It is good news that you’ll be done this horrible quest so soon! I can only hope those we send will be enough to do everything you need to quell the fighting. Father says he is going to join you, as well as take all the boys with him, leaving mother and me half the troops to protect us. Your father, Inuyasha, and you should be able to return home soon. I’m sure your father misses Lady Izayoi and Eri very much, as they miss him.
As for your surprise, of which you keep mentioning, I am curious as to what it is. I can’t imagine what it is, though I’m sure it’s something from your travels. Does it involve you sending something? You coming here to deliver it? I can’t even imagine honestly.
Mother’s crusade to have me mated off continues. Last night we were joined for dinner by Lord Hojo, a minor lord from the Northern Kingdom, below Kita. Father, the boys, and I were not pleased, though mother made every attempt to assist in Hojo’s wooing of me. It did not work, he was sent home this morning after breakfast. I will probably be punished with a new demeaning task of some kind. Maybe I’ll be forced to scrub the entrance hall or something.
I hope this letter finds you well and as safe as you can be.
I highly anticipate your letter of success!
Princess of the Eastern Lands
Nikki sighed as she sealed the letter and headed towards the runners. Her father had left with her brothers after breakfast when Hojo left, primarily because her father wouldn’t leave before him. She wanted to have her letter ready so her father could take it, save the runners from a spare journey, but her mother had made sure to keep her busy with Hojo. While within the palace, once revealed to be there, Nikki had been ordered by his side for any need he may have. Her father corrected her mother’s statement about that rather quickly.
“Would you please take this to Lord Sesshomaru of the Western Lands?” she asked a runner. He smiled and nodded.
“I can leave immediately if it is urgent, my lady,” he offered as she smiled and shook her head.
“That is not needed, finish resting and eating before heading out,” she replied. She sighed as she handed off the letter with a smile and a bow of thanks.
Part of her was thinking about how in the last four letters Sesshomaru has mentioned a surprise. She wondered what it was, certain he was coming with her father home. She thought it could be any number of things; items from an exotic town, a medal he had earned under his father, or she even dared to dream it was an escape of this life. Of everyone she spoke to, all gave her pity about it, but he was the only one who seemed to agree that she needed to just escape. Not that it was possible, her only escape from her mother was a mate, and then she had to endure him and his family.
Nikki returned to her room and grabbed a book to read before retiring to her garden. She sighed as she breathed in the fresh air, it was cooling off greatly now and the leaves were rapidly changing colors and falling. It would be winter within the next moon cycle or so, so she was enjoying as much time outside as she could.
“There you are,” her mother stated as Nikki looked up surprised, “why aren’t you inside? You’ll look like a peasant if you’re out here too long.” Her mother turned her nose up to the idea of having a tan. Nikki never minded the slight coloring of her skin after being outside all day; it showed she put in a good day’s work.
“It’s beautiful out, I wanted to read and enjoy the weather while it was warm,” Nikki replied innocently as her mother rolled her eyes.
“What are you reading?” Her mother demanded warily.
“Just a story,” Nikki answered softly as she closed everything up and looked at her mother defeated.
“Come inside, I have chores for you,” her mother snapped as she sighed and nodded. She got up and followed her mother into the castle, away from the beauty outside. She started to hope her father would be back soon.
By that evening, Nikki was exhausted. The list of chores her mother had for her was almost as long as the one for the maids and tomorrow was looking the same. Instead of allowing her daughter to rest, Mai had invited yet another suitor for Nikki’s hand to dinner. This was the son of a high lord of the Southern Kingdom, his name was Yahiko. Nikki almost wondered if her mother just had them hidden within the castle, the speed for which they appeared for dinner and to win her favors.
“Mother, I am exhausted,” Nikki bemoaned as her mother came to check on her while the maids did her hair and makeup. “Do I have to meet with someone tonight? Can’t this wait until tomorrow?”
“No, it can’t,” her mother pressed annoyed. She didn’t understand why her daughter was being so ungrateful for her help. “Now make sure you’re presentable and at the table within half an hour. We wouldn’t want to keep Lord Yahiko waiting.” Nikki nodded depressively as best she could with a maid pulling her hair to put it up.
Mai marched off to her own chambers to get changed. Her personal guard escorted her around the castle, as they had been told to do before the lord left, and Nikki’s remaining outside her room. Mai thought about the issues with her daughter.
“Is the princess still being rebellious?” one of her guardsmen asked her as they walked.
“She is always rebellious, Higashi raised her that way,” Mai grumbled as they walked. “How am I to raise a lady when he insists on raising her like a boy?” The guard remained silent in agreement with her. He had protested to his lord about her leading troops in one of the exercises that Higashi performed. He had divided the troops into six units and gave each one to each of the kittens to lead. His protests didn’t end after Nikki had won the game, only to be ignored by Higashi as if they were truly no concern. “Hopefully she’ll take a liking to the young man here and we can start the process for mating.”
“My lady, I hate to ask this, but what if she constantly refuses them?” the guardsman asked her worriedly. He was as anxious as she was to get rid of the female who thought herself good enough to rule over the guard like her lord and sire. It was an embarrassment to no end for most of the guardsmen.
“She will say yes to one of them,” Mai answered with a sigh, “or the highest price will win her as well.” The two guardsmen watched as she entered her chambers, which had been moved during the time that had passed since the ball. The fighting between the lady and lord had gotten out of control over the fate of their daughter. When Mai moved herself it raised suspicions from her mate, but he never protested if it meant ending the arguments. So far it was successful in keeping the peace, though none knew for how long.
Meanwhile, at the encampment of troops in the Western Lands…
Higashi was not without his own concerns for the night; he didn’t know what was planned by Mai for Nikki. While he was away, Higashi worried but his concerns were now how to get home quickly. While the boys were talking among themselves, jovially about various things and the sights they were to see, none noticing their father and lord behind them distracted. As night fell they arrived at the encampment that contained the Western Kingdom’s troops.
“Higashi, welcome old friend,” Nishi greeted them as they climbed off their horses.
“Nishi,” how are things here?” Higashi asked as the two shook hands before looking around.
“We are in the midst of planning, join us while your boys get the troops in order,” Nishi said as he led his old friend to the main tent. Higashi turned and gave the orders to the boys, Seiji following him to the tent. There was a table and seated at it were Inuyasha, Sesshomaru, Kouga, and Kita.
“Higashi, I’m surprised we beat you here,” Kita said as he stood and shook hands with the neko lord and his heir. “We even stopped and picked Inuyasha up from the capital before arriving.”
“I’m not,” Higashi replied shaking his head some, “I wouldn’t leave until Mai’s latest attempt at a suitor for Nikki would leave my castle.” Seiji sighed and nodded in agreement.
“Mate’s at it again?” Kita asked him curiously. Higashi grew a dark smirk as he thought of it all ending.
“She’s always at it,” he answered and shook his head again, “I fear the day that she stops. Either my daughter has been sold to the highest bidder or has run away again.” Kita nodded in agreement, his own mate being bothersome about the cubs needing mates, but never as bad as Mai was and to all of them, not just their daughters.
“Maybe once you and the boys are home she’ll remember she has six kittens and not just one,” Kita said as they sat down. “Or your daughter will have killed her before your return home.” Nishi chuckled with Kita at the idea while Higashi looked thoughtful at it.
“Don’t say it, Nikki may very well try it,” Higashi mused before glancing at Sesshomaru to see him staring off into space. Part of him was curious as to what the oldest heir of the Western Kingdom thought of Mai trying to get Nikki mated off to some random male.
“Mates are confusing creatures,” Nishi replied thoughtfully as both lords nodded in agreement, “you boys will learn that soon enough.” Inuyasha and Sesshomaru just blankly looked at their father as he turned to the map. “But until then, we must worry about this rebellion. The faster we stop them, the faster we can return home so some of our daughters don’t get sold or kill our mates.” The men huddled around the table as they learned of Nishi’s plan, working out the details as they waited on the last lord to arrive, Minami of the Southern Kingdom.