A TGS-based story
by C.S. Hayden
Characters from the "Gargoyles" show are the property of Disney and Buena Vista Television. All other characters are from The Gargoyles Saga fanfiction series and the story "Yama's Path" by Kimberly Towle. Scene from "Much Ado About Nothing" by William Shakespeare.
Ariana's kimono designed by Nikki Owen a.k.a.y2hecate, winner of my "Tengu: Design a Kimono" contest.
Sitting by the open window of the teahouse, Ariana suppressed another sigh as she watched Graeme and Lucy strolling through the gardens below. The English gargoyle had arrived with a few of her rookery mates only the night before and although he didn't show it, her brother was overjoyed to be with his white-furred lioness again. Ariana was betting that the two of them would be slipping away from the festivities to be alone as soon as they could manage it. She smiled sadly, happy for her brother but feeling wistful for her own prospects.
It had been less than a week since Ariana had returned from Osaka. The two nights that she had spent hopping trains had left her too much time to dwell on what might have been. As result, the first thing she did when she arrived in Ishimura was to throw herself into Brooklyn's arms and burst into tears. Her parents were so alarmed by this uncharacteristic behavior that her subsequent chewing out was less severe than it could have been.
Her clandestine adventure had given her a certain notoriety among her peers and the young warriors that had ignored her before had started to see her in a new light. Ariana should have been delighted with all the attention but none of it made her happy. She had finally confided in Midori that she'd fallen in love with someone that she'd never see again. Her friend was immediately sympathetic but refused to let Ariana mope about it. Instead, every evening Midori made a point of taking Ariana with her wherever she went, forcing her to socialize again, and slowly Ariana came back to her normal, fun-loving self, heartsore but none the worse for her experiences.
Sata had assigned Ariana and Midori to serve as hostesses while they introduced the visiting clans to the fine art of Chaji, the tea ceremony. She had to admit that focusing on the subtle movements of the ritual did take her mind off things. Midori had taken a small party into the south room and Ariana's nose told her that sandalwood had just been added to the charcoal brazier. The heady scent of the incense made her drowsy and she busied herself with preparing the north room for the next guests. She replaced the kukemono, a scroll painting done by Kai himself, and carefully re-set the low table with a ceremonial tea set decorated with a dark purple glaze.
A bright tinkle of the chimes hanging at the garden gate heralded the arrival of new guests. Ariana cast her eyes around to check that everything was in place and slid the door of the tea house dramatically, posing for a moment so the visitors could get the full effect. She and Midori had been decked out in full maiden's regalia -- brightly colored furisode with long sleeves that hung to their knees and sweeping hems that brushed the ground. Her own outfit was an artistic rendering of a midnight sky with a moon silkscreened on her left shoulder and stylized waves all around the hem. Her hair was piled high in a sophisticated style with several lacquered hairpins and her sidelocks were adorned with silvery beads at her temples, leaving them to hang like long silky tassels on either side of her face. Unlike the geisha makeup that she'd been forced to wear by the Tengu, her only cosmetics was a subtle touch of color on her eyelids.
"Konbanwa, honorable guests," Ariana said with a formal bow. "Please enter and be welcome."
"Ah, Ari-chan!" Kai said in his deep, quiet voice. "Is there a tea room available? An old friend has arrived and I wish to welcome him properly."
"Hai, Kai-sama," Ariana answered bowing once again to the Ishimura leader. "Everything is prepared."
"It is as it should be," Sata said with quiet pride. "My daughter is an excellent tea hostess." Ariana looked up at her mother's voice to see her and Brooklyn waiting on the wide porch with much taller gargoyle half-hidden in the shadows. Sata bowed to the newcomer. "Please enter, noble guest; this chajiis in your honor."
An impressive set of horns scraped against the top of the doorway and Ariana felt her heart stop. Dressed in a conservative black kimono with an inset band of slate blue filled with graphic black diamonds, Kirin stepped into the tea house and bowed slowly to her as she frantically told herself to breathe. It took every bit of self-control that she had not to rush forward and to throw herself into his arms. "Lady Ariana," he said, the corners of his wide mouth twitching up. "It is good to see you again." His warm brown eyes danced beneath his furry eyebrows. "How very lovely you look tonight."
"You are very kind, Kirin-san," Ariana answered adroitly, "but it's just some old thing that I threw on." His intense gaze seemed to be busy memorizing every tiny detail of her appearance. She lifted her chin to hide her own nervousness and looked him over boldly. Dressed formally, Kirin himself was an impressive sight. He had even taken the time to trim his beard and groom his waist length mane. Without the snarls and tangles, she could see that his hair was actually baby fine curls that twisted around his horns like a fiery cloud. "I see someone finally took a comb to that rat's nest of yours."
Kirin rolled his eyes up to the wispy locks that were floating over his brow ridges. "Yes," he drawled out testily, "and it was very painful. Does this please you?"
"Yes," Ariana replied coyly, "it does." Fighting the urge to smirk, she led them inside while her heart threatened to pound right out of her chest.
Sata regarded their exchange in mild surprise. "You have met my daughter before, Kirin-san?"
"I could hardly forget her, Lady Sata." Kirin cocked an eyebrow at Ariana as she busied herself with the ceremony. "She hit me over the head with a bo staff."
"Well, that's one way to make a first impression," Brooklyn quipped proudly.
"Naturally, I snapped her weapon in two." Kirin paused while Brooklyn began to snicker. "For some reason, she became irrationally angry. Strange girl."
"Funny, her mother reacts the same way."
"It took four of us to subdue her." Kirin bowed towards Sata. "That had to be your doing, Lady Sata. You must have started training her right out of the egg. Her fighting skills are phenomenal."
Sata returned his gesture. "Ariana was born with a warrior's heart," she said adroitly. "I cannot take full credit for her abilities. She has studied many different fighting styles."
"As did Kirin when we were younger," Kai commented. "He and I studied under Master Setsu. I had to stop when the previous leader died unexpectedly but Kirin completed his mastery." He grinned. "Although I cannot imagine you find much use for it in the classroom, neh?"
"You would be surprised, Kai-sama," Kirin answered mildly. "The ability to slice up a body with a sword is invaluable when dealing with adolescents."
"I didn't realize that you were originally from Ishimura," Brooklyn commented.
"Kirin has been living with the Tengu clan," Kai explained as they all entered the tea room. "They have been in isolation so long that they were unaware that we have been in contact with other clans. I was surprised that the Tengu let you come, brother. Lady Ariana told us that there was considerable earthquake damage to your village."
"True, but the repairs were not as difficult as we first thought. The elders decided that we should not miss this opportunity to renew ties with Ishimura," Kirin continued. "Therefore, I was sent to attend your Grand Miai with my three students. There are no females their age among the Tengu. Lady Ariana made quite an impression upon them."
"Ah!" Sata exchanged a knowing glance with Brooklyn. "Now we understand." She leaned towards Kirin. "You see, Ari-chan has not been herself since she got back. Perhaps you know of someone who is also feeling melancholy."
Kirin merely bowed his head enigmatically. "Indeed, Lady Sata," he said simply. "There is one among the Tengu who has been feeling your daughter's absence most profoundly." He barely glanced at Ariana as he spoke but she still nearly put a spoonful of green tea into the brazier instead of the incense. He turned back to her parents and continued, "I must confess that was one of the reasons that I asked Kai to invite you and your mate to join us. One must observe a certain protocol in these matters."
"I agree, Kirin-san!" Sata replied enthusiastically. "It is traditional for the families to meet prior to a formal handfasting."
"Tradition is important to the Tengu." Kirin bowed his head again. "It is customary to ask permission of the clan leader or rookery mother before allowing a prospective couple to become further acquainted. Since Ariana is unique in openly acknowledging her family ties, I thought it wise to approach you and Brooklyn-san directly."
While the others made small talk, Ariana went through the motions of the tea ceremony to hide her growing anxiety. She was dying to know why Kirin had really returned to Ishimura; he kept giving her covert glances from beneath his hairy eyebrows while he played conversational games with her mother.
Brooklyn had been following along and cleared his throat. "Let me get this straight," he said. "You're asking our permission?" He raised a brow ridge. "Shouldn't the guy that's interested in Ariana be doing this, not you?" Kai said nothing but he was looking shrewdly at Kirin as well.
"This is Japan, Brooklyn-san," Sata said gently. "Things are done differently here. It is customary to use go-betweens at a first meeting to arrange the matches."
"Kirin-san, we have no objections to Ariana being properly courted," Sata continued, "but we will speak further of this later. For now, let us enjoy the tea." She turned a serene face to her daughter and motioned for Ariana to continue.
The rest of the chaji proceeded smoothly but afterwards, Ariana didn't have the slightest idea how she managed it. All she could think of was the lingering touch of Kirin's fingers when she handed him the first bowl of tea and the warm look when their eyes met across the narrow table. Towards the end, Midori came in to assist and she was grateful for her friend's calming influence. She remained behind as Ariana escorted the guests to the door and gave them the traditional farewell.
"Who was that?" Midori asked as she helped gather up the tea things. "Is he from Osaka? One of my guests said that a small contingent of Tengu arrived earlier this evening."
"That's just Kirin," Ariana said off-handedly. "He brought Tic, Tak, and Toe here to meet girls, or so he says."
"A-ha!" Midori giggled. "You should have seen yourself, Ari-chan. You kept looking at him and smiling for no apparent reason." She gave her friend a knowing wink.
"You're seeing things, Mi-chan!" Ariana snorted and kept her eyes on her work. "Kirin is opinionated, arrogant, overbearing –"
"—handsome in a wild, unkempt sort of way," continued Midori as she looked out the tea house window, "and he seems to be waiting for you in the garden." Her friend reached over and took the tray of dishes from Ariana's hands. "Perhaps you should join him, neh?"
Nervously, Ariana rose and carefully arranged her kimono. She had to take small, mincing steps so not to disorder her skirts when she desperately wanted to run from the room. Taking a deep breath to settle her nerves, she negotiated the steps leading down into the garden. Kirin saw her and met her halfway along the gravel path beneath an ornamental maple tree. They stared at each other anxiously for a few minutes before they found the courage to speak.
"Well, well," Ariana said tartly. "You're a long way from the mountains."
"After you left," Kirin said dryly, "I found there was something that I needed to give you."
"Pocky and chocolate?" She laughed. "No, wait – you found my underwear."
"Yes," he said with a wry lift of one eyebrow, "and we'll be discussing the trouble that little discovery caused later, but right now –" Kirin reached out and lightly caressed her brow ridges, letting his fingers drift down to her cheek. In one motion, he tilted her chin up and covered her mouth with his before she had a chance to protest.
Instinctively, Ariana made a fist and was halfway to smashing it into his ribs before she realized just what was happening. Her eyes widened for a moment and then her lashes slowly drifted shut as she became immersed in the smell and the taste and the nearness of him. In spite of his fish-whiskered mouth, his lips were firm and inquisitive and determined as Kirin made his intentions very clear. This was no make-believe stage kiss; for a moment the world itself stopped, and Ariana felt as if she was back in the timeless void of the Phoenix Gate.
Kirin released her, chest heaving as he gazed at her. They stood there for a few moments, steadying themselves before he finally spoke. "There... you've had your first kiss." He smiled nervously. "If you ask nicely, I might give you another."
Upon hearing her own words turned back on her, Ariana curled her toes under her kimono in suppressed glee. "I don't know," she said coyly. "Are you saying that your kisses are like pocky -- sweet, tasty, and in a variety of flavors?"
"And yet strangely addictive," Kirin continued, extending his arm to her as an invitation to continue their stroll. "Not unlike yourself."
"Oh, really?" she asked, taking his arm as her heart pounded in her ears. "Why do you say that?"
"Because when you left, I couldn't bear the thought of never seeing you again." He stopped and took a deep breath. "My heart broke to watch that train leaving." Giving her a sly look, he commented, "I've always thought that Rochester was a fool for not going after Jane. I wasn't about to make the same mistake."
Ariana hugged his arm to her. "You know, I couldn't stop crying after I found your copy of Jane Eyre in my backpack." She felt him nuzzle her brow ridges. "I found your message in it -- why couldn't you say those things to me?"
"I was afraid to," he answered solemnly. "I lost at love once before and you know how much I hate to lose. If I had told you how I felt, opened my heart to you and you did not return my feelings, I was not sure I could survive it." He drew a shaky breath. "Kai tells me that you have not been yourself. He wondered if something happened when you were among the Tengu."
"Well, something did," she said, raising her chin. "Didn't it?"
"Yes," he answered cautiously as he turned to face her. "Something between us happened, neh?"
Nodding, she smiled nervously. "I don't know why but ever since I got back, I haven't been able to think of anything else. You were so damn condescending and arrogant. I couldn't stand you at first."
Kirin returned her smile. "You were impulsive and irritating and thoroughly impossible."
"But I don't feel that way any more – do you?" Her voice dropped to an anxious hush.
"Love is strange – it is like the wind. You never know where it will take you."
"No kidding." She gave a little laugh. "It certainly blew us from one side of Japan to the other!" Biting her lip, she asked, "So where do we go from here?"
"I do not know. Perhaps we should wait to see where the wind takes us." He huffed and swallowed hard. "You and I – oh, bishoujo, there are so many things against us! I have no right to want you but I've waited so long and --"
She put her hand over his mouth. "Wait a minute," she said breathlessly. "What did you call me?"
"Bishoujo," Kirin said softly, kissing her fingertips. "You are my beautiful girl, Ari-chan – I have thought so ever since the first time I saw you. Never doubt that."
"Oh." She bit her lower lip and blushed. "None of the others have ever said that."
"Others?" He bristled indignantly and drew himself up to his full height. "What others?"
Glancing at the thundercloud expression on his face, Ariana stifled a giggle. "I've been popular with the guys since I got back. Apparently, I'm the bad girl their rookery mothers warned them about."
"Then," Kirin frowned and looked away, "I'm too late."
"No, you're not." Ariana took a deep breath and went for it. "True, I've been with a few guys since I got back but that's only because Midori made me double-date with her. I've been miserable all week because I thought I'd screwed up everything." She fiddled with the tassel on her obi, suddenly shy. "Were you serious about asking my parents for permission to court me?"
"Yes." He smiled ruefully. "I'm afraid that I'm old-fashioned that way."
"I noticed you didn't use names when you asked," Ariana said, narrowing her eyes. "Mother's probably scoping out the Three right now."
"Thus giving us this moment alone," he pointed out. "Your parents will need time to get used to a middle-aged teacher as their daughter's suitor, assuming that you will have me." He took a deep breath and let it out in a whisker-rattling huff. "For years, my heart has been an empty cup. You came into my life like a drink of cool water and filled it so thoroughly that when you left, I nearly died of thirst. I am not young, I am altogether too stubborn and set in my ways, but Ari-chan – I would do anything to have you in my life."
Torn between the girlish urge to dance for joy or to burst out in exuberant tears, Ariana composed herself and merely said, "That depends…. Do you think you can put up with an impulsive thrillseeker?"
"I think I've lived the quiet life long enough," Kirin answered with the light dancing in his eyes. "I promised myself I would never fall in love again and that I would never return to Ishimura and yet here I am." He scowled at her playfully. "You really are the most manipulative creature!"
Ariana laughed. "You need to work on your sweet talk, pal."
"You need to practice your kissing, wench."
"I could use a private tutor," she said, tapping her beak thoughtfully. "I don't suppose you'd know of one that's available, do you?"
"It's entirely possible," Kirin conceded. "I am, after all, an excellent teacher."
"I'm warning you," Ariana said as she reached up and put her arms around his neck, "I'm a very quick study."
"Then perhaps you will teach this old gargoyle some new tricks," Kirin countered as his hands encircled her waist.
"Count on it." She tilted her head to one side. "There's just something that I've got to know – why didn't you kiss me sooner?"
"Because I knew that once I kissed you, bishoujo," Kirin said as he nuzzled her mouth, "I would never want to stop."
As their embrace grew more impassioned, Ariana felt a wave of contentment sweep over her. All the anxiety and stress of the past week seemed to drift away with each kiss. She had traveled from one side of Japan to the other, searching for a place where she belonged and a purpose to her life. Nothing had turned out quite as she'd planned but she didn't mind at all. The tell-tale tingle in her wings told her that she and Kirin were on the edge of an even bigger adventure.
Ariana couldn't wait.
Ariana's kimono designed by Nikki Owen a.k.a.y2hecate, winner of my "Tengu: Design a Kimono" contest. Her winning entry can be found here: class=MsoNormal 'text-indent:.5in'>PICTURES:
The path leading to Tenjo Temple
Forest on Mt. Maya
Rokko Mountain range
Tengu Rock (1949 artist's print, Kawase Hasui)
The Tengu – a cartoon short story by Craig Phillips
aisai: beloved wife
baka: stupid; also bakamei (stupid head), bakachan (stupid or silly little girl)
or bakayaro (really really rude)
bishoujo: beautiful girl
busu: ugly girl (a pretty rude insult)
Chaji: art of the Japanese tea ceremony
-chan: affectionate honorific, fem.
gozaimasu: a very formal way of saying 'thank you very much.'
fundoshi: traditional Japanese loincloth
furisode: brightly colored, long sleeved elaborate kimonos generally worn
by unmarried girls
Itadakimasu: "I receive this humbly." Used before beginning a meal
and required by protocol
kanji: Japanese pictograms
Konbanwa: "Good evening"
-kun: affectionate honorific, masc.
miko: female Shinto shrine attendant or priestess who can be identified
by her uniform of white kimono robeand red hakama divided skirt.
mozo: shrike; the official bird of Osaka prefecture
obaasan: grandmother; affectionate term for older female
ojisan: uncle; affectionate term for older male
oniichan: affectionate term for sister (usually older sister, but since Graeme & Ariana are
twins, they use oniichan and oniisan interchangeably)
oniisan: affectionate term for brother
-sama: honorific indicating higher rank or status
tancho: Japanese crane
yamabushi: mountain priest
yukuta: lightweight cotton summer kimono