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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: not quite so belated  (Read 71 times)

Description: Xiong, post-enthronement discussions

Offline Motoko Ueda

  • Character Account
    • opal2sapphire
    • hq
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      Court Healer

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      Territory Court

    • Territory

      Tacea

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      [Link]

    • OOC

      Leez

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not quite so belated
« on: Nov 08, 19, 11:22:48 AM »
At long last, the excitement of the enthronement had faded and the last foreign dignitary had left Ito. The scheduled banquets had all taken place and the servants were almost done feasting on the leftovers. The newly-formalized court was learning their roles and settling into them.

And Motoko Ueda was readjusting to life as a free(-ish) woman.

As the Blue Handmaiden, she had access to any supplies she wanted, provided she could account for their use. Her greenhouses had been brought to her, minus most of the poisons, and after a bit of gifting all of her plants were back to exactly as she recalled them. After weeks in her three-tatami cell, it felt like an impossible luxury she was being allowed.

She'd become grateful for so many things she'd taken for granted before.

The last meeting of the day had just finished. The Landen representative and her cohort were on their way out and the servants were busy clearing away the refreshments, leaving just Motoko and Xiong at the table.

It seemed as good an opportunity as any to ask the questions that had been burning in her mind.

"My lady," Motoko said, bowing her head deferentially. "May I speak to you a moment?"

Xiong nodded. "Go on."

"I realize it may be rather belated of me to ask this," said Motoko, "but why did you place me - a traitor - in such an honored position in your court?"

It was not so belated as she positioned herself - word of the Uedas' sedition had reached even Landen ears.

Motoko lowered her eyes. "There were other ways to keep me in your service."

Offline Xiong Teng

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    • queen
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      Dragon Queen

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Re: not quite so belated
« Reply #1 on: Nov 08, 19, 12:09:23 PM »
Of all the times for Motoko to finally get around to asking this question, Xiong could hardly imagine a worse one. Oh, perhaps she could be bleeding out, or someone could be dying on the floor from a preventable poison, or they could be surrounded by other members of the Court, but still. She was strangling in her formal, multi-layer kimono. She wanted to put her hair up as befit a Tang Queen and wear the flowing gowns she was used to. Her knees ached; she wasn't used to kneeling for so long with heavy brocade curled up on itself between her thighs and her calves. She was pretty sure her feet were asleep. All she wanted to do was call her Tae to undress her and rub her aches and pains away.

Yet Tang teachings said that a question with a known answer must be answered in the moment of their asking. Motoko asked a question, Xiong knew the answer, and so she must answer. Luckily, the teachings said nothing of one's comportment while answering the question, except that one should not treat the question as stupid, and one should not be rude.

It wasn't like she was going to strip.

There were still servants in the room, tactfully pretending to be absent on the other side of the aural shield. Mindful of spies, Xiong dropped the shield and waved her hand to dismiss them. "Leave us, please," she said--conscientiously polite--and once the door slid shut behind them, Xiong shifted positions. Her legs stretched out in front of her; she leaned back on her hands, her face screwing up in discomfort as her feet began to prickle back to life. "I despise these kimono."

Once she was comfortable, she sighed. "There were. I could've placed you in the Third Circle and assigned you to a clinic, or sent you to some backwater monastery to serve them as their Healer, or just kept you here without giving you a position at all." She shook her head. "Where you could, whether you wanted to be or not, be used against me. If you're false, then you can raise rebellion based on the perception of you as the rightful Queen of Tacea. If you're true, then they'll use you as a figurehead. I couldn't be so cruel to you."

She shrugged, closing her eyes. Tae, she thought mournfully, I wish you were here. "A Sapphire Healer Queen as my Azure Handmaiden would be a coup on its own. Can you imagine if I claimed a retinue of Queens as my Handmaidens? It would position me to be seen as a new Amaterasu, don't you think? She, too, was served by four Queens. I wouldn't even have to say anything to start the rumors among the landen. But Motoko, there's a third purpose: every time you take your seat at audiences or banquets or performances, I remind the Four Clans why I rule. Their arrogance and hunger for power reduced a Healer Queen of the Four Clans to a dishonored, disavowed traitoress. You're a lesson. Your presence helps me keep my detractors in line."

Offline Motoko Ueda

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Re: not quite so belated
« Reply #2 on: Nov 08, 19, 06:55:19 PM »
Motoko could tell she'd chosen her venue poorly almost immediately from the way Xiong adjusted herself, throwing her legs out in front of her like a schoolgirl on the riverbank. I despise these kimono, the Queen proclaimed, and Motoko's heart plummeted into her stomach. Whatever favor was indicated by her new room, her plants, was a precious resource, and she was squandering it and Xiong's time both.

At any rate, the answer made her doubly regret asking. Motoko realized with a pang that she'd been hoping against hope for some sort of reassurance that her position had been granted for personal or even sentimental reasons and not out of pure political strategy. (She couldn't imagine anyone using her as a figurehead of a coup, not with the full scope of her mother's treachery laid bare, but if Xiong feared it then it must have been a legitimate concern.)

Of course the position itself was part of her punishment, she chided herself, just as her service at all was. Her greenhouse was just a new and gilded cage.

Well, it was like her mother had always told her - don't ask a question if you didn't want to hear an honest answer.

"I understand your wisdom," she said, and if people were already murmuring about Xiong being a new Amaterasu, it hadn't reached Motoko's ears - she was quite isolated beyond matters of work and the meetings Xiong rquested her presence at.

(She bristled a bit at the thought of needing to share court space with another subsidiary Queen.)

Rising to her feet, Motoko said, "I'm sorry to have delayed you, my lady." She leaned forward and offered a hand to Xiong, meaning to help her off the floor. "How may I please you the rest of the evening?"

It was so easy to be subservient. So easy to be the Healer, not the Queen. Could a caste atrophy and fall away? Maybe hers would...

Offline Xiong Teng

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      Dragon Queen

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Re: not quite so belated
« Reply #3 on: Nov 10, 19, 12:06:47 AM »
Xiong watched Motoko, and she realized her misstep in the way that Motoko folded in on herself. It hadn't been a simple question of political curiosity, it had been a request for reassurance. How strange. She knew that Motoko hadn't been a mastermind of the plan, but she had still believed that Motoko might have more of a... not a spine, but a sense of... not honor, either, but something else. Self-respect, perhaps, though that word still didn't encompass everything that Xiong wanted to say. "Sit back down, Motoko," she sighed, patting the ground next to her.

The Healer Queen obediently took to her knees beside her, and Xiong sighed. "Of course I gave you this role because I want you near me," she said, gently. "Even if you were unrepentant, even if you had personally struck down Ishiyo no Izayoi with your own hands, I would want you near me. We are bound, aren't we? Your heart is given into my hands for safekeeping.

"Though I suppose, had you been unrepentant and the mastermind of my predecessor's downfall, I should have had to execute you." Xiong sighed again. "But you are you, and I believe that you truly repentant for what little role you played. Even more than showing the Four Clans their failures or demanding their subservience, I want them to see what I see in you. Your appointment is a public stage to demonstrate that you are a servant of Tacea, just as I am."

She patted Motoko's knee, even though the added weight on her weak side almost sent her collapsing. If her hand lingered, she hoped Motoko didn't notice. "When you are here, I can protect you. I couldn't do that if I sent you to Zazen-ji or Goryu-en."

Offline Motoko Ueda

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Re: not quite so belated
« Reply #4 on: Nov 10, 19, 12:47:00 AM »
There was something both humbling and humiliating about being told to sit back down. Motoko did as she was told, cheeks burning and gaze lowered. Xiong had noticed what she’d been fishing for and been kind enough to provide it, but it felt as though she was being chided. She’d had a moment of weakness and needed reassurance, but she shouldn’t have, and now she was wasting Xiong’s time…

And for what, really? For different ways of saying what she already understood - that their bond, the way Motoko’s soul saw fit to prostrate itself before Xiong’s, won her special dispensation? She’d had bonded of her own before. She knew how it worked - how easy it was to excuse things, how strong the desire to keep them close at hand could be. And the rest was… pretty words. Pity and understanding Motoko was uncertain she deserved.

A more straightforward punishment would at least have been easier to understand. This was just… confusing. She was in purgatory but she’d also been released blinking back into the bright land of the living. She was repentant. She was forgiven. And she was guilty, guilty, guilty.

Motoko swallowed the knot in her throat. There was nothing she could say now that she had not said before. She had sworn her sorriness until her voice cracked already.

“I will strive to prove worthy of the faith you’ve put in me, my lady,” she said measuredly, eyes going to the hand that lingered on her knee. She had begun to have a sense for the ways Xiong disguised her frailty, little gestures that someone less familiar with the Queen might overlook. It felt like knowing a secret she wasn’t supposed to know and couldn’t unlearn.

“I… I am glad to be here,” she added, looking away from Xiong’s hand. She would pay it no more attention until it was moved, as seemed only polite. “And not in the mountains with my brother and sister.”

She could not even bring their names across her lips, and they would have taken on new ones in their orders, besides.

(If Motoko had gone to the mountains, she would have gotten her wish of losing Ueda, losing Motoko, but that wish seemed very fleeting in retrospect. She could downplay their bond no more than Xiong could.)

“Please, my lady,” she said plaintively. “It is getting late. How may I be of service?”

Offline Xiong Teng

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Re: not quite so belated
« Reply #5 on: Nov 10, 19, 04:51:33 PM »
Sometimes, not often, Xiong wished she understood her bonded better. With Tae, it came so easily. Perhaps that was the years of familiarity with his moods and the ways he accepted comfort, years that she simply didn't have with Motoko. It certainly wasn't similarity between cultures--there was no avenue for Hanwa males to acquire an education in the more academic modes as there was on Zhong--that made him an easier bonded than Motoko, surely. She could still feel Motoko's unease, roiling beneath a mask of serenity, and it felt more like failure than she liked.

Pushing would get her nowhere, decided Xiong. It would be better to let Motoko sleep on what she already knew, and revisit this the next time she felt ready to have this conversation.

Which left the question of what task to set Motoko. Letting her stew on her position and her perceived instability would hardly be useful. Yet Xiong, now that feeling had returned to her feet, had no desire to get up and pretend at being the Queen of all Tacea when she felt more like a misplaced flower among snarling wolves and sneering cranes. Tomorrow, she told herself, I'll wear hanfu. I'll be Xiong Teng, a Tang Queen, and not the Dragon Mother. She told herself the same lie every night, and the next morning when her Red Handmaiden came Xiong put on another kimono. Duty was a heavy burden.

"You may help me back to my rooms," she said, "and summon Tae. Then, I believe the gardeners are worried that the night-blooming flowers in the eastern garden, the ones brought from the mainland of Terreille, have contracted some kind of root-rot. Would you be so kind as to look into that? I'd meant to do it myself, but I find myself feeling unwell." At Motoko's concerned look, she hurried to reassure her: "Nothing an early night won't fix. If you would, Motoko?"