Episode 17: Princess

The next morning, breakfast was brought up to their rooms with the instruction that they eat and dress quickly. They knew where the Audience Chamber was, so they were expected to make their own way down there within the hour. It was made perfectly clear to them that the queens would not appreciate being kept waiting long. They ate, dressed, and headed down, wondering what was going on.

The guards outside the door let them in. Where there had been only one throne the day before, there were seven large thrones. From left to right they were light green, solid gold, iridescent grey, red, emerald green, purple, and deep blue. All but the golden throne was clear crystal. A regal-looking woman occupied each one.

The woman in the first throne was a Laisheen, her tail tip twitching slightly as she watched them enter. Her gown was a darker shade of green from her throne. Across her forehead was a silver band with a single pale green stone set in the center. Her black hair was left to hang loose while her cloudy grey eyes remained emotionless.

Beside her in the golden throne, a slight blond woman bearing a strong resemblance to Yumeko gazed down at them with her light blue eyes. Her hair was piled up on top of her head. Of the seven women, she alone wore a golden tiara across her forehead. Hers was set with a pale blue stone. Her pure white dress fitted her like a glove. Her hands rested lightly on the throne’s armrests. This then was the Queen of the Tora home world.

The next woman appeared to be human. Her chocolate brown hair was styled in a thin braid that was slung over her shoulder to hang down her front. Her dark grey dress was of a simpler cut than the ones worn by the other women, but the fabric was a soft velvet rather than silk. Her tiara was set with a lighter grey stone. Her dark purple eyes watched them with interest.

The Queen of Nomaie in her red throne had the coldest expression of the seven. One hand toyed with the end of her long blond braid, her solid gold eyes narrowed as they approached. The crimson colored gem in her tiara was flat and lusterless. Her red gown had the most elaborate styling of the seven.

On the emerald throne, the red haired woman looked at them warmly. Her skin was a pale color with pointed ears that looked a great deal like Trance’s. She had green eyes that matched the emerald color of her gown, tiara stone, and throne.

A woman with light grey skin and frilled ears sat in the purple throne, ignoring them completely. She held her silver tiara with its amethyst stone in her hands, rubbing imaginary spots off it before putting it back on and smoothing the deep purple silk of her dress. Her dark grey hair was elegantly coiffed.

The final woman was a Kal’tresh’nal with sea green hair and intense blue eyes. Her hair hung loose around her in waves with a small portion pulled back in a braid behind her head. Her deep blue gown matched the style of the one Tenshi had worn when she’d first revealed her true nature to the crew of the Andromeda just after they’d rescued Jen. Her deep blue tiara stone winked in the light.

Jason was already there, dressed in a red silk version of his regular shirt with black pants. He waited patiently for them to walk up beside him before turning and bowing to the assembled queens.

“Revered Majesty of Nomaie, Revered Majesties of our allied worlds, these are my friends, the crew of the High Guard warshipAndromeda Ascendant. They have brought my humble self and my honored sister back home. They have been nothing but kind and helpful to us. One of them, Seamus Harper, had befriended my honored sister during her mission to Earth.”

“Indeed,” the woman on the iridescent grey throne said, arching an eyebrow.

“I will not tolerate this, Hibashira,” the grey skinned woman said acidly. “Why should we tolerate these strangers in our system?”

“Peace, Amejisetto,” the blond Tora woman said calmly. “They have returned Our children, and as such deserve to be heard.”

“As you wish, Kinyuri, but you know how I stand on this issue.”

The Laisheen rolled her eyes. “Oh for stars’ sake, Amejisetto, open your mind for once. The way I hear it, two of them are senshi.”

”Ancient law clearly states that all senshi are welcome,” the Kal’tresh’nal woman reminded the fuming Amejisetto.

“Very well. Speak!”

“Being that they are outsiders, they naturally do things differently than we do here on Nomaie. If it pleases your Revered Majesty, I’d like to present Captain Dylan Hunt of the Andromeda Ascendant.”

She nodded and gestured for him to continue. Dylan stepped forward and bowed politely. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Revered Majesty.”

The woman on the grey throne leaned forward. “Well, this is interesting. A man commanding a warship. How novel!”

Hibashira looked down her nose at her. “Only you would find something like that interesting, Kineko.”

“Please continue, Captain,” Kinyuri said to him. “You brought Our children home?”

“Yes, indeed, Revered Majesty.”

“Please tell Us the tale from the beginning.”

Dylan cleared his throat and started from the Magog attack on the Commonwealth world of Arntzed and told them of the discovery that two of his crew were senshi, the meeting of the women who had introduced themselves as Wolf, Yumeko, and Serenity, the rescue of Jen, and their journey from Earth to Nomaie with all the pit stops in between.

Queen Kinyuri listened patiently, waiting until he’d finished speaking before standing. Jason frantically indicated that they should kneel. “Captain Hunt, my thanks to you for returning Our children and rescuing one of Our senshi. We welcome you and your crew to Our system. You may stay as long as you like. These are my fellow Queens. On the far left in the light green throne we have Utano Mori of Ha’ven, Kane Kineko of Taleer, Yoake Hibashira of Nomaie, Akai Hoshi of Raiven, Nijishi Amejisetto of Dailen, and Namida Mizuumi of Aiella.”

“My thanks for your generosity, but we need to leave again as soon as StarFire is ready to travel.”

Hibashira stood and walked towards him, eyes blazing. “You will not take her from this planet. She is needed here.”

Trance stepped up beside Dylan. “My apologies, Revered Majesty, but we have need of her strength and skills as a senshi. The Magog are a threat to all life and the Abyss threatens to end all life in the Tri-galaxies. They will not stop there, but will continue on to yours once they have finished with us.”

“Who are you to speak so brazenly to me?”

“My name is Trance Gemini, Revered Majesty. I am also known as Sailor Vedra.”

“A senshi? So it is true, then.”

“Yes, Revered Majesty,” Jason said. “The senshi of the Systems Commonwealth are in need of our assistance, as the only discovered senshi in the Tri-galaxies are in this room: Sailor Vedra and Terazed Kamen,” he said, pointing to Rhade. “They are in need of experienced senshi until they can find more of their own.”

Hibashira looked at him. “You may go with them, but StarFire remains here. That is my command and it shall be followed.”

The doors opened again and Okami, Yumeko, and Tenshi entered. All three were wearing the dresses they’d worn when they’d revealed their true selves to the crew. They stopped beside the others and bowed formally to the assembled queens. Kinyuri ran for Yumeko and wrapped her arms around her.

“Welcome home, my daughter.”

“It’s good to see you again, mother.”

“You’ve been away from home for far too long, Yumeko. Let me have a look at you.” Kinyuri pulled away from her, turning her daughter around. “You look well.”

“I am, mother.”

“What is your opinion of these outsiders?”

“I have agreed to help them. I would not have done so if they were not worth it.”

Kinyuri turned to the other two. “Tenshi? Okami?”

“We have also agreed to lend them our assistance in defeating the Magog,” Tenshi replied.

Okami shuddered. “You should see those things, Majesty. They look like teddy bears gone mad! Exterminating them might seem like genocide, but that’s what they will do to the rest of the universe if they remain unchecked.”

“Go. Help them. I won’t stand in your way,” Hibashira told them.

“Respectfully, Majesty, you are. You are aware that we need StarFire to complete our team. Nomaie Kamen is skilled as well as a fire type senshi, but he is, after all, only a Kamen,” Yumeko said softly. “We need our fourth in order to be of any use.”

“You may not have her.”

“With all due respect, Revered Majesty, it isn’t your decision to make,” Jen said, walking in. She was wearing an elegant scarlet red dress that clung to her torso, accentuating her curves and then falling loose around her feet. The skirt swirled as she walked.

“I was wondering if you were going to show up,” Hibashira fumed.

“You commanded me to appear and I must obey a royal command.”

“My command is that you remain here on Nomaie and accept your familial responsibilities.”

“And, respectfully, I must decline as I said before.”

“Kasei, it is high time that you retire from being a senshi and settle down.”

“With who? Ryuujin?” She snorted. “The man is a sadist and a pig and I refuse to have him anywhere near me.”

“This was all settled when you were children.”

“It’s a custom that is long overdue to be removed from our society. Who could have known that he would have turned out the way he did?”

“You can’t tell how a child will turn out.”

“This is the point I’m trying to make, honored mother. Besides, I’m not in a position to be able to settle down. I gave them my word that I would help them, even thought I think this is madness. Would you have me break my word?”

Hibashira stiffened. “You gave them your word? Foolish child!”

“I’m not a child, mother! If I choose to assume the throne of Nomaie in the future, I don’t want the threat of these Magog hanging over my head.”

“You will stay here and obey my command, Kasei and that is final. Ryuujin has been summoned to the capital.”

“I am not in a position to marry, mother. You haven’t yet asked me how I am or what has happened to me.”

“Captain Hunt has already explained the situation to us.”

“Captain Hunt and the other members of his crew are largely unaware of all that has happened to me.”

“Oh? Do enlighten me, then,” Hibashira said, returning to her throne. She sat down, crossing her legs and resting her arms on the armrests.

“Most of it cannot be told in public, so I will save that for when we have some time alone. Or, simply ask Yuki, as he knows most of the details. Whichever. It matters not to me. There is, however, a part that can be told and most everyone here saw what happened even if they do not realize the significance of it. You see, while we were on Callien, I fell into a lake that Tenshi inadvertently created.”

“It was to save the Callien people as well as Dylan and Beka,” Tenshi added helpfully.

“As your Revered Majesties are well aware, I cannot swim. Rhade jumped in after me. Yuki would have, but he cannot swim either. It is because of Rhade’s actions that I am able to stand here. You see, honored mother, Revered Majesties, he saved my life.”

The queens muttered in surprise amongst themselves. Finally, Mizuumi of Aiella turned to Kasei. “So you are under a life debt to him, then?”

“As much as I hate to admit it, yes. As you are all aware, according to our laws I am not permitted to marry, hold official positions or do much of anything until I have repaid the debt.”

“I fail to see how this helps you out at all, Kasei,” Amejisetto commented. “According to your won laws, you cannot act as a senshi, as that is considered an official position. Repaying the debt will allow you act as a senshi again, but you will also once again be allowed to marry and my honorable colleague of Nomaie will undoubtedly reinforce your arrangement with Ryuujin.”

“Ah, but Rhade is also Terazed Kamen; therefore, I must continue to act as a senshi as it will give me more opportunities to repay the debt.”

Hoshi looked over at Hibashira. “She is right, you know. You can’t force her to do anything until this is all settled.”

“Peace, Hibashira,” Kinyuri said forestalling any further argument she might have made. “Kasei, you have my permission to help the outsiders even though you don’t need it. Please rid yourself of this life debt as soon as possible.”

“It’s not something I enjoy having over my head, Majesty.”

Kinyuri smiled. “No, I don’t imagine it is. You haven’t changed in eight thousand years.”

“Has it really been that long?” Kasei asked with a rueful smile.

“Yes, indeed, it has,” Hoshi said, nodding. “We of Raiven recall our first encounter with you well.”

“Now is not the time for reminiscing,” Mizuumi chided her. “Now that we have met with the outsiders, we have other things to discuss amongst ourselves.”

“Yes, indeed,” Kinyuri mused. “I see no reason to go back to Kinshei to do so when we are all gathered here. Besides, should we need to ask any questions, we are conveniently located here with the Guardians, the new senshi, and the rest of the crew of the Andromeda Ascendant. I would advise none of you to leave the palace complex, however. We have offered you hospitality, true, but we would appreciate it if you remained nearby just in case. Kasei, if you could stay behind, there are things we need to discuss with you.”

Jason, or Yuki as they now knew his real name to be, bowed. “We will remain near awaiting your summons, Revered Majesties,” he said, ushering the other out.

Outside, they immediately turned to Yuki. “So, that’s your real name,” Trance said, breaking the stunned silence.

He nodded. “Yes. Yoake Yuki.”

Beka stared. “You’re a prince?”

“We don’t really define it as such here, but yes. I am the second child of Yoake Hibashira and Akatsuki Yoake Chuuseki. My elder sister is Yoake Hihana and Yoake Kasei is my younger twin sister.”

Rhade leaned against the wall. “A princess.”

“Not just the princess,” Yuki told him. “She is the Heir to the throne of Nomaie.”

Dylan frowned. “Shouldn’t the elder sister be the Heir?”

“Technically, yes, but for some reason that was never made clear to me mother has favored Kasei since her birth.” He shrugged. “It’s not really all that important in the long run. Kasei doesn’t want the throne. The problem is, she would rather slit her own throat than see Hihana as Queen.”

“And,being male, you aren’t eligible,” Tenshi added.

“Not unless both of my sisters die. In which case, I would have no choice but to retire from my position as senshi, find a woman of decent lineage, and marry her. She would then become the Queen. Nomaie has never had a King, as you would define the term. It is always a Queen and her Consort.”

“Well, she did say things would make more sense once we got here,” Rhade murmured. “Now I’m almost wishing that they didn’t.”

“Well, now you all know the truth,” Yumeko said.

“As much of it as any self-respecting Nomaien will tell of it, that is,” Okami added. “There are some nuances that anyone who hasn’t known Kasei all that long will miss.”

“Who is this Ryuujin guy they kept talking about?” Harper asked. “It sounded like they’re engaged or something.”

“Oh, yes. That.” Tenshi looked as if she wanted to hit something. “Don’t mistake me, I think of Hibashira as a second mother to me, but on this I refuse to do so. It’s an outdated custom. It was thought in the old days that it was best to find a mate for the Heir early in life so that the two could grow up knowing each other. It was felt that doing so would allow them to come to love each other or, at the very least, become friends. In theory, it’s a good idea. In practice, it’s not.

“As a child, Sabaku Ryuujin was already an odd one, but was clever enough to hide it from the adults. Hibashira believed the Sabaku family to be a good match and so she made arrangements with his mother, Sabaku Shugoryuu, for them to be betrothed. Now, a Nomaien betrothal bond is something more than what you know as an engagement, but still less than a marriage. It’s long believed to be an unshakeable bond.”

“It’s nonsense if you ask me,” Okami snorted. “Anyways, as Ryuujin grew older, it became clearer that he wasn’t normal. A lot of people shrugged it off, saying that it was just a male thing. His family ignores it, but somewhere along the line he turned into the sadistic man he is today.”

Yumeko shuddered. “His reputation for enjoying the pain he inflicts on his so-called lovers has reached beyond Nomaie. I’m pretty sure that they know of it as far away as Ha’ven and Aiella.”

“The problem is that no one really believes half of the stories about him. Frankly, if I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t either. I’ve seen the damage he’s capable of.”

“Not to you, I hope,” Beka said.

Yuki shook his head. “No, he wouldn’t dare touch me.”

“This is a good thing, as he’s expressed in you more times than I can remember,” Okami smirked. Yumeko laughed while Tenshi did her best to keep it in.

Dylan, Harper, Rhade and Trance looked very confused. “Would you care to explain what’s so funny?” Rhade asked.

Beka took Rhade by the arm and led him away. “I’ll explain up in your room. I probably should have let you in on this last night when I found out.”