The bushes overflowed with every shade of color, but in particular crimson. It was Shiori’s favorite color, and arrogant red flowers spilled over the blues, purples, and pinks. The other woman servants grumbled about it to each other every now and again--that many in the same soil, they shouldn’t grow like that.
They were indoors. The crowd was spread, but it was still a crowd, and in unpredictable motion. Umi switched from the hilt of his Major to the hilt of his Minor.
He killed any fondness for his favorite game, of spotting the nervous buttonquails when they ran. He thought not at all of being sent off to bed without haggard carers and squabbling sisters.
The pathway to the priestess’s tower was almost as lush as the flanking gardens. No one’s feet had disturbed it for quite some time. Vines and creepers spilled tiny blossoms before Umi's boots. When was the last time anyone had gone in, or out?
Black smoke bled through the window, billowing over Shardae’s bed in a great cloud. Shardae backed away as it spilled from the sheets to the tile, and a lounging shape began to take form.
Shardae Jacaranda’s cords were purple. Royal treason. Her chain locked her upright to the stained wall of the house who owned her. Dangerous. She spit at everyone who met her, when she had enough spit, and heat stuck her hair to her face in short black chunks. Not going to sell.
Shiori concentrated until the room began to spark with magic. One by one, the crystals and glasses began to light with an aurora of colors. A warped space swam through the room, distorting the windows.
“I remember," she said eventually. "There was a family who always brought goats past our street to the market. One ate the flower off my dress when I was little. Their son promised he’d marry me if I stopped crying, but I think I hit him. I don’t remember if I said yes or not. I might not have stopped crying, either.”
Umi caressed the careful stitching of petals in his fingers. Would life have felt like pink embroidery if he’d gone the path meant for him? For her, he denied. Not me. Yet here he sat in the priestess’s tower.
Something split the sky. Something so huge and burgeoning and sudden it broke space and Shiori’s eyes. The sky was bright, but this was brighter than brightness. All the light he had ever seen in his life was a shadow cast by this light. In the single huge moment it existed, time died.