Episode 18: Musings

It was a good thing that Rhade was sitting down while Beka told him what Yuki had told her the night before. None of it made any sense to him. “How can a society thrive on this?” he asked numbly as his mind raced.

“Apparently, it’s a part of their biology. They don’t have kids easily, so it just made sense to them at the time and never saw any reason to change it.”

Rhade shook his head. “This can’t be happening. It’s bad enough that she hates me, but to learn that, not only is she a princess and the Heir to the throne, but she prefers women to men.”

“I can only imagine how many lovers someone like her would attract. She’s strong, powerful, rich, high ranking, and not bad looking either,” Beka said. Outwardly, she was trying to be sympathetic, but inside she was happy. She’d never much liked Jen, or Kasei as her name turned out to be. Her personality grated and the way she treated Rhade and Dylan irritated her to no end. This just gave her more reason to not like her.

“This explains a lot. Her dislike of men, the way she watched those dancing girls on Callien… Hell, everything about her makes perfect sense now. Only one thing is missing, and that’s what happened to her in the Drago-Kazov camp. Yuki didn’t happen to say anything about that to you, did he?”

Beka shook her head. “No, but I didn’t think to ask. I guess this means that you should give up on her.”

“I refuse to give up until I’ve talked with her about this.”

“Now that her mother is here, I doubt you’ll get much of a chance until we get off this hell of a planet. I don’t know why Yuki likes it here.”

“I can understand why Kasei doesn’t, though,” Rhade said, looking out the window from his chair.

“Is there anything I can do?”

“Just leave me be, Beka. Oh, if you could not talk about this with the others, that would be good.”

“Assuming that Okami, Tenshi, and Yumeko haven’t already filled them in,” Beka said, reminding him that there were others that knew what was going on. She got up and patted him on the shoulder before leaving the room.

Rhade sat in shocked silence for several hours, trying to piece things together. So. This is why she wouldn’t tell us her name, why she hates men so much. I’d hate women too if I were in this kind of cultural position as well as being engaged to someone I hated. If only I’d known about this from the beginning maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much. No, I think I still would have fallen in love with her. I tried not to. I didn’t even like her when I first saw her. She wasn’t even all that pretty.

He smiled a little at the memory of seeing her in the bed on the med deck. Not bad, but nothing special either. If only I’d known how she would look when cleaned up, or how she’d look in her senshi uniform. Black leather. Just thinking about the few times he’d seen her transformed made him sweat, never mind how he felt when he was training with her back on the Andromeda. It was a good thing that Tenshi was always there. Who knows what he might have tried otherwise?

It’s not my style to force myself on women, and the very idea is abhorrent to me, but all sense or reason leaves my mind when she’s around. With the way she dresses and moves, her healthy figure, and the way she smells, it’s amazing that I’ve been able to keep my mind so far. I don’t know if it’ll be easier or a lot harder now that I know more about her.

He sat back and thought about it for a moment. None of this really helps explain why she hates Nietzscheans, so it has to have everything to do with whatever happened to her on Earth. That’s the one missing piece. Princess. Senshi. Woman. Man hater. There is no one word that suits her more than the other.

Rhade got up out of the chair and walked over to the window. Judging by the position of the sun, it was midday. Have I been sitting here that long? he mused. He shook his head. I don’t think that there’s enough time to fully come to terms with what Beka told me. It goes against everything that I believe in. It makes me wonder how the Nomaiens would take a typical Nietzschean family and the polygamy we take for granted.

There was a knock on the door. “Come in.”

Yuki came in and closed the door behind him. “I just thought I’d come up here and see how you were doing.”

“Not well.”

“Look, Rhade, there are reasons why we kept this aspect of our culture hidden from all of you. We’ve been judged very harshly for some of our ways in the past and its led to long, bloody wars. I know it’s not a very good excuse, but that’s how it goes.”

“It’s alright, Yuki,” Rhade said without turning to look at the other man. “Just answer me one question.”

“The one question you don’t really want to know the answer to. In all, honesty, Rhade, I don’t know. We don’t talk about it. What I do know is this; if she ever wanted a lover, she could have anyone she wanted. Not for her looks, but for who she is.”

“That’s right. She keeps telling me that she’s plain.”

“She is, but she’s pretty in her own way. Not many people see it. You can, apparently. I’m glad I never really tried to make a pass at you. My sister may not like you, but she gets cranky when people make passes at anyone trying to get her attention. She doesn’t share well.”

Rhade turned to look at him. “Your sister is really quite strange.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Yuki groaned.

“Wait a minute. You tried to make a pass at me?”

“Can you blame me? Between how I was raised and you being a very good example of Nietzschean physical perfection, it was hard not to be interested. Besides, I seem to have found myself in a better situation than I would be in if I had made a serious pass at you.”

“I’m not sure if I should take that as a good thing.”

Yuki blushed. “Umm, well, that really depends on how you look at it. Hihana seems to have taken an interest in you. A word of advice, if I may? Avoid her. She’s what we call a trophy hunter. She collects attractive men, adding them to her household. If she ever finds out that you have a thing for Kasei, it’ll make it worse unless, of course, Kasei claims you for her own.”

“And the likelihood of that is less than zero.”

“You’re quite the pessimist aren’t you?”

“Given what I’ve just been told about her, I don’t think it’s all that strange.”

Yuki gave him a puzzled look. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s no wonder that she doesn’t like men given her upbringing.”

“Oh. That.” Yuki shook his head. “Honestly, Rhade, don’t let it get to you.”

“How can I not let it get to me?” Rhade exclaimed. “I feel like I’m trapped in a bad dream!”

“Has it occurred to you to just go and talk to her?”

“It’s not likely that I’ll have much chance to do that now that her mother’s here.”

“Mother can’t keep her busy forever,” Yuki told him. “Kasei really doesn’t like being near her much.” There was a knock on the door. “I’d best be going. I have things I need to talk to Beka about.”

Yuki left a pair of women wearing the uniform of the Nomaien Home Guard entered. The blond watched Yuki leave while the redhead eyed Rhade appraisingly.

“Rhade, you have been assigned new quarters in light of information that has come to the attention of Her Revered Majesty and the council of ruling queens. Please come with us.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Of course not,” the redhead said in a slightly condescending tone. “You’re just a man, after all. You aren’t expected to understand, only to obey the wishes of Her Revered Majesty.”

The blond gestured at the door. “My apologies for the rudeness of my colleague, but please do come with us.”

He stood up. “It looks as if I have little choice in the matter, though I must admit to a curiosity.”

They led him down the hall and down the stairs to the main landing and over to the guards blocking one of the hallways. They saluted smartly and moved for them to pass. Rhade followed with a rising sense of dread. At the end of the hallway was a large door carved with an image of Kanehjer Sherakasei, the representative of the Queen and her Heir, Hibashira and Kasei. Behind it was a staircase leading to another hallway, this one lined with images of people. Some showed pleasant looking women, others showed children at play. Few were images of men. One large image showed a younger Hibashira with her consort Chuuseki, both wearing very fancy clothes.

He was led into a room on the left side of the hall. The room was very luxuriously decorated with silk hangings, tall shelves full of books, musical instruments, plush couches and chairs, elegant looking weaponry, and, strangely enough, a toy version of Kanehjer Sherakasei sitting on one of the couches. Beside it was a very strange creature that looked like a cross between a cat and a fox. It looked up as they entered and hissed, unwinding its twin tails from around its paws, jumping down and heading though a door leading into an adjoining room.

“These are your new rooms,” the blond informed him. She looked as if she wanted to run from the room. She swallowed nervously. “I advise you to not disturb the objects in this room.” Both guards bowed and left with a haste that made him wonder what was so special about this room. Shrugging, he looked through the doorway the odd-looking creature had gone through. In it was a single, massive four-poster bed with silk hangings tied to the posts. It looked immensely comfortable.

In another room was a smaller daybed that looked slept in. The covers were mostly on the floor. At the foot of the bed was a pair of boots and a pair of leggings. The door to a closet was partially open. Rhade peeked inside to find a few gowns, some fancy clothes, and plainer ones like the kind he’d seen Kasei wearing.

Beside the closet was a vanity with a large mirror. Instead of the usual feminine objects one might expect to find, he found a hairbrush, some silken ribbons, a well-used book with a scrap of ribbon inserted between two of the pages, an assortment of writing instruments, some scraps of paper with things scribbled on them, and a short red stick with a strange symbol on top. The stick shimmered in the light.

Inserted into the corners of the mirror were pictures of the four Guardians in strange clothes. In one, Kasei had her arms wrapped around Tenshi and Okami. All three were laughing. His eye was drawn to one of Kasei with a tall, thin boy with long black hair drawn back into a ponytail and blue eyes. He was wearing a red suit, green shirt, yellow tie, and had a crescent shaped earring in each earlobe. Kasei herself was wearing a pair of short red shorts and a white tank top with a pair of knee high red boots. Both looked happy.

Rhade frowned at the image. It just occurred to him that this was the first time he’d ever seen Kasei look happy and these were pictures. Who is that? Why is she so happy with him?

“It’s considered rude to enter a woman’s private room without an invitation,” Kasei said, walking up behind him.

Rhade turned. “Could you explain why I was told that this is my new room?”

“It’s because of the life debt. There were two options: I could move into your room or you could come here. My mother is quite the snob at heart and balked at the idea of her precious daughter living in guest quarters in her own home. Personally, it matters little to me. These may be my rooms, but I don’t spend a lot of time here.”

“Where do you spend your time, then?”

Kasei frowned. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Just answer my question,” he said impatiently.

“You’re snappy today, aren’t you? When I’m not in the library, I’m usually, out in town, in the desert training, visiting my friends, or training senshi or Home Guard members. I do a lot of things when I’m at home. I don’t sit in my rooms like some of those pampered, high born halfwits who think their time is better spent putting on makeup or having their servants twist their hair into the latest styles.”

“You look nice with your hair done.”

“Grow your hair out and I’ll style it, cramming the required number of pins into your scalp in order to keep it there. Then we’ll see how much you enjoy looking like that.”

“You’re in a bad mood today.”

“I was forced to talk to my mother all morning. That’s more than enough to make me angry.”

“Your mother is a strange person. She’s very insistent on keeping you here.”

Kasei smirked, sitting down on her bed. “In that respect, you actually have a use. For the first time, I’m actually glad that you saved my life. It’s because of it that she has no choice but to let me leave. Because you aren’t Nomaien, she has no power over you. Even our senshi council can’t tell you what to do because you’re from another galaxy. She tried that, but the head of that council stepped in and told her bluntly that she can’t order you around. Granted, Himitsu can do pretty as she damn well pleases, but I think she’s taking some kind of pity on me and won’t. If she put her mind to it, she could make you do things. She’s our most powerful senshi.”

“How powerful?”

“Let’s just say that I she put her mind to it, she could probably hold the Abyss at bay for a while. Her strength would fail eventually, though, and she isn’t strong enough to take it out on her own. The problem is that she won’t leave here, so it’s not even worth asking. It’s because of her that Kage Neko wasn’t able to destroy us even though she tried and nearly succeeded.”

Rhade nodded and sat down beside her. “I didn’t think I’d get a chance to talk to you before we went back to the Andromeda.”

“Well, you ren’t really getting one now. I have to pack a few things.”

“Pack? Where are you going?”

“Yuki and I are headed back into the Kanehr Shovasea, to the place we tried to find before we came to the capital. I’ve always hated that damn spell put on it. It’s nearly impossible to find.”

“Tenshi said that you have a really good sense of direction.”

“Direction has nothing to do with this. If you aren’t welcome or invited, you won’t be able to find it. It’s a very ancient place and an equally ancient protection spell.”

“What is this place you’re going to?”

“If you must know, it’s a place that senshi go when they need to. It’s very hard to explain.”

”Well, if that’s where you’re going, then I should go as well.”

“Only senshi can go.”

“I am a senshi. Remember?”

“Oh. Right. Well, I suppose we should drag Trance along as well. She might get something useful out of this. The two of you can keep Yuki company while I do my thing.”

“Are the other Guardians going as well?”

Kasei shook her head. “No. They don’t like going out into the desert.”

“Will we be taking Yuki’s shuttle?”

“The people where we’re going don’t like technology. We’ll be going the old fashioned way. Oh, you’ll also want to leave your weapons behind. They aren’t keen on those, either. Don’t worry about being defenseless. No one will attack you out there. Besides, you’re a senshi. You are a weapon.”

“When do we leave?”

“As soon as Yuki gets his things together. I tell you, he can be worse than those pampered noble women when it come to getting ready for a journey.”

“Is there anything I should pack?”

“You didn’t really come down here with anything, did you?” Rhade shook his head. “Right. Come with me. There might be some things in storage that will fit you.”

Rhade followed Kasei back down the stairs and into the main hall. They went down the hall that led to the garden, but instead of heading outside, she took him into one of the rooms. Inside was a desk with a steel haired woman sitting behind it. She looked up at them, looked from Kasei to Rhade and back again, and raised a questioning eyebrow.

“Well this is unusual,” she commented with a gruff voice.

“Save the commentary, Captain,” Kasei told her. “We’re heading out to Senshino Garan with Yuki and he needs proper clothing and supplies.”

The Captain clucked her tongue. “I do hope you aren’t in a hurry, Kasei, as this may take a little time.”

“Take all the time you need. You’re well aware of Yuki’s habits.”

She laughed merrily. “That boy never changes. Go on then. Out with you, Kasei. Go spend some time in the garden or library. When he’s ready, I’ll send him to the stables.”

Kasei left the room and she turned to Rhade. “Well, aren’t you a fine specimen.”

“My name is Telemachus Rhade. Most people seem to prefer calling me Rhade.”

“It’s certainly less of a mouthful to say. You can call me Hakusa.” “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“You won’t be saying that in a few minutes,” she told him. “Now, take off you shirt and pants. I need to take some measurements before we do anything else.”

Rhade was well aware of her appraising eyes watching his every movement as he removed the indicated garments. She sat on the edge of her desk with a long measuring tape in her hands. She looked him up and down, making mental notes to herself.

“Turn around. Let me get a look at you.” He did so, wondering what was going on. She got up off the desk and took one of his forearms in her hands, examining his bone blades. “What are these?”

“Bone blades,” he explained. “All Nietzscheans have them.”

“This means adjusting any clothes we have to fit them.” She picked up his discarded shirt, taking a look at the holes in the sleeves made to allow his bone blades to poke through. “This will be useful as a model. Now, hold your arms out parallel to the ground.” She held the measuring tape up, measuring his arms and chest. “Spread your legs a little.” She measured his instep, leg length, and waist. Nodding, Hakusa took a step back. “You have very good measurements, better than I usually get from the men that come through here. I may not actually have anything suitable, but I’ll look. Don’t bother putting your clothes back on. I’ll have them cleaned and returned to your room.”

“They’ve recently moved me to another room.”

Hakusa waved dismissively. “That’s not a problem. Doubtless, the servants know where they put you. Have a seat and I’ll be right back.”

Rhade sat down in a chair against the wall, grateful for his undergarments. Hakusa might have the outward appearance of a middle-aged woman, but she certainly didn’t act like one. Admittedly, it is nice to be noticed by a woman for a change…

Hakusa came back a few minutes later with an armful of clothes. “Well, we’ll start with the leggings first as those will be easier to do.” She handed him three pairs and waited patiently as he tried on each one. Two of them, a tan pair and a white pair, fit perfectly with the third being a little tight. She discarded the tight ones and then handed him a shirt. “We’ll see if these fit before I adjust them.”

The shirts looked like Yuki’s. Some had no sleeves and fit like a glove. Three had longer sleeves. Only one of those, a tan colored one, was loose enough to accommodate his bone blades. The other two, red and grey respectively, pinched uncomfortably but fit well otherwise. Hakusa nodded and took those two to be altered. She handed him some jackets. These were all very loose in the sleeves. One was much too small for him, but the other three were fine.

“Take the white and tan ones,” Hakusa advised, sitting down to adjust the two shirts using his regular shirt as a model for where to put the holes. “They’ll go better with your leggings. As for shirts, take all of them. It gets hot out there. I’ll just get these adjusted and get you the rest of the supplies you’ll need. I know how Kasei and Yuki travel.”

“You seem to know Kasei very well,” Rhade commented, putting on the white leggings and a red sleeveless shirt. “Well enough to call her by her name.”

“She prefers it to being referred to as ‘princess’,” Hakusa told him as she worked. “Ever since she was a small child, she’s preferred it. There are some people here who will always call her Princess, though. Well, until she takes the throne.”

“She says she doesn’t want it.”

“Yes, I know. The problem is, she won’t really have much of a choice. It’s lucky for her that Hibashira is in good health. She has many years left still. Kasei is a stubborn girl, but she’s not stupid. There is such a thing as a senshi queen; they just aren’t common. She can rule and remain a senshi. She knows that. She just prefers to be able to leave whenever she likes.”

“You think she will accept the throne?”

“It’s that or Hihana. The people will more readily accept Kasei to her sister. Kasei seems to care more for the people and less for the titles and respect they bring.” Hakusa looked up at him. “You’re very curious aren’t you?”

“You’re the first Nomaien who is willing to talk about things.”

She smiled. “I’m an old woman. I’m free to say whatever I want. Besides, you’re an off worlder who knows little about us. I can’t have you making a fatal blunder, especially where our Princess is concerned.”

“How well do you know Kasei?”

“Fairly well. She always hung around the training grounds as a little girl, watching the Home Guard train. She would always talk to me, as I was more likely to listen to her than her mother. I love my queen, but there are things she does that make me wonder. If she truly wants Kasei as her Heir, then why has she done things that have caused Kasei to dislike her?” She shook her head. “Not my business, really. Anyways, I suppose I became a second mother to her after a time.”

“Do you know much about her private life?”

She frowned. “That’s a dangerous area to be poking into, young man.”

“I’m a little afraid to ask her something, something I need to know the answer to. By your laws, she has to answer, but it’s a huge risk. Yuki suggested that I talk to her, but I want to talk to her in private about this.”

“When you get to the Senshino Garan, you’ll all be very busy. The trip there, however, may give you an opportunity to get her alone. I’ll speak with Yuki before you leave. The trip will take at least a full day, meaning you’ll need to spend at least one night out in the desert.”

“Kasei did tell me that if I asked nicely, she’d show me a Nomaien moon rise out in the desert,” Rhade said, grinning.

“There you go. A proper Nomaien woman never breaks a promise. Call her out on it, get her alone, and talk to her.” She threw the shirts to him. “There, I’ll be back with the rest of your supplies.”