Rhione helped escort Mitsuki to a chair, sitting her down at one of the tables where many of the partiers then tried to force food and drink upon her. The now mostly scruffy looking redhead's eyes widened as the piles of treats and beverages swiftly built up, an odd little smile on her face.
"Nice to know I was missed," Mitsuki managed.
Rhione sat down beside her, taking a moment to adjust her formal gown. The elegant young woman pushed her long locks of red hair back, "You gave us all quite a scare, you know. Queen Serenity, Ryouko and Minagi were all frantic."
Mitsuki looked up to meet her eyes a moment, almost as if she was searching them for her sincerity. More softly, "I'm sorry for scaring you that way, but I didn't have much choice."
"I know, I saw most of it," Rhione murmured quietly. She closed her eyes a second, thinking of the Earth cruiser falling towards the Palace, the little black fighter swiftly moving in front of it, the weapons blazing and then finally ramming into the larger ship, exploding in a blaze of fire. "How did you manage to survive that?" she asked.
Mitsuki smiled grimly at her own memories. "I ejected out of the fighter just before the ship's core blew," she quickly related, "but I got caught up in the fireball and shrapnel on the way down." Mitsuki picked one of several alcoholic beverages and drank some down, "If I hadn't been found by the Lady Hotaru, I'd probably have died."
"What you did was phenomenally stupid," Commander Ruri appeared by her side to calmly note, the blue haired woman meeting Mitsuki's eyes firmly. "Please don't do it again, or we might just have to give you a medal, next time"
The two watched her go thoughtfully. "Was that a compliment, you think?" Rhione finally asked quizzically.
"I'm not quite sure," Mitsuki took another drink.
Rhione reached out to tug at a tattered bit of Mitsuki's sleeve, "You look like something Ryo-Ohki would refuse to drag in. Why don't we get you changed?"
"Into what, exactly?" Mitsuki blinked.
Rhione smiled, her eyes twinkling, "I'm sure we can borrow something."
Mitsuki suddenly had a bad feeling about that.
Across the large ballroom, Ryouko and Ayeka watched the two get up, Rhione gently tugging a reluctant Mitsuki over to Lady Haruka. The three spoke together for a few moments then they moved off, leaving the hall together.
"I wonder what that's all about?" Ayeka mused.
"It's a little quick for them to be planning a threesome," Ryouko answered with a impish little smile. At Ayeka's frown she quickly said, "You haven't seen how Rhione's been looking at Mitsuki when she thought she wasn't looking."
Ayeka looked where the three woman had disappeared into the inner reaches of the Palace, "You may have a point, at that." Not meeting Ryouko's eyes she smiled just slightly and said, "You've got a plan, don't you?"
"I've always got a plan," was Ryouko's rather flippant answer. She moved a bit so that she was meeting Ayeka's eyes, "But a plan about what?"
Ayeka smiled slightly, "Earth."
Ryouko's face became serious as she said, "Yes, I do." A slash of white as she smiled, "But I intend to brief everyone in the morning."
"Hitting them when they're still groggy and willing to agree with almost anything?" Ayeka raised an eyebrow. A smirk, "Good negotiating tactics."
"Well, I learned from the very best," Ryouko shrugged. At Ayeka's curious glance she added cheerfully "At the feet of my mom, Washu." She hesitated a moment, "I notice you aren't pressing me about what the plan is."
Ayeka smiled up at her grimly, "I've got a few guesses." She reached up with a delicate hand, gently cupping Ryouko's face as she said, "And I trust you, m'love. Whatever plan you've come up with, you know I'll back you."
Ryouko bent down, kissing Ayeka lingeringly. "Thank you," she murmured softly.
There was a soft disturbance from the other side of the large room, and they reluctantly pulled apart. Ayeka took a look and began to chuckle softly, then Ryouko turned to take a look and grinned while shaking her head.
Mitsuki had a clearly disgusted expression, dressed up in a stylized roman toga, one that was obviously borrowed from Lady Haruka. "I can't believe you talked me into this," she softly grumbled, tugging at the short skirt uncomfortably.
Rhione beamed, "But you look so good in it."
"Oh goddess," Mitsuki muttered softly.
An waltz began, the musicians playing the notes smoothly. Rhione took Mitsuki's hands in her own. "Would you dance with me?" the noblewoman asked.
Mitsuki blinked, clearly surprised by the request. But she looked down to meet those eyes filled with silent entreaty and smiled back to softly say, "I'll try." They moved out onto the dance floor together, and she felt a bit comforted seeing Queen Serenity and Lady Rei along with Ryouko and Ayeka joining in the dance as well.
The celebration ran on into the night, and the guests from the crews of the Swordbreaker and Ryo-Ohki chose to stay in the palace to sleep. There was a certain amount of sharing of rooms, the palace spacious but not that spacious.
"You better not snore," Minagi said to Ruri as she was carrying a bedroll into the bedroom they were going to have to share.
"Like a buzzsaw," was Ruri's deadpan answer as she laid out her own bedroll, her boy's pajamas in a somber blue.
"What?" Minagi blurted, only to see the teasing smile on her friend's face. "Oh, you are going to pay for that, especially after I tell Asuka and Rei."
In a nearby room, Ryouko gently cradled Ayeka in her arms. "See you in the morning, love," she murmured to her softly.
Ayeka smiled slightly, her eyes opening as she snuggled into Ryouko's arms. "You're not that tired, are you?" she asked softly.
"That depends," Ryouko drawled, "how quiet can you be?"
A bit of a flush appeared on Ayeka's cheeks. "I could always bite a pillow," she smiled shyly.
Ryouko's wicked chuckle was her only reply.
Mitsuki opened the bedroom door, blinking slightly as Rhione smiled slightly. "And how did you manage to arrange this?' she asked, not that surprised.
"A few threats," was Rhione's cheerful answer as the nightie clad woman gently took Mitsuki's arm and pulled her inside the room.
"Why.." Mitsuki started, when Rhione gently pressed her lips to hers.
"I was trying to be subtle," Rhione 's breath teased at Mitsuki's lips as she spoke, "but then I thought I lost you." A slight smile, "Life can be too damn short for games."
"Oof," Mitsuki gasped as she was pushed over, falling onto her back on the bed. With an impish little grin on her face Rhione slid on top of her. "I'm glad," Mitsuki kissed her gently.
For many, it was a too short time before the sun appeared above the Moon Kingdom, the chimes jarring many from a sound sleep. Food was served, along with hangover remedies, and after a trip down the ornate halls, they gathered for Ryouko's briefing.
"... and that's it," Ryouko finished.
Lady Rei looked over at her in shock. "You can't be serious!"
"Oh, yes she can," Kiyone growled, "this is just the sort of plan Ryouko loves to pull." She gave her ruler a glare, "I absolutely forbid it!"
Ryouko grinned, "Sorry, but it's not your call to make."
"I'm not too thrilled with this idea either," Washu said dryly, "why are just you and Ayeka attacking this Tenchi's headquarters?"
"There's no offense intended," Ryouko nodded towards Queen Serenity, "but there's not enough of the Moon Kingdom's fleet left to really make an effective distraction. That's why we need to have Swordbreaker up in orbit, fighting against the Earth fleet along with the fighter wings while Ayeka and I take Ryo-Ohki in."
"No offense taken," Serenity waved, "I'm well aware of the beating our ships have taken." She smiled grimly, "But why are only you and Ayeka going?"
"Because we have no idea of his power level," Ayeka said dryly. "My brother Yosho had an exceptional level of power, and if this Tenchi is really his descendant, he might have inherited some of that power," she sighed.
"Ruri," Minagi said quietly, and the blue haired Commander sat up at attention, "I'm putting you into command of Swordbreaker." She looked over at Ryouko, "I'm going with you."
Ryouko opened her mouth to argue, then saw the look on her sister's face. Ayeka put her hand on her lover's arm to quiet her, "We'll be glad to have you."
Ryouko finally nodded slightly, "We'll go in using the orbital battle for cover, make a quiet entrance into Earth's territory, then we'll go to their capital and have a little talk with this Tenchi."
Lady Rei nodded thoughtfully, "We've got tactical information on the planetary defenses, as well as a few outdated maps that might be useful."
"We'll take what we can get," Minagi grinned.
Mitsuki got out of her seat, a grim look on her face. 'I have to admit, it makes sense,' she thought, 'but I still don't like the idea.' She was a bit surprised when Ruri drew her aside, "Something I can do for you, commander?"
Ruri smiled grimly, "I have a very good team aboard Swordbreaker, and I don't want to shift them around to fill the second in command slot."
Mitsuki blinked, "And?"
"Baka," Ruri muttered to herself softly, then louder, "I'm offering you the job, with Minagi's approval. Interested?"
Rhione poked her in the side, and Mitsuki saw the broad smile on her face. Turning back to Ruri she smiled slightly, "I accept."
To be continued...