Sai’Li sat in her bed in the Blossom House; having disdained going to any of the common healing areas. Of course, part of her refusal was related to the disturbing rumors she had heard about this place. Those rumors, she was sad to find, were substantiated.
The Madam here was lax in her enforcement, many of her people were ill-treated and the customer base didn’t seem to be screened at all. The conditions were quite simply unacceptable. A gentle knock at the door made her sit up and lean forward; senses questing. She caught the faint scent of clove cologne. Ah, good, it was Kay. She let her robe slip down her shoulder another three inches, exposing an expanse of snow white skin.
“Please forgive the intrusion mistress, but it is once again time for your medication.” He slid the door partially to one side, waiting for her permission before entering. He really was such a good boy.
“Kay, my dear boy you know you need not knock at my door. You are of course welcome in my presence at any time.” She said, snapping her fan open in front of her face, “Please forgive my lack of decorum; I am in a bad state.”
“Nonsense my Lady.” He said, blushing to the roots of his hair. “You could never look anything less than absolutely splendid.” Oh he really was such a dear.
“Sadly sweet Kay, this is hardly my most flattering pose.” She said, sitting up straighter and accepting the glass of medicine from him. At the same time, her robe artfully slid a few more finger widths down her shoulder. His deepening blush was most gratifying.
“My Lady, please allow me.” He pulled up the coverlet to her chin, but as he moved in she leaned forward and pressed her lips to his. The kiss was sweet, made even more so by his surprise and lack of expertise. This really was too easy.
“Darling Kay, I hear there are some irregularities in this House?” She said, parting their lips and accepting the glass from him. When he attempted to withdraw, her other arm snaked around his waist and pulled him to sit on the bed.
“Uh, My Lady…” He began, but she silenced him with another kiss.
“There is no need to be so formal sweeting.” She purred, pulling him closer. “You know that those of us who have shared intimate passion need not stand on formality.” Although she hadn’t thought it possible, he blushed deeper. He really was too adorable.
“Please, I am not worthy…” He began.
“Of course you are not worthy little mouse.” She said, lightly biting his neck. “Your worthiness was never the question. The simple matter of you not being worthy shouldn’t be an impediment to you striving to become worthy.”
“I – uh – “ He struggled, trying to form words.
“Hush now.” She said, “First we can enjoy ourselves and then you can tell me everything I want to know.”
“My Lady!” He protested, but it was halfhearted. The eager smile on his face belied the supposed objection.
An all too brief time later, she relaxed in her bed, enjoying a pipe of tac and listening to the gentle breathing of her companion as he slept beside her. Mortals really were all too easily exhausted. He had told her some very useful information however; information she intended to use.
Slipping out of bed, she put on her kimono, sliding her arms into the sleeves and touching the magic contained within to summon dark green and black silk to cover her body. Kay muttered and rolled over in his sleep, but she snuck out of the room before he had fully awakened.
Although the illness still caused her pain, she knew she would be up to the task of dealing with such an irrelevant and unimportant figure as a Madam who had forgotten her obligations. She walked down a hallway and climbed the stairs behind the standard secret door at the end of the second floor corridor.
“Who dares disturb my rest?” A petulant voice shouted somewhere ahead. “If you cannot find the initiative to handle such trivial matters on your own then you deserve the treatment you receive!”
A young woman came running down the corridor, tears streaming from her eyes and a grim angry expression on her face. Sai’Li caught her sleeve, “Please young mistress, allow me to be of assistance.” She said, her eyes shining with the glimmer of intrigue.
“You can’t help me.” She said bitterly, “I have displeased the Madam and her rule is law.”
Sai’Li inclined her head slightly, “I was referring to resolving whatever the little issue you came to her about. One as lowly and insignificant as myself can hardly be expected to solve a problem of politics here, but I will do anything I can to assist. After all, I believe you were one of those who assisted in tending me through my recent indisposition.”
“It is nothing. I have some training in the medical arts that do not revolve around magical healing.” She ducked her head, bowing with her hands on her thighs, the perfect image of poise and civility. “I apologize that the Madam would not authorize a more competent caretaker.”
“Please, if you would join me for some tea?” Sai’Li asked, seeing the steel and simmering anger just below the surface. “I would take it as a personal favor if you would allow me to serve you a cup of my best smoked Matcha.”
After a moment of studying Sai’Li’s face, she bowed deeper. “I would be honored My Lady.” She said, leading Sai’Li back to her room. Upon entering, Sai’Li carefully scrutinized the room’s walls, looking for the watchers that dear Kay had told her might be lurking. They were thankfully absent at this late hour.
Once they knelt at the low lacquered table in a tiny sitting room, Sai’Li withdrew ingredients from her enscrolled silk purse. Humming in satisfaction, she began carefully mixing the tea powder and warm water with a fine horse hair brush in delicate porcelain cups. “Now please, tell me your name and your troubles my dear.”
“I am called Rinna.” She said, accepting the cup. “My lady, there truly is nothing you can do to help me I am afraid.”
“Oh little Rinna, what you say is partially true.” Sai’Li said, “But only while she is Madam. If another was to take her place things would be quite different would they not?”
The other woman gasped, looking wildly around at the walls. Sai’Li waved a calming hand, snapping her fan open in front of her face. “I believe us to be alone, but of course I was only speaking in the hypothetical little sister.” She said with a smile hidden by the painted silk of her fan. “One would never be so irreverent as to propose a coup so openly.”
“I have a repeat customer, a local businessman. He does not follow the protocols, subjecting me to treatment that is outside the proper guidelines.” She pulled up her sleeve slightly, revealing a bruised wrist. “I am not skilled in any arts that would allow me to defend myself, and the guards are under orders to obey only the Madam.”
“Ah. Well that is something easily remedied.” Sai’Li said with a smile that was the barest crinkle around the corners of her eyes. “Please, hand me two of your hair pins and enjoy your tea.”
Rinna gave her a confused look, but did as she asked. Running first one, and then another of the delicate steel pins through her fingers. The venom that flowed through her body slid from the pores of her fingertips, coating each of them with deadly poison.
Sai’Li sat back and drank her tea, thinking about how the Blossom Houses kept order. Mostly this bylaw of their code was a good thing. It kept individuals from starting uprisings unnecessarily, but in cases like this one it had allowed things to go too far. Her course of action was clear.
“Now my darling Rinna, all you need do is wait until the subject in question returns and attempts to take advantage of your Madam’s laxities. One little scratch from one of these pins and he will shortly become too weak to even lift his own flabby limbs. Then you are free to do with him as you choose.
“Keep in mind they will only work once.” She said, carefully sliding them across the table. “I am giving you two on the off chance that he is strong enough to resist a first attempt. If the first one works, then perhaps you might find another use for the second one.”
Confident that these seeds would bear excellent fruit, Sai’Li enjoyed the rest of her tea, chatting idly about trade, politics, and fashion. This particular Blossom House would soon be under new management. Management that would be most certainly be friendly to her and the criminal empire she was planning on constructing.