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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: put your good face on not fooling no one  (Read 244 times)

Description: Ryuki

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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      Wandering Monk

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put your good face on not fooling no one
« on: Jul 14, 19, 01:26:39 AM »
Working at the altar had a certain rhythm not unlike life at the monastery. It ebbed and flowed with the moons, with the tides. There was always a rush of birthrights and offerings on the full and new moons, and other blessings and rituals paced throughout the month. Kei was taking to all of it, for while it differed superficially from home, the worship of Mother Night was unified throughout the territory.

They were no closer to revelation, but at the very least they were making friends. Lady Kitsue had a wry humor and a sharp tongue. Prince Amamiya, when he visited, had a way of making Kei’s heart race as they explored the Darkness together. And they had hopes that Ryuki Kirijo and his strange Widow’s Web would return - Kei ached to speak frankly with the geisha and plumb the depths of whatever connection they might share.

After morning devotionals, Kei retired to the back garden to meditate. They returned to the altar feeling refreshed, if slightly stiff, to find Kitsue and Ryuki sharing a pot of tea in the antechamber. “Ah! Sibling Kei!” the Priestess said, more sly than happy at the sight of them. “Back from your constitutional. I’ve got an errand to run. Please, help yourself. There’s plenty left.”

“Ah, thank you,” said Kei, caught somewhat off guard. They took a seat at the little table as Kitsue rose from it and poured themself a cup of tea.

“Ryuki-chan was just telling me about his new posting,” Kitsue said. “I’m sure he won’t mind repeating the details.”

Kei wasn’t so certain about that - it sounded tedious on Ryuki’s part - but they looked forward to the opportunity to talk either way. “I’m so glad to see you again,” they said as Kitsue left, folding their fingers around their teacup. There was so much to discuss, but Kei wasn’t certain how to get into it. “How are things in Kumazawa?”

Offline Ryuki Kirijo

  • Character Account
    • white2rose
    • witch
    • Role

      Sword of the Queen

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      Kagen Clan Court

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      Tacea

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      Reid

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Re: put your good face on not fooling no one
« Reply #1 on: Jul 14, 19, 03:12:40 AM »
While Yumi was in residence in Ito, preparing for the enthronement the next day, Ryuki was visiting all his usual haunts. He'd already popped in on a few fellow geisha, helped teach a dance class at Ureshi-sa, and gotten one of the delicate sword-pieces that had broken in Yumi's service repaired at his favorite blacksmith's forge. Now he did his filial duty by visiting Kitsue, who was only too glad to make catty comments about half the drama he got up to in the court at Kamuzawa. The role of Sword of the Queen was one held commonly by geisha, but at the same time, usually the geisha in question were Darker-Jeweled, or taller, or older. Twenty-one and Sword of a Clan Court was a rare combination of traits; Ryuki was indeed prodigious and talented.

He'd half-hoped to see Kei again. It'd been a while since he'd met up with the Priest Warlord; actually, they'd really only met the once, if he thought about it. Perhaps it was their shared gender-fuckery that made Ryuki feel like he already knew Kei. Like they were siblings together, struggling beneath Tacea's suffocating gender roles. Though... Kei didn't seem to struggle with their identity, only to make others understand what it was they were. He was envious of that surety, but what could he do? His role with his uncles demanded the charade he played. He didn't want to lose Ryuki in favor of Futaba, or even Futaba in favor of Ryuki. He wanted to be both of them, and maybe... He thought that Kei might have an answer for him, or at least be willing to listen.

"I've been promoted," he said, once Kitsue cleared out to run one of her 'errands'. (Ryuki was fairly sure 'errands' were Kitsue's attempt at matchmaking, but Priests weren't his type.) "I serve Lady Yumi no Kagen as the Sword of her Court now." He shrugged. "My predecessor died honorably in her defense, and my promotion is a reward for killing the man who nearly killed her. It's less fun than it sounds. No one particularly wants to listen to and obey a Warlord so green he's--" here Ryuki made a rude gesture "--'better off plowed and planted.' But I enjoy the new intrigues I get to play, and perhaps this will turn into a better role in the future." Or at least a more moneyed one, though no doubt his Uncle Ryuuen and Uncle Zhi would prefer that Ryuki remain in service to the Kagen clan, as they would.

He nudged the tray of wagashi over to Kei. "Kitsue says you're a great help with Warlord Princes. Do you have any tips? One of the First Circle vassals in Kamuzawa seems rather unbalanced."

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

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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      Wandering Monk

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Re: put your good face on not fooling no one
« Reply #2 on: Jul 14, 19, 02:43:49 PM »
Kei reached for the tray of wagashi, nodding obligingly as they did. “Thank you,” they said. They knew nothing of court politics or the associated intrigue. In fact, they’d never even met a Queen, though their new home in the Flower district meant they’d seen one or two from afar. Mother Night’s highest-casted daughters did not make a habit of visiting monasteries, and they were not sure whether their childhood conversations with Amaterasu counted - the older they got, the more likely it seemed they’d imagined the entire thing.

However, knowing court politics or not knowing them did not seem to matter in understanding that Ryuki’s promotion was a great honor and his new role was a major one. “What greater role is there than sword to the ruling Queen of one of the great clans?” Kei asked, eyes darting between the tray of food and the warlord’s face. They made a selection and transferred it quickly to their own plate before offering the tray back.

“Sword to the Dragon Mother?” they guessed. All of Ito was abuzz with excitement over the enthronement, for better or for worse. Traditionalists would resist the new Tang queen’s rule, but their dissent did not seem great enough argument to stop the enthronement.

That was what Kei understood of the situation, anyway. “I’m hardly knowledgeable on the subject of courts and queens. My apologies,” they said, dipping their head. Ryuki’s change of subject came as a welcome reprieve - Warlord Princes were something of a specialty for Kei, for there were many in the monastery. Monkhood was a reprieve for many men unable to conform themselves to the demand of Tacean society, and that included men too influenced by the demands of their caste.

“Kitsue said that?” they asked. Perhaps the priestess had noticed their deft hand in dealing with Prince Amamiya. No doubt she had also noticed the burgeoning crush that Kei was trying very hard to keep under wraps. “Many of my methods rely on priestess craft,” they said, “but a steady hand works wonders. Do you have any skill in calming rage? Perhaps I can teach you.”

Offline Ryuki Kirijo

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Re: put your good face on not fooling no one
« Reply #3 on: Jul 14, 19, 04:41:39 PM »
"Dagger to the Dragon Mother," said Ryuki. "A geisha of my father's okiya has been a Dagger since the tradition was reinstated in the sixties. It doesn't seem like a long time, but you have to consider that there've been three Dragon Queens since Hinata first resumed the cycle of inheritance. After that, Sword to the Dragon Mother, maybe, or some other First Circle position." It would be a crowning achievement to become the spymaster to the Territory Court, as his Uncle Zhi had been, or foremost among the Dragon Queen's Daggers like his Uncle Ryuuen. He would be wasted if he lived his life as a Sword forever... that, and it would make it difficult for him to pursue his own interests, like a Black Widow Izayoi Prince. Maybe Kei would know something about that, too.

He abandoned the subject, seeing Kei's discomfort with the pattern of thought it implied. His discussion with Kitsue had exhausted his desire to talk about his future goals, anyway, and he did need to know how to handle the volatility of Warlord Princes and Dark Jewels. Kei would provide the necessary information for the first and the hands-on experience for the other. "I... don't," said Ryuki, wincing at the question. Calming Rage was a Warlord-specific Caste-Craft, and he was not a Warlord, though he didn't think he could actually tell Kei that. "My mentors have been Princes and Warlord Princes, so I never had the opportunity to learn the Caste-Craft that is my birthright," he temporized. It wasn't untrue. Witches technically didn't have Caste-Craft, but there were tricks and trials that witches underwent that Warlords didn't, and he'd certainly gone unsupported in those.

Now that he had the opportunity to share his natal sex and the variety of problems it brought him, he found he was unsure if he wanted to. "I suppose you don't know of any methods that aren't Craft-based or covered in the arts of Protocol," he said, carefully disassembling one of the almond-paste wagashi on his plate.

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

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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      Wandering Monk

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      Zazen-ji

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      Tacea

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Re: put your good face on not fooling no one
« Reply #4 on: Jul 14, 19, 11:11:40 PM »
It did not escape Kei how Ryuki dodged the idea of learning the craft that should have come easily to his caste. Even at the monastery, Kei had learned the craft as a matter of necessity, and they’d taught themself half of it. “It’s really quite simple,” they said, frowning. It would be one thing for Ryuki to claim it was due to lack of time if they were only in Ito for a few days and only at the altar for the morning, but Kei’s suspicions had been piqued weeks ago and only grown in the geisha’s absence.

“The real key,” they said, “is to keep a cool head. Warlord Princes are not always the most rational men you’ll meet, but they can be reasoned with if you set your boundaries and keep them…”

They trailed off, watching the geisha across the table as he systematically disassembled his wagashi. Kei was not of a caste known for its empathetic craft, but they were observant enough to tell that something had gone unsaid between the two of them. Ryuki was trying to avoid something and, in doing so, had left a gap for Kei to fill in.

“Ryuki-chan,” Kei hazarded, for though they weren’t close, it was the only form of address they had heard used for the geisha and supposed it might be a matter of personal preference. “if I may - if you don’t find the question too much of an intrusion - I was wondering…”

They set their teacup aside and flattened their hands against the table to hide their shake.

“I couldn’t help but notice, I mean, that you wear a Widow’s Web,” they went on, nerves making them more verbose. “You wouldn’t happen to be… like me, or similar in some way, would you?”

It seemed like a foolish question as soon as they asked. After all, how would a dual-casted male ever wind up in a geisha house?

Offline Ryuki Kirijo

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Re: put your good face on not fooling no one
« Reply #5 on: Jul 15, 19, 12:38:47 AM »
Once Kei started to explain the details of managing a Warlord Prince, Ryuki left off his candy-surgery to listen. His attention went from coolly interested to wide-eyed concern fairly quickly as Kei trailed off and their gaze dropped down to Ryuki's hands. With his heart in his throat, he let Kei talk, though he winced at the use of the familiar and effeminate pronoun. You wouldn't happen to be like me... would you?

It was a loaded question. Ryuki's gender difference wasn't natal, the way Kei's was. There was no masculine Caste for him to train into. He was the way he was because... well, because he couldn't imagine being any other way. Not now. Not ever. "Most people aren't Dark enough to sense it," he said, grimacing at the thought. Some clients did, but they all assumed it hid some disfigurement, or perhaps smoothed the line of a too-strong jaw, or stifled a psychic scent that was too strong. There were dozens and dozens of reasons why a geisha might use a Widow's web, especially when serving as a guardian or protector of their clientele was such a large part of their job. No one else would be rude enough--or unfamiliar with geisha culture enough--to ask.

He shook his head. "I'm not dual-casted," he said, fiddling with the ring that changed his psychic scent. The cabochon stone in it caught the light from the round, south-facing window, throwing sparkles and flecks of light across the room off its faceted web-strands. "I'm a..." Ryuki slid the ring just far enough off his finger that a hint of his true psychic scent could peek through the obscuring curtain of Son Mi's spellwork. Beneath the cedar musk of Warlord was the fresh jasmine of witch, like White and Rose flowers blooming just out of sight.

"My mother left me with her brother, a geisha." He spoke very quietly, his cadence even. "She was a prostitute. I think she'd gotten on the wrong side of some powerful patron, and stood to lose me to them if she didn't hide me away. Geisha can't keep girl-children, since they don't have family names to give them. I would've had to be fostered away--the Territory Court would've made Uncle Ryuuen give me up. And there were other reasons, too, but mostly they wanted a family, and there I was."

Shrugging would've been overly flippant, so he didn't. He put the ring back on his finger, once again just a Warlord. "Anyway, I understand if you think it's a perversion or something," he said. "Only I'd ask you don't tell anyone. It's past the point of my life where I'd be considered the blameless victim of a pair of perverts; I don't want to spend the next sixty years of my life in a seedy brothel like my mother."

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

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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      Wandering Monk

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Re: put your good face on not fooling no one
« Reply #6 on: Jul 15, 19, 01:41:49 AM »
Kei couldn’t help but feel a little bit… disappointed by Ryuki’s revelation. There were very few circumstances in Tacean society where a woman might find advantage in passing herself off as a man. In fact, the geisha across the table seemed to have found the only one imaginable. But, with that in mind, perhaps they did not have very much in common at all, if Ryuki’s maleness was something that could be taken off and on at will, even more easily than a kimono.

“Ah,” they said softly. “I don’t suppose I can teach you Calming Rage then.”

They stared down into their teacup, unsure of how to proceed. Their first reaction had made it all seem so simple, but on second thought Kei wasn’t so sure. After all, if it were just a costume, why keep it up even behind closed doors? It couldn’t be an easy charade to maintain, not for a geisha, and yet Ryuki was devoted to the facade…

“Kitsue knows, I assume,” they said, lost in their thoughts. “That’s why you brought me to her…”

A girl born dual-casted was not born dual-casted the same way Kei was, and a witch could not be said to have any caste at all… But not all of Mother Night’s gifts were inborn. And Kei didn’t consider Ryuki to have answered the question. Not fully. I’m not dual-casted, the geisha had said, but that hadn’t been what Kei meant.

“Are you a woman?” they asked quietly, though they didn’t think Ryuki was. Why keep up the charade so long if so? Winding up in a brothel couldn’t possibly have been his real concern. Geisha were educated. A girl with their training in the arts could have been successful in her own right without resorting to selling sex.

“I do not think,” Kei added carefully, “that is would be fair for Mother Night to only bless males as she has blessed me. I know very little of the world beyond Zazen-ji. You wear… a sort of dual caste, I think. Not by birth, but by your own choosing. We’re not… unalike, I think. Don’t you?”

Offline Ryuki Kirijo

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    • white2rose
    • witch
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      Sword of the Queen

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Re: put your good face on not fooling no one
« Reply #7 on: Jul 15, 19, 01:58:26 AM »
"No," said Ryuki, "I don't think you could."

His shoulders hunched in as he waited for whatever else Kei had to say about it. The awkwardness of the moment hung in the air between them, not thick enough for knives but thick enough that Ryuki strained to keep his breathing steady and unhurried. No doubt his uncles would be furious if they found out he'd told anyone where it wasn't needful. Kei had nothing that could have forced that confession out of Ryuki, nothing at all; in fact, despite the power differential in their Jewels and Castes, the fact that Ryuki was also Futaba was enough that he could easily strike first and ruin the monk sitting catty-corner to him at the table. He wouldn't, but he could. "Kitsue did my Offering. You can't wear an illusion web when you do your Offering, it won't work properly." He didn't understand the details himself, and didn't condescend to try to guess at his explanations.

Are you a woman? On one hand, the answer was obvious. He had a womb, he bled with the moon (when he wasn't taking potions to suppress his cycles). By the rhetoric of the Taceans and likely the whole Realm, Ryuki was a woman. But he'd grown up Ryuki, a boy, and now he was Ryuki, a man. He lived almost every one of his days as the geisha Ryuki Kirijo. Even when offered the opportunity for Ryuki to disappear, he continued to walk the dangerous path of a geisha who really wasn't one because he couldn't imagine another way to be.

He said, "I've never talked about this before."

Kei's careful circumlocution sounded just like the thoughts that had rushed into Ryuki's head on the day that Kei'd corrected Kitsue: Sibling. "I think I'm both," he said. "Maybe if my uncles had raised me differently, I wouldn't be, but I am who I am, and that's Ryuki and Futaba both... Though I don't think I'm both at the same time." He tried on a smile. "One or the other, mostly. Is it like that for you?"

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

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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Re: put your good face on not fooling no one
« Reply #8 on: Jul 15, 19, 10:36:25 AM »
Kei nodded - they’d assisted with enough offerings to know that Mother Night rejected pretension at the rite. You had to go before her spiritually naked before she would show you the way. Not that many monks wore webs to begin with; their profession was not one that lent itself to vanity.

But that was neither here nor there. Was Ryuki sliding his male caste off and on really any different from Kei painting their nails the way a woman would, or lining their eyes the way a woman would, or dabbing scented oils on their wrists the way a woman would? They thought they were beginning to have a better grasp of the situation, and the more they came to understand it the more similarity they saw.

“I’m both at once,” Kei replied, “and neither fully. Sometimes more one or the other, but never only one.”

They wondered what it might be like, to flip that switch, to be brother or sister from one moment to the next. Kei had not been raised that way, and the mental gymnastics called for in trying to envision it for themself made their head spin. Clearly it worked for Ryuki, but Kei was sibling. Sibling fit. They were not a woman. They could never be fully male.

“I don’t, however, see why we can’t be two varieties of the same thing,” they said, leaning forward to rest their chin on their hand. They regarded Ryuki thoughtfully.

“My Soul Is Multifaceted Like A Cut Jewel would be a good temple name,” they said.

Offline Ryuki Kirijo

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    • white2rose
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      Sword of the Queen

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Re: put your good face on not fooling no one
« Reply #9 on: Aug 01, 19, 03:10:41 AM »
With his worries assuaged and his position in comparison to Kei confirmed, Ryuki's shoulders relaxed. Both at once... it was a strange thought, a startling thought. It leapt up into his throat and made itself at home there, an awareness of like that he'd never felt, not even when touching the hands of his uncle. He could imagine being both at once, and neither fully. It called out to him the same way his own wording had. Sometimes one, sometimes the other. "My Jewels did come to me cut," he said, solemnly, tilting his chin up at Kei's friendly regard. "Did you know, the southern Tang believe that a cut Jewel means you're the reincarnated soul of the Jewel's previous owner? When Chang'an was buried, they lost all their records of the Jewels of their heroes."

There was an Ariake down there now trying to dig up something or other. Ryuki thought about that for a minute, and then decided eventually that it was unimportant. The subject at hand was more interesting. "I don't know that I'd fit in a monastery," he sighed. "But I think you'd be a lovely geisha. I suppose..." He'd been told Kei's temple name. Mother Night Has Twice Blessed Me... "If you were to be a geisha, you'd probably have a much less poetic name. But I always thought it was rather fun, being able to pick what the world called me. Sometimes..." He glanced towards the door, and leaned in. "Sometimes I call myself Ryutaba when I'm writing in my journal." Ryu was a masculine name element, and -taba was feminine, but the juxtaposition of it pleased Ryuki. "It's written dragon and bud." At least Kei would know what Ryuki meant: the old Tacean characters that determined the gender of a name. "Was it the same for you? When you left the monastery, did you decide to be called Kei, or... do you have familiar names at the monasteries as well?"

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

Offline Kei no Zazen-ji

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Re: put your good face on not fooling no one
« Reply #10 on: Aug 09, 19, 01:21:13 AM »
“Ah, I hadn’t,” Kei said, though it certainly made sense that someone would believe such. Cut jewels were customized to the tastes of their original wearers, and Kei had always found the shape of their Green pleasing. The largest portion of it was smoothed into a cabochon, bright as a forest glade, and they did sometimes wonder who had seen fit to shape it that way. Cabochons were not exactly fashionable for most Jewel shades - they had little play of color. But perhaps… perhaps some part of them had seen what was theirs in another life in the Green?

“It’s not exactly a mainstream belief, I suppose,” they said, sighing prettily. “At the monastery, we are exactly who we are meant to be before Mother Night.”

Kei paused, considering Ryuki’s suggestion. It was likely true - they would make a lovely geisha. They were slim of frame and fine of face and they knew it. But… If they were a geisha, they’d have to wear a Widow’s Web as well.

They’d have to be less than they were.

“My name was given to me,” Kei said. “But some brothers who join the order later pick their own and make it some… some truth they seek to uncover or uphold. Or the abbot can name you. Or you can meditate on it. But Mother Night Has Twice Blessed Me With The Radiance Of The Cosmos is sort of… too long to say every time you need someone’s attention, so I’ve been Kei ever since I was small. But it’s different for people who weren’t foundlings. They’re allowed to keep their Secular names.”

“Ryutaba’s nice,” they added, the subtext of its disparate parts not lost. “More fitting than what I suggested, probably. It’s a truth about you.”

 

 

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