A/N: Awww man. It's been a bit since I wrote one of these. Here, have a story about a couple of lesbian rabbits while I think of better ideas.
"Shrimp and Neurosis"
HEY GUYS: This. Is. Femslash. If, for any reason, it is not in your best interest to see your most beloved characters portrayed as lesbians for the sheer sake of portraying them as such, you might not want to read this. This story also contains naughty language and traces of peanuts.
DISCLAIMER: Utawarerumono/The One Being Sung does not belong to me. If it did, it would be a lot more like… like this, I guess.
She was excited. Giddy, more like it. That feeling of ultra-caffeinated rapture flowed throughout her veins and thrummed in the very recesses of her body, the ecstatic vitamins to boost every teenage girl's exhilarated fancy. Hell, she could even say that now that her heart was beating with silly fervor, it seemed the entire world was on a sugar high. Everything was so colorful today, so interesting! There was a bit of a hop in the humdrum shuffle of life, and that energy was manifest in the dear souls of the palace inhabitants. It was a rare happy time for them—the Emperor's birthday was nigh, and everyone was anticipating the event. Gaudy streamers were hung about the ceiling, and the floors were freshly swept.
It wasn't the beautiful décor, though, that set little miss Sakuya's core into frenzied titillations. It was the dance that would be held far into the evening for Her Majesty.
After all, he said "yes"! Admiring the man of her dreams for month after month paid off in the end—he took notice to her infatuation, and after some coaxing, was coerced into taking her to said dance. And that made her happier than her one-track mind could comprehend.
Sakuya sprinted off to tell her grandfather, who, not caring about the trivial trifles of an adolescent's love life, just sort of stared at her, as if in disbelief. She went to tell her moody brother, whose humor was further soured in that he had no date himself, who curtly told her "he would probably stand her up" and that she "had a shitty taste in men." He then left her, likely off to go sulk in the corner of some dark closet and cry himself to sleep.
Well, Sakuya deduced, they were just spoilsports, and somebody would be enthralled to hear the news. Men just didn't understand, and that was why she thus decided to spread the cheer to her only female friend in the world—the Emperor herself.
When given the verbal cue "ruler", many people often thought of a snobby patriarch and/or matriarch sitting coldly across a throne, jewels draped about them. The young king of the shadow of a nation that was Kunnekamun, Kuuya Amurumineuruka (or just Kuuya, for short, as even she admitted that her surname was far too long for even the most anal retentive of literarians), was the exact opposite. She preferred to think of herself as a normal girl rather than some stuffy monarch, and prided herself upon this. If the flaxen-haired fury said she was some average Jane, then she was, no if's, and's, or but's about it.
As Sakuya knocked and entered her bedchamber, she found her sprawled across the four-poster, stuffing her face with chocolate. Kuuya, already a tad chubby in the cheeks but filled out everywhere else was so wrapped up in her mastication that it took her a few minutes to realize she was being watched, and when she did, she was stunned.
"Ah, Sakuya!" she began in that husky voice of hers. "When did you get here?"
Sakuya gave a hasty bow, rabbit ears turning red. Although Kuuya couldn't care less, Sakuya made it a point to always address her properly, as she was just a lowly chambermaid, and the other her master.
"Oh, s-sire," she stuttered, " was I interrupting anything important?"
She was still terrible at making introductions, nonetheless.
Kuuya looked at Sakuya, then at the candy below her, then back at Sakuya again, and retorted: "No."
"Oh, that's good! I have something to tell you!"
Kuuya's face brightened.
"That's quite convenient, as I have something of considerable importance to ask you as well. But, you go first."
"I'm taking my crush to the dance tonight!"
As quickly as they'd risen, Kuuya's ears fell and her face turned sullen at the news. Not what Sakuya expected.
"… Oh," she managed in reply, as though disappointed about something. "So I wasn't your…?"
"I wasn't your what?"
"… Never mind. Point being, that's great, I guess. Who's the lucky bast—guy? Yeah, guy."
Ignoring Kuuya's melancholy, Sakuya's eyes lit up.
Kuuya's jaw dropped an inch or two, and she gave her friend a funny look.
"I lost to… I mean, you like Lord Hauenkua?"
"I adore Lord Hauenkua! I find him charming, and handsome, and he has an enormous… set of ears!"
"And he's also an enormous asshat."
Sakuya's brow furrowed.
"A lady of your status shouldn't use that kind of language."
"Well, it's true."
Kuuya folded her arms and put on a pouty face.
"I have to work with him, you know."
"Are you suggesting I have a bad taste in men?"
"Yes. In fact, you have a terrible taste in men. He'll probably stand you up for the free food. Say, shrimp."
Geez. It was her brother's words all over again, except coming from a different mouth.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
"Well," replied Sakuya, indignant, "what sort of man SHOULD I date?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"Perhaps you should try a woman instead."
At this proposal, Sakuya's huffiness faded away and was replaced with senseless mirth. She found her words a little staggering, and unsettling, but that didn't stop her giggles from leaking out.
"Oh, sire!" she chuckled, oblivious to her friend's saddened expression. "You say the most naïve things! Women… women don't date each other!"
Kuuya's voice dropped a few volumes. She broke her gaze away from Sakuya, fiddling her thumbs and sniffling back what appeared to be the onslaught of tears.
"Why… why don't they, Sakuya?"
"Because it's not normal!"
Of course, she was lying, and she wasn't sure why she was showing her such animosity. But, well… it shouldn't be normal, should it? Sakuya scrutinized her partner, but she was wearing a poker face. It was a strange question, but Kuuya said many strange things, so she shouldn't be alarmed.
"I mean, don't you know? Girls like boys, and boys like girls! That's all there is to it! If you feel anything different, there's obviously something wrong with you!"
"Not normal? Wrong?"
Kuuya curled up into a defensive ball, swallowing her emotions, but her trembling ears were a dead giveaway to how upset she was.
Now Sakuya was a bit worried about her friend. Certainly her outburst was a tad excessive, but… Could it be that Kuuya was jealous because she wanted to go out with Lord Hauenkua, too? Was the shooting down of her thoughtless ploy to get her to date someone else just adding insult to injury? Sakuya inwardly grimaced. Maybe it was best to change the subject.
"Sire, what's wrong?"
Kuuya gave an insincere, lopsided smile that quickly dissolved into oblivion.
"I'm just c-clearing my throat, is all!"
The coffee-topped chambermaid deemed it best not to push the envelope. Emperor Kuuya was not one to hold grudges, but she was known to seek quick and dirty revenge. And in this case, she might steal Lord Hauenkua away from her. Sakuya bet she could do it, too. She was beautiful, and funny, and cute, and… Sakuya stopped herself. If she thought too long about Kuuya, she might…
"Well, okay. What would you like for your birthday present? Do you need anything?"
"Do you want anything?"
Kuuya paused, and she shifted around a bit, burying her face in the bed sheets. She looked pathetic, really.
"Well, there was… something… just a little… something I wanted more than anything else in the whole world."
"Eh? Speak up; what is it?"
Kuuya muttered under her breath and shook her head with vigor.
"No, no. Don't bother… it's impossible to obtain."
Great. She probably wanted something uber expensive.
"Well, is it a jewel? I could pitch in a little to…"
"I hate jewelry!"
Sakuya froze at the Emperor's curt reply.
"I-I'm sorry. Actually, the thing I wanted was quite priceless, and, well, it really is impossible to get, as it defies all laws of nature!"
That settled it. It had to be Lord Hauenkua she wanted, and she was just hamming it up.
Sakuya ought to make herself scarce, and fast. But first, one last order of business, and that wasn't an oxymoron at all.
"Now, what was it you wanted to ask me?"
"Never mind. I forgot."
It was a blatant fib, but Sakuya simply bode her goodbyes and left.
That conversation left her with a lot on her mind. Was Kuuya actually upset about what she thought she was? Or… was she completely wrong? Thinking about the method behind Kuuya's madness left Sakuya baffled. A little uncomfortable, even. And there was also something else cloying at the bottom of her heart. It was the feeling that somehow, Hauenkua was the wrong choice, and maybe the one she wanted to dance with was… Sakuya shook off her doubts as she saw who was around the corner.
"Hello, milord Hauenkua!"
A thin figure decked in black froze, ears twitching every which-way.
"Hello, girl," he forced through clenched teeth. He had some sort of effeminate lilt to his voice, and he placed a hand to his hip, rocking it back and forth, back and forth.
Hauenkua backed up a bit as Sakuya attempted to greet him with a hug.
"Are you looking forward to tonight?"
The nobleman stared at her with some sort of stupefied deer-in-the-headlights looks.
"The Emperor's party?"
"Hmm? Oh, that."
"You're so cute when you act clueless!"
Hauenkua's eye (because the other was covered by his hair) widened, perhaps in fear.
"No, no, not that type of engagement… although, we might be, soon. Our social engagement."
"Ah. I guess I AM obliged to go tonight. Unfortunately. Well, begone, girl. I'm off to the infirmary."
Without as much as acknowledging her, he flicked his hair and sauntered off to do whatever he was doing.
Sakuya stood there, not liking that she was blown off, but maybe it was just Hauenkua's nature to ignore things, kind of like how he brushed away taking responsibility for his countless crimes against humanity.
He was obviously just toying with her, and she ought to get ready for the dance.
Sakuya, excited for the night, turned her tail and headed back to her room.
XX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XX
The party wasn't all that great. Idle chatter hung in the air like underwear on a moldy clothesline, and the discordant screeches and squeals of the last epoch's muzak further staled the atmosphere. A few brave souls attempted shuffling out a halfhearted meringue, but they soon fell out of step with the rhythm of the orchestra, or rather, the lack thereof.
The harpist was just sort of picking at any random string, the violinist flubbed the fifth position, and the flutist spat into the mouthpiece of what was once a dignified instrument.
As a result of her zeal to become a "normal girl", Kuuya was also a notorious cheapass who wanted to pay as little as possible for her own party. Except for the food. That was a necessity.
Sakuya stood in the middle of the room, glancing back and forth from the buffet to the huge mountain of presents on its left. She was bored, and growing worried. Hauenkua was supposed to meet her twenty minutes ago, and she hadn't seen head nor tail of him. Agitated, she ruffled her dress, grasping the box of chocolates she bought for Kuuya to her chest. She prettied herself up so much, it would be a shame to join her brother in the ranks of sullen wallflowers, huddled together like hobos against a dumpster.
And she wasn't going to let herself sink to her brother's level anytime soon.
Sakuya felt the presence of a few unwelcome glances across her back, and, to relieve anxiety, she walked over to the present mound to drop off her gift. She hoped that wasn't where Kuuya disappeared off to; Sakuya already felt bad about upsetting her, and she knew for a fact that her humble contribution was not adequate for a king.
She wasn't to get her wish.
As she threw her offering upon the pyre, she caught a glimpse of Kuuya, shaking boxes. The Emperor didn't seem interested in them. It was more likely that she was pretending to be occupied in order to avoid the taxing duty of making polite conversation with bureaucrats and the noble elite. At least they never made eye contact. A miracle, too, for how long Sakuya stared at her.
Well, it was Kuuya's fault she looked beautiful as she did! Seldom ever did Sakuya get to see her more feminine side. She wasn't exactly masculine, but she was just… Kuuya. Now she was, like, Super Kuuya.
There was a difference.
She looked gorgeous what with her golden locks curled and coifed, her curvaceous figure swathed in a silken gown, her eyes accentuated with fine makeup…
Sakuya's pulse skyrocketed, and she felt weak in the knees. All right, so maybe she felt this way around Kuuya before, and, hell, maybe she imagined kissing her sometimes, but those thoughts had nothing to do with how she actually felt about her!
With much hesitation, Sakuya shook herself out of her stupor and backed up a few feet, only to bump into someone. Making a full three-sixty, she saw—half with relief, half with disdain—Hauenkua, snack mongering by the table.
"There you are!" exclaimed Sakuya, exasperated.
Hauenkua blinked at her stupidly, swiveling a small shrimp around and around in the cocktail sauce.
"Oh, God, it's you," came his sardonic reply. "That's quite a whorish dress you're wearing, girl."
Sakuya's ears shot up.
"First you have the nerve to not pick me up for our date, and now you're calling me a WHORE?"
"I wasn't implying that. Just that you dress like one. Although, now that I think about it, maybe it would be best to just label you as 'whore' in general. Oh, and what's this about a date? When did I agree to such a thing?"
Sakuya couldn't believe it. Blubbering a bit and fighting back the strong urge to smack him, she snarled:
"T-This morning! An hour before breakfast! And how am I a whore?"
Her excessive use of punctuation marks just seethed her anger.
Hauenkua was unfazed.
"Oh, now I know why I don't remember!"
He flicked the shrimp cartilage into her hair and slurped the cocktail sauce off his fingers, creating a disgusting sound that accentuated the cloud of tension around them. At last, he relented and gave her the explanation she dreaded.
"When you bothered me this afternoon, I was on my way to the infirmary… for a hangover medication. You see, last night I got myself shitfaced drunk, and I suppose I didn't become fully sober 'til this afternoon. I must've forgotten about whatever promise I made to you as I regained my senses. Kind of like a one-night stand where you don't even remember the name of that bimbo you shtupped. Y'know? And you are a whore because you took advantage of me while I was inebriated."
"And you are a douchebag for putting it like that! How was I supposed to know?"
"Well, remember or not, you still have a promise!"
"I think I'll break it."
"So you're standing me up for the shrimp."
"Girl, I wouldn't date you if you were a millionaire. I wouldn't date you if it were your last day alive. I wouldn't date you if you wore a paper bag over your head. I wouldn't date you even if you didn't exist. So, bye-bye, now, and have a nice day."
And with another dramatic flick of his hair, he left her to stew.
Sakuya shook with blind rage. Desperately, she searched for things to beat him to a bloody pulp with, but only succeeded in letting a few tears spill down her cheeks. She bit her tongue, trying to repress her emotions, but the strangled choking in her throat and induced sobs did nothing but lure in a familiar face.
Kuuya's concerned face poked up at her.
"Why didn't you listen to me when I told you Hauenkua was an asshat?"
"You were right!" she hicced, staggering up to her.
Kuuya offered a much too eager embrace, which Sakuya accepted.
"I was an idiot, a desperate idiot! I just followed him like a sheep!"
"There were so many nice guys out there to dance with, but I wasted my time and energy, and now I have no one at all!"
"Are you sure about that?"
"Well, you might still have someone, somewhere."
"You heard what I said, didn't you?"
There was something different to the way Kuuya stared at her. Something gentle and soft, as only a lover could manage.
"You know, I wanted to ask you to the dance this morning, but because it was impossible, I hesitated. But then I realized that although I would be bending the laws of physics, I should go through with it."
Kuuya grabbed Sakuya's hand, albeit without much elegance, and planted a kiss on it.
"Ufafwafwa…" was all she managed in reply as she connected the dots.
"You look lovely tonight."
Knees like jelly, Sakuya didn't put up much of a fight as Kuuya pressed her close, casually flicking away the tears from her cheeks and rocking her back and forth out of sync with the music.
She never had much of an ear for it, anyway.
Sakuya felt ridiculous—humiliated, even. Why in the world did she cry over boys when she had someone just as good right under her nose? Sure, that someone was another female, but… she liked Kuuya more than she wanted to admit.
She said it.
Perhaps her hurtful words earlier were a result of a fear of herself, of what she felt. Although she did like boys sometimes, it was this part of her being that she repressed out of wanting to fit into society's norm.
And she'd trodden over Kuuya in her selfishness.
Hell, what right did she have to deem what was "normal"? What right did anybody? If everyone was supposed to be a unique human being, then maybe that damned "normality" mold just dampened the meaning of what a soul was supposed to be.
But Sakuya didn't want to look like a hypocrite.
She could apologize to Kuuya later. For now, it was her obligation not to let her gain the upper hand.
"Sire, no! We can't dance here!"
Kuuya's words were muffled from nuzzling the crook of her neck.
"We can't? Well, let's dance over there, then!"
"My name is 'Kuuya'."
For a moment, Sakuya considered giving in, being whisked away to the realization of her most inner desires, but that deep-rooted fear rose up again, and she pushed Kuuya away. It was actually more of a shove, and she tumbled backwards, taking Sakuya with her.
The aneurism-inducing sound of plates shattering filled the hall, softened by the globs of food splattering everywhere.
Sakuya regained her senses. Falling onto the buffet table and upsetting the various dishes there wasn't her definition of preserving her dignity. Kuuya was a few inches away from her, looking all shocked-like, picking out globs of cake from her hair and shoveling it into her mouth. Sakuya had pumpkin on her dress, gravy in her bra, and yams in her panties.
Or were her panties in the yams?
She couldn't differentiate.
It actually felt kind of… right, but the stares she got flat out embarrassed her. The lone factor that made the situation better was that Hauenkua had been caught in the crossfire, and now he was mourning the loss of his precious shrimp, custard on head, lips trembling just so. Sakuya took the opportunity to do what she aspired to for many a paragraph now, and threw a bowl of potato salad in his face.
Unused to karma, Hauenkua gave a girlish squeal and ran off. Last she saw of him, he was begging for some of her brother's shrimp, who replied with a crisp "no", and left him to take his place amongst the wallflowers.
Sakuya basked in her triumph, only to have it snatched away when some brownnoser piped up:
"That girl attacked the Emperor!"
And the guards promptly escorted her out.
It was snowing.
Instead of being taken to security like any normal establishment, the guards simply deposited her in the garden, with only a somewhat whorish dress to keep her warm.
Sitting down at the garden gazebo, she wrapped her arms around her legs and shivered. It would be at least an hour before anyone came for her (the after dessert booze was too important to miss out on).
Sakuya studied a rose, rimmed with frost, and reached out for it, pricking her finger on one of the thorns. Withdrawing it, she flicked off the blood, and muttered a long, carousing string of profanities that would hang over her head like a storm cloud for years to follow. Her night was ruined. Kuuya, inadvertently, had gotten her revenge from that morning.
Or… had she?
"What were you saying just now, Sakuya?"
The weight of a heavy fur coat descended upon her shoulders, and Sakuya flinched.
"Uh… nothing, sire!"
Kuuya plopped down next to her. She was still pulling cake from her hair; she offered a handful to Sakuya, who refused.
Sakuya let out a deep sigh, wondering why Kuuya was being nice to her after all her stupid antics. Either she genuinely, selflessly cared for her, or she was just really damn dense.
The evening's hijinks suggested that there was a little truth to both.
"Why are you out here?" she asked, tone flat. "Why did you go through all the trouble to sneak out here just for me?"
Kuuya smacked some of the cake away, and shrugged.
"If you keep digging, you'll eventually hit gold!"
"Was that an innuendo, sire?"
"Never mind. Look, I'm sorry."
"Yes, sorry. I have been nothing but a pain to you all day, and to top it off, I got you a terrible gift!"
"Oh, I saw that. I like the box it came in."
"Please don't sugarcoat your disappointment, milord. I mean, you deserve a jewel or something."
"No, you misunderstand! You see here, Sakuya, nothing is a more thoughtful gift than a box. Boxes are probably the finest, most useful inventions ever crafted. You can put things inside them, make forts out of them, collect them… You can even put smaller boxes in the bigger ones!"
"Is this supposed to be a witty anecdote, sire, and if it is, what's the point?"
"I don't… Ah, now I remember! With jewels, you can only brag that you own one. There's nothing everlasting about them. Now, my point. Supposing you were a box, what do you think I would choose? You or the jewel?"
"So you're saying that all you wanted for your birthday was to go on a date with me?"
"All right… apology, part two."
Sakuya fidgeted in her seat, trying to avoid Kuuya's gaze. It was difficult, as she snaked an arm around her, but Sakuya managed to stare at her toes long enough to force out what she needed to say.
"It was wrong of me to say that your feelings weren't normal…"
"Oh, about that. I don't care anymore. I thought for a bit, and decided that being normal might not be so fun after all. I mean, it makes me more interesting to have managed something impossible! Liking other women must be the equivalent to dividing by zero!"
Sakuya got up and hung over the banister, blowing on a stray hair.
"No, master, I lied about that. The reason why I did isn't important, but there are other women like you out there. Not many, but there are. And it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you, even though people will give you a lot of shit about it. And I…"
"You what? And since when do you curse?"
"Sorry. And, I… I'm one of them, I guess. Like you."
A hundred watts or so went on in Kuuya's head, and apparently the little cogs in her brain started turning, as her face lit up, and she embraced Sakuya by the waist.
"So you were lying to yourself as well!"
"Well, I guess I learned something today. And, hey, I suppose I still have qualities that make me unique."
"Don't worry, sire. You're quite unique. Quite."
"You should call me 'Kuuya', you know that? If I have a name, it ought to be used."
"So, from now on, maybe we should all stop being so neurotic and be who we are."
"All right, so now that I am completely myself, I feel I can now ask you to dance with more credibility."
"But there's no music."
"Does that matter?"
"No… I guess not. Well, okay. I'll dance with you."
Kuuya pulled Sakuya back up to the center of the gazebo, and wrapped her arms around her. And this time, Sakuya did the same. Kuuya began that clumsy, lead-footed waltz of hers once more, making up for her incompetence with a light peck to the cheek. And so they danced, sliding slightly in the snow—ungracefully, and terribly, but sincerely, now, without shrimp or neurosis to get in their way.