Private Tales Flowers are the Stars of the Earth

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer
As she turned to lead the other woman away, Suyuna shot a glance and a thinly veiled threat at Ginrou. He felt his face grow hot at her words, an even mix of embarrassment and anger coloring his cheeks.

"Fine then, take it to Lady Morikami,"
he spat back. "Perhaps you can also explain to her why you let private company be seen by her youngest son in the first place." He spoke before he could really think about it. "Or how that wild animal Ryosuke got past your guard again this evening."

It was just hot air, he knew. Suyuna wouldn't be swayed by anything he had to say - that's what made her such a good gatekeeper, after all.

Hiei stepped forward and spoke, his voice clear, his movements purposeful. Startled by the even keel of the other man, Gin turned his body to let him past. Unprincely as it was, he lowered his gaze, the shame of his outburst starting to settle in.

Ginrou wished he could still offer the flower seller and her assistant a place to rest. But the way the evening was turning out, his own home didn't feel any safer than the streets.

Hanae Hiei
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Suyuna’s face flushed with annoyance, the way she grimaced at Ryosuke’s name being thrown at her. In truth, she had no greater enemy than Ryosuke Komabami, the bane of her existence! He had been a pest the moment he learned how to walk and climb, and a even bigger one once he learned how to speak. She was certain Ryosuke was more monkey than man at this point.

“Lord Ginrou, I think there’s been some confusion.” She looked Gin in the eye, “since when do we bring guests here? If you had told me that you wanted to bring guests to this quarter, I assure you, we would have never crossed paths. Aren’t you supposed to serve guests tea over by—“

Hiei, you’re hurt! You’re bleeding!” Hinoka went to Hiei’s side, nearly throwing down her biwa in the process. Hanae stood up and watched. She came closer to Gin, partially hiding behind his broad frame and peeking out from behind him. She shouldn’t be this nosey, but this woman seemed to know Hiei well.

So well that she could see he was hurt when Hanae figured it was momentary pain. She hadn’t noticed the blood.

“Bleeding?” Suyuna frowned, then looked over at Ginrou. “He’s injured? I’m afraid to ask… did it happen on our property?”

Yes.” Hanae spoke up. “A man jumped the walls and fought Hiei.” Suyuna cleared her throat, suddenly looking quite uncomfortable. The entire time, Hinoka fretted over Hiei, clutching at his hand to inspect the blood on his left, moving over to the torn sleeve and touching his bare arm. Hanae struggled in not staring at the blatant display of affection.

“Well, Lord Ryosuke has a tendency to be overly aggressive.” Suyuna went over to Hinoka and Hiei, taking the biwa from the musician. “Hinoka. I’m afraid it’s time for you to set up. Any more time wasted and the Lady will be disappointed that you’re no longer the serious musician you once were. Unless, you find your time more valuable than Lady Morikami’s?” Hinoka paled. A part of her wanted to argue, but the logically side of her kept her from doing anything but nodding.

Hinoka looked up at Hiei, pleadingly.

I’ll walk you home, can’t you stay here until I can walk home? If you’re hurt like this and Nobuu sees….” Hinoka looked down, suddenly overcome with the urge to cry. She held her tears back. “I’ll take you back to Kishi and make sure no one hurts you, so please, just wait for me to be done with this performance.” Hanae continued to lean past Ginrou, straining her ears to hear whatever it was being said to Hiei, but she couldn’t discern anything.

Hinoka followed after Suyuna, taking back her biwa. She looked over her shoulder at Hiei, not even noticing Hanae’s gaze.

Hiei Ginrou
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All the attention. Long strong fingers, delicate as they clasped about his palm, felt about his knuckles then traced across his arm. "Hinoka," his voice came soft from his throat, pushed out with tired breath. Near a surrender. "I am fine, there is no need to be-"

Hanae spoke out. Used her words to defend him.

Hiei's head was swimming. A dull purple pain that swirled with a moon-blue gloom and a vermilion heat.

The guardswoman called for attention. Tried to regain control of the scene, and let the wind take the mess with it.

Hinoka's eyes went wide, her rouge tinted face drained. Hiei placed his right hand over hers and gave her a nod.
It's alright. He assured, his sullen blue gaze a little brighter as his lips gave her a reassuring smile before her hand slipped. away. He hadn't expected her to be so insistent. To be so worried.

"Hino..." he uttered as she turned to leave, his eyes down to see the blistering red of his knuckles, the faint smears where her fingers hand brushed against his blood. His jaw clenched, and his brow furrowed. Why couldn't she just... let him go. She had already done it once.

He heard the easy shuffle of her feet as they lead away. That familiar gait. Poised as a lily upon the calm waters of the pond. How she could hide all the stirrings of life that hid just beneath. The worries and anxieties that came before a performance. Alone.

And he would just... leave her there.

Hiei's eyes traced up, and he was caught by her look over her shoulder. His face felt flushed. His fists clenched, and he slipped the flower basket from his back, let it down gently upon the ground. Breathed through the pain, and bowed to Hanae and Ginrou, "I apologize for all the trouble, but," he cleared his throat. "I must attend to a private matter," he motioned to the basket. "Master Ginrou, if you leave this out for me, I will be sure to take it from the premises when the time comes," he bowed again, turned and followed after Suyuna and Hinoka, his long legs carrying him quickly.

Ginrou Hanae
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Ginrou didn't know what to make of the scene in front of him. He was still reeling at the gatekeeper's accusations, polite as they were. But the conversation slipped away from him as the musician - Hinoka - cried out in concern over Hiei's wounds. That madman Ryo had done more damage than he first thought.

I must attend to a private matter, Hiei said, turning with a bow. Ginrou blinked at the courtesy of it.

"Surely you aren't planning--" he started, but the other man was already gone, following after the musician as Suyuna led them down the garden path and out of view. A soft, annoyed sound left Gin. "Is that man your assistant, or not?" He blurted out, watching the retreating figures.

It was a rude thing to say. He would regret it in a few moments.

But right now he was still brusque with irritation. Gin turned to face Hanae, but found her right behind him! He wasn't prepared for the proximity, and bumped into her.

"Oh, I'm sorry-
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Suyuna whipped around, hearing the soft steps of Hiei’s feet and glowered at him. She was bristling up, her hands in fists as she puffed out her chest to the tall man. A true woman of Sonshan, she looked down on the likes of a gutter-rat like Hiei. The most he could ever be was a whore, and so his worth was just that: a pretty, dancing whore.

At least Hinoka had something to offer the world, her talent with the biwa had always pleased Lady Morikami. Hiei had just been a little something extra, like adding pork floss to a already complete meal. Sure, it made the meal better, but pork floss on it’s own was unappealing and hardly filling.

Didn’t this man know his place?

“What do you think you’re doing?” Suyuna said to Hiei, her voice calm but stern. Hinoka seemed too distracted to know that Hiei had been behind her, and when she turned to see why Suyuna had stopped and was speaking, Hiei would have the brief moment of seeing her glistening eyes as she held back tears of worry.

Hinoka didn’t speak, didn’t have to. Her eyes said it all: she was glad that Hiei had followed after her. Her relief was palpable, the tension visibly leaving her shoulders.


Hanae squeaked as Ginrou bumped into her, causing her to quickly take two steps back as she tried to gather her balance. Unlike when Hiei had bumped into her, her nose hadn’t broke. Perhaps Kishi’s healing magic had done more than just heal it, maybe it made it more resilient. Or maybe Ginrou was a gentle man compared to Hiei.

Hanae’s small hands went up to touch her face, hiding her expression for a moment as she tried to figure out the best way to speak to Ginrou. Hiei’s actions were strange. Ever since they had arrived at the estate he hadn’t been himself. Was it because of that woman Hino… Hinoka? Or because of something else? Whatever it was, it had made a big mess.

Didn’t Hiei realize that when she was by herself, she couldn’t stand firm? Wasn’t that why she was in the situation she was in now? It was always so much easier, sticking up for someone else. But when it came to herself, just for herself, she never could do such a thing. She deserved this, she supposed. It made sense thinking of all the bad things in the world like that. Divine punishment of some sort, or maybe punishment for—

I’m sorry.” Hanae mumbled through her fingers before letting her hands fall down to her sides. Without looking at Ginrou, she slowly descended down to her knees and then went even lower as she bent over to press her forehead onto the floor, her hands parallel yet just above her head. “I’m sorry. Forgive me and forgive my… no, forgive Hiei. Please. Forgive us.” Hanae said louder.

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Hiei bowed to the standoffish guard. Calm as a crane that waded through shallow water. From his bow he spoke.

"Esteemed mistress Suyuna, I have had time to to reconsider, and would like to accompany mistress Hinoka for her performance," he rose, and his porcelain smile was fixed well upon his face, his eyes so narrowed by his expression, one could hardly see the glint of their dark stare from behind the curtain of his thick lashes.

"Besides," he tilt his head, his smile still wide and bright. "Wouldn't it be such a surprise for Lady Morikami to see the two cranes dance, once more?" his eyes opened, sparkled with a cold cunning. "Think of how excited she would be, to know that her proud house guard was able to
convince the duo to reunite, just for this occasion," he blinked away the cold gaze, tittered, and bowed low once more. "Only if you would allow, esteemed mistress, of course,"

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How had he gone from apologizing to the young lady, to having her kowtow before him? Ginrou slid his slippered feet back, a look of surprise crossing his face as Hanae asked for forgiveness. One that the flower seller wouldn't see, with her nose to the ground like that.

She would be able to hear the sigh that parted his lips, however. He couldn't figure this woman out. Was she a respectable merchant with an enviable skill? Or a street hawker trying to fill orders above her station?

"There's no need to bow like that. I'm not..." Ginrou trailed off, not finishing the thought. Instead, he sank down to one knee as he knelt next to the flower seller. He reached out and wrapped his fingers around one of Hanae's hands, pulling her up out of the bow. "Regardless, there's nothing to forgive."
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Suyuna was quiet. This silence was heavy and hung between all three witnesses. It seemed the silence was so great that not even the gentle exhale of their breath could be heard by the keenest ears.

“Do not call me mistress.” She said cooly, and looked over at Hinoka who watched the entire scene with wide, bittersweet eyes. “Surely you don’t plan to perform wearing that… tattered piece of clothing.” The woman smiled wide yet her eyes stayed neutral as she looked back at Hiei. “Oh, but there is something we have that you can change into. I’m sure you’ll find it familiar.” She pivoted on her heel and continued walking to the place that Hinoka and Hiei would know like the back of their hand.

Hinoka stepped alongside Hiei, following after Suyuna.

Hiei,” she whispered to him, and a hand went towards his. She gripped at his sleeve before letting the tips of her fingers trail down the side of his hand and thumb before taking Hiei’s hand in hers. “You’d do this for me?” Hinoka looked up to him, a small smile on her face.

She knew it. He still loved her. He was mad at her still, but that was fine. Sometimes love liked to hide behind anger, didn’t it?

Hanae rosed slowly, keeping her gaze low. She didn’t stand but she would sit on her knees. Her shoulders were hunched over as she tried to make herself as small as she possibly could.

Tentatively, she pulled her hand out of Ginrou’s. Resting her hands in her lap, she began to anxiously pluck at the fabric of her dress.

I’ve been trying to sell my flowers for so long. At first it was because I thought I didn’t have a selection. Then I thought it was because I was too far out from town. So I went to town, but I couldn’t carry all my flowers. So I paid someone to make me a cart to carry them all.” Hanae hung her head lower in shame if such a thing were possible. “And I even made a sign.” A weak whisper of a laugh leaked out between her lips.

I was born in the year of the sheep, yet here I am, still stubbornly trying to make others love my flowers like I do.

Hiei Ginrou
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Hiei raised his hands come together to acknowledge her wish wordlessly, his head still held low as he listened to her deliberation.

Pain racked his side. Spread its red, white, and purple fingers across his bone. But he kept his smile all the same. Kept his posture, dancer still.

It wasn't until the sound of her heel turn, and her measured steps that lead her away that Hiei rose. Let his lungs empty out cold air into the night. He gave a nod of wordless thanks, and followed behind. Hinoka took his side without missing a beat. Her arm twined with his, the light pull strained his injury, but no tears welled about his eye. No change came across his face.

Steady, calm, he followed after Suyuna as they ventured further into the Morikami compound.

But when Hinoka's fingers tried to twine with his, weave together in that way so sure and familiar, Hiei gave a twist of his wrist. A small gesture that saw her hand held above his. Supported, as dictated by the etiquette of the stage.

"I thought it cruel to make you worry," he confessed. Though his voice was cold, the feint smile on his lip was true. "I didn't expect you to be so... distraught," he might have laughed, if not for the strain across his side. It forced his breaths to keep small and measured. "Besides," he said soberly. "I left you to perform this routine alone," he said with a pang of guilt. "Last time we were here,"

The night before she left.

Hanae Ginrou
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The woman was so nervous.

Ginrou pulled away as she sat herself up. He mirrored her, lowering his other knee to sit at the same level, back straight and hands folded quietly in his lap. A shame that all he could see was the top of her head, as Hanae bent her head low, as if she were still trying to slip back into a bow.

She let her anxieties spill loose, finishing off her story with a breathy laugh. Now, if only she would raise her head...

A warm chuckle rumbled through Gin and a generous smile spread across his lips. "It sounds like you need a patron," he said, lightly.

Hanae Hiei
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We’ve always been better together.” Hinoka said softly, her words a mixture of agreement and something else, like a subtle ache in one’s side that couldn’t be explained. She turned her gaze towards Hiei, centering her eyes on that stolid mask of his. She had broken through it many times, felt that she knew Hiei better than he even knew himself.

It frightened her that she didn’t feel that sort of security now. Had something changed while she was away? She canted her head to the side, considering how he wasn’t holding her hand like he did before. Maybe it was because of Suyuna or this place? Maybe it was because of Lady Morikami and her incoming arrival that barreled through this serene estate like a bull in a china shop.

I’ve lost my peace of mind when you weren’t by my side. Even now it hasn’t returned. But it must be fate,” she smiled, “our red string of fate has not been severed. That’s why you’re here. We can right the wrongs of our youth tonight. We could be together again. This time— forever.

Hanae shook her head, chest and ears and face hot with shame. She felt selfish and silly now, speaking so freely of what plagued her to a stranger but perhaps that was why it was easy to do? Ginrou Morikami, a noble yes, but still a man and therefore some would argue far beneath her. Regardless of their status, he was a stranger. And it was much easier to talk to a stranger that Hanae was certain she wouldn’t see again.

After Hiei’s display and then her sob story, why would she ever see Ginrou again?

Forgive me, but you’re mistaken, I am not looking for charity.” Hanae held up her head, finally looking at Gin. Her black eyes, a night sky that was fully dark with no stars, reflected Ginrou’s face but also something else. Hidden by her meek display like clouds that dared to hide the sun, a relentless shimmer of determination shown forth as if Hanae had never bowed her head in the first place.

I came here because I trust in my product,” she gestured to the yellow peonies that were still on the table. “And these were merely a gift for you because I saw what you desired. I thought, and perhaps it’s impudent, but I thought that sometimes it’s nice to get what you really want inside, whether you vocalize it or not. Of course I thought maybe you’d purchase from me again, but I never wanted to take more than I deserved. I know my place.

Ginrou Hiei
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His placid smile did not disagree. "We make a good team," The faraway look in his eye, thinking back to those threads of fate that twined them.

Red as the silk that strung about their dancing cranes. How he recalled the ornaments glittering as they dangled from the jeweler's stand.

Cheap knock off, all that is. Migi had said, sure beneath the shade of his wide brimmed hat.

That hadn't stopped Hiei from inquiring. About them.

Over priced junk, Migi had said as they walked back.

Hiei smiled proudly, prize swaddled neath fine blue fabric.

All the time they had spent apart, and still, he could not deny that he felt much the same way. Felt the pang of old sorrows well up from inside him.

Together, they had gotten through so much. Made each other stronger. More complete.

"That would make a good song," he said gently as they went on with their steady steps. "I'm sure all the lovers of Aetochi would sing it to each other, till they turned red in the face,"

The main hall loomed fast ahead of them.

Hanae Ginrou
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The flower seller finally raised her head, and what a look she gave him! Now, here was some of the confidence he had seen in that painted sign, the curve of the letters proudly mimicking the health of each petal. Ginrou was so stricken that he forgot his previous offer, careless as it was.

"...What I desired?" He repeated the woman's words. Well, he hadn't given that a single thought all day. Even longer, if he was being honest with himself. But she claimed to see through him so easily, and he found that he believed her. "Miss Hanae, you've been nothing but forthright with me. So I'll tell you something, now..."

The polite smile was put away, and no pantomimed cheer brightened Gin's movements any longer. He looked at her determined eyes, but also at everything that surrounded the two of them. It was really starting to get dark in the garden, but the glow of candlelight from the rooms further into the compound still let the outline of things be seen. The ruined flowers, trampled by careless feet, the cobbled path up to the outbuilding, a little pond with a fountain that no longer bubbled.

"This garden once belonged to my father. It hasn't been tended for some years now, not since his death. Sometimes it feels as if everyone has forgotten what it used to be like." Gin motioned over at a stump jutting out of the carefully raked dirt. "There was a plum tree over there. And where all that gravel is now, a bed of medicinal herbs -- mint and star anix and yes, peony too."

An image filled his mind, of Yon's dragon wrapping around the base of the plum tree, reaching up with greedy, clawed hands at the ripening fruit. How he had urged the beast to be careful to not fall, and how Yon sat beside him, giggling at his misplaced worry. Ginrou shook his head to be rid of the memory, and continued.

"I guess what I really wanted was for everyone to remember what this house was like, before we all became so unhappy." Ginrou cast his eyes downwards, let his posture slump. He was tired. From the day's labors, from trying to guess at what everyone wanted from him and the frustration of being wrong so many times in a row. "But I've done a poor job of it today. So now all I can do is place my hope in your flowers."

Just then, footsteps came from down the garden path, soft and solitary. "There you are, Ginrou. I've been looking for you."

The voice of his mother, the Lady Jasu Morikami, mistress of the house. A look of panic flashed across Gin's face, before he set his smile back on right again. He scrambled to his feet and turned to face the approaching matriarch, head bowed respectfully.

he greeted her simply.

"What a mess," Was her own greeting. In her hand was a glowing lantern, which lit up the cobblestone path and caused the silver thread woven into her black robes to gleam in fine patterns.

"The guests be arriving soon, and here I find you, as grimy and sweaty as one of the servants." The lady Jasu stopped before her son, and even though she had to look up at him, she still managed to tower above.

Before Gin could offer up an excuse, she waved the lantern over in Hanae's direction. "And who are you? Speak up, now."

Hanae Hiei
Would you sing it, then?” Hinoka wouldn’t be able to say anything more, and unfortunately, neither would Hiei. Even if Hinoka’s gaze lingered on her injured crane for longer than she should, she didn’t dare speak as Suyuna opened her unforgiving mouth. She was ordering others around and did not like to repeat herself.

The room was spacious, with very little items in it, yet with Suyuna’s stern voice and the pitter-patter of multiple feet treading over the tatami mats, there was an abysmal claustrophobia that made even the most cheerful feel their rib cage concave around their heart. Hinoka continued to smiled because she was paid to do so. She had done much worse for money before. Smiling was easy compared to that. Smiling was easy compared to what she must do now.

Hinoka seated herself in the usual spot, tuning her biwa. A servant came to Suyuna.

She’s here! Everyone hurry.” There was still much to do to make sure the room was perfect for Lady Morikami.

Hanae looked out at the garden, or the plot of earth that was not loved and cared for. The stump of a tree— a plum tree, what a shame!— and the dirt. All that dirt and then nothing to grow in it was such a greater shame than even cutting down the tree. Hanae listened earnestly to Ginrou’s story not only because he had listened earnestly to her but rather because it was like seeing the snow begin to melt to let spring take over.

Before she could offer words of comfort, and even the offer to help him with the garden that belonged to his father, a new voice cut through the handmade solitude that surrounded Ginrou and Hanae. The young woman was already on her knees and so she bowed deeply to the woman who looked so much like Ginrou and yet nothing like him all at once. There was something about her mouth, as perfect as it was, that made Hanae unable to look away. Not because it was beautiful but because it terrified her so deeply in her bones and soul that she was certain it was the innate knowledge of a rabbit staring up at the jaws of a wolf.

Forgive me, Lady Morikami.” Hanae didn’t dare look up. She knew the moment she saw those downturned lips she would stare so obviously that she’d cause more harm than if she kept her gaze on the floor. “Hirawa Hanae. I am the florist that delivered the flowers for your return tonight.” The Hirawas were dead, the only survivors being long lost cousins that couldn’t possibly carry on the family’s ancestors and traits.

She desperately wished the light of the lantern would leave her be and let her linger in the half-baked darkness once more. She hoped once the steady light of the lantern left her to be she could be forgotten once more.

Hiei Ginrou
Hiei was struck by the pull of her gaze. Pools so deep, they drove him mad. How oft he had forgotten himself amidst their dark reflection. The whole world in them, and how it only made him feel like he wanted to sink.

A sharp clap of hands. A shout. And the Crane remembered himself. A smile, soft as feather's brush, and he too was back behind his mask.

Would you sing it, then?

Her words echoed in his head, even with all the frantic stir of servants stirred. Quiet, save the clear call of commands, and the steady pound of feed against polished floors.

"You," a voice came like arrow struck through bone.

Hiei kept the pain that spread from his side beneath the calm tranquility of his act. Giving nothing more than a bow, to show his obedience toward Suyuna.

"You cannot dance for our Ladyship in that," she grinned, and jerked her head to bid he follow.

So he followed.

A sliding door came open, and it was not the Lady Morikami that entered, but an entourage of guests. Among them, the silver haired Matriarchs of the Mun family.

Ginrou Hanae
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"Hirawa, you say?" The matriarch's darkened lips quirked up in a peculiar way, but she said no more on the matter.

Every part of Lady Jasu flowed like the robes she wore, from her silver-silk hair to her long-lashed gaze. At Hanae's words, the matriarch's attention rolled away from the bowed heads before her. She looked to the open doors of the outbuilding, where bundles of flowers still sat in their neat rows upon the tall table.

"They don't look delivered, yet," she said, her gaze turning back to Hanae. "Find a servant to show you where they should go."

She considered her son, next. "Ginrou, make yourself presentable. The Mun family are among our guests for tonight -- you must be ready for an audience whenever they call on you."

"Yes, mother."

The orders were given, but the light of the lantern did not stray away. It cast heavy shadows upon the gravel at their feet, barely a flicker there in the oil-fueled flame. Lady Jasu stood unmoving in the middle of the garden path.

"I mean, now." She raised her voice ever so, and Ginrou flinched deeper into his bow at the shift in tone.

"Of course," Gin managed to risk a glance towards Hanae, eyes full of apology and fear. Then his eyes went back to the ground. He stepped backwards away from the lantern light, until he was far enough away to break the bow, turning to hurry to his task.

Inside the room that held the baths, a round pool of water sat in the middle of the floor, built into the stonework.

Gin sat on the raised lip of the bath, his legs dangling in the water. The steam wafting up stuck condensation to his skin, and made his muscles warm. It was also frizzing his hair something fierce. He'd taken it down, and was running a comb through it, trying to smooth out the stubborn curls.

From outside, the voice of the gatekeeper filtered through the bathhouse doors. "You can clean up in here," he heard Suyuna say to someone. "Do not wander too far, the performance will begin soon."
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A gentle knock as sandals came free from feet, and were placed gently aside. The rasp of old linen robes come undone. Let fall across lean muscle of shoulder and arms. Sharp breaths, measured, as quick moves agitated purple hurts, that grew all the darker still across boney side.

Last to be stripped, were his ears of their earrings.

Painful as it was, Hiei left his things in a neat bundle, and grabbed a towel, which he wrapped across his waist before he entered the bath chamber.

Across the precipice, with the thin veil of steamy curls and wisps, he spied a broad figure. Squint. Pursed his lips. And huffed a breath as he strolled in without a word.

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The door was to Ginrou's back. Still, he could guess who it was.

Sliding open the door soundlessly and striding in with long, sure steps. Not with a bow or a polite utterance to declare his presence, as a servant or a guest would have. Well, if they were being so familiar...

Staying seated at the edge of the pool, Gin barely shrugged his shoulders in response to the disturbance. He certainly didn't turn around to look. Instead, he unfolded a nearby handtowel out across his lap, and went back to brushing his hair.

Waited for the other man to settle into the water, or not.

Gin said when he had. "How long have you been in the flower business?"

Sucking in a breath, Gin's head tilted further to the side. He grimaced. The comb had caught a knot. Gingerly, Gin pulled the hairs loose from the comb and started to work at the tangle with his fingers.

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Hiei smirked at the shift of the towel. Stepped past the broad scion of the Morikami family, and dipped his toe into the soaking tub, where ripples pulsed out from where he'd tried.

His foot sank in, and in a snap and pull, the white towel around his waist flared out, and whipped around his shoulders as he dipped in beneath the pool with nary a splash. His back still turned to Ginrou, he sank down, to hide his bruises, and float-walked to the other side of the tub. Turned, and sat to stare at the other man across the warm haze of steam.

"New to it," he said simply. Leaned back against the stonework, and closed his eyes as he let in a full breath. "But I find it quite to my liking," he took in another full breath, his head lulled back. "Why do you ask?"

Ginrou Hanae
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"Just trying to make conversation." The tangle of hair was finally worked free, the knot pulled apart and smoothed out into smaller strands. As soon as he released them from his fingers, they sprang up into loose waves. "A skill you might find worth practicing, especially so if you're new to a trade."

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There was an impassive look in Hiei's eye as he measured this man. Soft, for all his easy strength, and well fed physique.

"That I choose when and where to partake in such practice is one of the few luxuries I've come to afford in my lot," a slight bow of the head. Respectful.
"Master Morikami," he raised his head, but kept his eyes low. "But if you would have me speak, as common guest within your estate, then please, forgive my thoughtless indulgence, It will not happen again," a second bow, lower than the first.

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Something about the other man's snide words set the mask back onto Ginrou's face. The smile he wore was resigned, polite. Not a wrinkle along his brow or in the corner of his eyes.

"It eludes me, why you insist on making such a bad host of me." With a shake of his head, he let out a short sigh, almost a laugh. "But I suppose that is one of your luxuries, as well."

Casting aside the comb and the towel, Ginrou stood and turned away from the edge of the bath. He'd not brought a bigger towel with him, so he had to walk dripping and bare to the row of shelves along the far wall. There, he plucked a soft, white robe from the shelves and wrapped the garment around himself.

From another shelf, he skimmed his fingers over a collection of jars and vials, stopped at one faceted glass bottle. The bottle was cool to the touch as he grabbed it, and even through the cork the contents smelled strongly of clear, alpine herbs.

Gin walked back to the bath, along the edge where Hiei lounged.

"Here," he said, shaking the tincture within reach of his guest. "Pour this into the water, if it suits you. It will help ease the bruises -- but it's no cure, so don't get ambitious."

"Small luxury," he said, bright and pleasant, though he had rather croaked the words. "But it would be imprudent to omit it, wouldn't you say, Lord Morikami?" he bowed his head once more.

He had learned that nobles loved when those lower than them bowed. Even if it was not something they thought about actively, it was something that made them feel at east. Pleasantry, politeness. A submissiveness that did not threaten the position of power and influence.

Still. Pretend was easy enough. He could pretend all day

The gift of the tincture however, that did catch him off guard.

He cleared his throat.
"Well," he started. "I thank you for the kindness," he said, sincerely, and looked over the tincture. Questioned if it would actually work. Uncorked it, gave it a smell, and was greeted by the sharp burn of the herbs. Smiled, and nod at the young scion. "Suppose now, I owe you, lord Morikami,"

With a short wave of the hand that had just let go of the vial, Ginrou brushed away Hiei's thanks.

"Please, save your gratitude for something more substantial," he said, not returning the smile, beyond the expected decorum that already lifted his features. "I do not have the time nor the inclination to keep track of every little kindness."

He turned and stepped away. "Now, I must away. There's other guests I need attend to." Well, first he had to get dressed. And then he would likely sit in his room for awhile until someone summoned him. Gin was in for a pretty boring evening, all things considered.

Bracing himself against the rough cedar frame with a hand, he stopped at the entry of the bath house to slide his slippers back on. He twisted round to look over his shoulder at the flower seller's assistant. Thought to say something more, but couldn't find a proper way to voice it. So he just frowned in an odd way, and then ducked out the door.

Hiei Hanae
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His smile curdled like spoiled milk, and his brow twitched with an irritation he hid well beneath the angle of his bow. Droplets of water poured down the pale back of the well-fed noble, and a grumble died in Hiei's throat.

I'm too well trained to lose it now. He reminded himself.

When the wet slaps of feet grew far enough away, Hiei did rise, and saw the last trail of Ginrou's look. His own eyes searching for what might come next. But there was nothing before the plump young man left.

A huff of hot breath, and Hiei turned amidst the warm pool of the bath. Slouched and tilted as the pain of his hurts came flare up again.
"Shit," he said through tight chords, and hard kept breath. A second, then two, and he regained his composure. Re-fixed his mask of calm with cool exhalation, though it felt all the thinner as the pain ate away at its pith from the inside.

He looked to the small vial, uncorked it, and took a breath.

"Hmm," he sounded idly. "Like a mountain spring,"

The thin screen door came open, and in stepped Hiei, dressed in his vibrant dancer's garb, patterned with blossoms of snow and cranes, across the regal motifs one may find across their beloved Aetochi.

He brought the door shut behind him, careful and quiet. Turned, tight and measured in his movement, and approached the Lady Songstress. Sat down upon his knees, and bowed his head. Quiet as tradition dictated. His adornments neatly ducked, his hair tied up in proud bun, with fine feather pin there to keep his dark locks together whilst they performed.

Part of him could not deny that he was excited too. For the Last Dance of the Winter Cranes.

"It's funny, isn't it?" he asked through the screen door, though he could hear Hinoka still applying the last of her adjustments. "That we would dance here again,"

Hanae Ginrou
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