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RP: YSS Kaiyō Post Mission 23: Omotenashi

raz

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The base was excited to celebrate the imminent holiday, Kikyō no Sekku, and more than a few of the soldiers had decided to tuck into their ships and bunks early rather than stay outside on this foreign planet. Taiyou Hoshi was not one of those that was ready to sleep so quickly. She had looked forward to taking a walk outside of the base, but before she could get past the command hut, she saw the telltale sign of a Ketsurui nearby — a samurai.

"Ohayo," Hoshi greeted the samurai. "Would Aiko like to join me for a walk?"

Wordlessly, Rei left to go inside the command hut. If she wasn't feeling optimistic — and the ship captain — Hoshi would have wondered if she was daft for waiting patiently outside the outpost module.

Not wanting to keep Hoshi waiting, Aiko emerged from the prefab only seconds after the samurai informed her captain's request. She was wearing a Type 42 duty uniform today and carried with her a standard issue officer's katana instead of her personal sword or decorative blue Kaiyo blade, thinking that both alternatives were too formal to pair with the new-pattern outfit. All of the uniform's seams felt like they made the jacket fit even more closely than her regular Type 35, and her washboard tummy and thick thighs were obviously more constricted underneath the ventless pencil miniskirt that she wore with it this evening.

"Good evening, Chusa," Aiko said as she gave Hoshi a smart salute. A quick nod and telepathic text to Rei let the samurai know to retire for the night, or at least keep her distance while Aiko and Hoshi walked. "I would be glad to accompany you tonight. Please," she added, dropping her hand palm-up as if to indicate a path forward, "after you."

Hoshi saluted back with a solemn expression not matching her words, "Glad to hear it." She bowed her sky blue-haired head to look at the path she followed out of the base, leading Aiko towards a route she had been taking that led to a long meadow edged by trees. Only once out of the base, the captain spoke again.

"Have you been getting accustomed back to your normal life, Taii?" Hoshi asked, looking back to Aiko only after she had asked it in order to gauge her expression.

"Well enough, Chusa," Aiko replied, mostly unaware that her normal life was anything but normal. Even for a Nekovalkyrja, the Ketsurui princess had spent an inordinate amount of her existence deployed and on assignment in a war zone. "There is certainly a part of me that may not feel accommodated by the slower pace of freedom, but it has not posed an issue in the course of my duties.

"I trust having me back does not put a strain on Teien-chusa's management of your crew," she smiled with levity on her breath, looking down at the diminutive captain beside her.

Hoshi shook her head, "No. To be perfectly honest, it has been a long time since either of us have operated out of a base. Managing crew becomes a lot less pertinent when each of them are one of thousands. I feel the slower pace, too, being out of space. It is refreshing to be able to enjoy the splendor of being planetside," she said, looking about. "But the ritualistic business that comes with captivity in a gladiator pit and with running a lone ship on the edges of enemy space are certainly lost on the base."

"Yes, I suppose," Aiko said, not quite agreeing but maintaining her respectful deference to Hoshi nonetheless. "Rei-sensei and William are always there for me to spar with. And the crew as well, though I have not dared to invite any of their number to train," she admitted with an oddly proud haughtiness that was more blatant than her usual aloof attitude. "Restraint in combat is not my most learned quality even after all of these years."

"I doubt time spent fighting against your own death, or whatever the Kuvexians had planned for you after death, really helped strengthen any restraint you may have built up, too," Hoshi mused, then added brightly, "There are a slew of samurai here that would take no greater pleasure than sparring with you, Ketsurui-taii, if you would like new partners." Hoshi glanced behind them at the samurai that trailed behind them a few dozen feet. "Though I know your own yojimbo is happy to have your partnership reinstated, in and out of the dojo."

Aiko didn't look back to Rei, but nodded in agreement. It was important for the Ketsurui girl to betray only a distant familiarity with her bodyguard and teacher, as dictated by her own samurai training. But Aiko's fondness for her sensei was clear enough between them and that was what mattered most.

"It is good that she did not take my capture as her failure and undertake seppuku," Aiko said in a way that might seem indelicate to those not learned in a samurai's ways. "The annals of my family record that too many brave Ketsurui Clan guardians have thrown their lives away for what they perceive as their own fault. I am glad she is wise enough to differentiate between my duty to the Star Army and her duty to me. Thank you for keeping her while I was gone, Chusa."

"I thought of keeping her swords from her in order to keep her, truly," Hoshi's punctuated what she said with a laugh that was stifled and abrupt, an awkward buffer between words. "I believe the hope of rescuing you was greater than the despair at losing you, across the ship for all the crew. There is nothing to thank me for when it is the hope that you have instilled, instead, that kept us going."

Hoshi's tone took on a wandering air, as if floating towards the pink and golden sunset as she said, "You know, you were originally meant to foster hope in the Yamataian populace during a war with an enemy on equal footing with us, a difficult task even for a Ketsurui clan daughter. I used to worry there was a disparity between that and what the Kaiyō's missions usually encompass. We are a very clandestine ship, rarely taking on missions the populace will ever know much of, but somehow that proved not to be a hindrance for you. There is an entire base of Nekovalkryja here, my ship included, that proves my past self wrong. I can not imagine a Yamataian that will not feel the same hope welling up in them to know of your safety in the face of the dangers you have faced."

"I am aware of the purpose that motivated my creation, yes," the princess affirmed. She wasn't a dullard, and knew from her first weeks of life that her likeness would be featured in SANDRA war reports regardless of her assigned ship's secretive operations. More than once, Aiko had curiously gawked at her own face and tidbits of combat footage that made it through intelligence censors while skimming the news in her quarters after lights-out.

"Knowing that my reason for being has been fulfilled so many times over is a comfort, Hoshi-san," Aiko continued, using the less formal honorific because she spoke now as a Ketsurui and not a taii. "I have found much more to enjoy in this life beyond the needs of the Yamatai Star Empire thanks to your ship and crew, too. Even so, thank you for saying so. I am sure all those citizens back in the Kikyo Sector would find you the more inspiring officer were they along for the Kaiyo's journeys."

Hoshi laughed genuinely, now, letting her open mouth face the painted sky as she did.

"Thank you for saying so, really. But my job amounts to little more than a flight control operator at Uesureyan Fields. Maybe you meant to say Eden there, Taii."

"Of course, Chusa," Aiko chuckled, still not wanting to contradict Hoshi despite the relative informality of their jaunt along the forest's edge. The captain could, after all, be quite fierce at the drop of a hat. "You must remember that I have only participated in a handful of away missions, and even for those you have assigned me much independence from Teien-chusa's team."

Hoshi reflected, "That religious station stands out to me, the one where we liberated those poor species the Kuvexian had raised with ST or some such, you remember? I don't think a random XO of the Star Army would have been able to inspire them to rally for freedom in the same way you did. I can only hope Eden would agree and wouldn't feel slighted by that, but your role of public liaison requires that independence. Trying to imagine anyone else shouldered with those tasks you have accomplished is difficult, but that's beside the point." Hoshi grinned, "The away missions you have been a part of have found success in no small part because of you."

"Surely, Chusa, you did not ask me to walk with you simply so that we could trade plaudits," Aiko said, slowing the pace of her step for a moment. The sky had shifted from its gradient of purple twilight hues toward a darker and more midnight blue flatness filled up with stars and cloudy nebular diffusions. "I perform my commitments to the Star Army and Empire, nothing more."

"Well, you're right... And wrong." Hoshi said, voice growing sharp. "Right that I didn't ask to see you for such backpats. Wrong to only fulfill your duty. You have just undergone something that, by my own justifications, was quite awful. I wanted to be sure you're doing alright getting back into things, but of course you are. Just as Saya busies herself, you have found your work as a good way to find mental calm. But as your captain, I suppose, I am ordering you to find something that benefits nobody but yourself... And do it."

It hadn't occurred to Aiko that she'd done anything more than what would be expected of any officer in the Star Army, and certainly disagreed with Hoshi's insistence to the contrary. She'd only recently ran off into the woods with William, but supposed that wouldn't fulfill Hoshi's order. And she trained by herself quite often, though her position as a Star Army soldier placed that activity outside of pure self-interest, too.

"Might you have a suggestion, Chusa?" Aiko asked, a little perplexed. "Or is finding the 'something' part of my order?"

Hoshi's blue and white brows raised on her pink forehead as she slowed her pace, taking in the last rays of sun as they touched at the clouds in the sky.

"I have a few things I do in my spare time, though most of them are flighty when compared to art. I paint now, but I started drawing a long time ago. I had been killed in action, not so bad, but when I was res'd, my memories for the past two and half months were missing."

"Apparently I had made some life choices, experienced things, in those months that I..." Hoshi's brows had dropped as she looked for the words. "That I lost. Instead of signing reports, one day, I grabbed a clean slip of paper and drew until my heart was content. What I mean to say," Hoshi said, looking to the Ketsurui next to her, "is that finding that something would be best if done by you. Though, I am always willing to fabricate you a set of paints and brushes. I can see you having the patience for oils," the captain added with a cheery smile.

Aiko pondered Hoshi's offer for a time, walking in silence with her captain as she thought. The planet's serenity belied its status as a world pressed into occupation for Yamatai's war effort against Kuvexia. For an instant, the Neko's digital mind thought up a thousand possible futures in which she sat reproducing its unblemished landscapes and vistas on canvas. Painting en plein air didn't necessarily seem like Aiko's calling, but would be a worthwhile exploration if nothing else.

"Please, Chusa," Aiko said, accepting Hoshi's offer with unpracticed gratitude. "I would cherish any gift of the sort. Still, I will also endeavor to 'find that something,' as you have said, on my own. Perhaps you will also become my sensei — however, now I am dreaming contrary to your order."

Though her deep blue eyes were obfuscated by her near closed lids, Hoshi's slowly growing smile showed her attentiveness.

"Not to sound condescending at all, but you don't know what you haven't done." Hoshi said, "I'd be happy to help you, where I can, to find that which is just for you. Maybe those of our crew can, too. It's not really for me, but Chlorate is something of a master chef in the galley. I might press you to go to her for lessons in such. I think Saya, as well, has a hobby of her own as a gamer girl, though I don't know how much she does so for herself or her viewers."

The princess simply nodded in reply and proceeded alongside Hoshi, having understood the captain's intent in attempting to get her mind away from those weeks she'd spent as a thrall to the Kuvexians in their arena.

"Your closest friend on this ship is William, yes," Hoshi said, looking behind herself to the lone samurai to add, "and Rei? I think my orders also extend to getting to know your fellow crew members better, as well."

"What?!" Aiko balked in a way that made her deep, commanding Yamataigo tones crack in disbelief. "An officer should not fraternize so widely, Chusa!" the princess demanded, rationalizing her initial contention and then holding her tongue for a few paces on their path. She knew that Hoshi wasn't the type of commander to give such ridiculous orders lightly.

"Yet Kiyomori has a samurai's spirit," the Ketsurui girl conceded as her knowledge that everyone among the crew possessed attractive attributes floated to the fore. "And young Tsubame seems to have taken to what brevity of Nekovalkyrja knowledge I could provide when the Kuvexians held us. If you insi—"

"Then those people are good places to start," Hoshi said with a quick smile.

"Have you any other unorthodox orders, Chusa?" Aiko questioned, dreading that her captain would have more. "If I may offer you due respect to accompany this statement: not since Saiga-chusa's training on Ayenee has an officer dictated to me any orders so brash."

"I'm making them up as I go, Ketsurui-taii," Hoshi said as her smile grew more wry by the second. "But I think you should take them as useful. Keeping an insular lifestyle benefits only you. I ask that you find something that benefits only you to do just that. It is not for your Empire that you should take up a hobby, but you. Oppositely, asking you to fraternize benefits those of your Empire you are spending time with. If you think my order too selfless for you to undertake-" Hoshi said, leaving her sentence unfinished as the expression she directed at Aiko finished the question for her.

"What is it the Nepleslians say?" Aiko wondered, figuring out the idiom before switching her speech from Yamataigo to Trade. "'Only time will tell,' is it?" she said before going back to her mother tongue. "Here we are, you and I, so further mingling must hereafter be possible. It is set, then."

Once she realized where she was going with it, Hoshi's whole face sprang into a joyous smile.

"I guess we are mingling in that way. Though in this instance it is I mingling with an officer below my rank," Hoshi pointed, though Aiko's rank of Taii was only a hop, skip, and a jump from Hoshi's. "Something I myself have not been doing as of late, despite my recommendation to you."

Aiko's eyes glanced down and sideways at Hoshi even as the Taii kept her head pointed forward. She completely stifled any hint of the humor she now felt, reveling inwardly at the thought that all of this — the walk, the checkup on her wellbeing, Hoshi's "orders" — was simply because the sprite of a captain was utterly bored stationed at a planetside base rather than out in the void where every moment carried with it a measure of risk.

"Then join me for tea aboard the Kaiyo once we have had our fill of the trees," the princess offered. Her permanent quarters within one of the ship's two flag suites was, despite being of similar dimensions to the captain's quarters, some degrees more luxurious. "I would enjoy hosting you there, Hoshi-san."

Hoshi nodded, "I can never have my fill of trees, but I can also never have my fill of the Kaiyō's splendor so I suppose now is as good of a time as ever to head back. I'm excited to see your suite's fish, too."

The captain's trailing expectation took Aiko for a ride, and the girl blinked several times to stay in the present without getting too caught up in any sudden concern. Had her room ever contained fish? Aiko assuredly didn't recall having them removed at any point. Was it some weird secret code that only the captain knew?

"Of course, Chusa!" she said hastily, already trying to forget about any notion of aquatic pets. "Will you prefer sugar or honey?"

END

@Ametheliana as Captain Hoshi
@raz as Ketsurui Aiko
 
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