"Here you go, Princess," the Stormtrooper said without even bothering to conceal his derision.
"Why don't you and your cell mate talk about dresses or something?" With that snide remark, the white-clad soldier bodily shoved Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan into the cell aboard the destructive Death Star and marched away.
That she had only been shoved into a well-lit, if sterile room the size of one of her handmaiden's closets was probably a blessing; Leia knew that she could likely expect much worse.
Still, that shove hadn't exactly been light. Leia rubbed her head where it had kissed the metal bench that supposedly served as a cot and groggily remembered something the Stormtrooper had said:
Leia blinked and looked up from her position on the floor. Seated gracefully on the far right end of the bench was a young woman about Leia's own age, with brilliant red hair tied up in loose loops on either side of her head. She wore the most colorful gown Leia had seen outside of her mother's own closets, complete with a squat headdress bursting with unusual blossoms that remarkably made this dull place seem a bit cheerier.
The woman opened her eyes and smiled. "Hello."
Leia found herself frozen for the first time in a long while. How could someone be sitting in the middle of an Imperial prison cell and be so demure, so...graceful? Leia herself was quite tired of the diplomatic act she was supposed to be maintaining for the sake of keeping the Rebel Alliance hidden, just a little bit longer. But if it meant the Alliance would be able to destroy the Death Star...even if she was on it?
"Ah...hello." Leia rose, fumbling slightly with her robes before seating herself beside the red-haired woman. She didn't know what to say next. 'So, what brings you to this part of space?' How ridiculous. Clearly, if the Empire had captured her, she was probably of some importance somewhere, or possessed some information.
Or, Leia realized with the slightest fear, she could be a plant. Perhaps the Empire thought that if Leia wouldn't talk upon capture, she would talk to someone who seemed the furthest removed from the Empire: someone who only looked demure and graceful, but was, in actuality, a greedy, narcisstic, power-hungry girl.
'What am I thinking?' Leia shook her head as if to rid herself of the bizarre thoughts she was having. As an ambassador, she was never allowed presumptions of anyone, especially if it meant gaining a friend against the Empire. No, she had to assume the best of everyone--everyone that wasn't a Stormtrooper or Imperial soldier--and hope that things went for the best. In her experience, Leia found that just believing often made things work out in her favor.
This time around, she wasn't quite so sure, having been brought to this "Death Star" and tossed into a cell like a sack of Corellian potatoes.
"I'm Leia." Believe in the best, but be cautious. Her mother may have instilled hope and faith in her, but her father taught her about being sensible. Leia didn't mention that she was a Princess, or that she was part of the Rebel Alliance. Perhaps her cell mate would be more forthcoming.
"Kakyuu," the red-haired girl said, still staring at the gray wall before her with a smile. It unnerved Leia further, to see someone look so blissfully pleasant at being trapped in a room like this.
Then, another sickening thought occurred to her: what if this girl really was an ordinary prisoner, and the Empire had already subjected her to some form of torture? Was this girl staring so blindly at an empty wall because she simply didn't have the capability to do anything else?
Caution and diplomacy be damned, Leia had to know what she was in for with this girl.
"How'd you end up here in the clutches of the Empire's dogs?" Leia asked, being crystal clear with her hatred.
"My world was destroyed," Kakyuu said after a moment, her eyes becoming unfocused.
Leia swallowed. The Battle Station...was already operational? And here she was, stuck in a cell with no way of warning the Alliance, no way of--
"Not by the Empire," Kakyuu added, glancing at Leia. Kakyuu glanced inquiringly at Leia when her shoulders drooped in relief; if the Empire hadn't destroyed her planet, then maybe the station wasn't operational yet, and there was still a chance that the plans she'd sent would be received and a weakness in the station found.
"By who, then?" Leia found herself asking, genuinely curious. Who but the empire would have the power to destroy an entire world?
Kakyuu was quiet. "My star system is very far away from here," she said slowly, as if contemplating each word before her lips formed them. "Where I am from, there is no Empire, no Imperial army. But...war came to our doorstep one day. Chaos came."
The way Kakyuu said "Chaos" gave Leia pause. She'd said it as if it was a name, as if it was a thing that one could touch and feel--but that was silly. Wasn't it?
"Then...how did the Empire capture you. Why?" Leia bit out. It was true that the Empire would seek to gain control over any star system it could, even the remotest ones with few inhabitants, but what point was there to taking one of those people prisoner on the Empire's own battleship of destruction?
"I am not sure. My memory is...hazy," Kakyuu admitted, shifting her gaze to delicate hands clutched together in her lap. "I remember seeing her--Chaos personified, the bringer of so much death and destruction--and then bright light. Maybe three lights," Kakyuu said, and Leia noticed that Kakyuu was suddenly smiling again, as if she'd made some sort of joke.
"I awoke somewhere, surrounded by those white soldiers. They certainly do not know how to handle a princess."
Leia was about to laughingly agree, except she realized Kakyuu had referred to her as a Princess. How had she known?
"Princess?" Leia asked, feigning confusion. Maybe she was a plant after all, and this whole "destroyed world" story was just that: a story.
"Yes. I am Princess Kakyuu of Kinmoku, ruler of the Tankei Kingdom."
Leia blinked and leaned back in an effort to conceal her surprise. Her cell mate was also a princess? But a princess of a dead world, a world far removed from the Empire's grip?
She was about to ask Kakyuu if she knew just why she was being held prisoner, considering she had no home (if that story was actually true), but suddenly the cell door opened.
No one stood on the other side, and for a moment, Leia wondered if Vader was about to make some dramatic entrance, black cape flowing behind him. But several moments passed and no one--not Vader nor a Stormtrooper--entered the room.
But to Leia's great astonishment, a small child with bright magenta hair formed in the shape of hearts atop her head (which Leia wasn't that surprised by; her own mother had some pretty ornate hairstyles) poked her head into the room, and then entered fully.
"Chibi?" The child looked from Kakyuu to Leia and back again.
Kakyuu smiled and rose to her feet. "I believe this is the sign I have been praying for."
"Sign?" Leia questioned, remaining seated even though the open door presented a very tempting escape for her. It was entirely possible that this was another trap and...besides, even if it wasn't, how was she to escape from the Death Star? The plans hadn't exactly been programmed into her memory, and even if she found a hiding place, she likely wouldn't remain hidden for long, not surrounded by Imperial soldiers.
"When you were brought here, I was praying. It seems now that my prayers have been answered and I can resume my journey."
Her prayers, answered by a little girl carrying...what was that, an incense burner?
"Where are you going?" Leia asked, concerned if only because her fellow princess had told her that her world was dead--destroyed by a force possibly comparable to that of the Empire itself. It was a frightening thought, indeed.
"I seek the Light of Hope," Kakyuu said. "The one who can defeat Shadow Galactica."
Leia wanted to know more about this new enemy--was it related to the female Chaos Kakyuu had mentioned earlier?--but again, the small child interrupted, tugging urgently on Kakyuu's arm and urging hertoward the open door while clutching onto the incense burner with her other hand.
Kakyuu smiled fondly down at the child, as if they were somehow communicating with one another in some wordless language, through their bright eyes and hopeful, tentative smiles.
"I must go, Leia." Kakyuu allowed herself to be tugged out of the room, and Leia remained seated, sure that any moment, she would hear blaster fire. But she couldn't move--quite literally, it felt as though an enormous weight were pressing into her lap, urging her not to move. Leia fought the bile that crept up her throat, telling her that any moment there would be blaster fire and the thud of two bodies hitting the floor...
But the sound never came.
The weight seemed to decrease, and Leia sprung to her feet as soon as she was able, about to cross the tiny distance to the still-open door when the little girl reappeared, her heart-shaped buns popping into Leia's line of sight from the side of the doorway.
"Everything...okay!" the girl said haltingly. Leia wasn't sure if it was because she didn't know her language or something else, but she couldn't help but smile. "Will be okay!" she said, this time nodding in affirmative.
Leia nodded back slowly, somehow understanding what this child was trying to say.
"Believe!" the little girl said, as if hearing Leia's own thoughts. Then she scrambled forward and took Leia's hands in her own.
"Hope! New hope!" And then the little girl dropped Leia's hands and scrambled out of the room as quickly as she'd come, the doors abruptly shutting as the last of her magenta hair tendrils disappearing from sight.
Leia sighed. Well, at least one star system's princess had escaped destruction at the hands of the Empire. Somehow, Leia knew this: Kakyuu hadn't disappeared into some chute somewhere, or managed to bribe an Imperial soldier for secret passage aboard a cruiser. No, she was gone now, off to seek that 'Light of Hope' of hers and set things right.
Even Leia didn't know how, but she believed it would happen. She had to, because if a demure, gentle princess could face the destruction of her world and keep going, then Leia Organa could withstand whatever the Empire threw at her. And whether she died because of it or not, at least the Rebels--and the rest of the galaxy, by extension--now stood a fighting chance because of her.
Vader could strut about his fancy destructive station all he wanted.
Leia had hope.