"Well, what have we got here tonight, kids?"

- Beetlejuice

"You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that, but you have no right to judge me."

- Colonel Kurtz

"Deliver me from LL Bean."

- Otho

The threat of real combat that put her queen's life in danger struck Alirosa like a lance made of lightning stabbing her through the spine. Her calm and collected Mistress was seated beside her in the air fortress's lodge as the bright blue sky sped past the windows. Queen LeBelle had activated her Otome's GEM with a kiss that was different from the customary peck on the ear.

LeBelle's platinum spoon delicately clattered against her porcelain dessert bowl. The small but mature queen had a bowl of ice cream to numb her concerns during these stressful moments when her Otome couldn't always remain at her side. A scoop of chocolate with caramel syrup was the next sweetest thing to Ali herself.

"Who has the nerve to disturb our floating retreat, Ali?" the queen asked in a soft but increasingly worried voice. The air fortress had drifted into a stretch of airspace where the international boundaries were ambiguously defined, but LeBelle was certain it belonged to her.

"It's the annoying red one from that place with the coconuts," Meister Alirosa replied.

Queen LeBelle daintily wrinkled her nose in seething hatred.

"It pains my heart you have to lower yourself to the level of these terrible rodents." The queen shook her head with a regretful sigh, but refused to stand down.

"It's my duty, Your Majesty. I have to uphold your honor at any cost," the Meister Otome said to support her.

Ali had been in Queen LeBelle's personal service for several years. They were best friends since childhood, and that friendship had blossomed into something more as they reached adulthood. During her final few months of training at Garderobe, Ali was so nervous she could be summoned somewhere she didn't belong. She could have been called on to serve some strange monarch she'd never met before, signing her life away in fealty so he or she could dictate how she acted and what she was allowed to do. In her heart, she knew she belonged to only one noble house.

With her high marks in flight school and her slim chances of landing the Master she wanted, part of her was terrified of becoming confined to slavery more than an actual Slave. Those long hours of worrying about her future almost made her regret becoming an Otome. But then her loving queen was there first in line to claim her Meister contract when graduation season rolled around.

"I'd like the strong-looking Pearl with the strawberry eyes. I'll feel safe staking my life to hers," LeBelle had told the Column headmistresses. She gave Ali a secret wink to put all her worries to rest, while keeping her attention turned toward the Columns so Ali couldn't see any of the persuasive magic tricks she pulled with her other eye.

Ali was promoted to being LeBelle's Otome back when she was simply a spoiled princess looking for a new elegant doll to add to her collection. But as Ali's service history grew, so did LeBelle's grip on statecraft.

"I'll do anything you ask, Master," was one of the first things Ali had said to the princess when they were alone. She was going to positively adore every opportunity to serve LeBelle and help her become a more powerful leader.

"Please, call me Mistress," LeBelle had whispered with a very restrained giggle. "I feel it's more appropriate in this situation."

The queen sighed as she swallowed another spoonful of cocoa in the present.

"I hope you can come back in one piece, my dear Ali. I'd be so broken up if I ever lost you." Her eyes gazed downward to hide her own fears from her Otome. She slowly stirred the melting remnants of chocolate in her bowl so the sprinkles were spread evenly, before quietly taking a few more bites.

"You don't need to worry about that, Your Majesty." Ali tipped her head in a small customary bow—the best assurance she could give right now.

The spoon clinkered against the edge of the now-empty porcelain, and LeBelle set the bowl aside. Her cheerfulness started to return as she gazed up from her seat.

"Ah. Don't forget the maiden who protects me faithfully will earn the Queen's Reward. I look forward to your victory over these troubling heathens."

Her eyes focused on the symbol emblazoned on Ali's Robed waist that identified her household: A stylized fleur de lis with the two outer prongs arching upward and spread out like a hawk's wings, surrounded with a soft pink Valentine heart. LeBelle held her hands tightly against her laced bosom in a short prayer.

Ali was already starting to feel tickled just from the way the queen was gazing at her. She struggled to hide her blush as she smiled back.

"Thank you for trusting me, Mistress. I'll return to you as soon as I can," the Otome vowed in a slightly anxious tone.

An electronic bell dinged over their heads to notify them it was safe to depressurize their cabin. Ali turned away from her queen, and a sudden gust of air rushed through the lodge as she opened an escape door. LeBelle remained on her cushioned seat with her palms folded in her lap and her bright red dress fluttering in the wind.

Ali's right arm shimmered as she summoned her Element: A massive clawed gauntlet equipped with a short-range microwave cannon in the palm. She put her back toward the open sky and faced the queen again, acknowledging her Mistress with a silent final nod. Her face was almost completely veiled by her long billowing hair, but her determined eyes always showed through.

The Otome pivoted backwards on her heels and allowed her nimble weight to send her plummeting out into the bright blue expanse. Her Robe's anti-gravity rings caught her mid-fall once she was several dozen meters away from the ship and propelled her toward the battle in a rapid magenta haze.

"Protect me, Ali," the queen whispered once the door sealed automatically and her Otome could no longer hear her. She tucked her smooth pink nails against her cheek in worry as she gazed through the window. "Heavens, please don't let any of those horrible spears or knives fall on my precious sylph."

Author's note: yeah it's a Code Geass reference. yeah it's explicitly a callback to my old Geass fanfics "Carving an Empire" and "Negotiating an Empire," with a little dash of "Indulge." Interestingly enough, Mai Otome (2005-2006) shares a lot of the same design style Sunrise later used for Code Geass (2006-2008).

Author's note 2: yeah they totally dig each other on a STRONG mutual level. yeah they're doing the Akane / Kazu medieval romance thing again except now they're really coy about it and they're both girls. Got a problem with that?

Author's note 3: yeah LeBelle's insignia is supposed to be a Geass symbol surrounded by a big pink heart. And that totally makes sense in-universe, too, because Akane / The Kazu-kun's insignia looks like an early draft of the Geass symbol surrounded by Ark of the Covenant wings facing each other. Maybe LeBelle is one of the other emperors in the Cardair triumvirate in this timeline, or maybe her country was a Cardair colony before it became independent.

Author's note 4: The idea for this story originally started as an idea for another story featuring a "missing Soir sister" who hangs out in some woods with her very affectionate druid-priestess-Master. The Otome character was going to be literal Mint Adenade (who is Akane's older sister in the Mai Otome universe somehow, since they have the same VA) and the green-haired very plant-themed druid-priestess-Master was going to be an obvious stand-in for Martel. And just like Ali and LeBelle in this fanfic, it was heavily implied there was something sultry going on between those two.

Author's note 5: I'm all broken up about that man's rights.