ridge! I am glad of that too... Who is the pretty girl?"

"Princess of the Altean planetary colony."

"Ahht, yes... A good rescue, young Emperor! I greet you, beautiful Princess." He speaks to her in Trades and inclines his head respectfully, "I am Nahunal. Diya Balumor. Father to the drunk man that you have already met, friend to this sober one that you have not. Behran. Diya Mahdopur. He is physician at our lodge, a friend for many many years."

Behran bows his head after the introduction, "I greet you."

"It is very nice to meet all of you." She smiles.

"We are glad to be here with a new adventure on a new world." Nahunal smiled back toward her, "Emperor... You should come and have a card game with us before we leave, nnh?"

"You're still playing? You should get some sleep, father." Katie said to him.

"I am not so old!" He laughed, "We should adjust to the time difference, nnh? You may rejoin the game when you can stand on your own, Jah."

"A challenge!" He grins at his father.

"For which, you are not prepared." Katie pushes him back down easily when he tries to get up.

"Unfair! I could have done it I am sure!"

"I am not so sure. Listen to your wife, Jah..." Nahunal told him.

"You always side with her. Also unfair."

"She makes more sense than you... What say you, Emperor? Will you spend time with lower ranks?"

"I usually do. I will see how the day goes."

"Very good."

"For now it is my duty to show the wonders of this port to a healing Princess... Do you feel rested enough now to see more?" I inquire of her.

She looks up to me where I stand beside her, a bright smile on her face, "What next?"

"More walking and then more to see. Come come... Excuse us."

"As you will, Emperor. Gods keep you."

"And you."

Out in the halls again she tells me what she thinks before I ask.

"They seemed like lovely people. Very down to Earth... Gyokete." She laughs.

"That is the way of most Gyokete inhabitants. They are calm, happy... Their speaking of Nuoladn is different from most. It is influenced by several other races that are close neighbors and sometimes residents of their world."

"Katie seems so happy with her husband... And his father seems quite accepting of her."

"I would say so."

"But there aren't many humans on that world... I guess I would have expected them to be harder on her."

"No. It is the Gyokete way to be accepting of all. She has likely enjoyed herself living there... But I do wonder how she arrived... Perhaps I will ask her later if I find myself in a card game..." I smile at the prospect.

"I can only hope you wouldn't end up quite in the state that Katie's husband was in!"

"Huaa... No fun, Princess!"

"Perhaps not for you, but I do doubt I could ever try and hold you upright in my condition!"

"It might be fun however to see you try... That... Would be fun for me."

"Goodness but I've only just been healing and you're ready to injure me again!"

"Never that... Never that... This way..."

I bring her now to the section where there are shops that serve the residents and visitors of the orbital port. Here she finds her own curiosities with other aliens she has never seen before. I have told her to find some basic things that she can bring to wear under her flight clothing on the journey home but she seems more interested in staring about. In particular she is watching a group of Trellestran women who are in the shop.

"You will wear holes in them if you continue to stare so." I tell her, she breaking out of her gaze with a slight blush of embarrassment.

"I'm so sorry, but I can't help it. They're so lovely and their clothing is absolutely beautiful."

"True enough, yet in most cultures you will find that it is considered rude to stare."

"In ours too, actually. I'll try to stop, but it's so hard with so much to stare at!" She laughs and tries to concentrate on the task at hand, looking for something not so brightly colored.

"Perhaps I can show you that I am good at something other than military action."


"Excuse me a moment."

I leave her in the care of the two sergeants that have been our escorts while I go to approach the group of Trellestran women, greeting them formally for they seem to be of high standing. They respond by bowing to me and greeting me as their superior, the highest of the group introducing herself as the daughter of a visiting Trellestran physician. While my understanding of their language is not so good, I gather that she is explaining that her father is not simply a doctor, but a high standing one and that she is honored to meet me for all of the great things she knows I have done for their people.

"It is my honor to do well for my people and to be a friend to yours." I smile slowly as she covers her smiling mouth shyly at my poor pronunciation, "I hope that I am not doing too poorly with your language."

"You do well enough, Emperor. I do not speak your language at all! You are an intelligent male indeed to speak so many languages. I am trying to learn Avasjan, but it is so hard!"

"After you learn one other language, the rest are simple. You will see."

"I hope so. I would like to one day be an ambassador to Vasujal."

"I wish you the best with that. I would like to assist you in your future training then. Making bonds with other peoples?"

"How will you do this?"

"I would like you to meet a female who is royalty to another planet. A 'human' female. She thinks your clothing is the most beautiful that she has seen and has been staring at you for a while. Will you speak with her?"

"Huuman... Yes, I would like that. Thank you."

"Come with me."

I bring her back to the Princess who is looking flustered and my sergeants who are looking interested.

"Princess, I will translate for you in greeting this Trellestran woman... Yet I am not good with their language so be forgiving of me." I smile and she nods.

Shaky introductions made, the Princess is now blushing from being bowed to and complimented so much.

"...It is so good to meet you, highness. I am sorry you have been so injured but it is wonderful for you to have been brought here to these doctors by this great Emperor."

"I am grateful to him for having put aside our old conflicts to save me." She nods.

"He has done many wonderful things for many wonderful people. Because of him we have been able to meet the Avasjan people and learn so much from them. Now I am able to travel here with my father and learn their language and to meet you too. A huuman." She claps her hands together happily.

"This has been a bad and good thing for me to be here. To be injured but I too have met so many wonderful new people... I hope you are not upset that I have been watching you, but your clothing is so beautiful. I have never seen the like."

"Thank you!"

"It looks so delicate."

"It is not. I will show you."

She beckons to one of the young women who brings a bag along out of which comes a long piece of gossamer fabric with extremely detailed embroidery. My Princess seems in awe of this thing that she is allowed to take into her hands and encouraged to pull on it to test its strength.

"Oh my... Incredible!"

"Strong... Very strong, very soft, very light. Yes? Made of eshu plant. Grows everywhere at home. We trade with the Avasjans for medicine plants. I give this to you in hope that in future our people may trade with yours too."

"Thank you so much! I wish I had something to give you in return."

"Your friendship?" The young woman smiles.

"You have it." She nods in agreement, "Please let this man know how to contact you so I may invite you to visit my home."

"I will. I do not mind having a handsome man know where to find me." Now she is smiling my way with her shining black eyes.

"I thank you for saying so." I take a contact card from her.

"Perhaps if you could wait a few more cycles you could marry me instead of the Tastian Princess."

"While you are very beautiful, my future is already decided."

"I am sad." She mocks a frown and then looks past me to my sergeants, "Perhaps there is a look of interest on that man's face?"

Indeed one of them seems to have forgotten his duty to be enraptured by her exotic experience—dark eyes, brown skin and orange hair.

"I think it is. Sergeant?"

"Forgive me, Royal High Commander!" He snaps back to duty.

"He is very handsome too." She laughs.

"I have a suggestion for you. Since you find attraction for other species, you should learn galactic trade language so you may speak to all the handsome men you find!"

"A very good idea. I will work at this too and hope it will be easier than the Avasjan's language. Thank you. Thank you for speaking with me and letting me make a new friend. I must go though, my attendants are telling me so. Please tell the Princess how happy I was to meet her."

"I will."

"Goodbye, great Emperor." She bows away.

"Goodbye. Good journey." I look down to see that my Princess is still entranced by this length of fabric that is now hers, "She wishes you to know how happy she was to meet you. You have a new friend now, and I have shown you that I can do more than fight."

"Yes. You are a great diplomat with attractive women." She laughs and smiles up at me, "She was flirting with you, wasn't she?"

"Perhaps..." I frown.

"Ohhh... Goodness." She shakes her head, "I have said it before and I will say it again... I am amazed that your head fits through the door with how much your ego has been fed since we've been here."

"Hhrrrr... You cannot find some small thanks for me?"

"Thank you. She was a lovely person, though her taste in men is questionable." She curtsies shakily.

"You are truly cruel."

"I am grateful too. This is the first time I've been able to go away from home and be introduced to influential people. People that my people don't even know about too! Look at this! Have you ever seen anything so lovely?" She changes the subject, holding up the fabric.

"I have, yet this is also remarkable."

"It goes with nothing I'm wearing. I absolutely love it." She giggles and I smile again, "Will you hold it for me while I finish up here?"

"Perhaps you will find something that compliments it more, nnh?" I take it from her.

"I could only hope."

When she has gathered her travel clothing I bring her next to have a meal outside of her hospital room. Her eyes are beginning to drowse as we are only just starting to eat.

"Would you prefer to return to your room?"

"Oh, no. I'm just tuckered out but I don't want to give up quite yet."

"I may need to carry you back. How your eyes are closing!"

"They're tired from seeing so much." She smiles wearily, "Don't you ever get like that? Are there not scenes that you thought you might never see that tire you out from trying to take them all in? Or have you traveled so much that it has become all very ordinary to you?"

"Never ordinary. That is why I had captured all of those images that you saw while we traveled here. Every time I think I have seen the most beautiful or unusual vista, there is always another one to surprise me. It is a large galaxy with many treasures."

"I am glad to hear that."

"I have even been distracted from my duty by some particularly beautiful scenes."

"You mean, women..." She mocks.

"Naiii... I did not mean that... But in truth I have been also distracted by women."

"Surprising..." She rolls up her eyes.

"It is the truth, and I am not ashamed... There was one woman... I was so distracted by her beauty that I defied a dangerous Emperor, changed my way of thinking, and brought about an enormous war in order to keep her and her people safe... Nnh?" I watch with satisfaction as a bright blush grows on her face, "So you see that it is not always a bad thing for me to be distracted."

She swallows hard and returns her attention to her plate, silent. Perhaps I have gone too far.

"I did not mean to cause you discomfort, Princess..."

She nods slowly.

"Nnnh... It appears I have even so."

"I suppose... I just didn't want to think about that... In so many ways."

"I might have thought you would be a little pleased."

"No. It is rather... Disturbing to me that the only reason my people weren't wiped out by yours was because you... Ummm... Thought I was... Beautiful." Her shoulders hitch up slightly.

"It is better than the alternative. You made me stop and think of humans as more than an embarrassing part of my heritage and an invading horde to be beaten back."

"Yes... Well... Even though I don't like that idea, my father used to say that he was proud that his little girl was so pretty she had tamed the heart of a beast."


"He was always trying to make things easier than they were. To make jokes..."

"Your father was a good man."

"Yes... Yes he was."

"I am sorry..."

"You don't have to apologize again... And it wasn't your fault either."

"I still have my regrets as you know."

She nods again, "You know... We don't have anything like this at home." She is changing the subject again, her tired eyes casting about, "Not even close."

"An orbital port?" I smile.

"Noo... I mean... Shops like this... Such luxurious restaurants... Well equipped hospitals...That is what it is... Luxury... And it's all built in orbit too! It is just amazing..."

"One day your people will find some room for luxury along with their hard work. I am confident of it."

"I am glad you are."

"You will see... If you begin to feel some comfort in my people's presence, perhaps you can pass that feeling to your people as well and then we can begin to be neighbors, and trading partners... We can help your people to grow."

"I know. I look forward to that day. I do... I appreciate everything you've done for me. I truly do. I appreciate your honesty as well. I have learned more than I ever thought I might. I hope that we can make something good come of this. Maybe you'll find that we can be better than what your people believe we can be."

"I have no doubts. There will be many who will be hard to convince."

"Time heals all wounds."

"And bruises. You are looking far less lumpy."

"But still not a beauty-queen that could stop an angry Prince in his tracks."

"Ahhuuu... I am not so sure about that. You may even stop an angry Emperor." I raise my cup in praise of her. "Finish your pakur-nahl so you may go sleep for a while."

"Is that what this is called?"

"In fact, no. I merely pointed to what looked good." I smirk and she laughs, "But it certainly tastes like it so that is what I will call it."

"It's delicious, whatever the name."

While she sleeps the flight uniform I have had sent for to replace her destroyed flight jumper arrives. Unfortunately there are none that are of the size that she might fit into aside from those of the youth academy. I had the tailors modify it to present her as equal rank to Queen before they sent it. There I sit with it and think of the morning that comes, the day that we will begin the journey to her home. I can only wonder what will happen next, I can only hope... Then I leave her hospital room to sleep myself.

In the morning the Avasjan nurses fit the little uniform about her bandaging. It hangs from her a bit loosely. She does not have the broad shoulders for this thing.

"Look at me! I'm an Imperial pilot." She laughs when they finish.

"Hardly, my lumpy Princess."

I am as amused by this as she is. She is dressed as my Queen, as part of my military... And she seems quite pleased too.

"Never did I think I would wear an Imperial uniform." She works on putting her hair up, doing battle with the portions that have been burnt away and trying to keep balanced on her good leg.

"They will not be pleased with me when they see you still in this state and wearing an Imperial uniform." I comment, seeing to the last of the closures on my flight jacket.

"Well it's not your fault, they just have to come to terms with that. At least I look much better than when they last saw me. The mineral baths are absolute miracles. I cannot believe how fast I've been healing... Perhaps if we put a ribbon on my cast they'll be a little happier." So she asks one of the nurses if there are any and I laugh heartily.

"That will make everything better." I say with sarcasm.

"It couldn't make things worse." She says and is pleased when the nurse finds her some ribbon. "Lovely." She ties it on and admires it in the reflecting pane. "Maybe you should have a few ribbons to make you look less sinister in your black uniform."

"Nnh.." I smirk and collect my sword, "You are all ready for the trip then?"

"I believe that I am."

"Amuku kai!" Shilne has come into the room cheerfully with the two sergeants assigned to the Princess' safety, "It is a good day for a flight. The weather seems clear..." He looks out the window.

"There is no weather in space..." I remind him.

"True true... All the better for a flight! Are you feeling prepared, Princess?" He smiles at her.

"Very, High Commander... You are in a very good mood today!"

"Today is good. I have spoken to Seriku! I am now perfect."

"How lucky for you." She laughs at him.

"Today, you find that these two men can do more than laugh at bright clothing. They are good pilots. Nnh?"

"I will take your word for it."

"Now... Will you be flying with me? Or with one of these humorous men?"

"She will fly with me." I state.

"With you? I cannot allow!" Shilne casts his grin toward me, "They will kill you when you go to return her. She will fly with one of us."

"Naai... She goes with me. I have brought her this far... It is my duty."

"By Gods, you are the largest fool I know of." He says to me in northern, "You cannot be serious, surely!"

"I am very serious. There will be no more discussion."

He comes to my side, clapping a hand on my shoulder, speaking at a level to only include our ears, "Ahuu... Suddenly you are so brave to face her military when the saying of a few simple words to her would cause you to cringe."

"Shilne..." I warn him but he continues.

"Baika, do you so want to die before you have the chance to conquer those few words? Nnh? That is what you are heading toward. You cannot think this will be peaceful. They say that they will cause us no trouble, but I do not believe... We may find the entirety of the Alliance present in their space awaiting our arrival."

"Is that what our military intelligence indicates?"

"Not so much, no. We have monitored their communications... Still... I have concern. You are our first good Emperor in a long while! I would be sad to lose you over so small a thing."

"It is not so small. This discussion is ended. Obey me."

He sighs, "Yes, Baika. At least I have voiced my concern."

"So you have." I nod.

He turns back to the room, smiling again, "We go!" He herds the two sergeants out into the hall with him.

"Is everything all right?" She asks as I come to her side and assist her into the wheeled chair that will bring her to the hangars.

"He has his concerns for the safety of his superior."

"I'm a little concerned too... You don't have to do this."

"Do you believe your Minister would allow an attack upon your return?" I look down upon her.

"No, I don't believe that. I believe he is doing all he can to keep things peaceful... Sometimes that doesn't mean much when the Alliance is involved... It sounded to me like he was not under their pressure... But still... My people will be angry... Ribbon or no." She smiles slightly, "You have spent a lot of time being concerned for me. Now it is my turn to be concerned for you... I would like to ask you to think it through and do what you feel is best for yourself. I will not be offended if you do not return me personally. Not at all."

I nod, "I have already considered these things and I will return you personally. You have trusted me and I will now trust in you. I believe that you would be much more adamant about my not bringing you personally were you deeply worried. You trust your Minister's word, nnh?"

"I do. Very much. There was nothing in his body language that indicated he was being coerced into putting on a nice face for me. I believe that at least the Alliance will not be awaiting my return. That is all I can really be sure of however."

"There is great opportunity here, Princess. I must face it myself..."

"I understand... And I appreciate it as well."

"Then it is time for us to depart."

We give thanks to the doctors and nurses that have cared for her and then follow the sergeants along to the hangars. They are smaller ones and each only holds two of our pyatons. Shilne's is beside mine and he is doing a thorough inspection of both before we depart.

"You have signs of a strong fight, Baika. It seems the shields held well." He comments, tapping a boot on the scarred surface where he stands atop my ship.

"Nothing you could not polish out, nn?" I smirk at him.

"Ehnn... What wrong have I done to you that you would threaten me so?" He jumps down onto the suspended walkway.

"Nothing much. I like to remind you of your youth." I smirk.

"I would prefer other kinder memories, thank you." He bows, "Have you yet come to your senses? Will the Princess come with me?"


"I see..." He takes the wheeled chair after I have gathered her from it, pushing it back to the nurse who has come along with us, "Safe flight!" He winks and hops up into his own craft, pulling the hatch shut.

"He's so energetic..." The Princess smiles.

"That he is. Too much sometimes."

"I could stand to have half of his energy right now!"

I carry her the remainder of the way into my cruiser, securing her in the copilot seat. Here it is. One of my worst moments. I am taking her way from myself.

"How long will it take to get home?" She asks while I work on the final systems inspection before launch.

"There is a skip point nearby that will bring us to Imperial territory and from there another closer to your borders. That should cut out some time. I am working on the travel path... Two days."




"You sound disappointed." I turn to her.

She hesitates, "I am."


My brow furrows. Is she in such a hurry to leave me that two days is too long? She bites her lip and laces her fingers together, thinking before answering.

"I... Have enjoyed getting to know you... And I am sad that it is likely I will not be seeing you again after this."

Such a relief! She will miss me it seems.

"We are no longer at war, Princess... At least not as far as I am concerned... Whenever you have time to spend with me I will gladly attend, if your guardians will allow it."

"Do you mean that?"

"I do." And such a gaze locks between us... It breaks as I smile at her blush, "Settle back, Milady. It will be a short while before we are able to depart. I am still waiting for the remainder of the contingent that will accompany us to be prepared." And so I return to my labors with the take off preparation.

She watches me carefully the entire time. She is trying to learn about my ship now that she has her wits about her.

"Place your hand there." I invite and a panel drops down from over her head.

"What is it?"

"You will see." She lays her hand on the panel. It lights up and the nav-system speaks to her. "You are now an accepted copilot of this craft."

"Really?" She smiles.

"Yes... I will teach you to fly it if you like."

"I would."

"Then watch me for a while."

She watches everything I do as I heat the engines and move the craft out of the hangar, through the exit sequence, into space, describing everything as it happens. I join my contingent and link with them in formation, then we head off toward the skip point.

"You understand?"

"Mmh hum." She nods and examines some of the screens of the tach. She takes us through the first skip point herself, though she is a bit nervous about doing this again so soon. There is a look of relief on her face when we come to the other side safely.

"Very good." I return to configuring the destination.

"Now what?"

"Set the engines to burn and relax."

She looks out at the formation that accompanies us.

"Never did I think I would be flying your cruiser... Or be protected by these Imperial war ships." She muses.

"I am afraid that your people will feel the same way upon our arrival."

For most of the journey she tries to be silent as I work away on Imperial matters, the cruiser on autopilot, listening to music, often silent myself for all of the noise in my mind. I have given her the human book to read to keep busy and she watches the Imperial news feeds again. It seems to provide her with endless entertainment. Her other entertainment I notice, is watching me. As I sit and work, she watches. I sit and listen to some music, cleaning my sword... And she watches.

"Why don't you carry a gun?" She asks finally.

"Hnn? Why would I?"

"They seem like much better weapons than swords."

"To us, they are not weapons of honor." I finish with the blade and mount it in its sheath on the wall weapon rack.


"We believe that if you are going to fight face to face, it is honorable to do so with a sword or other blade or your own hands. Using a gun, it is a coward's way. It separates one from what they are doing to another. If you are going to kill someone, do it yourself rather than blame a pulse weapon."

"Makes sense... But doesn't it leave you vulnerable to cowards with guns?"

"Not as much as you might think. We usually carry prox-shields. Any ballistic would be deflected."

"Oh..." She nods, "Where did you get that sword? You always seem to have it with you."

"My first master teacher at the youth military academy who was also my uncle. When I was acceptable in skill and learning, he had this made for me to replace my practice blades. I have had this since I was quite young."

"When did you enter the military?"

"That same youth military academy when I was 2 cycles old. I was 8 cycles when I proved myself enough to move onto the higher military academy. Young... My blade has a name as do most officer's first weapons."

"What is it?" She smiles.


"Does it mean something?"

"Yes... It is a word for a feeling."

"Something mean?"

"No... It is a feeling of ultimate peace and release."

"Such a nice name for a sword?"

"Of course... We believe that when one dies, they find this feeling... Finds the bliss of their sweetest mortal desire... For myself, I find the closest thing to that feeling on Vidon. Peace. I am just myself, no obligation, no title... No need for a sword."

"Is that what you think you will find when you die?"

"I have my own desire to see on that day... It is not the shores of my home on Vidon."

"Tell me."

"I cannot. It is mine and mine alone. I hope that you will understand."

"Mmh humm." She nods and returns her attention to the news feeds, drowsing from her latest dose of medicine.

"You are my sweetest desire..." I think, watching her eyes fade shut.

She doesn't seem ready to go down yet and her eyes flutter open and then shut a few times. She fixes on the news on the view screen now.


"What is it?" I ask her softly. She is barely awake now.

"You're singing." She smiles wearily at the screen.

"Saich... So I am."

There was a news replay of the dedication of the temple at Chiyor. Sachay had taught me the evening song to sing there. I did not do a bad job of it either. She has faded to sleep and couldn't ask me any questions about this and I am glad not to have to explain, falling asleep myself.

The resistance at the borders of her world is substantial, as expected. They have come out in great numbers to meet us in their antique war vessels. I open a channel to let them know we are coming in with their Princess. They are tense and so I ask my contingent to remain back as a sign of peaceful intent, allowing her to speak with her people to calm their nerves. I also have to convince Shilne yet again that I should go in alone. It takes a while of convincing before all parties allow us to land outside the castle in the courtyard.

"Welcome back to your home." I turn the engines to cooling.

She is looking out across the trees and grass, the blue skies of her home. Her mind seems as full as mine is.

"What is the first thing you will do?" I ask.

"Have a very long bath under my own power for a change." She sighs, seeing the castle guard come pouring out toward us.

I go to her side, working to release her from the flight restraints. My heart is pounding, I am no longer breathing, my mind is racing.

Do not go from me... Stay with me. I love you...

I feel her hand come to rest on my chest and suddenly I am breathing again, looking into her face. Her eyes are searching my face for something.

"Please... Stay a few days." She says.

I exhale with my relief, nodding, "If it is your wish."

"Yes... Please."

"They will not want me to do more than return you and depart."

"I know."

"Then I will do my best to keep my tongue still while you speak with them."

"Thank you."

Her gaze is so soft... All of what I have dreamed of. She cares for me. I can feel this so plainly that it amazes me. I have to struggle to gather my wits.

"Come along then, before they pull the doors off to get to you."

I release her from the restraints at last and help her to her feet. She is unsteady. The journey has not given her the ability to move about and keep to her therapy so her regained mobility has faded. I carry her to the rear bay instead of making her walk. Her body rests against mine so warmly, her arms about my neck, her head nestles against me, and everything inside of me warms and softens from it.

Stop making me feel this way before I must address all of these people who despise me.

At the rear bay door I place her gently on her feet again. I no longer care about going to Vidon. I will stay here as long as she asks me to... Days, seasons... Cycles... Forever.

"Are you ready?" I ask, taking a deep breath in a sad attempt to regain my focus.

This will not be easy. There is no grand celebration of her return awaiting outside of this ship, only what looks to be the entirety of her people's military. She takes a deep breath as well.

"I hope so..."

She takes my arm to steady herself as I release the door and drop the ramp. It lowers slowly before us, allowing the first breath of her homeland's air inside the cabin. The castle guard bristles about the craft. Their weapons are all trained upon me and I tense, impressed by my folly in attempting to return her personally to these angry people. No prox-shield will fend off this much firepower.

Gods... There is still so much of her that I want to experience. I do not want to die just yet...

On to 29