Letter 2 - Gin to Kei

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Dearest Kei,

You beast! I can see travel to foreign parts hasn't changed you in the
least! It's just like you to taunt me with your garden and then not send
a single seed or cutting! And you aren't even within arm's reach! Fiend!

Nevertheless, I _am_ glad to hear from you, though it means losing the
wager. However, since my prediction was based on the assumption that
you would be distracted by some hot-eyed young thing, I content myself
with the knowledge that it is less than a victory for you. (Or is there
more to this too-clever-by-half maid than you're telling?)

I am, of course, only being jealous at your good fortune in being able to
travel. Mother says I may be allowed Outside in a decade or two, if I
commit no further infractions; Father only shakes his head sadly. Clearly I
shall be trapped here, with not a single new sight or new plant, until I am
old and grey, while you gallivant around the world letting powerful
monarchs ply you with pliable serving-girls. I press the back of my hand to
my brow and proclaim, tragically, "Ah! The injustice of the world!" while
dropping to my sofa in a faint. 

Perhaps the effect is lost if you're not here to witness it in person.

         -----------------------------------------------------

Tonight's dinner was wine-and-rice stew, liberally enhanced with the
crayfish Jushei catches in the lower pits, so I am moved to provisionally
forgive you. You may admire my magnanimity. 

I'm glad you appreciate my gift; I did worry that you might throw them
out for clashing with your furniture! Try not to use them too liberally;
I'm sure you already have quite enough of a reputation around the
palace!

You might try relieving your ennui by practicing _Eight Swallows on the
Whitecaps_. I hear the prince is an impatient man (or so say his
concubines), so you had better have something to justify the expense of
maintaining you in your present style ready to hand. And if you find
yourself with time and knowledge to prepare something more to his taste,
the practice will still have done you good. It _might_ even keep you out
of trouble.

Miss you though I do, I almost wish you had left a few months earlier, so
that you would now be writing me from the westward arc of the Grand Way. I
would be green as a thistle-leaf, of course, but even to read of those
places, those sights, those people-- it would be _almost_ enough to make me
content with staying in here for the next few thousand years. Please do
try not to get flung into the dungeon before the next Grand Tour, Kei.

Having forgiven you, I feel obligated to regale you with descriptions of
the excitement you're missing here, but alas, there isn't any. The nearest
thing to it is the arrival of a troupe of players from the Yellow
Countries, who perform an entertaining array of plays, acrobatic dances,
and feats of legerdemain. (Yes, I know what you're thinking, but the
petition for admittance was presented to your father by the chief dancer: a
glittering creature all silken bosom, streaming tresses, and rustling
skirts, with eyes bright as the jewel in her exposed navel; quite fetching
if one likes that sort of thing. They were through the Quarter Gate half an
instant later.) 

To no one's great surprised, Hakan won the trials for Captain of Wood,
but Omin proved a much greater opponent than he had expected. I suspect
the outcome of the next trials will be more in doubt.

Ija's cat finally had her kittens, six of them (of which only two turned
out strange, leading to much speculation as to whether the effects might
finally be fading). All except one have been spoken for, and I may have to
lay claim to the runt to keep Little Nandi from taking him and teaching him
to curse. 

And, of course, my highly esteemed master, that paragon of wisdom and
knowledge, the Archprelate of Fire, still refuses me access to the
Abyss. If I dwell on my lack on progress in this arena, however, I shall
take to writing with red ink, with much underlining, and the paper will
get all crumpled, so I had best close now.

Love,
Your Gin

PS: Are you quite, _quite_ certain about dear little Adda?

PPS: Enclosed should be a bottle of lacquer for your desk. Be sure you
heat it until you can't stand to touch it, or it won't go on smoothly.
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