Authors: Felicitas Ivey
Tags: #Gay, #General, #Romance, #Fantasy, #Erotica, #Fiction
Copyright ©2010 by Felicitas Ivey
First published in 2010, 2010
This book is for Robert Ivey, my father, who showed me there wasn't anything I couldn't do. His love for reading had no boundaries, and he made sure that I had none. Thank you for everything you've done for me and the pride you had in my writing by reading my first two books.
I just wish you could read this one too.
first came out, I was surprised my family read it. Not that it was a bad book—it was just I didn't think it would be to their taste, being a gay fantasy in a Japanese setting. I was very surprised, even a bit shocked, that my stepmother's sister, Sister Thomas, read the book and enjoyed it, skipping over the naughty words and bits, of course. But this sweet, eighty-plus-year-old nun told me she only had one problem with my novel, and it wasn't the gay sex (she had skipped those parts; she does that in all the romances she reads). It was the fact that she got very confused about who all these people were and how they were related. So this is for you Sister T: a list of who's who in the Trust and the Dreamlands. The Japanese names are family name first, then given name.
Mason Kairns Trouble Consultant, avatar of Inumura Daikaku
Wolf Dieter Trouble Consultant, avatar of Inuyama Dousetsu
Caitlynn McGann Staff Psychologist, Boylston Street, a psychic
Mrs. Elizabeth Stewart-Adams Trustee
Collins (deceased) Sent team to the Dreamlands the first time
Fairinox (deceased) Opened gate to the Dreamlands the first time
Heisig (deceased) Man who tortured Keno at the Trust
Tamazusa A lord of a
Samojirou Aboshi Her consort, an
Inuzaka Keno His lover,
, avatar of first Inuzaka Keno
Sakura Keno's secret identity
Tan'yu Tamazusa's healer
Okita Tamazusa's master-at-arms
Takehito One of Tamazusa's samurai
Tadanori One of Tamazusa's samurai
Yukiko A maid in Tamazusa's estate
Yoshinoko Courtesan who trained Keno as a
Fuse Spiritual Mother of the
Yatsufusa Spiritual Father of the
, Samojirou's lover, now deceased
Inusuka Hamaji Shino's wife
Farusawa One of Inusuka's samurai
Inumura Hinaginu Daikaku's wife
Noma One of Inumura's samurai
Iida Hideaki Lord of Tsushima, a small island
Mawatari Kappei Iida's samurai guard
Sazuki Iyusa Lord of a large
on the island of Kyushu
on eastern shore of Tamazusa's
While writing a book is usually a solitary venture, getting one published is not. I'd like to thank everyone who helped that happen.
A huge thank you to Elizabeth at Dreamspinner Press for taking a chance on me and publishing my first book, which is the prequel to this one. To Lynn and her team of editors for polishing my baby for publishing and going over the manuscript for both grammar and continuity. Any mistakes made are mine and not theirs. To Anne Cain for her wonderful cover art that brought Keno and Aboshi to life for lots of people.
Big thank yous to Mark, Ed, and Tim for the long walks around Castle Island and letting me bounce ideas off them and arguing with me about plots and logic and listening to me babble about my research. A huge additional thank you to Ed for his lifesaving effort of looking over and editing my manuscript as both a work in progress and as the final product before I submitted it to Dreamspinner Press. Thanks to my family for their support and their excitement that I was published.
And as always, I wouldn't be where I am today without the support of the husband. Thank you, Russ.
I glanced over at Tamazusa. She was dressed in a kimono a shade of black that seemed to absorb light. Samojirou wore an indigo kimono and was her escort for this gathering. I trailed behind the two of them, dressed as Sakura, my feminine persona, my kimono and obi as colorful as theirs were dark, various shades of gold and red, with many layers and my obi tied in front. The only concession to the party being outdoors was that I wore small
, not the tall ones I usually wore, which were the kind all
wore. I still dressed as one when I went anywhere with Samojirou. Aboshi and I had been together for more than a year now, and we had become a familiar sight to the lords of Nippon. But Tamazusa accompanying us was unusual, and she created a small stir when people started to recognize her.
Tamazusa looked relaxed and happy, and Samojirou was thrilled she was here. Even if I had lost Samojirou's undivided attention for the evening, I was glad she had come with us, since I thought Tamazusa spent far too much time alone. We were here to attend a
—cherry blossom—party, since it was the beginning of their bloom. There were any number of parties going on in Nippon, scattered all over the island, in celebration of the event, and I knew our entire week would be devoted to attending as many as possible. Samojirou was able to take us anywhere we needed or wanted to go using his ability to walk the shadows. It was an advantage few of the other lords had, and Tamazusa had decided to take advantage of it.
"Sakura-chan, attend us,” Samojirou said as they settled into a corner of the orchard. Two tatami mats had been laid out underneath a couple of cherry trees, along with a low table. The three of us were to sit and admire the flowers’ beauty. While we were doing that, Tamazusa would also be playing the Game, and Samojirou would watch over us.
Samojirou's words sounded like an order, but I didn't mind, knowing Samojirou and Tamazusa trusted me to guard them as well as serve them. They would play the Game—which was, to me, an incomprehensible combination of scheming and power plays most of the lords of Nippon participated in—and I would be observe them, silent and unseen, in a manner of speaking. Lesser beings usually were, even in this outfit. I nodded and bowed deeply to him. We were still working with the “no speaking in public” rule. I got a kick out of it, really. I was also nervous that I would slip somehow and embarrass him if I actually talked to people. But Samojirou's mysterious, mute companion intrigued people, so we continued with the charade. There were a lot of wild theories about me, and I was grateful that none of them even came close to the truth.
I glided over to where the basket with the sake, tea, and snacks had been left for us. It was supposed to be someone else's job to serve, but I wasn't going to let anyone else near them. Tamazusa was here to relax, mostly; but she'd never stop playing the Game, and having someone else serve her, someone who might overhear an important remark, not meant for his or her ears, would put her on guard.
I was making my way back from the area where the refreshments were located when an older samurai stepped into my way. I looked up at him, my head tilted down, peeking up at him through my lashes. I recognized his
, the crests all samurai wore to identify their rank, clan, and family, as belonging to a lord from the far south of Nippon. He was named Iida Hideaki, Lord of Tsushima, an island off the coast. I had memorized the
for all the lords of Nippon, so I knew who they were, even if I didn't talk to them. He stared at me for a moment before stomping off. I hesitated a second before returning to Samojirou and Tamazusa, confused about exactly what had happened.
"That was interesting,” Tamazusa said with a small frown. “I wonder what issue he has?"
"Rude,” Samojirou drawled, his eyes hard and flat for a moment before smiling at me. “That was most insulting to our Sakura-chan."
I bowed to them before starting to set out the snacks and sake. Samojirou looked like he wanted to kiss me. Tamazusa shook her head at the two of us as she asked, “I take it that everything is arranged?"
"Of course, my lady,” he said smoothly. “Would I have it any other way?"
"You wouldn't,” she told him with a smile. She sat down gracefully, elegant in a way I could never hope to match. Samojirou moved behind her, and I continued to serve the two of them.
One of the lords came over to speak to Tamazusa, accompanied by his concubine. She sneered at me for doing what she considered to be such a menial task, one that a
left to others. I stared back at her with a cool smile. I knew what my worth was. I saw that her clothing wasn't as fine as mine, and I thought she was either a temporary companion or one only worthy of short-term contracts, perhaps an
or even one of the other lower-class concubines.
"Lord Sazuki,” Tamazusa purred, “It has been too long since I enjoyed your company."
He bowed. “Your beauty has grown over time."
Sazuki Yoshinobu was a high lord who ruled a large
that was part of the island of Kyushu in southern Nippon. He had a very formidable wife, and they lived very separate lives, from what I have been told. I thought it was very odd that Tamazusa and Samojirou seemed to have a better relationship than most married couples.
"You flatter me,” Tamazusa said. I noticed his companion wasn't bold enough to sneer at her and hid my smile. Tamazusa wasn't someone who she would dare act snobbish with as she had to me.
"I see that you have added to your household,” Sazuki said with an empty smile, fishing for information. That was stupid, since it wasn't like Samojirou and I hadn't spent the last year together. Or did he think I was a different person than the one who had accompanied Samojirou everywhere? “A pretty little thing."
"Sakura-chan is dear to Samojirou-sama,” Tamazusa told him with a chilly smile. “As he is to me."
Sazuki nodded, realizing he was coming close to insulting both Tamazusa and Samojirou. While not a lord, Samojirou was a very powerful
, someone to be feared for any number of reasons. I was just wondering about which
Tamazusa was talking about: Samojirou or myself?
Nothing was said for a moment until someone else stopped by to talk with us. I wasn't surprised to see that it was Fuse, and her consort Yatsufusa, since she was very fond of Samojirou. Fuse was dressed in a rich, deep pink kimono, looking no older than sixteen, even if she was wearing a kimono of a married woman for once. Yatsufusa, as usual, appeared as the dog he had been in the real world, one of the ones that had been caught up in Tamazusa's curse.
"Samojirou-sama,” she called out, ignoring the tension in the air. “We are looking forward to viewing the blossoms with you."
Yatsufusa drew back his lips in a half-snarl at Samojirou, but that was normal. He loathed Samojirou for a number of reasons. But he wasn't going to cause a scene if Fuse said they were going to be visiting with Tamazusa and Samojirou.
Sazuki raised an eyebrow at Fuse, and she smiled coolly at him. “Samojirou-sama mentioned that he would be here when we met at an
exhibit two weeks ago. Yatsufusa-sama decided to accompany me, since some of our sons would be here also. He also enjoys the blossoms."
"It is always an honor to be with you,
,” Sazuki said stiffly, knowing better than to comment upon Samojirou's and Fuse's relationship, as they were friends, having many interests in common. Besides, while people may have said many things about the two of them, everyone also knew Samojirou wasn't interested in women. My being dressed as one, as a
, was thought to be an amusement for him and not the disguise it really was. And I knew both Samojirou and Tamazusa hoped I wasn't aware of why I needed to be disguised. “And all your sons are always amusing."