(If you have not read my prologue or previous chapters, please do so now.)
Tales of Tanjia, Chapter 9 - Blurred Days
I lie in my bed this morning not truely knowing if I'm awake. Each day for the past two weeks has been a thorough mix of excitement and boredom, having everything and nothing to do all at the same time. I nearly feel as if everything I've done here, I've done while sleepwalking. My thoughts are so disorganized right now I can't even sort which ones are from which days. I turn my head to each side, seeing my arms spread open across my bed, partially buried by the mass of now tangled hair that flows from my head. I decided that if I don't get up now I won't ever move from my spot in this enormous bed.
With great difficulty I haul my upper half into a sitting postion, my sheets pooled in my lap. Groggily I turn to sit at the edge of my bed and drop my nearly numb feet to the cold marble floor. I recoil in shock the moment they hit the floor and the sudden change in temperature turns my stomach. I can't stand getting out of bed like this, but being lazy isn't going to help anyone. Still, the room is colder than usual, which is odd and doesn't help motivate me to get out of bed. This time I carefully set my feet to the floor and stand, my head pounding in protest with every move I make. I haven't hated mornings like this in a great while, but today is certainly an exception. The light pouring in from outside was barely dimmed by the curtains. It made my eyes ache. Did I drink last night? It's rare that I do, but few other things could explain how I feel right now. Perhaps this trip is just now taking it's toll on me.
"Are you all right, miss? You look ill..." A tiny, famillar voice rings out from behind me. Rii'ei is dressed and ready for the day, looking as modestly beautiful as she always does. I give her a slow nod and start walking toward the vanity, feet and head aching with every step. When I sit down on the tuffet in front of the vanity I'm able to see myself in the mirror. My appearance is shocking to say the least. I hadn't brushed or braided my hair before I went to bed, so now it's a fearfully unruly mess. I have damson circles under my eyes and my lips are paler than normal. If I hope to look presentable today, I will have to work for it. Rii'ei puts a silver silk robe over my shoulders and begins to brush my disastrous head of hair, being careful not to tug too forcefully at the knots. When I wake up with my hair like this, it seems unfair to Rii'ei that she has to help me tame this beast and I wonder if I should take on another handmaiden. Perhaps I could rescue one from my mother, whose hair is longer and temper much shorter than mine. I can't think of anyone more perfect than Rii'ei to be my handmaiden, though.
As she combs through my hair, I apply a dark clay mask to my face in hopes of improving my complexion for the day. Rii'ei seems to be making quick work the tangles, though still far from finished she's made good progress. It might only take less than an hour to get it smooth today. She's always been good with my hair, knowing what to do for it and when. The mask is tightening on my face to the point where I can't speak without cracking it. It's gone from dark grey to pale blue and should be taken off soon. Rii'ei notices and fetches a bowl of warm water and a face towel. "You seem to be doing a little better now." She says as she swishes the brush through another salvaged section of hair.
"Yes, a little better." I say as I place the steaming cloth over my face. Swiping the clay from my face reveals my improving skin, although sensitive from the minerals. "Did I look like this when I came back here last night?" The mask was off and color was returning to my face, but I would still need the aid of cosmetics if I wanted to go out today.
"No, you didn't, but you did seem tired. Was there anything specific you wanted to do with your hair today?" She took pieces of my silkened hair in her fingers and toyed with them. If Rii'ei weren't my handmaiden, she would be a wealthy hairdresser, I'm sure.
"I plan on visiting the temple today, so something modest for that." I smear a white cream under my eyes to hide the dark circles and set the rest of my face for powder and blush. It really is amazing how much a pigmented powder can do, though I do wish I didn't have to put so much on today. I feel as painted as my mother, but I know I don't look that way. A small swipe of teal on my eyelids, a bit of violet on my cheeks, and lavender lips. It's doubtful anyone would besides Rii'ei and myself would know just how horrid I looked an hour and a half ago. It seems my headache plans on staying with me, though. I stand, which only worsens my head, and walk to the grand ivory wardrobe. "Would you be a dear and and start a pot of drei'lai tea? I'm going to need something extra this morning if I plan on walking out of this room."
Rii'ei goes off to get the tea, and I slip off the silver robe and my green nightgown. The room is still cold, so I put the robe back on while I decide on what to wear. I honestly wanted to stay in by bedclothes all day, so perhaps I can find something similar. I pull up a chair and sit in the middle of this massive wardrobe. Gowns upon gowns staring me in the face. None of them are particularly uncomfortable, but if it were truely up to me today, I'd go naked! I laugh to myslef a bit, it's ridiculous to go nude simply because you don't want to wear real clothes. That's what a child does! Slumping down in my chair, I lower my eyes and point a finger in the direction of a random gown in hopes of chosing something decent to wear. A peach-colored gown is what I have randomly selected today. Floor length, sheer, long sleeves, two side slits from the hip and silver lace on the bodice. Perhaps I'll bring sarong to wear in the temple. Reluctantly, I slip off my silver robe in favor of the peach garment. The fabric is sheer, but surprisingly weighty, so the train that it creates is rather burdensome. I cup my face in my hands, my pounding head strongly suggests sleep as a cure, but I just can't go back to bed now.
Like an angel sent by the goddess Ki'konia herself, Rii'ei returns with the tea, some small pastries, and fruit. Maybe all I need is some breakfast to get rid of this ailment.
"Your tea, miss. I also brought you a little something to eat. You looked ill this morning, so I thought you might need it now..." She pours the deep red tea into an Ivory cup, steam billowing forth in magnificent curls. I gladly take the cup from her tray and take a sip. It's hot, bitter, and just what I need. Rii'ei shyly leans towards me. "Miss, I have sugar or honey if you would like to sweeten it." My face must have twisted when I tasted it.
"No thank you, Rii'ei, it's perfect." I take another sip, nibble on a slice of fruit, and my mood seems to improve. "Now, what do you think we should do with my hair? We can't really leave it as it is or the nobles will have a fit. It seems they can't stand the idea of simplicity anymore." I playfully wave my hand dissmissively and Rii'ei giggles. She feels so much more like a sister to me than a handmaiden.
She thinks for a minute, "We could plait it today. That would make it easier for walking in the temple today. I could also weave embelishments in the plait if you'd like." I nod as I take another sip of the delightfully bitter tea. I pick up a round, porcelain jewelry container and take it with me back to the vanity. This tea and Rii'ei's company are the only things encouraging me to continue with this day right now, so I'm going to enjoy both as she does my hair. Just as she begins to plait my hair, someone knocks at the door. Rii'ei jumps a bit in surprise, "I'll go get that." her voice shrinking with her timidness as she goes to answer the door. I turn to see who it could be and bring the cup of tea back to my lips. To my disgust, it's gone cold. I pour myself more from the pot and the heat is restored.
Rii'ei opens one of the two large wooden doors and reveals a messenger. Her voice trembles as she addresses him. "May I help you?" Judging by his uniform, he seems to be delivering a message from someone fairly important. His voice is loud, but calm as he speaks.
"A message from Taj'erii's Dai'rou to the Imperial Heiress." What could the Dai'rou want with me? You'd think he would request my father or mother instead. I set my cup down and the messender hands Rii'ei a blue crytal holo-square. "He would like the Imperial Heiress' response as soon as possible. I will wait here to take the message back to the Dai'rou." He folds his hands tightly behind his back and stands attentively for the disk to be returned. Rii'ei timidly shuts the door and hands me the holo-square. I place it on my vanity and gently slide three of my fingers upwards across the surface of the disk. An image of Taj'erii's crest pops up and a message begins to play.
"Your Highness," the voice of the Dai'rou is of medium depth, but his tone is between calm and excitement. "I humbly request your presence today in touring the completed decorated areas as well as your accompanying me to the banquet and firework rehearsal tonight." Oh. I suppose mother and father are attending to different matters of preparation today. The message continues. "I would be most grateful if you accept my offer. Please respond within the hour if at all possible. Awaiting response, the Dai'rou of Taj'erii." The recording stops and the image of the crest disappears back into the holo-square. I turn to look at Rii'ei and sigh.
"So much for a quiet day of touring the temples..." I take another swig of tea, clear my throat, turn the disk over and tap it twice. It asks me if I would like to record a response and using two fingers, I draw a circle on the pad to begin. "Honorable Dai'rou of Taj'erii, I would be glad to accompany you in touring the completed decorations as well as the banquet and fireworks rehearsal. I would like to meet at the front gate of the place in two hours. The Imperial Heiress." I tap the disk twice once more and draw an X with my fingers. "There. Please give this back to the messenger, Rii'ei." I hand her the disk and down the rest of my tea. This will be a long day...