Written By: Jeannette Anne Blanchard
((EDIT 09/28/2012: I had to fix a name error.))
After a long journey up cloud structured ramp to the Impirial Palace, Hamika stares at the strange gate before her. There does not appear to be a gate, and yet there is. She can feel extreme heat permeating within five feet of it. "Invisible fire?" she wonders out loud.
Someone within, likely a gate guard of some sort, heard her. Slowly, the gate shifts. Beams of fire fade into sight, at first white hot. From white to yellow, from yellow to orange, and from orange to red. A sudden change, the unseen pipes are now spilling out hot steam instead. The steam rapidly cools to luke warm water vapor, and Hamika approaches the now passable garden entrance. By the time she's within the gateway, the water has stopped. Looking at the inner-sides of it she can clearly see holes from which the elemental gate is produced. "Odd... Clever."
Hamika looks forward... And, up. The two guards now before her are a good two heads taller. They are clad like samurai with black armor, and bright red honor masks displaying more frightening of fox faces than would be typical for a civillian's mask. And, apparently, Impirial guards' masks do not display their clan emblem on the forehead. After a moment, she comes to from the shock, "Seireikitsu Kitsuhana Hamika."
"We know," grunts the guard on the left. "This way." As she steps out from under the gateway, a guard takes to each of her sides, turning to face the palace as he does. All the while, they walk holding their heavy pikes in front of them, with both hands. Their steps are in synch, not just with one another, but with Hamika. The whole display is rather like they think they're marching.
They block her sight of the large yard, allowing only a narrow view of what's directly in front of her. What she can see of it is lovely, and rich in green life, hinting at a nicely kept garden. The path, too, is rather well-kept. The flat stones are perfectly fitted, without enough space inbetween for so much as a hair to reach between the path surface and whatever might be below.
Hamika looks up from the path to meet a large, reflective wall. A giant mirror, perhaps? The guards each take a position on side of it. Apparently, it's the door.
Hamika stares at her reflection for the first time in a long time. Her honor mask is golden, with it's markings in an equally metalic-looking black. It's expression is sweet, with eyes so narrowed they're shut, giving the impression of being asleep. Her own eyes are concealed, as she peers through slits instead of getting open eyes like the Impirial guards. The painted mouth is a smile, displaying the six upper-front teeth, the canines prominent, rested on the wooden lower lip. The mask's teeth are chips of something resembling real teeth. Unlike the Impirial guard masks, there is an emblem on center of her mask's forehead. It appears to be either a fox-face rendition or a flower, the symbol of Clan Kitsuhana.
The faux hair attached to back of the mask is straw-colored, with her own hair carefully concealed beneath it. It's much thicker in volume and strand circumference than real hair; with a thick, messy mass in back; and, a thick lock neatly bound draping over each shoulder. The jewelry-like hair pieces binding the side locks consist of the metals mimicked by the mask's paints. Gold, with the black striped through the center horizontally.
She is wearing a vivid apple green short kimono, with a curvy golden pattern on it, not tucked under, but draped over black hakama pants. Her obi has the gold pattern of the kimono, but it's black in place of green. The hakama pants are tightly bound on her shins, creating a poufed out look around her knee caps. The bindings are black, with a golden horizontal stripe down the center, positioned just right to look that way despite they must be angled to wrap up her legs. Her tabi are black, and the straps of the zori sandals are golden.
"Go in," the vocal guard draws back her attention.
"Right." She extends an index toward the door, and it splits in two, opening inward before she touches it. Hamika leaves her zori in a shoe rack by the door.
The hall is long, with many doors, paintings, and tapestries along the walls. While the outter palace exterior, as viewable by those not permitted to enter the palace, consists of glass and mirrors, it is actually a run-of-the-mill Asian palace, on a grand scale. The architecture borrows from numerous Asian styles, though namely China and Japan.
Hamika reaches the sliding door at the other end of the hall, and opens it to reveal a lush courtyard, with a large building in the center, it's external walkway connected to this building's by a bridge. The throne room.
The few meandering in the courtyard stare at her through their honor masks. All of their discussions and activities cease as they watch her walk to the throne room.
Another mirror door entrance. It opens, and Hamika walks in, but... She halts as a gong sounds, and a herald shouts her name to the large audience in the room. "Seireikitsu Kitsuhana Hamika!"
All of the room goes quiet, and now a good thousand or so eyes are staring. The walkway to the throne clears.
She fidgets for a while, with noticeably deepened breathing. Snapping out of it, Hamika's eyes dart around, taking in the packed room, and she hardly faulters in the first step before finding her resolve. She walks up to the first step, leading up to the first level of witnesses, the biggest level. Hamika kneels, drawing her right arm to her chest, and bowing her head.
She speaks as loudly and clearly as she can muster, hoping the room will resonate it well enough toward the empress. "All hail the Fox Wife Empress! Long live the Fox Wife mother! We give praise to our ancestors, respect to our elders, and loyalty to our honored grandmother! We are greatful for the life and world given to us by she, the most revered in our universe!"
The empress nods, and the guards of the first step stand at ease, permitting her to pass.
As Hamika walks through the largest section of the throne room, she finds her resolve diminishing. Not only is the audience great... It includes enemies among friends.
At the second step, she stands on her knees. Taking a coin from a chord on her right wrist, she shifts it to a sword, and holds it in offering toward the throne. The guards take it. She begins undressing, to the confusion of the audience. Revealing a long chain wrapped about her torso and arms under her kimono and obi. It takes a while to unwrap it. It too is entrusted to the guards' safe keeping. She folds the obi and keeps it on her shoulder, leaving the kimono open to show a chest only covered by a skimpy black shirt. The empress nods, and she moves up to the second largest level.
Her resolve is regaining. At the third step, she sits on her knees, hands in her lap. Hamika proceeds to recite her maternal lineage.
"Seireikitsu Kitsuhana Hamika, daughter of Seireikitsu Dairin and Aikitsu Kitsuhana Suzuka, daughter of Aikitsu Yoshi and Kuroyama Kitsuhana Biko, daughter of Kuroyama Eigokitsu Sakuranbo and Kitsuyou Kitsuhana Sakura, daughter of Kitsuyou Akashippo and Eigokitsu Kitsuhana Kinyou, daughter of Eigokitsu Kitsuyou Higou and Aikitsu Kitsuhana Hoshika, daughter of Aikitsu Kinhou and Shirokitsu Kitsuhana Aiko, daughter of Shirokitsu Kitsuyou Hoshi and Kitsueichi Kitsuhana Hasu, daughter of Kitsueichi Shuuha and Seireikitsu Kitsuhana Shanko, daughter of Seireikitsu and Kitsuhana, daughter of Hoshi and Kitsuhana, the empress."
The empress nods, and Hamika proceeds to the fourth step. Here, she takes a second wooden coin, this time from the left wrist, and she shifts it to a large, precious stone. A deep, purplish sapphire, the size of her fists put together. She offers it up toward the throne with both hands, her head deeply bowed. The empress nods, a guard takes it, and Hamika continues.
At the fifth, there is a large fire bin on the right. Hamika remains standing, removing her honor mask, allowing her rather long golden locks to fall to her back. "Would it please Grandmother Empress we will submit to a dishonored life, our face bare to the world and our enemies." She holds it toward the fire.
Hamika's eyes widen and take on a slight watery gloss. But, she obeys, her brows furrowing as she tosses her honor into the fire. The empress, showing no indication of guilt or regret, nods.
She is disheartened and in a daze, walking on with her head lowered, her eyes on the tatami mats. She barely notices the next step. As she does, she hands her obi to the guard, and finishes undressing. All she leaves on are black wraps on her forearms and lower legs, her tabi, her belly-displaying loose shirt, and a black bikini. The bikini consists of a long strip of the fabric of the wraps and shirt, tucked between her white flesh and a chord in front and back. It fully covers her privates, with extra length hanging in front and back as a sideless skirt.
The guards pat her down for any weapons not offered when they should have been, and find nothing. The empress nods, and Hamika proceeds to walk through the most awkward section of the throne room, where all are to be disrobed in this way. While her under-things are among the more conservative, the lack of an honor mask makes her the most naked individual in the room.
At the seventh step, the empress nods. The guards bring forth a thick, lavish, but plain kimono. It is draped over her shoulders, and she dresses. They then tie an equally boring obi over it, and allow her to continue.
The Impirial court kimono is heavy and uncomfortable, but she is still in a daze from being dishonored when she reaches the eighth step. After a brief pause, she sits on her knees before the step. She says nothing, and does nothing. So, the empress speaks.
"Have you forgotten the remainder of the steps?"
Hamika looks up toward the throne, and slowly turns her head from one side to the other, and back to the first.
"This is the part where you offer to take your own life, if it would please us. Has a cougar got your tongue, kit, speak!"
Hamika looks to the empress's face. "You have disinherited us, you have demoted us, you have disowned us, you have abandoned us to our enemies, and now you have dishonored us when we hold more honor in our fingertip than the empress holds in her entire being."
The witnesses react in shock, horror, and outrage. But, Hamika pays no mind to this, as most of them are also beneath her in the matter of honorable actions.
"Kit, do you understand that these are treacherous words?"
She responds calmly, "No. Because we are hardly of Grandmother-Empresses' realm at this point."
"Do you understand you are heading toward execution?"
"No. We understand that the laws are not the same for those with barred faces. We understand that those without honor masks are not expected to be civil at all, and as such cannot be executed for speaking in earnest. If the Impirial guards attack us when we are innocent, we shall slay them, every one, until they stop coming."
To the greater shock of the audience, the empress nods.
Through the final level before the throne's own, the people stare and glare through their masks. She pays them no mind, for they are her enemies, the individuals who've been responsible for every Clan Kitsuhana death in history. These people do not deserve their masks, Hamika of all people knows this.
She kneels at the final step anyone not the empress can pass, and the empress speaks.
"Seireikitsu Kitsuhana Hamika, said to be one of the finest warriors in Kitsuyochi. Is it true you were concieved during a failed assassination attempt between assassin and target?"
"Is it true you were born in midst of the first battle in the thousand year war?"
"Yes, it is."
"Is it true you committed your first battle kill the day you came of age for battle?"
"This is true."
"Is it true you spent the day you came of age to marry in battle, two seperate battles in one day?"
"That is correct."
"Is it true you killed off the entire southern cougar tribe?"
"Is it true that Seireikitsu Kitsuhana Hamika might very well be the greatest warrior in the land, not the fifth as it is officially said?" At this, the larger of the haori-wearing princes on side of the throne bares his teeth.
"We are in fact greater than Shirokitsu no Kimi, the lazy coward who's reputation as a god of war has no basis in reality." He begins to storm off, but Hamika continues. "There is little more to the spoiled Shirokitsu no Kimi than an ill-controlled temper. His own "lesser" descendants proceed him in the matter of actual combat experience. When opportunity is given for Shirokitsu no Kimi to keep in practice, such as to protect Clan Kitsuhana from a pride of cats, he passes it by, as if he were somehow above proving himself. As if he were above protecting fox wives and kits. Some might say... Shirokitsu no Kimi could not handle what a few fox wives and kits could."
Now, looking directly to him, "Were these things not true of Shirokitsu no Kimi, we wouldn't say them. If Shirokitsu no Kimi raises hand or blade to us, Shirokitsu no Kimi will die, like hundreds of cowards before him."
The empress interrupts, "Enough. Tell the court what you ask of us."
Hamika blinks, and lightly gulps before answering. "We come before the court because we are under review to become the third tail."
"It is so, you're actions have earned you the right to this. Who among our tails nominated her?"
A medium-heighted, slender prince steps forward, and kneels. "We did. Seireikitsu, a prince of Heaven, and prince of Kitsuyochi."
Empress: "The vote?"
Another two princes kneel beside him, followed by the youngest princess.
Empress: "A tie? Who will break it?"
The third prince kneeling looks to the taller princess.
After a pause, she breaks the tie and kneels on other side of the kit.
Empress: "Very well. Had it not passed... We would have had her executed, or banished if unable."
The five princes rise to their feet, and Seireikitsu retrieves a haori from a guard, the very kind worn by each prince. They are long, and black, with gold details. On back of each is the appropriate clan emblem.
"With this haori, our daughter Seireikitsu Kitsuhana Hamika joins the council as the third tail." He drapes it over her shoulders, then leads her by her free hand up to the council's level as she finishes puting the haori on.
The empress rises to her feet, and approaches her new tail. She turns her around to face the witnesses. "Bow before our new tail, Hamika The Dishonored. Goddess of Self. Self-defence, self-esteem, and self-sacrifice."
Hamika winced at the sound of the 'goddess' claim, and kept on wincing as the empress implied her actions were for herself instead of her clan.
Previous: Kitsuhana: Fall In October - Prologue
Next: Kitsuhana: Fall In October - II: Eternal Rest
If I missed any errors in typing, let me know in a PM and I'll correct it. I don't have Microsoft Word, so no spell check.
Each of the eight clans has a kind of 'family curse,' embodying common problems in reality.
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