your universe

01 Oct 2017

My humble contributions for Alikou Week 2017.

Day 1: Sweet | Friendship – Modern/University AU
Day 2: Fate | Reassurance – Soulmate AU (matching soul marks)
Day 3: Power Couple | Fairy Tale – Empress and Prime Minister feat. palace servants
Day 4: Blooming | Zepar – Empress and Prime Minister feat. a confused Koumei
Day 5: Family | Dragon & Phoenix – Spy/Field Agents AU
Day 6: Opposites | “We Are The Same” – fanart: Sun King and Moon Queen
Day 7: Alternate Universe | Intimacy – continuation of Day 1

Chapters: 7
Words: 38,049

your universe

Chapter 3
Day 3: Power Couple / Fairy Tale


Alibaba decided he was going to make his steps louder, maybe he should cough or something, let them know someone was coming. He didn’t want to eavesdrop after all-
“…-you mean the Prime Minister? Alibaba-sama?”
-and mission aborted. He stepped closer to the walls, out of sight, and walked more cautiously.
Normally he would mind his own business, but technically it was his business now, now that the topic was him.

Chapter Notes:

This is set in canon, shortly after Alibaba, Kougyoku and Koumei build the Fanfan Trading Company. Let’s pretend there’s a little more downtime during that period. I’m not entirely happy with this one, it became more like a two-part story, but I got distracted by the other prompts and had no idea where to take this one, so here ya go.

In a time of the economy’s all-time low, it was very impressive that Kou Empire’s royal palace maintained its pristine condition.

Alibaba had to give it to the Empress and the remaining palace staff. In a crisis, it wouldn’t do well to show the people that one of the major symbols of their great leaders was starting to crumble. No, the perfect and grand royal palace maintained an appearance of power, and so held up as much morale of the citizens as it could. Alibaba liked to think it also gave them hope.

However due to the crisis, and despite with the palace’s rich appearance, he knew for a fact that the place had less staff than preferable. Many servants had left or resigned as the economic situation declined. The palace’s prestige was maintained by the sheer dedication and loyalty of its few remaining staff.

So it was not surprising, really, that Alibaba often found most of the palace hallways empty and isolated. It did not bother him anymore, compared to when he first arrived and accepted his new position as Prime Minister and was familiarizing himself with the place.

But mostly empty hallways meant that even hushed conversations carried through to anyone with decent hearing, so when he heard the muffled sounds of conversation between some palace servants from a distance, he was taken out of his daze.

They were just down the hallway, at the first corner ahead, three of them, all women, judging from the shadows he saw cast on the wall.

Alibaba decided he was going to make his steps louder, maybe he should cough or something, let them know someone was coming. He didn’t want to eavesdrop after all-

“…-you mean the Prime Minister? Alibaba-sama?”

-and mission aborted. He stepped closer to the walls, out of sight, and walked more cautiously.

Normally he would mind his own business, but technically it was his business now, now that the topic was him.

He was a new resident of the palace, and he wasn’t even a local, or anyone particularly famous. He prayed not to overhear negative opinions about him. It would be a letdown if they somehow didn’t like him-

“Yes, him.” a woman’s voice answered. It was deep and a bit raspy. Must be one of the senior servants.

“What about him?” came the reply from the voice that made him stop in the first place. It was a much younger-sounding voice, high-pitched and curious.

“Oh, you are new here, aren’t you?” came from the third person, clear and authoritative. She sounded older than the high-pitched one, but younger than the deep-voiced one.

“Ah, no, I’ve been working here for a year! In the kitchens, though… just washing dishes and scrubbing floors. But last week they told me more people will be needed to serve and assist here, so I volunteered! They said it’s because guests are expected…”

“Yes, that’s true. It’s partly because of that Alibaba-sama, I think. Apparently we have started a trading company.”

“I’ve never heard of him before. Is he new?”

The eldest woman hummed. “He’s only been here a few weeks, yes, but what a change he’s brought, indeed. To the Empress, most specially.”

“What do you mean? Was the Empress different? I’ve never met her until I served her during dinner a few days ago. She’s awfully young, isn’t she? Only a year older than me! But she’s very nice and kind, smiled a lot…”

“Ah, you see… the smile’s a new thing. She’s always been a nice girl, when she was Princess. Could be cold at times but was never unkind. Becoming Empress changed that, though. She was still kind, but also very, very lonely without her family. Everyone knows she didn’t want to be Empress, after all…”

“Really? She didn’t?”

“She only took it out of duty, because she’s the only one left to take it. All that pressure, though… The poor dear.”

Alibaba frowned. He couldn’t imagine being in Kougyoku’s shoes indeed. Left by her family to rule a whole crumbling empire? She was intelligent and a good leader, he was sure – but too much pressure could still affect even the most able. He saw how it affected her, when he first came here. Kougyoku’s crying face was something he never wanted to see again.

There was a grunt of agreement from the other woman. “We rarely ever saw her happy and smiling after she became Empress. It was very sad. Things are looking up now though. Had to admit, it’s nice to see Her Highness smiling a real smile again.”

He agreed with that. Since his return, he was welcomed by smiles from the people who knew him, but somehow Kougyoku’s smile was something else. Seeing her light up so much when she saw him still tugged at his heart.

“Because of the new Prime Minister? Why so? Did she not like Ka Koubun? I thought he was good at his job and he’d been looking after her a long time?”

“Hah. Ka Koubun’s alright, but you have to admit, Alibaba-sama is very different from him. Have you met him?”

Now Alibaba listened intently. He wasn’t familiar with all the servants in the castle yet . He hoped he made a good impression.

“Um… Yes. He’s young too, I was very surprised! He’s also very nice, not like Ka Koubun at all, so bossy – how did he become Prime Minister again?”

“He was a friend of the Empres. I heard he was gone for a while, traveling? On a trip of some sort. Apparently he’s a good businessman.”

“He seems to know the family personally, way back from the Empress Gyokuen’s rule.” the older woman added. “He and Her Highness talk about Kouen-sama and Hakuryuu-sama a lot.”

“A friend, huh? But he’s a foreigner… Is he a noble?”

“I heard that he used to be a Prince in Balbadd, but there’s no monarchy there now… But a prince is a prince, I guess. If that part’s even true.”

“He calls her by her name! I had thought that improper!”

“Well, as long as the Empress doesn’t mind. She appears to be fond of him. Oh! One of the guards – he used to be a soldier, he told me that Alibaba-sama was a dungeon conqueror! He fought in that battle in Magnostadt…”

“With Kouen-sama and the others? And the Empress? My older sister told me she was very powerful when those metal vessel things were still used-”

A chuckle. “Oh, my girl. Our Empress used to be able to command the ocean itself.”


Alibaba found himself smiling softly at this. He missed Amon. Kougyoku had confessed to him that she also missed Vinea dearly.

“Is that why everyone was talking about how they both took down those intruders last week by themselves?”

There was a displeased noise from one of the older women, and a click of the tongue from the other.

“Those criminals. I still cannot believe they had it in them to rob the palace, and the Empress’ own quarters, no less!”

Alibaba sighed silently. He remembered that incident – the official statement was that those so-called ‘intruders’ were thieves, but Kougyoku, Alibaba and a select few higher-ranking officials knew that it was an assassination attempt.

He should have expected that a few remaining supporters and fanatics of the late Empress Gyokuen were still lurking around Kou. He was told that there used to be more of them causing trouble during Hakuryuu’s rule, but they still stirred things up every now and then.

The assassins were skilled, knocking out the guards in the hallway and then powering through the ones who were able to fight back. Alibaba was lucky of his newfound speed, and Kougyoku herself didn’t back down. Together, and with a few of the remaining guards, they were able to stop the intruders.

“It was very impressive, indeed, but still – those guards were practically useless! The Empress shouldn’t have had to fight.”

“Now, now… It’s a time of peace. Our more capable people are busy securing our trade products and the Empress is very capable of defending herself. You were there, no?”

“You were there?! You didn’t tell me! What happened? Did the Empress really fight?”

A resigned sigh. “Yes, she did. When those criminals barged in, the guards fought them off, and Alibaba-sama told me and the other women to take the Empress somewhere safe… He joined the guards in the fight, but some of them got through. Imagine my surprise when Her Highness stepped forward and protected us! Bare-handed!”

“No weapon! That’s incredible!”

Alibaba made a mental note to find out who this girl was, simply because he, too, would totally proclaim ‘Empress Kougyoku is incredible!!!’ every chance he could get.

(He would have to risk getting pummeled by the Empress herself because he was being embarrassing, but it would be totally worth it, he thought.)

“Oh, she was very skilled, but it got better! Alibaba-sama picked up these swords from the fallen guards and threw one at her-”

“That’s dangerous!”

“-she caught it, silly. Perfectly, might I add.”

Alibaba couldn’t help but grin proudly. He did scream internally when he saw Kougyoku shove the other ladies behind her and start fighting their assailants without any armor or weapon . So he hurried to aid her, retrieved the nearest weapon he could, shouted her name, and hoped she would be able to catch a sword in those heavy sleeves of hers.

“It’s a waste she had to tear the sleeves of those robes, but we were all speechless as she and Alibaba-sama fought together to finish off those criminals.”

He knew Kougyoku was a skilled swordswoman, but that was the first time he saw her utilize a normal sword instead of a Djinn Weapon Equip. And he could say for a fact was that being Empress did not make her rusty, at all.

“I would never forget that night. And to think the first thing they did after was ask us and the others if we were alright! They really were something else.”

“Oh, I wish I had been there!”

A pause, then a deadpan “We almost died.”

“You didn’t, though! And you got to watch Empress Kougyoku kick ass!”

“Girl! Language!”

“It’s just so amazing! And you said it too! The Empress used to be really sad and withdrawn? It must be great to see her so full of life again.”

“Yes, that is true. The new Prime Minister really did wonders here… for the Empire, yes – but more for the Empress, I think.”

Alibaba could only smile again. Kougyoku welcomed him so happily and warmly after his return, and simply would not stop thanking him for staying with her to help Kou. He still couldn’t quite forgive himself for not telling her about the Sinbad and Zepar deal sooner, but they were both moving on from it. Right now he was very glad to be there for her, to make her feel less alone.

Kougyoku needed a break from all the pressure. She had told him once that as her precious friend, she would do anything for him. Well, Alibaba felt the same, besides-

“They do seem very fond of each other… If you know what I mean.”

“Hm? What do you mean? What are you getting at?”

“You know there were rumors a while back? You didn’t hear it from me, but… apparently they were arranged to be married when Kougyoku-sama was still a princess?”

“I didn’t know that! Could it be true?!”

“Supposedly. It’s very possible, though. I heard Kouen-sama himself arranged it. That meant he approved of Alibaba-sama. Of course, things didn’t go as planned, but-”

“Oh, that’s… that’s very romantic! They were arranged to be married but they had to part, but he still made his way back to her! That’s just like in my favorite stories!”

“I guess it’s a good match, yes. It’s kind of inspiring too, if you think about it… The Empress’ mother was of low birth, and Alibaba-sama isn’t exactly royalty anymore, if he ever was… so they’re both more humble than Kou’s past rulers. The people already like them…”

“Do you think they… you know, have… affections? For each other?”

“It seems very likely. They do act very comfortable with each other.”

“I saw him hold her hand once, and the Empress looked really happy!”

“They are the same age too. And they might be leaders of a country, but they are both young people, so it won’t be surprising-”

…and this was heading towards actual gossip territory. Alibaba would not listen to this, he refused to.

Quickly, before he could back out, he stepped away from the wall, and pretended to clear his throat just as he rounded the corner and ‘stumbled’ upon the three servant ladies.

The youngest one quickly scrambled to a bow, followed by the tall, middle-aged woman, and then finally the elder servant only smiled a knowing smile and nodded slowly.

“A-A-Alibaba-sama!” the young one sputtered. “G-Good- morning-”

“Good afternoon ,” the second woman corrected. “Prime Minister.”

The third woman, the eldest, finally inquired, “Can we do anything for you, my lord?”

He took a moment to assess them. He had thought that they were only gossiping in the halls, but it looked like they were actually doing something. They were preparing tea.

Why it was taking three of them to do so, he did not know, and he wasn’t about to question it for the sake of avoiding awkwardness.

“Actually, I- uh… Oh. Would you know where I might find Koug-… the Empress?” he asked, winning smile in place to cover up for the slip-up. He knew Kougyoku didn’t mind him calling her without the title (she actually preferred that), but the servants were another matter.

The three exchanged a look before the middle one answered. “Of course, my lord. I believe Her Highness is currently on the balcony near the royal library, the one overlooking the garden.”

The youngest lifted the tray containing the tea and snacks. “I was just about to bring these to her, my lord. She asked to have tea sent up.”

“I see. Thank you.” Alibaba nodded. He didn’t think too much about it when he offered, “Want me to take that to her?”

The girl blinked. “W-We really shouldn’t bother you, Alibaba-sama!”

“Oh, don’t worry, it’s nothing! Not a bother at all.” he assured her. “I’m going up there anyway-… ah, but don’t let me force you!”

The girl seemed to consider it seriously, then after exchanged another look with her companions, she bashfully smiled back at Alibaba.

“U-um… I do think… the Empress would like it very much if… you brought it?”

He raised an eyebrow, but nodded slowly. “Alright, then.. Uh. May I?”

As soon as he took the tray, the servant girl bowed, thanked him and apologized for the trouble, her cheeks flushed.

To be sure, he asked the second woman for quick directions, and she politely provided them. He nodded and thanked them for their help, then walked off with the tray carefully balanced in his arms.

It was fancy and ornate and turned out to be heavier than expected. That girl was strong .

He thought he heard a distant “How did I do?” and “You did good. Very good.” and “Let’s do our best to support them.” from behind him, and he only fought the blush in his own cheeks as he dismissed the blatant implication.

Should he tell Kougyoku?

‘Hey, Kougyoku! Some of the servant ladies seem to think we’re a thing?’

And she’d probably blush bright red again (she does that often, he wasn’t complaining) and stammer out a scandalized ‘A-A-Alibaba-chan w-w-why would they think that?!?! Are we being i-improper?!’

Okay. Nope. He’s not going to do that to himself right now.



He found Kougyoku easily, sitting on a comfortable couch in one of the palace’s balconies. She was busy reading, and only looked up when he spoke.

“Tea time, your highness.” he announced, setting the tray down on a low table.

“Oh.” she blinked. “Alibaba-chan, you… brought… the tea?” She tilted her head and looked past him, probably trying to look for the servant who was originally supposed to deliver her afternoon snack.

“I did! I met some of the servants on my way and I told them I’ll bring this to you myself, since I was looking for you anyway.” he said, plopping down on the floor by her feet. He started pouring tea for both of them.

Kougyoku raised an eyebrow, then smiled. “Well, thank you. Why were you looking for me?”

“I was bored, and I thought I’d keep you company.” he answered.

Between coming up with plans for the trading company and meeting with different people from merchants to government officials, they had all been busy. Too busy that when they got to a reasonable stopping point, he and Kougyoku agreed that a break was in order. After all, even Koumei , who was probably the calmest person Alibaba knew, was starting to get stressed from the endless workload. Everyone was visibly relieved.

Alibaba thought a day-off would be nice, to just lounge on his rooms or roam the castle or something… But then he quickly got bored and decided to look for someone to hang out with.

He handed her a cup and she accepted it gladly, taking a sip before saying, “I’m afraid I’ll be boring company. I was only reading.”

He took a moment to savor the taste of the tea first before he eyed the scroll on her lap. “What are you reading? More reports? I thought we were on a break from that?”

Kougyoku laughed lightly. “It’s not a report. It’s a story. One of our classic ones here in Kou. All the little girls have been told this, at least once.”

“What’s it about?”

She took another sip from her cup. “A prince travels hundreds of miles, fights through enemies and overcomes obstacles to save his one true love, a princess held hostage, who waits patiently for him.”

Alibaba looked at her curiously. “…so does he save her?”

“Yes, he does get to her eventually! It doesn’t sound so impressive the way I said it, but it’s quite long… It’s an epic, the prince had exciting adventures. You would have to read it to understand why it was so loved.”

“Mm-hm.” he understood that. Sinbad’s adventures didn’t sound as exciting unless one actually read the written tales. “So you’re doing a re-reading, then?”

“A bit.” she said, then released a soft sigh.

Alibaba eyed the minute frown in her face. He reached out to tap a finger against her cheek, making her jump slightly to blink down at him.

“W-What?” she asked, cheeks pink, but looking more confused than angry.

“Why the long face, then? You don’t like the story?”

Kougyoku shook her head. “It’s still the story I grew up with, that’s for sure. It’s still exciting, with adventures and such. But I guess… I’ve grown out of it? This time I actually wanted some things to change. The prince did some pretty foolish decisions on the way. Mostly, I wish the princess wasn’t so submissive. In the story, she did nothing but wait for him, and in the end, they got married, but the story only mentioned that the heroic prince became a king and ruled justly. What happened to the princess? What did she do with her freedom? Did she make a good queen?”

Alibaba thought about it as he leaned back against the couch, absently looking down at his tea. “Yeah, there should be more stories where princesses fight too. Where they’re the heroes of the story.”

“Yes, there should be…” she nodded, then looked at him and smiled excitedly. “You write stories, don’t you?”

He snorted sheepishly. “I wanted to write my own adventures, like Sinbad did. Maybe just with some bits added to make it more interesting. I’ve lost track of it though. Maybe sometime around… Reim?”

She giggled. “Too busy being a gladiator?”

“Too busy trying not to die as a gladiator.” he sniggered.

“Would you write one where the hero is a girl?”

Alibaba looked at her, then sipped his tea before shrugging. “Ah, I don’t have to. Who needs fiction when there’s history right here?”

Kougyoku blinked. “History?”

“You.” he pointed out, grinning. “A girl who became a princess, then dungeon conqueror and a warrior, then an Empress. Sounds like an epic to me.”

She blushed as she always did, looking down at her lap. “H-How about you? A boy who became a prince, then… um…”

“Exile.” he provided.

“Yes, but after that, you were a dungeon conqueror, and a hero to your people, and a gladiator, more heroics, and a journey riding a dragon!”

He snorted, leaning his head back against the couch and tipping his chin up to look at her. “We sound like the stuff of stories. History books would be more interesting if they added our bits in, don’tcha think?”

Kougyoku giggled behind her sleeve, a gesture that always sent him back to the days when they first became friends. Then her hands dropped back to her lap as she looked out past the gardens and into the distant view of Rakushou. “Do you ever wonder about how it will end?”

He was silent for a moment, taking in the sight of his companion – his friend, girl-princess-warrior- Empress , whom he admired and believed in with all his being. The afternoon sun rays cast a brilliant orange to her hair and eyes as she gazed to the distance.

He lost his answer right then.

“Alibaba-chan?” she asked, blinking at him when she noticed him staring.

He snapped out of his reverie, clearing his throat before saying, “W-Well, we’re working our butts off for that happy ending, aren’t we?” He couldn’t help the nervous chuckle that followed. God, what was wrong with him? Was it those gossiping servants putting ideas in his head? It must be.

Kougyoku smiled. Alibaba didn’t always have an answer, but he always seemed to know what to say. For that, she was grateful. That he came back to her, and had promised to stay as long as she needed him. This fact, she wasn’t afraid to say out loud. “I’m really glad you’re here with me, Alibaba-chan.”

He smiled back. “Me too.”

She went back to sipping her tea and reading her story.

He watched her for a while. When he looked away, it was with a struggle, and Alibaba decided he must be suffering from bad karma or something.

He will never eavesdrop again.

Chapter Notes:

Real life caught up with me and I’m sooo late with everything in this fic. Don’t worry, though! Got some free time now, and days 4 to 6 are mostly finished and only need some editing. Hopefully they’ll be out this week too. As always, thank you for reading and all your comments are appreciated!

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