“There you two are!”
Captain Asa Ikehara stormed forward as Prince Kiminobu and Lieutenant Shiori emerged from the front entrance to the stadium, the wind catching her red hair and blowing it out like the mane of an enraged lion. Prince Kiminobu strode faster to cut Captain Asa off before she could reach Shiori, who he knew was the object of her ire. It was Shiori who wanted to see ZOO’s last performance, even if the Prince sought permission to come and bought the tickets himself. He blocked and grabbed Asa while Shiori rushed past Asa to get to her waiting mech so she put her gifts away before they got damaged.
“You have been gone for hours!” Asa screamed at the Prince, breaking away from his grasp. “You said this concert wasn’t going to be that long, and we’ve been waiting for over four hours! We couldn’t reach you! Then when the concert was over, every person in that stadium saw our mechs and wanted to look at them! I thought we were going to have to fight them off! Meanwhile, you could have been killed for all we knew!” Asa shoved him back forcefully and pointed an angry finger at him. “We are still in enemy territory, your Highness! We are still at war with Kareneth! What if this had all been a trick to get you here so they could kidnap you?!”
“I was with Lieutenant Seno, Captain—I’ve never left her side,” Kiminobu told her calmly. “No one knew who I was because no one was looking for me. You’re overreacting.”
“And how would I explain to the King and Queen—your mother and father!—if something hadhappened to you?” Asa demanded. “I may not like their music, but I should have gone in with you—I was a fool to let you go in alone…. No, I was a fool to let you go at all!” She turned to look at Shiori, who was seated in her cockpit and readying her mech for flight. “And don’t think you’re going to get out of this unscathed!” she screamed up at the mech’s pilot. “You and I are going to have a long talk when we get back, and you’re not going to enjoy it!”
“Blame me, but do not blame her, Captain,” Kiminobu said. “I gave her this gift. It was my decision to come here, no matter the cost!” He looked up at Shiori. “It may have been inconvenient for all of us, but seeing her tonight—seeing her meet ZOO—it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. It made me happy… something I thought I had forgotten how to be.”
“You’re happy with us,” Asa reminded him. “Aren’t you?”
Kiminobu sighed and moved past her. “We need to get home, Asa—it’s getting late.”
Asa grabbed his arm and turned him toward her. Their eyes met—black to green—and Asa took a step back. “Why did you come here?” she whispered. “It wasn’t just for Shiori. What did you want from coming here?”
“I’ll tell you later,” he said. “I don’t want to ruin Shiori’s night.”
Asa smiled. “The only thing that would make her happier is if you slept with her, my Lord—and tonight is her night to guard you.”
“No it’s not,” Kiminobu said. “It’s your night.”
“Not anymore—I decided while we waited.”
“Captain, you know that will never happen,” he said. “I’m promised to another.”
“Who has probably had far more lovers than you will wish to know about—why not have your own, my Lord? Besides, you don’t know what this woman may look like. No one has seen her! What if she’s three hundred pounds and covered in warts?”
Kiminobu blanched. “Thanks, I did not need to have that thought of my future wife. But, no, Captain, it’s not going to happen. I will be faithful to her.”
He looked up at the beautiful Shiori, who was starting her mech’s engines.
“I’ve had eight years to be with any of you, and I never once have. I’m not going to put at risk the peace that we’ve fought so hard to achieve.”
“Who will know other than you and Shiori?”
“I will know, and that’s enough. We won’t speak of this again.”
“Not again, understand?”
Asa bowed low. “Forgive me, my Lord—I meant no disrespect.”
“I know you think I’m ashamed of my body after my accident—and I am—but my accident is common knowledge. If my future bride did not want me, she wouldn’t have agreed to the marriage. She will either accept me or she won’t.”
“And if she doesn’t?”
Kiminobu pressed his mouth into a grim line. “I will deal with that if the time comes.”
Asa lowered her head. “Yes, my Lord.”
“Now, let’s get back to Vadora. I’ll ride with Kii.”
“My Lord? You’ll ride with me,” Asa insisted.
“I’ll ride with who I want, and I want to ride back with Kii. Shiori will make a pass at me because she’s so happy, and I don’t want to talk to you anymore tonight. Kii will leave me alone.”
“And who will guard you tonight?” Asa asked darkly.
“Kii will—of you all, she’s the only one who has never tried to seduce me. She won’t like it, but she’ll do her duty.”
He moved toward the tall, slim mech that stood behind the others. It was painted a dashing purple with a royal purple cape slung over one shoulder held up by a golden chain. A large brimmed hat with a large feather sat rakishly upon it’s metal head. As he approached, the chest plate opened, and a cockpit chair slid forward.
“My Lord?” The pilot, Kii, a small, impish girl with brown hair and purple eyes, looked down at him.
“I’m riding home with you,” he told her. He slipped his foot into a small hook attached to a slim rope that he rode up to the cockpit. He stepped inside and sat down in a small nook not really meant for people, for the mechs held only one pilot.
“Why me, my Lord?” she asked as the chair slid back into place within the mech’s chest.
“Because,” he said. “Do you have a problem with that?”
“Of course not, my Lord.” She closed the chest hatch, and the cockpit was dark for a moment before it lit up with the multi-colored buttons and cameras that showed the outside on view screens within. She started the engines and felt The Corsair rise into the air. “This is Corsair, setting a return flight to Vadora. Acknowledge.”
“This is Calamity, also setting course,” Rumiko Ogami said.
THIS IS TEMPEST, SETTING COURSE
The message appeared on screens in each of the mechs with Mizuko Ogami’s name attached.
“This is Atlas, setting course,” Shiori said.
“And this is The Empress,” Asa said. “Flight patterns set and recorded. Enjoy the ride home, ladies and gentleman—let us hope it is an uneventful one.”
The five mechs rose into the air and took flight toward Vadoran airspace.
“Captain Arnea, the Vadoran Nexus Suits are leaving.”
“It’s about time.”
Dietang Arnea was a strong man who filled out the uniform of the Unbound Uprising well. He was strong in body, mind, and spirit, and if the Uprising was going to win the war against the Kareneth Empire, it would be because of men like him—especially if Kareneth was joining forces with Vadora.
He approached the front of the bridge of the carrier he commanded and looked out through the forward windows.
“We have a very narrow window to thread, but we must reach them before they reach the Vadoran wall and shield. If we can capture Prince Kiminobu, we can use that leverage against Vadora and keep them from joining with Kareneth. They’re counting on the marriage to strengthen them, so we must prevent that at any cost.”
“They’ll see us,” someone told him.
“By the time they do, it will be far too late. Move in!”
The command carrier left the lands belonging to the Unbound Uprising and entered the Broken Lands, a realm once called Numentaure that belonged to the Mist Elves of old before the Kareneth invaded and destroyed them centuries past. Their destruction placed a curse upon the land so that nothing could live there for long, for the air became poisoned to anything that set foot in it—the only thing that could survive were the trees and animals. Passing through the land for humans was only possible in ships and mechs, but battles were outlawed because of the damage even a single punctured cockpit could receive that might cause the air to kill the pilot.
“Captain Arnea, they’re about to pass into the Broken Lands,” a woman reported to him. “They’ll be at our disposal for only half an hour at the way their mechs fly.” She paused. “Sir, you realize that a battle here will violate all treaties and could end up killing the Prince and his guard.”
“And us, Lieutenant,” he reminded her. “Trust me, I know the risks. It’s why we have shields.”
“Yes, sir. Entering the Broken Lands.”
There was nothing to show the difference between the clean air of the Unbound Uprising, the Kingdom of Vadora, or the Kareneth Empire, and the poisoned air of the Broken Lands. The sky was clear, the stars and moons shone—only the air quality indicators every ship possessed told the difference, and those caused the lights in each ship and vessel to go from normal to green, and skull indicators appeared on every screen.
“Hopefully they won’t risk a battle and will just surrender,” Arnea commented, more to himself than his crew, though he knew deep down they’d fight to keep their prince safe. “Increase speed! Get the VIPERS ready for retrieval!”
“Major Kou, an Unbound command carrier is entering the Broken Lands, closing on the Vadoran Nexus Suits.”
“I told the King letting his son go to Kareneth was a stupid idea, even if we are signing a treaty in two days! Red alert! Send all forces to the Broken Lands to support the Nexus suits! Get me The Empress—I want to talk to Captain Ikehara!”
“They’re out of range, Sir,” a soldier at communications said. “And communication in the Broken Lands is spotty at best.”
“That cursed land!” He slammed his hand on the console. “Mobilize three legions to protect the Prince—now!”
Red lights began to flash across the base, and battle sirens began to blare. Seconds later, troops began rushing for their mechs, the pilots ignoring startup procedures in their haste as the Major barked orders in their headsets. Within moments, squadrons of basic Vadoran mobile suits streaked across the sky toward the Broken Lands.
A screen appeared before the Major showing a beautiful woman in an elegant nightgown who appeared to be settling down for bed. Her face did not look pleased.
“Your Majesty!” he said, startled by the Queen’s sudden appearance.
“Why are the alarms going off in the castle, Major Kou? What is happening?”
“The Nexus Suits are returning from the Kareneth Empire, your Majesty… and the Unbound Uprising are trying to cut them off in the Broken Lands. We’re sending reinforcements to make sure the Prince returns safely.”
“Make sure he does, Major, or you and I will have a talk, and you will not enjoy it.” The Queen ended communications.
“Captain Ikehara has learned far too much from her Majesty in the way of threats,” the Major commented softly as his eyes watched the combat screen. The Unbound Uprising carrier was getting too close, and the support troops were too far away.
“Kii, I need you to take the Prince and fly as fast as your mech can carry you to Vadora—get him inside the shield!”
“But I want to dance!” Kii protested.
“You can dance later! The Prince must be protected at all costs! Now get going!”
“Aww… all right.” Kii ended communications. “Spoilsport.” She looked over her shoulder at Prince Kiminobu. “Hang on, Your Highness—this might get rough.” She kicked in the boosters, and Kiminbou felt himself pressed into the wall as the g-forces kicked in.
Asa watched The Corsair speed away. “Everyone else, we just have to keep that command carrier engaged until Corsair reaches the shield. I doubt the Uprising will pursue past that.”
“And if they do?” Rumiko asked.
“They’ll be starting a war they can’t hope to win.”
I should have sent my presents with the Prince, Shiori groaned to herself as she watched Kii’s mech fly away from the battle. I do want to see what ZOO gave me, and I don’t want them damaged in a fight! I wonder if I could—
She cast her eyes down at the case sitting on the floor, wedged gently under her pilot’s chair. Chances were it was not going anywhere… she hoped.
The members of ZOO had been every bit as nice as she hoped they would be. They talked to her like a friend, even if she was fangirling out every time she spoke. She held it in as much as she could, but they were people she admired so much. They had risen from obscurity to become the greatest rock band in the world in just two years, and while most of their fanbase was underground, their fanbase was strong! The only above ground fans they had were the citizens of Kareneth, but Shiori knew that their music could be the one thing that could actually bring the world together!
She nudged the small case gently when she felt it move, and her stomach clenched. She wanted to go home. She didn’t want to get into a fight where her treasure might be damaged.
If only Prince Kiminobu had requested to ride with her!
Except The Atlaswas the largest of the Nexus Suits, a brute of a mech that more than a few enemy mechs turned from before fighting just because of its size. She never understood why it was built as large as it was compared to the other suits, but she loved The Atlas so much! Though big, it was very easy to control.
“—Seno, snap out of it and get your head in the game!”
Shiori snapped her head up when she realized Captain Ikehara was yelling at her. “Roger that,” she acknowledged, her eyes going to the combat Identity-Friend-or-Foe (IFF) screen. She saw a group of mechs peeling away from the command carrier and going after The Corsair. “What did you want me to do again?”
“Head for the carrier and do as much damage as you can to the forces coming from it—Rumiko and Mizuko are going after the ones chasing down The Corsair. You and I will have to mop up the rest. Reinforcements are coming from the castle. It’s just a matter of who gets where first!”
“Roger that!” Shiori said, kicking in the boosters to catch up with The Empress.
“Sorry your night got ruined,” Asa told her on a private channel. “I know you didn’t want to do this of all things.”
“We should have known the Uprising would have found out about the Prince leaving Vadora for the first time and would try something,” Shiori responded. “I’ll just be more upset if these jerks ruin the gifts the members of ZOO gave me. They each picked something out for me personally! I was hoping to take a look once we got inside the Vadoran Shield.”
“Hopefully we can get through this without a long fight,” Asa told her. “The Corsair is approaching the shield, so hopefully the Prince will be safe soon.”
“And if he gets captured, it’s all my fault,” Shiori said sadly.
“That’s why we all came with you to Kareneth—I’m just glad we got permission—otherwise, you might be facing this alone.”
Shiori laughed. “The Atlas would still be more than enough.”
“Let’s hope your bravado is right.”
The first VIPERS began to attack them.
“Sis, we’re going to have a fight on our hands—are you ready?” Rumiko asked.
Mizuko’s response came on Rumiko’s dedicated screen.
THE TEMPEST AND THE CALAMITY
WILL DESTROY THEM ALL!
“I like the way you think!” Rumiko said. “We just need to give Kii time to get to the shield, and the way The Corsair is flying, that shouldn’t take long at all. Good thing she’s got the fastest mech.”
NOT AS FAST AS THE KINGFISHER.
“Maybe not, but The Kingfisher isn’t working, unfortunately.” Rumiko checked her IFF screen and saw that she and Mizuko were nearing the front of the enemy line heading for The Corsair. They would reach them long before the enemy got the Prince.
“Are you all right, Your Highness?” Kii asked as The Corsair sped towards the Vadoran wall and shield.
“I wish I could help in the fight more,” he told her. “I feel like a coward running away like this.”
“You know after what happened to you, your father and mother—especially your mother—will never allow you near a cockpit again. I’ll drop you off at Wall Command and then go back to help the others if they need it. But Captain Ikehara is right—once you’re safe, the enemy will back off.”
He could hear the disappointment in Kii’s voice. He knew she loved fighting in this mech. She hardly got a chance to, though. As one of his personal Royal Guards, her duty was to him, not the military.
“Thank you for your sacrifice,” he told her. “I know you’d much rather be fighting with the military than being my escort.”
“If I was in the military, I wouldn’t get to pilot The Corsair. Being a Royal Guard is the only reason I can. But with your father out of commission, he can no longer pilot The Kingfisher, and neither can you, so…”
“Corsair, this is Vadoran Wall Command—we have you in our sights and will lower the shield when you approach.”
“Wall Command, this is The Corsair,” Kii responded. “I’m going to do a drop and go to help the others. Make sure my package will be safe upon delivery. We don’t want any thieves taking it.”
“Roger that, Corsair. Your package will be safe upon delivery.”
“I feel like a piece of meat,” Kiminobu commented. “The Uprising knows I’m aboard your mech. They wouldn’t be chasing us if they didn’t.”
“Not necessarily, Your Highness. You could be aboard another mech, and I could just be a distraction.” She flipped a switch on her console and turned the joystick, kicking in the mech’s leg thrusters as The Corsair spun and opened fire on two enemy VIPERS that were getting too close. The spray of laser fire struck the VIPERS’ shields, which glowed briefly in the dark night. Then fire from the wall filled the night, and The Corsair turned and boosted forward as the shield dropped just long enough to let her and one VIPER through, but the Wall opened fire on the enemy mech with enough force to deplete its shields and destroy it instantly.
“Wall Command, the package has arrived,” Kii said with some relief.
“Corsair, your drop and go has been nullified—your orders are to take the package into the house and deliver it. You cannot leave it on the doorstep.”
“Wall Command, this is the package—you can take me home while The Corsair goes to help the others.”
“Sorry, Your Highness, but these orders come straight from the Queen—mobile suits from the base are coming to reinforce the Wall. You are to go home.”
“Roger that, Wall Command,” Kii said, and Kiminobu could hear the disappointment in her voice. She closed communications. “I don’t get to dance.”
He touched her shoulder comfortingly with his gloved hand. “I’m sorry I chose your mech to ride home in,” he told her. “I should have gone with Shiori.”
“It’s all right,” she said as enemy fire rained down upon the shield. Friendly cannons shot at the VIPERS and took them down easily. Kii stroked her cockpit’s console gently. “We’ll get our chance to dance again.”
Kii kicked in the thrusters, and The Corsair flew towards the Vadoran capital city and the castle.
King Nakamoto and Queen Harukichi were waiting in the mech bay when The Corsair arrived and landed. Kii parked the mech in its assigned spot and opened the hatch. As soon as Prince Kiminobu exited, his mother threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly.
“Mom, I’m all right,” he told her. “My guards did their jobs. Where are they?” he asked worriedly.
“They’re on their way back,” King Nakamoto said. “The Uprising gave up when they realized they had lost their chance to capture you. The reinforcements we sent didn’t even get a chance to fight.”
“No lives were lost?” Kiminobu asked.
“Not on our side,” Queen Harukichi said. “Thistime. So, was your little concert worth all this trouble?”
Kiminobu smirked. “At least our forces are ready at a moment’s notice,” he said. He looked over at a beautiful white mech that sat three spaces over from The Corsair. It was a majestic machine highlighted with black and gold that had golden wings like those of a bird of prey. It had a broad chest with thick armor plating, small arms and legs, and a head that looked like a raptor with a crown on its head. Kiminobu snarled when he looked at it. “Unlike when you and father got that worthless piece of garbage.”
“The Kingfisher is a fine mech, Son,” King Nakamoto said. “It just needs its pilots.” He threw back his robe from his left shoulder, revealing his missing left arm. “I just can’t pilot it anymore.”
“Which is why I should try,” Kiminobu told him. “Why won’t you give me the chance?”
“Because the last time you piloted a mech, it almost killed you!” his mother spat angrily. “I’m not letting our only child near one of those things again!”
“Mom, I got in an untested prototype that had a ton of mechanical issues that I ignored,” he told her. “It was my fault, not the mech’s. Besides, The Kingfisher isn’t going to blow up on me!”
“I still don’t want you near it,” his mother said. “Who knows what it might do to you.”
“The Nexus Suits are not normal mechs, Nobu,” Nakamoto said. “They are machines that require a lot of skill to pilot. We were just lucky that our Royal Guards were all excellent pilots.”
“Asa surely was,” Kiminobu said. “All of them are.”
“Your Majesties,” Kii said as she approached. She saluted them. “Your son is home safe and sound.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant. Sawa,” the King said, returning her salute.
“If you’ll excuse me, I have to give my flight report and maintenance instructions to Pops.”
“May I walk with you, Lieutenant?” the Queen asked. She turned and headed for Pops’s office, Kii falling into step with her.
“So, did you find out anything about your bride?” King Nakamoto asked his son as they headed for the castle.
“Not a thing,” Kiminobu said. “I can’t believe no one has a picture of this woman, even inside the Empire itself. It’s like she only exists as an idea! It’s frustrating.”
“I still don’t know why Emperor Sunada would not let us know what she looks like considering you’re marrying her in two days,” Nakamoto said. “I asked him again for a picture, but he said he would send no transmissions of her. I understand being careful in a time of war, but this is getting beyond ridiculous.”
“Could she be so abhorrent that they’re ashamed of her?” Kiminobu asked guiltily.
“Even if she is, you still have to marry her,” Nakamoto said. “I’m sorry that you can’t marry the woman of your dreams, Son, but this marriage will end a two-hundred-year-old war and combine two of the world’s best militaries.”
“Only to continue a war against the Uprising,” Kiminobu told him sadly.
“The Uprising will come to the table once the treaty has been signed,” Nakamoto assured him. “Then maybe this world will finally find peace.”
“The Uprising is still very upset with the Kareneth leaders for conquering them long ago—they’re not going to just give up.”
“Maybe not, but perhaps they will.”
They turned at the entrance to the landing bay when the remaining Nexus Suits arrived and parked. Nakamoto and Kiminobu waited as Asa Ikehara climbed out of her machine and headed for them. She saluted the King, who returned the gesture.
“Report, Captain,” Nakamoto said.
“The Uprising turned tail the second the Prince was inside the shield, Your Majesty—they didn’t even put up a fight.”
“Did you have any trouble with the Karenenth?”
“No, Your Majesty—they welcomed us cordially when we crossed the border. It seems the treaty is going to be real.”
“That’s good to know. Anything else of concern?”
Asa looked at Kiminobu for a moment but shook her head. “We just need to get to bed, Your Majesty. It’s been a long night.”
“Of course. Have a good night, Captain.” Nakamoto looked over as his wife approached, and he took her hand. “I think we’ll finally retire, as well. Good night, all of you.” They turned and walked away.
“Captain,” Kii said, saluting Asa. “We didn’t have any trouble. The Prince, as you can see, is safe.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Asa said. “You did a good job tonight. And don’t worry—you didn’t miss anything—the Uprising withdrew the moment the Prince was safe. There wasn’t any fighting. Lieutenant Seno is happy about that—her prized possessions didn’t get harmed.”
“I’ve turned in my report to Pops. With your permission, I’m going to head to bed,” Kii said.
“Actually, you’re staying with the Prince tonight,” Asa told her.
“Asa, I’m not a child—I don’t need someone staying with me every night to keep an eye on me,” Kiminobu told her angrily.
“Until your mother says otherwise, one of us will always stay with you, Your Highness—and your mother has not said otherwise. I am not going to argue with the Minister of Torture.”
“I’m not a child! I’m twenty-three years old!”
“I don’t mind, Your Highness,” Kii told him. “And it will keep everyone from getting into trouble.”
“It’s fine—really.” Kii went off.
Kiminobu groaned. “Will you be staying with me after I’m married?” he asked Asa angrily.
“That depends on your mother,” Asa told him with a shrug. “We’ve been with you every night since you were eighteen—it might take some of us time to get used to the fact we can’t protect you at night anymore.”
“I don’t need protection,” he reminded her. “I’m not….” He looked around and quietly said, “Going to attempt killing myself again—especially now that I’m getting married. Though, honestly, considering I still don’t know what this Princess Yumisa looks like, killing myself might be a better option.”
Asa smiled. “You’ll see her for the first time in two days,” she told him. “You might be surprised.”
“Promise me that you’ll have a gun and shoot me if she’s larger than a hippo, all right?” he asked.
Asa smiled. “I don’t want to be killed for assassinating the Prince,” she told him.
“Then shoot her,” he said.
“Same difference, only that would lead to war.”
Kiminobu laughed and then let out a deep sigh. “Two days,” he said. “Two days of wondering. I just want to know what she looks like!”
Chapter three is now available! Click here to read it https://creativewritingonline.com/the-prince-%26-wolf-girl-3