E20 - Small Court of the Asahina, Part 7

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CAST, CREW, & CREDITS

Narrator: James
Crow: Mal
Atsu: James
Hida Kasumi: Debbie
Doji Sayuri: Arielle

Script writing & editing: Arielle & Mal
Audio/sound design: Mal

And a HUGE thank you to our patrons and beta listeners!


Though a night has passed since the incident at court, the rumors and gossip have barely quieted. Crow's true name floats through the halls, talk of the time before--before she was ronin.

While Akodo Torokai has done his best to ignore them, there is only so much one man can do. He elects to have a simple breakfast with Takeshi, discussing what is to come.

Asako Kato seeks out Ryojiro, intent on catching up over a morning meal and a friendly game of Go.


Speculation about who Kuni Daiyu is, really, ensures that she is most content to spend the morning in solitude. She loses herself in quiet meditation in a secluded spot in the garden, barely moving save the slightest indication that she is breathing.

A crescendo of footfall precedes a thunderous crack of two training weapons meeting in the dojo. Servants briefly peer into the tall room, drawn by the unfamiliar volume of each landing strike. Some continue to stare after discovering that the room is occupied by two Hida, while others frown disapprovingly (but not without some caution) and continue on with their duties.

Kasumi and Atsu continue unhindered by prying eyes. Atsu digs his feet into the tatami mat before erupting forward to close a small gap between himself and Kasumi, drawing his tetsubo into an upward arc that is cleanly avoided by Kasumi with an almost casual lean. Her response is doubled, bringing her training otsuchi down with such force that it requires both of Atsu’s hands not to lose the unfamiliar tetsubo from his grip.

Their thunderous exchange continues, causing more heads to turn in the dojo’s direction. The striking reaches a ferocity until it finally stops. Atsu stands before Kasumi, training tetsubo in one hand and completely off stance. Kasumi’s otsuchi hovers a few inches from his nose. Atsu’s eyebrows are a shelf.

Atsu: "The victory is yours daughter of Hida, this time!"

Kasumi laughs, planting her otsuchi into the mat with a loud thump. She leans forward into a half bow, fists pressed against her hips, and grins. In the hall, several courtiers gawk.

Kasumi: "Well fought, son of Hida! I'm relieved, you haven't gone soft in our time away from battle."

Atsu: "Hmmph, perhaps not soft."

Atsu thinks to himself while he tries to eat his upper lip briefly.

Atsu: "It would seem I have more training to do though! I should thank you for it."

Kasumi grins, though it fades to a smile some moments later. She straightens, leaning forward to help Atsu more comfortably to his feet, showing that she is no longer a threat.

Kasumi: "Of course, Hida-san. You will have plenty of time to practice in summer--before we see one another again in Winter Court."

Kasumi dusts off her hands, folding her arms.

Kasumi: "Unless I'm mistaken, of course."

Atsu's naked disappointment coalesces into a sag in his shoulders after he's back on his feet, followed by a heavy sigh.

Atsu: "Though it is not my first choice, it would seem that is my fate for now."

Atsu pauses, eyes bulging slightly.

Atsu: "Though! I would not say my disappointment is from meeting you again, daughter of Hida! It's ... well."

Atsu gives Kasumi a flat stare for a moment.

Atsu: [voice hollow] "It is court."

For a moment, it looks as if Kasumi may not answer. Eventually, though, she smiles in understanding. Perhaps camaraderie.

Kasumi: "Of course. At least we... well, no, the Phoenix aren't known for their food! [laugh] At least they might have hot springs."

Kasumi hums, rubbing the back of her neck.

Kasumi: "Perhaps if we are there, we can convince the others of the threat that's coming. Or try."

Atsu's brows furrow as he rumbles and studies something on the floor briefly. The skepticism in his face is obvious.

Atsu: "I only hope for that, Hida-san. Though," Atsu's eyes raise from the floor, to something on the ceiling. "I suppose if we must try, it is only fair that we also indulge in their hospitality. And hotsprings."

Kasumi smiles, nodding as she smooths a few stray strands of hair from her face, tying her hair back.

Kasumi: "Of course. It would only be fair, after all." [laugh] "Do you plan to return to our lands for summer? Or is Akodo-sama sending you elsewhere?"

Atsu: "It would seem Akodo-sama intends to release us until he needs us again." Atsu grins toothily. "I don't deny that it will be good to see home again. And you, Hida-san?"

Kasumi grins.

Kasumi: "Ah, unfortunately I will be spending more time in Crane lands before summer. I'm only thankful it isn't court."

Atsu sags and sighs animatedly.

Atsu: "We do not disagree! [hesitates] But, seeing you again would soften that blow."

Atsu stands there for the briefest moment before Kasumi responds, before marching stiff-legged and awkward to the weapons rack at the far end of the dojo. Far faster than anyone would need to.

Atsu: [yelled from across the room] "If that is not too bold!" He yells. From across the room.

Atsu crosses the room, leaving Kasumi to dust herself off and lean her warhammer against the far wall. There's a little delay while she smiles to herself, but it's small and private, and a wide grin by the time Atsu has any chance of turning back to see it.

Kasumi: "Of course not, Hida-san!" [said with a laugh] "It would soften the blow quite a bit for me as well. Court has been much more tolerable than usual with you here."

The beginnings of a smile play across Atsu's face, briefly threatening to spill into a full grin before he finally does.

Atsu: "Well, with that to look forward to Hida-san, I am feeling much better about the journey ahead! I hope you will travel well, until we meet again."

Kasumi grins, crossing to the center of the room and standing on the mat. She bows at the waist, then straightens and plants her hands on either hip.

Kasumi: "Be well, son of Hida! Until we meet again."


The hour isn't terribly late, at least not for Crow, but it's late enough for the rest of court. By the time she heads to the garden, it’s all but empty: which is exactly what she wants. Peace. Quiet. Solitude. Fading lanterns bathe the trees and streams in a gentle orange light, and for a while she walks restlessly through them.

Eventually, she comes across a pond. It’s the same pond at which she’d met with Sayuri day before, and the memory brings her more peace than anything else has following the events of court today.

She is angry at herself. Angry for losing her temper in such a setting and angry for very likely giving herself away. Did Tomei have eyes and ears here? Probably. They would know, now, if they didn't already. Crow leans down and plucks a smooth stone from the ground; she runs her finger over it and frowns to herself and the skips it across the pond. The koi scatter and her shoulders slump with the weight of her guilt a moment later.

She wishes they hadn't left Kitsune Mori. She wishes she was still there, enshrouded by ancient sugi, tucked away like a secret from the world. Her arms fold over her chest and she looks down to the water as the ripples from her stone slowly smooth out into her reflection.

Tired. She looks tired. Crow sighs again and lowers into a crouch, slowly dragging her fingers across the water.

Sayuri: [said with a start, pulling her wall back together] "Crow-san.”

When Sayuri comes across her, she is dressed in a red kimono, detailed near the hem. She hurriedly smoothes a hand over her hair when she spots Crow. Her hair is tied into a simple, loose gathering at the base of her neck, and she carries a lantern that illuminates her face in warm, orange light. She falters a bit on the dewy grass and fixes her sandal.

Sayuri: "You surprised me. I did not think to find you here."

The sound of a voice so far from the castle, so late at night, startles Crow. She stands upright in an instant, but realization dawns a fraction of a second later.

Crow: [surprised, nervous] "Doji-sama. Is everything alright?" [pause] "It...it wasn't my intention to intrude."I did not expect to find anyone here."

Sayuri: [laugh; play at breathlessness] "I am the one intruding, Crow-san!" [clears throat] "Are you seeking solace?"

Crow: "Yes."

Crow wipes her wet hands on her hakama somewhat sheepishly.

Crow: "I suppose I found it. It is peaceful here." [dry, humorless laugh]

Sayuri: “Peaceful. Yes.” [hums in throat]

Idly, Crow takes a step towards Sayuri, then glances up toward the silver-lined clouds.

Crow: "What are you seeking, Doji-sama?"

Sayuri: "I suppose solace is what I seek as well."

Sayuri’s chin dips to her chest as she steps over a branch, taking a step toward Crow, hands inside her sleeves.

Sayuri: "You may call me Sayuri, Crow-san. There is no need for formality here."

She gestures generally to their surroundings, the chirping of cricket and croaking of toad.

Crow: "I - I would never, Doji-sama. I don't refer to you as such for the sake of appearances, but for the sake of respect!”

Sayuri smiles, quiet for a time.

Sayuri: "Are you well?"

'Following court’ is implied.

Crow: "I am well enough." [pause] "I am not meant for court, as I am certain you have since gleaned. But your support was... unexpected. And very gracious."

Crow bows again, longer than necessary. She can't look her in the eye; not after that.

Sayuri: "You honor me, Crow-san. Even if one is not suited for court, I don’t think everyone should be. It would be terribly difficult to tell who is being truly honest-- wouldn't it?" [quiet laugh]

Sayuri: "I apologize. At the least, I come bearing sake to make up for my intrusion."

Sayuri produces a small, wrapped bottle from her sleeve, complete with two cups.

Crow: "I... sake?" [laugh] "Again, it is far from an intrusion... but I won’t turn down a drink with you. Do you... often carry a bottle with you? With two cups? Just in case?"

Sayuri’s lips twist into a smirk.

Sayuri: "Often two, yes. What if I come across someone in need of conversation? It would not do to share one, after all."

Sayuri finds a place to sit, Crow looking on in concern at the red silk bunching beneath her, atop the dew-covered grass. Nonetheless, she seats herself alongside her a few moments later.

Sayuri: "The Ki-Rin have sake, yes? Is it different?"

Crow: "Yes, they have sake. It is very different. In our --" [catches self, stalls abruptly] " -- their lands, the wine is not filtered. So it’s cloudy."

There is a pause as Crow takes the bottle from the ground, then carefully pours Sayuri a cup.

Crow: [laughs] "The first sake house I stopped in after I had left Ki-Rin lands, I thought they had served me water! I was so offended, but I dared not say anything. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when I drank."

Crow: "The sake here is much finer than any I’ve had before. Well, I suppose I could say the same of most things here." [pause] "Is it much different? In Doji lands."

Sayuri laughs, cup raised, her sleeve drifted to her elbow.

Sayuri: "Cloudy sake? The Crane produce it too, I believe. Made only in winter, with the water from melted snow."

Sayuri drinks, meeting Crow's gaze wordlessly, with only green, cat-like eyes over the cup. She smiles, easing her cup into her lap.

Sayuri: "Sake on the coast is much different. A plum liqueur.”

Crow: "I have never stayed in Crane lands during the winter, so I have never had it. I do recall the plum wine of the coast, though! I had it with red bean cakes every night, whether I’d eaten or not. I miss it. I hope to return some day."

Sayuri: “Mm, yes. The Scorpion have theirs as well, but it is...unsatisfying for some."

Crow: "I must admit I didn’t drink much during my time in Scorpion lands. It seemed... ill-advised. I suppose that is rude if me to say, isn't it?"

Sayuri: "I would agree, Crow-san! It...does often seem ill-advised to drink so freely in Scorpion lands. An unfortunate reality. Proper or not."

Crow: [laughs] "Tell me, what is your favorite sake? I am sure you have had many kinds... much better than the swill I’m able to afford!"

Sayuri: "I enjoy the Mantis sake. Well aged. Golden." [pause] "Very strong." [quiet laugh] “But it does lend well to their ... unique dishes. [pause] And your favorite?"

Crow: [openly delighted] "Oh! "I’ve never had the opportunity to try Mantis sake. I hope I am able to one day. But to be truthful with you, I’m somewhat afraid of traveling on the ocean...so I suppose that will be up to the Fortunes."

Crow pauses to sip from her cup.

Crow: "I quite like this, actually. Or perhaps it's just the company I share it with."

Sayuri hums in acknowledgement, looking into the small, dark thicket they sit beside. A comfortable silence passes, the humming of crickets and cicadas. Crow has found a deep appreciation for silence in her time on the road, and to share it with someone is a rare gift. She follows her gaze to the thicket and is content to sip her sake while she watches the thin leaves sway with the gentle breeze. It’s warm; summer is very near.

Eventually, Sayuri looks to her, inspecting her profile for as long as politeness (and not being noticed) allows.

Sayuri: "You are very kind, Crow-san. It is admirable in a ronin. Or anyone, to be clear."

Sayuri takes a sip, refilling Crow's cup.

Sayuri: "Genuine politeness is...quite refreshing."

Crow: [quiet] "I am not kind, nor am I polite." [pause] "Are you not steeped in it in court? Everyone here is so proper. It is... intimidating."

Sayuri: [soft chuckle] "Politeness in court? Mm, of course. But I mean to be truly polite, Crow-san. Not simply wearing a mask."

Sayuri smiles, looking into her sake.

Sayuri: "Most have different forms of politeness. For the Lion, it is more...direct."

By now, the warmth in Crow’s chest has spread to her temples; she had already drank enough before slipping away into the gardens. She should stop.

But she doesn't.

Crow: "Yes." [pause] "Direct."

[[small silence]]

Crow: "I think there is a balance to be found between candor and kindness. The Lion do tend to lean... less in favor of the latter."

But who is she to dispense insight on the topic of decency? She is a ronin, after all. She empties her cup and sets it aside, turned over. Sayuri's eyebrows go up. Very slightly. Barely a flicker.

Crow: "Though Akodo-sama has been most gracious. I should not speak ill of his clan. I have only met a small number of them."

Sayuri: "There are thousands in his clan, after all. Perhaps even his family. Surely he would not think ill of you for saying such a thing." [cheeky] "You may even find he agrees."

Sayuri smiles, corking the bottle. She, too, turns her cup over and turns to face the pond, an inch or so closer to Crow. Slight enough to be accidental. Crow’s heart flutters and she chastises herself internally for such a stupid, girlish reaction to such a small, senseless thing. Soon she, too, turns to face the water, an inch or so closer to Sayuri. Slight enough to be accidental.

She smells like incense and flowers... and sugi and snowfalls. Crow's cheeks are hot. She folds her hands in her lap and looks to the moon's reflection in the water, between the water lilies that dot the pond’s surface.

Crow: "I would not be surprised if he were to agree with me. He seems as reluctant to go to war as the rest of us."

Crow: "If all the Lion were like him, perhaps we would not be in this mess."

Sayuri: "If all Lion were like him, I suppose another would take their place." [pause] "But I suppose it doesn't matter, does it?"

[[breeze, windchimes]]

Crow: [humorless chuckle] "No, I suppose it doesn't."

Crow looks to Sayuri again, but this time it lingers long past a glance. She holds her gaze, the wind unsettling her hair, a few strands drifting across her face. She watches her in silence for a while longer with a fondness that well exceeds the boundaries of a polite exchange and then, nearly half a minute later, looks back to the water.

Crow: [soft, quiet] "You are very beautiful, Sayuri."

A prolonged, comfortable silence follows.

Sayuri: [at length] "Thank you. You flatter me, Crow-san."

Sayuri smiles, looking into her lap, then back to the water.

It isn’t the reaction Crow hoped for, but it isn’t a reaction that surprises her. Foolish to think. Selfish to hope. Embarrassment wells up inside her and she forces it back down again quickly. Not the time or the place. She turns her gaze to the water; the breeze has died down and it has left the pond a serene, placid mirror of the night sky above. Crickets sing and the air is warm. It reminds her of Kitsune Mori for a moment and that is enough to soften the edges of her smile again.

To follow up those words seems ill-advised. To insist that it isn't flattery seems superfluous. Equally selfish. Crow wonders why she is here. Why Sayuri has stayed. If it was all a test, if she has failed it by using her given name.

Not the time. Not the place.

Sayuri: "Are you all right, Crow-san?"

There is concern across Sayuri’s eyebrows.

Sayuri: "I can’t tell if your silence is contempt or comfort."

The smile is easy enough to maintain. Her gaze dips to Crow's hands, then up to her face.

Crow: "Of course, Doji-sama." [pause] "Forgive me. My skill in conversation is just as lacking as my affinity for court. I have always appreciated silence, but I often forget that most others don’t feel the same."

Sayuri hums, pursuing it no further. Perhaps she has been too obvious. Perhaps she has not been obvious enough.

Sayuri: [gentle laugh] "Don’t worry, Crow-san. I am unbothered by silence when it's in good company."

Sayuri places a tentative hand on her knee; the contact is simple and chaste, but more intimate than Crow has ever dared to dream. There is the slightest hitch in her breath as she feels the warmth of her touch, as she looks down to her pale skin in stark contrast to her dark hakama. It’s old and ratty and dirty, and for half a moment she is distressed by the thought of it sullying her perfect palms. Her heart beats heavy and fast.

The contact is fleeting, ending as quickly as it began. After Sayuri’s hand withdraws, she reaches into her sleeve and produces a long, thin box, along with the kiseru from the previous night.

Crow: [laughing] "Perhaps I should take a lesson from you. Hide away in the middle of the night with sake and a pipe. I think I would be a happier person."

Sayuri doesn’t look at her for some time, going through the motions of sliding the cover from the decorated, smooth box, arranging a stick of incense atop its lid, lighting the pipe. Crow watches Sayuri preparing the pipe - or rather, she watches her hands, her wrists, her delicate fingers, and the pipe just happens to be there. She draws in a slow breath, then releases it as a laugh.

Sayuri’s first drag is intense and heavy.

Sayuri: [laugh] "Ah, you’ve caught me.” [fake serious] “And now that you have, you understand that the secret goes with you to your grave, yes?"

Sayuri offers her the pipe, mouthpiece first. After a moment of hesitation, Crow accepts it. Their fingers brush for a fraction of a moment, and she takes a long, deliberate drag. She exhales a stream of smoke in an equally long, content sigh before she responds.

Crow: [fake serious] "I will guard your secrets with my life, Doji-sama."

Crow returns the pipe to her, handling it carefully. When it's in Sayuri’s grasp again, she takes the mouthpiece between her lips with the slightest tip of her tongue.

Sayuri: [fake serious] "I will hold you to that, Crow-san."

Sayuri takes a long drag, exhaling a thin stream of smoke, soon dismantled by a laughs. Once the air of seriousness has dissipated, she reaches down to remove her sandals, setting them aside. Beneath are white tabi.

Crow: "I hope you do. I do not make promises lightly, and anyone who does is not to be trusted."

A long silence follows. Crow reaches down to remove the dark wooden geta, setting them neatly aside. When she leans back on her palms, she glances to her side again.

Crow: "I don't suppose Kakita-sama knows."

Sayuri: "Knows?" [pause] "No. I imagine he would find it improper." [pause] "I suppose that you could, too, truth be told. I do not do it often. Only when things have been particularly..." [pause, finding the word] "Tumultuous."

Crow: "No. Not improper. I wouldn’t judge you if you hid away for it every night, nor would I blame you. Politics are..." [pause, finding the word] "Tumultuous. That is certainly a word for it."

Soon Crow is looking at Sayuri again. Indulgently. She feels...safe. Perhaps it's the sake. Perhaps it’s the smoke. Whatever it is, it stills her tongue the longer she watches her. The way her hair falls over her shoulder, pulls together behind her neck. The curve of her nose. The red in her lips.

Crow: [softly] "I dread a summer without you, Doji-sama."

[pause]

Sayuri: [softly] "I find myself of the same thought, Crow-san."

Crow's heart flutters. Of all the women she has been with, why does Sayuri have this effect on her? All things she has felt before, magnified by a thousand. Ten thousand. She meets her eyes and feels herself melt, certain that it shows in her eyes, brows lifted.

Crow: [soft laugh] "Perhaps I will write to you. Then you'll be sick of me by the time winter comes." [pause] "If my calligraphy doesn't scare you away first."

Sayuri: "Scare me away? Why, I hadn't expectations for a Ki-Rin's calligraphy in the first place." [laugh] "It was not something I believed your clan had interest in. So many things are much more exciting."

Sayuri smiles and gently passes Crow the pipe, mouthpiece first, ensuring that their fingers and the edges of their palms brush. Crow takes a pull from it easily, then returns it to her.

Sayuri: "And what will you write?"

Crow: [sarcastic] "Mmm. Difficult to say. Perhaps a recount of my adventures." [pause] "Or perhaps a recounting of my thoughts of you.” [flirty] “Or I hope to spend the winter."

Sayuri: "Hm….and how do you hope to spend winter, Crow-san?"

The kiseru again in her grasp, Sayuri drapes it along the length of her forearm, the bowl near her palm and little finger.

Crow: "Warm, I should hope."

Sayuri: "That is a shame... I was hoping for more garden walks."

Crow: "But there are no flowers to pluck in winter."

Sayuri: "That depends. I have heard there are some flowers that bloom even in snow. The lily has been known to show its petals in winter."

Crow: "Is that so? Perhaps there is hope for yet." [maximum cheese] “I can only hope that I’m fortunate enough to find a lily that will open for me."

In a bold, perhaps stupid move, she leans close, hovering for a moment. She doesn't touch her, though. Instead, she plucks the kiseru from her grip and withdraws just as quickly, taking a drag and chancing a wink at her as she does so. It leaves Sayuri red-faced, a reaction that is more than Crow ever could have hoped for. Girlish. Frustrated. This is something she is comfortable with; something she is used to.

Sayuri: "Perhaps you will."

Sayuri reaches for the kiseru and Crow, taking another bold gamble, holds it away from her. It’s easy enough with their difference in height and her long arms. Once a few moments have passed and Sayuri has made a show of distress, Crow slowly lowers the pipe again, forgoing Sayuri's hand so that she can offer it directly to her mouth instead.

Crow: [sly] "Perhaps you could help me find one?"

Sayuri: "That depends."

Eyebrows up, Sayuri takes the pipe into her mouth.

Sayuri: "Is it help you want, Crow-san? Wouldn’t you rather choose on your own?"

Crow: “To take a lily that doesn't wish to be plucked would be a great waste, don't you think?" [pause] "One must wait for just the right moment. Why take a flower before it’s opened?"

Sayuri: "Are you always such a practiced caretaker with your flowers? Not many give half as much thought."

Crow: "Why should it be any different? To act with too much haste, one risks bruising the petals."

Crow withdraws the kiseru and looks away, toward the pond, long enough to take a slow drag and exhale the smoke with the breeze.

Sayuri: "I suppose you’re right. But some flowers may prefer a quick, decisive hand. Those that bloom in winter are not so delicate, you see."

Crow: "Is that so? It would seem that you have more knowledge of winter blooms than I do."

Crow tilts her head and her gaze follows. She eyes Sayuri askance with that same smirk from before, then passes the kiseru after a moment of waiting.

Crow: "Perhaps I need your guidance after all?"

Sayuri: "Ah, I’ve been around them more often, it’s true." [pause] "I would take you as one more partial to summer flowers: a quick, but fleeting, bloom. Not nearly as enduring."

Crow: [theatrical laugh, mock offense] "Can one not appreciate a variety of blooms? The summer flowers are lovely and plentiful, so why should I not enjoy them?"

Crow scoffs bodily, then uses the momentum to swing back around. In one swift motion, she plucks the kiseru from Sayuri's mouth and places it in her own. She exhales the smoke to the side, but can't keep her smirk contained for much longer.

Crow: "That doesn't lessen my appreciation for a more enduring blossom. In fact, it's quite the opposite."

Sayuri: "I suppose one could have mixed tastes, yes." [pause] "And that means I'm not wrong about you." [laugh] "Tell me: what sort of summer flowers do you enjoy most? The fragile ones? Or ones that prick before they bend?"

Crow: [laugh] "It’s rare to find a summer bloom that I can't appreciate. They are all beautiful in their own way, whether they prick or not." [low voice; slight rasp] "We have spoken so much of my taste in flowers, but what of you, Doji-sama? What is your favorite?"

Crow raises her eyebrows and lifts her chin.

Sayuri: [laugh] "It is good to find the beauty in all flowers, I suppose. Even those that take some time to open. I find myself partial to the lotus: a blessing for every petal."

Sayuri smiles, lifting her chin in kind and eyeing her. Her cheeks are pink. She's certainly braced against the edge of 'drunk.'

Sayuri: "Or there is interest to be found in the azalea. Soft, shy, slow-growing- but intoxicating if one is not careful."

Crow: "That’s surprising. The lotus grows from only the dirtiest water. I’d imagine you would fear to stain your fingers." [pause] "Though I can’t disagree, concerning azaleas. They are beautiful."

Crow weighs her options, fearing she has nearly exhausted her library of floral metaphors.

Crow: [sexy, I guess] "I see them in your lips."

Sayuri: [flirty] "Do you think this wise, then?"

Crow: [flirty] "If it is wisdom that you're seeking, perhaps Kakita-sama is more equipped to give it to you."

Sayuri: [voice low] "Is Kakita-san here with us, right now? I wasn’t aware."

Crow: "What if he was?" [pause] "Would you care?"

Sayuri: [breathy laugh] "Would I care?" [pause] "No. I take it you wouldn’t either, Crow-san."

Crow: [laugh, less breathy] "No. I don't think I would."

Crow looms, but Sayuri’s patience begins to wane. She grins and leans so that their noses touch, then brush, and there is the faintest contact of their lips, but there is no commitment there. It could just as easily be accidental.

Just as quickly as it has happened, though, Sayuri suddenly draws back, straightening and smoothing her kimono. She glances up at the sky once, then looks back to Crow with a smile.

Sayuri: “Well, I suppose it's getting late. I would hate to keep you much longer, given that you're leaving so soon. Thank you for your company, Crow-san.”

With that, Sayuri stands, gathering her lantern and cup, but leaving the sake bottle. Crow is as confused as she is frustrated, watching her stand with an expression of helplessness, mouth half agape. She begins to reach for her, but Sayuri smirks and turns to leave.

Sayuri: “You can keep it.”