East Kingdoms Block Party

by aishuu

Notes: Unwittingly inspired by both canism and mithrigil, I'm going to be writing Twelve Kingdoms fanfiction based on this month's themes at 31days. The fics are non-sequential, but discuss life after the projected end of the series. And beckerbell deserves blame for egging me on.

Hey-ho, let's go!

The invitation comes via a seicho, with a carefully made scroll tied to its tiny leg. It's rare for this type of bird to carry an actual document, since the fragile creature is treasured for its mimicry ability, but some occasions require additional formality. She is immensely curious what kind of tidings it bears.

Youko offers a bit of silver to the bird as a reward for its hard work, carefully unrolling the tiny parchment which bears the formal seal of the Peace King. Due to its small size, it is limited to nothing more than, "An invitation to the Centennial Jubilee of Tai-Ou," but the characters are written in gold lettering.

She quirks her eyebrow at the seicho, waiting for more information. It speaks in the voice of Tai's Taiho himself, a soft, slightly accented male voice that makes her remember Japan, which she left so long ago.

"Youko, we're holding the centennial celebration in a month, and we would be honored to have you, Keiki and some members of your court join us. Please let us know if you plan to attend, and when to expect your arrival – it should be a lot of fun," Taiki said, and she could hear the smile in his voice. "The celebration wouldn't be complete without you – Tai still remembers the debt it owes to Kei." The bird blinks, before shutting it eyes to indulge in a well-deserved rest.

Youko is glad that she is listening to this message privately – a couple of the older members of her court, the ones who predate the beginning of her own nine-decade reign, would take offense at the informality Taiki used in his speech. She, though, understands the intimacy of the message, and can't help but feel flattered.

There is only Keiki with her, and she has learned that he will always respect her privacy. She turns her head to him, "Well?" she asks, raising an eyebrow.

"It will be a pleasure to see Taiki and Tai-Ou again," he says sedately, but his lavender eyes are shining with eagerness. It's no secret that he has a special, familial feeling toward the black kirin.

"Will we be able to spare the time?" she asks, for as much as she wants to attend, there are other considerations. Kei needs her, and she can't go running off on a pleasure jaunt just because she wants to.

Keiki doesn't dismiss her concern immediately, and she feels her heart sink. Even though Kei is prospering under her reign, there are constantly problems with the more conservative faction that dislikes her reforms. Leaving her throne for too long is asking for trouble – she learned that forty years ago.

"Maybe I should send a polite refusal," she said, and her shoulders droop. Her responsibilities must come before her desires; it is one of the founding principles set down by the heavens.

Keiki taps a finger against his lips. "You can send a delegation out in a couple of weeks to attend – place Sekki in charge, and send Suzu as well."

She nods, knowing it's a good compromise. "They both get along well with Tai-ou and Taiki," she responds, but Keiki holds up a hand to indicate he has more to say.

"If I take you in my kirin form, we would be able to attend for the first three days of the celebration," he said. "We would have to leave separately from the main delegation, though."

Youko smiles, before reaching out to pick up his hand. Kirin are proud creatures, and don't make such offers lightly. She has only ridden him at times of crisis, times so few that she could count them on one hand. "Your offer honors me," she tells him, hoping he understands how much gratitude she's feeling.

"The honor is mine," he says, and looks away from her eyes. She's under the impression he's blushing.