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An Unfamiliar Taste by Ditch Gospel
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Author's Notes:

With thanks to Zan and WonkKK for looking this piece over. Thanks also to s0hmam0hmiji for initiating the prompt that got the words flowing. 

An Unfamiliar Taste 

The knock was impatient, precise - much in keeping with the visitor himself. Konzen waited a few long seconds, his hand on the latch, until a voice called out a distracted greeting from within. He entered the room then, ever watchful for the stack of books hiding in a precarious pile just beyond the door, as if lying in wait for the unwary intruder who did not know what to expect. He was so used to it that he barely gave his actions any thought.


Once he was clear of the doorway and all its associated hazards, he scanned the room quickly, searching for his host.


Tenpou himself had obviously arrived only moments ago, still dressed in his formal military garb. As violet eyes pinned him accusingly, the dark-haired god shrugged out of his army trench coat, draping it carelessly over the back of a chair.


Konzen said nothing, his lips an austere line beneath a perfectly cool gaze.


“Ah, hello! Have a seat. I’m afraid I’m a little late.”


With a dignified sniff, Konzen stalked over to his usual chair. He made a point of brushing it off with the palm of one gloved hand (because one just never knew, in this office), before seating himself upon the faded, plush cushion. It was softer than what he was normally used to, almost too comfortable. Once he was settled, he graced his host with a soft reply.


“I noticed.”


Although there was disapproval in his voice, laced with delicate sarcasm, there was no real disdain. He had been by earlier - at the exact arranged time, thank you very much - only to find the door locked and no one about. Just why he kept up acquaintances with such a scatter-brained individual was beyond him. And yet… he found he could forgive this man his eccentricities. Tenpou was almost… refreshing, in his ways.


The Marshal stepped out of sight for a minute, before reappearing dressed in his usual, rumpled lab jacket. As he crossed the room with an unlit cigarette craving fire between his lips, he patted his pockets and cast his gaze about, muttering something about things vanishing into thin air. Well, if you would only organize the place, perhaps you wouldn’t lose things so easily, Konzen thought to himself, nearly rolling his eyes behind the spectacled man’s back. Speaking of which…


As he waited, he glanced distastefully around the jumbled room. The lighting was dim, casting friendly shadows among the odds and ends stashed here and there. It was easy to relax in this place. Eventually, his impatient glanced slipped to the sword resting upon the cluttered desk. He’d seen the weapon before, of course, but it was always alien to his bureaucratic, paper-strained eyes.


He’d even seen Tenpou at practice in the training halls, on the very rare occasion. After all, it’s somewhat difficult to maintain a friendship as long as theirs and not occasionally catch one another at all kinds off odd, on-duty moments. But even though the weapons in use there were training bokken, rather than lethal steel, it made little difference in effect.


He remembered the first time he had come upon such a scene - the clash of wood against wood, the shouts of mock combat, but most of all, not the way the sword sung through the air, but the movement of the man who wielded it and gave it life. For in Tenpou’s skilled hands, swordplay was more like art, like dancing, perhaps, or…


Hmph. Art. Konzen dismissed the thought as he chided himself for the silly notion. War and art? He himself had no interest in either subject. Both were…beneath him. Or perhaps… beyond him.


Konzen sighed almost inaudibly, an empty breath born upon stagnant air. As if in a tiny act of rebellion, he reached out a hand, his meticulously manicured fingers tracing tentatively along the edge of the polished scabbard. Pure white silk and pale flesh contrasted perfectly with lustrous black. 

 Click, click, click

In the room, somewhere amongst the haphazard stacks, Tenpou had apparently found another lighter. An obnoxious stream of smoke began drifting throughout the air, adding to the existent layers of tobacco permeating the room. Konzen inhaled slowly, deeply, accepting the presence of the familiar scent. It was unpleasant, noxious stuff, entirely disagreeable. He knew the scent would even linger in his hair after he left this place, accompany him to his own, functional quarters like a shadow of the man who had put it there.


But for the moment, he didn’t mind.


The scabbard was smooth beneath his touch, belying the naked blade hidden just beneath. He dared, then - just for the barest heartbeat - let himself wonder how the bare steel would feel, cool against his skin, rending silk to expose the vulnerable flesh below, drawing crimson blood…


He shivered at his dark turn of thought, even though the room was a perfectly comfortable temperature. Death… what would that feel like? As a soldier, Tenpou was more familiar with that concept that he himself was. And although the Heavenly Soldier may have never spilled a single drop of blood, he didn’t doubt that his friend was capable of taking a life. He himself had never known anything even remotely related, nothing beyond the sterility of his tidy office, his never-ending stacks of paper and stamps and pens and ink and… all the implements of a drab and stiflingly boring existence that saw no relief and no respite, century upon century upon century.


Yet… he did not want to die. He wanted… he did not know what he wanted, but it was something that his job, no matter how satisfactory in its pristine correctness, could ever give him.


So he sought out distraction in a familiar form. But even Tenpou, with his nicotine stains and his books and his poor housekeeping, nor even his deadly sharpness of mind tucked carefully away behind an absent-minded persona, could not give Konzen what he sought.  


And what did he seek? It wasn’t death, but it wasn’t just… this living, either. It was…


Tenpou shuffled towards the desk, then, cigarette stuck to his lip and a large, dusty old tome serving as a makeshift tea tray balanced precariously in one hand.


“Would you like a…”


Konzen quickly withdrew his hands, which had been absently fondling the sword, his fingers wrapped tentatively around the hilt to reveal a teasing glint of gleaming metal beneath.


“…cup of tea? It’s a new blend from Down Below.”


The blond huffed, tugging at his tunic in a gesture Tenpou had come to recognize over the years. Dark eyes glinted teasingly behind glass lenses - eyes as sharp as the blade.


As the other set down his load, and poured the aromatic tea into a pair of delicate, chipped china cups, Konzen felt simultaneously amused and irritated. It was more natural for him to let the irritation dominate his words.


“What kind of tea is it this time, then?”


“Ah, sakura blossom.”


“Oh? Don’t we have plenty of those up here?”


“Yes, but somehow I doubt they would taste the same.”


One delicate blond brow raised in a graceful arch. The Marshal’s infatuation with the world below… what did he seek? Did he even know? The Golden Cicada Child wondered as he sipped the hot liquid, both bitter and sweet upon his tongue.

 If the tea of the Lower World is so much sweeter than that of Heaven, then what of the blood of gods?

He glanced again at the sword, as silent and lifeless as it was deadly-beautiful.


“So… what do you think?”


Konzen took another sip of tea as he considered his reply.


 “It’s… satisfactory.”


Over the rim of his cup, Tenpou smiled with his eyes, and Konzen was sure they glinted even brighter than the sword .The cigarette burned steadily away between his drinking companion’s fingers, smoke curling lazily like a dragon’s breath. Outside, through the heavy drapes, the pink petals continued to drift down upon a nonexistent breeze. Nothing changed. Konzen drank in silence, and did not smile back.


He thought he may have forgotten how.


- end -


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