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* Plot Information for Tacea

Tensions are rising in Tacea after the destruction of their Territory Court at the hands of its Queen. Unable to continue their traditional cycle of succession because of accusations of treason, Tacea must find a Queen capable of uniting the land while building bridges to the world outside its borders.
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Author Topic: For the eyes are never tired of seeing  (Read 186 times)

Description: The banquet after the enthronement; open

Offline Xiong Teng

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For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« on: Sep 30, 19, 03:38:05 AM »
They told her it would be like this.

The faces that look back at Xiong Teng from the floor of the throne hall at the Dragon Palace were not friendly. Perfect masks, powdered white, watched her. Their eyes looked darker than ever beneath shining helms of black hair, despite the swipes of red or blue or green or gold beneath their lower lids. As the new Queen of Tacea left the privacy of the takamikura to stand before the Courts that answered to her name, she wished she were anywhere else.

If she were enthroned as the Queen of the Tang, she would have written an essay on rulership. It would have been published across the land that all the women who served her would know her intention, and act in accordance with it. Not so in the savage mainland, where she would address only the Courts and Queens who served her, and them only with the pre-written words of another woman.

If she were enthroned as the Queen of the Tang, her kimono robe would have been traded out for a hanfu gown, multi-layered and fire-red, embroidered with flowers in gold-picked thread. Her hair, black and glossy and sleek, would have been brushed out and then tied into complex knots and braids, oiled until it shone. Gold and ruby picks would have glinted as she turned her head. Here, today, her hair was long and loose like a bride come to her bridegroom's altar.

If she were enthroned as the Queen of the Tang, she would have made her devotions to the Darkness before all of the observers, that they all would see her give the Mother honor, and know that the Mother blessed her rule. Instead, her devotions were made three days before at the Black Immortal, her hands guided by the High Priestess of the mountain where Mother Night dwelt. The lava had burned her face as she stared into the mountain's caldera, and she had hardly listened to Lady Mori tell her of the glory of the Mother. Her mind ticked away at facts: the thick white smoke. The near-white heat. What was Mother Night's message in this?

Without looking to anyone else for permission or support, she began to recite the memorized speech that all Territory Queens of Tacea recited as they took their throne.

"My sacred and indulgent mother, who is mother of us all, has settled that this divine utensil should devolve upon my humble person. On reflecting, our ancestors have left to posterity their plans; her majesty has laid this duty upon me; and Darkness's throne must not be long vacant.

"I have done violence to my feelings, and shall set aside my heartfelt grief for our people that their Queen was taken from them too soon, that I may obey with reverence the unalterable decree of the blood of Amaterasu. I announce to the Darkness, to the Earth, to my ancestors and your own, and to the Mother of the land and the Mother of the sea and the Mother of the grains, that I am here; that I shall rule obediently in Her name and rise in Her image.

"I seat myself upon the Dragon Throne in the intention that I do honor to it." She seated herself before the Queens of the Four Great Clans in her formal black kimono. Her Mistress of the Guard, a woman of the Ariake, passed a simple wooden scepter into her hands. At her back, a series of pedestals held the sword of Tacea's Dragon Queens, the seals of her new office, and the one Tang thing she was permitted in this ceremony: a clear quartz sculpture of a rising phoenix, no longer than Xiong's small hand.

They had feared that there would be silence after her ascension. There was none. As Xiong's ritual address finished ringing through the hall, the traditional cheers of support shattered the moment of silence, set the pillars of the hall shaking with the force of their support. If the Shingetsu held their rage, then they smothered it behind courtly masks and presented a loyal face before the Dragon Court.

Several hours later, the rituals ended. The ceremonial banquets, one with each Clan Court, were over. Now there was only the celebration of Xiong's ascension, during which any of her subjects could approach her. Her First Sword, a stone-faced young man, stood before her and to the right, vetting each stranger as they approached.

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #1 on: Oct 20, 19, 01:29:31 AM »
Kei had never seen an enthronement before, so that had been tremendously exciting. They understood as much of the intrigue and politics behind Xiong-hime’s ascension as had been made public, and it was interesting but a lot of it seemed to involved people Kei had never heard of before and thus bore no context for. Whatever objections to the new queen remained seemed foolish - her comportment during the ceremony had been enough to win Kei over. She had radiant charisma. They liked her.

They liked her a lot.

But the receiving line at the banquet was long (so long), and if Kei stood in it they were sure to miss the rest of the party. And who were they, anyway? They had no title or affiliation to contextualize themself with just this moment. Even their invitation had been a surprise - although a welcome one, because it meant an opportunity to dress in a beautiful kimono of Ryuki’s selection. Kei looked as fine as any geisha that night and twice as feminine. At first glance, they might even be taken for a single-casted priestess.

Besides the receiving line, there was plenty to do and plenty to drink. Kei cradled their glass of sake as they circled the room, slipping between strangers in search of a friendly face. They’d made friends since taking up their position at the Flower District altar. No doubt some would be here tonight - and even if they did not find anyone familiar, their unique psychic scent was as good a conversation starter as any.

Fortunately, it wasn’t long before they came across Eiji. The geisha was lingering at the edge of the room, eyes cast toward his sworn queen. “Might I distract you a second, Amamiya-kun,” Kei said, curtseying. “Are you enjoying the festivities?”

Offline Eiji Amamiya

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #2 on: Oct 20, 19, 02:31:02 AM »
Eiji was having an awkward evening. No, he was having an awkward month. Atsuko and the Izayoi Clan Court had been in residence in Ito since the week before the sentencing of the Ueda family, where Eiji had seen the mercy that his forewarning had bought his natal family. His father, who he'd never met, was dead by honorable suicide. His mother had been hung for her crimes, along with his older brothers. Natsue sentenced to a silent convent, where she would wear her hair shaved and live her life for Mother Night alone, and Kouta shipped off to the monasteries. All strangers, yet their fates weighed heavily upon his shoulders. By many metrics, he was the one who had sentenced them to their fates.

Motoko's punishment had, perhaps, been the least harsh by some reckonings. Yet, having been present for her corporal punishment, seeing his sister so humiliated, he wasn't sure that he agreed. She would have to live with her shame every day, rather than escaping it to the release of death or the anonymity of the convents. Yes, Motoko stood behind Xiong's shoulder, beautifully clad and made up, in a place of honor--the Azure Handmaiden, one of the most powerful women in the Territory in name--but he could still hear her cries as the whip cracked against her back. He couldn't reach out to her then to offer her support, and he couldn't do it now, and he couldn't forget that this Queen had harmed something that was his to own. That Atsuko, the Queen he protected, had taken pleasure in seeing Motoko degraded.

He hated them both.

No geisha of Amamiya House was a poor actor, though, and so he only wore an expression of polite disinterest. THe'd lifted his voice and shouted banzai! with the rest of them, as if he weren't turning over the possibility of slitting Atsuko no Izayoi's throat right there. He wore the gold eye-paint of the Izayoi Clan and pretended to be one of them, but Motoko was his. The Clan allowed her, no, wanted her to come to harm--

There had been plenty of alcohol. That probably helped with the dissociating.

He turned his gaze to the Priest Warlord at his side, and had he not seen Kei among the crowd (and been practically dissociated already) he would've startled badly. As it was, he wrenched his mind away from bloody thoughts and smiled at the Dark-Jeweled male next to him. "How could one fail to enjoy Tacea's rebirth?" He nodded towards the banner with Xiong's personal symbol on it: not a peony, as many had expected from a Queen who was so clearly Tang, but a phoenix to match the dragon of her office.

Atsuko was safe enough, so Eiji allowed himself to be lured some few feet away. "And you, Kei-san?" It was a polite form of address, indicative of the fact that Eiji still didn't know what form of address was appropriate for the Priest Warlord at his side. "I'd heard the Sisterhood had been invited. How do you like this sort of event?"

They did look enchanting. Their kimono glittered faintly with beading and thread-of-gold, teasing out delicate patterns of dragons, clouds, and flowers, picked out in deep green. It clearly began its life as a geisha's kimono, but the golden obi with its complex butterfly tie suggested an unmarried woman, as did the trailing sleeves. Kei's hair twisted fetchingly out of their face, clipped there by floral pins he knew he'd seen in the hair of a Ureshi-sa half-jewel some years back. Someone had gone to some pains to ensure Kei fit in; perhaps the Priestess of the Altar where they served. In comparison, Eiji's formal black and demure makeup (aside from his reddened lips and gold-painted, black-lined eyelids) called attention to his role as subservient.

A flush rose to his cheeks, and he looked away.

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #3 on: Oct 20, 19, 05:20:00 PM »
It was not lost on Kei that Eiji was blushing - the geisha’s powder was not so thick as to hide the pink of his cheeks. He turned, and Kei took it as an invitation to step closer, moving with his line of sight. “Oh, yes,” they said. “I’m enjoying it immensely. I’ve never been to an enthronement before.”

Obviously, though there had been an unusual lot of them in the last decade. Tacea seemed to be having trouble holding onto a Queen. Hopefully this would be the last transfer of power for a long while. Kei thought again of how radiantly likeable Xiong Teng was, even from just across the room. They hoped her reign was long and fruitful.

“I’m not sure that’s an answer, Amamiya-kun,”  they said, tapping a lacquered fingernail to their pursed, painted lips. Kei was being coquettish, sure,  but they liked Eiji and wanted so desperately to be liked in return. How much more obvious need they be? They were beautiful tonight. Ryuki had helped make sure of it. And they knew…

They knew.

“I asked about you,” Kei said, “Not one, though I understand the discretion your position requires. Perhaps we should continue this discussion someplace more private…?” Maybe, they hoped, Eiji would loosen up away from the prying eyes of the court.

They took Eiji’s arm in their own as they walked. “Please,” Kei said, inclining their head towards the now-scarlet geisha.”Call me Kei-chan. We’re friends, after all.”

Offline Eiji Amamiya

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #4 on: Oct 20, 19, 11:17:37 PM »
It was not Eiji's first enthronement, though he rather wished it was. He had been in attendance at the banquets for Yuki Natsuhana and Ishiyo no Izayoi, both times as an escort to an Izayoi witch. Well, he supposed this made his third out of three--though the earlier two had been more because he'd come just outside of the running for the Daggers. Xiong Teng had not, as yet, held the tournament that would select the seven geisha that would serve at her side, though her Court was otherwise complete. It made the leadership of Amamiya House quite antsy, and in fact, many of the geisha that Eiji saw and recognized looked similarly concerned. Would this Tang Queen, already a marked break from tradition, destroy one of the greatest honors offered to living males in Tacea? The Tang geisha were... different. They didn't participate in the tournament. Was there a reason why...?

Tied up in his thoughts, he didn't realize Kei was guiding them away from the crush of the party until it was too late to politely disengage. Atsuko was escorted by her Sword, and technically speaking, Eiji was simply a spare limb--useless unless required--so it didn't much matter, but it still rubbed him wrong to have been caught up in his concern for his students and fellows to the point where he let someone lead him away from his charge. "It would be inappropriate," he said. "I... it's very presumptuous. To address another man that way." Why did this Priest Warlord want so badly to be close to him? Perhaps it was a test sent from Mother Night. She wanted to know if Eiji could obey the precepts that governed the Tacean society that lived so near to her feet. (But of course he wasn't interested in Kei that way. Kei was a male, and that was... abhorrent.)

"I'm glad you're enjoying the banquet," said Eiji's mouth, inanely, as it ran away from his brain. "You looked radiant. Your smile was so bright."

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #5 on: Oct 20, 19, 11:47:03 PM »
“I’m not a man,” Kei said, resting a hand gently on Eiji’s forearm at the geisha’s protestation. They were prepared to repeat the point as many times as they needed before it sank in. “And it would not be presumptuous, because it is what I have asked you to do. Please. Call me Kei-chan.”

They had come to a courtyard, a little conversation garden meant for playing board games on long summer afternoons or for scheming advisors to meet in. Kei took a seat upon a stone bench, long sleeves of their kimono arranged carefully to either side of them. They flashed Eiji that same radiant smile he’d just complimented. “Thank you,” they said. “We didn’t have anything like this at the monastery. Holidays and feast days, but not…”

They gestured to the robe they wore, the glittering threads. “I’ve never worn such finery before, and I was allowed more vanity than most. Please. Join me.”

Eiji did, for all that he seemed conflicted about the interaction. Kei thought they understood what was happening - the Warlord Prince liked them, but he felt constrained by the mores of secular Tacea.

Well. Kei could lead him to enlightenment.

They took a scoot closer to Eiji, so that their shoulders grazed each other. They inched a foot over, hooking it ever so slightly behind Eiji’s ankle - testing. What would Eiji allow? Would he be provoked to violence? Or would desire win out?

“I was so glad to see you here, Amamiya-kun,” Kei said. “A friend in the crowd.”

Though they were certain their body language projected a desire to be more than friends. They were not being subtle, in hopes that the obviousness might embolden their companion.

Offline Sakura no Shingetsu

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #6 on: Oct 21, 19, 12:40:28 AM »
Sakura no Shingetsu kept her face studiously impassive as the enthronement of the Barbarian Queen commenced. She saw the eyebrows rise, heard the whispers of others beneath their fans. Many thought, or perhaps hoped, that she would not attend. Others thought she would make a scene or offer some manner of polite-yet-veiled insult to the new Dragon Mother. They wanted the Shingetsu to be the villains of the dramas that they’d created in their minds, to earn the wrath of the Dragon Mother by through direct slander and thereby ensure their destruction. The very idea made Sakura’s heart burn with rage. In time, that flame would burn Tacea to ashes.

Today, the Sapphire Queen trapped it close to her core and played the part of the loyal ally to the throne. The enthronement of the new Dragon Queen would pass without rancor from Clan Shingetsu.

She did not look for Motoko, nor did she look at her once she located her. She-Who-Was-Once-Family no longer existed. She belonged to the Territory Court now. She missed Motoko dearly. She had few people with whom she could truly share the burdens of rulership as a Dark Jeweled Queen. Sakura worked more and more lately, her mother acting as her closest confidant. Sakura wished that things had not changed, but those were childish thoughts, so she put them away.

The rituals finally ended, hastening the time at which she could leave and return to Fukuoka. She had much work to attend to and rites for the next season to plan. She also needed to address the seat vacated by Motoko’s absence. The leading candidate was her mother’s sister, who had proven herself a steady-hand elsewhere. She needed to secure the loyalty of the rest of the clan and this seemed the best way. But all of that could occur once she returned home.

For now, she endured the remainder of the ceremony and waited for others seeking the Dragon Queen’s favor to present themselves to her.

Offline Eiji Amamiya

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #7 on: Oct 21, 19, 12:48:07 AM »
Eiji didn't know how to explain his resistance to calling Kei Kei-chan, since his polite deferment had been rejected. It was about more than just the familiarity, it was also about the secular significance of calling a male -chan once they were in adult robes. It was degrading. Or, perhaps degrading was the wrong word. It was belittling. Kei-chan implied that Eiji saw Kei as a child, and Eiji was far too interested in Kei as an adult to be comfortable with that. And he hated himself for being interested in Kei that way anyway, so maybe using the more childish affectation would be helpful, rather than a hindrance!

"It echoes your Caste," said Eiji, sitting near Kei without trying to seem like he was eager to sit near them. He was eager for it: eager to press close enough to bury his face in the juncture of their throat and their shoulder, as if they were a Queen and not a Priest Warlord. He could smell them even here, a spicy-sweet psychic scent, alluring in its Darkness and confusing in its half-femininity. Without meaning to, he'd settled himself in such a way as he was turned towards Kei, better to look at them; when their foot brushed his, he startled, leaning away.

Rather than responding to the oblique flirt--even drunk, even in a private place in a garden, he could recognize an attempt to flirt--Eiji forced his attention back to the symbolism of the kimono. "Green's a Shingetsu color, but it also is favored by Priestesses. When they're not wearing black, that is, black being the formal color, but whoever picked the kimono for you--did you know they'd dressed you like, um." He didn't usually stutter like this! "Like a maiden. Like you haven't yet performed your Virgin Night."

Fuck! No, that was a bad topic, because now he was picturing it. Wrong. No. "It's, um, the sleeves and the butterfly-bow in your obi," he said. "If you wanted to know for next time you attend something formal like this."

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #8 on: Oct 21, 19, 01:46:28 AM »
Kei’s eyebrows lifted towards their hairline - Ryuki had said the getup would get Eiji’s attention, but hadn’t explained the intricacies of why. “Did he really?” they asked, sounding faintly scandalized. Virgin nights were not, strictly speaking, a thing at the monastery, due to the lack of women - but the conclusion drawn was all too obvious: advertising virginity put sex on everyone’s minds.

“Oh,” Kei laughed melodically. “That’s not right at all.”

They lifted a hand, watching their sleeve trail behind it, the fabric catching the light just so. “I do like the shape of it, though,” they said. “And I’m not a woman, either, so I don’t suppose the signaling much matters… Thank you, though. I’ll need to have words with my fashion advisor.”

Specifically to thank him.

They turned their head towards Eiji, studying his face - the flush across his cheeks, the conflicted mix of emotions playing out in his eyes. Slowly, deliberately, Kei slid their foot to the other side of Eiji’s ankle and noted with pleasure how Eiji sharply inhaled but didn’t look away.

Feeling emboldened, Kei raised a hand to Eiji’s jaw, and he didn’t draw back from that, either, so Kei leaned in and pressed a kiss to his lips, one that started chaste but certainly didn’t remain so and went on for, well, they pushed their luck there: Eiji was kissing back, and Kei didn’t want to stop.

(They hadn’t realized how desperately starved for affection they’d been since leaving home until right. that. second.)

Offline Haruka Shirogane

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #9 on: Oct 21, 19, 01:58:46 AM »
So, with the new Queen of Tacea, Haruka had sort of expected to be cut loose. The Territory Guard was a permanent construction, but it had been left to the first Queen that would serve them where the commanders would fall in the Territory hierarchy. And, looking at the options, she'd kind of expected they would be set apart as a separate martial school, given Court recognition but no Court roles. That hadn't happened, like, at all. The Commanders of the Thousand Swords were First Circle, and only answered to the Mistress of the Guard if needs must. Their brief was, essentially, unchanged, which was good, because Haruka hadn't signed on to be a commander under somebody. She'd signed on to keep the peace.

Still, even a First Circle witch owed fealty to her family's banners, theoretically. Even after the public disgrace of the Shingetsu, the Shirogane still followed the family of the Crane, especially since there was now an open place among the most loyal retainers. Haruka's goal didn't really have anything to do with her parents' new goal of ingratiating herself to the new Queen so much as making sure Lady Sakura no Shingetsu knew that Haruka's intentions were honorable and good. The Territory Guard took no sides, but Haruka would make sure that the men and women under her command didn't allow the dishonorable actions of one faction of a large Clan to prejudice their policing of the Territory.

Her uniform was not widely recognized yet, especially not in its dressier formal black, but her face was. Even before her elevation to such heights, the delinquent daughter of the Shirogane had been known to the Shingetsu elites; she had been trained by an Izayoi, crossing a line so old and so deeply-entrenched that her reference to Adachi no Izayoi had been unthinkable. Upon Yuki's enthronement, she had been one of the three women who had entered the tournament to join her Daggers, an honor previously limited only to geisha. She'd committed herself well in that tournament, earning honor to both Clans to whom she owed fealty. It was her hope--a dim, uncertain hope--that perhaps she could begin to bridge the gap between Shingetsu and Izayoi that Teiko Ueda's unwelcome actions had wrenched wide.

That recognition, her history, had won her passage towards the green-clad Shingetsu Queen. "Lady Sakura-hime," said Haruka, pulling on her best geisha-manners and her politest smile. "It's an honor to meet you. I'd like to speak with you a while, if you would do me that further honor."
i have been versed in the reasonings of men
but fate is stronger than anything i have known

Offline Eiji Amamiya

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #10 on: Oct 21, 19, 02:15:10 AM »
What was the point of training for two decades if Eiji was just going to trip over himself the first time he met an attractive... whatever gender Kei was if they weren't a man? "Yes, that's probably best," he started to say, before the earlier comments caught up with his brain and his mind spat out perverse images of Kei tangled in a passionate embrace with some other faceless man. Whatever embarrassment he'd been suffering dwindled beneath the green anger that bloomed beneath his breastbone at the idea of Kei making themself available to someone else in the way that Eiji wanted them. How dare that anonymous male touch something that ought to be Eiji's--

How had he never noticed how beautiful and dark Kei's eyes were? There were two swipes of copper eye-paint along the water-line of their lower lids, picking up motes of light. Their lips were plush, painted an alluring pomegranate-red and perfectly shaped. He shivered and caught his breath at the sensual caress of Kei's foot against his ankle. As if in a dream, he leaned in as Kei caressed his jaw, as Kei met them halfway and kissed him.

It was both like and unlike the kisses that Eiji had shared with patrons or whores; kissing the danna who paid for his company felt vaguely mechanical, and he often puzzled over where to place his gaze, where his hands should rest. It wasn't unpleasurable, but it was discomfortingly cerebral. He'd always told himself that it was because of the transactional nature of the relationship. He was paying or being paid, and he was always concerned that he was getting his money's worth. At the end, he was always left feeling vaguely dirty.

Kei was different. The brush of their tongue along Eiji's lower lip, the faintly alcoholic taste of them as Eiji opened to allow them in, sent something powerfully electric ricocheting down his spine to pool low in his gut. This close, their unique psychic scent was overpowering; it combined intoxicatingly with their... perfume, something headily floral with a musky undertone like ambergris. Closing his eyes and focusing on the soft slide of Kei's mouth against his, the sweetness of their breath, came naturally in a way that sleeping with women didn't. His hands seemed to know where they needed to be, one by Kei's waist and the other at the nape of Kei's neck, fingertips inching beneath the collar of Kei's robe, and this was--

This was wrong.

He opened his eyes and drew back, not violently but sharp, up and across the little alcove in a bare moment. Eiji didn't draw his weapon, because the failure wasn't Kei's and Kei had done nothing wrong, it was Eiji projecting his disgusting perversion upon someone who just didn't know any better. "I... I apologize," he said, offering a hurried bow that was deeper than it ought. "I have to--"

Without anything more, he spun on his heel and retreated from the garden.

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #11 on: Oct 21, 19, 10:58:14 AM »
It was a nice kiss, one that dragged on long enough for both parties to really get into it. It was a kiss that threatened to become dizzying, except Eiji ended it too soon and left Kei breathless and very briefly confused. Eiji did not kiss like a man who did not want to be kissed, but he pulled away and apologized like a man conflicted by his desires.

Watching him go, Kei didn’t think they’d pushed too far, too soon. Boundaries had to be crossed, and some part of Eiji (some not insignificant part) was clearly interested. The rest was reflex, the natural fear of doing something taboo and being reprimanded for it. There was a great deal more on the line for him than for Kei, who was inherently unfit for polite society and always would be.

Kei took a moment to collect themself, adjusting their collar (Eiji was handsy like a man who wanted more, at least) and fixing their makeup with a quick wipe of cosmetic craft. They returned to the banquet a few moments later and scanned the room for Eiji, but he was nowhere to be found.

The abandonment finally struck them then, a sharp pang in their chest, but Kei could hardly blame the Geisha. No, it was secular Tacean culture that was to blame. Society needed enlightening. Kei could help.

This thought squarely in their head, Kei straightened their shoulders and looked for Ryuki. They found their friend across the banquet room, standing at the arm of a young Queen who could only be Lady Yumi no Kagen. She was of a height with her first sword and shared his jewels as well, and their symmetry was pleasing. Kei curtseyed to her, then offered Ryuki a friendly smile and a more masculine nod of the head.

“Lady Kagen, I presume,” they said softly. “You are as lovely a blossom as Ryuki has always said you are. My name is Kei. I serve at the altar in the Flower District. May I join you both for a moment?”