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Picowrimo Part The First [Nov. 13th, 2013|11:22 pm]
So Nanowrimo was never really in the cards for me, but this year I decided to try an experiment- see if I could write and post one story a week. (I almost wasn't going to, but then I came up with the title and knew I had to do it.) So far I'm almost a full week late on the posting part, but the writing was done on Monday, I swear. :P

Some context: this is a backstory snippet for my character in Legend of the Five Rings, which is very loosely based on medieval Japan. (I know.) Rei is seventeen here, the boys are eighteen.

Kakita Jiro woke to birdsong outside and dawn light creeping through the slats of the blinds. He stretched, turning on his side to brush his fingers through the dark hair of his still-sleeping companion. When he’d first heard of his assignment to the Crab provinces, he hadn’t expected anything to come of it- three weeks in one place was hardly enough time to conduct a proper affair, and hulking, crude, and inarticulate might be some people’s idea of appealing in a man, but it definitely wasn’t his. He half-suspected his uncle of deliberately engineering it to keep him out of any more trouble. But it hadn’t succeeded, if he had- not five days at his first post and the slim young man with the rather alarming face paint had invited Jiro to visit his rock garden in a manner that left no doubt as to his true intentions. The garden turned out to be a pleasant surprise: not only did it actually exist, but it was very tastefully arranged. And the rest of the evening had been similarly far from disappointing…

After some time, he became aware of three things. First, that his Crab bedfellow - what was his name? Ta-something? Or did it start with Dai-? - had appropriated all the blankets and wound them around himself. Second, that the sunlight was slanting in the window at a much steeper angle than it had been seemingly just a moment ago. And third, that the door was slowly sliding open. Biting back a curse, he scrambled upright and glanced wildly about the room. Cupboards were too small to hide in, window didn’t have too much of a drop but the blinds were heavy wood and would probably rattle loudly enough to wake half the household, his clothes were scattered across the floor on the far side of the room anyway… there was nothing else for it. He tugged most of a blanket free, wrapped up in it, and steeled himself for discovery.

When the door finally opened wide enough to admit someone, it turned out to be a barefoot girl about his own age- no, a young woman, she was wearing tomesode. If one could really call it wearing, given that she was holding it closed with one hand. As she was balancing a teapot and a stack of cups in the other, that at least explained why she’d opened the door so slowly, and she didn’t seem to notice him as she turned to carefully kick it closed again. He considered a few other words decidedly not suitable for mixed company, mind racing as he edged slightly away from what had to be her husband. Probably there was no hope of keeping word from getting back to his uncle, but maybe he could still talk her out of challenging him to a duel. Not that he had any doubts of winning, but things always got so awkward afterwards, and his uncle was already dropping hints about using one’s training for personal gain. And all this was assuming she didn’t just eschew the formalities and punch him in the face. At least a Crab was unlikely to need a stand-in- he still hated to think of the look on Bayushi-kun’s face when his wife had chosen him as her second. The poor boy hadn’t returned Jiro’s letters since, and he couldn’t really say he blamed him.

“Oh. Hullo.” She blinked at him, then stifled a yawn behind the teapot. “Jiro-kun, wasn’ it? ‘m Rei.”

He supposed he could hardly complain about the familiarity while he was naked in her husband’s bed. “Ah- yes, I believe we were introduced on my arrival, but it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance more individually.” He bowed as gracefully as he could manage without losing the blanket.

“Same.” She set the teapot down and returned the gesture (with somewhat less elegance, if he dared so flatter himself). “ ‘s tea still in the pot if you want any.”

“You’re too kind.” Rather in the way a village square might be too quiet in the cheap novels he definitely wouldn’t admit to reading. Did she really just... not care? To suppose that she didn’t realize what he was doing there would be to strain the bounds of credulity far past the breaking point, but if she was manipulating him, it was a longer and more subtle game than he’d have expected. Especially since the worn bow and quiver in pride of place by the door had to be hers- there had been a distinct lack of archery calluses last night.

She grunted noncommittally and wandered past him to rummage through a pile of clothes on the floor. “Well, when the blanket sushi wakes up, let him know I’m going over to see Tomoe? Should be back by noon or- there it is!” She hauled a crumpled pink-and-cream obi out of the pile and shook it out. (And really, with navy blue? It might have been a daring fashion choice under other circumstances, but at this time of year it looked like nothing so much as sheer carelessness.)

Jiro averted his eyes to let her dress in privacy, but couldn’t help glancing back when she mumbled something even more inarticulate at him. He very nearly forgot himself and stared: she had actually stuck an obi-jime in her teeth and was trying to talk through it. “I do beg your pardon, I’m afraid I didn’t quite catch that.”

Rei yanked her obi into a lopsided bow and spat the cord into her hand. “I said, don’t go out the back way when you leave. Grandmother’s going over accounts in the kitchen and she’ll probably be scandalized at you.” She scooped up a comb from the table by the window and started twisting her hair into a knot. “Best way is down the wisteria, if you can manage it, but there’s a shorter drop off the north veranda.”

“Thank you, that’s very helpful.” It sounded like she’d made her share of nocturnal expeditions, then- that might be why she didn’t mind his presence, if it was merely a marriage of duty and they had one of those so-convenient understandings. But of course nothing was that simple; on her way out she stooped beside the bed to brush her husband’s hair out of his face and press a kiss to his forehead. Once the door closed behind her, Jiro sighed and started collecting his underlayers. At least grandmothers seemed to be universal.


[User Picture]From: 3rdragon
2013-11-14 09:24 pm (UTC)
Now I'm curious to know the . . . if this is backstory, frontstory, I guess.
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[User Picture]From: phantomcranefly
2013-11-15 05:00 am (UTC)
Hee, I like that word. :D One wall-shaped summary coming right up.

(If you're interested in looking things up for yourself, we're pretty much following the Thousand Years of Darkness storyline, except the Crab were never involved in the Clan War because LET'S FACE IT THAT WAS A REALLY DUMB PLAN.)

So, in L5R pretty much everybody is assumed to be in an arranged marriage unless otherwise specified; Rei and her husband got lucky in that they're both super gay and click personality-wise, so they have a really affectionate but platonic relationship and then get their romance elsewhere. (They did decide to try for a kid after about three years of marriage, after which they were both like "okay, family duty's taken care of, let's never do that again.") I haven't planned his affairs out in much detail, but Rei has at this point met but not started dating her first real girlfriend, who's three years older and a very promising engineer. She's also going to have a long-term relationship with a visiting cavalry officer that they continue via letters after she has to return home, and a short disastrous thing with a court lady that's just a mess of misunderstandings and teenage hurt feelings on both sides.

As of current game-time, Rei is 22, their baby is a little over a year and a half old, aaaaaaaand the Emperor is possessed by the forces of darkness and everything is terrible. The Crab are besieged on both sides, most of the Crane (Jiro's clan, the politicky pretty people) are just dead, and zombies etc have completely taken over the capital and a bunch of the countryside. The LARP takes place on the Mantis Isles, which are relatively* uninvaded but suffering from famine due to a huge influx of refugees. Most of the players are refugees or envoys or something in between- roomies and I are all playing fighty characters, so we decided that the clan had sent actual diplomats and hadn't heard back from them, so they sent us to a) find out what happened and b) finish their job. :P (We've been calling ourselves the Crab Posse, but we all picked fairly girly names- the other two are Sakura and Tsubame- so another player decided we were clearly the Powerpuff Girls.)

*First game we fought a giant squid that was serving as a troop transport for zombies, but aside from that all the trouble has been caused by normal humans. (Also at the first game, we tried to sort out a love triangle, which was much less disastrous than I was expecting considering that our party had something like 3 points in Etiquette between the six of us.)
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[User Picture]From: 3rdragon
2013-11-15 03:02 pm (UTC)
I see.

Hee! Sounds like fun.

Okay, and now for the further-backstory (or waybackstory, if you prefer): How on earth did they arrange that oh-so-convenient understanding? (And is this the sort of arranged marriage where you know your intended since forever, or where you've never met and then WHAM! you're married?)
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[User Picture]From: phantomcranefly
2013-11-15 06:25 pm (UTC)
Second sort- Rei and Fake Boyfriend met twice before their wedding, but it's pretty common to never have met at all. (Although I'm sure you do also get the sort where your parents are best friends and you practically grow up together.) The second time they met, they had an awkward conversation that pretty much went:

"So, um, if this is actually happening, I should tell you I probably won't be able to give you children."
"Oh... wait, do you mean what I think you mean?"
"Um, probably?"
"Me too."
"Oh good."

I don't have as clear of an idea about how the understanding itself was sorted out; it's not any kind of formal thing so much as just "no, yeah, that's cool". It might have been unspoken, or early on one of them might have been talking about how cool their crush was and then been like "oh, sorry" and the other one was like "no, I don't mind, are you going to ask them out?"

Interestingly, in L5R it's not actually considered dishonorable to carry on extramarital affairs- it only becomes a problem if you get caught, and you can even gain recognition for talking about being in love as long as you don't specify who with. Affairs at court are really common, although these two aren't nearly that elegant.

(I haven't decided if they just happened to have compatible orientations, or if Boyfriend's father and one of Rei's uncles were like "He's a good kid, but man is his wife going to be disappointed." "You know, I believe my niece might be an ideal match for him.")
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[User Picture]From: 3rdragon
2013-11-16 01:11 am (UTC)

Courtly love taken to extremes, I see.
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[User Picture]From: phantomcranefly
2013-11-16 02:24 am (UTC)
Yeeeeeep. The rules for affairs in one of the supplements are pretty much straight out of The Pillow Book- writing poems back and forth, morning-after notes attached to symbolic flowers... :D
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[User Picture]From: 3rdragon
2013-11-16 02:26 am (UTC)
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