Valefor, Tokkastria, Skypad Gladad
Jaze paced nervously around the living room, stopping once in awhile to kneel down and claw at the carpet. They were awaiting the arrival of Emissary Kodie who would take them to their appointment with Queen Maoh II. If Toma was nervous too, he wasn't showing it. He simply sat in his chair and read a book, casting a glance up to see what Jaze was doing once in awhile.
Toma: Jaze, I wish you wouldn't do that. I think Dad would like to come home to an intact carpet the next time he's here.
Jaze froze in mid-scratch on the floor. He was so nervous he wasn't even aware of what he was doing.
Jaze: Oh... Sorry.
Toma: You know, for someone wearing the royal silk underwear, you sure aren't very calm.
Jaze: There are times when a silk bikini just isn't enough, you know. By the way, what's this outfit you have me in anyway? I feel like I should be going clubbing in this, not meeting the ruler of the planet.
Jaze looked down at his clothes with his arms held up as though afraid to touch them. He was dressed normally, as instructed, but he still didn't want to get even the slightest speck of dust on them.
Toma: You look fine. So long as you have your bikini on and that, you're fine.
As Toma said, "that," he pointed at Jaze's neck. Jaze instinctively reached up and felt the wide, leather collar he was now wearing with it's chain that hung down and attached to his metal-studded wristband.
Jaze: This?! You mean to tell me this is all that separates your formal from casual?
Toma: You got it.
The knock at the door came as a welcome reprieve for Toma. If anything was making him nervous, it wasn't the impending visit with the Queen, but rather Jaze's constant worrying. Toma got up and quickly went to the door in the hopes that they could leave quickly and that Jaze could not destroy his house anymore. Toma, however, was in for a surprise when he opened the door.
Ambassador Veritas: Hi!
Toma only had a split second to mull on what he knew was going to come next and hope that nothing got destroyed.
A thud was better than a crash, Toma thought. He looked around to find that Jaze had leaped behind a chair and was now peering out from behind it, clutching the sides like his life depended on it. Veritas smiled and chuckled to himself.
Ambassador Veritas: God, that never gets old. Get used to it, Toma. All nekos, half or not, do that when they're surprised.
Toma: I'm surprised too. We weren't expecting you to come today.
Jaze: Yeah, we were expecting the emissary.
Ambassador Veritas: What? You'd prefer to be escorted to the Queen's Tower by Mr. Carrot-up-his-ass? Nah, I don't think so. I asked and they said it would be okay if I escorted you. That is, if you don't mind, Jaze. You can come out from behind the chair now. I promise I won't bite you or anything.
Jaze nervously stepped out from behind the chair and walked shakily towards Veritas. Last time he met Veritas, he spent almost the entire time hiding behind Toma. Without his bunny shield in the way, he was struck again by how short Veritas was. Jaze was taller than he was and, despite his celebrity status, it made him less intimidating.
Ambassador Veritas: Well, now that we're all comfy-cozy with each other, shall we go? I have a shuttle waiting outside.
Veritas lead them to the top of the skypad where they boarded the shuttle. Jaze watched out the window as they took off and soared over the city.
Ambassador Veritas: Truth is, sparing you from having to travel with the exciting emissary was only part of the reason I came. I wanted to make sure you were warned before you met the Queen and I knew he wouldn't do it.
Jaze: Warned? What do you mean "warned?"
This was the last thing Jaze wanted to hear just before meeting the queen and now he listened in rapt attention knowing that Veritas wouldn't bring it up if it wasn't important.
Ambassador Veritas: Toma, do you remember the incident about three years ago the last time the Queen addressed the Royal Assembly?
Toma: Everyone remembers that, I think. She took the parchment her speech was written on, rolled it up, and started looking through it like it was a telescope shouting, "I see you!" at everyone. She's hardly been seen in public since.
Ambassador Veritas: Exactly. Forgive me for saying this, Toma, but the truth is that Queen Maoh II is rather unhinged and her handlers tend to keep her away from the public as much as possible.
Jaze: I'm not sure if this makes me feel better or worse...
Ambassador Veritas: Well, the good news, at least, is that it is nearly impossible to offend her, so try not to be too uptight. You should still stick to your best behavior regardless.
Veritas glanced out the window.
Ambassador Veritas: Ah, we're almost there.
Toma and Jaze both looked out the window to see Queen City far below them.
The massive tower was unmistakable on the landscape and it utterly dwarfed everything around it. There could never be any question as to which tower was the Queen's Tower.
The shuttle approached the lower portion of the tower and made a wide circle around the base.
Jaze: Is that a beach?
Toma: It's the Queen's private beach.
The shuttle rose slowly to roughly the mid-point of the tower and slowly approached a docking station.
The door of the shuttle slid open and Jaze and Toma stepped out. It was good that neither of them were particularly afraid of high places, since anyone who did would likely be paralyzed with fear where they were standing. Even for those without such a phobia, the walkway was distressing.
Jaze looked back and noticed that Veritas was not following.
Jaze: Aren't you coming?
Toma: He can't if he's not wearing the bikini.
Ambassador Veritas: Oh I'm wearing it alright, but I can't come because I'm not invited. Men are not permitted this high in the tower unless they have an invitation. Don't worry! I'll be here when you get back!
The door of the shuttle slid shut. Jaze and Toma looked to the end of the ramp to a large set of doors and walked towards them. Jaze wondered what to do next. Ring a doorbell?
Before he had a chance to ponder too much, the doors slid open revealing a very intimidating Tokkastrian woman holding a weapon of some sort. She thrust the weapon in front of her, towards Jaze and Toma, both of whom instantly froze in their tracks.
Jaze stared at the woman, wide-eyed, hardly daring to breathe. Toma, he guessed, was startled as well, judging from how swiftly he grabbed Jaze's hand when she appeared.
Minji: I am Minji, Guardian of the Tower! Identify yourselves!
Jaze let out a barely audible squeak. Toma was just about to tell her their names, but another voice beat him to it.
Aecha: Oh, Minji, be nice. This is Toma and Jaze. They were invited.
Another woman stepped through the doorway and place her hand on Minji's staff.
Minji: I was just doing my job, Aecha. Heaven knows I don't get the chance very often.
Aecha: Well, that's the price you pay for living in a peaceful society.
Toma: Um... excuse me?
Minji and Aecha both turned. They had both completely forgotten about Jaze and Toma, still standing outside.
Toma: It's kinda cold and windy up here.
Aecha: Oh, you are so right! Come in, come in!
Both Jaze and Toma eagerly stepped inside. Minji pressed a switch and the door hissed shut behind them.
Aecha: I'm Aecha and this is Minji. Welcome to the Queen's Tower.
Minji: We will be your escorts to the main audience chamber.
Minji and Aecha beckoned them to follow and they did, heading to a nearby elevator. Nobody said a word on the way up, and Jaze fidgeted the entire time. The sheer size of the building was not only impressive from the outside, but from the inside as well. Even though they were well over halfway up the tower, the elevator ride was still quite long.
Finally, the doors opened and Toma and Jaze followed the two women out. Both were expecting something more grandiose for the entrance to the audience chamber, but so far, all they could see was a fairly normal-sized double door ahead of them. Minji and Aecha each took a door handle and pushed the doors open. The doorway may have been modest, but the audience hall it lead to was not. The high, vaulted ceiling carried on for several storeys and light streamed in pleasantly from the rows of windows that lined their way up to the top. The walls were decorated with countless murals depicting scenes of Tokkastrian life, unusual, to Jaze, at least in that they were not pastoral scenes but rather scenes of life in the city.
The floor was covered by a simple tile and there was a slightly-raised platform in the back of the room upon which was perched a single large throne, which Toma and Jaze presumed was for the Queen. In front of the platform were two small, flat cushions. Minji and Aecha each directed Toma and Jaze to a cushion.
Aecha: Each of you take a seat here.
Toma sat down right away and crossed his legs. Jaze observed and did the same as Aecha and Minji each took positions flanking both sides of the throne.
Minji: Presenting The Lady of Tokkastria, Her Majesty, Queen Maoh the Second!
Jaze was surprised by the sudden announcement. There was no fiddling around here. No reminders of proper etiquette. Just plop on the cushion and out with the Queen. He did his best to keep still and not to fidget nervously, all the while keeping watch out of the corner of his eye on Toma, so he could mimic his every move.
After Minji made her announcement, a small door in the back of the room opened and a young lady tokki stepped out. She was dressed in white silk and linen which flowed easily over the air she passed through as she walked. She had an impossibly light, ethereal quality and a regal stride. She was, without question, the Queen.
She didn't look directly at either Jaze or Toma as she approached her throne and sat, propping one of her legs up on the armrest. A bit odd, Jaze thought, for the Queen to do, but then he remembered what Veritas said about her being a bit off.
After she was seated, Toma made a short bow and Jaze did the same. Only then did she look the both of them directly. Jaze waited for her to speak, hardly daring to move. Instead of speaking, she stood up once again and Jaze sat in horror as she stared at him, wide and twinkly-eyed.
Queen Maoh II: WAA!!! YOU ARE JUST THE CUTEST THING I'VE EVER SEEN!!!
The next thing Jaze knew, there was a flurry of pure tokki woman lunging at him with impressive velocity. It was more out of paralyzed fear than decorum that Jaze didn't even attempt to dodge the missile-queen and she tackled him right where he sat. There was little he could do as she examined every inch of him.
Queen Maoh II: Oh, your ears are so cute! And look at this face! It's adorable! You're wearing your underwear, right?
The next thing he knew, his pants were down at his ankles with the Queen kneeling on the floor in front of him staring at his bikini. The Queen clapped her hands excitedly.
Queen Maoh II: It suits you! It suits you! And look at this tail!
The Queen yanked on Jaze's tail, flipping him over on his chest.
The Queen petted his tail from top to bottom as Jaze looked desperately at both Toma and the two guardians, none of whom seemed inclined to intervene on his behalf.
Queen Maoh II: Oh, I can only imagine what you can do with this! I'm getting excited just thinking about it! I must have you! Right now!
To Jaze's surprise, he finally heard one of the guardians speak.
Aecha: My lady, I'm afraid that would not be permissible. He isn't on the registry.
The Queen released Jaze's tail and he rolled over slowly onto his back.
Queen Maoh II: Well, stinktails. How about him?
She pointed at Toma and began crawling over to him on all-fours.
Queen Maoh II: You're pretty, aren't you! I love your gold eyes!
Jaze, in a fit of jealousy, momentarily forgot where he was and blurted out four words that would change his life forever.
Jaze: Hey! That's my boyfriend!
In an instant, the room was dead silent and every eye in the room was focused on him. The two guardians were utterly horrified and Toma was smiling. The Queen, however... Jaze couldn't get a read on her for an uncomfortably long time. She stared at him, expressionless, tilting her head from side to side.
Queen Maoh II: Is this what they call jealousy? It's my first time seeing it! I want you even more now!
And she lunged at him once again. Jaze attempted to scamper backwards, but she was too fast for him and was once again on top of him in a flash. She leaned in close to his face and put her hand on his cheek.
Queen Maoh II: Oh, you're wet! Is there a leak in the ceiling?
Toma: It's called "sweat." Humans and nekomi do that when they're nervous or hot.
Queen Maoh II: That is absolutely fascinating!
She leaned in closer until her nose was nearly touching his and sniffed deeply.
Queen Maoh II: And this odor... So masculine... It's driving me wild! Minji!
Minji: Yes, my lady?
Queen Maoh II: Put Jaze on the Registry at once!
Minji: Yes, my lady.
As Minji trotted past and out the doors, the Queen turned her attention back to Jaze.
Queen Maoh II: Well, what do you say, my little kitty?
The ball, so to speak, was suddenly in Jaze's court. Suddenly faced with a decision, his ears flattened down the sides of his head and he looked to Toma for guidance.
Toma: Up to you.
Jaze looked back and forth between Toma and the Queen as though they were having a tennis match.
Toma and Jaze walked out of the doors and towards the shuttle waiting for them where they came in.
Jaze: I'm so sorry, Toma.
Toma: I told you it was up to you, so stop apologizing.
The door to the shuttle opened and they climbed inside. Veritas was still there, waiting for him. He put down his notebook and looked at them expectantly.
Ambassador Veritas: So, you were up there for quite awhile. How did it go?
For a time, neither of them said anything. Finally, Jaze spoke in a barely audible voice as he looked at the ground and twiddled his fingers.
Jaze: Um... Mr. Fox... er... Veritas... sir? Do you know of any books in English about raising children on Tokkastria? There's a good chance I'm going to need one.
Suddenly, Veritas's eyes grew as big as dinner plates.
Ambassador Veritas: You didn't...
Jaze glaned up at Veritas briefly and then looked back down again.
Ambassador Veritas: Oh my god, you're serious! This is the funniest thing I've ever heard in my entire life! One of you, start from the beginning! I have to hear how this happened!
The end: Short Stories Volume 5
Next up, Carpathia III: Crystal Shards
Jaze and Queen scene commissioned from Jenova87
All city images from SimCity 4.