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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: the spoils of war  (Read 214 times)

Description: seung

Offline Motoko Ueda no Shingetsu

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the spoils of war
« on: Sep 11, 18, 10:54:54 AM »
Motoko sat close beside her mother in Prince Seung Corro’s antechamber, elbows tucked in close to her side and knees folded beneath her. Queens, Teiko had always reminded her, were delicate and refined even when they marched into battle. Fidgeting was a crime of character best left to more common girls. Women. Beside her, Teiko sat in impatient meditation, and though the Black Widow said nothing, Motoko could hear her chastisement.

Night’s sake, daughter, you’re not a child.

High-born, high-casted, dark-Jeweled women could not fidget.

The door at the end of the chamber opened, revealing a homely woman in a carefully-pressed kimono sewn from dark linen. Motoko guessed her to be perhaps fifty. She wore her hair in a severe bun. A badge on her lapel indicated her position within the regent’s office, though at this distance Motoko could not read her rank.

“Ladies Ueda. Prince Corro will see you now,” said the woman, bowing.

Motoko rose to her feet, dancer-graceful, and straightened out her robes - her kimono was a deep shade of royal blue, the silk dappled with lighter ripples of color like sunlight filtering through water. Beside her, Teiko hemmed softly, and she extended a hand to her mother. Limber as the Black Widow remained, she was still sixty-five years old and with five children to show for it (six, if you believed Otohiko and Seishi on the matter, which Motoko quietly did).

They followed the woman (Motoko assumed her to be an assistant of some sort) into Prince Corro’s chambers. Teiko’s bow was... regulation, as not to reveal her frustration with the Warlord Prince before her. Motoko stayed prostrate a moment longer than she truly needed to - though she could not allow her mother to learn that they were at cross-purposes, she could not ignore the man’s position. Should the metaphorical shit hit the metaphorical fan, she would be in desperate need of his favor.

“Thank you for receiving us, Prince,” Motoko said, straightening.

Beside her, Teiko nodded and murmured in agreement, uncharacteristically quiet. Motoko cast a brief glance her mother’s way - enough to see that the Black Widow was subtly biting her tongue.

The homely woman had taken a seat in the corner behind Prince Corro, a pad of paper and ink pen in hand. Some kind of secretary, judged Motoko, and turned her focus back to the regent. How long, she wondered, would Teiko be able to hold her tongue?

Offline Seung Corro

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Re: the spoils of war
« Reply #1 on: Sep 11, 18, 11:29:35 PM »
Tacea had a fair glut of Healer Queens of Yuki no Natsuhana's generation, in as much as there were at least two that he knew of (and he'd gone through a exhaustive list of Queens already, the old and the young and the hearty and the infirm). Yet it was significant to Seung that two of them had come up for the rule of Tacea in a very short span of time.

He met Motoko Ueda, of the Shingetsu vassal Uedas, in the great throne room of the Dragon Palace. The throne upon which Ishiyo no Izayoi had spilled the blood of one of her Seven Daggers loomed large behind him; he knelt on the floor before the throne, not daring to take the seat of the Dragon Mother. Though popular imagination referred to him as the father of Tacea, it was not a name that Seung Corro would ever claim for himself. "Thank you, Lady Yamada," he said. He watched the two aristo ladies with golden eyes that revealed little and less of anything. Blood still stained the seat behind him, and he watched Teiko--a Black Widow, and theoretically capable of the web he knew had been placed upon Ishiyo--

He wasn't sure he approved of Zhihao An's play at being a woman. It seemed terrifically useful, but the geisha was so... good at it, pulling on femininity like it was a garment to be worn and discarded. To Seung, who had grown into a man in the company of strong women, who had loved strong women and raised them, it seemed disrespectful to shed it so easily. He didn't see the point of objecting to something he had every plan to use until the point where it was no longer feasible to do so, but it was strange to see a woman and know that the mind behind it was that of a man.

They bowed to him, did Teiko Ueda and her daughter. It didn't escape his notice that Motoko bent deeper than she ought to have, stayed low for a moment longer than she had to: another curious thing to add to his pile of strange happenings. He bowed his head in return, paying his respect to the role he safeguarded. Perhaps someday they'd be on opposite ends of the dias, with Seung bowing too deeply. Today, he accepted her obesiances in the name of the empty throne behind him, which wasn't his and wouldn't be.

"Lady Motoko Ueda-hime," he said, nodding to her. "Lady Teiko Ueda-san. It is an honor to receive you."

He waited a moment, until Zhihao's brushstrokes stopped, and then resumed. "I wish to speak to you on the matter of the inheritance of the throne. Lady Motoko, you are the Queen that the Shingetsu wish to see on the throne of Tacea?"

Offline Motoko Ueda no Shingetsu

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Re: the spoils of war
« Reply #2 on: Sep 12, 18, 12:49:30 AM »
Motoko had never met Seung Corro before, though she’d heard plenty about him. Teiko had held the man in high regard as all Taceans did, though recently her opinion on him had soured. What was a man - and a foreign man at that - doing interfering in the line of succession? This should have been a much more straightforward process…

The Healer Queen could recite her mother’s argument backwards and forwards and none of that would do her any good in convincing Seung Corro that she was deserving of the throne that they stood before. The gravity of their current venue was not lost on her. Here was where Ishiyo no Izayoi had gone mad. Here was where she would rule, her mother and siblings close by.

The Warlord Prince who stood before them now was the first foreigner she’d ever laid eyes on, and she found his features… inscrutable. He looked no older than Motoko did, and yet… those golden eyes of his marked him as impossibly ancient.

Luckily, his first question was easy enough to answer. Motoko took a moment to compose herself, conscious of the secretary taking notes from the corner behind her. “Yes, Prince,” she said, nodding. “My clan has honored me with the privilege of representing them.”

She was, she recalled, closer to the main line of the Shingetsu than Yuki no Natsuhana was to the Ariake. Teiko always insisted on that as a point of pride - that she’d married well and brought her house closer to the clan than they’d been in centuries.

Beside her, Teiko cleared her throat. “Have you finished your investigation, Prince?” she asked, and reached out, placing a hand on Motoko’s shoulder. To an observer, the Queen supposed it looked affectionate, brimming with maternal pride. She knew better by now than to flinch from it and the control it represented. “We are all eager to see Motoko-chan assume her proper place.”

Motoko felt her cheeks burning but refused to turn from Prince Corro’s gaze. High-born, high-casted, dark-Jeweled women could not flinch.

Offline Seung Corro

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Re: the spoils of war
« Reply #3 on: Sep 12, 18, 01:03:37 AM »
Seung's expression went flat at the words Motoko-chan. He had, until that point, looked serene, as was appropriate for a Tacean at the heights of the Territory Court. There was a difference, as he'd learned in his early six-hundreds, between flat and the simple serene mask of the truly civilized. One of them was a child's attempt at propriety, or else the closest anyone ever got to showing anger without breaking Tacea's strict Protocol. The other was simply the way of the land, the only proper expression for a formal occasion.

His expression changed, and he rose from his cushion on the floor before the throne. He was a tall man, especially in Tacea, and broad. At the top of the stairs onto the dias, he towered over Motoko Ueda and, more importantly, over her mother. "Lady Ueda," he said, his gold eyes boring into hers. "I have, to speak bluntly, not finished my investigation; therefore there is as yet no proper place for Motoko-hime to assume, until such a time as the matriarchs and I conclude that the Shingetsu are clear of any wrongdoing."

He took the steps down to their level slowly, letting each footfall carry the weight of his anger. "I am not here to speak to you," he pronounced. "You are here as a courtesy to a candidate Queen for the Dragon Throne. You are not here to slight your daughter by referring to her with a child's diminutive before the Warlord Prince who holds her allegiance in trust for the future Dragon Queen. If you speak again, Lady Ueda, you will be shown out of this meeting, and I will speak to Motoko-hime without your presence--as it is not required. Step back, or step up to the line."

His tone gentled, the edges melting ever so slightly. He folded his hands behind his back and looked to the Healer Queen. She was some scant four inches shorter than him: terribly tall for a Tacean woman. It was an attractive trait, though Jang Hye's specter loomed large over Seung's thoughts and so the consideration went no further.

"Lady Motoko, I had anticipated using this time to become familiar with your opinions on several of Tacea's major issues," he said. "Do you wish to proceed?"

Offline Motoko Ueda no Shingetsu

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Re: the spoils of war
« Reply #4 on: Sep 12, 18, 01:34:23 AM »
Whatever maternal pride Teiko had been expressing just a moment ago vanished at Prince Corro’s chastisement. Her fingers momentarily tightened on Motoko’s shoulder. Perhaps she had come into this meeting expecting to deal with Seung Corro as she’d dealt with any one of Motoko’s tutors growing up - but it wouldn’t work.

Motoko felt a swell of happiness that she tried very hard not to let show around her Queenly mask. Motoko-hime. Motoko-hime and all the respect she was due that her mother, being her mother, would not give. Teiko would never deign to elevate one of her children above herself. She was, after all, the genius who’d created them.

Every last disappointing one of them.

Teiko’s hand lifted from her shoulder, and Motoko swallowed dryly despite her composure. “Kaa-san,” she said softly, curtseying to her mother. “Please. I can handle this myself.”

A long look passed between mother and daughter. Motoko fought off the urge to back down from Teiko’s dark gaze and, conscious of Prince Corro and his secretary’s observation, managed to win.

“Very well,” said Teiko, and offered the Warlord Prince another, shorter bow. “I’m sure you understand how it is. Children. They grow up, but they’re always your babies. I’ll leave her with you.”

She left. Motoko cast a quick glance over her shoulder to verify that she really had gone.

“I must apologize for my mother, Prince,” she said, looking back to him. “These past few months have been frustrating for her. She is under tremendous pressure from the clan. But… please. Continue. I’ll answer your questions as best I can.”

That, she was at least sure she could do. She had been groomed to rule, after all.

Offline Seung Corro

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Re: the spoils of war
« Reply #5 on: Sep 12, 18, 09:43:59 PM »
Seung forced his instincts down. He wanted to shred the Black Widow the moment she turned her back, but it was an inappropriate response to what was mere disrespect. With Hinata alive, Seung didn't believe he could bond again. That didn't make his instincts as a Warlord Prince less demanding or easier to quell. He managed, because he was a thousand and three hundred years old, and Teiko Ueda no Shingetsu had done him no insult. He collected himself as the Healer Queen before him glanced behind herself.

"Her actions are not yours, and no apology is required," he said, which was not graciousness. It was a reminder to himself that he had no reason to take Teiko to pieces, as much as she set his teeth on edge. He watched her in the silence that stretched between them before nodding to himself. "Come, then."

There was a reception room off the side of the great throne hall, a smaller private parlor that Seung had seen in the days of its building. The current Dragon Court complex was, in fact, only six hundred years old, built atop the bones of one that had burned down in a tragic accident, which had been built atop another. Why waste such prime space? There'd been Dragon Queens who built summer residences, winter residences, who traveled between the many capital cities of the Provinces, but it all came back to this complex in the end. He had always thought that the heart of Tacea was Black Immortal, and the head was this complex, was this castle and this view of the Ama as it twisted through the low hills.

In the reception room, he took a seat at a low-slung table, upon which there were snacks and a steaming pot of tea. As the host, he poured for Lady Yamada and Motoko (Motoko first, of course). The fragrance of jasmine perfumed the room. His manners were perfect.

"Your honored predecessor, Yuki no Natsuhana, has caused a great disturbance through her failure to honor the contract the Tacean people entrusted to her," he said, picking up his clay cup and taking a small sip. His words had been specifically chosen. Would they offend this young Queen? It would be the least of the invective thrown at her, like rotten fruit, should he select her for the throne. "How shall you convince them of your trustworthiness?"

Offline Motoko Ueda no Shingetsu

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Re: the spoils of war
« Reply #6 on: Sep 17, 18, 10:57:17 AM »
Motoko sighed inwardly, grateful that her mother’s testiness did not seem to have done her any grave injury. Perhaps Teiko had expected Seung Corro to be a more typical Tacean male? Her posturing would have made someone with less of a spine kneel - but Motoko was grateful that the ancient Warlord Prince had not. She could not afford to draw his ire - and, quite honestly, neither could Teiko, but her mother was too proud and sure of her rightness. She’d placed a great burden on Motoko, who now felt the need to save face.

Her thoughts churned as she followed Prince Corro into his parlor, the homely secretary trailing. A time would come when she would have to decide if she was for the conspiracy or for herself, she knew, but now wasn’t it. She wasn’t yet certain whether she could count on sympathy or leniency from anyone in this room, and selling her family out so easily was unthinkable. And perhaps betrayal would be unnecessary. If Motoko played her part well, Teiko and her allies would get away with it…

She took a seat at the table and accepted the tea with both hands and a bow of her head, etiquette perfect (just as she’d been trained) but nerves a bit shaky. Those shaky nerves nearly made her respond too quickly, too emotionally, to Prince Corro’s question about Yuki no Natsuhana.

Instead, she took a long, slow breath - in through her nose, out through her mouth - and considered her answer.

Prince Corro, she realized, was trying to provoke her. He’d been Queen Natsuhana’s steward - surely he felt no ill will towards her! And a man as well connected as the Dragon Father (the name was blasphemous, but it was certainly catchy) surely knew the fallout from her abdication. That she’d made it all that more difficult for Motoko to rule in any seat.

“Yuki-hime was called to fulfill a sacred duty,” she said, when she felt centered enough to launch into the defense she’d rehearsed. “The protection of her people is a Queen’s most important role. She has left her throne, yes, but I am certain that when she returns from Shalador, even her fiercest critics will see that she did what was necessary. After all, who among us is blind to the destruction wrought at Kaesong and Zhong? Our very existence is threatened.”

Her hands trembled. She set the cup of tea down and laced her fingers together. She’d given a great deal of thought to the subject. Though she held nothing but respect for the Ariake queen, it could not be ignored that the woman had made her own climb to power that much more complicated.

“There are those in Tacea who will not trust my rule at first, no matter how many assurances I give them,” Motoko continued, finding the steel in her spine. “But Yuki-hime has given her successors a great gift, and that is the ability to rule without interruption, assured that she is working the problem. If my words cannot convince my naysayers, then my reign will. They will see that a Healer Queen can be steady. Focused. Devoted. Just ask the people of Fukuoka - I’ve done well by them.”

Offline Seung Corro

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Re: the spoils of war
« Reply #7 on: Oct 07, 18, 06:29:46 PM »
Seung watched the Healer Queen closely. He saw no point in hiding his scrutiny, the searching of his golden eyes. This was an interview, a test, and both of them knew that. If she could be so easily unsettled by an insult that wasn't even intended for her, then that would be a sizable concern. Whichever woman took the throne next would be facing an uphill battle as she attempted to bring the Territory together beneath her rule; nothing was so polarizing as someone who took the throne after two horrible tragedies. What he didn't see as he watched, Zhihao would. Between the pair of them, they would have the true measure of Motoko Ueda.

She clearly swallowed back her first response, one that was likely predicated on instinct rather than reason. Rather than being a failure, Seung was pleased at the caution so displayed. Lady Ueda recognized the precariousness of her situation, and sought to manage the face she showed to him. An excellent omen. She centered herself, her shoulders minutely straightening before she answered his impertinent question. Though she spoke firmly, confidently, he didn't miss the tremble of her hands, or the fact that this seemed to be a canned response. He wanted to glance at Zhihao and see how his bond-brother was taking the response so far, but the Prince Regent wouldn't care for the opinion of a mere functionary. His attention remained squarely on Motoko.

"Reports from Fukuoka do speak well of your rule," he agreed. "They will be sorry to see you go, should your Clan be found innocent of wrongdoing." He snapped one of the crisp rice crackers over his smooth porcelain plate, ate half of it as he thought. "The devastation of Zhong and Kaesong was a tragedy," for Seung personally as well as the Territory as a whole, "and the management of the disaster at the hands of Lady Izayoi's Dragon Court was lackluster at best. What would your solution be for the care of our cousins from the outlying islands? How would you treat fairly with them and with the Great Clans?"

Offline Motoko Ueda no Shingetsu

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Re: the spoils of war
« Reply #8 on: Oct 07, 18, 09:13:01 PM »
Motoko couldn’t have been more grateful that Teiko had left her alone with Prince Corro and his secretary. Her mother would have sussed out, as she had, that this was no ordinary meet and greet. Prince Corro was evaluating her on her fitness to rule. Teiko would have taken it as an insult - in her eyes, the throne was Motoko’s by rights, with no evaluation needed.

But there was a reason Motoko was the Shingetsu’s chosen candidate and Teiko wasn’t, and it wasn’t only that her mother did not wear the appropriate caste.

The sound of the cracker snapping against porcelain momentarily drew her attention, but she quickly looked back to Prince Corro, eyes keen as she processed the question. “We have an obligation to the Tang and the Hanwa for as long as they are displaced,” she said measuredly. She’d been prepared for the question about Yuki no Natsuhana, but not so much for this one. Motoko had given it consideration, obviously - if she were to take the Dragon Throne, this would rapidly become her problem to solve - but hadn’t managed to arrive at any answers she felt confident in.

“I think,” she continued, trying very hard to keep her thoughts ahead of her speech, “that we first must stop treating the whole situation as something that will go away in a few weeks or months time. It’s been over a year and they’re still living in tent cities. Obviously the hope is that the Tang will eventually return to Zhong, but that’s years away, and what of the Hanwa? Where will they go?”

She frowned, her train of thought having run out of track. “I don’t have a solution right now,” said Motoko. “And I don’t think one can be reached without involving representatives from each tribe and from the great clan to discuss what their needs are. But the time has certainly come to begin planning in a time scale of years, even decades, not months.”

She was almost afraid to try to evaluate his expression - but she forced herself to look up at Prince Corro and to try.

 

 

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