Yo! I thought I'd share with you guys an excerpt from my National Novel Writing Month project this year, "Blade in the Snow." The very, very short version of it is that it's about a young man who fell in love after the woman that stole his heart branded him with a few of her magic kisses (manifested on his body as lip-shaped scars). I'll share it with you guys in the future, but first I thought I'd share the actual kiss-focused scene here!
I was in Edo several weeks ago when I first met Harumi. The Miyamoto had received an invitation from the Emperor to go to his court meeting with the Tokugawa Shogunate in order to discuss his plan to cooperate with the Western world and lift Japan past what he perceived as a cultural stagnation. According to the Emperor, Japan's long policy of seclusion blinded her to the bitter truth that the rest of the world had passed them by. The lords of Japan were still fighting amongst themselves with swords and rifles whereas the rest of the world had been creating railroads, photography, and all sorts of other wonders.
My father decided it was time for me to prove my worth as a future figurehead of the Miyamoto clan in the world of politics, so he sent me to Edo in his place. He'd been one of the staunchest supporters of returning power to the Emperor, which earned him plenty of enemies within the Tokugawa. A part of me thinks that he was worried someone would try and assassinate him, so he sent me hoping that they wouldn't be so hard on me because of my age. Besides, I was eager to prove myself to him, as he kept me sheltered most of my life. Before I went to Edo, swordplay, academics, and politics were the only things I knew.
With the way my father spoke of the Emperor, I was expecting His Excellence to be exactly like him: tall, strong, and intimidating to a point where everyone in the room paid attention to him. But when I got to the court, I was surprised to see that His Excellence was younger than I was. In spite of his age, and how his elders in the Tokugawa sought to control him like they did so many other Emperors before him, His Excellence refused to back down and confronted the Tokugawa in Edo to tell them that it was time to return power to him, so that all of Japan could prosper.
Before the meeting began, His Excellence told us that he wanted to make it clear that he did not come to the Tokugawa with the intent on starting a war. To that end, he brought in what his advisors claimed was the most brilliant musical mind in Edo: a woman so talented that she was able to master a Western instrument even when there were less than ten of them in the entire country. With a wave of his hand, His Excellence called forth the musician…and that's when I first laid eyes on her.
Long black hair that fell down her back, blue eyes that seemed to sparkle like a goddess, a face so beautiful it was as if she was a living piece of art, and an amazing body that made it seem like she was poured into her kimono like the steel of a sword: she was absolutely breathtaking. I knew, from the moment I laid eyes on her, that she was "the woman." I don't really remember what my mother was like as she died when I was very young, but with the way my father described her, talking about how her beauty was unparalleled when they first met…I was certain that what he felt was something like what I felt when I saw her.
As I watched her pluck the strings of the shamisen with the grace and precision of a true master, suddenly I didn't really care much for the meeting in Edo. After her performance I did my best to listen to what the Emperor had to say, but my thoughts kept drifting to the musician sitting in the corner looking so distant, so tragic. There was clearly something on her mind that was bothering her, and no matter how much I attempted to focus on the meeting, there was nothing that I wanted more than to stand up and walk over to her. I wanted to know what was bothering her, and do my best to help: I couldn't stand seeing someone so unearthly beautiful look so sad.
The minutes dragged into hours as the tension between the Emperor and the Tokugawa Shogunate increased. The Emperor was telling them to release their grip over the country so that they could accept positions in his court, and the Tokugawa was calling the Emperor an impetuous brat for not respecting his elders and respecting the tradition of the Tokugawa being the official powerholders in the country. The truth as I saw it was that the Tokugawa had been ruling for hundreds of years by that point and only recently were the townspeople beginning to question their right to lead. Now that people were becoming wise to their usurpation of power, they were doing their best to cling to what little influence they still had by insulting His Excellence's age.
Of course, I could have just been agreeing with the Emperor so that the meeting could end quicker. She was becoming restless, sitting still for so long, and every passing minute where I couldn't speak with her seemed like a lifetime passed. Finally, the Emperor said that the meeting would continue the next day, and it was adjourned. The woman stood up silently, handed her shamisen to the Emperor, bowed her head graciously, and then walked outside. Without a moment's hesitation, I pursued her into the garden.
Once we were outside, I found myself speechless as she turned around and for the first time, we met eyes. With the full moon shining down on her, she seemed beyond a young woman: beyond anything mortal. There wasn't any way someone so beautiful could exist on a human plane, and with her blue eyes reflecting the moonlight as she walked towards me, I was certain that we had been visited by a goddess. Paralyzed with desire, I allowed her to approach me and put her hand around my face. As she did so, she leaned in and kissed my lips, filling me with a wonderful warmth…and something else. As she continued filling me with her warmth, and a voice in the back in my head told me what she was really doing: she was giving me a "Blowfish Poison Kiss."
I had seen the victims of this technique before: the technique was administered through the mouth, causing the victim's abdomen and chest to expand to four times its normal size. Unable to cope with the rapid change in the size of the body, the victim's heart struggles to pump blood throughout the growing body, and after a few minutes the heart will stop entirely. It was a euthanizing technique used by female assassins to quietly kill their targets without having to worry about the victim making any kind of commotion. And now, this goddess was giving it to me as I fell to the ground, completely unable to move.
But as she parted lips with me, I didn't feel any kind of fear as she looked into my eyes once again. Instead, all I could think about was how wonderful her lips felt against mine in that moment. Even as my heartbeat started to slow down, the only thing on my mind was how sad she looked, to the point where tears were starting to form in her eyes. I wanted to reach up and hold her, but I was paralyzed by a poison that she obviously didn't want to give. The look of sorrow only continued to worsen as she looked what she had done to my body, and then looked back at my face…until she leaned in again.
Our lips touched for a second time, and new warmth entered my body just as I could feel my heart slow down to a crawl and my vision go dark…until suddenly, I felt life return to my body. Slowly, my body was returned to its original state, and I regained feeling in my limbs as the woman kissed me again. It was even deeper and more passionate than the last time, and as soon as the Blowfish Poison was completely removed from my body I wrapped my arms around her and returned her kiss. She had brought me to the point of death minutes earlier, but as we parted lips, I realized that she had also renewed my life.
The entire experience was much more than just an assassin having second thoughts on her victim. As we parted lips and met eyes again, we both knew that our meeting was fate.
Her eyes seemed to glow softly as she continued kissing me, this time around my body. The touch of her lips tingled as she kissed me around my abdomen and chest, as if she were apologizing to me for her attempted assassination with her first kiss. Gradually, we were beginning to lose ourselves in passion, and I finally realized that throughout all of this, I had forgotten something very important: I never learned her name.
With the three kisses on my torso still buzzing like it had been struck with hot water, the woman looked into my eyes again and I realized that there was only one way this could end. Finally mustering up the strength to speak, I asked what her name is. No doubt it had to have been as beautiful as her, this goddess who I now belonged to body and soul. As she leaned in for another kiss, she whispered in my ear with a voice even sweeter than her amazing body that was pressing against mine.