A Mouse's Diary

A mouse would creep through the back ways of this Palace. She would say nothing. She would not be heard. Her place is to fulfil her function discreetly.

(Mice do not try to flaunt themselves before their lord, for not only does it make your wishes painfully obvious to all observers, it is also a waste of time. I'm not blind. I can see. I can even care about them both and be glad that it is good for them and yet, yet . . .)

Mice know when to keep their mouths shut.

(Or when to bite.)

Mice recognize cats when they see them. Mice try to stay out of the way of cats. They try very hard indeed. They would only struggle if there was something that they cared about in danger . . .

(Lirin, I tried. Please forgive me. Or not. As you choose. You have the right to refuse forgiveness. Everyone does. It is a constant astonishment to me that people - that Kougaiji-sama, or Hakkai-dono - can forgive, that they can smile and say that it's all right, when you know that you have failed, or that you are their sworn enemy. They don't even seem to realize how unusual it is to be forgiven.)

I've lost the conditional. Let me start again.

(And life these days seems to consist of an endless series of beginnings, of having to start again, to pick up a new concept of yourself and try to live with it. Apothecary. Prince's servant. Choosing to live rather than die. Choosing to fight rather than despair.)

A mouse would be silent unless she was addressed. She would not offer her opinions to her lord unless they were requested. She would not volunteer her services pridefully until they were asked for. Her aim would be to fulfil her duties flawlessly. If she failed, her life would stand as surety.

(But he told me to live. I was prepared to do what I should have done, I swear it. I had the knife in my hands. I thought it was what he would want. Kougaiji-sama, high among the mighty, a nobleman who saved me out of pure disinterested mercy. The only way I can try to make repayment is to be perfect in my service. I thought it was the right thing to do. I know I am not of his rank, I know that I, just like Doku, am tolerated as a member of his entourage rather than given any standing of my own. I thought that the princes and the kings would be honourable themselves. Just as Kougaiji is. I tried to live up to that honour.)

A mouse would not choose the easy path.

(Which is easier, dying or living?)

A mouse would not care about her enemies.

(I suspect it's painfully obvious.)

A mouse would not be presumptuous or make claims on her lord's affection.

(She would not sit alone at night in her room and imagine that she was walking down the corridor and knocking on the door of his room. After all, she knows that there's already someone else there. And it helps, a little, to know that he is happy, that they are both happy. And she certainly wouldn't care about . . . oh, for pity's sake. To yearn for one person who is impossible for me to have is stupid but forgivable. To be interested in a second one who happens to be equally impossible is simply perverse.)

A mouse would ensure that her "larder" is well-stocked.

(That it certainly is. How does your garden grow? With grenades and gas and poisons and antidotes and little vials of acid all in a row.)

A mouse would remember her family.

(They had to send me, you see. They had no choice. My mother embraced me one last time and my father kissed my forehead, and then they turned away, because I was dead to them. They knew what I was being sent to. They have no daughter Yaone. Not any more.)

And a mouse would surely not be plotting against the "mother" of her lord.

(How dare you hurt him? You and your perverse lover are going to pay for that. And for everything else. What is that phrase Doku uses? Oh, yes. Payback's a bitch.)

And a mouse would always burn her diary after writing it. Because, although she frequently makes mistakes, and though she has certain attachments that are not wholly sensible, and that can certainly never be fulfilled . . .

. . . a mouse tries very, very hard not to be stupid.


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