mjj (flemmings) wrote,

"A stalled ox"

Or, a nudge is as good as a whack to a bland horse.

Posting excerpts from a WIP is an extreme way of inspiring me to write. I feel it's underhanded and dishonest and unfair and a bunch of other things associated with the Japanese word zurui. It holds my readers to ransom, and since my readers here are also my friends, it's unfriendly. My apologies. I'm doing it anyway. The poems will simply have to write themselves after this.

Ordinarily I'd link but currently have nowhere to link to (my fault- tammylee, I *will* get back to you) so it's all behind the cut.

          "Kanzeon Bousatsu, you have a visitor from Down Below."
          "Mh? Who?"
          "A umh dragon."
          "Ohh-hohh. One of ours?"
          "Ahhh--- No."
          No indeed. A green-skinned dragon in all-green robes, like a jade statue given life. Leather baldric about his chest, curved white claws on the shoulders, and a discourteously broad sword at his hip. Warrior, the outfit said. Beast-slayer. Not one of you.
          Fine, fine. Point taken. Kanzeon smiled into the flat red eyes. The man bowed briefly from the waist.
          "This person is Kinshou, of the army of the Eastern Ocean, and I bear a letter from the Blue Dragon for the Bousatsu Kanzeon." He held it out in both hands.
          Kanzeon broke the seal and glanced over the brief message:
Goukou the Blue Dragon, king of the eastern waters, high king of the dragon tribe, to the Bousatsu Kanzeon, ruler of the world, symbol of mercy and compassion, greeting. Our thanks for the Bousatsu's consideration on the recent occasion of our brother Goujun's death. We are most sensible of the kindness You have shown us.
          Very nice. A model of correctness and courtesy. Not an inkling of a conciliatory attitude towards the kami, should anyone's spies be looking for one.
          Kanzeon raised an eyebrow at Goukou's emissary. "And?"
          The man didn't even blink. "His Majesty adds this message for the Bousatsu's ears alone. 'If matters stood otherwise between Heaven and ourselves, we would thank you in person for the great favour you have done my family. The kings of the Southern and Northern Oceans add their gratitude to mine. That Goujun has been spared to us is a blessing unlooked for. My race however is unaccustomed to the process of reincarnation and we are ignorant of its particulars. It would ease our hearts if we might be given some knowledge of our brother's current situation.'"
          "His situation? He's Down There, on one of the continents."
          "Then his egg has already been hatched?"
          "He's been born, yes."
          Blank red eyes looked at hir. Kanzeon had a good idea what was going on behind them. Wait till he asked the obvious question? That would be unkind: dragons dislike asking questions, especially obvious ones. Nothing wrong with unkindness, of course, especially when it served a purpose. But I can do better than that. Kanzeon smiled.
          "Tell Goukou to relax. Goujun's what he always was, a white dragon. But don't go looking for him in either of his forms. You really won't recognize him as he is now."

          "So there it is," Goukou said.
          "I see. My thanks, Kinshou-dono. And to you, ani-ue. You've been most thoughtful of your worthless brother and his fears. I hope the information didn't cost too highly."
          "It cost nothing. Kanzeon Bousatsu doesn't bargain. Our position with respect to Heaven is exactly as it was."
          "That's good," Gouen murmured. Goukou looked at him sideways.
          "You have some doubts?"
          "I... have the doubts I've always had of Kanzeon Bousatsu. Hir ways are not as our ways and hir thoughts are not as anyone's."
          Goukou shrugged. "Se is a force, like the winds. One must go with hir as one does with a tempest, for there is nothing to be gained by battling either."
          "That is true."
          "So, if your mind is at rest, will you be returning to your ocean now or can you stay a few days more?"
          "I'll gladly stay if you want me to, but I had some thoughts of paying a visit to our uncle and cousins before I went home. Seeing them again at the funeral made me realize how little we've met these last years. They're men and fathers now, before I even knew it."
          "Too true. Go then, and give my greetings to our uncle. I can't spare the time to visit myself with the kami so importunate; but tell him I'd be glad to see him should he have the leisure to come here."
          "I will tell him so." And I am not lying. I *was* surprised at how Goumin has grown, and how his poetry has progressed. But that is not why I go to my uncle's house.

          Gouen greeted his uncle Goushun courteously and his cousins in friendship, delivered all the news of his own family and inquired minutely after that of his uncle. He spent a pleasant afternoon with his cousins Gouhei and Goumin, drinking tea and making linked verse. Goushun listened with enjoyment, occasionally putting in a word during the discussions after. His uncle had a good taste in poetry though he rarely composed himself; it was he as much as Goushou who had encouraged Gouen's own first efforts in childhood.
          The pleasant afternoon was followed by an excellent dinner, and afterwards by a relaxed evening of drinking together and more verse-making. Mellow with wine and poetry, Gouen looked over to make certain that Goushun was in a similar mood and then said, "Uncle, there is a matter about which I hoped you might instruct me."
          "Happily, if I can. What is it?"
          "I know that your younger brother resigned his duties and offices and took himself to a hermitage somewhere here in the eastern sea. The poem he sent us during Third Brother's mourning period has lingered in my mind, and I have long had the desire to speak to him myself. What is the way to the Hermit's dwelling?"
          "I cannot say," Goushun replied shortly.
          Gouen felt heat in his face. "Forgive me if I asked what I should not have."
          "You didn't. I cannot say because I do not know. He never told me."
          Gouen's face grew hotter and he fell silent. Too late he was remembering that Goushun's younger brother had quitted the world just after the death of Goushun's older brother, their father. Goushun had been abandoned at a stroke by his two closest kin, and it would seem the living one had done it as finally as the dead.
          Goushun was looking down at his winecup. In a low voice he quoted the first lines of the Hermit's poem:
Waves on the ocean's face vanish in an instant.
Salt spray flies upwards and fades into air.
        Gouen answered, changing the second couplet:
Though gone, I remember the shape that those waves wore;
Still on my face feel the salty wet spray.
          Goushun looked up then, pondering. At last he said, "It's possible you might find his dwelling place though no-one else has. There is that in you that resembles him, though you are so much your father's son otherwise. Make the search and see what comes of it."
Tags: dragons, fic

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