*In spring, the finest part of the day is the dawn, especially after a frightfully cold night. One sits up, lined robes still clutched tightly around one, padding tangling around one’s calves and feet, and pushes the screen aside. The first touch of the sun casts long shadows and makes everything shine so splendidly, though one’s heart lurches to see the little cherry buds entirely covered up by frost.
At such times it’s especially pleasant to hear the Empress and the Emperor fucking. One feels warmer at once, when the Emperor’s voice calls out to demand more vigor from the Empress, and it’s fun when the Empress is already so breathless with effort that all one hears in response is “shh”. One imagines them entwined upon an impossibly luxurious pile of garments, entirely exposed to the icy air, caring not a whit for how cold it is. When the Empress cries out as she finally ruts her satisfaction out of the Emperor’s exhausted body, one forgets entirely the prickling of one’s fingers and toes.
In summer, it’s the very darkest part of the night that is finest. It is still very hot and the air is heavy with mist and one’s clothes, stifling though they may be, feel especially wonderful as they slide against one’s damp skin.
On such nights, as the Imperial Guard does its rounds, it’s most amusing to count the voices as they go about the perimeter. Naturally the entire troop of them calls out each gate as they patrol at first, but it isn’t long before one is called away to meet someone, then another, and the poor guards still remaining loyal to their duties must call out ever louder to hide how few of them are left. It’s really quite funny to hear four or five guards trying to sound like twenty, and funnier still when their commander, calling on the lady in the apartment they’re passing, snaps at them from the darkness inside to be quiet.
It’s exquisite, when there are only two guards left, to lift the blinds and seize one for oneself. It hardly matters which. How the last one curses!
Late afternoon in autumn is the finest of all. Surely that’s nothing remarkable, because everyone knows how wonderful it is after a day that’s been hard to bear when the wind shifts and fresh cool air comes from the mountains, smelling of dry leaves. It’s at those precise moments one starts to think fondly of roasted pumpkin and the interior smells of garments that at other times would seem musty and unpleasant.
*Curtains: reed curtains. Painted screens. Unpainted paper screens. Hanging robes. Wisteria.
*The Emperor had called for a drinking bout after the solemn prayers and offerings on account of the Empress’s confinement, and invited all the councillors and gentlewomen of the third rank and above. The fourth rank, being inherently inauspicious, was ceremonially scourged out of the palace with bamboo whips. It was delightful beyond measure to see a gentlewoman in beta-hued robes, her fine glossy hair trailing nearly to her feet, sprinting after a fleeing gentlewoman of the fourth rank with whom she’d been intimate only the week before, shouting: Demon! Demon! And striking so cruelly across her back with the switch. The fourth-rank’s sleeves were in omega hues, and how comely it was to see her scurry dishevelled this way and that, all her garments and hair unbound and trailing and sleeves pressed vainly to her face to staunch her tears. A wonderful display.
The fourth-rank councillors’ robes are a dull orange-brown, even if they are figured and pleated, and so it wasn’t nearly so splendid to see them scourged through the western gate. It was charming to see one of the second-rank ministers sporting an alpha plume scourge his lover straight through the gate with a vigorous whip and raucous cries of: Wretch! Cursed being! He had chosen his switch especially for the occasion, an evergreen of some sort with remaining foliage that contrasted beautifully with the fourth-rank robes. And once they were through the gates, how attentive he was! How expertly he stripped off the robes of fourth rank to minimize his defilement before soundly fucking the councillor as the rest of the fourth-ranked councillors clustered about.
It was only an hour or two after that when the Empress produced a healthy Imperial daughter, much sooner than anyone expected, and so the Emperor was still very drunk when he was allowed in to offer his blessings to the new princess. One hears the occasional poem, late at night after a raucous gathering, disputing who between the Emperor and the tiny Shigeisa-to-be vomited first upon who. Can you imagine?
*How wretched it is when one visits the family home of a gentlewoman companion whose relations live in the country, and even before one’s feet alight from the carriage one is beset with questions about the capital. Who has gained favor and been disgraced, what the favorite subjects are in painting and poems, what order has the child of such-and-such minor dignitary turned out to be, and so on. How hateful it is to see their faces fall when one says anything but “Oh yes, Councillor So-and-So’s latest is alpha and growing up so quickly and so strong.”
It’s obvious at such times how country life affects people. With nothing else to think of, all they ever consider is how much they would like to be fucked -- and how little there is in plain country folk to motivate an alpha of any distinction to mount them as they’d like! How uneasy all this makes one, as they bow and flatter and remind one at every step that their home falls well short of the capital’s pleasures!
* Fruits of the earth: Plums. Peaches. Pears. Cherries. Persimmons. The Emperor. Berries of all sorts.
* Fruits of the sea: Little clams. Little fish. Fish eggs. Anything little and salty is a fruit of the sea, and our Emperor is thus and so our beloved Emperor is a fruit of the entire world. Our Empress is divinely fortunate. It would be so unseemly to seize upon him; how one seethes at the unfairness of this world, which must bear the Emperor’s and Empress’s fruit foremost. How the longing to chase after him and fuck him until his fluids puddle under him and all his clothing is completely ruined, and how one absolutely cannot do that--how the grief of it ruins one’s pleasure in daily things.
* Fruits of the Emperor: the Shigeisa. The Empress’s pleasure. Fat buttocks pushing apart the pleats of pleated trousers. Long hands and long feet that do not match the rest of him, but are incomparably elegant in their own right.
* Fruits of the Empress: the Shigeisa, of course. But also splendor and grandeur that the heavens themselves must envy. When she stands up and turns to leave a room, the sweep of her magnificent robes fully engulfs the gentlewomen at her feet. One is reminded of ships foundering at sea in a storm, but the most splendid storm imaginable! The gentlewomen in omega colors huddle and bury their faces in their sleeves at the sight of her, in awe of her magnificence, and when one sees the beta gentlewomen here and there who do not, how one longs to drag them out to the yard by their hair!
Alpha gentlewomen do not crouch quite so fervently at Her Majesty’s feet, naturally, but at such times one might almost like to do so.
* A world in which I cannot fuck the Emperor is wretched and everyone knows it and everyone can agree upon it. A world in which the Empress does not fuck me is likewise wretched. One weeps.
* Welcome distractions: the full moon. Snacks. A perfectly ripe fruit in season, brought with just a little bit of ceremony on a lacquered tray by a handsome beta page--not omega. A deer meandering through the garden in the morning that smells something pleasant and comes all the way up the steps to the veranda. The morning-after letter from a gentlewoman’s lover which is so poorly-written that she wakes everyone up to show it to them. And even better if one of the ladies there has a low voice, and can read the poem out in the most absurd way just as the man would have done it. And then of course everyone must help the lady who received it to compose her reply, which is great fun. Occasionally he will reply again, and it’s the most amusing thing to help compose replies to those too, each one more ridiculous and horrid than the last until finally the man in question realizes what is happening or comes to visit again. And of course once he does, he must be invited behind the screen and not allowed to leave until everyone has had at him--because if his poems are so bad, surely there was another reason the lady allowed him to spend the night!
* Unavoidable things: fading purple dye. A distaste for sweets. The dotage of one’s parents’ friends, who were held up as venerable and useful to be acquainted with in one’s childhood. The awareness that one’s rutting will eventually become a distasteful sight to young gentlewomen. Young gentlewomen who know nothing, talking among themselves. The tines of a comb breaking off.
* There was an account once, its author lost to time, of a gentlewoman who woke one day to the morning sun. A fine day it was, with the dew settled and sparkling and the fresh mists of the spring beginning to rise off everything that had been cold and still in the night. How those tales tell of this lady who stood and eschewed the screen, sending it to skid nearly across the length of the Long Room as her vehement arm cast it aside. Without bothering to do up the ties of her trousers did this lady cross the veranda, cross the whole of the yard as it steamed in the light and the other gentlewomen clustered at their screens to watch, and while clutching those ties in one hand did she set upon the first carriage that passed in the road and climb straight up into it and rut the merchant inside it clear through the woven side of the carriage.
The account reflects that his lacquered cap was knocked off to rest ignominiously upon the road, and that everything else ever was also knocked off, and that every gentlewoman who saw this happen was jealous and many disappeared behind the screens again in pairs to have at each other and that many robes were completely ruined with tears and stains.
The merchant whose cap had been rutted off was a seller of dyed cloth, as it happened, and was delighted by all of this. What a pleasant tale.
* Pleasant thoughts: attempting to recall a scent long-vanished. Your mother.