Return to Seventh Holy Scripture
Among that which was immediately relevant: Lunarian food. I found that the off metallic taste was most prominent in starchy foods, and subtle or non-existent in strong-flavored ones. Unfortunately for me, the moon's cuisine consisted largely of various buns and pastries, and most of their fillings were too mild to counteract the starch.
However, there were plenty of raw fruits and vegetables available in the street markets. I went on a low-carb diet and began to buy and cook my own food. When I mentioned my culinary difficulties to Eirin, she commented, "You don't like umami?"
Thanks to the enchantment, I could now read the Nihon Shoki in colloquial language. Unfortunately, it didn't freshen up the content, which quickly grew as weary as it was before. I went to the library, where I found a book that was more well-rounded, covering Rome and China as well as stripping the mythological trappings from Japan's history. The new tome had a habit of referring to the humans it researched as 'filthy apes' and 'savages.' It was an interesting contrast reading one and then the other.
I looked for a mention of Hourai and couldn't find any, except for a footnote describing the Chinese paradise by that name, ending on a sardonic note with "if only they knew." On returning to the library, I asked a librarian about it. She stared at me briefly, and replied, "Being from the Earth must be horrible, but do you really want to die that badly?"
The day of reckoning came quickly. I was to see the Princess of the Moon for an hour, or until she dismissed me, and meet with Counselor Shou-ri afterwards. This was not an open-book test; the other tutors lectured entirely from memory, demonstrating their worthiness to educate the royal child, and I was not to receive preferential treatment. Seeing as the bulk of my memory only extended a month into the past, I was very nervous.
I hadn't been able to get in touch with Eirin, either. Though I knew the way to her quarters, she seemed to be busy or absent every time I paid a visit; knocking on her door invariably received no answer. Understandably, being a doctor wasn't an leisurely job, but she'd had a full evening and morning to chat with me prior to my appointment. Where had that free time gone?
No more time to reminisce. Escorted by a guard- I wasn't allowed to wander freely in this section of the palace- I reached the princess's antechamber, occupied by a veritable infantry platoon. The escort left me with them, as one guard went in to inform the princess of my arrival. A few minutes later, I was admitted. Well, at least not everyone in the palace thought it refined to make people wait, I reflected.
The princess's chamber nearly blinded me as I entered. Royal decor, for the Lunarians, meant a veritable kaleidoscope of color. Any surface of significant size in the room could have been a peacock, a butterfly, a painter's palette; so saturated with chroma that the underlying order, if any, was obliterated to my eyes. After a painful moment of adjustment, I picked out the shapes of the single bodyguard- an ordinary-looking Lunarian I'd been assured would do nothing untoward if I didn't either, but would kill me within seconds if I did- and the princess herself.
She was ordinary-looking, too. Perhaps the Lunarians saw more individuality in each other then I did; the only difference I could ever discern was the color and style of their hair. The princess, like Eirin, was one of the dark-haired ones. Her hair was smoothly and impeccably cut just above her eyes, and flowed down to her hips in the back before terminating in a single perfect line, just like a curtain. Her most distinctive feature, to me, was her smile. It was... well, the smile of a princess; confident, subtly knowing, well aware of her station.
Her clothing was surprisingly plain. She wore a floral-print dress in two parts, the top pink, the bottom burgundy. It was scarcely any more elegant then my own purple dress; I supposed she dressed, or was dressed, differently for formal occasions.
"You may sit," the princess said, gesturing to a piece of furniture I hadn't seen in the chaos. She herself was sitting on a throne of sorts. I did as she suggested, in what I hoped was a suitably respectful manner; I'd forgotten to bow. She didn't appear to mind, or to notice... instead she was gazing at me. I supposed my appearance was more interesting to her then vice versa.
"So you are Yukari Yakumo," she finally said, folding her arms across her lap and briefly turning her eyes elsewhere.
"That is so," I answered her carefully. "It is a honor to meet you, Princess."
"Well, of course," she replied with a faint smile. "For now, I'll allow you to dispense with the rest of the formalities." She folded her hands delicately in her lap, her fingers intertwining gracefully. "They tell me that come from the Earth, and are to be my tutor on Earthly subjects, Yakumo. But also that you have lost your memory. Which one is it?"
"Well, Princess, I haven't lost all of my memory. It's true that I have little idea who I am, or of the events of my past life, but I remember my world quite clearly. I hope that my knowledge will be sufficient to educate you as is befitting." Unfortunately, the world I knew was not the one I was meant to teach the princess about. I'd have to rely on my studying and fill in the gaps best as I could.
"Is that so." The princess looked unimpressed, as if she could see through to my inner lack of confidence. She closed her eyes. "Let us see if you are right. Tell me what your kind think of the moon. And make it good; I hate dull lectures." I smiled inwardly; she'd asked the exact thing I'd speculated she might- the same thing the other Lunarians had- and I'd studied especially for it.
"In most early human societies- starting about five thousand years ago- the moon was a god," I began. "Hubal, the moon god of the ancient Arabians, was the head of their pantheon. The horns of the bull were thought to represent the crescent moon, and so they were sacred-"
"Bull?" the princess interrupted me, as was probably her prerogative.
I scratched my head. "An Earthly beast, Princess. They look a bit like hakutaku." She giggled at that. Hakutaku were venerated on Earth, I supposed, but not here. "Go on," the princess said; she didn't look enthralled, but not bored either. So far, so good.
"A people called the Greeks were the first to explain the movement of the moon. Their moon goddess, Selene, fell in love with a beautiful mortal hunter. She enchanted him so that he lay in eternal sleep in a mountain cave far to the west, and thus live forever; each night, she would journey across the sky from the palace of the gods to visit him." I frowned faintly. "Have you been told before of how the moon looks from the Earth, Princess?"
"Much like how the earth looks from the Moon, no?" she replied. "Less colorful, of course."
"Yes, that's true," I replied. To be honest, I didn't know; I'd been too busy poring over books to take a look at the Lunarian night sky. "I hope you can imagine how the moon might resemble a traveler's torch on a journey across the sky, Princess."
"A beautiful mortal hunter," she mused, then looked up at me. "Tell me more stories like that. The boring stuff can wait." Uh-oh. Did I know enough myths to spend an hour- longer then that, if she pleased- recounting them? Well, at least I'd gotten her interest. I launched into the tale of Orpheus, figuring she might like the romance, and hoped I'd be able to invent a few myths of my own if necessary.
"Well, it was a success with the Princess, anyway," I told the Counselor. "I started off teaching her about how humans regard the Moon, but when I recounted a myth in passing, she was pleased and asked me to tell her more of them. I spent most of the hour telling her stories." I bowed my head. "I apologize for not teaching her something more productive."
He smiled. "This tutelage is for the Princess's own amusement, so I believe you did your job," he replied. "Perhaps you should have become court poet after all, though."
"I don't think so; I never could grasp meter," I said. "Is there anything else I should know before I start meeting with the Princess regularly?"
"Well, we'll be confirming your report, of course," the Counselor said. He regarded me with a serious gaze. "If perchance you've misled us about your success, you will regret it. But I don't think you have, so if no guards appear at your door, carry on. Your only requirement is to stay in the Princess's favor."
"That doesn't make me feel very useful," I said.
"You really don't know all that much, so it would be cruel to judge you by your performance, wouldn't it?" he replied. Perhaps the Counselor was more perceptive then I'd thought. "Besides, the Princess's happiness is no less important then the rest of her education. Perhaps having you around will make her a bit more manageable."
"Manageable," I repeated. "Well, it's not like there's many other opportunities on the Moon for an ignorant earthling. You've been very generous in offering me this much."
"Indeed. Is there anything else? I have a busy schedule today, so if you'll excuse me-"
I left the office with a sour taste in my mouth. In the hallway outside the foyer, I immediately bumped into someone I knew. She didn't particularly look happy to see me, which was odd, because she had obviously been waiting there.
"Eirin," I said. "I haven't seen you in a while. Are you here to see the Counselor?"
The dark-haired woman shook her head. "I just wondered how your first meeting with the Princess went," she said. There was something strange about her tone of voice... It was perfectly level, almost emotionless. And she wouldn't meet my eyes.
I scratched my head. "It was pretty good, I think. She was happy."
"Pity," Eirin replied.
"Pity?" I stared at her. "Eirin, what's wrong with you? I'm grateful to you, I haven't been avoiding you on purpose, it's just that-"
"What do you think?" she interrupted me, still with that level voice. "I've been devoted to the Princess for all her life, and yet I'm nothing more to her then someone to call for when her tummy aches. I see her once every few months. But you, a common youkai who hasn't even been here a month, are suddenly privileged to be with her every day. To see her smile." Abruptly, she did meet my eyes, with a smoldering glare. "Why shouldn't I be bitter? If I'd known things would turn out like this, I would have left you in that prison cell forever."
"Eirin!" I almost shouted. "I didn't ask for this either! If it's what you want, we can demand of the Counselor that you become the Princess's tutor instead of me right now!" The door to the Counselor's foyer opened and a guard looked out at us. Eirin glanced at him, then grabbed my hand and started walking briskly away. At the first T-intersection, she turned down the side corridor, far more spartan then the one we were in.
"It's no use," she told me as we headed down the hallway. "You're what the Princess wants now. Because you're a novelty." She laughed thinly. "Maybe I should become a youkai. I'd likely die in the attempt, but no one would miss me, would they?" She seemed to be calming down a bit; a normal tone of voice was returning.
"I would," I replied. "Where are we going?"
Eirin was silent for a moment.
"...I saw the Princess after you left," she eventually said. "Just to make sure you hadn't given her any filthy Earth diseases. She really did seem happy."
There was another long pause.
"I'll take you to the Imperial Library. It's the best on the moon; you're sure to find something on folktales there."
"Thank you, Eirin." I squeezed her hand. "And... I'm sorry.""Don't mention it," she said. "Just don't ever expect to see my face again."