The naked pair gazed at each other with a mood relief and satisfaction, which abruptly diminished the moment Malaykah stepped out of the water. Though her face returned to the youthful maiden, everything else about her transformation startled Alëxios. Her hair was now colored mahogany and hung low to her feet in four parted long braids. Her body caused the most alarm, with a voluptuous bosom and swollen belly. Nevertheless, she had the appearance of a healthy young woman in her ninth month of pregnancy.
The revelation of Malaykah’s condition was a complete surprise to them both. She frowned in disappointment at Alëxios as he remained in the lake speechless. They had not mentioned their agreement with The Moon during their entire stay in the human realm. The cherished moments of their blissful marriage, coupled with her ongoing illnesses, kept the conversation far removed from either of their thoughts.
As Malaykah stood in the moonlight, a shooting star passed overhead. Alëxios snapped out of his trance, only to realize his wife was displeased with his demeanor. He climbed out of the lake and stood beside her. There was no breeze, so they felt no need to cover themselves. He caressed her cheek but still did not speak. Malaykah read his mind to find the source of his soured expression.
“I know this is scary, but we’re in this together,” she said.
Alëxios did not want to reveal his emotions to The Moon, so he relayed his thoughts to Malaykah.
“In truth, I have never felt fearful of the unknown. I have no way to determine how well things will turn out. I never imagined myself as a father; it did not seem possible for me. The life I have led is not exactly the best role model for anyone’s offspring.”
Malaykah took him by the arm and leaned her head on his shoulder.
“It’s natural for anyone to be anxious about becoming a parent. Truthfully, the fears never really go away. The trick is to learn how to manage your anxieties. Given your specific circumstances, it’s no wonder you’re terrified. First, your father was assassinated before you were born, and you watched your mother commit suicide. Then, your grand-uncle abducted, rejected, and abused you. Not to mention, you were exploited by the Phëläniciän Sea Pirates. You experienced all of that at a tender young age, and it shaped your perception of the world. I see all of your wounds but also all your strengths. Having been with you for a good portion of my life, I can honestly say it has been the best portion of my life. You protect your loved ones, you’re open-handed, and most importantly, you have integrity,” she thought back to him.
Alëxios was moved to tears by Malaykah’s compliments.
“I learned how to use all those powers because of you. Your abundant acceptance of me was the jolt I needed to change my ways. I wanted to earn the right to be by your side. Though I still have a long way to go, I am pleased to continue this journey with you,” he said aloud.
Malaykah grinned and replied, “See, there. Now I know our children will grow up just fine.”
Suddenly, Byakko and Meikko flew down on the lake with Künsey. They brought golden robes for the king and queen to wear. Before they returned to the palace, Meikko was instructed to use caution during flight. Künsey insisted on riding with Malaykah, as Alëxios and Byakko flew on either side to protect the pregnant queen.
The Phëläniciäns organized an extravagant celebration to commemorate the special occasion. Malaykah’s ladies waited alongside Lady Rüvym and her guards. Once the party landed, everyone stood in awe of Queen Malaykah. She looked every bit of her ancestor, the goddess Oshun. Her face radiated a light that made The Moon pale in comparison. There were no murmurs or whispers from the crowd, as they feared wrath from Alëxios.
Lady Rüvym gushed at her grandchildren and took the opportunity to fawn over Malaykah’s round belly.
“Tonight is a joyous event for the kingdom of Phëläniciä, which will be inscribed in the Sacred Scrolls. Queen Malaykah has returned to us as the fertile mother of a divine nation. This evening shall mark the countdown for the birth of their heir to the throne. Our kind shall forever be known as the dominant race within the realm. Challenge as our sworn enemies may, King Alëxios will cut them down to defend his family and legacy,” Lady Rüvym boasted.
Alëxios clasped her hand in his, and they walked to the dining room. When they made their grand entrance, the entire room erupted in applause. Lady Rüvym led the way to their table. No one was surprised to see The Jade Rabbit, ‘Yù tù,’ seated at the end of the row. The shooting star from earlier could not have been anything other than another deity.
“Greetings, Mighty King Alëxios and Beautiful Queen Malaykah. I have come to bring good tidings from The Moon. She declared to me that motherhood suits the daughter of Oshun,” ‘Yù tù’ said with a tilted wine vial.
Everyone in the dining room saluted Malaykah with a toast.
Alëxios glared at ‘Yù tù’ with suspicion.
“I take it The Moon was aware that Malaykah would return to the realm on this very night,” he said.
The Jade Rabbit slightly choked on his slurp of wine.
“Indeed. This was all planned by The Ultimate Creator, Chrëst. It was the will of the realm creator to make Malaykah stay here long enough to hear The Moon’s proposal. Then she was purposefully kept away from the realm until the appointed time of childbirth, which is nearly upon us,’ he answered.
“I don’t understand. Why was I kept out of the realm until now?” Malaykah asked.
“It was done for your protection and to ensure my nemesis would not terminate your pregnancy,” Alëxios interjected painfully.
~Ch. 30, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~