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Big Eyes, Small Mouth (BESM): Monster Academy - The Giving Tree (MA Fiction)


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*Christmas Eve after midnight, the Sokatsu estate*

Hina Yuuki was not an evening person. But after a long day shopping and exploring the human's Tokyo, seeing what they had been taught first hand, she had woken up with a head full of thoughts and no desire to take those thoughts back into her dreams unsettled. So, suitably bundled up, she had padded down the stairs and into the kitchen with the objective of Tea.

Opening her mind's ear to help her make her way through the mostly-darkened household had been reflexive, a habitual action more than anything.

What was *not* habitual was the distorted fragments of a song no one this side of the Human world-Monster world should know, fragments coming over the sleepy responses from outdoor plants. A song very, very few beings outside of the Hina Valley should know, at least in the last few centuries. The plants were too asleep from cold and darkness to allow Yuuki to determine who was singing, and she had no intention of waking them up now.

What she wanted was answers and her Mask fell away in the fires of that desire as she pulled on one of her heavier coats over her robe, green-glowing eyes considering the darkness. The young dryad padded through the grounds towards the voice, unsurprised as she identified the singer as her ever-more-complicated charge Kyohei, frowning a little. The heir had his back to her as she approached, his solo rendition of an ancient version of the Hina Song of Awakening turned into a duet as Yuuki seamlessly joined in once she was close enough to do so without raising her voice.

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He didn't pause in his work, Singing as he continued to tend the tree, enjoying the perfect harmony of Yuuki's voice with his, even as another seemed to join. It was female as well, and carried an age with it that went far beyond what he knew.

As the song ended, he turned to her. "My mother and father sang that song to me as a child, to all of us actually. This is the first time since her death I've heard the voice sing to me as well. I think Yuuki, it's time for your present."

He took her hand in his, and placed it upon the ancient tree. "I know that in centuries past my family was a human ally to the Hina, I believe this tree, and perhaps another seven here on the ground that came from her, are clansmen of yours, and I think they'd love to meet another Hina. Please sing again for them, and rouse them from their ancient slumber."

It was a non traditional gift, but the chance to reclaim such an ancient bond, to bring forth as many as eight sisters back to the Clan, if he was correct, well it was something he knew Yuuki would value.

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Glowing eyes widened in shock even as she barely managed to hold her part of the song. 'Value' was too small a word for a gift, an oppurtunity, of this magnitude. The implications, the wonders, the, the... She had witnessed the Wardens help Awaken her Sisters from their First Bloom, helped Rebirth Aunts and Sisters, but an Elder from before the Exile asleep or lost all these years... If she messed up... The young dryad took in a deep breath of snow-cold air, awash in the scent of sakura blossoms and strands of green hair escaping the hood of her cloak.

No, she could do this. She couldn't afford not to do this, to not even try to do this, in fact. The Elder was singing back. That didn't happen unless the Spirit was Ready to part from Wood and become Flesh. Everything was ready. She owed to her kin to try.

"Okay, Kyohei-San. I will try," she whispered aloud before closing her eyes and starting to sing the song the song from the begining, pulsing with verdant light as she unveiled her power, not as a display of authority but as a silent offer of aid to her kin if they needed a pull to go with their push or improvised garb to ward against the cold. Yuuki's voice rang sincere and happy, the melody and rythmn of the old song, a greeting to fallen Kin ready to rise again and for the first time. These were the first words, a rescue from the frantic confusion that afflicted independent dryads born to only the terror of isolation. These words were the promise of something better and the freedom to move out of sight of one's Tree without fear.

The Hina Clan had many words to define itself, but the words of this song were most important of all.

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The Reawakening of an Elder was a thing of beauty even the cold winter night, as the Seven hundred and Fifty year old Hina Elder emerged from her tree for the fist time in seven centuries. Kyohei moved quickly shedding his own outer coat to drape around her shoulders. She closed it around herself reflexively not looking a day over thirty. This was monumental as she was easily the eldest living Hina. Her green hair was rich and vibrant, though it darkened to a deep black even as they stood there.

Brilliant Golden eyes opened for the first time in centuries, and she nodded. "Thank you, Yuuki. It pleases me to no end to see A member of the clan standing here as I wake. I have long feared my daughters and i were all that remained after so many years."

She looked at Kyohei, with his many scars, yet a calm happy gaze. "Welcome back, honored Hina."

She smiled. "Haruhana, Kyohei. It is a pleasure to thank the man who has tended us so dutifully his whole life."

He looks to Yuuki. "Awaken my daughters please. Much as I would like to do it, the duet the two of you sing is a melody I'd not deprive them of."

Kyohei shook his head. "Please, let me go get some more clothing for them, they will be cold when they emerge, and a blindfold to preserve their modesty."

She nodded and he left. She drew near to Yuuki. "Truly Yuuki, Your song stirred me, the duet roused me, and then you called me forth. I am happy that the Sokatsu have made peace with the Hina. He will make a fine husband for you."

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Yuuki's cheeks burned nearly as bright as her blazing aura, the Elder's all-but-blasphaemous insinuation sending already unsteady thoughts reeling. There was were so few specifics about the preValley history of the Clan, so little instruction of how to bow and how to speak and how to not offend... Although it would seem what was offensive *now* was not offensive *then*. But she was starting to... understand the appeal.

"I... I, I... Thank you, Elder Haruhana-Sama, for your words of praise," she managed, averting her gaze downward and barely supressing the urge to kowtow right then and there in the snow and the mud, "It is an honor and a pleasure to be of help returning my Kin to the embrace of the Clan. Much has changed, and those left behind when the Clan fled ancient Japan were, to my knowledge, believed as dead as you believed us."

She sucked in a breath and looked up again, expression conflicted, "Would I be out of line if I were to ask how you came to be protected here before awaking my Aunts?"

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"I was in love with Gepaku Sokatsu. I watched him grow from babe to man of honor. A warrior yes, but a man of the Earth, fair in judgement, and wise beyond his years. I remained with hi, cut off and unable to flee with the others. Knowing that I would be killled, and my tree destroyed, We agreed to part ways until things changed. The years passed as i waited patiently, untol he passed from this world. Still my tree was cared for lovingly by his children, and theirs, and so on. I soon fell into a slumber and through the ages some would pray to me, and my subconscious would aid them, if they proved pure of heart. I awoke partially to find a hundred years ago that I had produced seven trees planted here, and within I sensed daughters. I returned to slumber, trusting in the Sokatsu to continue their benevolence. Never was my tree cut, or known to hammer and nail, nor theirs. We were considered sacred, and I often heard Kyohei's grandfather speak of us as family."

Despite all the darkness Kyohei saw, he reminds me so much of Genpaku. I envy you that. He too grew up before me tending my tree and my daughters'. Even now, he behaves wisely, as a good man would. Do not falter due to hesitation Yuuki. I can see it in your eyes, even with my power only just returning." She gave her a happy and knowing smile.

"I look forward to meeting the others, though I imagine the welcome may not be the best, as I have long since abandoned the more confining strictures of our society."

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Yuuki looked down again, blushing and biting her lip, mask faltering as words failed her. The easy assurances and deflections failed her, caught between desire to please an Elder who seemed to want her to think outside the box and obediance to Clan scripture as much a part of her as growth rings were a part of her Tree.

"I... Such an effort would improper for me to pursue even if Hina Tradition didn't forbid such... relationships," stammered the young Dryad to an even greater blush, "Kyohei-San has a companion already, a mutual friend I will not hurt for my own gain when I already have his friendship. To try for more under current conditions would be... selfish and stupid, risk official Censure and Recall."

She said the phrase 'Censure and Recall' like it was the most dreadful thing in the world, a personal blight as she finished with a confession, "Much as... I... would like the idea. Very much in fact."

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There was a gleam in the Elder's eyes. "I see. So they've trained the Hina of today to deny themselves, to deny contact, and total isolation." She nodded sagely. "Sounds like they've forgotten our purpose, and one that I have to say I loved that the humans gave us."

"Yuuki, did you know that once when a couple wished their relationship to last, they declared their feelings beneath a tree, one of our trees, in hopes that they would be blessed, and deepen? We were the guardians of love and beauty. One cannot be so, without knowing it themselves."

"I can imagine what you were taught, your bearing, inflection and tone speak volumes. You'd bow to me if I gave you half a chance to do so. In response to all of this, I won't command you not to act as you have always done. I just leave you with this. "Slavish adherence to the rules and strictures is a sign one has nothing better to think about."

Her smile turned impish and mischievous. "Now, I believe Kyohei has something to say, as he's been standing there waiting since before I began talking."

A look over her shoulder revealed Kyohei, a new robe on, with seven more in his arms and a smile on his face. Clearly he'd been there long enough to hear everything.

"I don't think they'd censure or recall you. They already know we share the same roof, the same bath, the same table Yuuki. In many ways we're closer to the traditional Japanese couple than Delilah and I." That was a major admission on his part. "Considering the turns life has taken, I'd not be adverse to it."

He smiled. "Though perhaps that's a discussion we can have later, right now, I think we have Seven more Hina to awaken and welcome to the world."

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Yuuki turned several new shades of red and would be all but swearing petty revenge at her Clanswoman for not telling her Kyohei had been there if she had been anyone but an Elder, thoughts awrithe with inner turmoil.

"Eh. Err... I... Ah," the young dryad stammered before forcing herself to take a deep breath and meet his gaze again, "Yes, Kyohei-San. Agreed. A... topic for another time. Elder Haruhina, please direct us to our remaining Kin. Winter slumber fogs my awareness of my slumbering Aunts."

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Awakening the remaining seven Hina was a simple task. Kyohei moved with practice ease, even with the blindfold, offering them warm clothing as they emerged, and finally returned to Yuuki's side as the eight other Hina Gathered together before them. Haruhana reached out and removed his blindfold, revealing his closed eyes. "We are decent Kyohei, behold the fruit of the labors you and Yuuki have gone through. Sevenyoung Dryads, well young, they looked eighteen or so, but were over a hundred., looked back, and bowed to the two of them. "Thank you Elder sister Yuuki, and beloved caretaker Kyohei. we can never forget the kindness you have shown." In a moment they were singing, a song Yuuki knew to be one of profound joy. Haruhana joined in as well, expressing their happiness through song.

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Yuuki closed her eyes and sucked in a deep breath, recovering her poise over the course of the song and reining in her aura and Mask, no more the marvel and simply a very cute young woman standing in the Tokyo snow.

She waited until the song ended before dropping her smile and glancing apoligetically at Kyohei, "Elder Haruhana, Aunts, I... It's going to be very complicated what goes from here. The Clan does have a tradition regarding how to bring Foundlings formally into the protection of the Valley, but I have never been informed of a case as... new as your own, even excluding issues with our Hosts and any portals we may need to open between here and the Valley to get you all home. If you want to."

The young Dryad didn't know quite why she added that last bit, frowning to herself at the heartwork that would go with this 'gift'.

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"Nonsense." Aoi's voice rang out from the stone bath, as she smiled, then offered a formal bow to Haruhana. "Lady Hina.."

"Oh come now Aoi, though I have been mostly sleeping, here there is no place for formality. I have watched you too since you were a born, and you often took shelter beneath me." Aoi blushed and rose. "It's been some time."

The other Hina looked at her, and there was no small surprise, they all had some resemblance to Aoi, tiny things that with her standing there, became obvious.

"As I was saying, unless it is your wish, today is Christmas, and I invite you and your daughters to remain as our guests. You've been part of our family for so many years, now that you're awakened, I'd humbly offer the hospitality of the home we've shared for so long.

Haruhana nodded. "Of course we'll stay. My powers and those of my daughters are yet to fully return, I do not wish to go meet our brethren without them."

She looked at Yuuki and gave her a conspiratorial wink. "You're still stuck with us a while longer. Maybe I can help you with your problem." Her eyes twinkled. "Though if you don't move fast you may have some company, and even more competition."

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There was the slightest narrowing of eyes and a shuffle closer to Kyohei that had Yuuki proclaiming 'MINE!' despite her best efforts at deception. Romantic confusions and taboos or no, the young man was her assignment from the Elders, her duty earned, and no one *but* the Elders would strip it from her.

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Haruhana chuckled and smiled at the reaction as Kyohei looked at them. "Did I miss something?"

Aoi laughed. "Not really Kyo. Just buisness as usual for those around you." He shrugged, and smiled. "I guess we can used the rooms on the Northern Hallway?"

"Yes, perhaps Yuuki would like to help you escort the girls there. Haruhana and I need to talk abit first. "Show them the baths, and in the morning we can introduce them to everyone later this morning." Kyohei nodded, and offered his hand to Yuuki come on, let's go show them inside." His smile was inviting and innocent, and the girls seemed eager to go inside, and abit jealous of Yuuki.

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