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RP: YSS Kaiyō Post-Mission Five: Yōsei

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The Empress’ Palace
12日 4月 YE 39
1000 Hours

Rei looked around for Princess Aiko at the entrance to the palace and motioned for William to come close with a movement of her index and middle finger towards herself. Rei had laiden William with a backpack full of dorayaki, salmon-filled onigiri, custard and chocolate-filled taiyaki, and additional self-cooling bento boxes for the three of them. The backpack also contained a few sensu folding fans, clasped purses with traditional Yamataian patterned fabric, waving maneki-neko sculptures, and charms—gifts for those they were to meet.

"Eeto..." Rei began. "What was the last thing the princess spoke to you about?"

William walked closer, making sure not to crush anything in his heavy backpack. He wore his sleeveless vest and had his swords hanging by his side. He walked closer and scanned the area for Aiko.

When Rei asked him what Aiko had said, he blushed and averted his mother's gaze. "I don't know what you are talking about, Mama," he lied. Aiko had made a remark about their little escapade into Kyoto by themselves... and without permission. He remembered her words: "Today no one will mistake me for a common neko..."

William smiled, thinking back to the trip into Kyoto. It was interesting to say the least.

Rei narrowed her eyes at William and frowned heavily, about to chastise her student for not only lying, but daydreaming as well while they were about to be on duty.

"Musuko, it is unbefitting of you to—"

Rei cut her words short when she heard the sound of nearing footsteps.

Aiko approached at the head of two samurai guards, and trailing two others who broke off to let her through as the group got nearer to Rei and William. Today, she wore a seafoam teal kimono adorned with sakura tree branches over a cream white one underneath. Her sash matched the cream-colored kimono and was threaded with scattered gold string. A pink cord was tied through the middle of it. Cherry blossom motifs seemed to be a theme with the princess’ attire since they'd arrived back, but it was more because of the season than the fact she really liked them as fashion.

The guards who'd accompanied her this far bowed deeply as she left them to meet her regular escort, and she nodded her head with the compulsory gratitude that her station called for.

"Good morning, Wil-kun," Aiko said with a reserved smile on her face. Being back even for a day had already reminded her of some of the cold stoicism she'd lost during her months aboard the Kaiyo. "And you as well, Rei-san. I trust you've both rested well. Being back in the capital so soon was more welcome than I expected it to be.

"What is the plan?" she asked. A princess and member of the Imperial family could always review their itinerary in advance, but she'd received word that Rei considered this outing some sort of surprise and thus trusted in her loyal retainer’s judgment for today. "I have faith today will be an enjoyable use of my leave from the Star Army."

"Ketsurui Aiko-hime," Rei said, standing as if at attention. "We will be going—" Catching herself from saying too much, she simply said, "Out of the city."

With that she bowed her head and walked forward, allowing William and Aiko to follow behind her. Her step was brisk, as if she either wanted the youthful pair to linger behind her and catch up for a moment or to follow along at the same quick pace. The choice was Wil and Aiko's to make.

William prepared for an earful from Rei, but turned, as she did, when he noticed the footsteps. He smiled warmly as Aiko approached and bowed deeply to the princess. "Good morning your highness," he said formally as he stood again.

As Aiko asked where they were going, William realized he had no idea where they were headed either. As he contemplated where outside of Kyoto they might be going, Rei began walking briskly towards the gate. William turned to Aiko and nodded.

"You look quite lovely today Princess..." he said softly as he gestured for her to walk ahead so that he could bring up the rear of their little group.

The princess blushed from Wil's compliment and hurried off behind Rei when she moved away. She'd heard comments like that many times since being home, but it always sounded more sincere when coming from someone she actually knew—someone she'd fought Mishhu with.

"Thank you, Wil-kun," Aiko said, feeling the warmth in her face subside as she followed the samurai. Her mind, too, had refocused away from cute flattery and to leaving the city. That prospect excited her to no end. After all, her only glimpse of Yamatai beyond the palace walls had thus far been a nighttime jaunt in Kyoto and a few Star Army bases. To actually see places on her Empire's homeworld, even if she didn't yet know where, was exhilarating.

"Tell me where we're going!" Aiko demanded of the Nepleslian boy. It was her attempt at playful friendship, but her delivery definitely sounded like a stern order. "You can't keep Rei-san's secret from me, I know it!"
William shook his head.

"I don't know your majesty, and even if I did I wouldn't tell. It's a surprise," he said with a playful smile, when in all actuality, the boy had no clue where they were going.

Rei hurried them along and said while looking over her shoulder, "Be prepared for diplomacy, Ketsurui-hime. Be prepared for anything. I have never gone where we are going." Rei's mysteriousness was only balanced out by the snacks and gifts packed in William's backpack. If they were going somewhere dangerous, why would she have packed them, anyway?

Aiko let out a frustrated grumble at both Wil's lack of help and Rei's added commentary, but had already committed to going. Surprises were supposed to be fun, after all, even though it was only bothering her right now.

A long hover-car greeted them at the bottom of the steps and Rei ushered them inside. As they boarded, the driver wordlessly nodded to them all, and drove away from the palace once they were inside.

"The springtime is wonderful here," Aiko said, her voice as haughty and direct as always while she watched the world rushing past outside. "It's so bright and clean and seems filled with life even though everything is actually the same. Should our comrades need motivation the next time we fight, maybe I'll ask them to recall Yamatai as it is now."

Aiko, of course, avoided making it one of her personal motivations. Being an Imperial daughter was kindling enough to keep her soul ablaze.

"But it's probably less impressive for you both, having experienced so many springtimes," she added. "Right?"
William quietly sat and watched the world go by as well, listening to Aiko speak. As she finished he smiled.
"No matter how many times one sees it, it never gets dull," he replied from his seat.

1050 Hours

"Hurry along," Rei said as they got out of the private car.

The woven wood and metal gates they found themselves approaching were an unfathomable height for what they were built out of. An extraordinary amount of craftsmanship and detail had been put into the intricate patterning and the marriage of shaped wood and forged metal. They spanned a greater distance than they were tall and wrapped around what looked to be a distant fog bank that obscured the edges of the gate, as well as what they held.

In front of them stood two hinged doors that were barely open, wide enough for one to sidle in through them. To the left side and on top of the gate’s doors was a crow’s nest of sorts in which a form could be spotted—the form of a man—who rose to his feet and leaned over the edge of the nest. It was then that the samurai’s secret was revealed, for the man had on his head two elongated ears that denoted him as an Elf.

They were at the gates of Xiuluria and the Ketsurui princess' samurai was leading the way.

William stared up at the walls in awe. The wood and metal work were beautiful. He had not known of this place before, and thought of what it could be as they group walked forward. He looked around and noticed the man with the pointed ears. 'Elves?' he thought to himself. He had never seen one before...

The princess, for her part, immediately knew where they were. The only men with furless Neko ears were the Elves of Old Geshrintall who hailed from their forest city Xiuluria. Much more beyond that escaped her, though. She knew the species was sparse these days, most having died during the Great Plague while many others upgraded to better bodies. Like William, though, Aiko felt some sense of wonder purely from the novelty of somewhere so new to her. Yamatai was an amazing country filled with more technological styles than most people could fathom, and this place did not fail to impress in its seamless blending of nature and architecture.

"Am I expected?" Aiko asked curiously. Rei had mentioned that she should be "prepared for diplomacy," and so she didn't want to be caught off-guard. Especially because she'd left her sword at home.

"Expected?" the man in the crow's nest-esque structure atop the gate asked. "Who might you be? If expected or not, Xiuluria is open to you to enter and join us."

Rei looked up to him, then jumped up and floated to the very top of the gate and conferred with him over the matter quickly by saying, "We wish to remain anonymous while here to the general public, but if we may learn about your conclave system and possibly meet some of your elders, that would be excellent."

"I'll have something arranged," the Elf said to Rei, lighting a fire next to his posting with his back turned to Rei so she could not see how he procured the flame so quickly.

"They will be waiting for you." He nodded his head respectfully to all three of them after he spoke, then went on. "Until they approach you..." He made a great sweeping motion with his arm towards the rest of Xiuluria and Rei looked down to her student and the princess, nodding tersely for them to go on through the gate. She floated above it and then down to the other side of it, waiting for the two of them.

They walked forward along a winding, cobblestone path that led them through the beginnings of a birch forest. The floor of the forest was lit by round, glowing orbs that sat upon the moss that adorned the ground beneath the trees. The leaves were bright green and the bark was mottled grey, white, and black. The coloring of the trunks reminded Rei of the Ghost Mishhu she had recently destroyed in the wardroom of the Kaiyo and she closed her eyes for a long moment as she walked with careful steps in front of the princess and William. She opened her eyes, and soon the forest became much more dense than one filled with mere birch trees as pines and redwoods towered over the three in grandiose spires, blocking all of the light from the Yamataian sun.

An Elf in a white chiffon-looking dress with opalescent drapings of fabric from her wrists to her elbows and detailed silver metal plating over her shoulders and collarbones approached. She had light golden hair that ran down past her knees and a kind, warm face that beckoned to be touched, spoken to, understood, and a great many other things. Rei had only ever seen such a presence in her Empress and Taisho. None other besides for, perhaps, Princess Aiko compared to this Elf.

Rei allowed Aiko to step forward if she wanted to do so by bowing her head and taking a step backwards. A trio of Elves fanned out from behind a great tree and came closer, too, with soft, well-placed steps. They smiled reassuringly, not looking at Rei's weapons or William's backpack, but at the eyes of each of them.

Aiko's gaze followed Rei when she stepped back and then locked with the tall Elf woman's stare when she came closer. The princess didn't bow, her only experiences and knowledge of etiquette telling her that anyone except her mother or the Empress should do so first.

"I am Aiko of the Ketsurui Clan," the Imperial princess said, her posture rigid and tall as she spoke. She felt a little bigger after saying it and looked down her nose as if to command the delayed courtesy of a bow. That she hadn't ordered the transgression corrected yet was by virtue of Rei's decision to travel anonymously. "You have a magnificent home, Elf, surely deserving of its place in our Empire."

William had grown quiet as they walked through the gates and into the Elves' domain. He looked around at their surroundings as they walked, taking in the beauty of it all when they were approached. The Elf was quite stunning—William caught himself staring at her before he shifted his gaze back to Aiko, who had stepped forward to greet them. William remained silent next to Rei, watching intently as they conversed.

"I can be known to you as Flicka Wondu," the golden-haired Elf said after bowing deeply. "To my left behind me," she continued, turning around slightly, "are my father and brother, Roanne and Oeon. To my right, the conclave elder you have been promised to meet, Leona Rifte."

After all three had bowed respectfully, the elder stepped forward and put her hands forward towards them while smiling profusely. She had deep red hair the same length Flicka's and wore similar garb to what Flicka wore, as well, but her dress was shimmering and as black as the night sky. Her shoulder armor that connected over the collarbones was a blueish grey and shone with the same detail that Flicka's bore. She clasped her hands and her smile remained.

"I am honored to meet outsiders. We now have good reason to believe that the Ketsurui Clan thinks highly of us to send a representative to our small village," Leona said to the trio, not just Aiko. The princess bowed more slightly than the Elves had to her, returning the gesture of honor to her Xiulurian subjects. "We welcome you and accept you in as if you are our own. Please, follow me."

The woman led them down the cobblestone walkway and veered to the left when they came to a fork in the path. There they entered a pagoda made of glossy white stone that creeping flowered vines trailed upwards and hung like a canopy over where Leona sat. The two men hung back at the pagoda's entrance, where Rei stood with them. She looked them over as they stood with their hands clasped in front of their waists similarly and she stood with one hand on her swords and the other hanging languidly while she watched from a small distance away.

"What is your name, young boy? Do you come from the same clan as Aiko of the Ketsurui?" Leona asked as her smile faded to a look of intense calmness, as if willing and open to hearing whatever William had to say.

William walked along quietly, until he was addressed by the elder. He shook his head in reply. "No, ma'am. Well maybe..."

He wasn't quite sure how to reply to that question actually.

"I was not born into the Ketsurui Clan, but I was adopted by one of its samurai," he replied, his eyes drifting over to Rei. "However, I don't believe that makes me a Ketsurui," he added.

"Are you able to see your future in the Ketsurui Clan at all or is it something too distant from your grasp to even have ideations of?" Leona asked, tilting her head so that her red hair fell as if in a puddle on the seat next to her.

William looked thoughtful for a moment. "I want to become a Samurai, like my mom." He looked down again. "However, I can never become one the way I am now... Nepleslians are not allowed to do such a thing," he said softly. In turn he shrugged. "So I guess I don't really know..." he added.

"I believe your destiny will be revealed to you in good time..." Leona said, smiling up at him. She patted the bench next to her and said, "Sit, sit. Both of you, if you are willing." When they had, Leona put her hand in a pocket of her dress next to her hip and brought from it an almost ovular, swirling bottle with a teardrop-shaped fastener that hung on a chain and she placed it in William's hand.

She closed his fingers over it and spoke softly, and to him it sounded as if it was directly in his mind, though her lips moved while she said, "You will know what to do with this when the time comes. Keep this close."

Rei's eyebrows shot up in wonderment as the Elf's quick movement to her pocket had alerted her to a possible threat, though this was a surprise.

"And for you..." Leona said, turning to Aiko. "You are able to have all that you could want, are you not, Aiko of the Ketsurui?"

"I suppose that's true, yes," Aiko admitted, though she hadn't particularly thought about what she could or could not have until now. Her life was created for service to Yamatai and she embraced that destiny wholeheartedly. Considering that, the question struck her as quite odd. Still, she continued to go along with whatever it was that was happening now. This place and people were an interesting sight to see, to be sure, and practicing her statecraft in a setting where nothing could go wrong was more welcome and enjoyable than she'd first hoped.

"Thankfully, my wants are simple," the princess declared with a placid grin.

"Well, then, we will give you something that she wants for you," Flicka said with a motion toward Rei, moving from where she had been standing nearby towards Aiko. She took a knee and brought from her own dress pocket an almost imperceptible item.

It was a small bluish grey dagger the same color as Leona's armor and a sheath that was of the same metal. It was less than the size of the princess' pinky finger and detailed with swirling etchings. Clasped to the sheath was a small hilt big enough for index finger and thumb to hold it and it was opened with a jerk of the thumb, which Flicka demonstrated, then quickly closed it back with another movement of her finger. Rei took a step forward as it was opened, then stopped in her tracks as she watched Flicka hand it to Aiko by putting the chain the small blade was held by towards her hand and slowly brought it downwards until all of it fell neatly into the princess' hands.

"Be wary and open this only when intense danger surrounds you. The prick of the blade will end the life of its enemy within seconds. Your language has many variations of the same word that this blade is, but I'm sure you can guess what the word for it truly is," Flicka said while Leona smiled. The blonde Elf's attention was caught by Rei, who was mouthing words and pointing to her back.

"Musuko!" Rei gently called, then continued to point to her back. She stopped and looked sternly at William, then brought her hands so that they were facing her belly, then flopped them forward, the gesture for giving something away.

William looked at the small vial in his hands, carefully examining it. He was lost in his own little world, trying to decipher what it was when Rei's voice finally caught his attention.

"Oh!" William said softly, remembering his backpack. He pulled it off his back and began to pull the food out for the others.

"Iie, Musuko, iie. The gifts!" Rei mouthed to William while half whispering it. The male Elves looked at her peculiarly while the female Elves looked away from anyone, stifling smiles. Rei straightened as she realized the scene she was making and scolded herself under her breath by whispering quietly, "Baka..."

William blushed, and mouthed. "Sorry" and searched again for the gifts that Rei was talking about.
Rei rarely smiled, if ever, but there was a hint of one at the corner of her lips at seeing her adopted son blush over a simple mistake.

"Arigatou gozaimasu, to you three and the rest of the Elves for treating the children so well today. Please accept these but insubstantial gifts in return,” Rei said. She let go of her swords and walked forward, working with William to take the fans, the waving cats, the charms, and purses from the backpack. She handed each item to one of the Elves and they each looked at what they were given with mild amusement. "Each is magical in its own way," Rei mentioned, a little playfully.

"Good, good. Arigatou gozaimasu," she repeated. "Please enjoy the food we have brought today with the children."

The Elves set down their new gifts on a long marble table along one wall of the pagoda and thanked Rei, William, and Aiko. Then, they each sat down and appreciatively enjoyed the beginnings of a meal with Aiko and William. They spoke minimally and Aiko and William were only asked questions after the meal of traditional Yamataian delights had been enjoyed.

"Do you wish to know about our political structure, since it is so very different from your clan's own?" Leona asked, looking at Aiko.

The princess nodded to Leona's question now that the short snack was over, having not eaten too much herself. Her meal habits weren't as reclusive as the samurai who served her family, but she was still somewhat modest about people watching her chomp on a rice ball.

"Yes, of course!" Aiko said as cheerily as her demure personality allowed. "Wil-kun and I will treasure your gifts, but to learn about how your conclave functions will endure a lifetime.

"It will be an honor to be taught the ways of your people," she added. "And perhaps the knowledge will help me in my future travels."

William nodded from his spot after eating as well, wanting to hear more about the Xiulurian people.
Leona began explaining while the Elves, samurai, apprentice, and princess all listened, the latter of which were open to asking questions and looking for clarification when necessary. Their conversation continued for just over two hours before the Yamataians' interests were sated, filled with back-and-forth comparisons and tangential expositions on the details of life and governance among the Xiulurian people. Afterwards, Flicka stood and led them away, out of Xiuluria with a promise to let the three in with as open of arms as they had been today.

"Thank you for visiting," Flicka and Leona each said warmly, their voices almost simultaneous. “Until our destinies entwine again!”
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