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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 835 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?”

Offline Ryuki Kirijo

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #12 on: Oct 24, 19, 01:45:35 AM »
When he took the role of Sword to Yumi's Queen, Ryuki hadn't expected to have to run off Yumi's own Court members. Prince Ii was a good Warlord Prince from a good family, Dark-Jeweled, all the things that a Queen of the Kagen should want in a lover, but he wasn't the one Yumi loved. Her heart already belonged to someone else, and an enthronement banquet (the fourth banquet for Xiong Teng's enthronement that he had attended that week) was no place to hash that out. After Prince Ii was seen off on his way back to his family, it'd been Lord Nakano, Yumi's First Escort, who really wasn't worthy of the name. Now they were left in peace, except for the occasional visitor who wanted to offer the radiant flower of the Kagen their pretty words and delicate compliments. Those delighted Yumi, and a few of them were paying court upon her when Kei re-entered the ballroom and headed their way.

Ryuki thought he'd done a great work in dressing Kei like he had. They looked like a Priestess, like an ingenue, like a half-Jewel seeking their first patron--available, but tastefully so. No one would be scandalized by Kei's clothes... at least, not more than the fact that they were wearing them, that they were a putative male with the caste of a woman. As they approached, the other attendees started and flitted off, like fish darting away from a diver. They ought to, thought Ryuki smugly. Kei was radiant, too.

"A priestess so familiar with flowers must know one when they see one," said Yumi, without missing a beat. Ryuki could tell by the crinkling of her eyes that she was pleased by Kei's compliment; she had dipped directly into utilizing feminine forms without missing a beat, and her gesture to one of the cushions at her side was easy and delicate. The casual acceptance of a Priest Warlord by the Queen who ruled the Kagen would be an interesting message to watch as it filtered across the floor, he thought, but it wasn't one that he could be responsible for. "Pardon me if my question is rude--" a command, not a request, and phrased like one "--but is your courtesy title Lord Kei or Lady Kei, honored priestess?"

He didn't see any of his uncle's moths flitting about the many Jeweled flames of this gathering, but he did see his uncle. *Are you watching,* he asked, knowing Zhihao was. *Perhaps the reaction of the Steward might be instructive, Uncle?*

Once the formalities were settled, Ryuki turned his attention back to Kei. "Did I see you with Prince Amamiya, Kei-chan? He looked quite taken with you." With a briefly raised hand, he called up an aural shield. It was a mere courtesy, informing those around them that a private conversation was occurring and that the Kagen Queen oughtn't be approached. Let the Steward and those fusty old bitches think on that!

Ryuki uses masculine pronouns as Ryuki//Ryuki uses feminine pronouns as Futaba

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #13 on: Oct 24, 19, 10:50:57 AM »
Kei was uncertain what sort of reception they’d been expecting. They had incredibly limited experience in interacting with Queens, and none to speak of outside the confines of the monastery, where their peculiarities were tolerated by virtue of the space they occupied. Yumi was immediately welcoming, however, and Kei followed her beckoning gesture to take a seat beside her. They arranged their skirts and ribbons neatly around them as they took a seat on the cushion.

It struck them how quickly she’d used Priestess as the name for their caste, which was of course their preference for how it sat at odds with Warlord. Kei’s attention flickered briefly to Ryuki, though his expression gave little away. It was a preference they’d expressed to him in private, but perhaps the geisha had taken it back to his lady in preparation for their meeting.

Or maybe she was just that good…?

The aural shield settled around them. Kei turned their consideration to her question - lord or lady? It was not the sort of question anyone had ever taught them how to answer at the monastery. There was no proper answer. It wasn’t even a form of address used at Zazen-ji - everyone there was brother, except for Kei. Kei was…

“Sibling,” said Kei, and felt a sudden chill in the air that suggested this may have been the wrong answer.

Well, never mind that. “I’m quite taken with Prince Amamiya,” they said to Ryuki, trying to change the subject. “But I couldn’t tell you if he feels the same way about me.” Eiji and Ryuki came from rival geisha houses, and they didn’t want to say anything that might get them in trouble later. Was Eiji quite taken with them? Probably. But Eiji seemed terrified of his desires, and Kei wanted no part in validating that fear.

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #14 on: Oct 24, 19, 12:08:43 PM »
The new Dragon Mother wore a formal black kimono and a golden over-robe as if she were born into the formal dress of the Queen of Tacea. A new kimono, thought Yumi, looking at the way the silk glimmered beneath the witch-lights, a new kimono styled to look older. That made sense. There wouldn't have been an inherited robe for the Tang Queen who now ruled in Ito the way there was for a Kagen or Ariake Queen. It would have to have been made new. It was a curious robe, though. Yumi had only seen moments of the fine kimono before it was concealed beneath the dragon-embroidered over-robe, but she thought it might have been embroidered with a phoenix, rather than a pattern of peonies as Yumi had expected.

It was a lovely piece of symbolism. She hoped Xiong Teng would live up to it.

For Yumi, though, she had to play a certain game. Her fledgling allegiance to Sakura no Shingetsu placed her, however subtly, at odds with the other Clans and the Territory Court itself. She wasn't prepared to declare the Territory Court her enemy. How could she? Zhihao and Grandmother had selected the new Queen themselves, and they'd all seen the evidence of the Ueda treachery; Black Widows of all families and social classes had been welcomed to examine the evidence themselves. And the attempt on Xiong Teng's life had been so public... No, she couldn't write off the Territory Court entirely, but she needed Sakura no Shingetsu. On a purely power-based level, the Kagen Court was the lightest it had ever been. A Rose Queen, a Rose Sword, a Summer Sky spymaster. Her darkest male was a Blood Opal! How could that scale against Lady Yuki Natsuhana no Ariake with her Ebon Gray, or Atsuko with her hands full of Opals? The Tang and their Blood Opal, the Hanwa and their Opal... If she were called to fight them, the decks were already stacked.

But she could make it work... if Sakura was her ally. She watched the other Queen whenever she wasn't occupied. So far, Atsuko no Izayoi and Yuki Natsuhana had made their public obeisances, but Yumi had not. She would have to, eventually, but she hoped to delay enough that Sakura would know her support for what it was, while Yumi's own grandmother would see it for caution that ultimately served the Kagen. A political strategy. She hadn't spoken about her intention to her Triangle, and she could see them growing more agitated as she continued to wait.

Ryuki's friend--for her Sword to let a stranger approach so readily meant they must be a trusted ally--approached, all effeminate beauty in a green and gold kimono. Yumi greeted them, and hoped her question as to their form of address wasn't seen as presumptuous. She oughtn't have been concerned; no sooner had she asked than the Priest(ess?) Warlord said their courtesy title was sibling.

After that, she was pleased that Ryuki raised the aural shield. It wouldn't really stop anyone from listening in, but it would provide notice that someone was listening, which was the real goal. Let them think that Yumi or Ryuki was chastising the Priestess Warlord for their overstep; it would let Yumi actually get to know this Dark-Jeweled anomaly.

She glanced at Ryuki, a gesture that expressed her consternation. She was a daughter of Amaterasu, inheritrix of a pure bloodline running back thousands of years; she was no common-born male's sibling. Ryuki gave a minuscule shake of his head that promised a later explanation, and Yumi trusted in that. "I understand, honored priestess," she said, smiling. She would wait for the promised explanation before she used Sibling Kei's preferred title.

"My First Sword seems familiar with you," she said. "And I recall seeing my erstwhile escort Zhihao An wearing this kimono when I was young. How did you come to befriend my Ryuki-kun? How did you come to serve in the Flower District?"

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #15 on: Oct 24, 19, 10:04:03 PM »
Kei grasped that they’d made some sort of faux pas in offering up sibling as a title, but neither Yumi nor Ryuki was forthcoming with an explanation of what they’d done wrong or how to walk it back. The Queen beside them seemed to have brushed whatever offense she’d taken aside with a friendly I understand.

Whether she actually did was another matter entirely, but Kei trusted Ryuki to help make their truth known. They returned her smile to her, friendly and open.

“I come from Zazen-ji,” Kei said. “One of the monasteries in the mountains to the north. I lived there my whole life, until a few months ago when the abbot ordered me on pilgrimage to Ito. He thought seeing the secular would would help secure me in my faith.”

They hesitated, thrown by their own wording - Kei’s faith was secure. It was ineffable, even. Any day now, they would emerge from meditation possessed of the certainty of which vow to take next and they could go home. (It should have happened already. The vows were easy. They were common sense.)

(The vows were not their words.)

“Your Ryuki-kun met me in Ito,” said Kei. “I’d stumbled into a… a bit of trouble.”

Nothing serious, really, though it could have been. Kei hadn’t realized the danger at the time, but they could see it now that they’d been in Ito for longer. They were more street-smart now. “He’s been very kind to me,” Kei went on. “Introduced me to Sister Kitsue, helped me to secure a job, dressed me for this evening…”

They paused, studying Yumi. Certainly she had to know her First Sword’s secret, right? But if she didn’t… they didn’t want to be how she found out. “I’ve been very fortunate,” Kei concluded, bowing their head.

Offline Ryuki Kirijo

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #16 on: Oct 26, 19, 12:31:35 AM »
Yumi was a talented diplomat, if nothing else. Ryuki could see in Kei's expression curiosity and interest, and that was enough of a foundation that he felt he could relax. Perhaps the pair of them would not ever be bosom friends, but it seemed clear that Yumi was willing to accept Kei's foibles, and Kei was willing to elide Yumi's missteps. He couldn't help but feel proud of the pair of them for how far they'd come since he'd met Kei and been reunited with Yumi; it wasn't so long ago that Yumi had cried how can you be both and neither? as if he had personally offended her. And Kei, at least, seemed to grasp the vagaries of secular Tacea a little better.

"A monastery," said Yumi. She sounded enthralled, snapping open her fan and waving it below her chin as if thinking. The way her shoulders canted forward and her chin tipped up were straight out of the geisha I'm paying attention to you playbook--an odd affectation for a Clan Queen, but it made a certain kind of sense, considering Yumi's upbringing. "I've heard so much about them, but we don't see many monks in Kamuzawa. We're so far from your northern fastnesses." And read so much, thought Ryuki ruefully, thinking of a few novels he'd encountered in strange places throughout the Wolf Castle since becoming a member of Yumi's First Circle. (Were the details of all the romance novels she read true? He wanted to ask, but didn't want to seem a voyeur.)

Ryuki could see that Yumi longed to ask about Kei's clothing, if all monks dressed so elaborately, but to do so would be horrendously rude. She kept her mouth shut about it. "Yumi knows about my ring," he said, indicating the gold band on his index finger that contained his Widow's web. "You can speak freely around her; I'd trust her with my life." And I have!

The Queen of the Kagen hadn't glowed with delight upon her recognition and confirmation by the Tang Queen two days ago, but she did now. She was opening her mouth to ask a new question, probably about the monks, when Ryuki felt a polite tapping against his aural shield. He lowered it, and a Rose thread poked into his mind, all polite: *The Lady Xiong Teng would like to speak to the Priest Warlord in your company,* the other geisha murmured. Ryuki pulled out his own fan to hide his frown as he looked up to the high dias. Lady Teng was, indeed, looking directly at Kei, though at this distance Ryuki couldn't tell if she was pleased or displeased.

"Her Saturnine Majesty requests your presence," he said to Kei, an apology in his voice. "The Queen. Good luck, Kei-chan."

"Oh, yes," echoed Yumi. "Good luck, Sibling."

Ryuki uses masculine pronouns as Ryuki//Ryuki uses feminine pronouns as Futaba

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #17 on: Oct 26, 19, 01:21:02 AM »
Kei’s eyes flickered back and forth between Ryuki and Yumi an additional time, flitting briefly to the ring on the geisha’s hand. That explained it, they thought - if Yumi could understand Ryuki’s circumstances, Kei’s were likely less of a philosophical stretch than for someone with no prior experience on the subject of gender-expansive thought. “Oh,” they said brightly. “Then I will as well.”

That was, unfortunately, as far as they got before the conversation was interrupted - Kei wore dark enough Jewels to sense the thread that passed through the shield and to Ryuki. They went quiet to allow him to focus, and beside them, Yumi did the same.

Apparently they’d been summoned. It was difficult to tell from the tone of Ryuki’s voice whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. Kei could think of no exact reason that they might have caught the new Dragon Mother’s attention besides their outfit and castes having upset someone. Maybe it had even offended Xiong Teng herself.

“Thank you, Ryuki-kun,” they said, rising to their feet. Their heart thudded faster in their ears. “If I am about to be banished back to Zazen-ji, I am grateful for your friendship these past weeks. I will never forget your generosity and will make certain this kimono makes its way back to you.”

They curtseyed again to Yumi. “Yumi-hime, it was an honor. I hope we meet again, but if not, long may you reign.”

With that, they turned and began the journey through the revelers to the high dais. Anxiety formed a tight, hot ball in their chest. Hopefully this meeting was not for banishment - would a queen even mete that out at her coronation feast? Surely Kei hadn’t caused that great an offense! But, they thought fervently, they’d taken a great risk in coming here. No doubt their presence was controversial… But they wanted very badly for Xiong Teng to like them, which was ridiculous, because she was a stranger and also queen of the territory and therefore far above such petty matters.

They ascended the dais and curtseyed low to the Queen there. “Your serene majesty called for me?”

A peculiar feeling - like a crush but not like a crush at all - had settled thickly in the back of their throat. Kei tried to swallow it down, but it refused to budge and instead declared to them, insistently, that if Xiong Teng had called them over to proclaim banishment, they would kill themself rather than be parted with her.

Kei looked hesitantly up. “How may I please your eminence?”

Offline Xiong Teng

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #18 on: Oct 26, 19, 01:56:50 AM »
Xiong accepted the vows of the Izayoi and Ariake Queens, and the solicitous assurances of the Kagen matriarchs. The young Queen of the Kagen was playing a rather more complex political game than Xiong had anticipated the Rose Queen was capable of, and evidently it made the elders of her Clan nervous. Good for her, thought Xiong, even though such calculated delay would cause difficulties for her politically, at least initially. With a Red Queen in her Clan and the Hanwa looking for land on which to settle, Yumi no Kagen needed to show that the wolf pup had claws. The Shingetsu... Well, Motoko knelt at one of the low tables nearby, and that was reason enough for the Shingetsu to offer such visible disrespect. It wasn't enough that Xiong could move against Sakura for it--not that she would with her own position so precarious--but it was visible.

In looking over to the Wolf Queen, Xiong spotted another anomaly. She'd been told about the dual-casted Priest coming to her enthronement, but she hadn't expected that he would be so... feminine. It was the height of style of late for young men to mimic the dress and look of women, as evidenced by the Sword of the Kagen Queen, but the Priest Warlord seemed to take it much further than was popularly acceptable. There was always a line, and the fact that he didn't seem to know that might have accounted for her interest in him alone, except.

Oh, except.

"Who is the dual-casted male," she asked, tipping her head towards Tae. He stood at her left hand, as promised, at the ritually appropriate distance. She longed to draw him closer, to card her fingers through his hair. It always looked so wrong, slicked back from his face so formally. She wanted his dark locks to lay across his forehead so she would have an excuse to brush them back. Those were thoughts for another time.

Tae leaned down. "Kei no Zazen-ji," he murmured, lips intimately close to the curve of her ear. "A Priest Warlord, the representative of the Altar in Ito's Flower District. A monk down from the mountains."

Xiong considered this. Perhaps he could show her around. She was aware of the need to hold her tournament soon, but... Oh, she didn't want to acknowledge another seven males when she had so many to assure of their place in her Court. "Call him to me," she ordered. "I wish to speak to him."

Tae didn't do it himself, because it would've been inappropriate. The command was passed to her Crimson Handmaiden, and from there to a Third Circle Guard, who passed it to the Kagen Sword of the Queen. In short order, the Priest Warlord was crossing the floor, passing the multicolored butterflies of court dancers to curtsey before her.

"You may rise, Kei no Zazen-ji," she said. She did not rise from her kneeling posture, not that it would have mattered; he would tower over her regardless. It wasn't quite proper to ascend to the top level of the dais, but now that he was here, she was most willing to be accommodating. "I wanted to meet you in person." She gestured carelessly towards her own First Sword, who brought over another cushion. "I'm told you're from the mountains, Lord Kei. How are you liking Ito?"

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #19 on: Oct 26, 19, 03:35:39 AM »
Kei’s heart was racing in their throat. They tried to take stock of the situation - Xiong Teng had raised no aural shield, so clearly what she wanted to discuss was neither private nor disgraceful, unless she didn’t consider telling a dual-casted freak to leave her coronation banquet a disgrace. How many in attendance would agree with the decision? It would come. They were sure of it. Any moment, she would make the proclamation.

They were surprised that she knew their name, even though they’d been included on the guest list and Zazen-ji was unique as family names went by virtue of… not being one. Kei rose as they were bade, meeting her level gaze, and that warmth at the back of their throat bloomed bolder. Of course Xiong Teng was the right person to rule Tacea, said that warmth. Xiong Teng was the only person fit to rule.

“You are told correctly,” they replied, flinching slightly at her Lord. They longed to be known for the truth inside their heart - known by Xiong Teng specifically - but Yumi no Kagen’s earlier reaction to Sibling cowed them into silence. If a lower queen had been taken aback, the highest queen in the land might well demand their head for disrespect. It was not without precedence that she might - she had, after all, commanded half a family of seditionists executed - so they had no choice but to chafe at the absence of a suitable cognate.

“I like Ito very much,” they said. “Though I’ve mostly been confined to the Flower District.”

It was safe there, liberal and familiar.

Why had she asked that question, though, they wondered. Just to be polite? Or to gauge whether they ought to be allowed to stay?

“I would like to see more of the city,” Kei said. “And to spend more time here.”

Spend time in your presence, Xiong Teng, the warmth in their throat said, entirely irrational.

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #20 on: Oct 28, 19, 12:54:16 AM »
Confined? It made sense. Even on Zhong, the dual-caste male children were not welcome, though they never made it to the monasteries, if the folklore was to be believed. Unlike many of her predecessors and contemporaries, she had not turned a blind eye to infanticide of male children. It sat ill with her to imagine that Kei would have been killed if he'd been born nearer to her. Well, it didn't matter; Kei's features were so classically mainlander that she felt confident she could place his origin to a village group. "Sit with me," she said, gesturing to the cushion she'd had brought out for him.

She dismissed her First Sword to make room for Kei at her right hand. The male descended the stairs and joined Prince Corro, guarding her against harm. Her mind ticked along as she listened to her newest male explain why he'd been... confined... to the Flower District. Mainlander flower districts functioned differently than the wind-and-water worlds of Zhong. Geisha did not leave their districts unless specifically invited or requested on Zhong, but the way the Flower Districts worked was much more permissive. Why would he speak of being confined?

Ah, it was likely the castes. If there was trouble upon his arrival--she remembered being told of it in a meeting with Haruka Shirogane--then he probably felt unsafe traveling. She would have that changed.

"Perhaps you will show me the Flower District," she said, "and assist me with making contact with the monasteries. Prince Corro is an asset, and of course I can simply command the attendance of a geisha, but I feel that you and I will get more out of it as we tour together, won't we?" Because you're mine, whispered the cool Queen hindbrain that lived at the base of her skull.

She held out a hand to the Red-Jeweled Priest Warlord. "I feel that we should get to know each other quite better, shouldn't we? A relationship as ours deserves to grow unencumbered by titles. May I call you Kei?"

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #21 on: Oct 28, 19, 11:09:16 AM »
Kei took the seat they were offered, eyes flitting around the careful choreography that accommodated it, the way Xiong Teng rearranged her attendants like they were Shogi pieces. Her First Sword went to go stand with Seung Corro, but their gaze never left her side - and who could look away from one as radiant as Xiong Teng? Now that Kei was beside her, her presence was nearly overwhelming. Nearly blinding.

This wasn’t, they thought seriously, just what Queens felt like. They had the recent example of Yumi no Kagen to compare against and she’d been lovely but not so… intense.

If it had been spellcraft drawing them to her, Kei’s Red would have detected it in an instant. They thought themself above the influence of such things. Did everyone else feel the same pull from Xiong Teng? Was that how she’d taken the throne? They were growing anxious with not knowing.

They were also afraid to ask.

Her requests seemed momentarily strange. Kei had only just met this Queen, and here she was inviting herself on outings with them and asking for favors! But they knew, already, that the answer was—

“Yes,” Kei said, breathless. “I would be happy to arrange that for you.”

What did she mean, a relationship such as ours? Who did she think Kei was?

“You may,” they said, feeling nervous but also… calm. Like all was right in the world by their Queen’s side.

Oh.

No, no, no! Kei was meant to return to the monastery any day now! They would find their faith and their vow and they’d go home! They couldn’t have bonded to the most powerful Queen in the land!

The protest died quickly in their throat - wouldn’t it be so much easier to serve? Surely the Abbot would understand….

Kei resolved to revisit the matter at a later time when they could devote themself fully to their newfound identity crisis. Now was hardly the time.

“Are you offering me a job, my lady?” they hazarded.

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #22 on: Oct 28, 19, 06:25:27 PM »
Sakura watched the room, aware that she made some of her own people nervous in her delay to approach the Dragon Queen. The Sapphire Queen paid little mind to their polite insistences that now would be a good time to make inroads. Sakura kept her eyes on her fellow Queens, waiting to see how long it took for them to offer their own obeisance to the woman who sat the Dragon Throne. Her face remained impassive as she watched the Ariake and the Izayoi do exactly as expected. They would curry favor and be taken deep into Xiong Teng’s confidences, where they would likely plot the downfall of her clan. Atsuko no Izayoi’s clan was damaged by her mother’s actions.

They’d need more warriors to attack the Shingetsu directly.

Yumi no Kagen’s delay intrigued Sakaura, though none of that intrigue showed on her face. The Wolf Queen would not seek to make enemies of the Territory Court. For all they’d spoken of alliance between them, Sakura wondered if she would hold to that when the other clans allied against the Shingetsu. The Kagen had no obligation to the Shingetsu, but...perhaps a future alliance between their clans could be sealed with blood. She did not know Lady Kagen’s mind as she wanted to, though, and that vexed her. She needed to speak to her again determine if her intentions had changed.

The sound of her name being called had Sakura turning in the direction of the voice. Her Sword interposed himself between her and the newcomer, alerting Sakura by thread that this was Lady Haruka Shirogane, whose family owed fealty to the Crane. That eased Sakura’s mind only a little. The uniform she wore did not. Sakura had heard of the Thousand Swords only in passing; she disliked the idea that Xiong Teng had an armed force available to her, thereby lessening her need to act in the interest of Great Clans and all of Tacea.

Lady Shirogane.” Sakura said, the woman’s name rolling easily off her tongue. She allowed herself to be greeted and listened to the request before her.

Yes, let us speak. I had hoped to learn more of the Thousand Swords and how Clan Shingetsu might aid your work in the service of Tacea.” Sakura said.

Offline Naoji Kirijo

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #23 on: Oct 29, 19, 03:50:51 AM »
Naoji had watched the proceedings of the enthronement attentively, or so it would have at least appeared as such to anyone casting their gaze towards the Green-jeweled Warlord throughout the duration. Though while his eyes fixated respectfully upon the new Dragon Mother of Tacea as she sat upon the dais, his true attention had long since strayed towards another within the throng of people. Yumi's presence when she made her delayed entrance was like a sharp pinprick to his senses, but Naoji was painfully diligent in not letting it pose any kind of noticeable distraction until the main portion of the event had come and gone (he'd had many years of practice at this point, after all).

When the processions had ended and the various attendees had splintered off into their own affairs, Naoji was skillful in his own right of making the rounds for conversation with an assortment of other people. It wouldn't have done for him to immediately swoop to his Queen's side despite the burning desire to do so, thus he simply waited... Socializing elsewhere for many long moments while keeping a very subtle eye on the interesting array of people that the Queen of the Kagen seemed to be cavorting with. There wasn't a doubt it was all very deliberate - his Yumi was an extremely talented diplomat - and a warm diffusion of pride trickled its way through him despite his best attempts at neutrality.

After what Naoji had gauged to be an acceptable amount of time, he eventually, gracefully extracted himself from the conversation he'd been engaged in and sauntered towards the Wolf Queen and her First Sword, dipping into the appropriate bow befitting of their contrasting stations. Cognizant of the shields that had been conjured up by Ryuki, the Warlord maintained a respectful distance despite the ease at which he could have chosen to slink through them. "Otou-san was looking for you a few moments ago, Ryuki-kun. I would be honored to oversee your Lady's wellbeing until you return, should that be acceptable to the both of you."

Beneath the ceremonial rice powder makeup that adorned his features, there was both a mischievous glint in Naoji's dark eyes as well as a faint upturning of the corners of his mouth after the words left his lips. It was something of a game that the trio was all very familiar with at this point, but it never failed to pluck some modicum of amusement from him nonetheless. "Lady Kagen-hime, you are looking very well," he commented with feigned idleness and professional courtesy in the wake of those surrounding the pair of them after Ryuki departed. "I hope that is indeed the case?"

*Not even the new Dragon Mother holds a candle to how effortlessly resplendent you are, my Yumi,* Naoji added, the psychic thread forming between them, with similarly emphatic emotion reverberating through their Bond. *I have missed you like the moon misses the sun - destined to chase it until the end of time.*

Offline Xiong Teng

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #24 on: Nov 10, 19, 12:19:28 AM »
Xiong watched her male's awareness of his bond grow on his face, and was momentarily winded by the sight. A denial, that was what she saw, brewing in his throat as he swallowed with difficulty. Before he had seemed nervous, yet game, and she had sought to reassure him by asking to spend time with him. This turnabout was dizzyingly quick, and she could feel Tae's attention sharpening. An image of an atomized seagull popped into her brain and she took a deep breath, calming and sure. This was an obstacle, but one that could be interrogated and overcome. Kei no Zazen-ji fulfilled several concerning emptinesses in her Court, and she would rest easier if he were ensconced safely beneath her protecting and guiding hand.

"Then you may call me Xiong," she said, "when we speak in private this way." There was no aural shield, but they were quite alone; Tae counted for much, but his loyalty to Xiong was absolute. Whatever she said would never pass from his lips without her permission. "And yes, Kei."

She raised a hand and gestured expansively at the low table below her dais. "Look at my Court," she said. "What do you see?" It was a sparse table, largely owing to her reluctance to hold her Tournament for her Daggers. The roles would be filled, because every geisha teahouse in the Territory would kill to have a Dagger of the Dragon Queen among their Jewels. Tang or Four Clans hardly mattered when the competition was so broad. "Six males. My Triangle. The Crimson Handmaiden, the Azure Handmaiden, the Vermillion Handmaiden. There is a hole, my Kei, and it is a hole that you could fill, if you would accept the unorthodox nomination."

Xiong directed her gaze to him then. "I know that the monks of the north are not given to creating ties or bonds, or living in this material world of ours. But the Mother creates us all and ties us together with red thread. Perhaps, before you return to your Zazen-ji, you will dally a time as my Viridian Handmaid?"

Offline Haruka Shirogane

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #25 on: Nov 10, 19, 12:39:13 AM »
Haruka smiled easily at the First Sword as he allowed her passage. The man was a stranger to her, but she was not a threat to Sakura and had no intention of even looking at his Queen askance. There was no reason why they couldn't be friends. (Though she supposed some of the more stringent, isolationist Shingetsu might see her as a cuckoo forced back into the nest, what with her formative years spent in Nara among the Izayoi.) With that possibility in mind, Haruka knelt before the Queen, hands comfortably resting against her thighs before she bowed, her forehead nearly touching the floor before she straightened back up.

"Goodness," said Haruka, once the pleasantries were done. "It's been some time since I was among the Clan. We've been so concerned with keeping the peace on the roads, I've been traveling almost non-stop since the Regency was established." Not that her duties would become less onerously complex now that there was a Mistress of the Guard to work with the Clan Courts; she was still setting up a system of checkpoints with the assistance of local males in each Province. "I'm glad to return to my home port, as it were. It's said that the style of one's home is one's most authentic self, isn't it? I've never felt quite at home among the Kagen or the minority tribes, yet that is where the trouble is, so that is where I go. Like a magnet on its poles."

The assassination attempt on Yumi no Kagen was troubling stuff. Haruka didn't think that it was a Hanwa job at all, which was good. Because if it had been, she'd have to be looking at Seung Corro, because his enmity for the Kagen was a fact of Tacean history for a reason. That he'd worked well with Hinata no Kagen for the year and a half of his regency was nothing short of a miracle. "I intend to come north soon," she said. "To establish barracks and checkpoints for the Guard, mostly, though I hope to be received at the Clan Court before I head east to Ariake territory. The vision of the Swords is a force that will protect all of Tacea from danger, and it should therefore represent all of Tacea, don't you think?"
i have been versed in the reasonings of men
but fate is stronger than anything i have known

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #26 on: Nov 10, 19, 01:18:31 AM »
Kei had certainly not expected to end the night on first-name terms with the Queen of the entire territory, but it was happening and they would just need to be adaptable. Mother Night wouldn’t set a challenge before them that they were incapable of overcoming - right? Already the world was reorienting itself around Xiong Teng and the offer on her painted lips.

They followed her gesture to the assembled court. It was slimly populated by males and females alike - the delayed tournament was a source of consternation for many geisha, Ryuki and Eiji included along with others who visited the altar in the Flower District. But surely that wasn’t what Kei was meant to realize…

…No, it seemed obvious they were meant to notice that there wasn’t a single Priestess among the loyal retainers Xiong Teng had assembled. An unorthodox nomination?

“I- I think Sister Kitsue would miss me,” they stammered, because after so long awaiting guidance it was terrifying to have it finally revealed. The path that stretched out before Kei might have led back to the walls of Zazen-ji, or it might not have. Xiong seemed to be allowing for it, but… How many blood ever willingly parted from their Queens?

They could leave tonight, they thought, panicked. They could be back at Zazen-ji by morning, vowing to abstain from killing and theft and drunken stupors. Easy vows. Common sense. Kei was not a killer or a thief or a drunkard.

The vows were not their words, and Mother Night had not guided them to any one of them. She had guided Kei here, to Xiong Teng and her bare-branched court. “You make a generous offer, Xiong,” they said quietly. “One I know I would be wise to accept, but I’m not sure I can commit to it just now. I’ve never served in a court before, and I am anxious to return home…”

But they could not take what was not willfully given, and Zazen-ji was held beyond their grasp.

“All of this is very new to me,” they concluded, hoping she understood.

Offline Iwai no Izayoi

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #27 on: Nov 10, 19, 01:24:04 AM »
There was a spot at the table where the Dragon Queen sat that was Iwai's. Sometimes his mind still boggled at being First Escort. (Especially as he had expected Steward or even the Red Handmaiden. Perhaps it had never meant to be as he had not even given consideration to this future.) Oh, he considered it more in name than anything else. Tae Yeon Yang was the true First Escort and his placement was nothing more than political maneuvering to ensure that the Clans (and the Izayoi) bit their tongue.

Would the Izayoi hold it, he wondered, once he was no longer hiding? Iwai did not focus on that too long if only because he did not need to give rise to anger (that boiled still in the face of what they had tried to do). So with Tae Yeon Yang seated next to Xiong, Iwai had been able to move about. It was to their advantage, in any case, as he was able to sample the political climates from those who were willing to treat with the First Escort of the Dragon Queen.

Many would, especially those who were hoping to get a feel for the shape of the new Territory Court (and he, in turn, would use that to fuel his own insights to serve his Queen). Iwai had finished speaking with a member of the Thousand Swords--curious as always--and had caught sight of the--

Was it surprising that he had to quickly hide the catch in his throat at Ryuki? No, probably not. A touch of Sapphire and the flush to his ears would never be seen. More than that the dual-caste that was with the Kagen and moved to meet with Xiong ... Something hummed in the air, someone far more in tune with the ineffable nature of both their castes. Perhaps later, once the private audience was over, he would rejoin and speak.

For now, however, he only briefly glanced towards the Kagen--its Queen and her Sword both beautiful, though he clearly favored one over the other even if they had specific rules in place for interaction--and moved towards the Izayoi. Oh, he despised them, but he knew how to play the game and tempered himself to continue to do so. Especially here and now, as First Escort to the Dragon Mother was advantageous to the Izayoi (or could be if they could ever truly come to understand Iwai).

Offline Yumi no Kagen

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #28 on: Nov 10, 19, 01:46:56 AM »
With her newest acquaintance seen off to their fate at the feet of the Dragon Queen, Yumi returned to talking to one guest after another. Some of them wished to ascertain her health and survival for themselves; others wanted to discuss trading with the Kagen conglomerates, and the prospective crop yields beneath a Rose Queen as opposed to the Opal that had led them for decades. Yumi didn't let her frustration at the veiled slights against her Jewel bother her. The Kagen shortfalls this year could not be laid at her feet when the land was burdened by thousands of refugees and the long-term effects of the volcanoes on growth. For all that, there wasn't much shortfall, and she could be reasonably assured that the attentions of a Dragon Queen would make them up next year.

Finally, a familiar figure caught her eye. His broad shoulders and cap of ink-dark hair wove effortlessly through the crowd. Her breath caught in her throat and she shivered as she strained not to lean upwards, like Shirodaizu when he scented a squirrel or field-mouse. Her painted lips formed a small o as he came closer. Was he coming here? Oh, it was so risky, to be seen in public where anyone could realize their bond. Yet the thought thrilled her down to the core. It was like a fairy-story.

Ryuki smirked, and rolled his eyes as he hopped down from the dais and skated away through the throngs. No doubt he wasn't seeking Ryuuen, but rather Zhihao.

"Lord Kirijo," she said, just as idly courteous. "It is. I've recovered well from the attack on my person. No doubt the culprits will be brought to justice sooner, rather than later." Her lips formed meaningless conversations, allusions to the beauty of the ceremony, but her thoughts were elsewhere: locked on that psychic thread with her Naoji.

*And I have missed you, my faithful Naoji-kun,* she said, a groundswell of delight at seeing him again following along after her words. *I wore your necklace every day. Did you dream of me, as I did of you, my moon?*

Offline Xiong Teng

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #29 on: Nov 10, 19, 06:44:42 PM »
Xiong didn't think she'd read this young man falsely. She watched him from beneath her bowed head, brown eyes on his elegant face as he dithered. It was not elegant as she would have expected from his dress, but it was honest, and pleasing to her because of it. His reference to the Priestess of the flower district's Altar was not a rejection, she knew, but a panic reaction. He feared that he misunderstood her, or that she developed this as a joke upon him, or that she would constrain him from leaving if the time ever came that he felt he must. That was fine, and meet. Even his concerns about failing to do honor to her Court due to his lack of training were understandable.

She could not shake the surety that she felt that Kei no Zazen-ji had a powerful, distinctive fate among her people. That by taking this risk, giving a position meant for a woman of the Shingetsu clan to a dual-caste male, she was setting herself up for success greater than she'd dared to imagine. "Then do not commit to it just yet," she said. "But don't reject this offer out of hand. I have delayed as long as I have because every candidate lacked the sense of serendipity that I have had from the moment I realized our bond. This is fate. The Night Mother has led us both here, to this moment of meeting, for a greater purpose."

Intensity did not come easily to her anymore. She eased back into her uncomfortable kneeling position, and Tae steadied her with one hand. "Do not worry about answering me now," she repeated. "Consult with your hostess, the Lady Kitsue Sakura, and with your Abbot. Seek the guidance that you require in the Darkness. I will come the Flower District for the tour you have promised, and for your answer." She watched Kei, dark gaze level. "I will accept any response you give me. But I hope that you will see that Mother Night intends for you to serve her at my side."

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #30 on: Nov 10, 19, 08:11:21 PM »
It was true, Kei thought, that Lung-tan was in Ito for the enthronement. If they trusted anyone’s guidance at all, it was that of the man who’d first sent them here. He would know what to do - Kei certainly didn’t. Xiong Teng was so radiant it almost hurt to look at her, and yet they could not look away. They wanted to stay by her side. They wanted to flee the room.

Was this how Eiji had felt earlier when he left Kei breathless in the garden?

Fate, they thought, turning the word silently on their tongue. Xiong Teng spoke their language, painting allusions to destiny shaped by the hand of Mother Night. How could they deny her request? Why delay the inevitable?

But what if it was a test meant to steer them from their path?

The abbot would know.

“I-“ Kei said, voice faltering. They closed their eyes, felt anxiety tears prickling there. How! Why! They were usually so self-assured. How could one chance meeting upset the path they’d walked unerringly all twenty-five years of her life? They took a steadying breath.  “I appreciate your patience in this matter.”

A week, they thought, curtseying miserably. A week to unwind a quarter century and decide the next. “I’ll see you in the Flower District.”

They turned and kept their composure all the way out to the privacy of the gardens. The walk back to the Flower District did little to settle their racing thoughts - by the time they arrived back at the altar, the slightest provocation from Kitsue made them burst into tears.

[Kei's outta here]

Offline Sakura no Shingetsu

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Re: For the eyes are never tired of seeing
« Reply #31 on: Nov 15, 19, 05:41:05 PM »
Sakura wondered what Lady Shirogane might have to say to her. She was related to the Shingetsu, but that was likely not a mark in her favor. Did she hope to find something against them in order to strengthen her own position? Or did she hold any loyalty to the Crane at all? Sakura trusted little created by Seung Corro’s grasping, usurping hands, but she could not blame the people forced to work under him. He was, after all, a legend. An outsider who did not belong here, but a legend nonetheless.

Keeping the peace is important, especially in these troubled times. I pray that we are leaving a period of unrest, rather than entering one.” Sakura said. The one benefit of the Interregnum’s end was having a Dragon Queen sitting on the throne. If Mother Night was kind, Xiong Teng would leave the clans in peace now that she’d taken her pound of flesh from the Shingetsu. Sakura doubted it. Now came the part where she lauded her allies with favors and threatened all those she considered her enemies.

Lady Shirogane at least paid respect to Sakura’s standing, a small balm to Sakura’s battered ego. It made her better inclined to listen to the woman, even as she wondered at the motivations of others in this room. Perhaps she should have taken her mother’s advice and skipped the enthronement. She’d have to go and offer her fealty to Lady Teng at some point, distasteful as the thought was.

Lady Shirogane’s words brought her back to the moment. “Yes, I agree with you that the Swords should represent all of Tacea. It's the only way to avoid the hostilities that marked the Warring Dragons era. I thought that I was the only one who felt this way. Tacea must remain strong and protected.” Sakura said.

If this is a way that I might assist you in establishing these barracks, or in feeding your soldiers once they are in residence, please do not hesitate to let me know. I hope to see you at the Clan Court when you venture north.

 

 

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