Title: Undesired Affections
Genre& Ratings: Drama/Romance - Rated PG
Pairing/s: Youko & Keiki (main), Youko & Syouryuu, Youko& Rakushun
Written by: Nickriz
Disclaimers: Juuni Kokuki is the creation of Ono Fuyumi.
Summary: A romantic diversion takes place in Kimpa Palace between Youko and Keiki, while a turn of events brings in a quadrangular love web. How can Youko retain the delicate friendships and still pursue love?

Chapter 3

End of Twilight, Beginning of Dawn

Part 3

Song of the Phoenix, Roar of the Dragon II

"Scales as silver coins of the treasury,

Talons as strong as Granite Mountains,

Horns of power and strength,

Majestic splendor unsurpassed.

As lightning that splits the sky,

His roar thunders in glowing pride,

Tail as swift as heaven's chariots,

Like fire spewed forth, he brings life."

Galloping at full speed over the vast terrains of the kingdom, the magnificent kirin drew curious glances from the earth below as awed men and women looked up to the symbol of peace for their kingdom. Only few have seen the Taiho in such a form if they lived away from the capital. But this was a rare display indeed, so the people believed it to be of some important good omen and prayed to the gods for blessings.

With the winds singing past his ears, and the golden mane dancing behind his neck, Keiki relished in the strong current of the winter winds as he raced through the skies toward Mt. Hou. His nostril shot a breath-full of steam into the air as he puffed for air in mid-gallop.

"It has been a long while since I've gone back," Keiki thought to himself.

Since the visit to Mt. Hou for the ascension of Youko and the subsequent introduction of Taiki's tale to his empress, he had yet to return for any particular reason. As situations of the rebellion had been overcome and controlled, matters at court took much of his time. Even with the newly appointed help of Shoukei, En-ho and Rakushun, Keiki found that it still didn't lift the load of his shoulders. What more that he has to increasingly look around in circles for the empress to bring her to her duties, and acquaint her to her new responsibilities.

As the seas soon give view of a minute vision of Mt. Hou in the distant horizon, Keiki sighed at the thought of the subject of his frustrations.

The Kirin neighed and grunted, lifted its horn high and came to a standstill in mid-flight. Shaking its head from left to right, and swishing its long silky mane in a brilliant flow, the creature closed its eyes and stood still to capture to glory of the sunshine with its being. In a stance of pride, the kirin stood on all four with its head lifted to the heavens.

Soft whispers of the winds caressed its cheeks, ruffling the silky mane that now glistened in the sun like molten rivers of gold. If it were not out in the seas, it would have been a magnificent sight to behold if anyone were to come across the Kirin of Kei at this moment.

The rushing waves and lapping of the seas echoed within his ears, as he lost himself to the pure stillness of the sun's brilliance on him. Slowly lowering his head, his beautiful lavender orbs opening, Keiki gave a snort as he pounded his left hoof in the air.

Rising to stand on his two hind feet, he kicked the air with his two front hooves and gave a loud neigh and stormed in a dancing gallop towards the vision of Mt. Hou in the distance.

As the kirin's figure slowly disappeared into the horizon, the spot where it once stood in magnificence was once again filled with the songs of winter's winds and the lapping of the seas.

The golden bronze mirror sat quietly in the dressing chamber. Its smooth surface was encircled with agonizingly carved phoenixes, and studded in precious stones. Rubies for the eyes of the elegant phoenixes, while the flowers were adorned with jades and pearls. Peaches made of soft pink ice jade lined the lower rim of the mirror, suggesting fruitfulness. Its full length stretched from the tiled ceiling of the dressing chamber to the very floor of the room. Stretching to 10 cubits span-wide, it was a grand artifact in the empress' dressing room as it curved around the circular chamber, much like the imperial bath chamber the empress visited when she first met En-ou. Both Youko and Rakushun had been treated to a welcoming bath at their reception then.

Windows surrounded the chamber on two-thirds of it walls, with an overlooking view of the Palace Lake and surrounding mountains. Chiffon silk curtains billowed in the wind as it framed the windows, clasped in the centre with silk chords. Aside from the enormous bronze mirror, the room was decorated with a small redwood table and two similar redwood chairs.

Behind the bronze mirror, 4 doors opened into a spacious stairway down to the imperial closet where the empress' garments were kept. Rows of cabinets lined both sides of the walkway within the imperial closet chamber. Garments, accessories, shoes, jewelery belonging to the past monarchs were carefully kept and stored.

Carved wooden cabinets overlaid with paint and gold lined the walls of the chamber, where there were no windows. Constant rustling of silk was heard and the quiet footfalls of maids filled the room. The servants carefully make their way in between the chamber gathering the necessary items for their empress' dressing.

After a long rustling of silk and certain gasps and acknowledgement of a good work, the servants stand back and bow with a short bend of the knees and arose to face their empress again. Smiles of approval greeted the empress as each examined their handiwork of art.

Heaving a sigh of relief, Youko finally breathed easy and turned around to look into the bronze mirror.

Sitting on the redwood chair, Suzu sipped gently at the cup of green tea that had long cooled from her ignorance while she worked. A small grin graced her features, and she turned to breathe in the mid-noon winter breeze.

Turning her eyes on the woman on the chair, Youko frowned at the thought that this was all because she had been talked into submission for this.

"This is a little too much, don't you think so?" Youko finally confessed.

Suzu turned around to face the vision of a beautiful young woman before her and smiled. Shaking her head, as an indication to whatever opinion was her answer, she continued to smile at the young woman.

"It has never been of me to be dressed as such, Suzu. Now what would Keiki reprimand me about should he know that I'm dressed like this to see En-ou? More importantly, how deep would that scowl on his face come to?" came the rebuttal.

"That would have to depend on how you approach him first, am I right?" Suzu gave an innocent reply.

"And there will never be an end to Keiki's promising lectures.." Youko sighed dejectedly. Looking back at her friend with a heartfelt smile, Youko turned to examine herself in the mirror again.

Her hair was rolled nicely in a few coils of neatly placed coifs at the top of her head, accessorized with large peony flower pins of jade and large crystal emerald stones on pins to secure her coifs. Tiny pink-glow pearls were attached to her necklace that came in 3 strands around her graceful neck. Similar pearls earrings were found on her earrings. The lower half of her hair hung loosely down her back, completing the look of a young maiden in the prime of her life.

Youko's natural beauty was enhanced with a touch of light powder, and a light dab of paper rouge. Instead of closing her lips twice on the red paper rouge, Suzu had told her to do it lightly only once. The servants had been told to give her an almost natural hidden blush, with soft apricot colors on her cheek and eyelids. Suzu had said to enhance the empress eyes with the light apricot color so as to bring out Youko's bright green-colored orbs. Her lashes were neatly curled and combed with coal and soft wax mixture, giving it a heavy lashed look. Her brows were pulled back in a delicate natural shape, framing her whole face.

The servants had put on an inner bodice for the empress, with silvery-white underclothes and soft cream-colored silk, embroidered with emblems of the kingdom. Over the bodice, Youko was clothed with a light apricot-colored robe, interlined with gold and emerald silk threads. Holding the robes together was a cream-colored chiffon sash embroidered with soft pink peonies and green leaves. A gold chord tied to an amulet of the empress hung on the left side of her waist.

Wearing only the ring of her status, Youko's feet were shod with a pair of embroidered ladies shoes in the same cream silk that she wore.

Slowly turning around in front of the mirror, Youko looked up once in a while to see approving looks from her maidservants, and decided that if they didn't disagree, there wouldn't be any harm done to dress like a proper girl for once.

Even if it meant having to face some awkward situations later, which she decided not to bother with for the moment, it was still too much to worry about since the incident this morning was still perplexing her mind.

The port had been busy again today, with the crowd moving as it did always. Nothing new seems to have happened, nor was there any more news from Tai Goku. Waiting wasn't always an easy game to play, but at this point, even clues of Taiki had not surfaced for a long time. Without and leads, it was simply a day-to-day waiting game.

Brushing a strand of wayward hair from his face, Enki moved quietly though the streets of the port town again, and decided to return to the palace.

A whiff of breeze stopped him in his tracks, and he turned around with a sniff to the air. Looking high into the sky at nothing in particular, a familiar feeling of something he couldn't quite understand but knew, started to course through his body. Even tough it was faint, yet he felt it somehow.

Looking in the direction of where he guessed it might have come from, he turned on his heels and made quick work of his return to the palace. Somehow, he decided would pay a visit to the fairies across the green sea, towards Yellow Sea where Mt. Hou is. Sure to find his kin there, Enki wondered what was that feeling he felt earlier.

With that in mind, his figure disappeared swiftly amongst the crowd of the port and the loud noises of the people were once again buzzing around the bright streets of that beautiful afternoon.

"My Lord, we've received word from the empress," came the report of Shukou, En-ou's personal assistant, other than Enki.

Shukou held within his hand a parchment tied with a golden chord and the red stamp of Youko's insignia ring on it. Walking with a serene calm towards the young looking man whose age belies his look, he came to a halt before the small pavilion in which En-ou sat in.

Leaning against the column of the small round pavilion of his personal garden, Shoryuu had been gazing across the lake that was not far away from reach. Dressed in his usual casual light blue robe and grey shoes, he had been taking time out to consider what he would want to do with Youko for the time that she was here. The voice of his assistant roused him from his thoughts with news from the empress herself.

"Has time passed that fast? Is she arriving soon?" came the question.

"I'm not sure myself, but a message has been sent for you, it seems," Shukou replied nonchalantly.

Turning to face the informant, Shoryuu glanced towards the parchment in the man's hands and then lifted his body from the column and stretched his cramped muscles. Slowly rising to his feet, feeling the energy flowing back into his limbs again, he took a deep breath and grinned at the observing man before him. With casual strides, Shoryuu walked over to Shukou, and took the parchment as Shukou bowed and offered the parchment to him.

Looking intently at the item in his hands, he pondered and then looked back to Shokou.

"Any idea what she might have written?" Shoryuu inquired.

Shukou closed his eyes and gave a side-to-side shake of his head and then looked at him again.

"You think its possible that she decided not to come?" Came the next question.

With a frown marring his face, and hands now folded on his chest, Shukou gave thought, and sighed.

"I doubt so unless she suddenly decided to ditch your offer for another far better offer," Shukou mused, looking deeply in thought as he looked away from En-ou.

Amused by his assistant's answer, Shoryuu laughed heartily and countered.

"That would be interesting to know. Well, I would have to make a personal visit to Kimpa palace myself for a few days, ..provided that Youko would tell me what the better offer was," Shoryuu replied with a grin.

"Why not we find out what the empress has said in the parchment? I would like to make a bet with you, My Lord," Shukou said calmly.

"What would that be? …..And the conditions?"

Shoryuu raised an eyebrow in inquiry, and smiled at the young man.

"If the empress has expressed any form of interest in something else other than My Lord for today, then I ask that you grant me a favor with no strings attached. If there isn't any such indication of interest other than My Lord himself, then the favor is not due to me. What does your highness think of it?" Shukou smiled gently as he looked at Shoryuu while the deal was being thought about.

Closing his eyes momentarily, as if in deep thought and struggling with a decision, Shoryuu smiled and then opened his eyes to look into the face of his servant. The look of serene calm was always on the man's face, and it pleased him that he had such boldness to request for a bet. At the very least, it made his days in the palace entertaining enough to last through the past 500 years that he's been on the throne. Without that serene face in the palace, that young man who was almost as old as he is, Shoryuu wondered if he could have gone mad with boredom within the palace walls.

En-ou knew that if Shukou needed any favours from him, he need not ask like this for it. He would make sure that the man told him straightforwardly and he would have granted it without too much delay. That man's loyalty was always for him, that he knew well.

Looking down at the parchment in his hands, he unbound the letter and rolled it open and read through the contents from left to right. After a short few minutes, he looked towards his servant and grunted a reply.

The young man bowed his head again towards En-ou and looked expectantly at the lord that he served and waited. The parchment was rolled up and handed over to him, and he rolled it open for himself and brought his eyes through the contents of the message.

"Addressed to the Emperor of En:

Long live the Emperor,

May your days number the thousands upon thousands,

May your lands flourish forever,

Long live the Emperor.

As Empress of Kei, I, Youko, apologise for the request of a delay of our appointment this day. Something has urgent need to be taken cared of and I would be arriving shortly around mid-afternoon. For this delay, I would request to inform En-ou that I would make up for the time lost by staying over for the rest of the day. At mid-morning the next day, I would return to Kei instead. I sincerely hope that this would be acceptable to En-ou.

I will await your highness' reply.

Empress of Kei


Shukou's eyes widened in unbelief at what he read. A smile soon crept upon his face as he gently rolled the parchment back and tied it with the chord. Looking back at Shoryuu, he couldn't have felt any happier to the double happiness that

would take place for him and his master. Just at that moment, he caught Shoryuu looking into the horizon of the lake.

Moving into the pavilion where his master stood overlooking the lake, Shukou stood next to the man he admired and cared for all these years.

"My Lord seems to have lost, but it also seems that you have gained as well."

"Indeed. Now it just serves to give me more to worry about. Both you and my guest," Shoryuu turned to glance at Shukou and grinned.

"Why? Isn't that what you would have wanted? To have the empress stay for more than just a few hours, so that you could possibly win her heart?" Shukou implied openly.

Shoryuu sighed with a feigned depression, and slowly dropped back to the low-flat stone railing where he sat before. Bringing an arm to his head and rubbing his temples as if to soothe a headache, he peeked an eye at Shukou who was looking amiably at his master.

"I'd say, why are you still here? Don't you think you'd have a lot more to do now that our guest is planning to stay for the night?" came the question.

A smile was forming on the lips of the master.

"I would have thought My Lord needed me just a while longer since you look unwell."

Shoryuu rubbed his temples harder and was about to rebutt his cunning servant when the sounds of footsteps alerted him to another's presence. Stopping his charade of feigning illness, he closed his eyes and rested his head on the column again and waited. Slowly bringing his arm down, Shoryuu crossed both arms over his chest.

Rustling noises accompanied by a tap here and there was followed by the sound of quietness. A disquieted grunt and a sigh heard not long after, and soon its owner spoke.

"I'll be away for a while. Need to clarify something on Mt. Hou," Enki spoke.

Opening his eyes again to gaze at the sun's reflection in the lake, he turned to Enki and raised a questioning eyebrow. The small kirin was sitting on the marble table before him and had his legs crossed. A perturbed look was etched on his face and he seems to be bothered. Shoryuu deemed this to be something interesting and he turned fully and sat facing his kirin.

"Don't ask me what is it. But I felt Keiki earlier as I was coming back from the port. He seems to be ….angry?" Enki looked enquiringly at Shoryuu.

At that moment, Shoryuu glanced to look at Shukou, and both exchanged a look of revelation dawning upon them. Shukou came to stand next to Enki and looked deep at the kirin.

"Maybe that would have been the thing that is delaying our dear guest don't you think, My Lord?" Shukou questioned. His face held a mischievous grin as his voice mimicked a certain doubt within his words.

"May haps, ….still it was not mentioned at all in the message so we should all leave it to doubt, hmm?" Shoryuu said nonchalantly as he closed his eyes in an exasperated look.

Enki's puzzled face held questions that need some answering, but it seems like he was lost between the last few sentences. Wondering what this had to do with Youko, he decided that it must be linked to Keiki's departure to Mt. Hou.

Musing on his own, Enki thought .." But what's that feeling I get from Keiki earlier? He's never ever been prone to that..as far as I know".

Raising his head towards the faraway place he knew his kin to be, Enki spared a look at Shoryuu, and decided to ask what message had arrived without his knowing that day. It certainly must have had some interesting news for him to find out.

"Has Youko sent a message? Is she still coming?" Enki voice.

"Apparently, our guest would be arriving later than expected. Kei-ou mentioned of some important issues to take care of before her arrival," Shukou answered on Shoryuu's behalf. He shifted his gaze towards the emperor to gauge the response, and receiving nothing of a negative remark, Shukou decided to proceed.

"Was there any mention of the situation?" Enki questioned.

Shukou smiled and then looked towards the skies, remembering that he'd gained a favor from the king himself. Composing himself to his serene calm earlier, he continued.

"Kei-ou didn't specify. But in return for the delay, she has requested for our friend there for an over-night stay, which I think is leaving our beloved emperor high in the heavens of delight, I must say..," came the reply with an uncharacteristic giggle as Shukou pointed at Shoryuu.

Enki was surprised beyond words as he quickly turned to look at Shoryuu musing to himself with his eyes closed, a reed seen on his lips as if he had been chewing it all along. A laugh soon burst out from Enki as he thumped his hand on his thighs and wondered at the stroke of fortune Shoryuu had met with. It was certainly unexpected but nonetheless welcomed.

The little kirin jumped off the table, walked the few steps towards Shoryuu and placed a hand on the shoulders of his best friend. Knowing him, Enki promptly voiced his own well wishes and his cautions.

"Old man, if you want to win over a young girl's heart…I'd suggest you'd better start planning your strategies and preparations. It will be a while before you get another …something akin to a "date", as they call it in Hourai,…. so make good use of your chances."

Shoryuu only grunted in reply and continued chewing on his reed as Enki straightened and turned to leave. As he walked out of the pavilion and turned to head for the lake, he stopped in mid-track and looked again towards the skies. Smiling to himself he left his parting words for the day.

"I'll take my leave. If I'm not back by sundown, just go ahead and inform Youko that I'm sorry for not being around."

With that, the winds rose and the leaves rustled as the young man disappeared and there stood a kirin, as magnificent as Keiki. It glanced back for a minute at the two occupants of the pavilion, then turned and leapt into the skies with a neigh. As the swift winds, it galloped quietly into the horizon where it sought another of its kind.

Shukou exited the pavilion and came to the edge of the lake where taiho once stood. Bending down to the pile of crumpled clothes on the lake's edge, he picked up the remaining pieces of Enki's clothes and excused himself to make preparations for the day's coming event. Although most of his plans were messed up, it didn't matter as long as the occupant of the pavilion was satisfied.

Reminding himself to head to the imperial kitchen first after he dropped off taiho's clothes in his room, Shukou headed into the palace complex once again, leaving a silent silhouette of his master within the pavilion.

When only the sounds of rustling leaves and the soft chirping of bird in the distance was heard, Shoryuu rose from his place and looked forward into the horizon again, his thoughts filled with numerous proposals for the long night later. Remembering his kirin's advice, he smiled softly at himself and then stood to walk back into the palace complex.

The afternoon sun was still bright in the sky, probably at around 2 hours after mid-noon. Soft lapping of the water at the lake's edge echoes through the palace gardens, and birds chirped in the distance as a serene calm enveloped the scene once again.

Author's Note:

This chapter turned out more than I expected it to be. It makes a great start-off point for the next chapter where things will get more interwoven between the characters as the story proceeds. I'd like some feedback so far for the story's progress and what you readers think of the current development between the 3 of them in the last two chapters. I'd hope to put Rakushun's part soon enough, but its still in the process of being fed into the storyline. But it will turn out well. Currently I think there will be a mini novel coming out of this fanfic,but I will not comment much as yet.

As for the character "Shukou"..he's Shoryuu's personal assistant, one of the 3 top-men in the ranking hierachy. They are only second to the Taiho beneath the emperor.

Please give me feedbacks. Write as long as you want..preferably longer. I'll be happy to receive them.

Thanks to Athenia for the latest review! I think your review sort of gave me the urge to write again today. I managed to finish the latest chapter all thanks to your review.

As well as to all the other reviewers , thanks again.