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My sincerest apologies for tardiness this past week! I hope to post another one later this week as well!
The title of this piece (and a line in the story) reflect back on a poem by Emily Dickinson.
Also, I love koi fish. Don't ask why, because I have no clue ^^
Title: The Thing With Fins
Prompt: (23) Gift(s)
Perspective: First Person –from Ellery’s POV
Genres: Fantasy, Drama
Length: 1027 words
-Hints at the Past
-Facts hidden in my fiction
-References to poetry
I laughed out loud. “It’s a Kuchibeni koi.” I recognized it by the familiar red glow of the aura. Koi fish were the only fish I’d ever seen that actually had auras. Some of the old men in Sada whispered legends of reincarnation in conjunction with them and at times I wondered if they were true. But was it a blessing or a curse to end up as the ever-persistent koi fish?
“A whaty-what?” Algernon asked.
“A koi fish. It’s a type of carp. Kuchibeni is the color variation. This particular coloring symbolizes love and long-lasting relationships.” I shrugged.
Fai had thought this a fitting gift when my master and I finally revealed the… depth of our relationship? It made sense as a gift to remind me of things long past, but Algernon was quickly proving he had no such attachment to the koi fish.
I had toured a few lush gardens in Sada with Fai before returning to the continent to train. My joy at the sight of the auras had been so immense that I hadn’t been able to keep it from flowing into the others in the garden, even before I’d realized I was capable of projecting my emotions into others. That day had been the bright spot of my life in Sada, so it was little wonder that I recalled all of the things I’d learned that day.
“Why do you know so much about them?”
“Algernon, I lived in Sada for half a century. I had to pick up a thing or two.”
He shifted. “Well, yeah… but fish?”
“These fish are very precious to the culture in Sada –and in Xiang, or so Fai told me. Each coloration means a different thing and superstations were built around them. Plus, they are one of the few creatures I’ve ever seen with an aura –and they are different with each coloration.” Gently, I cradled the bagged fish in my hand. “They have long life spans and they are very hearty. Koi used to be raised out in the rice paddies of Sada, though some rice farmers still continue the practice. They swam in the river that ran through the Hideaki, though their colors and auras were quite different –warped by the magick, I suppose. Often, the koi were the only thing that kept me from starving to death.”
It was a delicate sound, one Algernon rarely ever made. It was sort of his way of admitting he had pushed too far or placed too little value on a thing.
“…Did Fai send more than one fish?” I inquired, trying to drive the conversation away from a stalling point. “Koi tend to be social fish.”
He looked down and rustled what had to be the note that came with the fish. “…Ten?!” he exclaimed, shocked. “What are we going to do with ten fish?”
I thought about it for a long moment before remembering Algernon’s beloved and well-tended efforts at landscaping. “Are there any fish in the pond?”
“No, but it’s a water-garden.”
“Great! We can put them in the pond. They’ll likely feed off the roots, but they won’t kill your plants.” I smiled. Perhaps this gift was better than I’d thought. After all, he did love his water garden: maybe he could learn to love the koi.
“Uh, how big do these things get?” he asked, gulping as he poked the bag again.
“They can get to three feet in length.” I paused, thinking about the pond. “I may need to enlarge the pond later, but he’s not sending anything over a foot in length, right?”
Algernon sighed. “I do not know. That dragon…”
I huffed out a breath. “The next time he comes to visit, he gets to enlarge the pond.”
He reached out for my arm and leaned upon my shoulder. Wrapping an arm around his shoulders, I clasped him gently, trying to express how glad I was for his affectionate gesture. We hadn’t really been a couple for very long now, just the few short weeks since I’d ceased to be his apprentice. In that time, I’d come to realize how infrequently he actually touched me.
It was a relic reminiscent of the time I’d first come to stay with him and learn under him. Fai had literally pulled me out of the only living hell imaginable on Edana before dragging me halfway around the world and leaving me on his old master’s doorstep. Living in the Hideaki had not only robbed me of my sight, it had taught me harsh distrust. Fifty years of blindness as I wandered in a nightmare world where nothing was ever as it seemed and monsters lurked and stalked me left me skittish. No, more than skittish –I had jerked away from every attempt at contact or accidental brush of arms.
For a man as contact-reliant as Algernon, learning how to live around his new apprentice had been difficult. Eventually, I had adapted to my new situation and adjusted to the contacts, but it had evidentially happened too late. My lover rarely even reach out to touch me and now it was the lack of contact that bothered me.
He withdrew from me far too soon and I resisted the urge to sigh. It seemed that gap was mine to bridge now, but I didn’t even know how to approach it.
Turning from me, he stepped toward the open picture window. “Apparently, the other fish should arrive tomorrow.”
Swallowing hard, I slipped up behind him and wrapped my arms around him. Shock sent his body ram-rod straight in my arms and I tried not to be offended by it. Dropping a kiss in his hair, I mused aloud. “I wonder if Fai is sending some of the other colorations. They symbolize all sorts of things: luck, longevity, perseverance, courage, individuality…”
It was slow but he gradually relaxed in my hold. The firm press of his body against mine made me smile and kiss his ear.
Perhaps… just perhaps if hope was the thing with feathers, love was the thing with fins.
If you didn't know, all of those things mentioned about koi fish are true! Sada parallels to Japan and Xiang to China, so I do occasionally use them interchangeable to relay facts.
One of the reasons that koi are a symbol of persistence and individuality is because these fish actually swim against the currents. That is why Ellery supposes love is "the thing with fins".
I also want to mention that the reason I chose to write about koi fish is to prove my own perseverance ((:
PS: My sincere apologies for any typos --I first posted as I ran out the door and did not proof-read as I should have.