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Much consideration for my condition seemed to play into everything Eirin arranged. Barely ambulatory, I had been assisted from the clinic into what lay beyond. I sat in a quiet room by a sun-drenched courtyard, propped on a cushion and against the wall in a very informal manner. A playful breeze danced in and out of the room through a door open on the courtyard side, giving me a taste of the outside world. I had confessed a desire to leave my room and my wish was being granted just then for the first time.
The assistant came into the room from the door opposite the courtyard, carrying a tray. She smiled politely at me and I returned the courtesy, feeling my innards quiver with latent disgust. She set the tray down near me. She opened a closet door and fetched another cushion and placed it with some ceremony opposite me. I nodded quietly, hoping somehow that the gesture would encourage her to move along as quickly as possible. A moment further of tarrying made the girl ask yet again if I needed something. I once again stated that all was well and forced another smile.
As she left, smiling placidly in that most gut-wrenching fashion, she informed, “The princess will be along shortly, I'm certain.”
The brief intrusion was followed up by a interlude of peace. I stared out at the simple courtyard, appreciating the delicate arrangement of stone and sand. Seeing the outside reignited my desire to go out and catalog. Regardless of however serious my wounds still may have been. I hadn't brought my journal with me, something which I partially regretted. Sketching the small garden in the courtyard would have taken my mind off things for a while.
“Good morning,” A dulcet voice hailed. My eyes fell upon the new arrival. With careful and delicate measure, the girl bowed in greeting. She introduced herself with polished manners, “I am the mistress of this manor, Lady Kaguya Houraisan. Forgive me if I am too forward, but I would prefer if you could forget some formality and address me as you please.”
I offered my own introduction, straining to meet her bow with an equally polite one of my own.
“Do not strain yourself with the rigid observance of manners,” The mistress smiled, adding, “I am aware of your debilitated state and I owe it to Eirin not to undue her efforts.”
“Thank you,” I said. She sat across from me, on the cushion previously placed by the rabbit-eared assistant. Eirin had briefed me about the subjects of mutual interest I might hold with her acquaintance. At that moment I could not recall any of the many things she had said. It was as if my mind was numb. I was being exposed to something remarkable from any objective point of view, something spoken of in storybooks and tales but never expected to be real.
Her beauty was unearthly. She seemed to radiate waves of refinement and enchantment from her fair skin and delicate features. Her head and shoulders were framed by a rich tapestry of dark and shiny silk, While her proper and natural posture gave her the airs of a porcelain doll, of artistic perfection. It was difficult to assess and compare her splendor to depictions drawn or otherwise found in my memory, as nothing I had quite seen could compare to her whole and unyielding allure.
The heady feeling of her hand on my knee brought some focus back. “Are you alright? You look a bit overwhelmed, perhaps I should call for Eirin.”
“No need,” I shook my head. Hers was an expression of unfettered concern. I spoke so as to reassure her, “I just felt a little lightheaded,” I lied, “It was a brief spell and I think I shall be quite alright.”
“There's no need to push yourself,” She intoned, most definitely oblivious to the nature of the shock she had incurred, “I understand if you're not at all up to the task of talking now.”
“I'm rather looking forward to this,” I said, smiling, “I suspect if I drink some of this tea here, it'll still any internal disquiet.”
She withdrew her hand, apparently satisfied with my sketchy explanation. She politely did not press the matter further, instead pouring tea from the teapot to our respective cups. I thanked her and took a small sip, enjoying the rich taste of lightly oxidized tea leaves. The mellow breeze flirted about the room and brushed my cheeks with cool reassurance. With another sip, I found my composure and words once again.
“I have heard that you know a lot about lore and antiquity. I'm fascinated by any potential background that's relevant to my studies and doubly so when this background has direct ties to what I observe.”
“If you wouldn't mind, would you tell me of your studies? It's the first time I've heard about something of that sort.”
I described to her what I had been doing and what I intended to do. The careful observation, the meticulous journaling and cataloging sketches. She listened intently at length, occasionally indicating politely that I had her complete attention by asking for clarification for some of the more convoluted things I said and nodding politely as we both drank tea. With her active charm, she got me to say more about myself and my objectives than anyone else had managed in a single sitting. It was a pleasure to go in the most minute level of detail, feeling that every word that came out of my mouth was being eagerly processed by her.
I once again regretted not having my journal at hand, something which she did not seem to mind much. “You've painted such a vivid image for me with your words,” She said quietly, “Your cherished book and its contents must truly be something special.”
“It's nothing as grandiose as that,” I contested humbly. “I apologize for taking so much of your time by unilaterally speaking about my obsessions.”
“I find what you have to say interesting. No one I know has an ambitious ongoing project like you do,” She smiles, as if remembering something pleasant in her past, “I am very much a prisoner of routine.”
I finished my second cup of tea and declined offer of a third. It felt good to talk to the captivating prim and proper lady. It was different than the discussions I had had with Eirin in both tone and substance but no less satisfying. I realized with some embarrassment that my elation was due to an almost complete one-sidedness in speech and not from a mutual exchange of ideas as with the physician. If there was any dissatisfaction borne from this fact, it did not show on her meek and attentive visage.
When I steered the conversation towards her, thrusting upon her the duty of talking, I wasn't quite sure what I expected. I tried to listen intently as she had, encouraging her as best I could. She had no issue with doing virtually all of the talking.
The tale she spun with grace and presence was one relating to times long gone. “Of times when man and fae cohabited the world as equals,” As she quaintly put. I listened carefully as she described with much detail the ongoings of daily life. The supernatural and creatures beyond man were both help and hindrance to the same. Just as one youkai (the introduction of the term was belayed and its use sporadic) might have been a friend to humans, or at least no threat, others dedicated themselves to hunting and tormenting hapless people.
“It did not take long for man to band together and cast all of the supernatural into the same lot,” She explained. Even as the 'time of cities and stone' came to being, dedicated groups of individuals sought to subdue and eliminate youkai everywhere. I didn't need to ask what happened next in her chronicle. The decline of the supernatural in the face of the ingenuity of man was almost a forgone conclusion.
She seemed to read my mind at times, transforming my attentive and curious glances into further pieces of narrative. “Those creatures were molded and cast from the very form from which man came. Without human understanding, emotion and logic, there is no defining youkai. An abandoned object of itself has no will or value, it is the accumulation of human experience and emotion as we know it which would cause such a thing to manifest supernaturally.”
“In the case of one young boy, many many thousands of moons ago...” She delved into a rich narrative. With the practiced pacing of an orator's tongue she used a story to enrich the background information she shared.
I listened, transfixed, all senses focused on her. Listening was just as satisfying as talking with her. Her dark eyes shone like polished wood and transmitted the excited light coming from within her. I did my best to make sure she could tell I was wholly dedicated to hearing her out. I went through a whole range of emotional output as I smiled, worried and even felt sorrow as her story progressed. By the end of it all, it felt like my very soul had been washed and purified through the storytelling ritual.
“I thank thee humbly for listening to my ramblings and bless thee for thine patience.”
She bowed, supplicatively as if she had committed some transgression against me.
“I could not have asked for a better use of my time. Your tales and your delivery are without peer,” I thanked her instead, making a real effort to bow properly.
“Thou need'st not pay such tribute for such poorly spun yarn. It is humbling to see overmany accolades. I beseech thee, praise not so much. There is not much to ado about betwixt anecdotes regarding tsukumogami and shape-shifting kin.”
“No, the praise is justly deserved,” I said, “Hearing you speak about such a saga brings untold joy to me. I have learned much.”
“Ah,” She reddened, changing in a breath from a patient camellia to a blossoming azalea. She made to cover her face with her delicate hand, something impossible given its petite and feminine shape.
“Is something the matter?” I asked.
“I must apologize,” She stated with modesty. She removed her hand, likely having realized it did not have the same effect as a fan and spoke plainly but with some strain, “I forget myself sometimes. I spoke with old and difficult words, inappropriate for modern speak. It sometimes happens when I get too excited and swept up in the moment. I do hope I haven't insulted you.”
“Far from it,” I laughed. Anyone in my place would have done the same. The pained expression of shame on her face was too much to bear. “I understood you fully and am flattered that you would dedicate yourself so earnestly to a conversation with me.”
“You're too kind,” She said, looking uncertain about if she could allow herself to relax a little.
“This has been a very pleasant encounter,” I said, noting by the changing illumination outside how it was already afternoon. “I promised Eirin that I would not dawdle in return for being allowed to walk by myself. I would love to hear more of your stories some other time, perhaps sketch some of the creatures you've talked about too.”
“And I would like to see your drawings and understand more of how you view the world.”
“It sounds like we've got ourselves plenty of excuse to meet again,” I nodded.
We parted ways, each seemingly satisfied with the way things went. The peerless lady left towards the interior of the manor while I stood for a while against the door leading towards to courtyard. The once-sunny day had turned into a drearily grey affair and the playful breeze bit with a little more chill than before. My chest throbbed dully but I didn't feel any pain.
I walked slowly down the corridor, leaning against walls for support. I stopped to rest more than once, careful not to exert myself too much at once. I was right next to the clinic, a left turn down a hallway from the door that lead to Eirin's office. There was a a chance for me to take a brief detour and look around, as unsupervised as I was. Visiting another room or two and getting a better feel for the layout would be easy.
 Brief inquisitiveness
 The call of a familiar bed