20. The Scroll Challenge

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Funako stumbled in one hot evening, feeling amazing. She felt like the favorite consort of the hiwau and half the court. The rice wine had been cold, and the poetry scandalously fierce, and Funako felt like a queen even though she had come home early. 

She peeled off her socks and swayed, only a little drunk, in the doorway to Asuka’s rooms. Funako drummed her fingernails through the moonbeams on sliding door, waiting to be noticed. She had been noticed all evening. 

Asuka was organizing scrolls in piles based on their value, if the value of the papers and bindings was anything to go by. Funako couldn’t read some of those boring books, so she could only guess at their values, but Asuka treasured them. Well, Asuka would probably treasure a leaf with text on it in the right circumstances. 

There were fewer books in Asuka’s room, Funako noticed, than the last time she had stuck her head in. Asuka was researching something, and no one would give away precious knowledge for free, so she was trading away her collection to access others. She was grimly counting her remaining scrolls. The sight brought Funako down from her triumphant high for a moment. 

But she felt in such a powerful, good mood that she could indulge her little sister’s research project. She waved her long, trailing sleeve at the floor, finally getting Asuka’s attention. 

“What’s this?”

“I’m trying to read all the libraries in the Capital,” said Asuka, leaning back on her hands. She delivered the joke tiredly, and at first, Funako thought it was that. A joke. 


Asuka started gathering her scrolls into a pile, moving them to the side of the room. 

“You need scrolls?” asked Funako. 

“I can figure it out.”

Plan already hatching, Funako placed her forefinger on her lip. “I can get you scrolls.”

“People aren’t just going to give you scrolls, Funako.”

At the sight of Asuka’s irritation, Funako crossed the room in a swish of skirts. Leaning over, maybe still a little tipsy, she pulled Asuka to her feet, and she spread her arms wide. She cocked her hip in mock seduction. 

“I will get you so many scrolls!” She spun around. “You can’t trade your library away. What about the dignity of our house?”

Asuka opened her mouth, as if to protest, but Funako placed a dignified, manicured hand over her mouth.

“Let your older sister handle this. Scrolls, right?”