A/N: This is it, all there is, no more coming. I love Genji Monogatari. Numbers in the fic have corresponding numbers below, for referencing. It is set up like Royall Tyler set up his book.
21 and three quarters
The Blooming Kiri Flower
Kiri (a type of flower) refers to Kiritsubo. Saki, a reference to Murasaki, makes it blooming flower. In this chapter Murasaki and Kiritsubo meet, their similarities highlighted and Kiritsubo's finally coming to bloom now that she is more than just a referenced person. The title also plays at the ironic ending of the chapter.
His Grace, a Chancellor, Genji, age 34
The Lady of Genji's West Wing, his lover, 26 (Murasaki)
The Mysterious Visitor, Genji's Mother, (Kiritsubo no Kōi)
The little pink, Genji's Daughter by the Akashi Lady, 6 (Akashi no Himegimi)
The Lady residing at Oi, 25 (Akashi no Kimi)
In the west wing of a certain residence at Njiō His Grace watched his favorite wife brush her lips gently against the head of his little pink, who was cuddled close to the woman's chest. The girl let out a small cough, reddening her face, making her look even more beautiful still.
His Highness left his estate, mid afternoon, heading towards Ōi and his lady there, with the intention of stopping at Saga Moor to say a prayer for his child's health there. His child, now with one of his lady's gentlewomen, let out a sharp cry as he left, leaving a pang in his heart.
"As like flower petals, falling from the branches of a tree, are separated from their flower and carried by the wind, so too must I fall and be carried,
I will return quickly, much unlike the flowers that fall," he murmured. He pulled a piece of pale green folding paper from his robe and wrote his words on it in basic kana letters, sending it tied with a flower to his little pink.
The Lady in the west wing sighed and murmured to herself wearily.
"The rain that falls, covering my wet sleeves even more, it knows my heart too well,1
so will I wait for his return. But will he again need a new handle for his ax?"2 she mused aloud, though to no one in particular. Coming to mind was the last time he had went out that way, staying longer than he had intended and with the woman whose child she now brought up. She had asked him that question then… That she suspected his staying with that woman again only made her misery worse. She coughed and wondered if she caught the little pink's illness.
Twilight broke, bringing with it a chilly wind and stormy rains, leading a certain woman to call upon the estate to stay for the night. She sent in a message for His Highness, and in his absence Murasaki took the letter to read instead. It was written on a fan, depicting a river flowing, the ink slowly fading off towards the end.
"Is it here that we finally meet at last, now that the rough waters have finally let me return to this shore? 3
My journey has left me weary," it read, in a mixture of kanji and kana, then asking permission to stay the night. The lady of the west wing sent her gentlewoman to ready and bring her ink and brushes, along with a smooth piece of grey paper, patterned delicately with gold tones. She wondered just who this woman was, and her relationship to Genji.
"Though I am anchored to this place, the one you ask for is not here, carried away by waves of his own," she sent in replay. She ordered her gentlewomen to bring the woman's carriage, and to ready a room along with screens and cushions.
"Are they not all carried away by the waves?" the woman murmured to her gentlewoman who had accompanied her. She sent back, written delicately on a piece of folding paper,
"If only I could meet the one who carried that half of my golden comb4, but he has long since departed. My salt sprayed sleeves shall now not dry, the only one left to possibly dry them now carried away by the waves.
It seems your lover has left you too. I would still enjoy your company."
Relief flooded the breast of the lady of the west wing. So this woman was not someone that Genji was courting, it seemed, but merely a lady friend. She sat behind her screen, arranging her robes, waiting for the lady to settle in. She was shocked when the lady appeared before her, her gentlewoman placing her cushion on the floor before the west wing lady, the screen no longer separating them.
The woman, like her lover, was forward. She looked up at her shyly, losing her breath as she beheld the woman before her. She felt faint at the sight of a woman who looked so much alike herself, though she quickly regained her composure, betraying very little emotion in the process.
A loud cry was heard from a certain room not too far off. A gentlewoman whispered sweet-little-nothings into the ear of the little pink, soothing her so that her lady and the guest may visit in peace.
"My heart leaps, my ears having only heard the cries of a little pink so long ago,
is she yours?" the mysterious lady asked.
The west wing lady paused before answering softly, a pain of longing forming in her breast,
"Sorrow is overwhelming, my dewy sleeves are not long enough,
I will never know a child that is truly mine. The only child I know is his child from another."
Her visitor nodded sympathetically. "I too do not know my own child. My lover also slept with others, and though I bore him a child, I was too lowly for him to be born into high status."
The lady of the west wing listened, and then slowly responded. "I too am of too low a status for my lover. Though I serve him faithfully I cannot be recognized at court with him, what would others say?"
The mysterious guest stared at the west wing lady, though not really seeing her, her eyes holding a great depth to them as she was lost in painful memories of long again. "The courts are unhappy when a man is not with a woman of proper rank," she finally responded. "And the more he favors you, the more you bring on other's disapproval."
"Are you the rain that falls, weighing heavy on my heart?5
Even if the court disapproves he will still always return to me here, and I will always welcome his return, no matter what the pain."
"I am the rain that falls, knowing how wet your sleeves already are,
we are both the type that silently endures criticism for our lover," her visitor responded, her delicate voice betraying sorrow. "It will not be your death, but…" she trailed off.
At that moment the west wing lady's body was racked with coughs. Both her gentlewomen and her visitor ran over to her. The lady placed her cool fingers against the other's forehead, cheeks, and neck, bringing her a strange relief.
It was then that the truth dawned on the west wing lady. Wanting her words to go unheard by her gentlewomen she sent them to bring her hot tea and then dipped her brush into ink, writing this time on a pale blue piece of paper with a depiction of clouds on it. "Would you answer me were it true,
Are you she of the fairy-mountain palace, whom the Taoist visited there?6
Are you of the other world that you know so much not only of your life but mine?"
The woman averted her eyes, accepting the brush that the west wing lady held out to her, and wrote on a paper, her brush not wavering in the slightest as she wrote,
"I am she of the fairy-mountain palace. Having traveled back to this world where I once left my lover, he the emperor is now dead, your lover's father.
I was once she of the Paulownia Pavilion."
For a few moments the lady of the west wing sat merely in shock. Following that was a certain feeling of dizziness that rushed to her head, which was soothed by the Kiritsubo lady's touch again.
"Drink," she softly spoke as the lady's tea was brought out. "Then you must lie down."
She sat with the west wing lady, holding her and stroking her back until she drank her tea, and then led her, as a mother would lead her child, over to her room as though she already knew the residence. She helped the woman undress for bed and then lay down beside her.
"Alas fate wishes us to die in the same way," she thought to herself, though she did not voice it aloud to the woman. "Allow me to stay tonight in your quarters, my touch will ward off your illness and allow you to take good rest. Forgive me for not using the prepared quarters."
The west wing lady blushed lightly, though consented. The oddness of her sleeping with a spirit did not bother her in this moment, though she could not place why. Her last conscious moments before sleep were of the Kiritsubo lady asking her to give her Genji a kiss in her place, followed by the meeting of their soft lips upon each others.
Morning dawned, and in the west wing of the Nijō residence the lady woke alone. She turned to her gentlewomen and asked them about the night's visitor, but they shook their heads and told her she must have dreamt it. The lady stepped out onto the veranda, where two flowers, a murasaki and a kiri, both out of season, lay in front of her.
"Dazzled, was that one's visit real, or only but a dream…?"7 she asked the flowers, though knowing deep down the answer. The little pink of Akashi ran outside into the chill air and the lady led her back inside, the perfect image of a mother.
Nights later, when her lover returned, she placed a kiss upon his forehead in the sanctuary of her room. She had not even kissed the little pink for days, saving that kiss for him. No wonder he treasured it so.
1 A reference to a poem by Narihira, in which a woman wonders about a man's love for her, and states that the rain that knows her destiny weighs heavily on her heavy heart.
2 A reference to a tale in an earlier chapter in The Tale of Genji, in which Genji leaves Murasaki to see the Akashi lady and she asks him this question then. The question refers to a tale in which a man leaves and watches two demons until his ax rots away in his hand, and he returns to find seven years have gone by.
3 The rough waters mentioned here are reference to a journey through the afterlife, and the shores being the shores of life, implying that her spirit has journeyed through some form of afterlife (spirit world? Hell perhaps?) and has come back to the world of the living, odd because usually shores reference paradise.
4 The golden comb refers to A Song of Unending Sorrow, in which the Emperor's lover dies and from heaven, through a Taoist priest, sends half of a golden comb and half of a sea-shell box back to the emperor. Kiritsubo hints at her lover being one of the Emperor's though this.
5 Murasaki here makes another reference to Narihira's poem about the rain, this time implying that Kiritsubo is the rain that knows all, is telling her just how hard life is.
6 Murasaki this time is the one to reference A Song of Unending Sorrow. Both she and Kiritsubo use it to refer to the land of the dead, not the land of immortals as in the original.
7 Here Murasaki references a morning after poem supposedly sent to Ariwara Narihira by a lover of his, asking who visited who and if it was really real or just a dream, if she was asleep, or awake.
A/N: I love comments. They make me happy. Lost old account (forgot username, password, e-mail used for it (which was really old and no longer accessable anyways), and the like... so treat me well, but not like a noob!