Description: Tao Tsinghua is a mild-mannered emissary sent to represent the Gong Estate. But when the young man arrives to the Podiebrad Manor, he encounters Lord Podiebrad, the strapping leader of the Raven Guard army. The lord soon discovers what a good and obedient boy Tsinghua is. Will Tsinghua be able to focus on his duties? Or will he find his true duty to be... Living To Serve? (The cover shows Tsinghua is working on making a teapot out of clay, spinning it on the potter's wheel. Bela is behind him, topless and stripped to the waist, and wearing a pair of leather pants. He is guiding Tsinghua's hands in working the clay. Zsa Zsa is entering, pulling a black stallion into the bedroom, and looking shocked as she watching the two working the clay)
"I don't think we should be doing it without Szabolc."
The masked driver grumbles to his passenger. The jeep is an old one, ex-warsaw pact like nearly everything in the Podiebrad stock. Both the passenger and driver are dressed in the Raven Guards uniforms; crimson bodysuits with raven-like gas masks. The passenger had a rifle on stowaway. They were making their rounds to the outposts in the Carpathian woods; restocking the supplies for the rest of their Squard as they stayed behind. The jeep handled the off-road well enough, and they were pulling out back on the main road. His passenger growls back, grabbing on the overhead bar at the side of the jeep.
"You know the Patriarch would have your balls if he heard that."
"You heard how pissed he was about the whole Rosalia thing." The driver shakes his head, as they hit a bump. "Well I'm pissed about it too. I hate that smug lolita vampire. Have you actually gone over the NOL reports? She's the literal worst." The passenger tilts his head. "Lolita?" The driver pats the wheel. "You know, she dresses like a little girl." "Oh, so she's a loli." "Well no, lolita. One's a fashion, the other is, well, I guess its more of a fetish?" "What the hell?" "I mean it as an objective fact, I just know the terms, I don't like little girls I swear-" "No, you idiot. Look over there!" The driver hits the brakes as his partner points.
"Hold on, is that a fucking -hiker?-"
Not quite a hiker, though he might eye like one, with that walking stick of his.
The Góng Estate had been given an invitation for a visitation by the Podiebrads- And as they had heard mixed opinions of this noble house of monster hunters, they decided to send out Tsinghua Tao to 'test the waters' a bit. He was to serve as a representative to mingle in the Podiebrad manor.
However, due to some lackluster communication- He had to find his own way here, managing to travel the first part by bus before the line was cancelled, leaving him to walk through the woods the rest of the way. Tsinghua didn't mind, but it ended up being quite the hike; He had been going for well over 30 minutes, at this point- Until the recognizable sound of a vehicle would start to sound from behind him. The boy turns around nervously as the Jeep slows to a halt.
He would approach carefully, if allowed to, before bowing in greeting. "Good afternoon, Gentlemen. Would this be the correct path to the Podiebrad Manor?" He asks, sheepishly. The boy would look straight out of some Wuxia flick, dressed in his long, elegant snow-white traditional robes- Very out of place in the hungarian woods.
"I have come here today to meet with the Podiebrads, you see-"
The jeep comes to a stop, right next to Tsinghua.
The driver stares at Tsinghua, as the passenger stands up. The rifle shifts in its strap, moving to the side, as the passenger keeps a grip on the roll bar. The duo stares over Tsinghua, a kind of silence intensity radiating from them. The passenger sways, seemingly deciding as Tsinghua continues on... and making his decision when he states his business.
"You have, have you?"
The passenger interrupts, flipping off the jeep on to the dirt road. He wasn't much taller than Tsinghua, and he pats himself on the chest, hooking the rifle behind his back. "I'm Lukacs, and this is my brother Moricz. We're on our way back to the Manor too." Moricz continues to look at Tsinghua quietly, tightening his grips on the wheel. Lukacs advances smoothly, reaching Tsinghua's bag. "You shouldn't be out in the woods right now! It can be very dangerous out here alone. All kinds of wretched creatures can be lurking. Werewolves. Vampires. Beautiful but deadly women." He pulls, attempting to take it from Tsinghua's hands forcefully, while he doesn't drop his gegarious presence. "Let me help you with your coffer. You can sit up in the front, friend." And then, Moricz finally pipes up.
"It's called a rolling suitcase, Lukacs."
"Oh uhm- Thank you, mr. Lukacs." Tsinghua lets the man take his baggage, even if he's a little forceful about it- "Such creatures lurk here? To be honest, I loathe to admit that I have had a unfortunate experience with the latter lately." He follows Lukacs lead, hesitating for a moment- "Are you quite certain, Sir? I do not mean to discomfort you, I would be fine to sit in the back."
His undending politeness is clear in view again. "Thank you kindly for giving me a ride. I did not mind the walk, certainly- But it is quite far. Your forests are wonderful here, however."
Lukacs barks something to Moricz in Hungarian.
Moricz falls quiet again, continuing his stare. Lukacs, on the other hand, was still pretty excitable and affable. "Please, just call me Lukacs! You are just so polite!" He slaps Tsinghua on the back once, before he lifts up the suitcase to his shoulder, skipping the rolling all together as it was pretty small. "And after having such a hard time with such dangerous creatures. We are so lucky we ran into you! You should tell us all about those devils on the way there. You know." He looks over his shoulder.
"Those beautiful women!"
He lets out a laugh, and the Podiebrad brings the luggage to the back of the jeep. Placing it down with a thump, he jumps up, and stands back there, rifle to his back. "You are pretty beautiful yourself, you know! But don't worry about me though. I like sitting in the back here anyways, it gives a great view of the trees. You know, in case any dangerous creatures come out." He mimes taking aim at Tsinghua, and firing a shot with his fingers.
And then he extends a hand out, to help Tsinghua to his seat to the front.
"Ah-!" The boy reels forward a little as his back gets slapped. "A- As you wish, Lukacs. I would be glad to tell that story, it'd be the least I could do." He watches the man handle his baggage, before glancing over toward his brother, Moricz- He seems like the silent type, but Tsinghua greets him with a quick bow nontheless. But at the more talkative one's next comment, the boy turns a little red as he looks back over. "E-Eeh? Beautiful..? Th- Thank you, Lukacs." Seemingly, he is not too sure how to respond to that- looking away as he puts his locks behind his ear. The boy eagerly takes the change of subject.
"You certainly seem most capable of handling such entities, Lukacs. I do not think I will have to worry with you, and your brother around." He compliments, before taking his hand to be pulled up- Sitting down next to Moricz, waiting for the vehicle to go back on it's track.
"Not too good, I am afraid."
Lukacs sighs as Tsinghua takes his seat. And like a shot, the jeep shoots off, Moricz putting the pedal down hard as the three shoot off. Lukacs let's the momentum seat him down, as he turns the rifle back to the ready position. "My brother and I are recovering still from our mission in Southtown. Ugly business with Darkstalkers. Nasty red haired bitch poisoned my brother, and mauled me here." He taps his own collar, as Moricz goes over and pulls out a walkie talkie from the radio. He mutters something in Hungarian, as the trees whip by faster and faster.
"But that's not what's important now, is it?"
Lukacs leans forward, taking directly into Tsinghua's ear as the wind rushes past them. Moricz was driving awfully fast now, wasn't he? "How about you, friend." He asks cheerfully. "We had to shut down the aqueducts to the public at the last minute, so you must have walked a long time alone to miss the announcement. Or be real dedicated in taking a bath, and didn't stay with the tour bus." He squeezes Tsinghua's shoulder, right before the Jeep takes to the air, hitting a massive bump as it accelerates faster and faster.
"Why have you come to Podiebrad Manor?"
"Wha-Aaah!" Tsinghua seems to panick a little as the Jeep jumps, holding on for dear life- This one is not used to this kinda stuff. "Wow, I am terribly sorry to hear as such. Though I am glad you made it out with your lives- Otherwise we would not have met today."
"My own experience with a darkstalker recently had me at death's door myself- A girl that grew blades out of her arms. She sucked me dry of my energy- Apparently, I looked like a corpse." The boy sighs, reminscing on the event- Come to, the boy does look pale- sickly, even. Just a little bit, but noticable now that the brothers are sitting right next to him. "Worse still, it made the local news in southtown. Master Yao really hammered into me after that, about how I am giving our house a bad look- Making us seem weak, and the like. I really tried to fend her off, and I almost succeeded."
"But in the end, I was the one that needed saving. They healed me back up." Tsinghua tactically chooses not to mention the name, Velvet blue- or the fact that the one that saved him was also a darkstalker. The little that he knows of the Podiebrads, include that they are avid monster hunters.
Changing the subject again, the boy gives a polite smile, though wincing a little at the shoulder-squeeze. "Oh no- While I'm certain your baths are lovely, I am here for a meeting. I represent the honorable Góng Estate, your Patriarch invited us- I am a emisarry, if you will. Although I am not entirely sure who I'll be meeting with.."
"Gong Estate, huh?"
Lukacs keeps his grip on, seemingly to make sure Tsinghua isn't sent flying from the jeep "Well that almost sounds like you are coming over for the Full Moon Estely. Which is funny, because that got canceled. All because of that Rosalia thing, the Patriarch is real mad about that. You must have missed the memo." The guardsman nods his head, as the Jeep races to the clearing in the woods. "Course, we might have missed a memo too. Cause I don't remember a Gong Estate being invited to the Estely either. I would think a cute guy like you would be brought up with real fanfare. But nope. A bus trip cut short instead." He releases his grip, as the Jeep begins to slow down.
"And then we find you wandering around on foot!"
"Course, you've had a real hard time, being attacked. And you looked so pale too! Like you lost so much blood." The jeep slows down as it breaks through the treeline, Moricz dead focused on driving now. Lukacs continues. "It's always real tricky, right? A lot of people think vampires bite you on the neck. But they can bite anywhere, contaminate your blood. And it works best if it somewhere that can be hidden. Armpits. Buttocks. Inner thigh. And once your blood's tainted, it's so easy for them to dominate your will. Anyways, I can't wait for you make it to the Manor. I am sure we can talk to the Acting Commander, and we'll sort out this whole Going Estate thing." Lukacs adjusts his rifle strap. He wasn't looking away from Tsinghua.
The ramparts of the manor were now becoming visible.
The exterior of the manor is fortified, almost a fortress built of weathered walls reinforced with wooden scaffolding on both sides. Outside of keeping them as vantage points for lookouts, most of the deterrence of the manor grounds comes in the form of razor wire and fencing around the exterior of the home. Even from here, one could see the sentries armed with rifles up on the ramparts. "It looks pretty, doesn't it." Lukacs pipes up. "The original walls were built on top of Roman limes. They are known as the 'Devil's Dykes ' that once fortified the Roman province of Pannonia. Over the centuries, the walls has been renovated and reconstructed. With the rise of artillery, it has fallen into more of a symbolic boundary of the manor grounds. Well, except for the sentries. Would you believe this used to be once the fortress of a Vampire Countess that dominated Hungary?" Lukacs never loses that affable tone, as they approach the fortified gate. "We Podiebrads are real good at killing vampires."
"And their servants too."
"Oh-Oh, I see. It seems I have come at a inopportune time- I will have to offer my aplogies later." Tsinghua looks surprised at the mention of the Rosalia, as if he recognizes it. For the moment, he does not pursue the subject further. Turning pink at the mention of 'cute'- "I doubt that, Lukacs- I am not one to stand out. I am only an apprentice in my field. Though the sentiment is appreciated."
He looks a little grim now- "I do not believe she was a vampire- She did bite me, right here-" The boy pulls away part of his robes, showing his shoulder and the bite-marks left within. "But It was more like she... she was feeding on my Qi. It was terrifying." The boy admits to this fact, it'd show his inexperience, for one.
"That would be most appericiated- Though I certainly do not want to bother them, lest they be busy..." The chinese boy gets distracted, as the exterior comes into view- It looks like a bloody fortress, and it's not at all what he was expecting. "W-Wow. It is most certainly.. imposing." Tao wouldn't go so far to call it pretty- But he does appericiate the history. "That is fascinating- It certainly sounds as if the Podiebrads have been successful in your endeavours- Is this plays always like so? It is a lot more.. War-like then I anticipated." The Messenger struggles to find more eloquent words to express his observation.
"Oh, see, that's a misconception."
Lukacs continues, the friendly air remaining as the gate opens slowly. You never really think about it, but you can get vampired a whole lot of ways. You're chinese, right? You've heard of the Jiangshi? Feed on your chi." The jeep comes through the gate, as the rifles train down on them. There are kinds that feed on your soul too. They are a whole spectrum of parasites, that latch on and feed, friend. They devour your body, your soul, your spirit, your mind, your aura. They take and take and take, drawing out every form of your essence. And then, when they leave you." He looks up as they pass through the gate. He stands up while the jeep is in motion, and jumps out, moving to walk alongside the jeep now. "I'm glad you appreciate our history though. We haven't been always successful, friend."
"But we've survived."
The jeep comes to a stop. And they are surrounded. Tsinghua is greeted by rifles, most trained on him from the towers and scaffolds above. A uniformed woman, dressed in BDUs with an old commisar cap, strides up, flanked by similarly BDU'd men, though they lack the fancy cap. She is scowling, with thick lips and thicker blonde hair. Staring blearily at Tsinghua, she snarls at the duo in Hungarian. Moricz is silent, pulling the key out and stepping out of the jeep. Lukacs chatters a lot, back and forth. It's not clear, they are speaking Hungarian.
Gong Estate comes up though, that can't be hidden in Hungarian.
She rolls her eyes, and approaches the emissary. She was holding a manila folder, and glaring into it, comparing it. "State your name, title, and business." One of the guardsmen at her flank was breaking out thin cord for binding. The other, zipties and a muzzle.
It certainly wasn't being as friendly of a greeting that Lukacs had provided.
"I am indeed familiar with the Jiangshi-- But only in legend. I suppose that I never put two and two together, and realized that they may actually exist. Creatures of that nature truly are vile- should they not be able to control their habits." He responds for the final time, before they arrive-
But now, the boy does seem Nervous- As all the eyes (and barrels) are on him. Swallowing hard as Lukacs says whatever he's saying to what the boy assumes the be some sort of officer-- and are those restraints for him?! Nervous turns to slowly creeping fear, but he maintains his composure as he bows deep- very deep, the moment the woman approaches him. "My name is Tao Tsinghua, Madam. I serve under the honorable Gong Estate as apprentice messenger-emissary. I had come here under the pretense for a meeting to establish contact between the both of our houses- Yet we must have missed some vital information regarding how those plans might have changed; I deeply apologize on behalf of myself, and the Gong Estate, Madam."
When under such pressure, Tsinghua's first order of business is to appeal to the one's he's talking to. Authority types tend to like that, at least. If it will prove effective this, remains to be seen. His breathing would have noticeably sped up, simply out of panick and uncertainty.
The woman listens to Tsinghua attentively, only looking away from him to her file, as if to confirm every detail one by one. As he reaches the end of the story, there is an extended silence. And then, a flicker of 'something' as indigo electricity sparks in the air a moment. The rifles are turned away, as the atmosphere relaxes. She nods. "Fine. Apologies for the security. We are in the middle of mobilizing. Come along." Lukacs rubs his hands and heads back to the Jeep. The woman suddenly snarls at him "What are you doing?" Lukacs shrugs, holding up the suitcase. "I am going to help him with the bag." The acting Commander snarls, clicking her fingers. "No. You still need to do your jobs. Once we are done searching the Jeep, you bring it around, run inspections, and when you are done, then you can report to your next job." Lukacs mutters something in Hungarian as Moricz hands the keys to him. Some of the guards begin to rummage through the jeep, as a duo comes behind Tsinghua. "Come with me. Leave the bag. The servants will bring it to your room."
"You will stay at the manor."
Two soldiers stand behind Tsinghua, helping guide him to follow the acting Commander as she turns on her boots, and march across the courtyard of the manor. She explains as they head to the manor. "The Patriarchs intention here is that you would be able to attend the Full Moon Estely, and start a..." She trails off on an intermediary word, before picking up after it. "Exchange to begin a tryst between the House of Podiebrad and the Gong Estate, a formative relationship." The courtyard has a lot of trucks and transports heading back and forth, looking more like a military base than anything now. The manor looks like a weathered mansion, though even that shows minor bulwarks and fortifications on it, especially around the shuttered windows. "It's a very difficult time right now, we are shifting preparations for a military excursion. We are going to do our best to make your stay comfortable, but you could not have picked a worse time. Can't do the tour of the garden, Matthias is too busy packing. Can't do the bath house spa service, Harom Squad is too busy. We can squeeze you in for the warrior's feast though, I'll coordinate with the Patriarch." The more she talked, the more relaxed she was getting, and by the time. She even gives a faint smile to the boy, as she shuts the file.
"We will make sure your time here is special, don't you worry."
The smile fades away into a grimace. "I hope those two didn't scare you too badly. We got a report that he picked up some vampire thrall lurking on the road, and that we might need to do an interrogation and execution before it was too late. We take security very serious here, especially against the Lifedrinkers. Of course, that idiot Lukacs wasn't listening when the Patriarch was talking about the Gong Estate coming over. And Moricz wasn't paying attention either, there isn't half a brain cells between those morons. " Two guardsmen open the doors to the manor chambers, letting the escort inside.
"Your lucky that we had you on file, Tao Tsinghua."
*Phooo* A deep sigh of relief, when the guns get turned astray. "Thank you kindly, Madam." And he carefully straightens up from his bow. Listening to Lukacs and the Commander's exchange. "Understood, Madam." And he follows. The boy looks around the courtyard, and fortifications in a bit of awe- Weathered or not, it is an imposing structure. "I am terribly sorry- We must have missed the news. I would have gladly re-arranged this, if at all possible." He nods in understanding, at her explanation. "That is quite alright, Miss. It speaks wonders of the Podiebrad's hospitality that you'd even let me stay under these cirumstances. I am quite certain I will have no trouble making myself comfortable."
The boy returns a polite smile, he himself relaxing a bit more now that there are no guns pointed at him. "Oh- It is quite alright, Lucaks talked a lot, but he was.. friendly. And I am glad that Moricz was able to drive me the way."
At her final statement, he looks a little nervous- "R-Right, I am glad."
The halls of the Podiebrad Manor are dark.
Oh, there is illumination. Some of the magic of the house could be seen now. Past the large atrium in the front, the acting Commander has left the escort behind to lead Tsinghua into the halls of the manor. Indigo lights flickered in the halls, as the results of the fortifications took place: the windows couldn't let enough natural light in. The air smells clean, though a deep woody scent runs deep in it. Portraits of the Patriarch line everywhere, paintings of the leader in various poses and positions spacing between every pair of doors on each side. Every so often, they pass a servant, a maid or gentleman in a cleaning uniform, in the midst of sweeping, or dusting, or wiping down. They avoid their gaze the best they can, though Tsinghua could sense the intensity of their attention on him. The Acting Commander would lead the way, turning and twisting through what feels like a maze until.
She stops at a door, and opens up her folder. Taking out a small, iron nameplate, she places it on the door in a slot. "Tao Tsinghua." She states out load, referring to the name on it. Pulling out a key, she unlocks the the door. Entering, she quickly brings the key back. It's a cozy room; a small fireplace sits on one side with a brick hearth, a large king size poster bed with thick filled blankets on the other, and a simple dining table for three is not far from a writing desk. The room is illuminated with a blend of electric and that strange indigo light. The room has wards around it, it was impossible not to feel the heightened electricity. T "I will go to inform the Patriarch of your arrival. Until then? Make yourself comfortable. your bag will be sent up soon, and once you are settled in, you are free to explore, or stay. Keep this on you." She hands over a brooch, a delicately crafted heart clasped in bird claw. "That will keep you from being caught by eager guardsmen. Please enjoy your time here, and if you need anything?"
"Ask for Zsa Zsa, she is in charge of the halls."
The Acting commander salutes, and shuts the folder. Waiting for any final words from Tsinghua, she would step out, leaving the key and the brooch with Tsinghua. Leaving him all alone.
"Wow.." He would be looking, fascinated by the interior and the endless halways that seem to lay within. The boy greets the working staff with a quick bow as he passes, acknowledging them as they try not to stare at the oddly-dressed messenger. The many portraits of the Patriarch is noticable to Tsinghua, though he does not commment further. Eventually, when they do reach the room, he looks inside- wide eyed at the relative luxury he is granted. "This is wonderful, Madam. I could not hope for a better place to stay." Accepting the Brooch, he decides to pin it on his garb- Making sure that it's visible to avoid unnecessary conversations. The boy nods at her final explanations, before bowing deeply and saying a goodbye. "Thank you very much, Madam. I am certain that I will be able to do so. You have been excellent to me, have a wonderful day."
The Key, he stows in the inside of his Hanfu, before taking a seat on one of the dining table chairs. Letting himself relax for at least a few minutes after all the impressions he had went through.
After a while, there was a knock.
"Tao Tsinghua?" Was her voice. "I have your bag, sir." When the door would be opened, standing at the door would be a short, red haired young lady, with all too pale skin. Freckles pepper her gaunt cheeks, a little nose above thin bloodless lips as she looks with pale eyes of no iris, just black and white. The woman is garbed in a dark crimson maid's outfit with black apron, she wears brown boots and a red headdress with black lace. A thin red scarf of silk is wrapped around her waist in a neat bow. Her dress is poofy, spread out concealing her legs below the knees. Up to the knees, the brown boots rise up. She is modestly endowed; with her bosom flat and her chest confined by the uniform and corset underneath.
She would be holding Tsinghua's rolling suitcase behind her.
Aveting her eyes downward, she keeps her composure as she furthers her introductions. "I am Zsa Zsa, and the Patriarch wishes that I act upon your service. I have brought your bag to you." She blushes slightly, as she looks further down to Tsinghua's feet.
"May I bring it inside, if it should please you?"
Tsinghua would have gone, and opened the door right when that knock came- Listening to her words. "Ah- Thank you very much, ms. Zsa Zsa-" The similarly short young man would give a quick bow- but hesitate for a moment; why would a houseworker be so timid? "Oh- I-If you want to. I could take it from here, to save you some work- I imagine you must be extraordinarily busy in a huge house like this." Nontheless, he steps aside to let her do her thing, taking over the bag only if she would prefer so. Tsinghua does notice her eyes. A little discomforting, but not enough to provoke any sort of visible reaction.
She was invited into the room.
There was the faintest pulse of joy from her, that she tried so hard to hide under that neediness, trying so hard to keep her emotions under control. "Thank you for being so concerned about me. But the Patriarch says that my duty is you, sir." She says in a timid voice, moving past Tsinghua into the room, pulling along the suitcase. Her hip brushes him briefly, Tsinghua might notice the small thin needles in the sash, sewing needles, ready for seamstress work at a moment notice.
He would definitely notice the kitchen knife fixed in there.
With tiny footsteps, she brings the suitcase to the bed, and struggling a bit under it's weight, she places the small thing on her bed. "It was such a mess when the guardsmen searched it. And they dust and dirt. So I folded everything back for you, and wiped it down, so it wouldn't soil your bed when I brought it to you." She keeps her shameful eyes low, as she turns back over to Tsinghua. "You must have been walking so long in the forest. And you must be so distressed on how you've been treated. The Patriarch thinks it inhuman." Neatly, sweeping her skirt, she sits upon the edge of Tsinghua's bed, knees locked together.
"Is there anything else I can do for you to help you, sir?"
The boy raises his brow at the odd word choice; 'my duty is you' as she watches the lady enter his room, he takes a few steps after her, leaving the door open. He swallows a little as he sees the sash and all the sharp objects inside- But brushes it off as a 'tools of the trade' situation. "O-Oh, thank you very much for going through that trouble for me." Another deep bow. "W-well, it was fine, really- The only really bad part was when the guards pointed their weapons and uh, pulled out.. restraints." He shivers at the thought.
And then, she sits down on his bed- And makes that telltale remark. Many a late-teenage boy might have jumped at an opportunity such as this.
"E-Eeeeh?" Tsinghua just tilts his head, it seems as if Zsa Zsa is expecting him to do /something/, he does blush- Not necessarily because he understands the situation, but more out of general shyness and confusion. He stumbles back as step or two, before finally responding after a solid few seconds.
"I- Uh, I do believe that everything is in order, ms. Zsa Zsa. I highly appreciate the offer, but I do not believe I need anything else as of now, you see--" He swallows again, hoping that his response won't upset the lady for --some-- reason.
"It's okay not to like restraints."
Zsa Zsa keeps her head down, as Tsinghua nervously rejects her in the most personal way anybody could ever reject her. She folds her hands in her lap, rubbing them softly. Her voice is small and timid, though there is a solid core of -something- steeling in the heart of it. Her eyes just stare away, distant as their gaze burrows into her lap. "Anything's okay. The Patriarch wants me to only do things you like. And I'll like it! You deserve it. You are such a kind person. I can tell by how polite and sweet you are to a person like me. A worthless, lowly servant in the House of Podiebrad. A shameful bastard, a half-breed, half-born maid, whose only value is being useful. An ugly, worthless maid, the lowest of the low. And you treat me like I'm an equal, like a beautiful flower that shouldn't be soiled. You are so sweet and kind, that maybe-" She unlocks her knees, and stands up.
"Maybe you are worried you are going to hurt me."
Her hands are still folded before her, as she walks towards Tsinghua with small steps. "It's okay. I can tell you are a very gentle person. I don't like how nervous I am making you. The Patriarch wouldn't like it either, knowing that I made the emissary so uncomfortable. How I ruined everything for the Gong Estate by being such a rude, unpleasant servant. How awful. You might even think less of him, for having sent such a shameful maid to you." And there is a smirk, as she moves so softly, so subtly, that you might not even notice how she was moving to corner Tsingua. "But you appreciate the offer. That's what you said. So maybe you are just a little scared. You shouldn't be so afraid to take from me, please. I don't want the Patriarch to... know I failed him." She squeezes her hand into the other.
Tsinghua might notice the trickle of blood on her hands.
Zsa Zsa shakes her head. "It doesn't have to be an- an unclean thing. It just has to be something to make you happy. Please. I need to make you happy." She's very close to Tsinghua now, her chest nearly touching his own. She gasps are bit, a small squeak of air as she keeps her gaze demurely downward. She could almost hide the tears. And gracefully, she goes down to her knees, prostrating herself before Tsinghua as she keeps her head lowered.
"Please find some way you can make me useful."
Okay, this is too much--
Tsinghua listens to her long, explaining and pleading words. Tsinghua gets pushed back further and further, turning redder and redder with each passing second, until he's backed up into the wall. Still trying his best to wrap his head around this situation, and her words. "I-Is that how the Patriarch percieves you?!" That upset him a little, at least in how he understood it-- While the Gong Estate has it's own strict hierarchy, there is, at least on the surface, a measure of respect for anyone that works in close proximity for or with the Estate. "Oh, no- Certainly not. You- You have not done anything wrong, Miss." Well, that's debatable. The boy has been getting more and more uncomfortable with each moment of this conversation, the pressure is rising.
And Tsinghua is about to blow.
"Please- Just, get up-- This is all way too much." He scrambles out of the corner, and into the middle of the room as she goes down. "Please- Leave me alone for a moment. I- I am sure I can think of something, so- so that the Patriarch won't get mad at you but, but." Tsinghua knows what it's like when a higher-up decides whether your performance is acceptable or not, and the consequences that might follow- He is sympathetic, but that doesn't mean he can't be freaked out. The boy turns away, looking out of the window to avoid having to make eye-contact, rubbing his head in frustration. "I am scared, but not for those reasons. Wh-what is this place to have such a, such a.."
His sentence fizzles out early, failing to really come up with anything to describe this. "Y-Yes, I- I know. W-would you p-perhaps go to make some t-tea for the both of us? If that's.. not too much of a hassle.." Even after all that, he still feels uncomfortable asking her for something as relatively minute as getting tea.
"We can- maybe- talk a bit after that.." Because Tsinghua at this point, has plenty of questions. He rubs the golden pendant around his neck nervously.
Zsa Zsa blushes faintly under her freckles.
She rises up, and with her body, releases Tsinghua. Backing up, she gives a bow to the boy. "It would be my pleasure, sir, to serve you tea." She whispers, averting her eyes. In the corner of her lips, there is a faint smile. As she recovers from her bow, she doesn't take away her hands from their folding. "I will return in a moment, sir. The House of Podiebrad has its own special blend." She turns to leave the room. "Please relax yourself sir."
"There is no reason for a favored guest of the Patriarch needs to be so anxious."
"Certainly, Miss Zsa Zsa. I cannot wait to have a taste- Thank you very much. Please take your time." When the lady would have left, Tsinghua breathes out a heavy sigh of relieve- A moment to think, a moment to calm down his nerves. He would remove one of the chairs from the dining table, placing it in a corner of the room so that there'd be only two left. Sitting down on one and leaning on it with one of his elbows, resting his cheek on his hand, waiting for the return of the 'eccentric' Maid.
Tsinghua would not have to wait long for Zsa Zsa's return.
She emerges though the door, pushing a cart along with small steps. It was a tea trolley, the top section holding a steaming tea kettle near a selection of cups and dishes, and below it a silver platter of small cakes and cookies. She delicately serves at the table, placing cups of treacle and milk in place, and a tea cup and dish at the spot Tsinghua would clearly sit. After the place is made, she pours the tea, and then, replaces it in the center. She stands at attention, averting her eyes from Tsinghua. She speaks softly. "Do you need further companionship from me?" She offers, before she smirks.
"I mean to just talk."
"Y-Yes, you can take a seat, if you'd like, ms. Zsa Zsa." He would wait for her to sit, or keep standing."Uhm- Would you also like some tea? And please, feel free to help yourself to the sweets. Eating those alone is no fun." He still looks a little nervous, but a lot less so as Zsa Zsa has become a little less aggressive in her pursuit. He cups his hands over the, well, cup. Warming them before adding in a decent swig of milk, no sugar. Gingerly taking a sip of the now milky tea, before smiling and looking toward the woman. "This tastes great, ms. Zsa Zsa. Tea, and making tea is a bit of a personal hobby of mine. I often go out foraging in the woods around home."
"I even brought some of one of my blends- I would be glad to prepare some for you, and the Patriarch one of these times." Tsinghua is very delibarately moving away from the /very/ uncomfortable situation that happened a few minutes prior.
It wouldn't be meaningful to describe the tea as otherworldly.
It was full bodied and dark, not unlike Turkish tea, with a slight salty, metallic taste. There is a numbing sensation as well on the after taste, almost medicinal. The cakes absolutely even them out, being thick, heavy cream cakes. Zsa Zsa takes her seat when offered, preparing herself tea as she shivers. "Thank you so much, sir. I like this tea too. Brother Matthias harvests it from the garden; it doesn't grow in many places." She gives a sip, clutching it with two hands. She keeps her eyes averted, but as she relaxes her shivering, she finally asks.
"Are you really going to the Rosalia?"
"Eeh?" The boy's eye's widen in surprise- Simply that she knows about his attendence. "Y-Yes, that is quite right. We had been cordially invited. I am heading over there to give a good impression of the Gong Estate." He sips his tea, once again enjoying the flavor before washing it away with the sweetness of a cream cake. "It is rather odd however, the letter was adressed specifically to me, rather then the Estate itself." Tapping the cup, before..
"I do hope that bringing and performing with my Guzheng will count as sufficient entertainment for Lady Alucard..."
"We were too."
Zsa Zsa was shivering again. Staring downwards, she was shaking, the teacup spilling slightly before she places it into the saucer, clattering. "All of us, except the Patriarch. I hate that woman. I hate that awful vampire. I want to cut her to little pieces, and feed her to my friend." She states cooly, before trying to grasp her teacup again. She was trembling too hard.
"She even ruined you coming here."
She finally gives up on the cup, and takes a cake. "We wanted you to have the most amazing time here. Where you would eat and drink deep of all that is Podiebrad. Your first time would have been so special and amazing, so incredible as we took you through every magnificent piece of our house's culture. A-and now, all we have to offer you is tea, and cakes, and me." She stuffs the cake in her mouth, and swallows. "Everyone else canceled to come to the Full Moon Estely, and they are going to that awful, awful vampire whore's personal pleasure party so she can be amused and out Patriarch can be humiliated." She sniffles. "And the Gong Estate didn't. They didn't get invited, only you did." Finally, she looks up, transfixing those black eyes straight into Tsinghua's.
"Why did you come, when you had the Rosalia promised to you?"
He listens to her ranting and raving. "V-Vampire?!" Wow, he does seem to be terribly uninformed. "I- Wait, they didn't invite the estate? They Invited /me/?" he seems to have trouble wrapping his head around it. "W-We thought it was another invitation for a sort of social gathering, to establish contact with other houses and groups- Including the Alucard's, but..."
Th-That does not seem to be the case? Wh-What is the Springtide Rosalia, exactly.." The boy looks up.
"Oh- How terribly rude of me for not answering your question. I came because I believed I had an appointment. That is all." He nods, taking another bite of cake. "We did not get the memo of the event's cancellation. I was to have my meeting here, before engaging in the Rosalia shortly after."
"She's like that."
Zsa Zsa sounded practically venomous, her tone taking a caustic, toxic tone. "She's a vampire princess whore lady, who hurts my Patriarch, who insults him and makes him look like a fool. It's an awful party where she invites everyone she cares about in reality, like us, to make us look like fools. It's all to make us look like fools." She was shivering harder and harder, the anger flashing off her like jets of flames. She shuts her eyes, and breaths in deep. She exhales.
"And you came because it was an appointment."
She sips her tea. She is quiet. She would interrupt Tsinghua the moment he would respond. "I am happy you didn't. Because if you got the memo, you would have not come here. You would have gone to the Rosalia, and maybe you would have died, and then I would have never met a sweet and kind person like you." She giggles a bit, before her composure freezes across her face, her posture and face becoming restrained and serene. "You have to go too, to the Rosalia. You can't refuse to go, can you." She sips her tea again.
"It's another appointment for you, isn't it."
"I w-" And interrupted, as he instead keeps listening to the lady. She isn't mad at him, right? It sometimes feels that way. He had kind of frozen up at this point, ceasing to take sips of that rich tea of bits of those creamy cakes. After she is finally done, Tsinghua feels as if he's gotten a angry talking-too. His head bowed down submissively. "Y-yes, that is right." The boy looks a bit sad. "I will go, because it's an appointment. I am in no position to speak up against my superiors." He shrinks even further, fearfully.
"But- But died?! I m-might die If I go in there? I- I don't- I don't want to go.." Shivering, he cups his hands around the warm cup again- Hoping that that will somehow make him feel better- But this shivering is not from the cold, it is simply from the fear of this newfound knowledge. "I need to- I need to try and talk to Taskmaster Yao- I- I am sure she'll understand that going is not a fruitful endeavour for the estate- Yes, that, that can work.."
"Can it?" The question was not necessarily directed at Zsa Zsa, moreso at himself.
Zsa Zsa smirks as Tsinghua acts... submissive.
She squirms a bit in her chair, as she seems to enjoy that. "You are such a good boy." She purrs, rubbing the edge of her tea cup. "You're such a wonderful good pleasant boy." She bites her bottom lip a little bit, dropping her gaze again, relaxing. "Yes, you could die. Anybody could die. But not a good little boy. She will want to toy with you. Lay you on a bed, twist your little arms and legs, like you were a little spider."
She squeaks a bit, locking her knees together.
But then, she sighs. "But you will go. It won't change anything. Can't you imagine how embarrassed you'll make her when you point out how foolish she was? And what proof is there it won't be fruitful? We've stolen so much from that castle. There is so much plunder there, so many riches... you might be changed from a diplomat into a thief. It doesn't matter in the end. Every good servant should always obey their master. Masters as the case can be." She breathes deep, loosening her legs a bit. "That thing around your neck isn't a collar, is it. The necklace?" She turns her head away. "Who gave you that necklace? Was it your master?" She titters, covering her mouth. "Or a special friend..."
"Or both, as the case can be, sir?"
" She- She would do such a thing?! That sounds horrifying.." He agrees, still looking downward- Although he feels rather uncomfortable at her 'good little boy' talk- He does finally finding the courage to sip his tea again. "I- I guess that that is also true. Though, Vampire or not, I would rather not engage in thievery, or anything of the sort. I suppose the best I can do is gathering some information and, well."
"Y-Yes, I will obey. I will have to." Another sip of tea, and another small bite of cake. "O-Oh, the necklace- I am terribly sorry, ms. Zsa Zsa, but I am afraid that I am not allowed to say."
There is a silence in response.
She is not tittering anymore, as she straightens her back again. Her smiles are gone, just restrained pleasantness. It was a barrage of mixed messages and tells. Sometimes, she seemed like she was going to attack him. Sometimes, she was going to hug him. Sometimes, she gave the impression of a kind of combination hug and attack which might be appealing to a teenager. Right now? "That is fine then, sir."
Fine never meant fine.
"I'm not a spy. I'm here to be good to you. I'm here to make you happy. THat's how I serve my master- My Patriarch. That is the right of the bastards. To be useful, or be..." She trails off. Averting her eyes, she freezes. She waits until Tsinghua is taking another sip of the tea, before she pops the question. "Are you allowed to kiss me, sir?" She begins, before immediately going for the throat before he could recover?
"Does your house have vows of chastity?"
It is truly impossible to feel entirely comfortable in the presence of this lady. Be it her mannersisms and those mixed signals. And when he tries to calm his nerves by sipping some tea..
It gets spit out when he choked on his tea, after her out-of-the blue question. Thankfully for the table, and Zsa Zsa, the drink gets mainly caught by the boy's loose sleeve, the white cloth darkening to a greyish brown. *cough, cough* "I- I am sorry, give me a *cough* moment."
A few seconds later, still looking downward, he respond. "That was rather uncouth of me, apologies- B-But, yes. We are not allowed to have relationships until graduating from being an apprentice. And after that it is expected th- that any relationships will be with another estate member, or that any outside partner will be entered into the Estate with a ceremony." He turns a deep red, explaining the unusual customs of his house. "Any, uhm, offspring will be trained into the same task as one of their parents, from a young age onward. This ensures that all these employees, or 'loyalists' will have the estate's best interest in mind."
Zsa Zsa's composure shifts again.
Every shift is as subtle as it is dramatic. Part of it was the sensation of making Tsinghua squirm. Part of it was how he was exposing himself. It was a power than Bastards had; humiliating the favored in the house in a way that could be denied. And yet, as he explains, Zsa Zsa doesn't seem confused at all. No, she gives rapt attention, even peering up and peeking up, trying to listen mostly with her ear. As he reaches the end, she actually blurts out.
"It's not so strange, don't be ashamed!"
Zsa Zsa nods eagerly, peering up at Tsinghua meekly. "We're the same way in our House, in some ways. We are free to have relations within our house, we are all of one blood, so why should it matter how we share it. Sometimes, sometimes there are accidents, like me, and we have to fix them, but we are all of one blood and one soul, so why should it matter if you have fun? We are all brothers, and sisters, and cousins, and nieces, and nephews, and aunts, and uncles, and grandchildren..." She shudders, shivering, forcing a giggle out. "Outsiders are sometimes fun too, but it's just about fun, nothing serious." She twirls her finger in her hair, as she seems to almost shrink into her chair in shame.
"Serious is... difficult."
"Only the worthy can be married into the family, they have to be able to receive the blood and the spirit." She explains. "It's a whole ritual and initiation. My- my mother wasn't married into the family. I was an accident. THere were- there we many accidents, with the old Patriarch." She brightens up, straightening her back again. "But even bastards are allowed to join, in a limited way. The new Patriarch, my Patriarch, is so wonderful and generous, and lets us join with him, with a sample of his taste! There is power in the blood, power in the soul, and power in the family. And it allows us all to be one with the Patriarch, an extension of his will and ways." She reaches a hand out, to touch on Tsinghua's own empathetically. "I feel much better now. I- I was afraid you didn't want me because of who I was. But it makes sense with vows, and rituals, and rules. Family comes first. Your house comes first. You are a good boy, a very good boy, to serve your house so willingly, no matter how hard the temptations are." She pulls her hand away, looking away meekly once more, face blushing.
"Even if it's not for the Patriarch."
Tsinghua just has his head bowed down as he talks, he doesn't realize Zsa Zsa might be talking about a different sort of relationship, and this is nor a conversation he wants to have, or really understands. Out of respect though, he lets the lady talk, make her story. And he does listen, to get as much out of it as he could. He doesn't really react as his hand gets touched, but his hand would feel cold- He would be trembling, and Zsa Zsa would notice.
Tsinghua does not feel good about this place, about the Podiebrad's customs, and the like. "W- Well, we generally don't see other members of the Gong Estate as family, ms. Zsa Zsa. Unless you are very close with them." He feels that that clarification is in order, even when he doesn't really understand what the maid is talkin about, for the most part. "We are all part of the same community, and serve under Patriarch Gong Shuren, and for the good of the entirety of the estate. He truly is a fantastic man, and under his leadership, the Estate will thrive."
He had calmed down enough to take another sip of tea, finishing the first cup as he savors the flavor. "I- Well, thank you, ms. Zsa Zsa. Though I am not sure what temptations you are referring to."
The composure shifts again.
The tension in the room was building more and more. For one moment, Zsa Zsa seemed so happy that she wasn't a freak, and her house wasn't a freak, and there were other families like the House of Podiebrad. When Tsinghua talks about how 'they don't see other members of the Gong Estate as family,' she nods along with understanding. "Yes, unless you are very close! We are the same way! There are people in our family who are so distant, we call them parasites! I hope our Patriarch meets your Patriarch some day, sir! Maybe we- maybe some day we can be part of the same house and estate. Maybe... maybe we could be part of the same... and we wouldn't have to worry about rules... and outsiders... and...." The words come about temptations. And something seems to sink deep inside Zsa Zsa. Her joy was almost completely evaporated now. What about the temptations he was referring to? How he was not sure.
"I hope you never learn about them." She whispers.
"I- I see." He didn't really want to say any more on the matter of community, family, and how he percieves it; Marriage. "N-Now, that would certainly be an interesting development, ms. Zsa Zsa." The boy responds, to her fantasy. To her enthusiasm, but when he sees it sink..
Tsinghua feels the pit in his stomach grow.
She was so cold, suddenly- and it makes Tsinghua feel terrified, when she whispers those vague words. All he can say as a response, is a nod, and an accompyning. "I- I see, ms. Zsa Zsa."
Tsinghua feels sick at this point, something feels so off here. And as such, he turns to the maid, and asks her. "Would- Would you perhaps let me rest for a while, I feel a little light-headed- It must be the flight, or whatnot, you see." A partial lie, at least to the reason of his discomfort.
Zsa Zsa begins to get tears in her eyes.
"She shudders, shivering as her eyes begin to go puffy, her face turning red. She continues to whisper. "I hope you never learn about temptations. You are such a nice, good boy. I'm almost jealous, because I wish I was nice and good still, too. Almost. Jealous..." She was pawing at her side now. At the knife handle, the sash. And then, right when her mind started to swim, as her senses started to fade, as the profound weight of jealousy surged over her.
He talks about taking a rest.
"Yes." She states neutrally. Tiny pinpricks form on the base of her hand, as she brings it back up. Her hand was bleeding again. "Yes. You need your rest. I will... I will come later, much later, to clean up the tea." She states with a chilling, detached air. Her body is tense as she rubs the base of the palm on the table, the blood, the one blood smearing softly on a doily cloth. Pushing up from her chair, she stumbles as she walks away from the table. Taking small steps to the door, she paused, before looking back around. "Pl-pl-please enjoy your stay here, Tao Tsinghua of the Gong Estate. I just- I just need to tell you one last thing. We have a strict curfew at night in the House of Podiebrad."
"Do not get caught wandering the halls after the twilight bells chimes."
ANd with that, she is gone, slipping through the door, leaving only bloody hand prints behind.
She is bleeding again, and Tsinghua doesn't get why- He hadn't looked at her apparel that closely, it would seem. He stands up, backing away. His discomfort is getting too much to hide, and the bloody prints she is leaving behind /certainly/ doesn't help. His breathing speeds up as he listens. "P-please, have a good day, ms. Zsa Zsa. Thank you for.."
Thank her for what, exactly?
"Th-The tea, and your time. It was nice talking- I f-feel enriched about the Podiebrad's culture." Just talk your way out of this one, Tsinghua- Stick to your polite formula. "I- I won't, Madamn, but what do I do when I.." But then, she is already gone, and Tsinghua is *thankfully* left alone. He stumbles toward the bed, that physical feeling of sickness creeping in again, as he pulls off his Hanfu before laying down. Breathing heavily, and closing his eyes to calm down.
He won't have to be here for much longer, just another day or so-- right? This is what he tells himself, at least, while the tired messenger drifts off to sleep.
Log created on 14:54:26 05/14/2021 by Bela, and last modified on 16:05:58 05/24/2021.