Some Mornings


Offline Iseul Yi

Re: Some Mornings
« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2017, 10:24:50 AM »
        It was the breath we took when we first met.

”There is that, too.” Eyes scrunching nearly shut Iseul laughed, covering her mouth with the back of her hand. Not an acceptable, polite, decorous display for a meal table. Thankfully Grandmother and her switch were both far away. It made her nervous, how easily he drew such reactions out of her. When the giggle passed she straightened her face into a much more subdued smile. Fingers curling back in her lap. Hand holding hand to keep her clinging to reality.

Holding tight until her tangled fingers pinched one another. It was not a dream, though, so she did not wake. Only continued sitting, ankles crossed and tucked under her chair. Wonderful and kind Ji-hun speaking gently from across the table.

A moment of thoughtful reflection later she wistfully added, ”I wish there were a  way to teach them all to think more gently… or openly, I should say.” The Askavi conflict would never find a peaceful resolution if the leading minds of Dhemlan could not agree to one. She would even be happy to see them agree on three or four plans of action. Trying each in turn from least violent to most until the problem was settled.

Conservative thinking, though… She turned back to the conversation. ”When you meet Lady Cho you’ll have to pass along your cleverness. Suggest big bowls and a small table. So no one dare open their mouth enough to get spittle in the food.”

Suddenly quiet, the table felt awkward. Iseul held her breath. Aware she had started the uncomfortable silence, unsure she could end it without embarrassing herself further. He looked thoughtful as he carefully poured their coffee. The delicate sugar flowers were brought closer. Thankful for the distraction she selected one from the top. Weightless on the tip of her finger. Each petal more fragile than a strand of spider silk.

Following his example she pressed the tiny confection to her tongue. Doing her best not to wonder if the sweetness lingered on the edges of Ji-hun’s lips. ”Only a sugar.” She answered, still not able to meet his eyes.

Looking instead at the contours of his hands and wrists. Strong but gentle hands. Precise enough to lift sugar flowers without crushing them, but capable of building amazing machines and surviving a war. She squeezed her own hands again. Still not dreaming. ”I do. It reminds me of a small shop in Paiju. It was open all day and night but only served pastries, tea, and coffee. They have the same sort of atmosphere.” She had gone often, amused that she could have breakfast any time of day. ”The entire block burned in the rioting. I was in Chusati already, though. I wonder if they rebuilt…”

Or even survived.

Offline Ji-hun Seo

Re: Some Mornings
« Reply #16 on: December 16, 2017, 01:56:30 AM »

Something in him broke away at her laughter. Floated toward the rough and red painted rafters. It was so... unfettered. How could something in him not spring free in sympathy? Laughing mouth covered by her hand. Ji-hun studied the way her fingers curled against her palm. The way her eyes nearly shut in her mirth.


”One might beget the other,” he suggested once she settled. He wished she would keep on laughing forever. The sound of it was simply amazing. Ji-hun fidgeted, restless with the thought of it. Embarrassed. ”I do not know that I will ever meet the esteemed lady, but if I do, I will mention big bowls and small tables.” Little word smith. She might have made a dangerous courtier in another life.

Ji-hun was glad she was exactly as she was, however. That she could even believe the territory queen would care about his words. Give weight to his ideas. But Iseul had always done that. Found worth in what others scoffed at. Namely his ideas.

Ji-hun licked his lips, pressing them tight and drawing them inward before he did, watching as she selected a flower of her own to try. Head bobbing he poured, filling two cream colored cups with heady black coffee. In Iseul’s cup he set a couple of flowers to floating, smiling as they swirled and slowly dissolved. Very clever. His own he diluted with milk until it was nearly the same color as his skin.

”Sounds like a very progressive sort of place,” Ji-hun teased with a wink. Just the sort of place he had been forbidden to take her when they had been younger. Not that he had paid much attention to such things. He had taken Iseul where she pleased. It was only the method that changed. ”Unfortunate. Perhaps we can take a trip and find out.” He offered, relaxing back in his seat and drinking his coffee. Still hot and bitter. But it washed the lingering sweetness from his tongue.

Chased the last of the chill from his bones.

Ji-hun watched her for a moment. Eyes steady over the rim of his cup, fingers slipped through the chipped handle. She had been very busy in their years apart. So had he, but it felt different, since he had mostly stayed in the same place. Done the same things.

”Do you have many apprentices?” He asked because the real questions that weighed on him were not ready to be asked yet.

Offline Iseul Yi

Re: Some Mornings
« Reply #17 on: December 16, 2017, 05:39:31 PM »
        It was the breath we took when we first met.

That was more like the Ji-hun she remembered- a bit optimistic and insightful. There was still something more reticent about him now, shy almost. The way he squirmed in his chair. But she could see more clearly now the boy she had known was not gone. Just grown. Maybe it took time to ease from escort to self? It was not a position men were born to the same way a healer was always a healer. She was hopeful in more time he would be more comfortable in her company. Free to speak and be who he wanted. Safe, even, to do so. ”It could very well be a start.”

 ”I would be honored to make an introduction. The lady is…” Iseul hesitated, choosing her words with care. ”she has…” Surely her struggle was a clear sign she should stay silent? Nearly giving up she smiled apologetically at him as the aroma of dark coffee enveloped their table. She wanted to tell Ji-hun, though, without telling him, that more progressive minds in court would only buoy their queen. Perhaps even the whole territory in time. There could be no dynamic growth without forward thinkers gaining a foot in the door. ”Hmmm. You’re an easy person to speak with. I believe the lady will agree. The court as a whole would benefit from more of such a personality.”

She was certain Lady Cho would find Ji-hun pleasant. Would he find the lady as fascinating as Iseul did? Or even… more interesting than Iseul was? That seemed a certainty too. They were only friends, she reminded herself, as a heavy little rock of self doubt settled in her chest. Hidden but not dissipated as he smiled at the sugar blossoms in her cup.

”Ah, you know me, always on the cutting edge.” She smiled under his wink. Reminded too of excursions from the acceptable path. Rooftop people watching under Sapphire shields. Fighting another blush Iseul recalled too the way that same Sapphire had shielded that most intimate part of her, webs remaining strong behind his protection. Did he offer to travel with her out of politeness, or did he really want to? Following his lead she sat up straighter, cupping her hands around the warmth of her cup.

On the surface there was a residual pattern from the sugar. An outline of petals, as if it was reluctant to fully melt away. She blew lightly and it faded. ”Perhaps I should find out. It’s been a long time since I left the city and I’ve always wanted to travel more. See Busei during a trade fair, or the terrace farms in Quehan.” In the Province court, and districts before it, there was too much work for such frivolity. Now, however, she had good reason to visit each province in the line of her duties.

Taking a first, tentative sip she licked the inside of her lip. There was something wholeheartedly refreshing about the flavor of a strong coffee. Ji-hun watched her across the table. Drawing her own eyes to him over and over again. Each time she looked away though, his gaze making her bashful. Not sure what he was looking for, or if could be found in someone as meek as she tended to be. Not sure how she would feel if it was not.

Glad for the distraction she shook her head lightly. ”Three right now, but it depends. Healers have a harder time with the exams than other castes.” She mentioned, a hand falling away from her cup, palm up in a short gesture before returning, ”So the pool of apprentices for courts can be slim. The smaller courts need the most useful girls, so I tend to end up with the ones that are struggling with concepts or scored low.”

She was rambling. Felt the weight of her conscious telling her to stop before she made a fool of herself, but if she was quiet he might not have a reason to look at her anymore. ”You saw Danbi Bac in the infirmary this morning. She’s been with me five years, so she’s like my right hand. She starts a district contract in Anahi soon, though. There’s Lady Park as well, who started here last year. You saw the newest, Byeol Weon, in the hall yesterday.”

There was nothing wrong with Byeol’s skills or bedside manner. Nothing to prompt her last mentor to send her to Iseul. And the healer worried her newest team member was there for more than instruction. ”What about you? Do escorts train apprentices?” She asked.

Offline Ji-hun Seo

Re: Some Mornings
« Reply #18 on: December 17, 2017, 11:07:41 PM »

”It is usually the most auspicious place to begin.” A smile to make sure she knew he was teasing. To lighten what could be seen as caustic. Sarcastic. Without the levity he meant it with. Worried more than he might have otherwise. Because she was Isyi, and not just a charge. A job.

Her presence was his only payment this day. And it was plenty.

”Not necessary.” Ji-hun tried to wave the offer away. Fascinated with how she searched for the words. What did she with to tell him? To keep from him? His eyes grew distant, sliding outward beyond their focus. Did someone watch? Listen? Sapphire probes slid, dark and quiet, through the eating house.

Maybe being territory healer had not changed her so much. Always careful Isyi.

”If you think it will bring the lady pleasure.” He tried to see between the words. To things she did not say as well as those words she did speak. Bowed his head. Drank his coffee. Shook away the cobwebs of desire so he could listen. ”I am always happy to serve.” To serve something other than an afternoon arm.

He would be near too. Near, too, Iseul and her infirmary kingdom.

Blushing. Blushing woman. What was she thinking? Had he gone too far? He hoped not. Ji-hun watched her blow the steam from her cup. Watched her lips form the words. Head nodding. An outing then. Maybe a Coach to take them. Busei. Quehan. Wherever she wanted to go. So easy to slip into the old habits.

”I have seen the farms. But not the fairs.” She drank. Like communing with the Darkness. He saw her tongue move behind her lips. Saw her look back and away. Vision clouded once again. The rest of the room forgotten. Grateful too, for the distraction his question brought. Ji-hun nodded in time with her words.

”I had not heard that about healers.” Why, he wondered? Too sensitive, mayhap? Too attuned to pain to recite the glory of Dhemlan by rote? He would have dug more, but she was still speaking. The cadence of her words washing over him. ”Lucky you.” His lips twitched. ”You must have superior patience.” Poor Iseul. Burdened with those who could not grasp concept or scores.

So few helpmates!

”It seems unjust. Healers are so needed.” Necessary. Crucial. But they could not serve if they could not pass the test. At least they were not barred from practicing their craft outside of court service. ”I am sorry you will lose your long time friend. Perhaps the new girl will prove useful.” Ji-hun studied his coffee, draining the cup in admission that such hopes were.. hopeless. Strange, twitchy girl from the hall. Yes. He remembered.

”Ah..” Caught off guard by the question. Ji-hun chuckled, made room on the table as the food began to arrive, bowing head and shoulders to the small girl and her helpers. Youths. An absolute gaggle of them, all trying to be the most helpful. Ji-hun smiled at Iseul over the flurry. Curious if she saw it too. ”Not apprentices, no. Not by name. But we are mostly trained by each other. And then polished by the witches he practiced with.” It was the women who did the real training.

All theory and no practical until then. Learning how to steady ones nerves. To be what was needed not what was wanted. To guard barrier and heart alike.

He had forgotten one of those lessons.

”I have not, myself.” The food settled on the table between. The bustle dying down as the girl retreated with her troops. ”Maybe one day.” The idea held little appeal, however. He had spent so long trying to flee his place. It would be a disservice to force it on another. He served from communal dishes. Filling Iseul’s plate first before his own.

Offline Iseul Yi

Re: Some Mornings
« Reply #19 on: December 19, 2017, 12:33:55 AM »
        It was the breath we took when we first met.

The urge to catch his waving hand between her own nearly won over her sense. Instead she lowered her gaze, chin nearly touching her chest. Diverting her attention to the painted grooves on the table top. Did he not wish to meet the lady? Did he think himself unworthy?

Below her in the Abyss she a whisper of his power shifting sent her leaning in. To Iseul that Sapphire represented protection. Once she had even dared to hope it might mean affection, too. After all these years it still stirred the same emotions. Except the coy hoping had ripened to a much more mature longing.

Tentatively her hand brushed over the top of his with a gentle pressure. Not lingering  but not quite fleeting enough to be mistaken for an accident. ”It’s alright,” She assured him, ”I don’t think anyone is listening on purpose. I like to prevent misunderstandings, in case someone... happens to overhear.”

She didn’t want him to worry. Didn’t want to seem the stifled child again, either.

More than just easy to speak to. Ji-hun was a good listener. Somehow she had overlooked that aspect of his person. The way he absorbed every word as if there might be some secret worth discovering in them. His attention had been the sort that made a shy creature blossom. It still did, even though the first layer of her timid nature had been shed. ”I have my theories, as to why. Maybe someday I’ll bore you with that. After a cello performance, of course, one misery at a time.” She gave him a small smile.

”I agree, though, it makes the healers that do succeed all the more valuable.” Which was why she went to great lengths to keep them all. Training those that others would toss aside as a bother. ”Useful to someone, I’m sure.” She hinted, sipping more at her coffee rather than dragging on that part of the conversation.

In the break of conversation their food arrived. Smelling delectable, and heartier than she expected a morning meal to be. Her Rose would be well fed today. Smiling at the young servers as they settled plates and bowls around the table she tried not to laugh. They bobbed and shuffled by one another, all cheerfully eager to get close. Witchlings, she mused, were silly things. Teeth flashing as she bite back more laughter Iseul met Ji-hun’s eye over the swarm of wrists and elbows. No wonder this was his favorite place. So many pretty young ladies to attend his every whim.

Did he sleep alone at night? He certainly didn’t have to. As the servers withdrew, all hiding bright curiosity behind veiled lashes Iseul returned her full focus to him. ”Oh my, poor practice witches.” She giggled, trying to imagine a very young Ji-hun practicing his stoic stance on some graying court witch. ”It’s been good, in my experience. I like knowing some small part of what I do might last beyond me. I can teach another healer a tip or technique that she teaches to her own apprentices someday. Like a chain to connect us even once we’re forgotten.”

Head tilting in interest she watched him press an impossible amount of food in her plate. Eyes growing wider with each item added. And wider still as she realized it was all meant for her to eat. ”Maybe no words in between at all. We’ll be eating until lunch time.” If only. She would keep him sitting there, chatting away for eternity if he allowed. ”No apprentices, for you then. No more tinkering either. What does Ji-hun Seo occupy his free time with then?”

Offline Ji-hun Seo

Re: Some Mornings
« Reply #20 on: December 19, 2017, 07:36:04 AM »

Ji-hun grew still beneath her touch. The long tendons in his hand growing tight, pulling the skin away from knuckles. Ridges that met and vanished into his wrist. She had noticed, and even as Iseul reassured him, the Sapphire pool deepened. Someone shifted uncomfortably in their chair, someone else chose not to enter, door bell jingling as they opened the door and then retreated.

”My apologies.” Ji-hun blinked, breaking the spell. Hand easing under her own. Tendons lying flat again, knuckles prominent. Sapphire swiftly returning to him. Like a wave sucked back into the sea just before a tsunami. ”Habit, I suppose.” It was not her family she must hide from anymore. But the world. Careful poised - posed even - so that she did not bring disgrace or question of Dhemlan’s queen. At least this was a much better cause. ”Politics were never something I imagined you involved in.”

But politics was everywhere. Was Dhemlan.

”Oh yes. I had nearly forgotten I was to be punished by such means.” Ji-hun chuckled, body relaxing. Tensed from the searching. From her touch. Hand still until she removed it. Still even after she did. ”We will have to have another breakfast then, so you may bore me.” His head bobbed. ”After.” He really was looking forward to hearing her play again.

”I’m sure it does.” Especially if it were such a struggle for the caste. Supply and demand dictated as much. Fewer service ready healers for the many courts running the territory. His gaze sharpened as she hinted to the usefulness of her new apprentice. They had played this game before, Iseul and he. The players had been different then, and he sensed that the game had deeper meaning now. A brisk nod of understanding before their food poured in.

”Poor indeed. Can you imagine how many have had their toes stepped on? Been seated incorrectly?” His eyes widened at the horror of it all. Lips trying not to smile at her giggle. ”You make it sound very noble.” What would he leave behind? That there were worse things that chaperoning the ladies of world? Would any youth believe? He hadn’t believed himself until it was too late. ”I doubt anyone will forget you.” He assured her quietly.

Ji-hun laughed at her expression. Eyes going wider and wider as he served. Shoulders rising and falling, he filled his own plate, the hint of a blush along his jaw.

”I am sorry. I forgot that you might not need as much as myself.” His Sapphire was always hungry. Hungrier the more he used it, and Ji-hun found his Jewel hemorrhaged power around Iseul. A dozen little things to see to her comfort and safety. She caught him off guard with her question, a sizzling egg balanced on a spoon before slipping off into a bowl of rice. ”Eating!” He answered with a smile and a laugh. It was true enough, he discovered when he actually thought about it.

He didn’t have much free time. He took every job. Occupying a life that had grown steadily emptier. Not really sure how it had happened.

”Yes, eating.” And chasing healers. Sometimes he watched nothing and everything while thoughts drifted through his head. ”And listening to the cello.” How boring he had become, if he had ever been interesting to begin with. Embarrassed, Ji-hun hunched over his food and filled his mouth.

Offline Iseul Yi

Re: Some Mornings
« Reply #21 on: December 20, 2017, 04:22:44 PM »
        It was the breath we took when we first met.

”There’s no reason to be.” Her voice was quiet but insistent. The same soothing tones she used when healing. Not because she thought he needed scolding or calming, but because people listened when she spoke that way. She wanted Ji-hun to believe her, to not feel a need to apologize. As he relaxed so did she, surprised to find she had scooted to the very edge of her chair instead of retreating. Body drawn towards his as if she could have done anything if he decided to bring the whole place down. ”An unfortunate side effect of the job I’m afraid.”

The conversation picked up easily again. As if nothing had happened at all. His command over his jewels so meticulous that no hint of the moment lingered in the place. Like a clap of thunder that rattled the windows but left no evidence it had ever struck.

”As many as you like.” She said, smiling softly. Worrying all the while he had wanted to forget. Maybe she imposing on his time? Why suggest another breakfast then? What if he was too kind to let her down? Could he really be interested at all? Her shoulders tensed under the wave of self doubt before she let it roll away. Hands fidgeting down in her lap where no one could see them. Tucking her insecurities away for a more private analysis later.

They were having such a lovely time she didn’t want to dwell on maybes and what ifs. At the very least he wanted to be her friend. There could be no mistaking that intention. She was fairly sure she could do that. Be his friend, and only his friend. It wouldn’t be the first time. Something in the pit of her squirmed at the idea. Disappointed. He was too precious not to hope for, even if other women were better suited to someone like Ji-hun. Funny, clever, handsome man that he was. ”Much put upon ladies! Suffering for the greater good of us all. I’m sure they’re quite compensated for the inconvenience.”

Was that really how they learned, she wondered? Had she been a practice lady without even knowing? Some of the escorts shuffled to her service were young. If she had been seated incorrectly she never noticed. ”Now that you mention it I have had my toes stepped on a time or two. I hope they weren’t nervous…” Her voice trailed away. Soaking in, instead, his good opinion. Not believing it, but admiring his charm in giving it nonetheless. Iseul knew she was an easily forgotten person. So unimposing that out of sight made her literally out of mind.

He laughed at her. Not unkindly, she could tell, blushing anyway. And she laughed because he laughed. A hand creeping back up the table to hide her mouth again. He was particularly handsome posed just so. Focused on carefully piling food into a second plate. A hint of color rising up from his neck. Dark hair perfectly placed. She stifled a sigh.

”I could eat it.” She smiled over the rim of her cup, finishing the last of her first helping of coffee. ”It would just take me more than one breakfast to do it.” She was no sturdy man with dark jewels to provide for. Even in her capable hands the Rose was easily maintained by three square meals a day. Combined with her stature she was a far cry from the starving Blood whose health she montinered.

With a smile to match his she listened to the short list of entertaining endeavors he pursued. Saddened still that he had lost something that once gave him so much joy. ”There are certainly worse pursuits. At least your list has two items. Mine ends abruptly with playing the cello.” Sure, sometimes she took walks in the garden. Or read. But even then her books were medical texts and her mind on work. Only when the wooden body of her dearest friend hummed against her own did she let the rest of the world slip away.

”Maybe we’ll find something new to do together.” She suggested, innocently of course. Pushing a large bite of boiled egg into her mouth as ideas of joint activities ried to swarm her mind. Silly, ridiculous girl.

Offline Ji-hun Seo

Re: Some Mornings
« Reply #22 on: December 20, 2017, 08:45:44 PM »

”Oh?” The edges of his teeth exposed for just a moment, his grin cracking open. ”That many then?” Too far, maybe, as her shoulders grew tense. But she smiled, warmth in her eyes, even if her hands were hidden from sight. No way to know what they were about beneath the tables edge.

”So do I. Surrounded by bashful young idiots. It must be very trying.” He had been started young, but even then he’d felt the flutterings of nervousness the first time he’d escorted a lady not of his family. It had taken some years to shine the polish into his abilities. Longer than that for him to grow adapt at reading his charges. He was still caught by surprise or off guard.

Worse still were those ladies he couldn’t read at all. Caught without a mask to don and having to he only himself, somehow.

”See. You made them so very nervous they trod on you.” Who wouldn’t be? Her demeanor was sweet and soothing, but her face could have made a wall sweat with nerves. Ji-hun laughed softly. A quiet chuckle beneath his breath. Poor Iseul. Gentle enough to help break in the boys. Not even noticing she was doing so.

”I don’t think it would stay the best breakfast if you broke it up that way.” A quick wink. ”Best to start fresh each time.” He had lumped enough onto her dish to half cover her, he realized, scratching beneath his chin. Well. A little extra could always be boxed up for home. He had an endless stack of cartons in his cold box. Some half eaten, some half forgotten.

”Iseul! You sleep next to your work.” Ji-hun shook his head, cheeks crinkling in a smile. ”What free time could you possibly have?” Healers! Not that Ji-hun had kept company with many over the years. Saw them sparingly and attended them with even less frequency. All without realizing he showed a blatant bias.

Perhaps it was not such an ill choice, since this one seemed bent on killing him.

Ji-hun could feel the rice slip down his windpipe and rattle around in his lungs. Cheeks puffing as be lower his fork, struggling to keep the coughing internal. It was but only one way his body reacted to her suggestion. Perhaps the most polite. Skin drawing taut and twitching. Blush creeping over his ears.

”Maybe we will.” His voice wheezed a little before he washed away the rice with coffee. Eggs and noodles would have been gentler. ”Already you have joined in with the eating.” He gestured to her fork with his chopsticks. Snapping them politely away from her good.

”I do believe you have agreed to more food, and a trip... for food.” Ji-hun scratched his chin thoughtfully, eyes glinting from the half closed slits they had become. ”Maybe not exactly new, but more than just the cello.” What else could they possibly need? Smiling to himself, Ji-hun tucked into his food, moving slowly through the dishes.

Some of which he shared with her straight from the pot. Pointing out the sweetest bites. The best combination to be fit into the mouth for maximum flavor impact.

Offline Iseul Yi

Re: Some Mornings
« Reply #23 on: December 22, 2017, 09:21:29 AM »
        It was the breath we took when we first met.

”We all have to start somewhere.” Iseul tucked her hands deeper, right between her knees, and squeezed them tight. Was it their youth or their bashfulness that made him call them idiots? She certainly hoped it was not the later.

Under her chair the soles of her shoes bounced silently. Up and down, up and down. Her eyebrows raised as she considered his next words. ”I didn’t mean to!” She slumped slightly in her seat as she recalled each instance. Trying to remember if the young men at the time had been evidently uncomfortable. It seemed more likely that they just couldn’t keep up with her constant rushing. Switching from one destination to another, always on the move between infirmary and meeting rooms.

No. Surely she was projecting her insecurities on his words. With a calming breath through the nose she settled. After a moment she even found her humor again.

”Oh, is that an offer to fund my morning meals?” She asked with a soft smile. After slowly refilling her cup with steaming coffee she set two more flowers to dissolve in the dark liquid. Carafe still in hand she nodded towards his cup, ”May I?”

Between the flowers- sugar spun and formerly potted- and the man seated across the table Iseul was already sure this was the best breakfast she had ever had. Or so close to the top of the list she was willing to believe so. It made her wonder if it was his best too.

The food was wonderful too. Just as good as he promised. So good she had to duck a mouthful behind her hand again. Trying not to shower him in food as she giggled. After washing it all down with more coffee she bobbed her head, ”I love my room. It’s just the right size! And it’s in the safest part of the palace.” She took another short sip before setting her cup aside and exploring some sort of meat stuffed dumpling from her plate. ”Plus the commute can’t be beat.”

Taking a smaller bite this time she chewed thoughtfully then added, ”Honestly I just don’t have anything to do so I fill up the hours with work.” There was plenty of it to be done, so why not? Having the experience and time to hone her Craft had elevated her to the most honored court position in the territory. It was hardly a bad thing. Even if it was a bit boring. And lonely.

Pupils dilating to pinpricks she leveled her golden gaze on Ji-hun as he- struggled? Fitted? She didn’t know what he was doing. Only that he tingled against her healer’s senses. Made her want to pat him on the back and insist he finish a glass of water. He was fine, though, she could see there was no need for such a strong reaction. But she felt a crawl of guilt along her skin. Had it been her words? If so then his answer...

A blush of her own rose to the surface. Always waiting there under her cheeks to flash up at the most inconvenient of moments. Negating any claims of naiveté she might have attempted. Had their minds gone to that place together? She lowered her eyes, watching through her lashes while pressing another portion of lamb dumpling to her lips. They twitched around a smile. She had agreed, and she was sure it would take only a request to make her agree to any other excuse to spend time with him.  ”Aren’t you clever, then? I hope you know places that make good lunches and dinners too.”

A girl could only eat her weight in breakfast dishes once or twice a week.

Their small talk got smaller as the meal progressed. Ji-hun knew his way around each dish. She picked at every suggestion he made, moving between her fork and sticks without hesitation. If she had taken only the bites he pointed out she still would have been stuffed before finishing her plate. Having selected a few curious looking tidbits for herself Iseul was leaning back in her chair, well satisfied, before half her plate was gone. Grinning she watched him finish while indulging in third cup of coffee. They were small cups, she reasoned.

As the conversation lulled she took a long look out of the window nearest their table. The sun was up in earnest, but the trees blocked it from view. There was only the golden speckling that danced across the ground to remind her what time of day it was at all. She could see why Ji-hun liked the place. Set apart from the bustle of the city without being separate at all. A quiet place where time slowed down. In many ways she suspected it mirrored his soul in that way. Gave her a glimpse of the parts he didn’t share. ”I’m glad you brought me here.”

Offline Ji-hun Seo

Re: Some Mornings
« Reply #24 on: December 23, 2017, 12:00:39 AM »

"Oh, I'm certain you didn't." That was part of the charm. Poor, hapless boys. Poor hapless Ji-hun. At least he could recognize the danger as he waded chest deep into it. There was a soft heat beneath the words. Knowledge. Understanding. The appeal. He was neither ignorant nor immune to it. Even now a dozen decades later. Generations of short lived folks later.

"It is." He had no shame. He would buy her as many breakfasts as she would let him. A thousand years worth of breakfasts, he realized. "As long as you'll treat my stomach aches free of charge." Ji-hun grinned and slid his cup closer. "Please, thank you." He didn't actually want anymore coffee, but he would drink it because Iseul poured it for him. Just like she tried very valiantly to eat the heaping amounts of food he had served her.

Give and take.

”Even more reason for us to take a few adventures.” To try a few new things together. A few old things too, maybe. It would be different now. Just like they were. Ji-hun stowed such thoughts away with the grain of rice strangling him. Helped not at all by that too knowing, too curious gaze Iseul had settled on him.

Or the blush that stole up her cheeks.

”I might know a few.” He offered. Lunches. Dinners. Not enough. He would have to find more. Quiet places like this, where they could be together without so many eyes and ears on them. Where Iseul could be Iseul without having to worry. Family. Court.

Good places. Places he could watch her eat. Bask in the pleasure she took. The pleasure they shared. Dishes. Hot, dark coffee. Full before he was half finished. Satisfied as a kitten in cream. Cup nestled in her soft hands, eyes on him as he continued eating. No embarrassment in his hunger. Too used to it now to be bothered.

Watching the way the light played over her face as he chewed. Lentils breaking open in his mouth. Freckles made of sunlight glowing on her cheeks.

”I’m glad too.” Impossibly glad. The girl had returned. Bit by bit she cleared the dishes. No mad bustle this time. A slow sneaking away of what was empty or almost so. Ji-hun sipped his coffee, cool enough now not to need all the cream. But he’d added some anyway.

Full. But not asleep with it. Ready to face the day. Or not. Part of that was taking Iseul home. Ji-hun wasn’t sure he was ready yet. Wasn’t sure if she was ready, looking so peaceful in her seat.

”Are you up for the long walk home?” He asked, sliding marks to the girl as she took the last pot away. Ready when she was with a helpful hand at the back of her chair. An arm for her to lean against, his jacket vanished. Outside the air was pungent with the smell of sun warmed blossoms. The chill chased away.

No more frost clinging to the shadows.

Everything was awake now. The city alive with noises. The trees with bird song.

”Almost like coming out to a whole new place, isn’t it?”

Offline Iseul Yi

Re: Some Mornings
« Reply #25 on: December 24, 2017, 03:41:08 PM »
        It was the breath we took when we first met.

What was that supposed to mean? Iseul felt her chest tighten at the words, and other things tighten at the way he spoke them. Confused but warmly pleased. As if her body understood what her thoughts refused to grasp. ”Really!” She insisted even though he sounded convinced.

Blushing still she ducked her chin against her shoulder as she guided coffee into his cup. More confused than ever because believing he meant what he said seemed presumptuous still. The hope in her stomach blossomed more. As if the sugar flower had come to life inside instead of dissolving on her tongue. ”Free? I don’t know. You might have to sit through more than one cello performances for that.”

”We won’t even have to think up a good cover story this time.” She smiled back at him. No more mentors to appease. Spying ears could report what they pleased to the Yi family. Iseul would take their complaints in stride. She was sure in some ways she would still bend, but their hold on her had loosened. They could adventure properly with no constraints on their time or where they chose to go.

They could feast their way across the realm if they wanted. As long as Iseul could read reports and send memos. Not that leaving Dhemlan had ever crossed her mind. She might consider it, if he wanted to see a place. Try a thing. He had convinced her to brave the unknown before.

And led her through the greatest discovery of all without fail.

Ji-hun watched Iseul back. Color rising again to her cheeks, head ducking but eyes remaining focused. Bolstered by strong coffee, perhaps. Or too attached to old memories to be especially shy. They shimmered, those long lost children, just below the surface of every breath. No so far buried under the adults they had become.

It made her wish she had asked then, all the important questions she wondered now. Too innocent at the time to know she wanted him to care. To need a definition or a label for what they were. Now the unknown itched under her skin and coiled in her core. What is this? What are we? Am I hoping too much, or not enough?

Last cup emptied she smiled from behind her far away thoughts. A reflexive mask of a smile that only became real as her thoughts drifted back to the present. She failed to stifle a small sigh. ”It is time, I suppose.” At least it would be a nice, long walk. She would wait to worry about the parting until they actually reached the palace.

On his arm again, in the warming fall air, they rejoined time. One hand resting near his elbow she smiled softly, ”It is. That’s what makes it such a wonderful little place. The way the world outside stops while you’re inside.” Gradually moving closer as they stepped onto the tree lined lane again she added, ”You were right. It was the best breakfast. Thank you for treating me.” The food had even been good.

Offline Ji-hun Seo

Re: Some Mornings
« Reply #26 on: December 26, 2017, 06:37:30 AM »

No cover stories and the promise of many cello performances to come. Ji-hun smiled at the future for the first time in many years. The morning was over, the last cup drained and last bite taken, but it wasn’t the last morning. That knowledge allowed Ji-hun to escort Iseul into the daylight with a light heart. The morning was over, but it wasn’t the end.

”Waiting for everyone to come out, too full to move.” He chuckled, covering her hand with his, head tilting to one side, eyes narrowing. ”Which sounds much more ominous out loud than it did in my head.” The same head he shook. Relaxing and joining her in the nearness beneath the tree shade, Ji-hun lead Iseul back the way they had come.

It felt like a lifetime ago. Or just a couple seconds. Old friends, awkward and laughing. Too close, but not for comfort. Closer now, he could almost feel the whole length of her body pressed to the side of his. Could smell her over the crisp scent of leaves, drying bark and wind rustled grass.

”You’re welcome.” Ji-hun’s fingers slid over hers, until their tips rested between her knuckles. Almost intertwined, still polite enough for public. For approaching the long shadow of the territory palace. ”I’m glad you liked it.” That she could appreciate such a place. Bare of frippery and court trained service.

A simple sort or place, for simpler living.

It made him think of her mother. Tall and dark of wing. With the same sort of delicacy Iseul possessed, except hers had been roughened by life and time. He still hesitated to ask though. Saving it for another time, unwilling to break the spell they walked through. Just in case.

Now was more important than then, at least for the moment.

He stopped at the palace stairs, eyes following each step up, glancing off the guards at the top. Twins for those they had faced inside. Ji-hun was unsure where it would be best to part. Never, part of him whispered. But they both had duties and they had been overlong at the table. Yet not long enough.

Inside, he thought. So inside he took her.

”Back to reality,” he joked as they mounted the long steps. Not high, but wide. Room for processionals. For pomp. Past the double squad of twins and down the halls in reverse. To the infirmary doors where he’d found her. Here Ji-hun lingered. He would not go back in. Here he would leave her.

He disengaged gracefully, leaving room between their bodies as he turned to face her. Shields and probes sliding along the hall. Protection. Warning. Privacy as he caught one delicate wrist and drew her hand upward to his face. Eyes solemn and steady as he pressed a kiss to the crease of her palm, fingers sliding up this time, to curl over hers. Wrist cradled in his hand rather than captured.

”I’d like to see you again, if its agreeable?” He could almost smell her pulse. Felt a flicker of it against his lower lip before he eased his hold in case she wished to escape. It case it wasn’t agreeable.

Offline Iseul Yi

Re: Some Mornings
« Reply #27 on: December 27, 2017, 02:45:47 PM »
        It was the breath we took when we first met.

The only thing she found ominous was her return to work. Only because he would not stay to accompany her through it. Laughing along Iseul tried not to grudge the morning it’s end. Their second walk of the morning needed none of the small talk or banter of the first. Despite sense or reason memory had melded with the present making friendship at once familiar and new.

Iseul wanted none of those complicated feelings. Basking instead in the comfort of being arm in arm with someone trusted. Not quite the hand in hand of lovers… but at least she could sense that neither rejected the idea. His hand even covered her own without hesitation. Drowning out the subtle buzz of the city that skirted the edges of their quiet lane. The air still crisp with autumn’s freshness. A fat golden sun having tinted the sky and warmed Dhemlan under its glow.

Through the archway of trees, back down the busy sidewalk, to the very steps of the palace. She expected him to leave her there, fingers flexing over the fine fabric of his suit. Not quite ready to release him to a slew of strange women she neither knew or trusted. Women that would not see the smirks he hide below a stoic mask. Did not know his mind was sharp and fingers capable of creating clever things.

Another laugh, more guarded this time as they passed through the grandiloquent doorways. Here where people noticed. Paid attention. Took notes. She did not need her father sweeping in, ‘checking up’ on her. Weaving his suspensions and plots in the court that held Dhemlan’s greatest potential.

So she dulled the sound of her amusement. Held her head low to mask the glimmer in her eyes. Back to a reality she had not suspected was not enough. Only now that he stood at the infirmary doors, on the cusp of parting again. Except he made no hurry. And just as in the dinner she felt herself gravitate towards him as the Sapphire spilled across the hall.

Trembling, fidgeting creature! Desperate to pull away and meld into him all at once. Iseul fluttered, inside and out. All rapid heart beats and nervous tingling. Flushed from head to toe, pinkest there around her wrist where his fingers touched. Ungracefully heated, held more by his somber gaze than his hand. Only looking away as his lips brushed the suddenly sensitive skin of her palm.

He spoke, and she muttered silently. Words she weren’t even sure were words. Stepping closer she nodded instead. Swallowing to clear her voice, ”Very. Very agreeable.”

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