Trading Farewells

There is a man who walks by the church every day, precisely at two o’clock in the afternoon. No matter what the weather, he always come by, dressed impeccably all in black: someone’s butler, perhaps, striding off with purpose. He never looks at the church, but he walks like he is deliberately ignoring it.

Behind him, shadows trail long and wide, like the flaring of wings. Continue reading

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The Memory of the Father

He remembers the father.

Like a sore tooth — like an old injury — he remembers, and keeps those old memories close. They’re reminders of the pieces of himself he found unnecessary and excised, and now he can look back on that man and laugh. Once upon a time I was stupid, he says; once upon a time, I was idealistic and full of wide-eyed belief.

Then the world happened. He grew up. Continue reading

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There’s No Such Thing As Coincidences

The east wind brought in the smell of rain and wet leaves, despite the hot clear blue of the summer sky. Watanuki paused in his sweeping to shade his eyes, looking into the distance, but there was nothing but heat visibly shimmering from the low-set rooftops.

“Watanuki,” Yuuko said from the porch. She lay sprawled in the shadows, long bare limbs and her white stomach exposed in the gap between her bikini top and low-slung shorts. She had one arm over her eyes and a glass of melting ice-cubes in her other hand. “Leave the gate open.” Continue reading

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No Small Thing

(Pay attention. Breathe.)

“The rules are simple,” says the smiling man. He holds up the collar and turns it, showing them where it fastens shut and where the chain hooks in. “The master gives commands. Strength of will determines whether the move can be made.” He pretends to consider, pursing his lips briefly before smiling again. Under that friendly veneer lies something akin to a threat. “Both the will of the master and the piece must be resolute, and in absolute sync.”

(In. Out. There is a feather in this world, and they have to find it. Otherwise, Sakura will–) Continue reading

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by thorn uncut

“You’re not serious,” Fay protests. He leans into the mirror, so that they’re cheek-to-cheek, and for maybe the first time in their lives, the reflection is different. “Uncle will be furious, you know that.”

“But Uncle isn’t coming tonight,” Yuui points out sweetly. He pouts at the mirror and carefully applies paint to his lips, the way he’s seen their mother do. “He’s off on another one of his little war campaigns. This is our party, and he doesn’t even have to know.” He kisses the air a few times, testing, then sets the paint-pot aside. Without looking away from the mirror, he slides his arms around his twin’s neck in a loose half-hug. “It’ll be fine. Think of it as a joke, Fay! It’ll be wonderful!” Continue reading

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as it often goes

It took approximately three laps around the estate with lullabies low in Masahiro’s throat the entire time before Kohime finally fell asleep. Even then, he continued humming as he carried her back to his own room and lay her gingerly down. To his relief, his young niece didn’t even stir beyond the butterfly-soft flutter of her breathing. He pulled the blanket up loosely around her, then sat back with a sigh, rolling his shoulders to try and work out the stiffness that came from accomodating the toddler’s weight for so long.

From the corner of the room, curled in a snug ball, Mokkun lifted his head and yawned. “Oi, oi,” he said, and got to his feet. “Don’t tell me that’s enough to tire you out, Seimei’s grandson.” Continue reading

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What Hates You (Will Someday Kill You)

There is a hall of the Minamoto estate that is filled, one end to the other, with the stuffed preserved bodies of youkai in their natural forms. Here there is a dragon with its jaws spread wide; there is a rokurokubi whose neck stretches the entire length of the hall; there’s a delicate sphere of amber with a tiny winged spirit trapped inside. There’s a crane spreading her wings as a fine kimono slides from her shoulders; there is a nue who lifts her head under a kappa’s outstretched arm. All of them are very fine trophies, put together with grace and care: the sword-marks that killed them have been stitched back together and carefully hidden from sight. They look alive, each and every one.

There is a parlor in the Minamoto estate as well, one fashioned after the sitting-rooms so popular in the west, though decorated with a delicate — and undeniably Japanese — eye and hand. It connects off the hallway of youkai, so Kantarou can move easily from one to the other. Continue reading

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The List Starts From Here

The good:

One, there was no loss of strength in his grip or his arm in general. He could still swing a sword with the same deliberate strength as before. Amaterasu herself had complimented him after a sparring match. A lesser man might have gloated or worse; Kurogane had instead just slung the practice blade across his shoulders and grinned till his face ached. Continue reading

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Dance (Shall We?)

The first mistake the professor makes is in pairing them up. She looks at him and curls her lip in disgust, and there is a tight pressure in his chest that makes it near-impossible to breathe. He doesn’t remember the professor’s words — they wash over him and fade to white noise before he really registers him. She puts her hand in his, small and cool to the touch, and it’s there, on the tip of his tongue to say it — I’ll cut off your claws before you can have him — and she hears it anyway. They stare at each other even after the music starts; it’s only when the professor’s voice rises, sharper than before, that they move. Continue reading

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(it’s) a kind of magic

“I never regretted it,” was all he’d say, years later. He would tuck his hands into his pockets, and if there was a window close by, he would turn to it and smile. “Not once.”

+++

Summer was a hot and sticky affair, one Suzuki Daisuke spent mostly sprawled across the floor, fanning himself, with his clothes as open as they could be and still remain decent. Those days he was all long skinny limbs, with bones jutting out under his sunburned skin, all of his energy sapped away by the rolling heat. Once his sister, annoyed by his laziness, had dropped a glassful of ice-water on him; when he’d gotten over the initial shock, the coolness had felt so good that he’d spent rest of the week pleading with her to do it again. It wasn’t until she’d threatened to do it with tea instead that he’d given up and gone back to his battered paper fan.

The nights weren’t much better than the days, the air heavy with humidity, the buzzing of cicadas giving way to the rasping of crickets. Sometimes, though, he liked to go outside after the sun had set, walking until the lights of his house were completely gone before turning around to feel his way back through the dark. If the moon was full and bright, he would go barefoot along the road with his sandals dangling from one hand, watching his feet on the gravel, one step after another. Continue reading

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at last laid bare

“Hey, Boma,” says Daisuke.

He turns his face so that his cheek is pressed against the wall instead of his nose. He can vaguely see the reflection of them in the metal: Boma’s dark head bent so close to his own. Just a few short steps away, the rest of Kabuki Road is abuzz with life, and the noise itself is like a cocoon, an extra layer of insulation between them and someone else. Boma’s timing has never been the best — he picks and chooses when to approach Daisuke without any sort of discernible pattern, sulking deliberately in the shadows until he’s noticed and called out. Continue reading

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but here’s the catch

There is a game Seimei enjoys very much; shhh, you mustn’t tell Ritsuka. It’d be game over if Ritsuka found out, and Seimei hates losing.

The rules are very simple: when Ritsuka is asleep, do not wake him. Continue reading

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those things unasked

She wears mostly black in this country, like she does in every other — black jeans and a low-cut black tanktop and a light black jacket over that — all provided by President Daidouji, of course: after she practically adopts the princess, she takes the rest of them under her wing as well. New clothes are provided for all of them, and if the ones for the princess are better-made and higher-quality, none of them comment. The idiot mage, in fact, absolutely dotes on her, worse than he did even back in Outo — he pets her and compliments her and makes grinning sidelong comments to the brat, which makes both him and the princess turn bright red and sputter and never quite look the other in the face. They’re so young that sometimes it makes Kurogane tired to be around them; she was that young, once upon a time, though never quite so in love: she’s never entertained hopes that the moon would ever be in her reach. Continue reading

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a nameless first meeting

He is eight years old the first time they meet: the day of the harvest festival, when people from as far away as the capital come to Suwa to buy and sell and trade, and the entire province is turned into an extravaganza of lights and music and celebration. Despite having brand-new clothes for the occasion (stiff and uncomfortable for not being properly broken-in yet) and a stern warning from his mother to keep his face clean, he sneaks off soon after breakfast, avoiding the servants who rush here and there and shout passed-along orders at each other. His father might be the lord of the area, but his mother commands her people with practical efficiency that would impress any general. Continue reading

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various genderswitch

Firefly (Mal)

It ain’t that he’s got a problem with women in charge — his momma’d whup him good if she ever heard him saying gorram idjit things like that — it’s just that the woman who’s tryin’ to bargain his services right now — in front of his current employers, no less — puts him in the mind of a coyote, sharp-eyed and this side of too-lean. Like as not she’d seen hard times since the war, and that was liable to make anyone mean, man or woman. The black ain’t a kind place for anyone, and a woman’s twice as likely than a man to gut you goin’ down — no hard feelin’s, darlin’, just how business is. You gotta be able to stand on the weight of your own reputation, and not everyone’s hand the raisin’ Jayne’s had at his momma’s knee. He’s not plannin’ on gettin’ himself shived because on account of anyone.

Still, she’s got a mighty temptin’ offer and she looks him straight in the eye, easy as you please. She ain’t the sort who’s ever gonna back down, this Mal Reynolds, and that’s more than some of the chickenshit he’s worked for previous. If her pay’s good as her word, Jayne reckons he’s got the time to stick around. Continue reading

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