Marking of the Days

by Sincline Koutaishi

Overstaying My Welcome

“...are you sleeping really? Hello?”

I hear her little voice calling me out of my dreaming and open my eyes a little, “Ehhh?” I sigh.

“Are you asleep?”

“Not now.” I mumble, trying to become awake.

“How can you sleep sitting up like that?”

“I am rather used to it. I sleep this way on long flights quite often.” I yawn, “How are you feeling now?”

“Sleepy. But I feel better. I needed to have a good cry.” She sits down beside me, “When is your birthday?”

Now there is a question I did not expect her to ask, but at least she has left her darker thoughts behind, “Once a cycle.” I answer, pressing the heels of my hands to my eyes wearily.

“When?” She presses.

“I will not tell you.” My hands drop to my knees and I begin to stretch my neck from side to side.

“Why not?” She did not expect that response from her tone.

“This may come as a surprise to you... I do not like to remember that as an occasion.” I look toward her now, noticing that she has a rather large book with her.

“You don't celebrate?”

“I sleep as long as I can on that day, see as few people as possible, only eat things that are bad for me, and curse my father several times. That is how I celebrate.”

“No cake? No party?” She smiles.

“No party. Very much seoni basoda, lombek and ukerio.”

“What is that?”

“Vegetable sticky noodles and sweet things.” I do my best to describe.

She frowns, “You should have a good birthday party.”


“I could give you one.” She offers now.

That is an interesting thought, “If you were to try I would celebrate my birthing by sitting on you the entire day to prevent your doing so.”

“That wouldn't be much fun.” She makes a face at me.

“It would be for me.” I nod and smirk, “Once you stopped squirming I could read a good book, have some tea-”

Why don't you celebrate?” She interrupts my humor.

“Do you think I could have been happy about my birth? Imagine having your father be mine. Imagine it. Born to a human mother who was a slave that was treated poorly at best… My birth was not a grand thing. It was an unfortunate thing.”

“I think it was fortunate. You've come such a long way from those beginnings. I don't know how your people see things, but I bet your mother is very proud of you.” She covers my hand with her own. “I bet her spirit smiles down upon you every day.”

My brow furrows, “I hope that is true... yet I failed her too. I should have saved her... I tried. I am apparently very good at failing women that I care for... Perhaps she was at least happy that she was relieved of the burden of her life.”

“We're both having an emotional day.” She says and then a bright smile comes to her, “Let me make it worse.”

“What?” I laugh quietly, feeling my expression changing to amusement with her.

“Whether or not you'll tell me when your birthday is I am going to give you a gift. I've missed a number of them so it should be something special. It has been special to me at least... and I know you like books... So please accept this as a token of my being grateful for your birth. Happy birthday!” She presents the book to me.

I take it from her and read its front, “What is it? Hnnn... Shak espeare?”

“Shakespeare. One of the greatest playwrights of human times. You might have a bit of trouble reading it because it's in old English but I can help you learn to read it a bit while you're here. I absolutely love reading these stories. My very favorite. I hope you will enjoy them too.”

I bring it to my face and take a sniff of it—the scent of the many people that have held this book and turned its pages coming to my senses, “It is very old, Princess. Are you certain you wish to part with this wonderful text?”

“I want you to have it... and maybe you'll let me visit it if I miss it?” She asks hopefully.

“Whenever you may like.” I nod and then open the book, my finger scanning over the lines of text, guiding my eyes along the page of strange writing. I can see it will take me some work to understand the odd manner in which these sentences are constructed yet it seems quite artful already. “Thank you for this great gift.”

“You really like it?”

Very much. I will read it, every word of it... An even greater gift would be to hear you reading these words to me. Would you?”

“I would be happy to.”

She takes the book back from me and starts to read as I settle beside her closely to listen... Loving her warmth, her voice, her presence. Perfection...

Too soon we are interrupted by her captain and lieutenant knocking at her door.

“Come in!” She calls and they enter, “Hello.” She smiles at them but it seems they have no time for her pleasant demeanor. The captain's hand finds his pulse weapon on his hip.

“Get away from her.” He threatens me but I do not move from her side.

“And I greet you as well.” I scoff, annoyed by this new change in my emotional surroundings, “Need you always be so abrasive?”

“Where you are involved, yes. Now move away.”

“Captain, stop that. He is doing nothing wrong.” She sighs, “What is it that you have come for?”

“It's almost dinner time. Are you going to come to the table?”

“Yes, I think we will.” She nods and moves her bookmark to where she finished reading then closes the text for now, “Thank you for letting me know. We will be along shortly.” She waits and the two just stand and stare at me, “Go on. I know the way to the dining room.” She laughs.

“Are you sure you don't want us to wait for you?”

“Yes.” She nods. “I will see you all shortly.”

They leave us grudgingly.

“I'm sorry about that.” She offers.

“Please do not apologize. If you were to make apology for everything they did, you would be talking until your mouth fell off.” I smile and it seems to cause her some relief.

“You are being remarkably patient.”

“Perhaps I put out my day worth of impatience with the General this morning.”

“I always thought you were rather a deep well of impatience.” She smiles up at me.

“I am. Your voice has soothed me.”

Again her cheeks color, “I am going to change into a dress.”

“Should I also clothe myself better?”

“If you want to. You don't have to. I think you look just fine as you are.”

“I will wait to see what type of dress you are wearing before making a decision.”

She places the book in my lap and gets up on her wobbly leg by using my shoulder for leverage, “I will be right back.”

“I look forward to that.”

She goes to her bedroom leaving me once again alone in her chambers, pleased that I have caused her a blush. When she returns to me I am standing in the archway to the balcony, looking out at the sunset that is coloring the landscape.

“What do you think?” She asks and curtsies, then turns, showing me her blue dress as I look over my shoulder toward her then turn toward her fully to enjoy a view that makes the sunset look like mud.

“I shall certainly have to change myself yet I have no clothing that would match the radiance before me.” I bow to her.

“Oh, stop it.” Another blush, and I feel as though I am winning some sort of game the more they come.

“I cannot help but speak the truth. You are beautiful, Princess. Excuse me while I make an attempt not to look so poor in comparison.” I take up my bag of clothing, “Perhaps you could show me to the room that has been intended for my use? I have not yet seen it.”

“I would be happy to.”

She takes me out and down the hall a little way to the room that had been prepared for my residence, opening the doors and going inside in front of me. She appears to be looking about as though she expects something to jump out at her. Perhaps she suspects her staff of having left something behind to cause me pains.

“Here you are. The bathroom is over there. The bedroom is over there.” She is satisfied with the safety of the room and invites me in further.

“Perfect. I will return.”

I head for the bedroom and have a look about. Nothing in here seems to be rigged for danger but I take out my katsuna and turn it on to scan nonetheless. While it works I change my attire for something more formal. If I am going to be in front of her hostile defense team I may as well look the part of visiting royalty. Perhaps it will make them think twice before verbally assaulting me over the table.

“Not likely...” I mutter and finish dressing as my katsuna chimes to let me know it is finished with its scan.

There is nothing worrisome in the room. Good. If the young captain had left me a dangerous gift I would have taken great joy in handing it over to his trusting Princess with evidence of who had placed it. Irritating creature though he is, he reminds me of someone I once knew... I am not sure who it was but it has been nagging at me...

I arrive before her again in a black dress uniform and she claps for me.

“Very nice.” She smiles.

“You do not think they will mistake me for a war orphan?”

“Not at all.”

She comes to me and examines the cloth of my coat. It is an intricate geometric brocade that is rather subtle and not noticeable at a distance.

“This is beautiful fabric.”

“Thank you. The palace tailors like to practice their fine art with my clothing. I am the happy recipient of their skills.”

“What is that?” She points to the markings that are at my wrist and at one side of my high collar.

“That is my Diya marking. And this is the symbol of highest command of the armed forces.”

“Ah... So this is a uniform.”

“It is a formal uniform. Ceremonial.” I agree.

“What is your rank in the military? What do they call you?”

“Ishinoa is my title. Seyukenen is my military title. It means royal high commander.”

“Seyukenen... What's Shilne's title?”

“Akoni seyukenen. Highest Commander, second to seyukenen.”

“So he's kind of like your right hand man.”

“If I understand your expression, yes.” I smile. “Mostly they call him Eemiya Shilne.”

“What does that mean?”

“Farmer Shilne.” I chuckle, “He longs to be a farmer one day as were most of his family.”

“Really? How amazing.” She smiles, “From a warrior to a farmer.”

“He is an unusual man.”

“And what does Diya mean?”

“It is like a family name, yet not like humans have. The Diyas came about as war clans in the beginnings.”

“What is your Diya name?”

“Senyuoken.” She is so curious about me... I hope this is a good thing.

“Huh... Interesting.”

“Ours is a rather large and strong old Diya. They bother me to no end.” I smirk.

Everyone bothers you.” She sighs and shakes her head.

“Not true. Shall we go?”


She takes my arm and limps along beside me down the halls to the dining room. The castle guard bows to her and opens the doors for us to pass. Inside the dining room everyone stands from the long table at her arrival.

“Everyone, please sit. I don't want everyone to get an upset stomach from jumping around before eating.” She smiles then leads me to her end of the table where I assist in pulling out the chair for her to sit at the head. She invites me to sit in the empty seat beside her on her left and I settle there gladly. “I can hardly wait to see what we're having tonight. I'm half starved.”

“I hope it will not be corn...” I say under my breath.

“It might be.” She crosses her eyes at me and smiles when I laugh.

“I might just go hungry, then.”

“You can always go home and eat there if you don't like our food.” The captain suggests.

“I will choose to suffer instead.”

“Then so will we.”

“Kirin.” She shakes her head at him in disapproval and clicks her tongue.

There we sit in a staring competition, my eyes fixed on Kirin's odd dark brown ones.

“I hope both of your eyes dry out.” She sighs in exasperation and then takes her attention away from our shared anger when the meal arrives.

Another strange set of food is laid before me and she watches with fascination as I sample bits of things, feeling foolish with their utensils.

“How are you enjoying our food, Highness?” The Minister asks me from where he sits across the table.

“It is a new experience.”

“That is all you will say of it?”

“Nnh... Some of it is quite good. Part of the problem is that the tastes are so strange to me that I have difficulty going past that to enjoy it.”

“How is your food different?”

“Usually there is more strength to it. I am not certain of how to explain.”

“Spicy?” She offers.

“I do not know that word.”

“Pailo, pass the cayenne.” She smiles wryly.

“If you think that is a good idea.” He grabs a bottle and passes it down the table to where it sits before me now, the big Sergeant who sits to my left is looking expectantly at me and the substance.

“What do I do with this?” I inquire.

“Put a little bit on your finger and taste it. That is spicy. Don't take too much, you might hurt yourself.” She warns.

“I may like this.” I try it and find it quite wonderful, “Chuseh! Perfect.” I begin to put it on most of my meal to the surprise of everyone at the table, beginning to eat with more enthusiasm, “Very good! I can like your food now.”

“Holy cow. How can you eat that?” Sergeant Sei asks, his eyes wide.

“We use many types of spicy for our eating. This is familiar to me.”

“Spices.” She corrects and I turn my attention toward her.

“You are very good at teaching me more human words. Thank you.”

“You're welcome... I can't believe this is as hot as I think it is...”

She takes the bottle from me and tastes a little of the spice to check its potency. The entire table erupts in laughter as she grabs her water glass and drinks the entire thing with great speed.

“It seems our Princess is not as fond of cayenne as you are.” The Minister offers.

“It's so hot! Doesn't it burn your mouth?” She fans her hand in front of her mouth then refills her water glass.

“It is pleasantly warm.” I offer her a piece of 'potato', “Try.”

“No thank you!” She holds up her hands.

“More for me.” I smile.

All for you.”

“Another thing I could be convinced to take in trade from your world.”

“Maybe it would make the corn taste better.” She giggles.

“It could!” I smile further.

“I'm going to be sick.” Kirin comments of our happy exchange.

“Saich, boy. Keep your anger down.” I scowl.

“Give me one good reason, you blue bastard.”

“Kirin!!” She squeals in shock at his words but I hold up a hand to indicate that I wish to handle it myself and she quiets.

“Captain, it is not our way to bring our anger to the table. It is better kept for other times. Meals are meant to be taken in calm and enjoyment, not with all of the heat and anger you seem to be glad to show me at every moment. Have you nothing pleasant to discuss with the table members?” I sit back, laying my hand on the tablecloth to indicate that I am finished speaking.

“Sure... When are you leaving?” He smirks.

“Soon enough you will be rid of me. Is that a pleasant thought?”

“It is. You can go back to terrorizing your own end of the galaxy.”

I growl slightly at his attitude, “Contrary to your beliefs, I do not have an end of the galaxy and I do not terrorize anything aside from the pirates that press our borders.”

“Yeah, right.” He scoffed. “You're just all nicey-nice now. That's what you'd like us to believe.”

“I care not what you believe, young captain. I know you will only see me in one way. I will not try to change that... I will also not try to prove you correct. Now... Does anyone else perhaps have something pleasant to discuss? I believe this line of discussion has just run out.”

“Is that really one of your people's customs? No fighting at the table?” Sei inquires, taking another big mouthful of his meal.

“Yes. It is indeed. In my culture, family is a very important thing and gatherings of family usually occur around a table. It is a time to come together, not to push apart. Even my own father kept to this tradition. There was always plenty of time for us to argue away from the table... Thank you for asking this question.” I nod to Sei in appreciation.

“Can I ask one?” Pailo pipes up from farther down.

“I welcome your question.”

“Do you have a god?”

I laugh.

“What is so funny?” Pailo tilts his head.

“The way that you asked it made it to sound as though I should own a god. Excuse me. Your language is not what I am the most familiar with.”

“Oh. Sure.” He shrugs, “English isn't mine either, actually.”

“True, you are Baltan after all. Is it German or Greek for you?”


“I am afraid it is not one I have learned... I think you were asking which God I keep as my own favorite?”

“That's a better way of saying it.” He nodded.

“For those at the table who do not know, we do have gods. Many of them. What is usual is for a person to feel called by one or two gods toward their message and to follow it well.” I explain to the rest of them.

“What one do you follow?” She asks.

“Mmh... There are two. Vikoa and Fao. They are what you might think of as the parent gods. Their lessons are many. I am still learning of them.”

“What's your favorite lesson so far?”

I think on it for a little while before answering, “I could not say what is the favorite lesson. I can tell you what is most difficult for me. Balance. No excess in anything for it causes not balance.”

“Imbalance.” She offers.



“Thank you.” I nod to my Princess now, “My life has been one of many excesses. I have changed that bit by bit.”

“What a complete load of crap.” Kirin stands up from the table, “Excuse me, Princess. I'm not going to be good company for this meal.”

She frowns at him, “At least get something from the kitchen.”

“I will.” He leaves in a great hurry.

“I better go with him.” The lieutenant rises from his seat and bows to her, “Excuse me, Princess... King.”

“Six left.” I muse in disappointment. “What pleasant thing can I say to you all that might upset you against my better knowing?”

“Highness, forgive him. He has lead our forces against yours for years.” The Minister offers, “He will not quickly change his feelings about you. He distrusts your motives.”

“Of course.”

“May I ask a question of my own?”

I nod, “Please do, Minister.”

“It may offend and if it does I am sorry and you do not have to answer, yet I am curious... What has become of the human slaves in your territory?” He notes my frown growing at his question and seeks to retract, “I am sorry. You do not have to answer.”

“No... I will... I am just considering that this will get back to the Alliance and it is not their concern as it deals with our internal affairs.”

“We will keep your answer at this table.”

“Very well... As I have already told your Princess, all of the slaves have been freed.”


“Yes. They are part of our civilian population now. The colonies they farmed are now lands they own and work as part of the regular economy. Those that were held by private citizens were set free with the help of local enforcement, one of my divisions, and a great amount of anger. I lost much favor in doing that, yet it needed to be done. We were no longer at war...” I stop myself from going too much into politics, “That is all I will say of it.”

“It is a wonderful thing to hear. Thank you for letting us know.” He bows his head to me in respect.

“It is too bad that my own people who are in your people's captivity are not in the same kind of luck.” I muse darkly over those hundred or so that we were unable to return to their homes. “Do you know what has become of them?”

The Minister sets down his utensil and sits back in his chair, “It is unfortunate but more than half of your people who were still in detention opted to end their lives rather than remain in captivity. More simply passed of illness. Perhaps due to improper nutrition. There are only 20 that I know of. I am sorry to give you bad news.”

“It is honest at least.” My dark friends are speaking to me and suggesting that I send an expedition to find them, to pry information from the Minister. “Do you know where they are being held? The conditions?”

“I do not. I know that they have been less than cooperative with those who have been trying to learn from them.”

“Good.” I nod. “Perhaps when I am home again I will have words with the fine General Yarboro to see if I can negotiate for their release.”

“You seem to know him well.”

“We have had a number of interactions in the past and I feel familiar enough in my dealings with him.” I turn away from the darkness and return my attention to my meal.

With the meal done the Minister insists upon some time with the Princess in order to have her see to a few matters of state. I take this time to stand on her balcony, clicking open my katsuna and hailing Shilne.

“Baika.” He smiles, putting up his meal for a little to talk, “How are things going?”

“I can say this much... It has not been dull.”

“I can imagine, in and amongst hundreds of humans who hate you.” He chuckles, “I am surprised you survive!”

“The Princess is quite protective.” I smirk. “I am safe in her keeping.”

“Good, good. What next?”

“In another day or so I will leave this place. I am already pressing my luck with those who guard her… What is that look on your face?”

“Oh, nothing.” He is barely containing an enormous smile, “Let us just say that a letter you have written is causing Hanta fits. I have been locking out her calls to you and so she has been yelling at me instead.”

“At least you are entertained.” I smile. It seems the end to my upcoming marriage is either causing problems or curiosity. “Is there trouble from anything I have written?”

“Not trouble. Just impatience to see what will come of it. I too have curiosity.” He is speaking in very general terms in the off chance our discussion is being monitored. “No worries no worries!” He waves his utensil in the air dramatically, “I do enjoy knowing you. My life is never dull.”

“I am glad I can entertain.”

“I am proud too!”

“Eat your meal. I will speak with you soon.”

“Gods keep you.”

“And you.”

I click the katsuna shut. There is no work I can do from here for worry of having the Alliance tap into my sig and so I must entertain myself in another way. The perfect thing comes to mind and I go back into the rooms to fetch it, trying to avoid causing any distraction for my Princess who is hard at work. She smiles a little, seeing that I am gathering up the gift she has given me.

I settle back out on the dark balcony with my book and begin to labor through the text, having to read it once and then go back over it again to truly absorb what is happening. It was not too long before she joins me again, carrying a bowl of something that smells quite interesting.

“Is your work done?”

“My work is never done, but for tonight we've done enough... Pailo brought a snack for us that he thought you might like to try.” She offers up the bowl.

“Hmm...” I have a look and take a few pieces of the light substance, sniff at it and then bite one of the pieces in half. Strange consistency but tasty, salty. “Interesting.”

“Have more.” She puts the bowl between us and takes a few pieces herself, tossing them into the air and catching them in her mouth as I eat them one by one, finding them rather addictive.

“A new talent.” I note.

“It's pretty tricky because they're so light.”

I try her trick and succeed. “Not so hard.”

“I guess you're just more talented than I am.” She giggles, “I never thought I would be sitting in the moonlight, watching you catch popcorn in your mouth.”

“Pop corn?? Corn??”

“Yes. You like corn again!” She throws up her hands in her little victory.

“Pahhh... I should have known. Do you put this in everything you people eat?”

“No, but in a lot of things.” She is so proud of herself and crunching more on the new configuration of corn. “Sooo... Perhaps you can help us figure out at way to make corn grow better here. That way we can trade lots of it with you.”

“You are scheming, Princess.” I smirk and find myself taking up more of the snack type of corn.

“I have learned from the best.” She presses a finger into my upper arm, “Blame yourself.”

“Ahhlll... I do.”

“Good.” She settles back and looks up at the stars. “Such a lovely night. It is too bad that I just took some medicine so I'll probably fall asleep soon, otherwise I might be bold enough to take another walk.”

“It is a shame that it makes you so tired.”

“Maybe we can watch a movie or something until I pass out again.” Her smile is enormous tonight and I am so pleased to be able to see it.

“Movie? Is that something made of corn?”

“No.” She laughs again, “We have popcorn and it goes well with movies and being sleepy too.” She takes the bowl and gets up, “Come on.”

“You are in a fine mood tonight.” I rise from my spot on the long seat to follow her inside.

“I am. I'm very happy even though I have a little pinch in my side tonight.”

We go and settle down on the couch together again and she turns on the video display in the room. The news feeds are on.

“Ahhll... That ugly face again.” I note my father's face and that they are discussing some rumors of the Empire having returned to Alliance territory, “It seems that your governing bodies are not very good at keeping their mouths closed.”

“They must have learned from you. You're a very good teacher tonight!”

“I see that I am.”

I rest back in the cushions as she tries to find something other than news for us to watch. She finally rests back beside me.

“No luck. Nothing good is on the feeds.” She sighs. “And just when I was in the mood for an old movie.”

“Perhaps I can offer you some diversion instead.”

“Going to catch more popcorn?”

“No... I will show you some of our entertainment. Music from the Summer arts Festival.”

“Ooh... More of your people's music. Good!”

Soon she is enjoying the music and video along with me there in the half dark room. She seems fascinated by Sachay.

“She has a beautiful voice.” She comments.

“She does.” I agree.

There came a knock at the door and so I lower the volume on the link from my katsuna.

“Come in!” She calls, fluffing up the pillows beneath her elevated leg. The door opens and in comes the lieutenant with a little bow, “Hello.” She smiles.

“How's yer leg doing, Princess?”

“Yuckie.” She makes a face at which he laughs, “It wasn't bothering me much earlier but now it's having a moment...”

“Sorry to hear it. I just brought your loads of mail.” He brings the sack he has with him over to her.

“Amazing.” She sighs and looks at the latest bag.

“Everyone's glad you're back.” He shrugs, “Sorry I didn't write you a card but considering how many you have to read I'd rather just say it in person.”

“Even better.”

He looks up at the video on the wall, “Hey... Wow.” He stands back, “What is all that?”

“A concert near one of his homes.” She explains.

“Who's the babe?”

“Babe?” I ask.

“The gorgeous female.” He laughs at my lack of understanding.

“Ah. That is Sachay Ulandn. She is indeed a beautiful woman in form and voice.”

“Yeah. You're not half kidding. I wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating crackers.” He nods.

“What an odd thing to say.” I smile at his strange humor, “Yet I think I follow. I will let her know that she has swayed a human male's thoughts toward her. She will be amused.”

“You think so?”

“I do. She might even be willing to eat crackers in your bed to test your statement.”

“Yikes.” His eyes are glued to the screen.

“You are rather taken with her. I am surprised by this.”

“So am I. Good grief.” He watches her slow sensual movements. “Turn up the volume, man!”

I chuckle and do so as the lieutenant drops his hostility for the moment and comes to stand nearby.

“So... Is she single?” He grins.

“She has not settled on one of her many, many suitors yet, no.”

“So you're saying I have competition?”

“Vast competition. I wish you much luck! You would have to please her very well for her to turn her eyes toward you, and I warn you she is not fond of humans. Yet she may be curious enough to give you a try.”

“A try? You mean...” He casts a worried look toward the Princess before continuing.

“I mean she would be more than happy to try your skills in passion.”


“Yes. Our women are not as you are likely finding usual with yours. They are every bit as interested in recreational sex as are we men.”

“Get out... For real?”

“Oh yes. It seems from my observation that your women have to be more reserved about it all because they are so constantly fertile. They always have to be concerned about children coming and finding good partners for parenting. Our women are fertile only twice in a cycle and we males can control our fertility. So there is not the taboo upon sexuality that one finds in your culture. Our religion also does not treat it harshly, rather in a positive way.”

The Princess is blushing brightly at the description I am giving.

“That sounds amazingly great.” The lieutenant nods in appreciation.

“Not so. We males have to work far harder to impress our women. Every male tries his best to be handsome to draw to him the best mate and the women expect us to give a good showing before they will consider us much further into a courting partner.”

“You're saying you have to impress them sexually?”

“In that way and in others. Most men want nothing more than to bond with a female and have a fine family. As I had said earlier, family is very important to us. The ideals are rather switched in our culture in some ways. Perhaps a little more equal. Sachay knows that she is beautiful and talented. She makes her suitors work hard to win her favor.”

“You know her pretty well huh?”

“I have been a friend of hers for many years.” I nod.

Friend, huh?” He says knowingly.

The Princess perks up, waiting for his answer to come from my wry grin at the lieutenant's insinuation.

“She has considered me at one time or another yet I have not returned the interest in courting her. I prefer to be the one in pursuit than being chased down.”

“Well, if you ever come back this way be sure to bring her along. I've been known to impress a woman or two in my time.”

“I will put it to her and be impressed if you win her.”

“She'd probably kick my ass.” He laughs.

“She may just.”

“Well... Back to the bricks. See ya later.” He leaves us.

“He is quite a character.” I mention.

“Yes he is... Do you think Sachay might like him?”

“I think she might be amused. I am not certain of how she would react, really. She is not short on male company.” My eyes widen at this understatement.

She begins to drowse on the couch as softer songs come. She nestles down into the cushions with a sigh.


What will I do tonight? Stay on her sofa again? Stay in the rooms I have been given? Decisions. I slowly turn down the volume so it will not disturb her to have a sudden change in her surroundings. She is breathing deeply and I can see from the movements of her eyelids that she is dreaming already.

“Princess...” I lean close, calling to her gently.

She wakes up a little, looking sleepily into my eyes, and I can see that her heart is pounding suddenly for her pulse in her throat is quickening.

“You should be in your bed.” I smooth back her hair, aching just to kiss her, to hold her to me.

She nods weakly, “I guess so.”

“Would you like for me to help you?”


I gather her into my arms. She is warm and pliable. The feeling of her relaxation with me sets my own pulse to quickening as I carry her to her room and once more place her under the blankets.

“Thank you.” She says and yawns.

“Owan. Amuku omenai, Princess.”


“Good dreams.”

“Mmm...” She smiles a little, “They will be.”

I tear myself away from her side before I can no longer convince my body that it does not want to be beside her in sleeping. Out in her rooms again I make my decision and sleep once more on her couch. I do not want to be far from her should she need me... Gods, I will worry about her when I am away at home again.

In the morning I wake easily to the brilliance of the sunrise for I have been sleeping so frequently. I stretch and sit up, yawning. It is quiet save for the sounds of birds and the sunrise is spectacular. I steal into the Princess' room softly and sit on the bed beside her. She is still buried in her pillows quite happily.

“Wake... You need to see the sunrise.” I whisper to her.

“Sssss...” She yawns and stretches, “Sunrise?”

“Come wake. It is beautiful.”

She takes her sleepy body out of the covers and goes with me to her bedroom balcony, rubbing her eyes and still yawning. When her eyes open she takes a deep breath at all the colors in the sky. The way the light is falling today is amazing.

“My God...” She comes and holds my arm, “It is... soooo beautiful. Thank you for waking me up.”

“You are most welcome.” I sigh in relaxation.

She lets go now and goes to lean on the stone railing as though she can become closer to the beauty that her world has created on this day. I join her and beside her I watch the morning come to greet us. When the colors have faded into the blue sky of the day, I look down upon her and notice she is looking up at me with a strange expression. Her mind seems to be hard at work.

“What is wrong?” I ask.

“Nothing... I am just so glad you have stayed.” Her expression softens.

“I am glad as well. Yet I believe this should be my last day in your hospitality. There are things that I must do and I fear I have well overstayed my welcome as far as those who defend you are concerned.”

This news seems to set her more to thinking for her brow furrows again.

“Do you think that one day I might be able to visit you?”

“You may whenever you are of a mind to. For you, there are no borders.”

“Thank you. I look forward to it... Let's go see what's for breakfast.”

Her strange mood only lasts for a short while. By the time her nanny has grudgingly brought us morning meal she is smiling a little again yet she seems to be having difficulty in looking at me. Her mind is still working rather hard on something...

With our meal done, the doctors come to visit her and examine her wounds, changing her dressings while I wait outside on the balcony again with a smoke and my thoughts.

When the doctors depart we return to the couch where she puts her leg up while I take up one of her bags of letters.

Cards and letters of sympathy have been pouring in from all over her world. They wish her well and speedy recovery. She is well loved by her people, that much is clear. I hardly can find fault with that... And so I sit with her on her couch after her most recent therapy session, emptying the latest bag of well wishes over her outstretched legs and cast. She laughs at me, covered in paper.

“You didn't have to just dump them all out!”

“It was the fastest way. We will work to unbury you.” I shrug and start to go through them all, picking out the ones that look unusual and handing them to her to read to me. “It is strange... There are none with regrets for how horrible and lumpy you still look.”

She clicks her tongue, “Perhaps if you keep looking, you mean thing.”

“I shall do just that!”

And so I go digging through the pile, sorting out cards and letters of all kinds... And then my amused distraction ends as I feel her hand come sliding gently across my cheek. At first I can hardly believe it and I look to her, wondering at this sudden affection... That gaze, those beautiful eyes... My heart is overwhelmed by the way she is looking upon me, the way she is touching me and I can fight responding to the softness that I feel for her no longer... I close my eyes and lean into her warm hand. My heart aches in wonder of the feeling as her fingers explore my face... I feel her now smoothing back my hair... And then comes the feeling her shifting in the cushions, her warmth settling closer to me. Her silken cheek comes to rest against mine as so slowly the space between us is falling away. She is so very close to me... Of her own will.

My hand finds her sweet face and strokes her warm, blushing skin. I can hear her breath coming so quickly, feel it against my ear... And then her trembling voice so softly sends bliss through my soul, “I love you...” She whispers with the feeling of her tears falling against me. I breathe in deeply from my relief, from my utter joy.

“My sweet Fao... I love you... Gods, I have always loved you.” It pours out of me and my arms surround her trembling body. My sweet human goddess.

“Vikoa...” She sighs, sending more waves of emotion up my spine and straight though my core... Her cheek slides against mine, her nose comes to rest beside mine and I can feel her breath upon my face.

Could this be? Have I died and found my bliss? Or is this just another haunting dream of my love for her?

Then I feel her sweet lips come to mine, so softly kissing. I catch my breath and return her tenderness, our lips sliding slowly together over and over. Her arms encircle my shoulders as I draw her little body even closer to mine, feeling her love flowing through every corner of my being as she embraces me so timidly... Tears fall from my joy, from being able to hold her to me in love and tenderness as I have ached to for so long. I am so blessed, so grateful, so in love. I never want to stop kissing her and holding her to me and yet... am I kissing her for too long? Does she want to be free of me? It is only our first kiss and I should not—

Her hand slides up the back of my neck and into my hair, holding me to her as our kiss becomes deeper and deeper, and my worries fade...

Can she taste the salt of my tears? Does she know how much I have wanted this? How much I have dreamed of her, longed for her, how deeply I love her... Her fingers caress the tears from my face as my hands stroke her hair, her face, for I want to be sure this is true, that she is not just a ghost of my desires.

Oh Gods... Please let this be real... Do not fade from me... I love you... I love you.

Our embrace grows deeper still and I feel her now stroking my hair, soothing me with her touch... A soft moan escapes me for this bliss. This is the moment that leads to all of my dreams... This sweet embrace. I will never forget...

Yet something happens... Her lips part from mine... She is looking over my shoulder in a mix of surprise and horror. I have so lost myself to this tenderness that my consciousness is barely returning to me and I turn to look toward what she sees. A voice, “Get off her you monster!!” The sight of a hand weapon, a streak of red and a flash of light, sharp pain... And then all is dark.

On to 32