(Closed) Tenth Week

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(Closed) Tenth Week

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 29 Apr 2012 15:44

Today had been... a day. That, in the absence of any terms that would do the past twenty-four hours as a whole justice, would have to do, as descriptions went. It had been strange, busy, happy, mournful, worrying, exciting and, in general, filled with far more emotions than Parsee had any patience for.

And to think this was before anything happened. The next day was almost certainly going to be far stranger, but with any luck, it would end well. Quite a few things had, lately; more than she would have ever expected, for all the troubles of the past few weeks. She pokes one hand into a small bag hanging off her shoulder, feeling around for a small, bright yellow chain of sorts. Reassured for the fifth time in an hour that it was still there, she sets about her preparations once again.

Today would be the day of the tenth visit from Yuuka, to confirm, once and for all, that the flowers were safe in Parsee's hands. The blooms had been tended to without the slightest error, and perhaps a touch obsessively, as had been the case for some time now. Her verdict was not - in a rare moment of confidence - in doubt at all, but all the same, she could hardly wait to hear it. All that remained, then, was to make sure that the cave was in appropriate condition, or as close as it would ever be, and to make sure that Kazami enjoyed her stay. After all they had gone through, it was only right.

It wouldn't be long now. The cave was as clean as it could ever possibly be, the chairs and table had been set in place, and tea set to boil. The food had been ready for some time - made with at least a little skill, or so she hoped - and the bridge was, at long last, repaired. Oh, there were certainly some flaws in the structure, here and there, but for the moment, none of it was visible, and that was what mattered most.

With her supply of work slowly dwindling to nothing, she takes a seat, her thoughts quickly - and quite regrettably - catching up with her. The tenth week. The final week. That, when all was said and done, was the problem at the heart of all this. Yuuka's decision on the subject of the flowers was no real cause for concern; she had tended to them well enough, and besides, the plants themselves had reassured her, or at least, it seemed as if that was what they were saying.

No, that was not the problem at all. With this week, she would lose Yuuka's reason for visiting every week. The obligation to the blooms that brought her here time and again. She was about to lose all of that, and while she had no rational cause to fear anything of the sort, the bridge princess was rarely on speaking terms with reason.

There was still the persistent fear, somewhere in the back of the mind, that simply put, this was it. This was, in every way, the final week. The last time she would meet the green-haired youkai here and, given her imprisonment, they were hardly likely to meet elsewhere. She might never see Yuuka again; a cold nagging fear that would have given most nothing but relief.

Time would tell, as always, and it would no doubt take far too long to do so. There was nothing for it, except to wait and hope. Yuuka would be here soon, at least; she would find her answer then, no doubt. Just another half an hour, at most.

"Just another week," Parsee mutters to herself, under her breath, barely audible even to herself. "This is just another week. Not the last. Just normal, like all the others. Nothing to worry about."
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Re: (Private) Tenth Week

Postby Yuuka Kazami » 13 May 2012 15:12

It is the tenth week. The tenth visitation of Kazami Yuuka to the Former Hell of Blazing Fires, the tenth inspection of the flowers she'd bequeathed upon Mizuhashi Parsee. Much has happened since the first, too much that even she could not, in good conscience, say out loud. Not to her erstwhile companion in her own abandoned mansion, not to her flowers - and no, not even to herself. She dare not give those events a voice, not even a thought.

Not because she was afraid of what would happen to her sterling, untarnished reputation if word got out.

Not because she was uncertain of what would happen to the legend she'd built up for herself, that shield of infamy and whispered terror that withered all bravado or courage of those foolish enough to try and challenge her, if those events were suddenly known.

Certainly not because she was frightened of what would happen to Mizuhashi Parsee if her enemies caught wind of everything that had happened in these visitations, although it had come to mind more than a few disturbing times than she was comfortable with.

No, Kazami Yuuka was afraid of giving these events voice because she wanted them all to herself. Kept them, cherished them, secretly and greedily and lustily. Like a miser, she locked away the moments, the perplexing ones that had her behaving so strangely and so bewilderingly, deep inside a mental safe, where no one else would be able to find them. Where no hag of boundaries or seven-colored witch would be able to sneak into them, or steal them. Those moments, especially, when Parsee looked at her and spoke to her as if she was not the monster she had always been.

It is the tenth week, the last visitation. And she arrives in the Former Hells of Blazing Fires like she did in the first.

Primly, properly. A small smile on her lips that could only be construed as nothing but sincere - and completely, utterly free of irony. A picture of elegance - her hair smooth, green as a forest canopy in a hot summer day, skin tanned ever so slightly by the sun, vividly-colored clothes of red and white, the crimson patterned a simple but tasteful plaid.

It is the tenth week, the last visitation, and she arrives much like she did in the first. Parasol closed and hanging from a crook of an elbow, bowing slightly at the waist, in polite greeting to meeting an acquaintance - as well as in quiet apology for intruding upon the privacy of her host's abode.

There are, of course, certain differences. The first is the woven wicker basket hanging off her elbow, alongside her umbrella. By each slow swing it made with each of Yuuka's careful steps, it's obvious that something heavy is inside, or at least tightly and carefully packed enough that it does not rattle about inside the basket itself.

The second: three generous sunflower heads, their brilliant yellow petals framing each rich brown seed pod, glistening with dew as they dangle over the lip of the basket itself. Their long stalks bundled together and wrapped in salmon pink oil paper.

Resting upon a purple swaddling cloth keeping the contents of the basket hidden from view, the bouquet is certainly the most striking new element to the already striking ensemble of the Flower Master, but it does not compare an iota to the difference that existed in Kazami Yuuka herself - a difference that set her worlds apart from the Kazami Yuuka that had arrived ten weeks ago.

The difference was subtle, that much was clear. Even Parsee would be hard-put to notice, but then again, she would also be a fool not to behold it once she caught the merest glimmer of it. A change that, if it had been spotted in anyone else, would have not merited further thought or inquiry. A change that, now existing in Yuuka herself, made it all the more unbelievable.

She was still her imperious, politely-smiling self, to be sure. The way she stepped into the abandoned Hell itself, approaching the bridge, she looked as if she was carefully making her way down a great hall that was part of her very own mansion, her very own palace. She still carried herself primly, elegantly, with the confidence borne from one being able to rip apart bodies with her bare hands, or being able to make flowers grow in a sunless, cloudless cavern that used to be where errant souls were kept and tortured. She still radiated the same chilly pressure when she stopped, briefly, to consider the trees jutting out from the earth, where there had been none before.

Parsee sees her murmur a name underneath her breath, her eyes narrowing, before shaking her head and continuing on her way.

Yuuka was still the same. Still the same crazy flower lady.

And yet - as she comes to a stop in front of the table Parsee had so meticulously cleaned and set with food she'd prepared herself - the wicker basket being set carefully amongst the dishes and cutlery - the bridge princess notes the slight awkwardness in her. As if she herself had been dreading the same thing Parsee was.

For a moment, there is silence as they look at each other, the sound of the tea kettle boiling and the soft lapping of the river at its banks filling the vacuum.

It's then that Yuuka makes the first move. For once. It had always been Parsee.

"I've come for our weekly visit, Parsee." Yuuka says, smiling as she leans her parasol against the table. "May I have the honor of inspecting your garden once more?"
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Re: (Private) Tenth Week

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 13 May 2012 17:58

For once, Parsee is considerably less cautious than Yuuka, opting to wave to her instead of any of their usual, more formal greetings. A poor choice? Quite possibly, but every last one of their previous meetings had been filled with altogether too much caution, always dancing on the proverbial knife's edge as if the slightest misstep would bring disaster. Perhaps that is exactly what would have happened. Still, maybe they could do away with all that, for now. One could hope.

She knew Yuuka well enough - or so she told herself, at any rate - to see the signs without much difficulty. In a way, it was rather reassuring. She had assumed for some time that the green-haired youkai would waste no time in leaving the moment there was nothing left to keep her here. This, at least, was some sign that she might stay. Just why she would do so was another matter entirely, and remaining was, quite frankly, complete madness. Much like coming here in the first place, as Yuuka had done every week without fail.

"Hello, Yuuka," she answers, matching the visitor's smile - unusually and surprisingly genuine - with a bright one of her own. My weekly visit. As if this was not the last of its kind, merely one of many that would continue on for a long time to come. The Flower Master was not the sort to pick her words carelessly, or at least, not often. This was, most likely, intentional; neither of them wanted to draw attention to the simple fact they were trying so desperately to ignore.

And for now, she would match this, word by word, and hope. Hope that this twisted dream, a nightmare to anyone but her, need never end.

"There isn't much in the way of change since last week, but I would never turn down a chance to show you the garden. I'll have the tea ready in a moment. But first..." She stands by the taller youkai now, more than a little nervous. "Well, I'm sure you noticed the saplings. They were planted here by a visitor less than a week ago. Shizuha Aki, if you've heard of her; a goddess of autumn, apparently trying to bring a little greenery down here. I can't very well argue with a goddess, so here they are. I've kept them far away from the flowers, all the same, so they won't interfere in the slightest; I was hoping I could show them to you once they bloom."

She looks up hopefully, gauging Yuuka's reaction, before sighing ever so slightly, quietly enough that Yuuka may not have even heard. It was clear enough that she was opposed to their presence, but in the past few days, Parsee had grown fond of the trees. They were a trace of the surface world in her home, a hint of what she had left behind. Something to shield her from the reality of her situation, like the flowers. Something to look forward to, and with time, a precious gift she could never hope to have here without the goddess's help.

Much like what Yuuka had done for her, it had changed life by the ancient, decrepit bridge a great deal. Even the smallest pleasant touch to her home, let alone the luxuries a tree brought, were a great change from what she had grown accustomed to here. But in the end, the greatest difference the trees made were also the simplest one: They were there, part of a world she had never hoped to see again, and that mattered more than anything. Like the flowers, she would not lose them for the world, and perhaps not even for her life.

And yet, the thought of losing them all for the sake of a single person did not give her a moment's pause.

"...But I can see you don't care for them. I'll have them removed by your next visit, if that's what you want." By her next visit, and no sooner. A plea for reassurance, in the guise of an offer. A simple confirmation. The only certainty she would gladly lose everything to gain.
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Re: (Private) Tenth Week

Postby Yuuka Kazami » 22 May 2012 14:55

"Removed?" Yuuka echoes, blinking as she turns to glance at the offending saplings, before returning her gaze to the bridge princess. "Oh, do nothing of the sort, Parsee, never you mind. I was just a bit surprised to see Shizuha Aki's work, and in here in all places. I've always thought she kept herself confined to the world above, as expected of goddesses and their ilk."

The Flower Master of the Four Seasons waves an idle hand. "They don't usually find much reason to cast themselves down onto the earth and slum it up with us unworthy youkai, much less to travel all the way down here and practice a bit of self-serving community work." She lets out a small sigh. "As much as I don't like to owe favors to divinity - and neither should you, Parsee - you can keep the saplings. Them being near or far from the flowers is a non-issue, considering that there's no sunlight here for them to steal. Removing them would just upset the balance further, so just leave them alone to grow."

Even with the usual, silky-smooth enunciation and precise evenness of her words and her tone, Mizuhashi Parsee would be able to detect the slightest, the most minute hint of derision in Kazami Yuuka's voice. A single microscopic iota of resentment, but borne from what? Jealousy of their own divinity, perhaps? True, Yuuka did seem the type - anyone with power, after all, only desired more. Or perhaps it was fear. Monsters feared bigger, badder monsters, treating their superiors - and potential predators - with distrust and wariness. It was only logical.

Or maybe it was something else entirely? Something hidden underneath that smiling mask of Yuuka's, never to be found unless Parsee took the inhuman and incredibly dangerous effort to, just like everything else she knew about the flower youkai?

Whatever it was, the bridge princess would have to wait for a bit to even think of breaching the subject, as the green-haired woman seems to change tack at the speed of light, clapping both her hands twice and then smiling. What little menace had been brought out earlier being wiped clean away, just like that, with no evidence of its prior existence. From contemplative contempt to an almost upbeat, eager mood, the change over Yuuka was as astonishing as it was queerly mercurial, even for her.

"Well, no need to dwell upon such dreary topics, I think. We should get on with the inspection, right away, posthaste. Leave the tea on the boil for now, I'm sure we won't take long - we can have it and the meal you've prepared for us while we talk about the inspection's results."

Yuuka steps forward, her crimson plaid skirt swishing slightly as the cloth follows her very movements - before turning slightly to glance at Parsee, and with a small laugh, reaches out with a hand to take the bridge princess' own in her grasp.

The grasp of a murderer shouldn't be so soft, so warm, so gentle.

"Come on, Mizuhashi Parsee. Show me around your Garden. Show me, for one last time, just how well you've treated my flowers."

One last time. Funny, it even hurt to say it.
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Re: (Private) Tenth Week

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 22 May 2012 17:06

Parsee's expression - darkened, cloudy, resigned as she awaits the green-haired youkai's inevitable verdict - brightens immediately when Yuuka reverses every last one of her expectations. For a few seconds, her only reply is a bright, earnest smile; a definite rarity for her, brought on by sheer relief. She briefly considered attempting to hide it, but soon abandons such thoughts - She almost certainly would not have been able to do so in any case.

"Thank you, Yuuka. And I don't think there's any need to concern yourself about that - she seemed to consider it a favour from me, if anything." Kazami's distaste for the gods was - barring one exception - far from unfamiliar to the bridgekeeper. She certainly did not trust them, and wished to avoid them even at the best of times, but this gift, without a doubt, one she cherished and had no wish to lose.

And somehow, her oft short-tempered friend had simply allowed her to keep them, without an ounce of the difficulties any conversation of the sort typically involved between them. Strange. Very strange indeed. She seemed... mellow, somehow, far kinder and more forgiving than the person Parsee had grown used to. Something had changed - or perhaps she had merely let her guard down. The bridge princess was at a loss to tell which was the case, but the change was, regardless, one she was very grateful for.

Come to that, Yuuka seemed to be a great deal happier now, for some reason, then she had been in some time. Another welcome change, but one that left the bridgekeeper at a loss. Why? What had changed? Was she so greatly changed that she was somehow happy to spend a day here and, even more bafflingly, willing to show it so openly? Or - a momentary, far more worrying thought - was she simply happy that she need not ever make her way to these caves again?

Banishing these thoughts, she grips Yuuka's hand. Unthinkable, once again, but what hadn't been, in the past few months? She had long since given up on noting every single impossibility that came and went; there was not enough time in the world. A moment later, she returns the smile, warmer and brighter than most things her home ever saw. The bridge princess turns away, ready to guide her guest, no matter how unnecessary the gesture. Perhaps this would be a good day after all.

Show me, for one last time, just how well you've treated my flowers.

One last time.

To say that the words pierced her, or struck her like a physical blow, would be a grave lie. She had been struck before, after all; burned, drowned, stabbed and cut, crushed in the grip of merciless vines. It never mattered one bit, not for a moment had she cared in the slightest. Wounds were meaningless, when words, thoughts and loss cut deeper than a mere knife ever could.

She does not stagger or flinch, instead freezing in place, standing stock-still in shock as any words she might have been about to speak are quickly choked into silence. Her face grows terribly pale, her hand numb to Yuuka's own. Words grew far more distant; muffled, indistinct sounds, as far away as they were suddenly irrelevant.

This, then, explained it all. Yuuka had not forgotten, and made no such pretense. The uncharacteristically sunny disposition, her sudden good cheer, the uncharacteristically forgiving kindness and wealth of compliments she lavished upon Parsee's work. All of it led to one thing: Closure. A tidy end. A final good, pleasant impression to leave behind in her place. After all, Kazami had made it quite clear that this was, as she had said, the final visit. She had no intention of returning.

The numb pause lasts for all of five seconds, or ten at most. Brief, but at the same time, far too long. "O- of course," she answers, stammering slightly. What else was there to say, after all? A moment later, she leads the visitor along, almost mechanically, going through well-practiced motions one last time. She speaks the whole time, but says absolutely nothing, only trading small pleasantries, pointing out various details on the flowers that anyone could have plainly seen with the slightest look. Simultaneously pointless, and all she could possibly bring herself to say. Throughout the tour of the garden, her eyes carry a slightly blank look, and she is left with the feeling of an observer, some bystander watching events unfold, as if she were not entirely herself.

Eventually, she is left with nothing more to say. The garden has been quite thoroughly displayed in its entirety, as unnecessary as the gesture was to begin with, every inch of it combed over, and the Flower Master's own response was equally unneeded. She had, after all, made her opinion on the matter quite clear, time and again.

There was nothing else for it, then. She had devoted countless hours to these thoughts, searching for a solution: A thousand ruses and roundabout denials, feigned ignorance, anything to dance around the subject of just what this meeting meant, to pretend it was just another week, practically praying that Yuuka would do the same and keep up the act, playing along and making her denial a reality. Anything that would get her to stay even a little while longer, without ever bringing up the matter of the final week. It was a poor, hollow, ill-conceived plan, but it was something she could cling to. Hoping against hope that it could be something more.

It was useless now. Yuuka had, intentionally or not, dismissed any such possibility. And so, without her comforting but no doubt useless plans, she opts for a solution as fragile as almost any other, yet far more final. One she despised for the sheer, brutal honesty of it, for the vulnerability it brought. One which, even with all her other options exhausted, she had hoped she would never have to resort to.

Hope seemed so out of place, now.

Parsee turns around, looking Yuuka in the eye with some difficulty and holding her right arm. She was only shaking a little, her eyes only watering ever so slightly. Surely no one could ever notice. A few moments pass before she can finally find her voice, a few seconds more for the courage to use it.

"You... there's no reason to leave, Yuuka. This doesn't need to be the last week." She falls silent a second time, unable to manage more than a few words at a time, but does not look away for a moment, soon finding her voice once again. "Why does this have to be the end, then? Why are you leaving?"

Question after question, and though she had the answers to none of them, she could not have cared less either. It didn't matter, after all. Meaningless, flustered, stumbling preamble to the only question she cared about, with only one answer she could stand to hear. One that seemed more improbable with every passing moment of panicked thought given to it; a question that Kazami had, no doubt, never been asked before, but that particular notion never occurs to Parsee.

"Why can't I see you any more?"
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Re: (Private) Tenth Week

Postby Yuuka Kazami » 08 Jun 2012 15:08

Strength. Resolve. Determination. Courage.

These are the things that, in the instant that she hears the tremor in Mizuhashi Parsee's voice - as the bridge princess asks her the impossible - leave Kazami Yuuka, the Flower Master of the Four Seasons, completely and utterly.

It is not her fault. She does not know, after all. She does not know how difficult it had been for the peerless flower youkai to gather herself up - and the things she'd prepared a few weeks back - for what could be her very last visit to the Forgotten Bridge, her very last foray into the Former Hell of Blazing Fires. The very last time she would leave her Garden to enjoy the company of one certain bridge princess. The very last instance of a weekly break in the routine that she'd grown to enjoy and look forward to, herself, despite everything she'd said to the contrary. The only time in the rest of the week where she could find herself to swallow brackish, hastily-brewed tea and actually like it.

She does not know. It is not her fault. Do not begrudge this of her.

Kazami Yuuka does not stagger - her bearing is too proud, too steadfast for such a visible act of vulnerability and hesitation. She does not step back either, the green-haired youkai a complete stranger to the concept of retreat - even though she herself had done so a few times in the past, but only in the pretense of cowardice in defeat, only to turn around and strike murderously a split second later. Had she her parasol at that very moment, she would not have leant on it for support. She does not do these things because she is who she's always been.

She is Kazami Yuuka, the infamous flower youkai, the green-haired terror in a bright sunlit field of yellow. Neither omnipotent god nor immortal spirit, but somehow that made her even more terrifying.

What she does, after a seemingly interminable moment of silence, is something that ultimately defines - and underlines - her identity. Confirming it, carving it into eternal stone. She will always be who she is, and no matter how much she tries to change that fact, it will always be that way.

Yuuka smiles at Parsee. That same innocuous curving of her lips, the corners quirking up slightly, eyes closing just the slightest bit. The same smile that Parsee had seen her use whenever the discussion went towards flowers or anything that remotely had to do with their care; the smile that she saw after every sip of the tea the bridgekeeper struggled to brew every time she visited; the smile that she saw, even, when Yuuka held her head under water with the clear intent of murdering her through drowning.

Concurrently, it was also that same smile that Parsee saw while the flower youkai made quite a show of throwing up globs of her own blackened, crusted blood. Most of it ending up on her white starched blouse.

She smiles, because in the sudden void that had been left the moment everything else had drained away from her, only relief remains.

Yuuka had steeled herself for the worst, and in Parsee's visible, abject despair, she had given the Flower Master of Four Seasons something to actually be happy about. Something to actually smile about, for once.

It's funny how things work out the way they do.

"Do I need a reason to leave, Mizuhashi Parsee?" She is amazed, despite the nigh-insurmountable outflow of emotion inside her, that her voice remains as smooth and unbroken as it always has been. She even manages to get that pompous tone of voice to meld with the light, carefree tone she'd been using ever since she arrived. "Have you forgotten that I go where I want to, when I want to? No one tells me where I can and can't go. After all our visits, I'd have thought you'd remember that, at least."

A moment of silence more. A moment of resisting the temptation of placing her hand upon the bridge youkai's own, to comfort her, to placate her, to remove every trace of despair from a fellow gardener's eyes.

"But this IS the last week. We have agreed upon that at the very beginning, just after I've done you the service of making these flowers take root in such inhospitable soil. Ten visits, with one each week. Approximately ten weeks have passed. Nine visits accomplished, with this being the tenth. This is nothing personal or even malevolent, Mizuhashi Parsee - this is common sense, correct logic. Has staying here dulled your wits so that you cannot even recognize that?"

It's then that she finally gives in to that temptation. Her free hand coming upon Parsee's own, where the youkai grasped her arm. Looking down at the shorter woman, smiling just a bit more.

"This is the last time I am visiting my flowers beneath the earth, Mizuhashi Parsee. For they are no longer mine. They belong to another gardener, now, who I've judged to be more than worthy to keep them." Taking her hand off of the bridge princess', she reaches up to gently brush away one of Parsee's burgeoning tears away from eyes that she'd long held as oddly mesmerizing (and idly considered plucking them out to keep, but that was before everything that's happened, and did not need mentioning).

"This is my last week visiting as someone trying to see if you're as incompetent with gardening as you are with making tea, Mizuhashi Parsee." Yuuka says finally, her voice gentle, just in case the youkai didn't get it. "My succeeding visits, which I hope to make in a much more regular fashion...will be my being as a fellow gardener and friend."

Friend. Irony, it seems, has the strangest sense of humor.
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Re: (Private) Tenth Week

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 09 Jun 2012 09:38

Caught between shock, confusion and simple, endless relief, a thousand words and thought after thought come to Parsee, each vying for a place, each dismissed in turn. The bridge princess stares in mute shock as Yuuka, with nothing more than a few words, picks up every single fallen piece and rebuilds Parsee's world around her, as if it were never broken to begin with. There were any number of things she could have said, of course - so many things she would have told Yuuka, if she could bring herself to do so much as speak for a moment.

And so little that needed to be said.

The bridgekeeper, left weak and unstable by relief, stumbles forward, holding onto the taller youkai for support. There she stands for a while, completely mute, shaking as she leans against Kazami, head turned towards the ground. There was nothing more to say, now, or anything that either of them could say to begin with; they both understood, and that was enough.

Yuuka's words were unnecessarily harsh, as ever, bearing a sting that had no place anywhere. She could not have cared less. It was hardly cruel, unreasonable or intolerable - if anything, in her mind, it was almost reassuring, in a strange way, to hear a trace of old, more familiar days. More than anything, one simple fact stuck with her: Her strange, fickle friend had, without any shadow of a doubt, chosen to stay. But why?

If she never wished to leave, why the act? Why the pretense?

The answer might have been obvious to another, but to Parsee, the very idea is so strange that it does not occur to her for some time. And yet, it was perfectly logical: Anyone in Gensokyo would long to be rid of Yuuka in her circumstances, to rid themselves of the green-haired youkai's influence, escape from the flower master's presence and never see her again. That could only be more true for one which she had already harmed before.

There was no act. She had simply assumed Parsee wanted nothing more than her absence. After all that had happened, that was the one conclusion Kazami had reached; each of them had done everything possible to conceal their thoughts at every turn, to reveal nothing, and they had met altogether too much success. After ten weeks, her own misdirections almost ended in losing one of the few she would ever think to call a friend.

At least that was at an end now. Yuuka was here to stay, and for the first time in the past week, Parsee was, for once, at peace, feeling safer than she had in a long time. An association no one else in the world make, no doubt, but then, they were not her. A few more moments, and the bridge princess manages to compose herself, calming down slightly and standing a little more steadily.

She looks up at the taller youkai, still gripping one hand in her own. It was strange, really, to think how close they had come; both of them reaching the very same, completely and plainly wrong conclusions, such a short while away from following through with them and losing so much - it was fortunate, in a way, that she had been the first to crack. Someone had to speak up. And yet... Kazami had told herself that Parsee wished only to be rid of her, and stranger still, once that doubt was gone, she had immediately chosen to stay. The bridge was abandoned for a reason - one which, evidently, she had decided to ignore completely. Mad. Quite mad.

But then, at least they had that much in common.

The silence lasts for minutes on end, interrupted, at long last, only by the whistle of the kettle. At this, the bridge princess finally takes a step back and looking towards Yuuka with, for once, a broad smile. Leading the way back from the flowers, kettle in hand, she finally finds her voice.

"I'm getting better, you know," she says, her smile almost turning into a grin at this point. "Why don't you sit down and see for yourself?"
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Re: (Private) Tenth Week

Postby Yuuka Kazami » 23 Jun 2012 13:31

"Let's not get too ahead of ourselves, Parsee." Yuuka smiles as she follows the bridge princess, letting Parsee lead her through the flowers, back to her little hovel under the bridge. "Being an acceptable gardener and having your very own garden to take care of is one thing. It's a completely different thing, altogether, being recognized as an acceptable tea brewer, especially in such circumstances and environment." She giggles, slightly. "Still, I'd be more than happy to remind you of your inadequacies. Consider yourself lucky that I am present to render such a service - if I spent every waking moment I had correcting your undeserved hubris, I may find myself having too little time to take care of my flowers."

Back to normal. Back to the way things were. I...I have to admit, I cannot remember a time when a return to the status quo made me feel...optimistic.

Reaching the stone table where she had left her hefty basket before the final inspection, the green-haired youkai murmurs a small prayer of thanks, before making to lay out its contents on the table itself, amongst the plates and the freshly-prepared food.

The wicker basket was large enough to pack an adequate meal for a certain Saigyouji, and while its load didn't exactly put such a statement to the test, what it consisted of were just as important, just as meaningful. These she carefully placed on Parsee's side of the table, the side that the bridge princess usually took (as Yuuka would always be the first to seat herself on the other, and she was never one to break routine). Three boxes, wrought in fine sturdy leather and brass, the rich browns complimenting the glossy lustre of the metal. Each one exactly the same size, each side exactly one foot in length and depth. And each one sporting the official Kazami Seal on the lid, embossed firmly and finely into the leather.

"... I apologize for the containers, Parsee." Yuuka's smile to the straw-haired youkai is almost, in itself, a little embarrassed. "They are from my own collection. I thought to find boxes that would be able to protect certain valuables while being exposed to the elements endemic to this place, but after some searching I realized that these would do just fine. I use them personally to store seeds and saplings during the winter, especially the rare ones I've managed to procure. These are my spares, and they can protect anything stored inside them, no matter the temperature or humidity."

Three boxes, in a row. Three gifts for a fellow gardener.

"And no, before you ask, I'm not being generous." The Flower Master nods at Parsee, her smile widening the slightest bit. "It is the least I can do. Although, you're free to think that way, if you so wish." She takes her seat on the other side of the table, finally settling in. "Don't forget to pour your esteemed guest tea before you open any one of them, though. It's only proper."
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Re: (Private) Tenth Week

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 24 Jun 2012 05:27

Back to normal indeed, and quite abruptly at that. After only a few minutes, it was almost as if nothing had ever happened at all. And yet, even more than that, Parsee was grateful for what little did remain - what the day's events had left for the two of them: An understanding, better than ever before. She could scarcely have asked for anything more.

Back to normal. Back to the usual barbs and constant, pointless insults. It wasn't as if there was any genuine harshness to it, of course, or that she meant a single word of it; that was simply how she was, whatever the reason. The bridge princess attempts to stifle a laugh at this ridiculous gesture, succeeding only in keeping herself to a still quite audible chuckle. A moment later, she gives in, shaking her head slightly and looking to Kazami, her smile gradually turning into an amused grin.

"You never change, do you, Yuuka?" Not entirely true, given how much she had changed since her first visit to the caves... but there were a few constants, all the same.

Her eyes widen in surprise as Yuuka produces the three boxes, but even without any prompting, she leaves them for the moment, filling two cups with - somewhat unexpectedly - brown tea, accompanied by the scent of quite a few different spices, followed by about a quarter of the contents of a small bottle of milk, no doubt brought from the surface. All of which Parsee had quite literally gone through hell and high water to find - though that was scarcely out of the ordinary - and spent weeks searching for. After about a minute, she puts one cup on the opposing side of the table with a slight look of pride.

"You might have seen this before," she explains, holding her own cup in one hand. "Persian Chai, or tea as it was made in my home, in other words. I've made a few adjustments, but it's much the same for the most part." In a way, this was as much for her as it was for Yuuka; even a small taste of home was quite a welcome luxury for the bridgekeeper, though whether she could still call it home with any degree of accuracy after all the time she had spent elsewhere was another matter entirely.

At Yuuka's insistent denial, Parsee only laughs again, giving the taller youkai her attempt at a mischievous smile. "Ask? No, no, I'm much too stubborn to change what I think of you now. I wasn't planning on asking at all when I already know; maybe you should have mentioned this a few weeks ago." She pulls one of the boxes towards her, but stops short of opening it, looking back up from the lid.

"And all I could manage was something you have more than enough of already," she muses, reaching into one pocket. A moment later, she produces a bright yellow chain; dozens of miniscule slices of amber, each thin to the point of transparency, glittering as if caught in some ray of non-existent sunlight, each sliver held in its place on a long white string, forming a circle of petals.

"I'm sure you already have sunflowers than you can count," she adds, leaning forward to place the necklace on Yuuka after displaying it to her for a moment - the string is easily large enough to simply drop it past her head without any clasp. A few seconds later, she falls back into her chair with a smile, opening the first of the boxes. The tea could wait a little while.

"But I'm hoping you'll be able to find space for one more."
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Re: (Private) Tenth Week

Postby Yuuka Kazami » 30 Jun 2012 12:50

Yuuka could only blink in surprise as the amber-petal necklace is slipped around her head by Parsee's own careful hands. Once upon a time, a time that now seemed so long ago even though realistically, it was mere moments ago - the Flower Master of the Four Seasons would have already struck out the instant Parsee's hands ventured far too close to her. Such a reflex would have seen the green-haired youkai stabbing out with both hands, fingers curled into claws, and the bridge princess would be torn apart even before she could have drawn another breath.

But it does not happen. The instinct fades, forgotten. The reflex remains untriggered. And Parsee is able to step away, smiling, as the dim illumination afforded in this dank, dark cavern makes the amber petals seemingly glow from within with a soft golden luminescence. A strand of trapped light that trickles from Yuuka's fingers as she dares to touch the seemingly-fragile creation, as if fearful that it would shatter under her ruinous touch.

Her pale cheeks briefly touched by crimson as she looks down at the present, for once speechless, left without a glib reply or barbed riposte.

It is only after a few moments that she looks up at Parsee, a smile on her face. "N-no. Not...not countless, Parsee. Certainly less than what I'd like, but not countless. And one more certainly can't hurt, if...if it's going to be as beautiful as this." She lowers her gaze down to the necklace again, fingering a particular petal. "...Thank you, Parsee. I...I will treasure this." Just as I already do treasure you.

It's with a renewed pride at her new accessory that Yuuka reaches for the freshly-poured teacup with both hands, cradling it carefully before taking a small sip of the heated brew. Yet another surprise, Yuuka's eyes slightly widening at how the tea tasted. Certainly tea-like, but...with a different spiced quality to it. Certainly exotic. Nothing she'd ever tasted before, but found herself warming to it.

She closes her eyes briefly, smiling to herself. Of course, it may just be her association with Parsee talking. The bridge princess could have served her swamp muck and she'd say it needed just a bit more sugar. But even she knew that it was impossible - some habits simply weren't swayed, not even with something as drastic as...finding someone who actually considered you as someone they could stay in the same room with.

"Hrm. Certainly a step above the boiled weeds you typically serve me, Parsee. But perhaps that's putting it too nicely." She takes another sip of it, breathing through her nose to take in the scent.

A moment more, and she glances at the bridge princess opening the first box. She allows Parsee to do so in relative silence - and it's with a few metallic clicks that the contents of the container is revealed.

A silver pocketwatch, a twin to Yuuka's golden one that she had loaned the young woman for gardening purposes. A parallel, except where the flower youkai's was timelessly regal, Parsee's was minimalistic, simple, and yet elegant in its own way. Each number dotted with a fragment of emerald - all hewn from a familiar piece of jewelwork that the Bridge Princess would remember.

But the main difference between the two timekeeping devices, of course, was the fact that Parsee's was completely silent. Devoid of sound. The second hand swiftly moving down the face of the dial with nary a tick or a tock.

"Well, don't look so surprised, Parsee. I can't loan you my pocketwatch forever - and any gardener worth her garden needs a time piece to remind herself of her duties." Yuuka says from behind her teacup. "You...might recognize the emerald fragments. An altercation that is partly my responsibility had the sculpture you gave me as an unfortunate casualty." She glances away, slightly embarrassed. "I tried to put it back together, but my skill with gardening does not apply to fragile jewelwork. I had the fragments that I could retrieve applied to this, instead."
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Re: (Private) Tenth Week

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 30 Jun 2012 17:32

Parsee's eyes widen ever so slightly in surprise at Yuuka's flustered but unmistakably pleased reaction, not to mention the compliments that follow - including one subject where hearing anything but scorn was almost unsettling. Nevertheless, her smile only widens at this, and even the thought of how completely absurd she must look does absolutely nothing to stop her, unlike most days.

But perhaps that's putting it too nicely. At that, the bridge princess nods in agreement, though the bright smile does not leave her face for a moment, even as a slight trace of her typical sarcasm returns to her voice. "Yes, maybe it is. You've been doing a lot of that recently; what would we ever do if you made a habit out of it? I'm sure the novelty would even wear off after a week or two, and we can't have that., can we?"

Upon opening the box, she abruptly trails off, staring in mute shock. Not, of course, because returning the borrowed watch had slipped her mind. In fact, she had taken a good few minutes earlier to ensure that it was properly cleaned before she returns it, and had it on her person at this very moment. The thought of a replacement, however, was not one that had ever occurred to her.

In her astonishment, it takes a good few moments before she even registers that her silence is matched by the pocket watch's own. Ironic, really - while the gesture was still appreciated and even helpful, Kazami's thoughtful addition had come at a time when she had long since calmed herself. The old watch's ticking did not trouble her nearly as much as it once did, to the point that she sometimes failed to notice it altogether. The passage of time was no longer something she resented nearly as much as she once did.

"Thank you, Yuuka. For this and... everything else in the last ten weeks." She glances towards the river unconsciously, mentally amending her remark. Almost everything, really. Yuuka explains the origins of the pocket watch's decorations, tiny green stars caught between the spinning hands, and Parsee's smile returns again as she shakes her head slightly. "No, I think I like your work better anyway. This is beautiful, but... well, I'm sure you knew that already. As for the sculpture, we'll call it practice. I'll just have to make a stronger one next time, won't I?"

She looks at the green-haired youkai for a moment longer, still unable to hide curiosity and a touch of surprise behind her smiling eyes. Eventually, she caves in, while retrieving the golden pocket watch from one of her pockets and placing it on the table by Yuuka.

"And it doesn't make a sound, either. How did you know?"
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Re: (Private) Tenth Week

Postby Yuuka Kazami » 07 Jul 2012 14:37

"I am neither blind nor deaf to your heathen, low-born ways, Mizuhashi Parsee." Kazami Yuuka replies lightly after a moment, sipping at her tea once more - finding herself growing quite enamored to the brew's spice-layered taste. Certainly a robust and heavy flavor, not meant for a casual afternoon, but rather with a heavy meal. She places her teacup down on its saucer, her usual smile curling her lips. "Caverns of any type have dreadful acoustics. You seem like the sort to enjoy the calm serenity of a quiet moment. A clock ticking, in this environment, would drive anyone mad." She holds her smile for a moment more, before she laughs, softly, covering her mouth with the back of her hand. "That is, of course, what I would say normally. But the honest truth of it is that I saw you twitch the moment I brought my pocketwatch out."

While it is remarkable to hear Yuuka laugh from something humorous than for any other reason (which would usually involve horrific amounts of violence), it is almost unheard of to hear her do so as she reminisces about a particularly amusing memory. "I remember how you looked, then. As if someone had just dumped cold, brackish water down your back. Twitch, twitch. I thought it was simply the dreadful chill here, but it was in perfect synchronization with my pocketwatch's second hand that it was unimpeachable. So, I made sure the pocketwatch I would give you would be one that would hopefully not keep you awake at night."

She gestures to the second and third box, still unopened. "I was hoping that you'd open that box for last, as it's certainly the best that I brought. I may as well tell you what they contain: the one to your left contains your own set of gardening tools. Trowel, shears, pruning scissors - everything you'd need to ensure the perfect growth of the flowers you have. Growing them is one matter entirely, Parsee, but ensuring that the flowers blossom perfectly is another. These will help you, or at least, I hope."

Yuuka then nods towards the third one. "The one to your right...well, let us say that it is as much a present for me as it is to you." She pulls her teacup once more close to her, lifting it up to take another sip, before replacing it on the table and standing up to walk over to Parsee's side. With one hand on the Bridgekeeper's shoulder, the Flower Master reaches out to open the box with a gesture.

Revealing a sapling, carefully taken from the earth above. A small bud, a young flower-in-waiting, at the very top of its fragile stock. And it seems to be glowing, a faint green light permeating the small plant.

"This is...not something I give to anyone lightly, Parsee." Yuuka murmurs. "This is the first sapling I used to make my Garden above. I took it and froze it in stasis while I forced its offspring to grow through sheer force of will." She looks down at the bridgekeeper, smiling ruefully. "Yes, yes, you can call me a sentimental fool later. But it is the progenitor of what I have above, and is as much a fragment of my own being as it is of my Garden." Yuuka then takes Parsee's hand by the wrist, making her fingers touch the stalk gently. The plant seems to move in response, its soft leaves curling around the bridgekeeper's fingertips.

"It is yours now, Mizuhashi Parsee. Please, grow it for me."
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Re: (Private) Tenth Week

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 08 Jul 2012 09:12

"You know me too well," Parsee says, shaking her head at the explanation. "It's almost as if I take up far too much of your time, really." She holds the pocket watch in both hands, a little closer to her face, watching the seconds pass without a sound, before finally putting it down just as Yuuka begins to explain the contents of the second box.

Gardening tools. Truth be told, she already had the most basic ones among them - a trowel, for instance - but they were temporary solutions and crude, simple things, carved out of stone and the odd bit of wood. Adequate for the moment, but little more; this would make all the difference in ensuring perfection. She looks to Kazami with the same smile that was already threatening to become a permanent fixture of her face - and what would Yuugi say if that were to happen? "I would tell you you're spoiling me, Yuuka, but I'm certain you know that already. I'll make sure they don't go to waste."

The third box, however, and the sapling it contains, brings a different reaction entirely. For a moment, there is simple confusion, as the bridgekeeper does not know what to make of the strange blossom-to-be. And then, a moment later, gradually dawning wonder and amazement, both at the significance of what was being presented to her and, far more so than the sapling itself, the thought that Yuuka would entrust her with something this sentimental, in her own words; a gift that meant so much to her personally.

For some time, the bridge princess is speechless. Another gesture she would have never expected in a lifetime. She suppresses the immediate reaction to ask Kazami if she is certain about this; that would be quite pointless. She was, after all, always perfectly sure of her choices, in Parsee's experience. She runs her fingers through the strange, twisting leaves a second time, before taking hold of Yuuka's hand instead.

"Thank you, I... I really don't know what to say," Parsee admits eventually, sounding a little embarrassed, for once. "But I promise you won't be disappointed." She stares at the sapling, leaning a little closer before saying a few quiet words to it. "A sunflower without any light... we can't have that, can we? I'll have to get you a skylight as soon as I can."

The petals twitch slightly, a quiet rustle from the leaves, and she looks back up to the green-haired youkai with a look of slight confusion. "Ten weeks and I still can't make out a word of this. You'll have to teach me some time." A few moments later, Parsee excuses herself for all of five minutes, to plant the sapling before too much time passes. It was best not to take too long over such things, after all; something they both understood quite well.

"I don't think I could call you anything of the sort, Yuuka," she answers after returning. "I have a sneaking feeling you caught it from me in any case. After all, despite everything else," she makes an expansive gesture towards the sapling, then the pocket watch and the tools spread across the stone table, "most of all, I'm just glad you remembered to bring yourself here." Her smile turns to a grin, a rare expression for her, especially around Yuuka, but she was starting to learn, all the same.

"Now, stop me before I embarrass us both more than I already have, will you?"
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Re: (Private) Tenth Week

Postby Yuuka Kazami » 28 Jul 2012 11:19

"Why should I stop you? Or rather, what makes you think I would exert the effort to?" Yuuka laughs slightly, the smile on her lips widening the tiniest bit. "Can't you allow this old, tired, and meddlesome youkai to draw pleasure in seeing you uncomfortable and embarrassed, even with such paltry and gifts that do not do justice to how important you are to me, Mizuhashi Parsee?" She makes a mournful sound as she shakes her head. "Truly, you are cruelty given form. You have spent far too long in the company of filth-ridden Oni that your heart has grown cold, as well as your mind."

Still laughing, Yuuka takes Parsee's hand in hers again. The meal and the tea all but forgotten as she leads the Bridge Princess to the garden, to the flowers beneath the earth. Each blossom, each blade of grass, each plant rustling at their approach, turning as if to pay tribute to the Flower Master of the Four Seasons and their own Gardener. Heading towards the freshly-planted sunflower sapling.

"Learning how to listen to the flowers and deduce their meaning is not difficult. Of course, at the very basic level, you can use it to discern how they're faring - if they're getting enough water, are the pests bothering them, or if they're simply not getting enough care." Yuuka then kneels down beside the sapling itself, bidding Parsee to do the same, and it's then that she takes both of the bridge princess' hands, and gently draws them closer to the sapling. Just enough that the blossom seems to recognize Parsee's presence, drawing towards her fingers as well.

"All you need to do is listen and breathe. Listen and breathe, Parsee. Close your eyes if you have to help yourself focus, but those are two key actions you must make." The Flower Master murmurs, her voice low, almost reverent. "If you listen closely enough, you can hear the plants breathe, the tiniest rustling of their leaves. Breathe in, through your nose - a flower's scent can change depending what they're feeling at the time, but the changes are quite subtle. Subtle enough that only those who spend much of their time around flowers can tell. In time, you'll figure out just what they're trying to tell you - but take comfort, at least, that they understand everything you've told them."

It's then that Yuuka turns towards the bridge princess, a small smile on her face.

"Or you can just cheat and go crazy like I have. They can speak to you easier that way."
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Re: (Private) Tenth Week

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 28 Jul 2012 14:57

Hearing Yuuka's sudden shift in tone - even more so than before - Parsee blinks once, twice, then simply shakes her head in disbelief, letting out a slight sigh. "Just how am I supposed to recognize you by next week if you keep this up, Yuuka?" She matches Kazami's laugh with one of her own, while rising from her seat to follow the other youkai's lead.

She should have guessed this much, really; her friend was hardly going to just wait when flowers were being discussed, after all. "Some time" meant, at most, a delay of five seconds. Truth be told, she could have used some food - the sudden absence of anxiety had that effect on more than a few people - but that would have to wait.

Still uncharacteristically excited, she walks over to the flowers for the other gardener's impromptu lecture, crouching down to look at the flowers and listening intently; just as they were, no doubt. She absent-mindedly reaches down, brushing the petals of a single violet blossom with her fingertips, idly wondering if the flowers minded this at all. Probably not, in moderation. They didn't quite seem like irritable sorts, from what little she could tell.

Following the advice given moments ago, Parsee focuses on the flowers, shutting out the sounds of the river, the movement of the air, the noises made by what little life there was in the caves, and even Yuuka herself, attempting to hear the words of the flowers above all else, discerning anything they might have had to say to her. If they were even speaking at all.

In the absence of every other sound, she only finds what anyone else would: Silence.

Grumbling slightly, she stands again, shaking her head from side to side. "Thank you, but I can't hear a word. I'll just have to work on it later." The bridge princess turns around, just as Kazami's suggestion brings out another bout of laughter, short but louder than most.

"Really now, Yuuka, you should know better than anyone that I've already tried that. It hasn't helped much so far, but I suppose I might just need more practice. I think I'll take the long route, all the same, just this once." She motions for the green-haired gardener to follow her back, all the while toying with the question she had been unwittingly left with.

How important you are to me. Her friend had always been rather strange to put it lightly, yes, but even she had her reasons. What could they be this time, then? Parsee could understand Yuugi, at least, after so long, but this was something else entirely. She knew now that the red-eyed youkai wanted to stay, of course, but the simple question had still nagged at her time and again in the brief while since then: Why? Why, after all that they had gone through, would she choose to come here again?

Answers are deceptively simple things, sometimes. In the end, she only needed to turn the question upon herself. After all, they had the very same reason.

The green-eyed monster and the monster of the golden flower fields. Mad enough to seek out the other in spite of their reputation, twisted enough to understand one another perfectly, given time. When all was said and done, one could simply forgive the other and move on, knowing that they are no different. And somehow, when all was said and done, Yuuka cared just as she did, more than so many others, and more than anyone would ever expect of her or Parsee. Strange? Almost certainly, but they had in common. The green-haired gardener seen through Parsee's eyes was much the same as what she herself was to her friend; someone who understood the other better than anyone, and refused to run in spite of that.

It really was that simple, in the end. Strange, that something like this could mean the world to her.

"Well?" She asks, tugging ever so slightly at Kazami's hand, the bright - if, at this moment, slightly cheeky - smile restored to her face. "Time you had a seat, don't you think? I'm not about to let fresh food cool and gather dust, never mind the tea, and I just might have to finish the lot for you at this rate." She leans forward, giving Yuuka a slight poke in the cheek, her smile turning to a mischievous grin. "Wouldn't want that, would we?"
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Parsee Mizuhashi
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