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Author Topic: When the night is young  (Read 199 times)

Description: Naoji

Offline Yumi no Kagen

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    • white2rose
    • queen
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      Clan Queen

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      Kagen Clan

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      Tacea

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When the night is young
« on: Oct 08, 18, 03:15:23 AM »
Strictly speaking, Yumi was not meant to be alone with Naoji at any point. It was a matter of propriety; with her youth, and their comparative social positions, their socializing ought to have been conducted in public or through a modesty screen. Geisha, after all, were not whores. Even if they had been, a Kagen Queen had no need for such a one, especially not when she was the flower of the Clan. Though she could have any man she chose, and nearly any woman, she had eyes for only one of them.

Therefore, after her duties were done, after the dinner had been finished and the dances had been done, Yumi and Naoji walked arm-in-arm by the riverside. They were still behind the walls of Wolf Castle, and therefore theoretically quite safe. Even if they had been out beyond the piled and dark-washed stone, they had quite a talented propriety   escort. Shirodaizu, the snow-white shiba inu he had given her as a gift for her enthronement, gamboled about their feet, a pale and four-legged ghost that roamed up the path and back. He barked at ducks, at swans, at fish that sometimes leaped over the surface of the water. For the full length of their walk, they had been trading poems: some of them short, sweet, serious, and others irreverent. A few of them--mostly from Yumi--were just silly. None of them were for public consumption.

A shrill whistle from above them brought the couple to a stop. Yumi pointed up at the sky, where a red streak traced the path of an errant firework. "Look there," she said, and slapped her free hand against his chest. "With ice in its beak/the firebird soars/streak of flame in dark sky." Did the act of sharing these first drafts of poems make the moment intimate, or was it the intimacy of the moment that made the poems seem so significant to her? Yumi hesitated, her hand still resting against the collar of Naoji's robe, over his heart, and glanced up to him. "Ji-kun," she said--for they were alone now, and formality was something they had abandoned as they'd escaped out the servant's exit of the banquet hall--"Perhaps you will think I'm too forward to ask this, but it is a question that has been on my mind..."

She wavered, and finished: "But which flavor of moon cake do you prefer? Prince An said it might be walnut and date, but Prince Kirijo says red bean with egg yolk."

Offline Naoji Kirijo

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    • bo2green
    • warlord
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      First Son

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      Ureshi-sa

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      Tacea

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Re: When the night is young
« Reply #1 on: Oct 08, 18, 04:16:37 AM »
While the Mid-Moon Festival wasn't Naoji's absolute favorite - that was, of course, the Flower Viewing Festival in the springtime - it was certainly no less enjoyable to him. All of Tacea's festivals and celebrations were significant and inspirational to the Warlord, always providing him with some kind of artistic muse and allowing him to add any new array of poetry or artwork to his repertoire by the time the ceremonies were over.

None of them, however, could hold even a flicker of witchlight to the inspiration he found from the young woman striding beside him that night - his Yumi. Her presence made even the drollest circumstances infinitely more bearable and even had the festivities of the earlier evening not been entertaining in their own right, Naoji would've been absolutely content because he had been able to spend the aforementioned duration of time with his beloved Queen. (This was in no small part thanks to the willingness of one of his younger brothers at Ureshi-sa to take care of his responsibilities for the evening and he owed the Prince in question tremendously.)

It was the absolute, most idyllic scenario he could have pictured for himself right in that instant and there was a profound sense of peace both inside and out for the geisha as they strolled alongside the water. Even Shirodaizu's exuberant yipping at assorted other animals was merely white noise in the background and hardly gleaned so much as a second thought from the Warlord, his attention delightfully ensconced by Yumi. The thump of her hand against his chest brought him out of his slight reverie and he cast his dark gaze skyward when she pointed, letting out a warm, soft laugh between the sight of the firework and the poem she'd made to accompany it. "Beautiful, Yumi-chan." (The short poem or the regal wolf who crafted it? Who knew; and he felt no need to specify so it was likely all-encompassing.)

When she didn't remove her hand right away it caused the smile on Naoji's face to broaden and warm even more, his own free hand instinctively reaching up to cover Yumi's and entwine their fingers for those next few moments. Could she feel the way his heart never failed to hammer against the inside of his chest when she was near? It felt so weighted and intense that he was almost positive she'd have been able to hear it, but surely that was just silly.

There was no need for a verbal response when Yumi said she had something to ask him, merely a nod of agreement. It sounded important but Naoji felt no need to be concerned - the Queen of the Kagen could've asked him to deliver her every last star in the sky and he would've found a way to do so without a beat of hesitation. For all that it had seemed like something serious, the male found himself a little perplexed when the subject of her inquiry was mooncakes. "I enjoy both varieties, but were I forced to choose between them it would be the red bean and egg yolk. Date and walnut for when I'm feeling slightly adventurous, though," he quipped with the quickest of winks. "And you?"

"You know you needn't worry about being forward with me - though I don't find that question to be such. I would answer anything and everything for you with nothing but the utmost honesty."

Offline Yumi no Kagen

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Re: When the night is young
« Reply #2 on: Oct 08, 18, 02:01:13 PM »
Ugh! Stupid, Yumi! She puffed out her cheeks, turning her head away as if displeased by his answer, when really she was displeased with herself. She should just ask him. Naoji would hardly be offended if she just asked; what was really offensive was doubting her own true love. Surely he wouldn't hold her shyness in the matter against her, but it was out of character for her to be anything less than forthright with him. Still, it was a question that delved deep into the heart of the great contradiction of geisha loyalty: did his heart, his Jewels, his blade belong first to his okiya? To the Dragon Queen?

Or to her?

"I like lotus seed but--that's--that's not really the question I was going to ask!" Yumi huffed, and smacked the flat of her hand against his chest again. And he knew it, judging by the reassurance he offered. It was so embarrassing to be known this way, and yet... nice. She dropped her hand back to his arm, cheeks burning brightly beneath her rice powder makeup. "It's only that it's terribly important to me that you answer me honestly, and... that you know that if you can't... That I'll always be... fond of you. Even if you say no! That won't change. So... be honest, alright?"

Yumi hesitated, following Shirodaizu's galumphing path from the riverside to the tall bushes across the path and back with her eyes. Anything was better than looking at Naoji as she asked him such a personal question. A personal favor, even. "When Prince Corro picks the new Dragon Mother," she started. Her mouth didn't want to cooperate with her; it felt as if she were speaking through cheeks full of marbles, like each syllable was an agony she could choke on. "I..." Oh, why was this so hard? There were exceptions for bonded males, but no one knew that Yumi and Naoji were bonded, save Prince Kirijo and Prince An and of course her grandmother. Wouldn't it sound like an excuse?

"I don't want you to enter the tournament for her Daggers," Yumi blurted, all at once, tears springing to the corners of her eyes. Undignified! But she spun around to face him, nearly standing on her toes with both hands pressed against his chest. "But I know Ureshi-sa has been represented in the Daggers of every Dragon Mother since Grandmother's enthronement and you're the best of them and I'm scared they'll want you to go! Please say you won't, Ji-kun. I know you'd place well but I don't want you to be any other Queen's male, I want you to be mine!"

Offline Naoji Kirijo

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Re: When the night is young
« Reply #3 on: Oct 09, 18, 12:01:55 AM »
Naoji knew the posed question hadn't been what Yumi had originally intended to ask, could feel it in his bones and the back of his mind as he listened to his Queen, took in her mannerisms and her words. In his opinion there wasn't a singular soul within the Territory - the Realms, even! - that knew Yumi no Kagen like he did. Although with that knowledge also came the concession that she would tell him her true intent on her own terms, and Naoji was nothing if not a patient soul, especially for his Queen.

Which, in tandem with his years of training, was precisely why he had answered her query about the mooncakes and tacked on the additional reassurance in a gentle manner. To have bluntly called her out on the fib and outright insist that wasn't what she wanted to ask him would have been a level of disrespect that he would neither exhibit for himself nor abide by from anyone else. The Warlord had no desire to embarrass his Lady and such a notion was furthered with the way she already seemed to be bordering on such a thing (unusual for her and mildly concerning for him, but he was silent still).

A lone eyebrow rose in some legitimate confusion as Yumi stressed the importance of his honesty on the matter she seemed so frazzled about, but his nod of assurance came swiftly regardless and he allowed some of that same, genuine intent and absolute adoration filter through their Bond. "You have my word, as true as the sun rises each day," he said simply before falling back into inquisitive silence once again.

Naoji would've been lying were he to say he wasn't genuinely concerned at that point, for what could the subject matter have been that his elegant Queen bordered on bashful and upset? Momentarily, he attempted to go over any of their last encounters in the hope of finding something of an explanation, but he came up empty-handed. Had he done something wrong? Had someone said something to her about him? A reverberating no came from within at both scenarios, but the shadow of doubt still lingered as he waited.

"I don't want you to enter the tournament for her Daggers."

Oh.

Oh.

Relief initially flooded through him, interspersed with disquiet as he watched the tears start to form just at the corners of her eyes, threatening to spill over but not quite doing so just yet. The answer he desired to give sprung to mind almost immediately, though it took a few, longer moments for him to formulate it into something befitting of his usual nature and way of addressing the woman who held his heart and soul.

"There is no doubt in my mind that I would be expected to participate in the tournament for the new Dragon Mother's Daggers," he spoke not arrogantly, but matter-of-fact. His entire life had been devoted to representing Ureshi-sa, bringing honor to himself, to Ryuuen, to his brothers and he had rightfully earned his place as First Son with exceptional reason and skill. It simply was what it is, in his mind.

"But there are other brothers of age, or who will be when the time comes, that it would be no great dishonor to the okiya or to myself if I were to decline." Carefully, Naoji brought a hand up and allowed his fingertips to gently touch Yumi's cheek, a small smile once again returning to his features. "I have seen men who were forced to bear such a conflict of interest, a conflict of not only their loyalty, but their emotions and their souls. To serve one Queen while belonging to another..." He shook his head, the mere thought of it bringing about inner-turmoil.

"I am yours, Yumi. Nobody else's. To serve the Dragon Throne would be a great honor, but it would mean nothing and be for naught if it meant I was unable to serve and be yours for all of Tacea to see and acknowledge. There is nothing that would bring me a greater joy or a larger sense of fulfillment than to be a part of your court, my Queen." There was, after all, still immense honor and dignity in serving one's heart-bound Queen, serving any of the Great Clans was far more than so many others would hope to achieve and he would have held not a shred of shame for claiming such a position if she truly wanted him. "I will speak to my otou-san more formally on the matter, but consider your request granted."

Offline Yumi no Kagen

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Re: When the night is young
« Reply #4 on: Oct 09, 18, 12:25:38 AM »
Naoji's answer swamped Yumi all at once with the purest sense of relief she had ever known. It wasn't like her to swoon, but she did let herself rock back onto her heels, her hands still splayed elegantly over his chest, over his heart. The heart that belonged to her, always and forever. How silly of her to have doubted that she laid claim to every part of Kirijo Naoji no Ureshi-sa, she thought, as his soft fingertips traced the line of her cheek and he smiled down at her. "See that you do! It is selfish, but I don't want to share you, not with anyone," she said, quiet and fervent. "Not even with the Dragon Mother. I know you would be her staunchest protector and no harm could come to her while Ji-kun was there! But I would rather you be my protector."

Her lover, even, someday. Once her rule was more established... once she knew the shape of her Court and could afford to lose the direct support of an experienced First Escort... She cupped her hand around Naoji's, cradling his palm against her cheek. It would be so easy to simply ask him now. It even seemed a natural progression of their conversation, to request that he kiss her. She could see that future if she closed her eyes, their night ending as many other couples' nights would end, in bed, curled around each other.

But it wasn't the time for that. He was still tied to Ureshi-sa, with no contract with her except for these stolen moments that Yumi would guiltily pay for in the morning, with exhaustion and with marks. She wouldn't be a burden to him, wouldn't slow the repayment of his debts. Even though she knew that as the future okiya father his debts had been absorbed by the house, it seemed disrespectful to Prince Kirijo to take advantage of the heart-bond.

"One day I'll be able to offer you my Consort's ring," she said, her words quiet. There was hardly space between them for air, her chin tipped up to look at his beautiful face in the moonlight. Each curve of his face was familiar; she knew it by sight, by touch. "Then you will be part of my Court, and we'll never be parted." It was a pretty fantasy when they both knew that he'd someday have to take over Ureshi-sa, that someday he'd leave her Court for his house. Still, she liked to think of it, of the future they could have had, if they were different people. A home together, two children, a trade. It seemed common and romantic. A daydream.

She smiled, a small sweet curve to her crimson-painted lips, and turned her head to kiss the palm of his hand. "My Ji-kun."

Offline Naoji Kirijo

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    • bo2green
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Re: When the night is young
« Reply #5 on: Oct 09, 18, 02:54:20 AM »
It hadn't been too long ago that Naoji's aspirations circled around becoming a Dagger for the Dragon Mother, similarly to most geisha, he assumed. To be one of the seven best of one's generation and to serve at the highest level of the Territory Court was something that stuck with a person even into their retired years (as Ryuuen and Zhihao were examples of), something that propelled a male's reputation to the pinnacle of success and would follow them down through generations, follow their kin.

And yet? In this very moment that same span of time couldn't have seemed more far away and distant to the young geisha. Naoji still desperately desired to be successful and bring pride to everyone who expected such success from him, but he also knew more instinctively that living the prime years of his life in service to a Queen who wasn't his Rose-jeweled beloved would be one of malcontent, even if he was too dignified and well-trained to express it. "You are entitled to your selfish whims as much as anyone else. Your service and leadership to the land and the Kagen people is no small task and you must claim your own happiness when you are able to do so."

If it just so happened that her happiness, in part, included his presence in her life? Well... he wasn't going to complain about that.

Naoji had always been a romantic, far more than he'd ever been any kind of combatant despite his chosen life's path demanding excellence in that as well, so it was the moments such as these that truly called to him. The ones he'd remember above all the others when he was old and gray. The geisha knew he was fortunate to have found a Queen who appreciated his love of such things and even returned it in kind, more blessed still was he that she returned his affections and feelings. (For he knew not all Bonds sprung up to develop in any sort of romantic fashion, many were platonic or familial in their nature.) He couldn't imagine his Darkness-given link to Yumi being anything less than what they shared, even if at the current juncture in time it was inappropriate to display in public he knew it wouldn't always be.

The Queen of the Kagen could have had anyone she wanted at the most casual of whims, and yet she wanted him. Him, out of an entire court, her other Bonded, literally anyone else imaginable within Tacea. The thought was as humbling as it was delightful, causing warmth to permeate throughout him all over again.

"There is no other appointment that would bring me more joy and contentment than to be worthy of such a place in your court, my Yumi," he replied just as softly, still smiling. It would have been a bold statement for him to make unbidden and he would have never presumed such without his Queen's acknowledgment of it first, but at the same time it had been something that resided between them unspoken for some time. "Though I know the time for it is not now when so much of our homeland is in transition and political flux and I would never wish to disrupt your court or your reputation - I will continue to patiently await that day. I will always belong to you, and you to me, regardless of where our paths in life take us. I'm confident they will converge when they are meant to."

The way she smiled at him set all of his senses ablaze, he'd always felt she could've lit up the daytime sky with the expression if she so chose to. With the one hand remaining up near her face as she kissed his palm, Naoji wound his other arm around her slender waist, loose enough to be conscious of social propriety but just snug enough to appease the possessiveness and protectiveness befitting of someone such as himself. A Warlord bearing the Green who was irrevocably and unabashedly in love with the young woman before him.

There was minuscule distance between them and while he yearned to kiss his Queen outright, for the moment he instead opted to lean in just enough to press his lips against her temple, remaining there for a couple heartbeats before withdrawing again. "I have something for you, my Yumi-chan. A gift for Mid-Moon if you'll allow me to bestow it upon you."

Offline Yumi no Kagen

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Re: When the night is young
« Reply #6 on: Oct 09, 18, 11:56:20 AM »
Even moments like these felt like they had been snatched from the jaws of a beast. Not a dragon, no, but perhaps a lion, one of those mythical mainlander creatures, something with a mouthful of fangs and a jaw like a trap. Tomorrow she would awaken and she would be beset by mountains of paperwork, petitions, concerns. This would seem like another lifetime. His scent on the sleeve of her robe would wash out in the laundry, and they would be parted until the next occasion that she could excuse inviting a geisha. The Kagen suffered no privations of young men with the name or the training, not like the Izayoi, and unlike the Shingetsu they saw no need to leave their young men to geisha training. It would be so long before she could come up with another excuse to be alone with him...

"You know you don't have to get me anything," she said, leaving the conversation of his place at her side as it was. There was no use to pushing at it like a child with a loose tooth. If the day came that Yumi could make that offer--and she would strive against the current to see it happen--then it would come. She was confident that he would be waiting there the moment that the stars aligned just so; his word was good and he had as good as given it that he would speak to Ryuuen on the matter. "Naoji-kun. All I need is your time."

And his hand cradling her cheek, his lips against her skin, and the warm cypress scent on his skin. The warmth in his brown-eyed gaze. Naoji had already given her a wonderful gift in Shirodaizu (who was still bounding about, full of energy and excitement despite a long day--well, she supposed he had gotta nap that she'd frankly missed out entirely on) and in his presence at her enthronement and in agreeing to sneak out with him now, when he could be counting hours with other women and earning far more money. Light-Jeweled she might be, but her desire to keep Naoji with her, forever, was overwhelming.

She slid her hands down his arms to gather both of his hands in hers. "But if it would make you happy, I would gladly accept it."

Offline Naoji Kirijo

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      First Son

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      Ureshi-sa

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Re: When the night is young
« Reply #7 on: Oct 09, 18, 04:27:05 PM »
Naoji was entirely well aware that the festival could have come and gone without the need for him to get Yumi a gift of some kind. Many had passed between them wherein they basked in the presence of one another and that was beyond enough for the pair of them, there would have been no shame in yet another proceeding in much the same manner. However, as with when he had spotted Shirodaizu months before, the idea in question had called to him and wouldn't relent until he saw it through. Winsol was not a holiday celebrated in Tacea as it was upon the mainland, with Mid-Moon being the most similar in nature; thus it seemed like the most opportune time to have an excuse for giving his Queen a present.

Regardless, Yumi's statement was expected and he merely smiled knowingly, the silent fact that Bonded male could be just as stubborn as his Queen filtering between them good-naturedly. Naoji's was not a hot-tempered stubbornness for that was never in his nature to be such. Instead a solemn, elegant kind of steadfastness reminiscent of Tacea's mountain ranges - ever-present and unwavering, but not forcefully or unbidden in aggressiveness. "It would, in fact, make me quite happy," he said in affirmation, knowing that would have been all the convincing needed for the slender Queen to accept the token he'd acquired for her.

With reluctance Naoji momentarily extracted his hands from Yumi's grip (intent to return them to their rightful place soon, of course) before the faintest flicker of Craft summoned a glittering necklace from his psychic cabinet to dangle carefully from his fingers. It had been perfect, the jeweler having done a more than remarkable job on the piece and the geisha had considered it marks very well-spent. Deftly, he unclasped the chain and took the liberty of putting it around her neck himself, refastening the chain and leaning back again to thoughtfully admire how it looked adorning his Lady.

"Perfect," he breathed out contentedly, smile growing wider as he awaited her reaction, hopeful in that she would enjoy the token of his affection as much as he thought she would. "Now there will always be a piece of me with you when we must be apart." And she would indeed notice his words rang literally, for the eyes of the wolf pendant weren't emeralds as one might first assume, but the familiar thrum of Green power reverberated within the necklace as indication that they were instead pieces of his Offering jewel.