A Few Minor Details

"So," the Marshal said, "let me get this straight."

"Yes, sir!" Kenren said hopefully, staring straight ahead.

The Marshal paused. "You say this happens to you often?"

"Er. Yessir."

"Mnh. And you were quite simply showing her how to perform calligraphy."

"Yessir," Kenren repeated. "Just guiding her hand to show her how to make the stroke."

The Marshal checked his notes. "And at that point she waved her free hand around, spilt her wine down her robes, and accidentally dropped her spare seal down her . . ." He blinked at his handwriting. "Cleavage. While saying what you vaguely remember as, 'Whoops-a-daisy, what a clumsy little blossom I am.'"

"Something like that, sir," Kenren agreed.

The Marshal blinked again. "And then she looked at her robes, and cried out, 'Oh dear, I must get these clean before my husband gets back and sees how badly stained they are.' And started undressing herself."

"Along those lines, sir. Not that I looked at her taut heaving bosom or anything like that."

"Of course not," the Marshal agreed. "Nor did you remark in your previous hearing that she had, and I quote, 'legs longer than a toushin taishi's sword and a damn sight easier on the eye.'"

"I didn't?" Kenren said uneasily.

"No, you didn't."

"Oh, good. Sir," he added hastily.

"Anh. Right." The Marshal turned to the next page of notes. "At which point, while half-naked, she suddenly realised that she had dropped her seal into her bosom, and asked for your help in getting it out again."

"She was worried that her husband might be upset with her if she found she'd lost it, sir," Kenren said hopefully. "Crying her eyes out. Hair all disarranged. Appealed to me as a gentleman."

"So, let me see. You stripped off your coat . . ."

"Couldn't roll up the sleeves, sir. Improper wearing of military uniform. Got reprimanded for it last month."

There was a brief pause as the Marshal checked the previous citation. "Yes, I see. Though in fact one could read that particular reprimand as not wearing any uniform at all while sitting on a statue of the Emperor heroically subduing the Dragon Kings and attempting to pour wine for said Dragon Kings . . . In any case. You stripped off your coat and attempted to retrieve the seal from what little clothing remained to her."

"Conduct of an officer and a gentleman, sir," Kenren stated, and stared at the wall above the Marshal's head.

"At which point." The Marshal sighed. "Her husband walked in and, according to you, drastically misinterpreted the situation."

"Couldn't have got it wronger if he tried, sir."

"Moved by his -- ah, misinterpretation -- he drew his sword and prepared to attack you, General, using what you describe as language quite inappropriate to the situation."

"His poor wife, sir." Kenren shook his head in disapproval. "A man shouldn't use words like that in front of a woman, even if she is married to him. I was shocked, sir. Shocked."

"Which would, I believe, account for the next sequence of events."

"Is the poor fellow out of plaster yet, sir?" Kenren asked innocently.

"No. As you are very well aware, General. Don't think that we don't know about your visit to him on his sickbed --"

"Just wanted to apologise, sir."

"-- your consumption of alcohol on the premises --"

"Only the best wine, sir. Would have been an insult to him to drink the cheap stuff they offered me."

"-- and what you wrote on his casts."

Kenren coughed. "I'm a simple soldier, sir. None of that high-flown poetry for me."

The Marshal checked the notes again. "Not to mention the whole circumstances of his needing those casts. Your attempt to help his wife hold the scrolls to cover those minor glimpses of skin caused by removing all but her underrobe, resulting in that pot of ink hitting him in the face and breaking his nose. Your apologetic help to him in rising, complicated by both of you tripping on that same pot of ink, and his managing to dislocate his shoulder, break his forearm, and do something which the doctors have yet to fully ascertain to his right knee. I have to compliment you, General. Seldom in the field of martial endeavour has so much injury been caused with nobody in earshot admitting to hearing anything except your apologies and his screams of pain."

Kenren once again stared at the wall. "Yessir," he said.

"It strikes me, General, that I am not fully giving scope to your undoubted talents."

"Sir?" Kenren wasn't sure how to take that. It didn't quite sound like a court-martial, but equally, it didn't sound especially encouraging.

"Mnh." The Marshal brought out what looked suspiciously like a set of transfer orders that had been prepared beforehand. "I'm transferring you to the Western Army. There's a Marshal there who deserves someone like you. Good luck in your career, General Kenren, and I truly hope not to be involved with it."


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