The Language of Fans
Disclaimer: Nokoru and company belong to CLAMP.
Unless you're an Imonoyama, you can never understand what the fan means.
From birth, I remember being surrounded by them. One of my father's friends, unsure what to get the ninth child of the Imonoyama zaibatsu, commissioned a mobile to hang over my crib, one made up of intricate paper fans of various colors and sizes. It was hung just out of my reach, and I remember trying to catch them, always without success. It was a while before I developed enough depth perception to realize that they were placed beyond the grasp of a baby.
I remember that. I know most people don't remember being that young, but I am an Imonoyama. We remember things like that. My older brother Owaru claims to remember being in the womb, and we believe him. Imonoyamas don't lie, after all.
We also don't see very much of each other. I am the youngest of six siblings, and each one of us is more brilliant than the last. By the time I was five, I was already picked to be the Rijichou's successor. By the time I was seven, I was given the supervision of the Electronics Division of the zaibatsu. By the time I was thirteen, I was entrusted with the secret of the Shinken…
Still, there is one thing the family does together, and that is teach the language of the fan.
The Imonoyama fan language isn't like any of the traditional fan languages I've been able to find. It's nowhere near as sinister, and is perhaps even more subtle, which is saying something. There are literally thousands of movements that must be learned before a conversation can begin, and only an Imonoyama is to learn them all.
I was three when I was given my first fan. It was a simple paper one, yet the craftsmanship was superb. It should have been; my father had made it for me on the day he learned was expected; another family tradition. We are all taught to make our own fans, but the first fan comes from the hands of our fathers. This teaching fan, very similar to the ones used in No training, was a sign that a child was truly part of the Clan Imonoyama.
My father was a serious man, and he was fifty when I was born. We did not spend much time together –I would spend more with my aunt, the Rijichou- but for those lessons, he himself taught me.
I remember that day, the day he gave me my first fan and began to instruct me. He was a handsome man with graying dark hair and blue eyes to match my own. He didn't seem to care about his dove-gray suit, or the bodyguards which watched his every movement –unlike me, he was not lucky enough to be the One of a Takamura. I remember the seriousness in his face as he drew me aside to his office, telling his secretary to hold all his calls that afternoon, for he had very important business to attend to.
"Nokoru-san," he said, and I looked at him. He always called me that- not "chan", not "kun", not just plain "Nokoru", but "Nokoru-san." It was the first time I became aware of the distance between myself and others, but I didn't really focus on that. At that moment, I was glad to have his attention to myself. "How old are you now?"
I gave him a sunny smile, and since I was at that literally stage, I answer, "Three years, two months, ten days, five hours, thirty-"
"Yes, Nokoru," my father said. "When someone asked you your age, it is customary to give just the nearest year. So you are three."
I nodded. "Yes, otousan," I said.
Father smiled at me at rumpled my hair with affection. "Since you are three, you are now old enough for your first fan, the fan I made for you when I knew you would be coming into the world. Later I will teach you how to make your own fan, but this one shall be your learning fan." He seemed to magically produce a small fan, and presented it to me. "Imonoyama Nokoru, I offer you this fan. Remember to carry it proudly, for it marks you as part of the Imonoyama family."
It seemed like ceremony to me, and ceremonies were something I knew should be taken seriously. I bowed before holding out my hands to accept it. "I thank you, and I promise I will guard it will my life. The fan is the honor of an Imonoyama."
This seemed to please him.
He produced his own fan, gray with blue tassels that matched his eyes, and it seemed huge compared to the small one he had given me. Still, the small one fit into my tiny hands perfectly, and I waved it around, creating a small breeze. My father indulged me as I experimented, flipping it the way I had seen my brothers and sister do, but he put a halt to it after about five minutes. "It's time you learned the fan language. It's how Imonoyamas communicate to each other without words."
"Without words?" I asked curiously.
He nodded, and grasped my chin in his left hand, forcing me to meet his eyes. I could have drowned in their intensity, as he spoke more forcefully then he ever had before or since. "The first lesson, which you must never forget, is to never drop your fan."
Never drop your fan… how often have I heard those words repeated? My father was the one who gave me my first five lessons, and before the start of each one, he would say that to me, which at the time I found rather pointless. He knew I had an eidetic memory, so therefore he was wasting his time. I hadn't yet grasped the concept of "repetitive learning". Just because I had brains didn't mean I knew how to use them.
In time the rest of my family taught me the language- how the positioning of a finger could affect the entire phrase, and the trick to writing cute messages to flash at convenient moments. It was a hard language, but I rejoiced in it, for it was a tie between my family members and I.
All Imonoyamas have at least three fans on their person at all times, if not more. The first fan is the use fan- this the one people usually see. It's made of a special material that is remarkably durable, and we all make our own by the time we are ten. My father announced that I had finally succeeded in making myself an acceptable fan when I was seven- remarkable when you consider my amazing lack of coordination. Suoh teases me that I am great on the theoretical but lousy on the practical and to a certain extent he's right. I'm still more talented than the average boy my age, but when I get compared to the students at CLAMP campus, I look like positive klutz. Especially when you consider that my two best friends are Suoh, a master ninja, and Akira, with the not so secret identity of a master thief.
The use fan, though, can be written on with a special ink that fades in minutes. I can't count the times I've done that, then snapped my fan open, waving another message. I love how people wonder where I get all the fans from- the truth is, it's the same one, over and over. I hardly ever bring out a different one, for the other two fans serve grim purposes.
The second fan was added to the repertoire about two hundred years ago, if my family history is correct. They were samurai then, and the head of the family at that time broke tradition and had tessen-jutsu, the art of fighting with a fan, taught to the females of the Clan as well as the sons. These fans are closely-guarded secrets, and it's rare that anyone can tell the difference between a tessen and a normal folding fan. These sharp fans are primarily for defense, but make no mistake- they are weapons and they can kill. It's a practical fan, but I doubt I'll ever use it. I'd probably slice my own leg off, even though my family has seen that I've been instructed well in tessen-jutsu. Still, I carry it, just in case. Should there ever come a time when all odds are against me, and I can be used against the Seals…
…well seppuku is an honorable thing. I know Suoh wouldn't like to hear me speak like that, or even think of it, so that is a secret I keep from him. I keep it stowed in a carrier I wear on my back, much like a shoulder holster for a gun. I'm sure Suoh has noticed it (he notices everything), but he keeps quiet. That's the price of our friendship- not everything can be out in the open.
I have many secrets, but it is the third fan that my family's greatest secret.
The Fan of the Black Tassels.
Each Imonoyama carries a fan they make themselves, and we each are encouraged to make it distinctive. I prefer to leave mine white, for I love scribbling all over it, and I attach long red tassels to it. Each fan must have tassels. My sister tried to persuade me to go with a blue to match my eyes, but I preferred the bright, cheery red. Everyone was always shoving blue at me because of my coloring, and I was heartily sick of it.
My brothers' fans are all as unique as they are. Owaru never seems to carry the same fan twice, while Amaru always has a fan made out of real silver. One of my aunts favored fans made out of multi-colored cloth strips, while one of my cousins beads his with seashells… and the list goes on. The fans the family uses are as unique as the members, and none of them is the same.
Still, no Imonoyama uses a fan with black tassels without reason. This is the third fan we all carry. This fan has a draping black tassel, and it is used only when an Imonoyama wants to send a message to another. Walk with care… trouble. The fan language may be secret, but many of our acquaintances know some of more obvious signals. Sometimes the black tassel is used to warn that an Imonoyama is lying; it's a very subtle thing.
I've only ever seen the Fan of Black Tassels used once. I was thirteen… and that was when my aunt took me to meet Hinoto, the Seer of Dreams. I met Hinoto then, to prove my worthiness as the next, and final, guardian of the Shinken. I didn't notice when she did it, but her usual fan vanished, to be replaced by the third, and most dire, of the fans we all carry.
The fan means so much to the family. When a woman marries into family, her husband presents her with a fan, and instructs her our language, though it is doubtful she will ever become as proficient as a true-born Imonoyama. When a woman marries out (as my sister one day will), she presents the Clan Head the first fan she was given, ripped in two- a sign that she is no longer truly part of the family. She is forbidden to teach her children the fan language, though she may carry her own fan until she dies.
The fan means Imonoyama. We are protective of our own.
Never drop your fan…
That, too, in Imonoyama. How often have I heard it? It is the keyword we live by- the fan is our pride, and without it…
Everyone assumes that the playful snapping and waving of fans that I do is merely an affection, but it's more than that. It is a sign of my Clan's honor, of a family that I belong to someone. I will never let my fan drop…
…until the Promised Day. On that Day, I will carry the Fan of Black Tassels openly, and if the World ends, I will let it fall from my fingers in those last moments, for there will be no Imonoyamas to carry on our tradition. It would be appropriate, to drop the fan then.
For in the Imonoyama fan language, a dropped fan means death.