Marking of the Daysby Sincline Koutaishi
The new day is a beautiful thing here on the beach, the slow rising of the sun over the surf adds to the calming atmosphere. It is made more beautiful by her being beside me. I have woken early and am simply fascinated by her presence. Shortly she turns over, stretching and yawning, nestling down into my arms, and again my heart swells. I am so happy. I smooth down her golden hair and place a slow kiss upon her forehead, hoping not to wake her before she is ready... but she is already a good bit awake, it seems.
“You forgot your promise to me.” She murmurs.
“Hnn? I did? What was that?” I yawn and entertain her again with a view of my fangs.
“To tell me more about your life, your past…”
“Ah yes... You were a bit too sleepy for me to get into all of that.”
“I think you're trying to avoid telling me.” A smile grows softly upon her face.
“Perhaps. It is not an easy thing to go back.”
“I understand…” She shifts and leans over me, smoothing back my hair and kissing me so warmly.
“Mmmh... Must I speak?” I breathe, pulling her closer to me, “I can think of better things to be doing with my lips than telling you the sad details of my life.”
“You must.” She nods, “I want to know you. All of you. That includes your past, even if you do think it is not so wonderful... But we don't have to talk about it right now. Little bits, as time goes on. Hm?” She hugs me tightly.
“I wish that things could have been different in my life... Yet you are the only thing that ever brought me true happiness and so I am grateful for at least that... I knew that upon my father's death I could never go to you and tell you how I loved you. It was too late for me. I resigned myself to leaving you and your world be.”
“And now you will be my King after all.” She smiles.
“For that, I am the happiest man that exists.”
I raise up slightly and lay her back with her head in the pillows, leaning over her and looking upon her. A little look of worry crosses her face but leaves quickly as my fingers stroke her cheek, tracing the contours of her face. She closes her eyes and sighs, relaxing again… She is so beautiful to me, and I cannot find enough of this closeness, of this wanting to be beside her, of simply looking upon her to see all of her changing expressions. A tear escapes her eye which I kiss away from her silken cheek.
“Tssshh... You are so beautiful... I want to remember you like this, everything about you in this moment... The sunlight in your hair, light in your eyes. The warmth of your body close to mine... The feeling of your breath upon my face... Open your eyes...” I beg her softly, stroking her golden hair. Those beautiful blue eyes open again and I am amazed by her soft expression, “I love you.” I whisper to her, “I love you.”
“So much…” She seems overcome and unable to speak to me. More shining tears race from her, she reaching up and touching my face. Her fingers explore my face much as I have been exploring hers. I close my eyes now and feel her even stroking my eyelashes. She pulls me in closer and kisses my closed eyes, her fingers tangling themselves in my hair. I feel so weak from this tenderness and I rest my head upon her shoulder as she continues to explore me with her fingers. She is probably just as fascinated by our differences as I am and I pray that she does not suddenly find some fault in this… Then her voice washes away my worry once more, “I love you so much.”
“Thank you... thank you.” I sigh and hug her, resting there against her as the sun continues to rise. I feel its warmth upon us and her warmth beside me. Her heart has joined with mine and from this place, we will carry on together. I will no longer worry of what she thinks of me, for I feel as though in this dawn she has made her decisions about me final. There are no words I can give to her to let her know how much I feel for her in this moment. The silence itself speaks volumes.
When finally we rise from bed it is much later, “I must move about some today. I am starting to go soft from all of this laying about and staring at you.” I joke with her.
“It will be a long time before you go soft.” She says.
“I am flattered!” I bow for her. “And I am going to wash myself. Can you amuse yourself with the news until I am finished?”
“It has always amused me before.” She nods.
I set up my Katsuna so she can watch the feeds from the larger screen in the main room then leave her with a kiss. I wash quickly then let her have a turn.
“You will be very glad to know that when you are finished, I will have made you something for morning meal.”
“Oh, really? You are trying to poison me before the wedding?” She jokes.
“Saich... How little you trust me still.”
“I can hardly wait.” She closes the door with a sweet laugh.
Soon I serve my Princess her morning meal on the back patio so we can watch the waves, bringing the awning out again to keep the hot sun off of us. I do not want her pale skin to turn to crisp too soon. She enjoys the food and finds no poison much as she has her fun with pretending to choke when first she has a taste.
“Do you want to have children?” She asks suddenly, surprising the life out of me with this turn in conversation.
“Children.” She smiles at my shocked reaction, “Do you want to have children?”
“Yes. Of course I do.”
“Really? In a way other than wanting someone to inherit your throne?”
“Absolutely.” I nod, “And I am testimony to the fact that our people can interbreed. So unless there is some problem with either of us, we can have as many children as we can tolerate. What do you think of having children?”
“I have always wanted to have children. I am very glad that you want them as well. I couldn't imagine you wanting to have anything to do with children, until I saw your pictures of Aiyuni... and then seeing you with Djarond's children, too.”
“They are very energetic. Much as are our children, both Southern and Northern. I can tell you this much of things… Male children require a great deal of discipline and even more food.” I shake my head, remembering how much Shilne used to eat when he was 10 cycles of age and I had just acquired him into my care.
“That would make sense. You are much larger than humans, and I know human boys eat a great deal...”
“I remember that I was quite hungry all of my childhood. It seemed that no matter how much I ate, I was never satisfied.” I settle back in my chair with my glass of water, “We go through growth jumps and nutrition is very important during those times. A baby does not look like a baby for long. Within a few days they are able to walk and soon after to feed themselves. Human babies take a much longer time to find their ways from what I have seen of things...”
“A few days? That's incredible. How quickly did you start to walk?”
“I do not know. There is much about my childhood that will always be a mystery to me.”
“Do you know what your first word was?”
“That I do know. It caused my father fury and so my mother reported it to me later in my life.”
“My first word was 'mama'. The human word for my mother. Southern for mother is neicha. So not only did I not speak for my father first, I also spoke in human... English.”
“Oh, my! I wouldn't have guessed that... What was your mother like?” She asks in a rather careful tone of voice.
“Ahhnn, I remember so little of her... There was so much horror and pain that went along with her memories that I believe I have pressed both things down in my memory... I know that she was a kind woman who was simply unlucky enough to have my father find her. She was taken from some sort of transport that crossed too close to the border and became a slave. When he spied her among the workers of Galrea he decided that she should be his and she became part of the harem he kept. I know he must have had some softness for her, for the older of the castle guards tell me that he had moments in which he was kind to her and unfortunately for her, he preferred her company to any of the other women he kept. When she grew fat with me inside of her he was apparently shocked. It seemed that all of his other attempts to have a child to be his heir and lead his troops had been met with failure. Yet there was a human carrying his child. In the end he thanked her for this miracle by beating her to death.” I frown, feeling my hatred for my father burning inside of me, “She managed to give me life at any rate and I had no idea of who I was. I grew for several months before my father even came to see what it was that his seed had produced. Apparently he was pleased for he decided he was going to take me from my mother and raise me to be his successor. When he tried to take me, I bit him.” I feel a smirk on my face. I had almost forgotten that.
My Princess giggles, “Good for you!”
“Ahuu... Not so good for me. I got my first taste of his temper then and he almost killed me. My mother and I were sent to a slave colony and I grew for my first year amongst all kinds of people. My father came back for me and found me to be having a fight with one of the other boys. I was the size of a 6-year-old human by then. He was pleased that I was a fighter and pulled me off the other boy, holding on to me by my neck. I remember him laughing in my face as I tried to strike him. I was still furious from the fight I had been in. He said that I was his son after all...
He used my bond with my mother to control me. When I was in my 2nd cycle, I was sent to youth academy. When I was in my 8th cycle I was in the military academy. My discipline came from my teachers and superior officers. My father wanted no mercy for me and warned that he would kill my mother if I did not succeed at my learning. I learned to despise my own heritage and to fight and fly. I learned obedience and service and duty, but I learned little of honor. At 16 cycles I was given my first command and my blade, Toumai. I had done better than anyone could have imagined. I was even a formidable opponent for my teachers and superiors.” I stop my life history, looking from my glass where I have been staring, to my Princess who is listening intently. “But I digress.” I smile. She is getting what she has wanted from me—more stories of my past.
“Go on. I am really enjoying this.”
“Perhaps another time I will tell you more... What I meant to say from all of this is that I never did want to have children. I never knew what one would do with a child other than harm them and make them hard. I know what it is to be a bad parent, and so I believe I can avoid doing that to another living being. I learned to find enjoyment of children from Shilne.”
“Oh? Does he have children? I thought he hadn't married yet.”
“Not yet, but he does love children and wants thousands of his own. Raising him was not so easy, for I had no idea what to do with a child in the beginning. His relatives were good at offering advice, however... When he had grown, we as his comrades in arms joked with him and called him 'farmer husband' because it had always been his hope to one day marry a farm girl and have an enormous farm and an enormous family.”
“From the military to a farm. That's a change!”
“Indeed. But it is where he is from and so I could not fault him... His dreams have changed a little since then... Whenever we would come into a port, families would bring their children to see the troops and the war ships. Being part of the military is considered a good future for a child, an honorable occupation to defend our people. And also, whether you believe it or not, I am quite a hero to my people. So they bring their families out in masses to see us. Shilne is always going off into the crowds to meet the children and greet the adults. He likes to drag me along with him. He asks them what they want to do with their lives when they have grown and most often they say to him that they wish to be a commander like he is. Shilne says to them, 'do you know what I want to be? I want to be a lucky man like your father and marry a farm girl and have many children just like you.' And they say to him, 'you mean that you do not want to be a warrior?' and he says, 'I love this too, but it is my dream to have a big, big family and so I do envy your father his life.' It makes the children realize that their families are not any worse or better in their lives than the glorified troops. One time there was a little girl and she looked at him with such wide eyes and said, 'I will marry you, Commander Shilne.' It made me laugh so hard! This tiny little thing was offering to be his wife. He picked her up... 'you will, now will you? Ah, by the time you are grown I will be an old man. You should marry him.' And he pointed to a little boy in the group. She made a horrible noise at the suggestion and screamed, 'I will not marry him! He plays in the dirt and stinks!' Shilne said, 'I love to play in the dirt too!!' so she changed her mind about him quickly.”
She laughs now, “I can see him doing exactly what you say.”
“From that I decided I certainly want a daughter. For such a little thing she made a huge noise! That and I will look forward to terrorizing her suitors when she has grown.”
“And I can see you doing exactly what you say... You will have to be nice to her suitors.”
“Naaaiii... I know what men are thinking. I will NOT be nice to her suitors.”
“You only say that because you know from experience.” She points an accusing finger at me, “He who thinks all women yearn for him.”
“Yes, and what of it? I am a handsome man.” I smirk.
“You are just lucky that I have somehow managed to see you around that enormous ego of yours.”
“My darling, I am only happy that I have been handsome enough to capture your heart. All other women are merely sisters to me.”
She rolls her pretty blue eyes with a laugh, “I'm sure…”
“This is true!”
“Oh? And when is the last time you... well... had relations with a woman?”
“Please...” I laugh at her.
“I want to know... A week ago? A day before I came here?” She tosses a piece of bread at me, “Come on now. Tell me of your most recent conquest.”
“You are a bold one, nnh? Very well... but it will disappoint you.”
“I am prepared for that.”
“Two cycles ago or there about.”
“No...” Her face shows her utter disbelief.
“I speak truth to you.”
“What was she like that she was more than a sister to you?” She is showing her jealousy now.
“If I could remember, I would tell you.”
“What does that mean??”
“It means...” I lean forward and set my glass back on the table, “that I was not of my right mind on drink and she took me home with her. I do not remember a thing about it other than the dream I had before waking and a terrible, terrible headache. I would not have done such a thing if I had not been easily swayed due to my condition.”
“You are rather famous for your drinking...”
“No longer. I swore to myself and to Hanta that it would not be repeated.”
“Hanta? Is that the girl that you-”
“No no no! Hanta is my Senior Advisor. She was quite upset with me that I had allowed myself to be so easily—as she says it—lead about mindlessly by my sex. You will like Hanta. And I am certain she will teach you many, many things that I would rather you not know.”
“Oh good. Do you have a picture of her?”
“I do.” I reach for my Katsuna on the table and flick it on, scrolling again through to the images and one of Hanta, long ago when we were still in the old Galrea Castle. This picture is part of Shilne's lengthy and annoying image gathering expedition. I select an image of Hanta, relaxed in a chair with a book and making a strange face toward Shilne who is capturing it for posterity. “That is she!”
“Well! I see she has a sense of humor. Do you have any more flattering images of her?”
“Yes, but those are far less entertaining.” I show her a few of Hanta and I at the dedication ceremony for Chiyor.
“She is very pretty.” She notes, “And you were never interested in her?”
“Gods no! The woman regularly smacks me in the head and pinches me when she feels I am misbehaving! She does not look it but she is much older than I. She has taught me almost all the languages that I can speak and has done her best with me over the years to keep me from looking like too much of a fool at public appearances. She always tells me I am ugly. Here, look at her husband. He looks like I do!! Perhaps his skin is darker for he is a Southerner born and bred... So did she marry an ugly man? I do not understand you women...”
“She is like your nanny, hmm?”
“Perhaps. It would be like suggesting that you had attraction for your Minister.”
“Then that makes sense. I can hardly wait to meet her. I think we will have a good bit of fun talking together.”
“I expect so and I dread it.”
“So, who was it that you were with?”
“Ahhlll... I reserve the right not to tell you as it will only cause me embarrassment in the future.”
“No. I will not tell you. It serves no purpose other than to feed your jealousy unnecessarily. It meant nothing to me and when she invited me to remain so we could be together again once my head was clear so that I might remember it, I declined immediately!” I throw up my hands dramatically.
“And before that?”
“I have not been with a woman other than that incident since I had first set my eyes upon you. You became the only woman that I wanted.”
“Oh, please!” She laughs.
“Again, it is truth! I am stubborn, as you say. You were my goal. Prior to that I had much in the way of relations with women.”
“What about your harem?”
“MY harem?? My FATHER'S harem!” I land my fist on the table, making the plates and cutlery jump but my little Princess is unmoved by my drama. “I disbanded them when he died! I would be a liar if I claimed to never have had my pleasures with them, but there were other women who gave themselves to me without obligation.”
“You seem proud of this.” She smiles sweetly.
“I am not.” I feel a heat in my face.
“My God... You blush!” She claps her hands over her grinning mouth.
“Rrrrhhh.” I grab the glass back and have a long drink while she laughs at me. “Stop that.” I say at last.
“Why are you so embarrassed? You have obviously had a very long and lustful life.”
“I am embarrassed because I would have traded that all very quickly for you. For the past four cycles and more, all I have wanted has been you... Though I do not recall the events of two cycles ago, I felt I had betrayed you by my actions... I prayed that you would forgive me.” I set the water glass back on the table, pushing it away from me.
She comes to me now and climbs into my lap, hugging me, “Stop being so embarrassed... If you really want me to forgive you I will say it right now.”
My arms go about her, hugging her to me, “Yes...”
“I forgive you.”
“I am so glad.” I breathe. My heart is aching, for what reason I am not certain. She is all I have wanted for the past 4 cycles, and here she is in my arms, so full of patience and forgiveness. “I do not deserve you...”
“Oh, hush.” She sighs and releases herself from me slightly, looking into my face, “I love you.”
“I love you.”
She nestles her face to mine and I feel so relieved. It is amazing, the things that she makes me feel.
“Are you going to make me march all over creation again today?”
“Of course I am.” I smile, “What would your life with me be if there was not a bit of torture?” My fingers pick absently at one of the closures on her leg brace.
“True... I would not undo that if I were you. My leg looks ghastly under there. It's so nice to be able to take the brace off though. You would be amazed at how satisfying it is to just take it off after a long day and give it a good scratching. The cast was horrible. I was always trying to find things to stick down it so I could itch at it. Now that is torture.”
“Nnh... Then you have been practicing for your life with me.” I pick up the Katsuna and capture an image of her leg brace, “For you to remember, when you think I am being annoying.” I show her.
“Lovely... How does this work?”
I show her the controls and she takes it from me, pointing it toward us and now we are both captured on an image chip.
“What do you think?” She asks.
“I think that this is my favorite image. It is one I never thought could be.” I kiss her cheek and just sit for a while to marvel at it along with her. “What say you, my Fao? What would you like to do today? You have heard all of it from listening to our neighbors last night.”
“I want to look at bugs.” She smiles and I remember our conversation about that from when I had first found her. “I bet they have good ones here.”
I am glad for her suggestion so we pack up some things go off into the hills. The terrain is much too difficult for her and so I carry her most of the way on my back once more. She is a joyful burden—much lighter than many of the packs I had to carry in my military training—and full of questions. Up at the top of a grassy hill I find her a shaded spot with a large rock and set her down there with the satchel I have brought.
“Are there any bugs here that can bite?”
“Yes, but not that many. I will be certain to point out the bad bugs to you.”
“Good. I like bugs but I don't like bites so much.”
“Aahuu... Here is your first new friend.” I find a shiny beetle on a nearby branch and bring it to her.
“Oohh... That's a good one. He has great big antennae!”
“What is that word?”
“These things on its head.”
She is filling in so many words for me. Soon I will be speaking better English than Southern or Northern. This is the way we spend a few hours, hunting for bugs in the grass and bushes. One with large clear wings is startled and lands on her head. Of course I capture that image. Now that she knows how to use the Katsuna she is capturing many images, too.
“How many images can this hold?”
“I will put it to you this way... You have no worries of filling it up. Take as many images as you like. I will get you your own Katsuna eventually and you can keep the pictures you like on it.”
“Oh good. I want to remember this for a long time.” She takes another image of me.
“Saich... Give me that thing...”
“No!” She does her best to limp away quickly so I cannot take it from her. I have to laugh at the scene.
“You have won! You are much too fast for me!”
“Ha! Oooh! Look at this one!”
Even these very simple things seem quite wonderful with this woman beside me. We amuse ourselves as just two happy people, investigating nature. When she has had enough I take her back down the hill and to the house to rest for a while.
“I have an idea.”
“Do tell.” She accepts the glass of water that I've brought her, “Thank you.”
“I have heard that there is a archive in one of the larger cities here. It also has animals. There may be bugs as well. I have not seen it myself, yet. Would you like to go and have a look? We can stay there for the evening. I am not sure if you have ever seen a large city of this kind.”
“I haven't seen any large cities. Only pictures of them. We don't have any on Altea. I'd love to go with you, if you think it would be safe.”
“It is... Then, when you have finished your water, gather some things for yourself and we will go.”
This time we fly the local transport skiff into the Vidon air traffic patterns. Again, my Princess is watching my every movement as I pilot the thing. She is learning about the skiff's controls. If we were not going into such a populated area I would let her take a turn at the controls.
Arment City looms before us shortly. It is a massive city—the center of the Vidon's economic power. Her eyes grow large at the amount of air and ground traffic, the buildings that rise up from the greenery.
“My God...” She presses her nose to the glass, “I have never seen anything like this. How many people live here??”
“I am not certain how many. Millions?”
“There must be more people here than on all of Altea!”
“Most likely, yes.”
“This doesn't at all surprise you, does it?”
“No.” I laugh, “There are larger cities in the Empire.”
“Amazing.” Her eyes are wide all the way in. We come to rest in the landing lot for one of the larger accommodation providers and I shut down the engines. She still looks stunned.
“You can breathe again.”
“I am not sure that I can.”
“A little nervous?”
“A little.” She agrees with a nod, “Are you sure this is safe?”
“Very safe. Yet stay close so you do not get lost.”
“You can be sure I will!”
She keeps to her word and becomes my shadow as we gather our things and go inside. Even the building we are going into is amazing to her as well as all of the people that are in the halls.
“What is this place?”
“Where we will be staying for the night. They have rooms for lending out to travelers.”
“Oh, it's a hotel. It's enormous!”
“It is, rather.” We find the main desk and are given our room pass then sent to a bank of lifts. “It is a task just to find the room in this place.”
The lift has a glass wall that faces to the outside. She takes one look at this and turns toward me as we go upward.
“A pilot is afraid of a lift??”
“I am not in control of it...” She says.
“Ah, you are adorable.”
“Just tell me when we can get off this thing.”
The room is quite nice but I am not sure she sees it. She is at the window instead, looking at the skyline.
“Come away from the window, lumpy. We will go and seek out our mid-day meal.”
“All right.” She comes back to the elevator with me and hugs me again instead of looking out the window. I will never complain.
“Should we just stay in the... nnhh... hotel for eating? Perhaps it would overwhelm you to wander the streets just yet.”
“Yes, I think you're right.”
“Perhaps this was too much for you to see yet. I am sorry you are so uncomfortable.”
“I'm fine. It's just a bit overwhelming. Even wandering the halls of Kyerst was extremely exciting... and that was so much smaller than this... I am glad you are here with me.”
“I am glad, too.”
She smiles up at me now, “It's quite the adventure for me. Maybe this is why I wander so much. Looking for something like this. Something that is not so small as my home is, relative to everything else.”
“Looking for perspective?”
“A bit of that. A bit of knowing more of that which exists beyond what I know so well... I used to wander alone. Now maybe we can wander together?” She looks hopeful.
“Gladly... My nnn... ghost likes wandering as well.”
“Wandering spirit.” She corrects me gently, “We both have wandering spirits.”
“Yes... How do you think I found this place? My searching for somewhere beyond my own home and all that I knew led me here.”
“It's funny... I never would have guessed we could be so much alike. I think I always hoped we might be.”
“My heart knew it all the while.” I lift her into my arms and kiss her softly, feeling my love returned to me fully. My partner in wandering. Perhaps we will not need to wander now so much as travel.
“Mmmh... Is it all right with you if I tell you I love you every day?”
“Completely.” How could I not agree?
“Maybe a lot every day?”
“Completely.” I smile as the lift stops so I set her dangling feet down again, “Say it as much as you like, for I will never grow tired of hearing it.”
Her hand comes to mine and we leave the lift to find our meal in this massive place. Once she has some food in her she starts to settle a bit more.
“Do you know how to find the archive?”
“Yes. I have read the directions a few times now.”
“I just want to make sure...”
“I have been to this city several times so I do know my way around a good bit. We won't become lost. Trust me.”
“Oh, I do. Much to the dismay of everyone I know...” She sighs but smiles.
“I see you have regained your humor at least. How are you enjoying the food? I can never tell if you like things as you seem to eat too little in general.”
“It's very good. I've been enjoying all of the different tastes. My mind is too full to eat much.”
“You still need your energy. You are healing, my Fao. You need to feed yourself.”
“I know, nanny.” She jokes, “I will be fine. I am not starving.” She continues to pick at her meal.
I watch her eyes scanning the large room, looking at all of the strange sights amongst those that are familiar. She has moved her chair as close to mine as it will go and peers about at everything with wide eyes. Her hand comes and touches my arm or my hand every once and a while as though she is trying to assure herself that I am still there with her. I place an arm about her shoulders and hear her sigh and relax.
“Are you certain you feel up to wandering about in the city?”
“Then humor me and eat a little more before we go.”
She looks at me now and wrinkles her nose, “All right.” She takes a few more bites, “Happy?”
“Very.” I toss my linen on the table and stand, helping her to her feet. “Then off we go. Stay close.”
“I will. You don't even have to ask.”
Everything in this city is amazing to her. She uses me as her guide and hangs on tightly to my arm, looking around everywhere. The public transit system amazes her and she closes her eyes tightly as the trains rush down tunnels in the station we stand in, moving the air like a gust of wind. I wonder if all of this gives her pause to think of what her own world would be like if there were more economic prosperity, not so much struggle.
The archives amaze her and I let her lead me where she wants to go. There are so many things to see from all over the galaxy and others as well. I am not sure we will even get to the parts with the animals for how much there is. I look forward to showing her the archives in Namida one day, though they are not quite as extensive as this place.
A good deal of the time she is taking me through part of the archive dedicated to minerals and stones of all kinds. Her other passion is rocks as she has said before. There is one that draws her attention in particular. A crystalline formation that seems to glow and shift color.
“What is that?” Her eyes are huge.
“Nnh... Part of the reason for the Empire's success.” I say quietly to her in human, “That is Ajekna. It comes from only one place in the galaxy at this point in time—the mines of Ameknava by Galrea. It can be used as a power source and it is valued as a gemstone as well. You can see why.”
“I had donated this to the archives here but never did I know they would put it on display.” I muse.
“You are so interested in museums?”
“Very. I have long been a patron of the arts and sciences... Surprised?”
“You are full of surprises. What else will I learn?”
“Many things, I hope.”
The archives close before we come anywhere near the animal sections. My Princess is not disappointed. She has seen so much today that she actually finds an appetite for late meal. Suddenly her nervousness at being in this city has faded and she is anxious to have a walk around once we are done eating.
“I may never get you to go back to the beach!”
“You will.” She smiles at me, “I love the beach but this is just so exciting! There is so much to see. I've never been to a place like this before. It seems as though you could find anything you wanted here. Even things you might not know you would like.”
“You can. Even ugly blue husbands.”
Her eyes turn to me and she smiles a little, “I know I will regret saying this later... But you are not ugly.”
“Ahuu... Yes you will regret it later. You have finally admitted the truth! I am a very handsome man.” I raise an eyebrow at her.
“Oh, very.” She sighs and nods, batting her eyelashes with a look of mocking drama, “I am not certain how I remain conscious in your presence. I should be constantly swooning from the sheer delight of looking at you!”
“You must have great fortitude.” I agree, “I am not sure how you manage it, myself!”
“I am a lucky, lucky woman.” She makes a face at last.
“My love, even your sarcasm charms me.” I chuckle. “Are you ready for a wander about?”
I take her back into the streets, to the higher end shop and entertainment section. In a short while we hear music through the crowds. The streets open up to the waterfront where there is some manner of festivity happening. The sun is beginning to set but the scene is lit by street lights and strings of colored lights in the trees. My little one pulls me along by the hand toward the music. There was a good bit of dancing going on.
“I wish I wasn't wearing this stupid brace.” She laments.
“You want to dance?” I am surprised.
“Yes.” She looks up at me, “Why do you look so shocked?”
“Because I am! That is not something I had imagined for you. Now that you mention it, I would like to see it!”
“I want to see you dance.” She prods me in the side with her finger, reminding me of Hanta for a moment.
“That is not something that I do.”
“I just do not dance.”
“Have you ever tried?”
“Go and dance for me.” She squeezes my hand, smiling up at me.
“Saich, that is not something a man does for a woman.”
“Please?” She gives me the sweetest look she can and I almost give in.
“Once you have healed your leg I will try to dance with you. I will not look the fool all by myself. Will that satisfy you?”
“Stop giving me that look. Turn around and watch the dancers.”
She laughs as I take her shoulders and turn her away from me. I leave my hands resting there as we watch the goings on... So my little once fancies herself a dancer, does she? I can hardly wait to see that even if it does mean I will have to dance as well.
The evening ends with a walk beside the water, still in earshot of the music and merriment. I take my tired Princess back to our borrowed home, setting her down in front of the local news feeds which are in trade language so that she will be entertained while I wash up then she has a turn in the bathing facilities. She is tired enough that I have to almost carry her in there.
She comes back to me clean and wearing a long white gown for her sleeping attire. I almost drop the book I am reading as I watch her cross the room to put her folded day clothing into the satchel she has brought. My heart and body are both responding to this vision quite pleasantly. The only light in the room now is from the bathing room and the small light I have on beside me for reading. This I turn out so that others in the buildings across from us might not share my fine view. The lights from the city and moon now give the room a color... My vision comes to stand beside me where I am seated and looks out the window, sighing.
“By Gods... You are beautiful.”
She looks down at me in my chair and smiles, “But nowhere near as beautiful as you are handsome.”
“Ahuu, this is true... but you are very close.” I am so glad she keeps her humor with me. Even more glad when she comes and settles into my lap, sharing the big chair with me. Her hair is damp and smells of sweetness, as does the rest of her. She rests her head against my chest, watching the city move as I stroke her damp hair and kiss her forehead. I wonder if she has any idea of how she is making me feel at this very moment. I am doing a fine job of containing my desires considering her state of dress and feel rather proud of myself. She will be my wife one day and then... then will be the time to express such desires... gently.
Hanta is correct. She is not like I am. I will have to be with her softly. I smile and wonder if I am going to be able to contain my enthusiasm when the time comes... and then I wonder how long it will be until we do marry.
“What are your people's marriage ceremonies like?” She asks suddenly.
Can she read my mind? “How do you know what I am thinking of?” I ask her.
She leans back and looks at me strangely. “I don't. The thought just came to me.”
“Interesting. Perhaps a coincidence... To your question... it really matters where one is from, how they marry.”
“Well, give me an example.” Her head comes to rest against me again, her hand reaching out and playing absently with my long hair.
“As you wish… If one is from the southern parts, it is rather tradition for the male to go and take his mate from her family. Usually this is fairly easy and is a mock fight only. But if the family does not approve of the male, it can be rather ugly. Honor demands that he win her from her family, and also that her family lets him know his place.”
“That rather explains some of your odd behavior with me over the years.”
“What other traditions are there? Anything less aggressive?”
“Yes. Northern tradition... Either way, pairing is traditionally made final in a temple... The male and female will go and tell the Priestess or Priest that they wish to be joined. The Priestess will ask them a few questions and decide if they are ready or not for such a thing. If they are, they will challenge the pairing by tying them together at their wrists by a small cord. They must go everywhere together for the next 10 suns and return to the temple with the cord unbroken. Then they are married. Of course, there are many festivities around this. If the families disapprove they can always try to break the cord during the 10 day period.”
“That's sweet. They have to prove they can work together toward a common goal and stay close together.”
“I like the southern tradition better.” I nod.
“Tch... You would.” She wrinkles her nose at me.
“I joke with you... I wonder if you could stand to be tied to me for 10 suns.”
She shrugs, “I would do my best, but I do not think I could keep up with you in this condition… I don't really want to have to wait until my leg heals to marry you.”
“No? You would have plenty of time to reconsider, then.”
“I'm not going to reconsider.”
“What are human traditions for marriage?”
“We get married in a church by a priest. They can be very large ceremonies with family and friends, music and flowers and exchanging vows of love and unity. At least that is how it is on Altea. There are all kinds of different cultures on Earth with many different types of tradition.” She shrugs, “How about on Vidon?”
“Quite often it seems that if there is a group to watch it is very, very small. Mostly, a type of priest will come and join the couple privately. And as you had said of human tradition, this time is for the exchanging of vows of love and unity.”
She rests against me again, thinking. “Then, let's get married here... Before we go home.”
The proposal shocks me but makes me quite happy, “Here? Just the two of us?”
“I think that would be wonderful.”
“My Princess! Do you know what this will mean?”
“I am not sure what you are thinking...” She is perplexed by my response.
“I am not sure what you are thinking, either.” I laugh, “You had said to me long ago the following, in one of your worse moods for hearing me ask you to marry me yet again... and I will quote, for I have run these words over in my mind many times... 'A girl waits her entire life for her wedding day. It is supposed to be happy and beautiful and perfect. Do you think I would let you ruin that for me by having YOU for my groom, you horrible, horrible man??' ”
She giggles, “Well, you did make me mad.”
“Obviously!... If we join here, there will be no such enormous ceremony in a church that you said you had dreamed of. What of that dream? Your perfect day will have been ruined for you not only in lacking grand celebration... but in having me for your groom.”
She sighs and just looks at me for a good while, then reaches out and strokes my face, “Vikoa... you are my perfect day.” She says softly and my heart swells again inside of me. “I want to be your wife... I want to speak my vows to you in quiet, just you and I together... with no one around that might have ill feelings toward us... When we go home we will have to live with that for a good long while. I do not want to have to start that way... I don't need flowers or a church to know that I love you and want to be with you for the rest of my life. I only need you.”
“Huaa, my love.” I sigh and take her hand, pressing it to my cheek. “I do think that would be quite perfect... It would be a wonderful thing for us to marry one another without our titles, just ourselves. Just our shared love.”
“I will agree to this if you will do one thing for me.”
“What is that?”
I am afraid to speak it. I have thought of this on several occasions and now know that I must have her do this before she joins with me. “When I came here to Vidon to seek my healing, there was one person who acted as my guide through the torturous work that needed doing... I would like you to meet with this person. To ask her if she feels that I am... suitable to be your husband.”
“Do you think you are not?”
“I cannot say. I am biased.” I smile slightly, using one of the words she has taught me. “I would like for you to have a completely open view of who I am now from someone who has come to know the worst details of my life. You could ask of her anything you wish to know of me so that you can make your true decision... Will you do this?”
“If it would make you feel more comfortable, yes... What would you like me to ask her?”
“Anything you care to... Mostly, if she thinks I would be suitable for you.”
“All right.” She nods, “I know it won't change my mind.”
“I hope that it will not. I will see if I can reach her when we are back at the beach tomorrow.”
“Good. The sooner the better. Then you can stop worrying so much.”
“Now that would be a wonderful thing.”
She comes and kisses me so sweetly, her arms going about me... I love her embraces and the confidence she has grown in them. She is not so shy any longer and presses herself to me. I pull her even closer, feeling the warmth of her flesh against my hands through the light gown she wears. I know now that I will be gentle with her when the time comes, for my spirit and body both want her so very much.
Shortly I lift her into my arms and rise from that seat, carrying her to bed with me and holding her close as we fall to sleeping so warmly beside one another. I am afraid of what she might learn from this priest and healer, yet in my heart I know that she will not change her mind. And soon, very soon, she will be my wife... My beloved wife...
In the morning we rise together to take a brief morning meal at the hotel, then gather our things and return to the beach. No sooner are we in the door of the house than she is pestering me to reach the priest.
“Hurry!” She squeaks dramatically.
“Saich! Such a rush.”
“Yes! It is only this that comes between my handsome husband and me. I want to hurry before some other woman tries to steal him away!”
“Finally you are making sense, woman!” I laugh at her. She is trying very hard to relax me by joking.
“Go go go go go.”
I call to the priest and she comes to us almost immediately from town. Now I spend a torturous hour, sitting alone on the beach so that they might talk. I have released the priest to speak to her openly of me. Before there was the bond of confidentiality between us that is taken so seriously on Vidon. Now my princess can know anything she wishes to, at least of what I have told this woman during the course of my 'treatment'. What will this woman say of me? Am I yet well enough to be safe to be a husband?
I am in a stare at the waves, tightened with worry, when finally I am distracted from my thoughts by a shadow crossing mine. I look up with a start and see that my princess is smiling quite happily. She leans down and touches my knee, pushing it aside so that she can come to kneel between my legs and be face to face with me.
“I'm sorry... but I still want to marry you.” She says softly, her smile growing.
“My love...” With great relief I pull her close and hold her to me dearly, “I am so happy.”
“So am I...” She sighs.
“What did you learn?”
“I learned that you love me more than I ever suspected. I learned that you will always have a temper, but that you will never hurt me as a result of it. I learned that you have had a very horrible life in many ways and that you have worked very hard to put yourself back into one piece. I learned that you are very loyal and you have great determination and though our lives together may not be simple, you will stand beside me and work with me through it all... You worry too much. I thought that I did! No one is perfect, you know. I never expected you to be.”
“I am far from perfect.” I am more than happy to admit.
“Just perfectly handsome.” She shows me her humor and I laugh out of the fears that have washed away from me once again.
“I also learned that the this woman is a minister and can marry us right now, if we so desire.”
“Such a rush! Why are you in such a hurry?”
“Are you chickening out?” She sits back a bit to look at me with a smirk, “You are turning the tables.”
“Chickening?? What is 'chickening'?”
“Are you trying to back out of it now?” She presses a finger to my nose.
“No! Of course not!”
“Then let's get married.”
I feel a smile take me, “Very well.”
And so that day, there on that sandy shore, she accepts me as her husband. She speaks her vows to me and many other things. I do not hear so much the words as I do the emotions that are behind them. In my own vows to her, I find myself pouring forth to her in a way I had never thought that I was capable of. We knelt in embrace long after the minister had tired of our affections and went to sit on the patio with a glass of water. Realizing how long we have been forgetting the world I break from my new wife.
“My love... We have forgotten ourselves again.”
“Ummh.” She smiles in a dreaming manner to me. “Should we say goodbye to the minister?”
“It is appropriate that we do so.” I bring with me her up to the patio to speak to this patient woman, “Forgive us, minister. We are very happy on this day.” I bow respectfully to the woman.
“I can see that much!” She laughs, “I am happy you have found your heart, Vikoa. We worried you would always be lonely.”
“I worried that myself. Thank you for all you have done.”
“I will leave you to your happiness then. Good life, good joining.”
Thus she leaves us alone together. “Your people will be furious.” I remark.
“Yes, they certainly will be. Perhaps we will have another wedding to make them happy... Well, that may not make them happy at all.” She sighs, “But I am happy. I have a husband!” She smiles up at me.
“And I have the only one I would ever bow down to. My Queen.” And with that, I bow down to her, one knee on the ground and one palm, as a foot solider showing respect to his royal leader, “You are the ruler of my spirit. Never doubt my love for you, or that I will protect you, keep you safe. I will make your people happy by creating a lasting peace with your world, and perhaps one day they will trust in me and mine... You have made me so happy, my Fao.”
“You have made me happy, too... Please don't bow to me.” And so I stand again, taking the hand she has offered me, “Perhaps we are both happy that we have found love instead of contracts. I hope I will be a good wife.”
“Nnnh... We are, and yes you will be.”
For the day we simply stay close to one another, mostly settling on the beach and speaking softly. I find myself falling more and more in love with my beautiful wife.
When nighttime comes, I am not quite certain of what to do. As usual we both bathe before sleeping... And she comes to me in my bed in that long white gown. My heart pounds... I want to make love to her... Gods how I want her. And she comes to my arms so easily, kissing me and kissing me. I can feel her nervousness before she even speaks of it.
“I have never been... with a man before.” She whispers and I see a blush upon her face when I break from kissing her throat to look to her eyes, “I know you have done... this... before...” She flusters.
I sigh and stroke her cheek, “Ahll, that is where you are wrong my love... I have been with women before, yet never out of love. This will be new for the both of us... If you feel you are not ready, please say so. We do not have to do this.”
She nods, “I... just don't know what to do.”
“Relax yourself... Things will simply flow from that... I will not hurt you. Please know that.”
“I know.” She nods slightly, “Will you... bond with me? I remember talking about that before. That mates in your culture bond by scent...”
“Indeed we do... and I have with you.”
“Completely... When you slept beside me there on the sofa in your rooms. I decided that there should be no other than you for me... so I gave myself to you entirely then... even if you would never have me, I would always be for you. I could not help myself. I simply loved you so deeply that I could not make any other decision.”
“You really did?” Tears begin to rise in her eyes.
“I did... but I will continue to bond with you every day, my wife. It is not a thing that happens once between mates, or family members.” I reach out and bring a handful of her hair to my nose, breathing in her scent, “It is what keeps us together, this bond that we share, this acceptance of one another, softening to one another.” I can feel these things happening in me even as I explain it to her. I am falling into the bliss of bond, “It is the greatest thing that a man can hope for... a deep bond with the woman he loves... and then to taste the scent of the children she brings to him. To have a family bond... It is ecstasy...”
“I want to do that, too... I want to bond with you.”
“It is not something that humans do, but I have been told that those that have joined with my people have found their own ways to do so. I believe you will find your own way, perhaps in learning from me as I experience this bliss with you.”
She reaches back to me, stroking my face with her fingers, “I'll try... I love you so much... So much.” The emotion on her face makes my heart ache even more for her.
“I love you... How I love you.”
I settle into her again, kissing her so slowly, savoring this sweet, sweet moment as she learns to bond with me in her own way. Whatever fear might have been within her has vanished. I am no longer worried about holding myself back. It is all happening without effort, without a thought other than finding ways to become closer and closer.
Everything I have dreamed of is here... The woman I love is beside me, here in our home by the sea, far away from those who would condemn us. At last, we are as one in every way and I thank the Gods as she falls asleep, lying beside me, my arms around her, protecting her from all that could ever harm her.On to 36