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Tacea / Re: caught between love and duty
« Last post by Ryuuen Kirijo on Nov 16, 19, 01:41:27 AM »
There were moments that Ryuuen wished that Ureshi-sa was not where it was. That it instead called Kamuzawa to the south home instead of Tokaido. Yet the Flower District of Ito was where Ureshi-sa had been born, long before he had become Otou-san, and it was where it would stay long after him (as he had faith in his sons that it would continue as it had for so many generations of Ureshi-sa geisha).

Ryuuen had left the festivities at an appropriate time, allowing for visits with certain Queens (and a visit with his dragon's bud). Were he honest--and he was--his lingering was in part to prepare himself for what would be a talk of another delay of their well-deserved retirement. (It did not cross his mind that Yumi would not accept Zhihao's offer or turn him away.)

Oh, it'd never be true retirement for either of them. Ryuuen had his geisha, Zhihao had his moths; neither one of them knew what hobbies were outside of the lives they had carved for themselves. Lives that were intrinsically tied to one another for all that the world was none the wiser.

It was not heartache he realized, not as he would describe it, but it did leave him with a certain level of melancholy. There was, he had realized on the way home, more than just a small part of him that wished to truly align himself with the Kagen Court but--

A breath was released.

The time was not right and, despite the attack, Yumi was now protected by two of three individuals that would protect her like no other. That, in the end, was why he knew he would greet Zhihao as he always did: with no doubts, no worries, only the love he felt for his beloved.

Ryuuen had been fine, tucked away in their private parlor, to wrap his arms around his lover and then sit with him. It all fell away as they sat down, his grip tightening and then relaxing. The tell was old and familiar as something dislodged with those last few words.

"It will," admitted Ryuuen, "but we will endure as we always have, my heart." His hand rose to cup Zhihao's face, to trace the line of his cheek with his thumb, to kiss the place that his thumb touched. "There is no misery I would not endure for all the moments we have had and all the ones that are to come." Even with the hiding, with all that, they had done to not be found.

The Warlord Prince let out a sigh, pulling off his glasses and setting them aside. It was all so he could press his face to Zhihao's hair, to bask in his presence and scent. "Forgive me," his voice was not truly muffled, close as it was to the Prince's ear, "I was trying to not be too sentimental and it seems I have anyway."
Tacea / Re: they think themselves patterns
« Last post by Zhihao An on Nov 16, 19, 01:14:15 AM »
Zhihao nodded, nonjudgmental, as though the conversation were the most normal thing in the world. He too had turned towards the cityscape and the mountain beyond, averting his gaze to allow Eiji some privacy in the midst of an embarrassingly frank discussion. The rising smoke was a stark reminder that although things were settled at the territory court, the ground beneath their feet was still dangerously unsteady and awaiting Yuki Natsuhana’s return.

So perhaps he’d been wrong about the happy ending earlier. Too optimistic. There was work to do still. There was always work to do.

“Have you spoken to Kei of the discretion you would require from them?” Zhihao asked. “The monasteries are a world removed from our own, more open and accepting. Kei is acting as they were raised, but they may surprise you yet. If they are truly as interested as they have indicated, I would hope for your sake they are also understanding.”

If Eiji had seemed truly unenthusiastic about the attention he was receiving, Zhihao’s advice would have differed significantly - but he felt confident that his read of the situation was correct. Eiji was seeking… reassurance, or else some sort of permission, to pursue something he’d always been warned away from.

“Speaking from longstanding experience,” Zhihao said, his voice lowering somewhat, “It is perfectly possible to balance such a relationship with the demands and expectations of our positions. And it’s certainly more rewarding than being alone. I would like to see that happiness for you, Amamiya-kun.”
Dhemlan / Re: the game plan
« Last post by Modina Palomo on Nov 16, 19, 12:48:09 AM »
Modina expected anger or feelings of betrayal. It was a major secret to keep from her cousin, who was like a sister to her. She wouldn’t have blamed her Joana at all for feeling slighted or worse. She sat there in the wake of her revelation, waiting to learn her cousin’s reaction to the news she placed in her lap.

Joana hugged her and justified every bit of Modina’s faith.

She hugged Joana tight, a single tear rolling down her cheek. She felt Miguel’s hand on her shoulder. Surrounded by family, Modina felt stronger already. She felt better about the idea of returning to Dena Nehele to see Serena. They hugged for a long moment before Joanna released her and offered encouragement. Miguel offered her a handkerchief. Modina dabbed at her eyes, laughing between the tears. She’d imagined this conversation going very differently several times before now.

She was glad that her cousin and her brother were so forgiving.

Thank you.” Modina whispered.

It took a moment for her to trust herself to speak again. “She should know you, Joana. I was supposed to go last year and perform her Offering, but everything got hectic and I knew that you needed me. I’m afraid that the family will look poorly on her because of her father’s blood, but…” Modina looked to Miguel. He said nothing, but simply held her hand. He wasn’t happy about Modina’s daughter, either. Not at first.

No, I’ve nothing else. I’ll be leaving as soon as possible to go and see her. She’s been raised by the Queen of Dena Nehele most of her life, so I do have an uphill battle. But...will you be able to manage the election without me for a few weeks? The debates are coming and I won’t leave you high-and-dry.” Modina said. She fairly vibrated with excitement.

She was going to see her daughter soon. There was so much to prepare and do before she could go.
Dhemlan / Re: Life goes on and on
« Last post by Consuella Chavez on Nov 16, 19, 12:46:43 AM »
Being who he was, the Professor-and-Captain called a higher Price from himself than Consuella had set. Her intent to not allow him to punish himself was entirely overset by the sensitively and perfection of his idea of scholarships for three of her most brilliant and impoverished students. She murmured her agreement, but he was far to distracting for her to even recall the name of one of her students, let alone select three that met his criteria right at that moment. Her pulse literally skipped a beat when he assured her she might ease his concerns simply with a companion who was accomplished in combat Shielding. Another scholarly Priestess or dear Adalita would suit her better than an escort who wouldn’t understand half of what she said or did. Was it possible that her dearest friend (who just happened to be a Court Trained Black Widow) had shielded her from risks she’d never known existed? His understanding touched her deeply, and she murmured softly, “Gervasio, I will keep a lady with me when the public is near, I promise.”

Gervasio gifted her with the gentlest of kisses, feather soft and sweet as wine. It took her several long seconds to focus upon his words, especially as he so chose to reveal her feet and gently massage away her pains. She’d worked hard on the Exhibit, and her feet were indeed sore, with two tiny blisters forming upon her left pinky toe from having walked into an exhibit once whilst her mind was wandering. He lulled her into an easy relaxation whilst she thought about terms. All such considerations were utterly lost when he drew close and she could at last nibble upon his lips and feast upon his breath. He encouraged her to take the lead in the slow, sensual exploration of his lips, and she delighted in doing so.

Logic, indeed, had no place just then. Her heart soared within her, and she trembled with overwhelming emotion. Fire burned in her veins, as this powerful, incredible man took such pains to leash himself so that she might explore him safely. Her breath caught, as he lifted her hands to his cravat. A delighted laugh puffed against his lips, as her fingers slid over and through his cravat, carefully revealing the hidden glory of his neck. The need to breathe forced her to release the kiss, his words slowing the work of her fingers. She thought carefully and deeply over what he had said, trying to untangle what she wanted from the powerful impulse to simply give him what he needed. He didn’t need that; he needed her to know herself well enough to trust that she’d be happy, too, even if his possessive and controlling nature were allowed more freedom than he typically allowed.

Fingers traced gently over his cheeks, an aching, wistful sorrow in Consuella’s chest fighting her ability to speak. “Permanence, sweet prince? Marriage? Consort? I have been told and told that Warlord Princes did not seek such stability. But you are a law unto yourself, are you not?” Silence followed, whilst she tried to work through her needs. Her needs were simple; her family, her work and the Darkness. What she wanted was more complex, by far.

“I have dreamt of a man like you; one of will and intellect and strength. A partner I can share my studies and joys with, whom can discourse meaningfully upon philosophy, religion, love, history, art, music. Such a rare find! Of course I want to keep you for myself. Yet I have always avoided drama, and have a poor record with relationships.” she said sadly.

“Men can get so upset, when I vanish into the Temple for days at a time, or forget their birthday or an anniversary! Jealous, over nothing. But then ... there aren’t many people who can hold my focus for more than a few minutes at a time. I just don’t want you to be hurt that way.”

“I do not currently have any lovers. I am not much for drama and hysterics, and have never tried to handle more than one at a time. I am aware that Warlord Princes are almost never asked to be exclusive, but that they do better if their lady gives up her right to multiple partners?”

“Did I answer your questions? Do you need to know more?”
Dhemlan / Re: the game plan
« Last post by Joana Palomo on Nov 16, 19, 12:13:19 AM »
Joana held her breath as Modina circled the subject and finally...

She's my daughter.

Jo leaned forward, then decided that was not enough and moved to wrap her arms around her cousin in a gentle embrace.

"No apology needed, sweet cousin. You are allowed your privacy and your secrets. If you kept this from me, I must believe it was because your heart was not ready to share it. But you have now, and clearly want my blessing to bring her home. Do so, Modina. Do not let the pain your mind and soul gave you then stop you from knowing her now. Yes, she is grown and yes, you might have an uphill battle to go, but every battle we've ever fought has been against great odds," Joana pulled back so she could tilt Modina's head up to her and meet her eyes, "yet every battle has also been won. I have every confidence that in time, she will see you for the amazing woman you are. If there is any support you need from me, anything at all, it is yours, Dina."

Joana bent to press a kiss to Modina's forehead. "If she is one tenth of the woman you are, I would be delighted to have her here, to teach her all there is to love about Ilbeda, and to win my own up-hill battle to the throne of Dhemlan, knowing that I will leave Ilbeda, the land I love, to family."

With one more gentle squeeze, Joana sat back down and looked at Modina with a sad smile. "I do remember how you were then. I worried for you so much and I so hope that some of that pain  and the scars it left on your soul, might begin to truly heal. Is there anything else you would like to discuss tonight, before we both depart on our own journeys to make our Territory, Province, and Family, whole and thriving once more?"[/b[
Dena Nehele / Re: Luyse Arevi, the light of the sun
« Last post by Gabriel Silvarin on Nov 15, 19, 11:59:45 PM »
Gabriel tried his best to push past his anxieties and listen to Tamara the way she had for him. It helped that her hands in his held tight, grounding him to the here and now and not... the past that he could never allow himself to forget, yet wished more than anything not to remember so vividly.

She didn't stop there. Tamarian's assurance that she would not reply to her mother or schedule a meeting without Gabe's go-ahead allowed his shoulders to relax a little, the edge of panic and violence muting to simple anxiety. He took a long, shaking breath and then another, followed by a long sip of wine as he struggled to get himself under control for her sake as much as his own. She was his partner and the mother of his child. More than anyone - in some ways even more than his Queens - she deserved the best of him.

So when she asked him to look at her, he did. His green eyes met her golden ones and as her words sank in, he found himself capable of replying. "Askavi might have been the aggressors, but that doesn't forgive the atrocities I committed. I know how to kill clean... and I didn't. If I do not hold myself accountable for that, Tammy, I will become that monster again, and that is not the  role model I want for our son. But thank you, not just for this but for all the support and trust you've shown me over the years. It means... It means the world to me, Tamarian."

He took another sip of wine, then nearly spit it out as her tongue slipped on children. A quick probe of her scent confirmed that it had just bit a mispoken word, but after the momentary shock cleared enough for him to think back and realize that first, he had not seen her for months, and second, she had just used Craft earlier, his eyes did begin to twinkle. "That time of decade again? Lemme guess, every time you pass an adorable baby you want to squeeze it and maybe steal it?"

It was hard not to miss those early days, when Sam had been a sweet, angelic, chubby-cheeked baby who never pouted, or ran off with girls, or threatened Gabriel with a kitchen knife for daring to institute rules.

his levity, though, faded as Tamara seemed to make a decision and began to speak of a past that was definitely one of the subjects they didn't talk about.

By the end of it, his grip on her hand was just shy of bruising. "You're right, we should have talked about this before." He had not even realized she grew up in that blasted Territory, just that her ancestry included Eyrien blood. That she had, and still had ties there, however distant, made his chest ache.

"My uncle is there now, you know. He's Hayllian and every day I'm convinced I'm going to receive a letter from my Queen telling me that he's dead and she needs help. Even though they've told me that they're safe and it's been nine months now, I still just can't rest easy. I don't know that I would be able to watch you take our son there... but if they were willing to meet on neutral ground and you let me be an overprotective asshole and wrap you both up in about a hundred Gray shields... I won't deny you or him a chance to see them."

And Darkness help him if something happened to either Tamara or Samuel, because all of Askavi would pay if it did.

Moments after she asked if he had ordered, their meal arrived, answering her question. Fresh, brown bread heavy with seeds and nuts, herbed butter, and charcuterie for a starter. Chicken in a creamy, mushroom sauce over egg noodles and a fall salad with pears, nuts, and goat cheese for their main course.

The food provided a pleasant distraction for a few minutes, and Gabriel embraced the chance to just relax and watch Tamara enjoy the dishes she did not have to cook. When they had both tasted everything and conversation resumed, Gabriel took a deep breath and brought up something else that was on his mind.

"Speaking of babies, Michael and Elenor's were born a few days ago. I got the news yesterday. Twin girls. Sam officially has cousins; girl cousins, at that. He's going to be insufferable."
Tacea / Re: they think themselves patterns
« Last post by Eiji Amamiya on Nov 15, 19, 11:41:13 PM »
Eiji looked out at the city, because that was easier and more polite than looking at Zhihao. The Ama wandered sluggishly towards the bay of Black Immortal, the mountain's massive, threatening form dominating the horizon. As ever since Hinata no Kagen had stepped down from the throne, white smoke drifted from the caldera of the slumbering volcano. It concealed the sky as if it were nothing more than a cloud, but Eiji imagined that he could smell the rotten egg scent of eruption.

In the face of Black Immortal, his concerns seemed tiny. Yet focusing on Black Immortal instead of his petty concerns would only encourage him to leave the concerns unconfronted and thus unexamined. Dangerous, then, like wielding a new-forged blade in a fight for his life. He could never act on his urges towards Kei, and he could never strangle any eventual lover they might take.

Zhihao's casual mention of struggling with--wait. No, he wasn't struggling. He was familiar, which meant... that he must know them, that he had stepped away from the same thing that tempted Eiji now. It must be, because if he had accepted it, he wouldn't have obtained such a high status in the Territory. Spymaster to the Dragon Queen! Being afraid and acting upon the emotions were two separate things, and surely Zhihao meant that he had simply accepted his deviance, but refrained from acting upon it. That seemed... almost insurmountably difficult.

"I know they were," he said, flushing a deep red. He'd removed his rice powder makeup, but  hopefully the darkness hid his sins. "I... kissed them. In the garden." That admittance brought a sudden shame bubbling up into his throat, and he shook his head. Surely Zhihao would be disgusted by that. It wasn't in service to the role, like when Eiji permitted Kouta to kiss him; he'd done it because he wanted to. And after Zhihao's own admittance, how could Eiji be so weak? "And I shouldn't do anything about them. I'm nowhere near paying my debts and Kei has no sense of discretion, absolutely none. They would destroy my reputation and my career when I need it most and they wouldn't even mean to."
Dena Nehele / Re: Searching for a precedent
« Last post by Jeremiah Mercer on Nov 15, 19, 11:33:45 PM »
They'll both do better for sorting whatever it is that is eating at him in private, replied the Black Widow Warlord Prince to his Queen. Just as she'll let us know if there's something else that he reveals and it's a necessity to be aware of it. It was better, Jeremiah knew, that Sora departed with the Prince before tensions rose any higher. That had more to do with the Prince being nervous (among other things) and Sora becoming that way by proxy than the others in the room (for the moment).

"Go," said Jeremiah, "and we can reconvene tomorrow. Rested minds will provide new insights." A smile was given to Sora, one of understanding and assurance--though it was very, very unneeded (in the sense that he had the utmost faith in her to navigate a new Bond)--as she and the Prince left the room. It was only slightly unnerving that Prince Hisakawa would not meet anyone's eyes. Yet it reminded him all too well of where males were placed within Tacean society.

He held back the snort at Sora deftly removing her male from the room. Mostly due to how it blocked Drake's question off--or seemed to do so, at least. There would always be that uneasy tension between them, some part of the Queen recognizing what could not be known or even remembered.

The other part was that Sora and Prince Hisakawa needed this time to sort out the first few steps they would walk as Queen and her Bonded.

Where better to send the ones they might think are trouble but a place where you are almost certain their life expectancy is to drop by half? came the reply to Drake. It was not a cynical thought but a realistic one. Taceans had not, as a whole, faired well if they were of any importance.

"Riley," said Jeremiah, "it's not all that different than what I used to do when we were in Tulzbruja when dealing with the Aristos." Or even now but that went unsaid. "Being obvious and open about being displeased can sour any communication but a carefully worded barb, hidden behind sweet words?" His finger tapped against the letter absently, glancing at it once more. "It's nothing but playing the ever-growing Game." Just on the level of the Territories of Terreille versus the Aristocracy of Dena Nehele.

"... well, that and they've just got a unique way of phrasing things. Idioms and more that are different than ours." Even flowers sometimes held different meanings, negative for one and positive for another. "She might be Queen of Tacea but she's different than those that have come before. That alone is likely part of why she's sending people." It was smart, very smart, and neatly locked them in, Jeremiah had to admit. "A son of an Izayoi vassal family," though him being literate and educated had to be seen as a flaw, so it was likely a jab as much as Dragons and bears are not the most natural of bedmates, "and a Queen of Shingetsu.

"As Prince Hisakawa said, it serves her to do this. She's newly enthroned as Dragon Mother, she's not of the Four Clans. Anything that she can do that will help secure her rule and send a message is likely what she will do." A sigh escaped. "I don't like what that implies but it does mean, in some ways, that she sees a use for Dena Nehele. We at least have no worries about Prince Hisakawa as he belongs to Sora," the bond Riley so desperately wanted to mention, "that just leaves us with a potentially willful Queen that might even be trouble for us, and a mind healer we know nothing about and could also be a political maneuver on her part."

It was nothing but conjecture, however.

"... not that I particularly think she would send anyone that was a poor choice to come to here as a mind healer." Jeremiah shook his head, tucking a loose strand of hair behind his ear a heartbeat later. Honestly even he wanted to sprawl across his chair but he was being good. (It was just that some aspects of this tied him into knots because while it was not a complete--or even vast; more like he knew particular things--knowledge of Tacea he knew enough to make educated guesses. They weren't all ones he liked.)
Raej / Re: learning to like the taste of crow
« Last post by Rehema Abbasi on Nov 15, 19, 11:08:57 PM »
Kontar had a point. He always saw reason when it came to his sisters. Their combined love for him was the glue that kept them together. Her relationship with Theoris was only strained by those imagined boundaries that each had created. By leaning so far into Masika’s side, she was as much to blame for that divide. Seeing Theoris again was like being reunited with a part of herself that she had lost. For the first time in a long time, the sisters were honest and vulnerable. It had meant everything.

Her life was changing drastically. She could not compare it to the one she lived just weeks ago. Same house, same clinic, same routes, and still it was fuller just by having her family back. Kontar’s visits to her clinic while regular had become a regular occurrence and she had no qualms about dropping everything save for a fatally injured charge to see to him. Even if it meant wasting a half-hour in her office eating salty chips.

“We’ve gone over the fact that I'm usually right.”  She smirked softly at him, but even that softened. Rehema was not one who wore her confidence on her sleeve. Hers was a more subdued spirit. “However Theoris says you visit plenty, just for comped services.”  She arched a teasing brow at him and then chuckled.  “Nailah looks like she has everything, and she does have access to doors none of us could imagine, but she's still our sister and you're still our baby brother. If someone were to harm you she would be the first to burn everything they loved down to ash. “  She might be the second to make sure they stayed down. As quiet as Rehema could be, Kontar was her life and she would protect him and fix every scrape and bruise just as she did when he was a child. “She just needs that reassurance, more than all of us, she wants to know you still need her. I know it.”   Reaching into her plate, she picked out a few choice pieces of beef and slid them into his. The vegetables were tender and she was content with eating those in the savory sauce.  Also, picking at her food was a symptom of her anxiety, a way to distract herself from the difficult topics.  “Masika won't let anyone protect her.” She sighed.

“I know that. In my head, I know that. Its just hard when I see her in pain. With Masika it translates to anger, I can see it, I feel it because we share that bond. Sometimes it burns so hotly even I don’t know how to get close. I hate that she has lost her joy, nothing satisfies her anymore and I think that’s why she goes from job to job. Her passion is cooking and she’s so good at it, but I feel like she thinks that because she is Jeweless it isn’t enough. It will never be enough. “ Her small hand folded around her brother’s thumb, catching it gently against her palm.

“What I say next stays between us, please?”  Her large amber eyes stared up at him until she was sure he agreed.  She held so many secrets, too many and Kontar had always helped her navigate her fears. While there were things she could not share with him, not without fracturing their family irrevocably, she knew she could still trust him with at least one secret. “I’m worried Sika is hanging around with a bad crowd. The day she interrupted lunch it was to ask me to see a friend who was injured. She took us to the east side of the city and a sketchy bar. She insisted the man saved her and she owed him and the way to pay him back was for me to help. He was wounded, stabbed in the stomach. I couldn’t get much more out of him. I didn’t go alone before you worry, I demanded Prince Anansi come with us, but even he didn’t like the look of the place. I don’t know what she’s doing, where she is going and stopping short of having her followed I don’t know what I can do.  I feel like I cant…help her, and I fear she’s going to the wrong people for it.”
Dena Nehele / Re: I miss the taste of a sweeter life
« Last post by Irina Groza on Nov 15, 19, 10:42:06 PM »
Dinner was perfection. It was more than the simple fact that he had chosen all of her favorite flavors but that he had done so knowing they were not his own. The wine, for example, was pulled from the vineyard and while he was content with leaving the bottle to her, he had joined her in a meal he knew would mean more to her than some expensive gift. Time.  Time was what Irina truly craved, especially when it sometimes felt as though they were so short of it.

This was especially felt in the last few days. She had expected to return from visiting her dying brother to find Zamfir lost in his ledgers. His study had quickly become his haven, and sometime she could not bring herself to walk through the doors, deciding it best to speak to him from the threshold. The brush of her lips against the pulse of his cheek and she could easily distract him, but sometimes it was nice to be met at the door with dinner and the promise of a getaway.

It felt like she could exhale.

The lamb was tender and the wine the perfect hint of sweet and bitter.  It was the kind that left traces of itself in the back of her throat for several moments. Not easily forgotten like her husband.

A genuine smile teased across her lips as he mentioned going to the vineyard the following weekend. Lionel was welcome, he was family, but she looked forward to some time alone enjoying the crisp air and all their hard-earned blessings. Zamfir should have taken more from Dragos after he marked him, but as he was quick to remind her that business was often dirty. Irina tried to leave him to his work and he preferred it that way as long as he could share his successes with her. Of that there was plenty. He had grown from a humble accountant and into a man whos name circulated circles he was unable to pierce in the past. Pretty, puffy debutantes could no longer snicker under their breath at him, or her for choosing him. Zamfir was meant to be hers from the fated moment their eyes met. He had swept her up and she had challenged him to trust a masked woman. It was the best gamble he ever took.

That smile could still wipe away all her concerns.

“I think that can be arranged. My schedule has suddenly cleared up. Funny how that happens when I find myself with such intriguing opportunities. As for Lionel I'm sure we can find him a comfortable room at the other end of the villa.”    Biting her bottom lip she set down her knife and reached across the table, tucking her hand beneath his.  She was happy, simply content and excited at the prospect of some time away. It was so hard for their schedules to match up and while she knew it would take time away from seeing Valeiru, she knew she also needed the respite from that reality. Zamfir built a new life for them and she fortified its foundations. “That’s a shame.” Her lips pursed, a little disappointed at Melita’s absence. It was not like her to be away for so long. “Please, tell her I miss her as well. If you haven’t already. I will have a care package sent to her, unlike some of the Groza’s she shares my love for some good fermented grapes.”  Plucking her bottom lip with her teeth, she slowly let her fingers trail away from his hand to retake her utensils.  “When did you last speak with her? Did she write?”  She asked, cutting into a chop. "If, something was wrong, you would tell me? I know things have been complicated with Valeiru and Christina. I know I've been caught up in seeing him. It's difficult for me to let go. I just don't want you to feel as though you can't come to me with your concerns. As always we will confront them, together."

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