Here's the actual first chapter! I hope it resembles somewhat of a cliffhanger! :) And I hope you enjoy it!
I really hope Teru doesn't come across as a Mary-Sue...
Asymmetry - Chapter 1
"Teru is six years older than I."
Early next morning, they arrived at the village. No one was really there or took notice of them. Confused, Misao turned to Kyo and asked, "Where is everyone?"
It was Sagami who explained as Kyo bowed his head. "They are mourning right now, hime-sama. The patrol ambush left seven tengu dead. Also, we didn't inform the previous previous head that we would be coming back, much less arriving today."
"Ah, so, is he—" Misao meant to bring up the topic of the injured tengu, but they were interrupted by a surprised gasp and a 'Ryou-san!'
Ayame approached the party with a mirthful smile and hugged Sagami. "Are you all here to visit Teru?"
Kyo nodded. "Where are all of the injured? Is that where Teru is?"
"No, Teru requested to recuperate back home."
"Stubborn tengu," Misao heard Kyo mutter.
The petite tengu led them down the streets and around a corner. They passed by the Hiyokuin children playing in the puddles, all of them delightful as they caught sight of Misao. Then, the group veered slightly down a path into the gardens near where Ayame resided. Misao, surprised, looked over the gardens again. Does he live close to Ayame? Wouldn't this be considered a woman's place? If he was a pervert too…
The part came to a stop before closed doors. Ayame cautiously slid them open, calling out tentatively, "Teru? Are you awake?" When there was no answer, Ayame called louder, "Teru? Teru, there are people to see you!"
"People that should have waited at the front gate," a voice grumbled from behind them. "I was going to greet you, you know. But then I found absolutely no one or thing there except two long crow feathers."
Kyo turned and Misao did hesitantly as well, still keeping her gaze glued to the wooden floor uncomfortably. "How did you know we were coming?" Kyo asked.
"Only you would have been dull enough to respond to the summons that intrinsically asked you to come home after we've been attacked," the voice replied, laughing.
The laugh had a nice ring to it, like church bells resonating easily through the air. Misao looked up at the feminine sound. What she saw, however, was a person draped carelessly in her own hakama—but if she was a woman, why was she wearing a hakama?—and she yawned. Stripes of bandages adorned her head, covering her left eye. Her right was clear as day, grey as a stormy sky. And she was a woman!
"Teru," Kyo greeted cheerfully, and Misao stiffened. "Long time no see. You look like shit."
"Long time no see," the woman acknowledged. Teru? Misao thought incredulously. "I would say the same for you. It seems that some people don't change over the years."
Buzen chuckled while Kyo glared at her playfully. "Say that again?" he snarled.
She pulled the fold of her hakama upright and pulled strands of light hair from her neck. "Still handsome as ever, Kyo-sama," she answered innocuously, bowing. "You all came this far to visit me?"
Ayame smiled at her and slid the door fully open for everyone to enter. "You were very brave, after all."
"We were ambushed," Teru replied tiredly, sliding the door closed once everyone was seated inside. "There wasn't anything brave about sticking my katana into the first thing I saw."
As everyone seated themselves in the room, Misao came to terms with the shock she hadn't expected. The person who was supposed to be 'Soujou'…was a woman? How could this have been? All of the women that she had seen in the tengu village were relatively passive and peaceful, never bothering to take up a sword to the belt.
"How bad is your eyesight?" Sagami asked.
"I can only see six hundred feet beyond where I stand. Then everything starts to get blurry," Teru responded. Her hand went up to peel her bandage off. IN the light of the sun, her pale hand gleamed silver as she turned away from the blinding light, pulling the bandage away from her face. It revealed a bruise on her left temple, a splotch of discord on her immaculate face. Then she saw Misao and her grey eyes widened. She bowed with a smile, looking down at the floor, and greeted Misao as she raised her head. "Welcome, hime-sama. I'm sorry to have been so rude before for not noticing your presence." She turned to Kyo. "I thought I detected the scent of peaches. I assumed it to be coming from you."
"Well, now that we've here," Kyo announced, "I've been meaning to ask you. Do you think your eyesight will recover?"
With my blood, Misao thought, but to her surprise, Teru didn't even glance to her, but closed her eyes with a helpless smile and sighed. "I don't know. I cannot fly in this condition, so there's no chance of—"
"Put that aside," he snapped. "I'm not here to bug you about joining my Eight Great. I want to know if you'll recover."
"I don't know," Teru repeated firmly. "I haven't asked them to properly examine my eyesight."
Kyo sighed in frustration. "You need to—no, you will visit the healer tomorrow. As your clan leader, I demand it of you."
"There are still an abundance of people wounded in the village!"
"And there will be more if you don't hurry up and recuperate! You're not doing anyone favors by prolonging your absence at the healing wing!"
Teru laughed. She laughed! "You haven't changed. Did Sagami teach you to use that tongue?"
Kyo smirked, and like that, the tension was dissolved. "I learned a few tricks myself," he joked, winking at Misao.
Misao immediately flushed and slapped him. "You pervert!"
"Teru-san, you know how to play mahjong?" Misao asked, sitting between Teru and Hoki at the square table.
Teru shrugged, brushing hair back from her face. "I played it when I was younger, but I didn't really get into it until my teens."
Now that she mentioned 'teen's, Misao wondered about her age. "How old are you, Teru-san?" she questioned timidly, just as Buzen slammed down a tile and grinned at Zenki, who scowled.
She smiled, opening her mouth to answer, when suddenly, Zenki called a pung on her. She glared from across the table. "Bastard…" then she turned to Misao apologetically. "Pardon, hime-sama, I didn't hear you right the first time."
"Ah, I asked who the best at mahjong was," Misao replied, smiling nervously. She couldn't ask such a straightforward question!
Teru pursed her lips in thought. "I would say…Hoki or Kyo-sama."
"What about Jiro?"
She laughed. "Beginner's luck. No one can understand his discards or what he needs to complete his hand. For more experienced players," Teru noted, casting aside a white tile, "we always rely on deciphering our opponents' movements. Such as, if he needed a red dragon, or she required a one of circles." She gestured to the white tile she discarded, the red 'middle' in Zenki's discards, and the green 'prosperity' in Hoki's slender hand. "Those are dragons," she explained patiently.
"Kyo doesn't want me to play," Misao said quietly.
"Ah, if you played, he would purposely try to lose. His very presence disturbs the tiles when he's railing for a win. No one's hand will come together, except for Hoki, who is perfectly fine with slowing building it until he draws the reflection of the moon from the seabed…"
"That's poetic," Hoki responded, laughing. "But that only happened once."
"I beg to differ!" Buzen interjected. "Twice. It happened twice."
"Not mere chance," Zenki added, huffing. "Oh, and pung."
"Why not go for seven pairs?" Teru mumbled.
Zenki shot her a pointed look. "Last time I tried and kept getting damn kong. I ended up with three kongs and nothing."
Buzen snorted and chuckled. "That was the day Kyo-sama tried to get Sagami to play."
Hoki allowed a small smile. "Nii-san's luck is remarkably horrible. His hand just won't come together when he plays. The only time he ever won…"
"…was against me," Teru finished. "Robbed my kong for his damn Thirteen Orphans, which I have yet to figure how he got."
"And that was it," Zenki concluded. "Poor guy lost to his younger brother so many times."
Misao couldn't help but laugh along with them. Even though she had just met Teru today, she felt welcome, watching them play mahjong swiftly and decisively. She reflected later that day that their playing styles were influenced somewhat by their character. Zenki, who looked at discards solely, easily determined what the other party needed. But his own discards were messy and misleading, and he picked up tiles with a slack grip as if he had forever and then some to do it. Buzen never utilized a pung, chow, or kong, and simply won the match while self-drawing the tile he needed from the wall, as if relying on himself was the way to function. Hoki took up tiles like a sword in his hand, with a light, flexible grip. To attack or not to attack? To discard or not to discards? And the discards he took, pungs, chows, where suits were involved, commonly came from Teru. His hand was graceful, lined with winds, dragons, all three suits, with flowers placed lazily before him. Truly, he had won most of the matches. Teru had a preference for discarding every tile of a certain suit that she didn't want, mingling it with other tiles. By the end of her match, her entire hand either consisted of bamboos, characters, or winds and dragons. She didn't like circles unless she had to use them as one of seven pairs. Her hands were constantly concealed, and always a potentially dangerous one.
Seeing the expression on Misao's face when she saw Teru's hand, Teru smiled. "Hands, for me, always start out pretty badly. That leaves more possibility."
"Why can't you play circles?" she wondered.
The next round, as it was coming to a close, as Teru had promised, she showed Misao why she couldn't play circles. As she revealed her hand for everyone to see, Buzen snorted, Zenki snickered, and Hoki shook his head, smiling. The hand was absolutely junk.
Hoki held up his winning tile, a four of characters, as Teru pouted.
"I hate circles," she said to Misao, "because my hand always ends up like this." She gestured to how only three sets added up together to be the first nine cardinal numbers in bamboos, but the rest were in complete disarray. She glared teasingly at Hoki. "That guy always has the tiles that I need, damn it. And he takes my discards without a thought."
"I pick up the pieces of your broken body," he joked, and Teru laughed, handing him another piece of pocky to add to his uneaten pile.
"Well, at least I dislike pocky." Teru turned to Misao with a smile. "Would you like to play?"
Misao, unsure, nodded unconsciously.
Teru grinned devilishly. 'I'll help you win them from him."
Hoki held his hands up in a gesture of truce, smiling. "Don't I get any other reward besides the pocky stick? I did win off of your discarded tile."
Teru rolled her eyes and gestured for him to lean over. And right in front of Misao, Teru kissed Hoki on the cheek. Hoki sat back with a childishly satisfied expression, and Teru shook her head, laughing. Misao stared at the two in shock.
Come to think of it, when they rotated seats randomly, Teru always sat next to Hoki. There had only been two games where they sat apart from each other. Buzen saw Misao's expression and chuckled at it.
"It's a form of teasing and endearment between the two," he explained softly. "They played together when they were younger."
Misao nodded, glancing to Hoki—then raking her gaze over Teru's youthful face. She didn't look like the laidback type at first—she had more of the cool beauty that Sagami had and Hoki would surely have. Not to mention the fact that she was a little taller than Zenki. To think that the two had played together when there was such a height difference? It was a bit hard to believe.
"Come back to visit tomorrow," Teru suggested, yawning, and ushered them out the door. The bandage was over her right eye this time, since she was only sparingly using one eye for every five hours.
As the door slid shut behind them, Misao turned to Hoki. "Hoki-san," she said tentatively. "Are you and Teru-san…?" She couldn't find the right words to use. Good friends wouldn't get the point across and was fairly obvious; lovers might offend and was too straightforward and insolent.
But instead, Zenki supplied, "Lovers?" as Buzen slipped off to meet his girlfriend with a chuckle.
Hoki stared at him blankly, then Misao. "No, hime-sama…we aren't." He smiled faintly at her. "Why do you ask?"
"You seem very close to her."
"I assure you we're nothing more than good, if not close, friends."
Zenki coughed, and it suspiciously sounded as if he had said, "Like hime-sama and Kyo-sama?"
For the first time, Hoki had a faint, nearly imperceptible shade of red staining his cheeks. "No!" he exclaimed, as Misao flushed. "It's not like that."
"Hey!" Misao protested.
Hoki glanced apologetically to her. "I mean no offense, hime-sama, but Teru and I don't have that intimate a relationship."
"Contrary to that night in the garden on the day of the festival—" Zenki said innocently.
"You were drunk. And we weren't in the garden."
"Aha! But you were with her, and it's the fact that you were that counts!"
Hoki's cheeks now looked miserably red as he shook his head. He knelt down at Misao's feet—along with Zenki—with a feeble smile and said, "It is quite impossible for us to be like that, hime-sama."
"Why, Hoki-san? Can't love conquer all?"
Zenki laughed. "You might say different when you learn of the circumstances of this forbidden love, hime-sama."
"Forbiddn love?" Misao echoed.
Hoki sighed. "Teru is six years older than I."