glitterburn: (Seimei: tilt)
[personal profile] glitterburn
First, so I don't have to make a separate post: Bingqilin was found scurrying across the living room carpet at 11pm last night and was herded into [livejournal.com profile] diagon's hands and returned to her house. She looks a little greyer than before but otherwise is absolutely fine for her escapade.

Now, fic:

Title: Writing Numbers on Water
Fandom: Onmyouji
Pairing: Seimei/Hiromasa
Rating: PG
Word count: 2765
Summary: Hiromasa borrows a brush to record a poem, but finds that the brush won’t write.
Notes: For the [livejournal.com profile] smallfandomfest prompt ‘brush’. The phrase ‘writing numbers on water’ means ‘to attempt the impossible’ and comes from Dan L of The Tales of Ise, which also inspired Seimei’s story of the lady and the gentleman.


Writing Numbers on Water


Hiromasa leaned back against the veranda pillar and gave a happy sigh. The lanterns above him gave off a diffuse light, softening the edge of evening and creating a glow of warm intimacy. The air hung sweet and rich with the scent of night-blossoming flowers, and the slow heat of wine loosened the tensions of the day and inspired his mind to slip free.

Opposite him, Seimei sat forward to pour more wine into their cups. Mitsumushi brought a tray of grilled and pickled snacks and set it on the floor. Hiromasa watched the colours of her robes blur as she knelt beside him. He was too comfortable to move, his head spinning just a little. It was the perfect night for poetry, so he said, “You know, Seimei, it really is the most perfect night for poetry.”

Seimei looked at him over the rim of the cup. “If you say so.”

“I do say so.” Hiromasa closed his eyes. “Let me compose something appropriate...”

“Be sure to mention your sorrow at dawn’s pink clouds,” Seimei said.

Hiromasa opened one eye. “The night isn’t over yet.”

Mitsumushi giggled.

“The moon, then. Mention the moon.” Seimei put down his cup. He appeared attentive, but mischief lurked beneath the smooth delivery of his words. “Mandarin ducks. Bridges. Clouds. Drinking by starlight. The drift of—”

“Hush!” Hiromasa opened both eyes and sat up straight. “This is supposed to be my poem. Let me think.”

“Just trying to help.” Seimei selected a grilled sardine and nibbled at it.

Hiromasa frowned. “Well, don’t. I know how to compose poetry.”

Seimei made a disparaging sound.

“I do know,” Hiromasa continued, letting injured pride creep into his voice. “My poems may lack distinction but they are heartfelt. I like poetry, Seimei. It makes a man civilised.”

“Civilised,” Mitsumushi echoed, her eyes bright.

“You will forgive me if I disagree,” Seimei said quietly.

“You think I am uncivilised?”

“I did not say that. You are remarkably well civilised.”

Hiromasa blinked, trying to understand what Seimei meant. Accustomed to reading two meanings from Seimei’s words, Hiromasa wondered if this time he should just take things literally. He reached for his drink and took a sip. “Writing poetry is civilised because—well, because writing is civilised.”

He paused, blinking at the wavering lanterns. His words resonated. They seemed very profound. He nodded, pleased with this thought. “I am going to write you a civilised poem, Seimei, and then you will admire it, if you please, because of the effort I have gone to just for you.”

Seimei dipped his head, the purr of his laughter soft and brief and kind. “Very well. I promise I shall be suitably impressed.”

“I shall write you a nice poem.” Hiromasa gathered his silks and swung himself up onto his feet. The sudden movement made his head spin and his stomach lurch. Around him, the lanterns swelled and shrank, then danced in lazy circles. “Oh,” he said, gripping the pillar for support. “Ah.”

“My dear Hiromasa, perhaps you are a little too drunk to be writing poetry,” Seimei suggested.

The sound of Mitsumushi’s giggles sparkled over him. “Drunk!” she repeated. “Hiromasa is drunk!”

“Nonsense! I am—I am merely free of creative inhibitions,” Hiromasa declared, throwing out his free hand in an extravagant gesticulation that almost toppled him. “Composing under the influence of wine produces the most memorable poetry.”

“I’m sure.” Seimei sounded more amused than impressed.

“It’s true. The drunken creative spirit is at its most... raw. Naked. Vulnerable!” Hiromasa clapped his hands together and nodded vigorously, then regretted it. He clutched at the pillar until he regained his equilibrium, then enquired with exquisite politeness, “May I borrow your writing desk?”

“Certainly.” Seimei inclined his head in the direction of the study. “You know where to find what you need.”

Hiromasa ducked beneath the half-rolled reed blinds and went indoors. One of the lanterns went with him. It felt cooler in the study, and he pressed his hands to the heat in his cheeks, trying to gauge how drunk he was. With exaggerated care, he took Seimei’s writing box from a shelf and carried it over to the lacquered writing desk.

Mitsumushi followed him, her face alight with curiosity. “Writing a poem?”

“Yes.” Hiromasa knelt at the desk and lined up the writing box square in the centre. “Have you never seen a poem written before, Mitsumushi?” At her negative gesture, Hiromasa cried, “For shame, Seimei! Depriving her of poetry!”

Seimei gave him a blank look. “What need do butterflies have of poetry?”

Hiromasa tilted his head. “I suppose they have no need, since they themselves are poetry.”

Another disparaging sound came in response.

Ignoring his friend, Hiromasa lifted the lid of the writing box and took out the individual boxes nested within. “Mitsumushi, would you fetch a dish of water, please?” he asked, bending his head to examine the ink sticks. By the time he’d selected one, the butterfly-spirit had returned with the dish. Hiromasa poured a few drops of water onto the ink stone, then ground the ink stick into it until he was satisfied with the consistency of the liquid.

Now to choose the right brush. He clattered through several stored in the box, muttering beneath his breath at the state of some of them—at least two reduced to a couple of bristles!—and then he came to an abrupt halt, wonder lodged in his throat, his eyes widening at the sight of the brush hidden away at the very bottom of the box.

He drew it out and held it up. It was the most beautiful brush he’d ever seen: rabbit’s fur, soft and brown, and a shaft of glossy black lacquer with a gilded design of clouds and birds twined around it. “Seimei! I have never seen this brush before. Where did you get it?”

“Ah.” Seimei’s gaze narrowed for a moment, but then it appeared he thought better of whatever he was about to say and returned to his quiet contemplation of the garden.

“Never mind.” Hiromasa admired the brush, a rush of acquisitiveness driving out thoughts of poetry. He studied it from every angle, comparing it with other brushes. This was too glorious an object to be left forgotten in a box. Surely it had belonged to a woman. A brush this fine, with such elegant gold decoration—perhaps it had even belonged to a princess! But... Hiromasa’s imagination wandered and he frowned, the thought jarring. How had the brush ended up in Seimei’s possession? Was it a love-gift?

Hiromasa sneaked a furtive look at Seimei. No. Surely not. If it were a love-gift, would he really keep such a treasure amongst the other brushes he used daily? Hiromasa considered and came to the conclusion that yes, Seimei would do something as ridiculous as keeping a love-gift in a wholly unsuitable place, not out of any sense of attachment to the giver of the gift but simply because the gift was useful.

His head now spinning from the effort of thinking, Hiromasa set the brush on the writing desk with rather more force than he’d intended.

“Paper,” he said, and Mitsumushi brought him a sheet of thin green Korean paper. Hiromasa placed it in front of him, then took up the elegant brush. It weighed almost nothing, yet felt warm between his fingers. Writing with it would be like creating a dream.

Inspiration swelled within him. Hiromasa took a deep breath, recalling the scattered fragments of his poem. He wanted this to be perfect, as perfect as the brush with which he wrote. He dipped the brush into the ink just long enough for the tip of the bristles to darken, and then he lifted it out.

For a fraction of a moment, the brush wavered over the paper. Then, with a noise like an exhalation of breath, the ink squeezed from the brush and landed on the paper with a thick, wet sound.

Hiromasa stared, blinked, and stared again.

A giggle broke from Mitsumushi.

Puzzled—for he hadn’t overloaded the brush with ink and neither had he held it unmoving for too long—Hiromasa put down the brush and crumpled the paper into a ball. “More paper,” he said, tossing the ball aside, and then he made an annoyed sound when he realised the ink had soaked through the paper and smeared over his hands. He looked at his palms in dismay and wiped them on the underside of his black court cloak.

This time Mitsumushi chose a soft yellow paper the shade of the morning sunlight in summer. With great care, Hiromasa edged the brush towards the ink. He didn’t want the brush to be too wet. He’d write in grass script and use the faded style.

But before he could set the brush near the paper, the brush gave another sigh and spat out the ink—much more ink than he’d let it soak up—all over his violet and white patterned hakama.

Mitsumushi laughed out loud before clapping a hand over her mouth. Hiromasa exclaimed in annoyance and held the brush out at arm’s length as it continued to drip black ink.

The commotion caught Seimei’s attention. He looked over, eyebrows raised. “What are you doing, Hiromasa?”

“I am not doing anything! It’s this brush—it’s possessed. Watch!” Hiromasa jabbed the brush into the ink a third time, and in retaliation the brush spluttered out the ink into his face.

Weak with laughter, Mitsumushi clung to a pillar, her gauzy draperies quivering. With a shimmer and a flurry, she transformed into a butterfly and fluttered off, the echo of her giggles fading into the night.

Hiromasa threw down the brush, startled anger chasing away the last agreeable vestiges of inebriation. “It’s not funny, Seimei!”

“Oh, Hiromasa,” Seimei chuckled, “you’re quite right—that brush is haunted.”

“Now you tell me!” Irritated, Hiromasa wiped at his face, but succeeded only in smudging the ink even further.

Amusement still dancing in his eyes, Seimei came over and knelt in front of Hiromasa. Using the wide sleeve of his hunting costume, Seimei dipped the white silk in the dish of water and wiped Hiromasa’s face clean of smeary black ink. “There. You’re presentable again.”

Hiromasa blushed and looked away, enjoying their closeness but not yet willing to be swayed from the matter of the ink-hating brush. He shook his forefinger at the offending item. “Whoever heard of a haunted brush!”

Seimei smoothed a hand over the black-stained silk and restored his sleeve to its usual immaculate white. Then he signalled to the brush, which perked up and began tracing circles on the writing desk. “Just because things of antiquity in your home do not get up and dance around,” he said dryly, “it doesn’t mean that all objects of similar age behave in the same way.”

“The brush is a demon?” Hiromasa wondered why he was even surprised.

“A relatively young demon—one hundred and three years old.” Seimei held out his hand and the brush wriggled over and sat in his palm at a jaunty angle.

Hiromasa eyed the brush with mistrust. “It must have belonged to someone of strong emotions for it to be so animated now.”

“It belonged to a woman, as no doubt you’ve already guessed,” Seimei said.

“And the lady did not like writing poetry?”

“Oh, she did. She delighted in writing poetry above all things.” Seimei let the brush hop back onto the writing desk. “The lady fell in love with a gentleman—of course this is a romantic tale, Hiromasa, I know how much you enjoy them—and while he was her match in poetry, sadly the gentleman was an inconstant sort.”

With a huff, Hiromasa said, “I do not like stories about fickle men. They never end happily.”

“Then I regret I cannot finish the tale of the brush.” Seimei made as if to get up and move away.

“Wait.” Hiromasa grabbed Seimei’s sleeve, closing a hand around his wrist. “I want to hear more. Just this once. Even if it ends in a dismal way.”

“Very well.” Seimei chuckled and resumed his position. “The lady was the favourite gentlewoman of an Empress, and it was the Empress who gave this brush to the lady. At first the lady used the brush only to write poetry for the Empress, but when she fell in love with the gentleman, the lady decided her passion was great enough, and the gentleman noble enough, that she could use the brush to write poems to him.

“Soon the lady and the gentleman were corresponding several times a day, and the brush was no longer used when the Empress asked the lady for a poem but was reserved solely for the lady’s replies to the gentleman. What the Empress thought of this, no one can know.”

Hiromasa felt a touch of sorrow for the Empress. He glanced at the writing desk and saw the brush skittering to and fro.

“The affair lasted several weeks, maybe even months, before the lady discovered that the gentleman was unfaithful. His desires changed with the breeze and he took his pleasure anywhere and everywhere.” Seimei’s good humour faded. “The brush which once wrote such playful love poetry now poured out bitter words of scorn. The gentleman took this as a new game and amused himself by using his poems to taunt the lady. Knowing his own failings well enough, he accused the lady of fickleness and blamed her nature for the failure of their relationship. The lady’s poems in response became more virulent, more passionate, for she still loved him even though he’d broken her heart.”

Hiromasa dabbed at his eyes. “It’s so sad!”

Seimei gave him a small smile. “Driven to despair by the gentleman’s cruelty, the lady took her brush and went to the river. She sat in the grass and leaned over the bank to look into the fast-flowing water. She gazed beyond her reflection, beyond her tears, and came to believe that if she could do the impossible—if she could write numbers on the water—the gentleman would return her love again and be faithful to her alone.”

The brush fell upon the desk and lay still.

“The lady tried every morning and every afternoon to write numbers upon the water, but as soon as she’d finished the first stroke and began the second, the ripple-image her brush created would smooth out and fade.” Seimei’s voice became soft and hushed. “Soon the lady lost her patience. In a frenzy she leaned further over the river, slashing at the surface of the water with her brush, slicing the lines of the numbers faster and faster.

“Her rage made her lose her grip, and the brush flew from the lady’s hand. She gave a cry and lunged for it before it could be swept away by the current. Her sleeves dragged in the water and became heavy and sodden. The lady lost her balance. She fell into the river and drowned.”

Hiromasa sat forward anxiously, eyes wide. “And?”

Seimei shrugged. “That is the end of the tale.”

“But it’s so miserable!” Hiromasa protested. “The poor woman! And what happened to the gentleman?”

“He lived a long life and trifled with the affections of many other ladies.” Seimei returned the ink sticks to their box, then cleaned the ink stone and tipped away the water in the porcelain dish. “I suppose that is not what you wanted to hear.”

“The scoundrel,” Hiromasa muttered. “I would never treat a woman so lightly!”

Pausing in his task, Seimei raised his eyebrows. “Oh?”

Hiromasa blushed. “Seimei! Don’t tease me. You know I am the faithful type.”

A warm smile curved Seimei’s lips. “I do know.”

Silence fluttered around them for a moment, then Hiromasa indicated the brush. “How did it come to you, if it fell into the river?”

Seimei picked it up, turning the brush until the golden clouds and birds flashed in the lantern-glow. “It floated downstream and got caught in some weeds near a bridge. My great-grandfather happened to be crossing the bridge and saw the decoration on the brush glittering in the sunlight. He fished it from the river and took it home. It has never once allowed anyone to write with it. Anyone who tries will invariably get a face full of ink, as you did.”

Hiromasa wrinkled his nose in puzzlement. “So why do you keep it?”

Seimei smiled and tucked the brush away. “To remind me not to write poetry.”


Date: 2010-12-14 10:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hideincarnate.livejournal.com
Dawwwww another cute one! X3

Date: 2010-12-15 08:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glitterburn.livejournal.com
Glad you enjoyed it! ^^

Date: 2010-12-15 12:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aoi-shu.livejournal.com

It's lovely atmospheric little story, your details are impeccable! Brushes character is so human too~

tsukumongami are cute idea~ sometimes though it's a bit tiresome how much wight Japanese place on what tools to use, where and how... especially when I have tiny apartment where everything happens simultaneously ^^;

I wonder if they are sex-toy tsukumogami and what'd happen then *snicker*

BTW you never wrote about a fan? Just a thought... fans are so complicated~ mysterious!

Date: 2010-12-15 08:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glitterburn.livejournal.com
I read that tsukumongami only turned up in the Muromachi period, but decided to ignore that as in the manga, Seimei's house is full of old bits of crap that wander around. I'm sure there was a talking roof tile in one episode XD

Sex-toy tsukumongami could be really, um, 'interesting'!!! But yes, if sandals and hats can become little demons then why not ben-wa balls and dildos. Sounds like the premise for a horror/porn movie LOL

Good point, fans have only appeared peripherally *adds it to the list*

btw I found an old interview with Mansai yesterday where he said he was going to do a Greek tragedy after he did Richard III, but he couldn't have done the Greek play because you saw his Richard III and the next big (Western) thing he did was Macbeth! So maybe he had to put the Greek play aside for Macbeth and Faustus and the movie. Huh. Maybe he'll go back to it next year. Also, he said he's trying to get himself into the mindset to perform something by Mishima (!)

Date: 2010-12-15 09:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aoi-shu.livejournal.com
GOODNESS NOT MISHIMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.. the guy had NO sense of humor what-so-fucking-ever.. >.>
eekkk... >.> though if he makes a good parody of him...

they can teem up with Morimura Yasumasa, that'd be a hit!

Hmm.. I think the obsession with stuff had been there during Heian as well... maybe not the term for it as much.. hmm. not sure >.> There was an episode in Mononoke about Heian princess stuck in time inhabiting the piece of ultimate insence wood. Have you seen this series? MONONOKE, about Kusuriuri? I dont recall if I sent you the dvd or not?

I have been out buying presents... Have a bunch of stuff, no idea what will go to whom, but I have to visit Seimei Jinja to find something good for you- not that they ever change their merchandise *eyeroll* .. i will pack stuff up (including the new Mansai Noh chirashi) for you after the hols, now really the post will be mentally deranged.

Date: 2010-12-15 10:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glitterburn.livejournal.com
I know he wrote some Noh and Kabuki plays but I have no idea what they're like. Mansai's reaction of 'it will take me some time to get into it' made me LOL, seems he is not that keen but feels he should try it! Well, ask Shinobu to help...

Yes, I have seen Mononoke! You did send it to me ^^

LOL they really should make cute little Seimei and Hiromasa dolls and sell them at the shrine. Or maybe that would be immoral XD

Just wish they'd hurry up with the Faustus DVD. Its annoying that his film won't come out until autumn next year, even though his samurai look is frankly not-very-attractive!

Today we have a digger clearing the road of all the packed ice - it's been crappy for weeks and now they decide to clear it just because we have more snow coming tomorrow -_-;;

Date: 2010-12-15 10:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aoi-shu.livejournal.com
oh really? do you have some shots of the new flick?

well he is frequently photographed in shoddy way, but we shall hoope ^^

yeh.. Mishimas Noh plays... I think Mansai will have to really make a parody of it, they are like polar opposites - Mansai is life fire and honesty - Mishima all poses and roses and lies and NO SENSE OF HUMOR...

getting chilly here... my bathroom is like some chilly wet hole into oblivion ^^;

Date: 2010-12-15 11:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glitterburn.livejournal.com
Scary pic 1 (http://pics.livejournal.com/glitterburn/pic/000042g5/g5) and scary pic 2 (http://pics.livejournal.com/glitterburn/pic/00005xyz/g5)! They REALLY made him look like the manga character. That samurai hairstyle does nothing for me :/ I'm sure he'll be fabulous anyway. He seems to be enjoying himself.

Date: 2010-12-15 12:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aoi-shu.livejournal.com
its cute... not as bad as I thought ^^;

though samurai hairstyle is very in the spirit of Mansai's fashion fiascoes ^^; LOL... goes well with grey socks and brown sandals (or were these toilet slippers, he forgot to change from?)

Date: 2010-12-15 12:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glitterburn.livejournal.com
Mansai has such pretty hair, it's a shame to hide it under that.... thing. And with the wispy moustache, he looks always startled HAHA

Oh God I found a pic with him wearing a pink stripey shirt and an orange and brown scarf. Maybe he's colour-blind?

Date: 2010-12-16 12:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aoi-shu.livejournal.com
OH PLEASE SHARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.. oh goodness.. well colorblind would make him mix some colors, but not like.. THIS.. maybe his stylist only sees blakc and white and Mansai is too kind to fire the poor fella?

Date: 2010-12-15 02:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pkelfin.livejournal.com
I know I never comment, but I decided I really ought to this time. :) [livejournal.com profile] lady_of_water advised me to say, "I LOVE YOU HAVE MY BABIES", but I thought that was a bit strong and not quite my style. So how about:

Every time I see another one of your stories has been posted, I get all joy-bouncy inside. I am particularly fond of your Hiromasa, and--it goes without saying, perhaps--your attention to historical accuracy in its details. This story is especially cute. ♥ Thank you!

Date: 2010-12-15 02:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lady-of-water.livejournal.com
I LOVE YOU HAVE MY BABIES.

Date: 2010-12-15 08:25 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-12-15 08:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glitterburn.livejournal.com
LOL thank you so much! I don't mind 'silent' readers but of course it's always nice when people comment now and then :) Hiromasa is such fun to write, I like his perpetual innocence and optimism. And I love reading about the Heian period and learning something new about that time, so it just as much fun to write about it :)

Thank you!

Date: 2010-12-19 03:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ozsaur.livejournal.com
You always make me love Hiromasa even more! It was so cute seeing him get tipsy. Seimei and Hiromasa are a perfect balance for each other.

The ending made me smile!

Date: 2010-12-19 03:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glitterburn.livejournal.com
Thank you! They're such an adorable couple ^^

Date: 2010-12-21 11:20 pm (UTC)
ext_3245: (Ryo cute)
From: [identity profile] rheasilvia.livejournal.com
This is very cute - and now I'm wondering both why Seimei is so eager to prevent himself from writing poetry, and why he needs the reminder. :-)

Your Hiromasa is cute as always... you make it so easy to see why Seimei needs him so much. And somehow I have the impression that part of Seimei really would have liked that poem from Hiromasa, even if he'd have been obliged to poke gentle fun at it and be all distantly amused.

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