|fic White Butterfly 24
||[Dec. 12th, 2007|02:24 pm]
The Devil's handmaiden
|[||Tags|||||cxr, fic, wb, wk||]|
|||||30 days of night||]|
Title: White Butterfly 24
Author: Seraphim Grace
Archive: http://www.geocities.com/taliasen1256.html, http://www.Seraphim-grace.livejournal.com. If you want it ask.
Feedback: Always appreciated and replied to.
Pairings: Crawford x Ran others to be notified later.
Warnings: Het, yaoi, vast cast.
“Husband,” Rukia said barging into his private rooms, it was not her way to knock and wait like most ladies, or even polite gentlemen, she just walked in.
She was dressed in hakama but over it she wore a heavy woven wool coat thickly lined in white fur. There were flecks of snow in her hair, suggesting that she had taken a late walk through the estate, she even wore thick wool tabi and her face was rubbed pink by the winter. Her elf stood behind her, with a strange looking cap pulled down over his forehead, behind it trailed a long point for which Crawford saw no purpose, but he had at least removed his boots at the genkan, something Crawford had despaired of teaching him, mostly because the maids were terrified of him.
“Sometimes,” Rukia said standing over his low table, “I am the silly girl you married,” she said, then from the fur lined pocket of her coat she pulled a small wrapped package, “I spent a small fortune on these when i saw them, with you especially in mind, and then promptly forgot about them. Enjoy.” She threw the package, which was held taut with string, upon the desk where it fell with a low thud.
“Have you nothing else to say to me this evening?” he asked looking at his wife.
She paused for a moment, tilting her head, “are you prepared to murder my father?”
“Not yet, no,” he answered, “he still has some value.”
“Then no.” She said, “come along, elf, there is much to be done before I leave for Kyoto.”
When she reached the door she looked back, “Crawford,” she said, “you will tell me, what you plan, won't you?”
“I didn't marry you for the Fuji lands,” Crawford said.
“I know,” she grinned at him, “but they're such a nice bonus.” Her coat was so heavy that when she whirled around to leave it made a shushing sound against the mats like the rustling of pines in the wind. The slow clack as the door shut was strangely man made in comparison.
Shaking his head at the vagaries of noble women, Rukia in particular, whose will seemed to change with the wind some times, and the loping pace of her elf, who sometimes disturbed even him, he opened her package.
It was a set of lavishly illustrated sheets of leather stiffened with starch and sugar.
Crawford laid them out, all seventy eight of them, and smiled to himself. Rukia had assured him that she had no gift to aid her on her way, other than her prodigious cunning, but now and then, Crawford was sure, she could see the future.
He had Seen these and knew that even if Rukia had ransomed an entire kingdom for them, and they appeared to be hand-painted with gold and other precious metals, that she had not paid nearly enough. In the hands of an onmyoji a set of complete Trionfi, and he knew their name through his studies, were priceless.
He even knew how to use them because in his visions he had seen them and knew it. With his beautiful concubine in his mind he laid out three cards, The Papess, the tower and the devil, looking at their beautifully etched surfaces he smiled to himself, he couldn't have chosen a better selection if he tried.
He lifted the deck and shuffled them and brought to mind the Takatori, before he laid out three cards in a triangular formation, the alchemist, death and the world. It was time, he thought, to start to undo the Takatori, and Masafumi was first.
He called his twins and was surprised when they took a small amount of time to answer, and when they did they were dishevelled. The gap in Saya's kimono was open almost to her navel and her obi quickly tied to the left, but Maya's cosmetics were smudged. “Master,” Saya asked, “you sent for us.”
“I wondered why I hadn't seen you for the past few days.”
It was Maya who smirked, “Baba had a suggestion about Lord Yuuta and it appears she was right.”
“You have not killed him.” Crawford said, it was not a question.
“Certainly not, master, but he might not sit comfortably for several days.” Saya said, “did you call us for a reason? If you wish us to relieve your tension we will have to bathe.”
“No,” Crawford said and for a moment he had a vision of milk white skin stretched out before him. “I was going to ask you to watch my guests for I had new things I needed to watch for. I find you are doing this regardless.”
Kudoh knocked and slid open the door, “not interrupting anything I hope,” he leered, “but I have news from the Taira estate.” From the folds of his haori he pulled a thin folded piece of paper and handed it to Crawford, “it looks like your boy has been delayed.”
“I would prefer you didn't read my mail, Kudoh.” Crawford said.
“I didn't need to,” Kudoh said rolling his shoulders, “I can't imagine your boy writing to you unless he was delayed.”
Crawford broke open the seal with his thumbnail, and read it over a few times, and murmured the words “the house of sleep”.
“Fetch me Schuldig,” Crawford said bluntly, “and Baba, I have things to arrange.”
Baba was squatting cross legged by the fire with a man beside her that Crawford did not recognise. He wore rough cloth and had a piece of fabric as a makeshift bandage around his arm, but his legs and feet were bare. Crawford raised an eyebrow when he saw him. Baba's expression was completely calm as if it was her prerogative to have strange men in Crawford's house and to, he noticed the bowl in the man's hand, feed them with Crawford's food.
When she saw him Baba raised her head, “ah, master,” Crawford knew for a fact that Baba only called him that because she had to, “this is Ryujii from the village, he has news for you.”
“I am busy,” Crawford said, “take a note of his complaint and I will deal with it when I have time.”
“There are bandits, my lord,” the man stammered, “in the woods, they keep stealing our grain and the money we need to pay tithe.”
Crawford considered his options, he could continue to milk the peasants for the tithe that they were due to pay the Fujimiya which is what ran this house, or he could be munificent.
“Baba,” he said calmly, and then sat down, “fetch me my wife's elf, I think this is a job to which he will be well suited. I am sorry, master Ryujii but my servants will be coming and going as we talk as I have many other things to arrange, but I am sure that the elf will be most for ridding the woods of bandits.”
The man stammered a thank you, “does he have his own army because the bandits are many.”
Crawford's grin slithered across his face, “he is an elf,” Crawford said, “and I'm sure that a few armed villagers will be no issue to him, he has complained lately that there is nothing for him to do.”
The man went pale a fact that became more pronounced when Baba led Farfarello into the room, he stood almost half as tall again as she was and wore solid white hakama and pants, his white hair had been scraped back showing his strangely yellow eyes. He had painted his fingernails black with lacquer and he moved like an animal. Crawford noted the reaction even as he took in Farfarello's appearance, and the knives he wore as a bandolier across his chest. There was a chain around his waist that hung along a white thigh and was finished with three hooks. “Farfarello, this is Ryujii, it seems we have bandits in the woods.”
Farfarello smiled as he sat down beside them with the jangling of many knives clattering against his each, “do tell,” he said, “I am sure that my mistress will allow me some leisure to take care of this problem.”
“But,” the villager protested, “there must be a hundred of them.”
Farfarello smiled, “that will not be a problem.” he licked his lips, “I find the natives here to be little challenge, a hundred might mean that I work up a sweat. Master,” he used the term like Baba did with a derogatory slant, “perhaps this ningen and I might walk and talk, that I might find out some intelligence about these,” he savoured the word, “bandits.”
Schuldig came back in with a flare of bright red hair, “Crawford,” he said lounging against the wall, “Baba wants to inform you that you have an invite for a seien with Shuiichi Takatori that you have accepted.”
Crawford swore, there was a terrible irony in that nothing happened for months and then when it did happen it all happened within an hour.
Shuiichi Takatori was the sort of man who hid his intentions behind a thick beard. He sat at the table of his seien with his two lovely wives, Hanae whom he called Manx and Kikuno whom he called Birman, and just stared at Crawford as if by looks alone he could work out the man's intentions. Crawford was used to such scrutiny, and suspected that Shuiichi, unlike his older brother, was intelligent enough to realise the emperor might have intentions towards the Takatori lands.
“Where is your concubine?” Kikuno asked sipping her sake as a servant girl poured her more, “I haven't seen young Ran for at least a year, I was hoping we might talk, once we did.”
Crawford gave a predator's smile, “he is attending to a small favour for me,” he said, “I have asked that he attend the House of Sleep.” Watching Kikuno spray sake was worth not knowing what it was. “It is rude not to call on all the landowners of this place.”
“She's the devil's wife.” Hanae said firmly, “she will eat his soul.”
Crawford smiled thinking that perhaps finding out information about the House of Sleep might not be as hard as he thought.
Baba explained the House of Sleep to Rukia, because her brother was there, over tea using the ashes in the firepit to illustrate it, the information she gave was what the Fujimiya knew and therefore not quite as distorted as what the Takatori told Crawford.
The House of Sleep was built on a mountain that was just inside the Taira territory but had traditionally belonged to the Fujimiya, but lack of children had seen their lands dwindle as the Taira grew. At the foot of the mountain was an abandoned village called the Village of All Souls where it was said that the dead rested one last time before climbing the stairs to the House of Sleep.
Any who called on the House of Sleep would also stay there, because to sleep in the House of Sleep meant that you were damned as it was the gateway to the House of Windowless Rooms, and some said it was like a groundsman's house, making sure that none travelled into the lands of the damned without the express permission of the goddess Izanami.
Baba admitted she didn't know the truth of it, because in some things the Fujimiya could be tightlipped.
The house of sleep was built in three rings, the outer ring was where supplicants came to ask favours of the Horimono-hime and had several servants who watched over her before they returned to the Village of All Souls. Those who angered them were submitted to a terrible ceremony called the Kusabi.
Baba lowered her voice and said she had heard of only one instance of it in her lifetime and she would not speak of it, because she knew that just because she did not understand such a practise she would not anger the gods.
The second ring belonged to the White Butterfly, white haired children who never grew old and who protected the Sleeping Princess, they had secret shrines within the house and gloried in blood. It was well known that the White Butterfly, of whom there might be as many as four, were mad.
The last ring was the place where the princess slept and the legend told that if she awoke then the world would cease to be, because this world was the dream of the daughter of Izanami.
This was the House of Sleep.
This is where Aya had been summoned, and she did not like it, for it was nothing she could control, but she was sure that Rao-Sama, the Horimono-hime would not hurt him, for they were blood, for only daughters born to the Fujimiya could take such a role, and only those born with the red hair and velvet eyes.
Rukia was not appeased by such answers, but then Baba's fear receded a little, “her gifts are double edged,” she admitted, “and the price is high, but she alone can recognise love.” She stood up, “now, do you think that Master Crawford will be back tonight, or not?” she looked around the house, “it's so quiet, I don't like it.”
“I know,” Rukia admitted, “it's like a ghost house.”
Baba laughed but it sounded forced.
Naoe looked brighter in the carriage than he had in months, fussing with Aya, making sure that the fur was pulled tight. Fuji did not know what had happened in the seven days that Naoe and Aya had spent in the House of Sleep, all he knew was that the Horimono-hime had been naked apart from a robe tied around her waist and a wolf fur she wore over her head and down her back, the paws covering her breasts, and that she terrified him and he could neither control the fear or understand it.
“Does he love you?” she had asked and her voice was a whisper, “if he does, if you do not question, and he does not question,” she had said, “then give him this,” and in her palm she held a golden bead, “and have him swallow it, if it is love, if it is true love, such as the gods envy, then this,” the bead glinted in her palm, “will tie you together forever, to live one life and to die one death, but,” she closed her white hand with her black nails over the bead, “if it is not love, then this will kill him. The question is not whether he loves you, but whether or not you believe he does? If you have doubts, then keep this.” She pressed it into his hand and closed his fingers about it. “Love is it's own price.” and then she was gone.
Aya had paid the price for Naoe's health, and Fuji did not know what it was, but it meant he sat still as Naoe fussed about him, and his eyes seemed harder, no longer like the petals of a flower but like chips of amethyst in a bed of milk, and there was a sour turn to his mouth that had not been there before.
Naoe was changed too, more solicitous to his duty but more given to long prolonged silences, no longer did he chide Aya about things, he simply adjusted those things he felt fault with, swiping back his hair, making sure the fur was tucked in about his feet.
Even Ken, who had not ventured to the House of Sleep, was quicker to anger than he had been, and more determined to see the best in things.
Fuji sighed and wondered if the empty village had changed him too, and if Crawford knew what would be returning to him.
Ameratsu – The Sun goddess of Shinto
Aneki – older sister
Bikiko – Hel
Buchou - Captain
Dairai – imperial court
Daimyo – a landowner or lord.
Danna – a patron
Doitsujin - German person
Dorei – a slave particularly a rope slave
Ecchi – pervert
Edo – another name for Tokyo
Fundoshi – a wrapped loincloth worn by men
Gaiden – legend
Gaijin – Foreigner
Gei - art
Genkan – small area in front of the door where shoes are kept
Genki – chipper
Geta – a type of sandal, named for the sound they make
Hakama – split culottes
Hanzubon – shorts
Hikarin – Schoen
-Hime – suffix for a princess
Horimono – Japanese tattooing
Iki – sense of style.
Izanami of the House of Windowless Rooms – Goddess of the underworld
Juni Hitoe – Lit twelve layers
Kaasan – Mother
Kamen - mask
Kawaii – an exclamation of something’s cuteness.
Kimi – she who is without equal
Kimono – a decorated robe
Konketsu – half-breed.
Korobi – roll over as in Korobi geisha – a geisha who will sleep with her customer
Kyu – the lowest ranking in Go
Minarai – a time of learning by imitation
Miko – a shrine maiden
Mizuage – a deflowering ceremony
Moku – two corresponding lines in go – marks one area
Monogatori – lit: story of a person; romances or stories
Nagajubon – a light white kimono worn under the more ornate robes
Natto - fermented soybeans
Nawa – rope
Nawashi – a rope artist
Neesan - Sister
Nigiri – a pressed rice ball
Niisan - brother
Nihonjin – Japanese person
Noh – a type of drama performed with masks
Obi – the wide belt used to fasten a kimono
Okaasan - mother
Omemie - Neu
Omusubi – wrapped rice balls
Oni – demon, see also youma
Onmyoji – sorcerer
Ouji-sama – your highness.
Seien – a formal banquet
Seppuku – ritual suicide by disembowelling
Seppun – the act of pressing mouths together- the worst of all perversions
Shibari - the art of rope tying
Shinobi – a ninja
Sumimasen – the most formal way of apologising
Tabi – split toed socks
Takoyaki – fried balls of octopus and flour
Tansu – a Japanese chest. This is a distinct style
Tanto – a short bladed sword, usually used by women, part of a set
Tatami – a mat, rooms are measured by tatami
Tayu – a very high-class courtesan, also called an Oiran
Trionfi – a very old form of tarot
Usagi - Todt
Yukuta – a light cotton kimono worn for sleeping or festivals