DISCLAIMER - The ownership and general brilliance that is the original Feudal Fairy Tale remains the property of its honored and rightfully revered creator Rumiko Takahashi without whose brilliance, we would not have fodder.
Edited by:Meara the Celt and possible instigator of the Boston Tea Party LOL!
This first chapter is dedicated to Priestess Skye without whose prodding and my inability to write a drabble, (snort) it would not be. Love ya kiddo! I hope you all enjoy. Friendships are tested by fire…she walked through.
Reviews are fuel.
Chapter One – Black Tea
Thou soft, thou sober, sage, and venerable liquid! Thou
innocent pretence for bringing the wicked of both sexes
together in the morning! Thou female tongue-running,
smile-soothing, heart-opening, wink-tipping cordial
to whose glorious insipidity I owe the happiest
moments of my life.
--COLLEY CIBBER, 1903
Mist shrouded the expansive shrub that threatened more and more each year to become a full grown tree. Unlike the other denizens of the hothouse, just beyond the tea shop, it required copious amounts of water each day.
Kagome yawned, pulling her white robe more tightly around her as she sat on the old wooden bench. She inhaled the pleasing scent of bergamot, while tipping the bone china cup to her lips. She sighed, gazing wistfully at the lone tea shrub and gave it a gentle bow in respect for its honored place in her family and livelihood.
To the untutored eye it was merely a nondescript green bush. Purveyors of fine tea knew better. It had been in the Higurashi family for years and was the centerpiece of this verdant oasis created so long ago in praise of tea; a shrine in fact.
This one evergreen, the camellia sinensis (a native of China), had given rise to over 3,000 varieties of the sacred liquid consumed and enjoyed worldwide. It had brought entire nations to their knees and had given birth to a new one. The one her family had migrated to.
"I miss you JiJi…" she whispered, rubbing the sleep from her eyes while watching the beads of moisture on the shiny, green leaves drip to the dark earth beneath.
From childhood it had been their private ritual, her grandfather's and hers, to visit the little bush and share a cup of tea in the quiet of morning. They and the sacred bush would commune about the day ahead: he in terms of business and she in terms of school. Equally, they ended the day thusly.
Kagome looked at the shrub speculatively, then down at her secateurs. It really was threatening to become a tree since her grandfather's passing. She did not have the heart to prune it in his absence. Perhaps she would let it run its course to fulfillment and become a tree.
The dark-haired woman sighed in frustration, shifting her bangs. She had been waging this internal war for near on three months now, afraid to change, afraid to do, afraid to move forward. Today would be the first day she would officially re-open the store to the public and begin again to take orders from overseas for the rare blends her family had patented, some with healing properties.
Mourning was over.
It was her duty to continue. Souta was at university and this was so far from an interest at the moment for him. There was no one else to take over, most especially since he had selected a university in their native country of Japan, instead of their new world home, effectively leaving the family business to his eldest sibling in the United States.
She had promised her grandfather. It fell to Kagome to continue. There had been a Higurashi manning the little well-appointed, yet understated premises for over 50 years now.
"Tomorrow," she asserted, collecting the shears and various other implements and walking gingerly to the outer doorway. She would do it tomorrow. There was always tomorrow.
"Mister Taishou," said a well-modulated female voice over the receiver.
"Where would you like your tea sent? We have re-opened as promised."
Before he could answer, she continued. "I would understand entirely if you no longer wish to place orders with our Tea House and we are greatly honored for your gift of respect in our time of…" she paused, gathering strength. It was still difficult to acknowledge her JiJi's death.
"No," was the abrupt answer.
Kagome pulled the phone from her ear. She had never spoken to Mister Taishou before. Her grandfather had always taken his calls, come rain or shine, or midnight for that matter. Long and quiet were their conversations. The man was damn rude, by the sound of things.
She was merely thanking him for the kindness he had shown at the funeral. His offering had been extraordinarily generous. Then again, he appeared to have been the oldest and most venerated of the family's private customers. The ledger went on for two pages with his select needs by season and blends, some of which were so rare that the hothouse had been built originally to accommodate rare spices not always seasonally available to accent his choice of teas.
"I beg your pardon, is this Mister Taishou?" Kagome asked in a more clipped manner. She didn't need this first thing in the morning and it was a Friday to boot. The gray ledger had his name with five stars for traditional tea service every Friday with no end date. This alone was peculiar and the secondary reason she called. Her Grandfather had made her promise on his deathbed to fulfill his tea ritual no matter what. Mister Taishou had a crescent symbol next to his name; only three customers merited special treatment and as he was the venerated, she decided to call him personally. She regretted it now. The man was offensive in tone and manner. This was not Feudal Japan and perhaps he thought himself a Taipan of Industry, but she was not having it. The customer was not always right.
"Yes, you are speaking to Mister Taishou, girl. To whom do I owe the curt inquiry and sharp intake of breath before business hours?" Sesshoumaru asked pointedly.
"Miss Higurashi, the proprietor of Art of Tea, Mister Taishou and I were not aware that 9am was prior to business hours. I doooooooapologize for wasting your valuable time. I will strike off your order, effective immediately and cancel the tea ritual. Again, my apologies, I won't disturb you further."
The phone clicked in his ear. Sesshoumaru ground his teeth and carefully placed the receiver back in its cradle and adjusted his lapels, a foreboding tick that his personal assistant knew well.
Kikyou coughed gentle behind her fingers. "Mister Taishou, can I be of assistance?" she said softly without meeting his eyes.
Narrowing his own, he checked his watch. He had just enough time to pay the little nondescript shop a visit to put this female in her place. There was no chance of continuing the ritual now, but he would have the satisfaction of meeting her face to face. Something about her tone reminded him of her father. How dare she!? Clearly, she had no idea who he was! He would address this personally. She would regret this.
"You may take the afternoon off. I won't be back until Monday," he said dismissively as she retrieved his coat, then handed it to him as he gracefully stood and exited his office with a determined look.
Kikyou was more than happy that she was not to be on the receiving end of that look.
Kagome glared at the phone sitting innocently in the cradle. "What an insufferable shit! What did grandfather see in him, to waste his time every Friday serving him in the tea house?"
"Miss Higurashi?" Oshi queried politely, squinting up at the young woman whose cheeks had gone quite red. "Is something wrong?"
"No, Oshi-san, we won't need the tea room prepped this afternoon after all. I think we can effectively remove one Mister Taishou off our preferred customer list. Would you mind calling Miss Kagura and informing her we are open for business and then Mister Kashiwa? Perhaps he would like to have Mister Taishou's place on Fridays."
"Hai," Oshi bowed quickly, not entirely sure what had occurred while he was back in the storeroom. He wisely kept any further thoughts he had on the matter to himself. What he was sure of was that he would not call Mister Kashiwa until much later in the day. By then, things would have resolved themselves. Higurashi Kagome, he was sure, would come to regret the dismissal of Taishou-sama in so abrupt a manner.
Lovely girl, but she was so much like her father. Her temper always got the better of her. He had worked for the family since he was a teen and remembered the fights Mister Higurashi Junior and Mister Taishou had. The old man busied himself with dusting, sporadically looking to the young woman who was chewing her lower lip while placing tentative key strokes on her laptop with a bemused expression. It was her first day in charge and though she had prepared herself, he could tell she was fearful. He would help as best he could.
An ancient Tibetan brass bell rang, heralding the first customer of the day's entrance into the Art of Tea.
Fragrant were the varieties of teas in green, black, white and red, accompanied pleasantly by the faint enticing odors of earth, citrus, cinnamon, mint and bergamot, as he opened the door mid afternoon to find the shop very much as he remembered it. It still looked like an apothecary from the early 19th century but for the tatami of pale green covering the floor and the polite note in Japanese, Chinese and English requesting all customers remove their shoes upon entry.
The bell tolled differently upon his entrance. It was the first thing she noticed, as her eyes rose to meet golden slits. The studied smile on her face fading by degree as she carefully wrapped the two pounds of loose Lapasang Souuchong in a plain, brown paper bag, tying it off with black sash and one leaf of the family tea tree as accent. Kagome knew who it was just by his aristocratic bearing. He suited his voice entirely. Her fingers suddenly felt clumsy and numb as her eyes skittered across the male who was entirely too young and almost ethereally beautiful without being effeminate in the least.
She bowed to the older woman she was serving, closing her hands around the fragile woman's gently with a deferential bow of her head.
Now for the hard part: getting her to accept without the usual embarrassing entreaties on both their parts. Usually this would take a good twenty minutes and something about the expression on Mister Taishou's face told her she did not have the luxury of time.
"My Grandfather would have wished it this way for all the care you took of our house over the last few months while I was away. When it is done, come again, please Mrs. Lee. It is the least I can do with pleasure. Your husband gave JiJi many pleasurable games of Go in his final days."
Surprisingly, Mrs. Lee bowed in turn and tittered as she passed Mister Taishou, looking back coquettishly at the tall male dressed in a black, tailored, raw silk suit and crisp white linen shirt. Kagome glanced at his feet with one eyebrow raised. Black, silk tabi - unusual? She looked where his shoes should have been; there were none. Perhaps he left them outside. His loss, when they got stolen. She smirked.
"I find them comfortable, Miss Higurashi," he answered the unspoken question with that deep, mesmerizing baritone she had come to loathe.
Kagome looked back down at the ledger as Oshi's sandaled feet shuffled over the tatami towards their honored customer in a crouched position. "Taishou-sama, it is a pleasure to see you again. May I take your coat? The Tea House has been prepared."
"The Tea House has been WHAT?!" She squeaked.
It was as if she had not spoken.
Oshi shuffled to the door and shifted the aged sign to closed before obediently following behind the tall, silver-haired male who strode through the shop as if he owned the premises towards the private tea house.
He obviously knew the way.
Kagome tapped the ledger, then slammed it closed, grinding her teeth before following dutifully.
He paid 2,000 dollars for the ritual each week, enough to cover their immediate expenses for staff and supplies; business was business.
"Gramps you owe me. Big." She murmured, suddenly aware of how she looked, in plain black slacks and blue silk blouse instead of mourning white. He would wait; if they were going to do this, she was going to dress appropriately, she thought with a malicious smile. At least she would get her own back by delaying the inevitable.
She stomped behind the two males, before abruptly turning right and heading up the stairs, the vague scent of sandalwood in her wake.
"Be quick about it, Higurashi. Time is money."
The door to her bedroom slammed twice in response.
Sesshoumaru smirked. She might well prove more entertaining than her Grandfather, he thought. He did have the time, an eternity in fact. This change might well prove a pleasing distraction. Something he needed with very little to look forward to, other than eternity.
…and so it begins…again…I hope you enjoyed.