ink is a dangerous substance

"D*mn it!" Kyouraku Shunsui threw his notebook at the wall.

"My dear fellow." Ukitake Jyuushirou looked up from the cup of tea that he was sipping. "Is anything the matter?"

"I find myself completely at a loss." Kyouraku ran his hands through his curly locks, and paced aggrievedly around his library. The gaslights on the wall burned steadily: it was night outside, and the heavy velvet windows were drawn against the darkness. Ukitake was reclining upon a wide couch, looking, as ever, perfectly elegant in evening dress, his cuff links flashing with every sip of tea.

"Not -?" Ukitake let the sentence trail away.

Kyouraku threw himself down in the armchair opposite. Since he was accustomed to doing this, it creaked underneath him, and he thought, not for the first time, that perhaps he should consider having the stringing checked. "My first draft of the manuscript of The Wages Of Sin is due tomorrow," he said morosely, "and I have not a single chapter written. Not even one chapter! When I began the outline, it seemed full of interest and enthusiasm."

"Indeed," Ukitake agreed. "I recall that your publisher Miss Ise nearly fainted on the spot when she read it, and required coffee and ice water before she was willing to emerge from her private office."

"Exactly." Kyouraku slid down further in the chair, till he could stare at his feet morosely. "And yet the story refuses to come."

"Oh, don't be ridiculous," Ukitake said. "My dear fellow, you have written other novels. Copious other novels. Why should this one be any more difficult than all the others?"

Kyouraku ran his hands through his hair again. "I have no idea!" he groaned at the ceiling. "You know my methods, Ukitake. I usually plunge straight into the action -"

"Ah yes. As in The Ravishment of Rosalie. How did that one start? 'Her hands rose to cover her pale breasts as she realised that she was naked and alone in a stranger's bedroom -'"

Kyouraku looked a little more cheerful. "That one at least had its admirers," he said.

"There you are," Ukitake said. "What you need is to get started. I'm sure that the words will simply flow once you have it under control. Remind me, what was the first scene?"

Kyouraku gestured vaguely. "The hero is sitting at his desk, hard at work in preparation for his university examinations -"

"Oxford or Cambridge?" Ukitake inquired.

"Cambridge," Kyouraku said firmly. "When all of a sudden, a naked woman springs through his window."

"There you are," Ukitake said. "I see the problem at once."

"You do?" Kyouraku asked hopefully.

"Your inner voice of authorial judgment is in conflict with your attempt to write the scene, my friend," Ukitake said. "Surely she should be wearing something. How else can she take it off?"

Kyouraku sat bolt upright. "Of course!" he exclaimed. "No wonder I felt that something was missing, that it was somehow artificial - paper, pens, where are they . . ." He sprang from the armchair and made for the large mahogany desk like a hunting wolf, seizing pen and inkwell. "She stood - no, wait, she crouched there in the light from the street lamp, its orange flare gleaming strangely in her wild eyes, as the wind whistled through her -" He paused. "I don't know," he said slowly. "Bloomers lack a certain degree of erotic flair."

"Miss Ise wears bloomers," Ukitake reminded his friend, "or so you have frequently informed me."

Kyouraku stared at the paper. "As an author, I permit them for bicycle rides," he said, "but not for perching seductively on the windowsill. Perhaps she should be - wait. I have it. Clad in the knotted furs of some barbaric Hottentot tribe -"

"You told me earlier that she was actually a disguised member of a noble family, adopted by a severe older brother who raised her in the strictest manner," Ukitake said. "It was when we were discussing the outline and you were justifying the disciplinary caning scene in the family dungeon."

"Outlines are for reworking," Kyouraku said, with an airy wave of the hand holding the fountain pen, which splattered ink across the paper. "It will be a simple matter to justify why she was kidnapped as a babe by savages and raised on a South Sea island - in fact, it lets me work more detail into her later reunion with the boy who was the son of the missionaries who lived there, and who is now the secretary working for her older brother, before we get to the blackmail scene -"

"I seem to remember Miss Ise disagreeing with you on the subject of outlines," Ukitake pointed out.

Kyouraku snorted. "Then help me, my friend. Help me write an epic so poetic, so heated, so utterly erotic in its sheer weight and depth that she will be unable to disagree with it!"

Ukitake sighed. He got up and poured brandy for both of them. "So she's from the South Seas or somewhere like that? Does that mean she used to do pearl-diving?"

"We will have to research this," Kyouraku said firmly. "Find me the encyclopedia. Find me an island that has pearl-diving so that I can write a scene where she emerges from the sultry waters, drops beaded across her tender skin, bare to the waist due to the innocent native customs . . ."

"Yes, yes, island, sea, touching scene in dawn sunlight," Ukitake said. "But that has to be a later flashback. For the moment you need your first chapter, if Miss Ise is not to lose her temper again. Even if you find that to be useful material."

A pause. He coughed. "Kyouraku, concentrate, and not on Miss Ise losing her temper, if you please. So we have the woman in the window, clad only in knotted rags, holding her spear in her hand -"

"Naturally the hero looks up," Kyouraku said, emerging from his happy reverie with a sigh. "As he sees her gleaming pale flesh, her sweet maidenly curves, he is of course seized with shock. And lust."

"Well, naturally," Ukitake agreed.

"So he leaps to his feet to offer her a sheet to cover herself," Kyouraku went on, "and exclaims, 'Madam, this is unseemly! Good god, what can have happened to you!' With merely a curl of her lip and a flash of her tempestuous eye, she leaps upon him and subdues him . . ."

"Ah," Ukitake said. "I see this is where her background will be useful. Using the skills that once enabled her to subdue dolphins -"

"Precisely!" Kyouraku scribbled messily. "Once he lies bound at her feet in scraps torn from his bedsheets, she explains that she is in fact there to prevent his murder at the hands of a sinister society of assassins. Should I go into detail on her red lips and her heaving bosom?"

"Of course," Ukitake said. "And don't forget his gentlemanly struggle with his passionate instincts."

"Of course not," Kyouraku said, wounded. "And wait! When she turns her back for a moment, and he sees the lovely curve of her delicate legs, unsheathed by bloomers, unprotected by skirts, nude from ankle to hipbone . . ." He sighed, rubbed his forehead, and got ink on it. "And it is at that moment that there is a crash from downstairs."

"Leaping to his feet -" Ukitake supplied.

"With a mighty roar of protective aggression, his muscles bunch, his chest expands, and the bedsheets rip." More ink spattered. "Moved by the urge to defend his family, he casts her aside - no, wait, he gently takes her by the shoulders, and pressing a single kiss on her lips, he murmurs, 'Later,' and turns to dash to the door, to throw himself into the fight. Bursting onto the scene -"

"If he's upstairs, then he has to get down the stairs first," Ukitake put in.

Kyouraku looked up at the ceiling for inspiration. "Pausing at the head of the stairs in shock, he sees the assassin! A tall, bulky fellow with a loutish demeanour and ungraceful blue hair who has already struck down the hero's father and now menaces his innocent sisters! With a cry of fury, he leaps down the stairs, while at the same time -"

"Mid-air?" Ukitake said unhelpfully.

Kyouraku glared at him. "Very well then, as he pauses at the head of the stairs and before he leaps into the battle, he is struck by the strange facial resemblance that the blue-haired man has to his father, and the odd black tattoo mark in the shape of a 6 on the fellow's back . . ." He sighed, dropping the pen. "But all the passion has gone out of the scene. Oh, certainly he can thrash the fellow, or rather the fellow will thrash him before the fortuitous intervention of our half-naked South Seas maiden, and as they kneel together and their hearts beat faster, and he reaches out one hand to touch the delicate curve of her pale shoulder, and bends in, moved by animal passion rather than proper gentlemanly uprightness, to snatch a kiss from the redness of her passionate lips -"

"Like this?" Ukitake inquired, and bent in to snatch a kiss.

"We may need to work through this scene in detail," Kyouraku said several minutes later, putting the pen down. "Now just incline yourself upon my lap, and let me slide my arms around you while you recline against the desk, and -"

The next day, he was hurt, deeply hurt, when his publisher Miss Ise expressed her irritation at the strangely shaped ink stains all over the draft chapter. He bowed his head and expressed proper and suitable contrition, and vowed to do better with the next chapter.

(Ukitake was still in his bathroom trying to scrub the ink out of his hair.)