Second Daughter, pt. xviii

Elder sage halo,
black fights with white and loses.
Your beard needs trimming.
Kaori brings the fan up to cover her smile. Hensei catches the movement of the fan out of the corner of his eyes. He picks up his tea as Kage does, and they both sip. So much history in teacups, Kaori thinks, watching the two match each other gesture for gesture, while each one’s eye is fixed onto the table. Hensei catches her watching.
“I feel eyes on me, and cannot help but notice.”
Kaori’s father leans towards her, “Fetch your writing box, and a servant to play the flute.”
Kaori smiles, stands and bows to the two men while backing out of the sitting room. She races back to her room, grabs the writing box and rings the bell. Miruna approaches and sits by the open door. “Grab my flute, Miruna, and come to the sitting room. Art is afoot.” She catches Miruna’s smile as they pass in the threshold, and finds it mirrored.
She bows as she enters, and sits down. The table has been cleared and her father turns to Hensei. “Honored guest, would you grace us with the first verse?”
“Of course dear friend, if Kaori will create the second?” Kaori nods, not looking up, Hensei will wait for her to finish preparing the ink and the paper before he speaks, taking solace in the grinding of the ink stone, the soft music of the flute.

Evening skylarks sing,
branches creaking in the wind.
Too much to enjoy.
Kaori is a little surprised that Hensei would set a season that wasn’t the current one, but she accepts it and continues in form.

Distant mists surround the tea fields.
Tea cup history begins.
Kaori’s father smiles, looks at Hensei.

Pilgrims pack their things
their faith is to be lauded,
I stay in taverns.
Hensei and Kage share a look and a brief chuckle.

Drink brings joy and merriment.
Never finding peace in cups.
His daughter jumps to the next verse quickly.

Crying from the loss,
lovers, goodbye, and depart.
New moon rains down stars.
“You’re too serious, Kaori.” Hensei chides. “Beautiful images, but so serious.” The table turns to look at Kage.

He brings the sickle and stubs
of cut paddies, dry, cracked

On a long voyage
to the farthest autumn sea,
So the sun travels.
Hensei chuckles again. “We will read this and will easily know who taught whom, won’t we old friend?” Kage smiles.
“A good student takes the work of their mentor and turns it into their own. My daughter is just getting warmed up, but be warned, her lighter notes can be just as cutting as the best of critics.”
“You sound like the voice of experience.”
“Everyone has to learn somehow, no?”


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