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