kaigou: (6 Yuon)
[personal profile] kaigou
Back from the writing retreat, and did get a bunch written (but did a lot more talking than writing, which was fine and very informative and whatnot). Here's one snippet written as 'homework', because our crit-leader was mean teacherly like that.

Khuojeung eased himself into the cushioned seat while Yuon's guard tested the tea. With a slight bow, the man backed away: not poisoned.

"Khuo, you've no decent reason to haul your ass out of that sick bed." Yuon poured tea for both of them and set the pot aside. "I could order you back to bed, you know."

"And I would have to go, of course, but then you'd miss the pleasure of my company."

"I'd also miss the guilt of knowing you weren't resting."

Khuojeung smiled and tried the tea. Dark, with hints of nutmeg and cardamon, the latest fashion in Huulqulku spiced tea. "I'm here for a reason."

"I didn't think you were here to discuss the tides." Yuon picked up her own cup and sat back, pushing her thick braid over her shoulder. Her hair held a few more strands of silver than she'd had the last time the cousins had seen each other, almost a year before. "You'd better not be here to discuss my littlest--" She halted at Khuojeung's smile, and set her cup down on the table hard enough to splash tea. "Oh, don't even. I've wasted enough time on him already."

"Really? From what I've seen, you've done your best to forget he exists." Khuojeung stared out across the inner courtyard of the Crimson Palace. Servants came and went; down among the water garden at the Palace's center, Yuon's five youngest played noisily. Khuojeung shifted in place, trying to get comfortable, then gave up. There was no longer any true 'comfortable'. There was only the inevitable. "You haven't even invited his household to an evening."

"I will eventually. It's a bad time right now. Qhiyai is--"

"Did you have reasons, or just excuses?"

Yuon waved away the serving girl trying to clean the spilt tea. "He's the one who picked a fight and ran away, Khuo. I'm the one who had to clean up after him. I wouldn't have even done that much if--"

Khuojeung waited; Yuon's words hung in the air. After a deep breath, she refilled her own cup and picked it up again.

"He's useless, Khuo. He has no saa, can't swim, and doesn't know a share from a barnacle. The problem isn't that I can't believe the rumors I've heard about how exactly he landed in Nasoyunukona. The problem is that I can believe." Yuon gritted her teeth in a mockery of a smile. "I'm tempted to declare him an inside man and let Ban inherit."

"Tell me you won't," Khuojeung warned. "You cross that line--"

"I know, I know," Yuon replied. "Even if you telling me what to do is crossing a different line."

"I'm all apologies, your highness."

"Of course you are."

Khuojeung swallowed his tea and held out the cup. "Chei send this?"

"No, the Yeisaka ambassador." Yuon refilled his cup, then waved to the serving girl to take the tray away. "I was hoping it'd be poisoned, and then both of us might be put out of our--" She froze, chagrin flashing over her face. "Never mind."

"It's fine. I know what's coming. I'm ready for it." Khuojeung forced himself to slow down, enjoy the tea.

"Why didn't you ask Hsai? I hear he was the first you spoke to." Yuon frowned. "You weren't actually planning on having little brother do it at his tribunal, were you?" One hand gripped the other, in her lap. "You were. His first tribunal, you couldn't possibly ask--"

"It doesn't matter. Plans changed." Khuojeung waved off her questions. "Despite what you may've heard, he did do a fine job as a judge."

"I've heard nothing."

"I'll believe that the morning the sun rises in the west."

Yuon snorted and leaned back, stretching out her legs. "The Minister had a report, but I've not had a chance to read it. Too much is going on right now in Otokoza."

"No word from Cyeun?"

"Not yet. I expect a cousin will have news soon, though."

"And yet a cousin had no word for you of the tribunal." Khuojeung made no additional comment, but he was sure his expression said it all. Yuon frowned upwards, as if noting an error in the intricate geometric swirls covering the rafters. "He did have two intelligent consorts willing to act as his counter-judges, it's true, but every decision was ultimately his. He's not as..." He rethought his words. "He's compassionate."

"You mean weak. The sea has no compassion."

"We're not the sea."

"You're not." Yuon's gaze slid sideways to stare Khuojeung down.

"He didn't marry the sea any more than I did. Just because Grandmother thinks we should all be unfeeling rocks doesn't mean that's the best tactic for a judge. Compassion is a necessary part of it."

"What's compassion in anyone else is nothing but timidity in Tsiu. Mother coddled him far too much." Yuon shook her head when her attendant appeared with a tray of finger-snacks; the attendant withdrew.

"Hey, isn't that lotus root? Bring that back," Khuojeung ordered. The serving girl reappeared, giving Yuon a questioning look. Yuon just sighed and nodded. "He's not timid at all," Khuojeung said, when the girl had left again. "He's cautious--"

"Cautious? In what world? He tore in here with some half-cooked idea about Nasoyunukona, and when I explained it wouldn't work, he not only tore out of here in a fury, he immediately went against direct orders and sailed off, anyway." Yuon's glare bore holes into Khuojeung's scalp. "He's impulsive, has no self-control, and despite five years of the Minister's patient instructions, there are probably small sea creatures with more diplomacy than him--"

"Patient? The Minister?" Khuojeung nearly snorted pickled lotus root through his nose from laughing too hard. He took a breath, calming himself; it felt good to laugh but it made his gut throb with pain so sharp it nearly blinded him. "The Minister has no patience, with anyone or anything, and you know it. If nothing else, accept that you might not be entirely wrong about little brother, given the Minister didn't throw him overboard. Not saying she wasn't tempted, but she didn't."

"She couldn't," Yuon said, unmoved. "He can't swim."

"Are you sure? He swam in the bay of Ujira."

"As much as a secondborn could," Yuon said. "That's not good enough."

Khuojeung stared down into his empty hands, turning them over, studying them. He flexed his fingers, considering. "Elder Sister," he began, using an address he'd not used since childhood, when Yuon had been more sister than cousin, "there is a lot more to Tsiu than you realize. I agree he took longer to grow up, but he is growing up."

"Hardly." Yuon bent forward to rest her elbows on her knees, propping her forehead on a hand. "Ban wants to inherit the Jade. Even with Cousin Kzimo managing Tsiu's fleets, it's still not the same as if Tsiu were doing it."

"He's seventeen," Khuojeung protested. "Even Aunt Tang wasn't managing an entire fleet by herself before she was twenty-six."

"If you're counting it from when Grandmother let Tang take over, certainly. But Aunt Tang began when she was sixteen, and that was after four years' apprenticeship with the Amethyst."

Khuojeung breathed through his nose. "You and the Jade Queen were the ones who arranged for Tsiu to be apprenticed with the Citrine. Yet you're holding against him the lack of apprenticeship with the Jade?"

"Are you calling me a hypocrite?" Yuon's voice was suddenly soft.

"Yes." It was the only thing to say, because it was the truth. "You can't penalize Tsiu for not living up to rules that you didn't even observe on his behalf."

"Rules!" Yuon pounded a fist on her knee. "That's exactly what matters here, and what that child has never learned. He has no comprehension of the importance of rules, let alone living up to his promises, or respecting his obligations. Mother let him do anything he wanted--"

"He was eight, his First Consort had been dead for barely a day, and your mother was already carting him off to Kurnukoza. She dumped him at your First Father's estate with even less thought than she would've given to tossing out last year's fashion."

"Do not speak of that man." Yuon stared out across the courtyard, jaw set.
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kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
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"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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