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Archive for January, 2010

The Duchess of Sussington

by Lady Carlton née Katie O’Roarke, heroine of The Blonde Samurai”  

Did you observe all heads turning to watch the Duchess of Sussington enter her box at the opera last night?  Even the hefty baritone warbling Figaro lost his place when Her Grace made her arrival like Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen of Hearts toppling heads. 

And stealing hearts. 

Resplendent in a rose-red satin gown, her long train swishing behind her as if brushed by the magic of an Impressionist’s imagination, she showed off her long neck, graceful like that of a supple swan but bare– 

Nary a jewel adorned her throat.  Her head.  Or her wrists.  Wearing long, thirty-two button white gloves that covered her arm almost to the shoulder, her hands fluttered a black lace fan about as she leaned over to utter a witty remark to the gentleman next to her.  Then she smiled at the handsome lord behind her.  And was that HRH himself entering her box?

The corset régime*** says the duchess is the naughtiest lady in London.  Yet her mode of fashion is neither gaudy nor garish but rather plain, though more than one roguish blade has proclaimed that she has a pair of  “sister hills” that can drive a man mad. 

What does this naughty lady have that you don’t? 

I shall tell you, dear lady reader.

I had on previous occasion the opportunity to make Her Grace’s acquaintance at the Viscount Aubrey’s town house residence in London where she imparted to me her secret: It is her manner of dress that attracts the gentlemen. 

No jewels, no lace, no ribbons.  Her only adornment is her personality and her wit.

Where did she chance upon such an idea? I asked her.  She smiled and invited me to take tea with her at her red brick palace outside the city, a casual retreat with red velvet wall coverings and pink paint in the sitting room.  A grand afternoon it was, me, Katie O’Roarke, sipping tea and munching on raspberry dainties with the Duchess of Sussington.  

This is what she told me: 

“My dear Lady Carlton, you of all personages should know the answer to my success.  For ’twas from the recent craze in England of all things Japanese that I discovered the geisha depicted so well in the woodblock prints and photographs.  Drawings and prints of these beautiful women posed with parasols or arranging blossoms or playing the lute and dancing.” 

How did she obtain such prints? I asked her, daring to lick the raspberry jam off my lips when no one was observing me. 

“I am privileged to enjoy the company of a famous British statesman who travels frequently to the Orient.  This grand gentleman visited a tea house while in Tokio, where the geisha in her subdued kimono and sash entertained; she is known for her witty repartee and intelligent conversation on politics, the arts and the news of the day. 

“Imagine spending your life having to look beautiful every day as the geisha does.  We ladies of Mayfair spend days preparing ourselves for a ball or a night at the opera, choosing our gowns and jewels, while the geisha spends her waking hours studying her art.  

“I decided I would emanate the geisha in her long, slim-fitting kimono.  Accordingly, the richness of the fabric and the simple cut of my gowns are like those of the geisha, whose understated garments hint at the deep feelings she possesses inwardly.  I use bold colors sparingly and consider it a must that my gown hugs the curves on my body but is never too tight.  Only the best dressmaker will do. 

“I limit my accessories to a parasol or a fan but never both, since too many accessories tend to make a lady look as if she isn’t a lady but a hatless girl from York Street.    

“I never wear soiled gloves, taking a hint from the geisha who wears only the most pristine white tabi or stockings when entertaining a gentleman.”  

“A geisha is also known for her deportment and how she carries herself.  A lady’s posture can make her appear as slim as the geisha in her long kimono.  Chest up, stomach in, bosom aligned.

“And when I thought I had studied all the photographs and woodblock prints, my gentleman friend told me something I didn’t know.

” ‘Geisha do not wear drawers underneath their kimono but merely a slim underslip,” he told me. 

I immediately adopted this practice and have found nary a gentleman who doesn’t applaud my decision.”

And there you have it from Her Grace, the Duchess of Sussington:

If you wish to dress like a naughty lady, dear lady reader, abandon your drawers. 

Mercy, what will his lordship say?
    

*** I have mentioned the corset régime in a previous post: They are that stalwart group of Society ladies who shake their ample bosoms and rattle their tiny parasols whenever a new idea creates social upheaval in their ordered world.

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February 2010: meet The Blonde Samurai
“She embraced the way of the warrior. Two swords. Two loves.”   

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by Lady Carlton née Katie O’Roarke, heroine of “The Blonde Samurai”  

In the autumn of 1874 I learned the way of the samurai.

In a hidden valley amongst the orange blossoms.  Full of sunlight and promise.  Under the tutelage of Shintaro, a man of fortitude and vitality.  A man who lived in a heightened state of perpetual readiness for battle.

And for making love.  His silken futon beckoning me with the promise of erotic delights that no occidental woman had ever experienced…

Did your heart beat faster?  Is your curiosity piqued?  Be aware, ’tis true that I have written the sort of memoir that not even the most audacious lady novelist would dare to pen, but I shall not titillate you in this posting with emotional ramblings of a sensual nature. 

No, today I shall acquaint you with the fervent and steadfast ideals of the female samurai.

Such brave women do exist, I assure you.

While aristocratic ladies surround themselves in frothy veils of mystery, the samurai woman proudly displays her fortitude and strength when called upon to defend both hearth and her person.    

Shocking?  Perhaps.  After all, a lady of quality strolling along Regent Street would have no means except a delicate parasol with which to pound a ruffian upon the head should he attempt to abscond with her reticule. 

On the other hand, a samurai woman carries a dirk or dagger close to her bosom in her obi or sash and knows how to wield a curved spear known as a naginata.  

I also learned how to use a sword (a samurai carries two swords–the long and the short sword and yes, the one between his legs as well) and I invite to read about my adventures in my memoir. 

But as promised, today I shall regale you with historical accounts of samurai women.  Like Tomoe, known for her courage and good seat upon a mount.  She rode into battle on horseback and fought alongside her husband.  Another brave female samurai, Lady Masa, was the wife of a shogun and, after his death, ruled his lands and empire with a strong hand.  

And I cannot forget the samurai women of Aizu Province who, but a few years ago in 1868, defended their lord’s castle against invaders with spears and other weapons when their men were away. 

How can I attain the way of the warrior? you wish to inquire, curious as you are though you would never admit it.  I shall impart the code to you in hopes it will resonate with your spirit as it does with mine. 

The way of the warrior is based on a code of personal honor. Loyalty, courage, self-sacrifice, frugality, rigorous physical and mental discipline and total allegiance to your lord.  

As I wrote in “The Blonde Samurai: 

The way of the warrior is not about the sword, Shintaro taught me, but about the woman holding the sword, her mental strength, discipline, compassion… experience it as you would a drop of pure, fine oil from a flower, a perfume, if you will, so you may apply it to your life as you would scent to your skin and make it yours alone.”

‘Tis a noble idea, is it not?  And one I pray you shall take with you from today’s posting and carry it with you the next time you are confronted with a difficult situation.  

You are stronger than you think…believe and it shall be so.

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February 2010: meet The Blonde Samurai
“She embraced the way of the warrior. Two swords. Two loves.”   

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by Lady Carlton née Katie O’Roarke, heroine of “The Blonde Samurai”  

It has come to my attention on this rainy day when the emerging buds from the flower blossoms sigh with delight at the welcome shower that you, dear lady reader, are not reading enough romances. 

How do I know this? 

I have it on good authority from the “corset régime” that upper class ladies who are not having satisfying sexual relations with their husbands are resorting to drastic measures to change their circumstance.  

What has so disturbed this stalwart group of Society ladies who shake their ample bosoms and rattle their tiny parasols whenever a new thought infringes upon their ordered world is the idea that reading romances can improve your physical relationship with his lordship.  

You are wary of such an idea, you say. 

Here is a first-hand account to prove my point.  When I ventured out earlier this morning to a fancy goods shop to purchase new leather kid gloves (a weakness of mine), I overheard a conversation between two aristocratic ladies that went something like this: 

Lady M:  “His lordship hasn’t dined at home all week.  I cannot tell you the loneliness that overcomes me when I stare at his empty place at the table, not to mention the embarrassment when I hear the servants whispering about it.” 

Lady R: “Does he go to his club or perhaps that disgraceful establishment near the Burlington Arcade?  You know, the one where the women wear Piccadilly bangs and yellow feathers in their bonnets.” 

Lady M:  (Nodding)  “I fear you are correct.  When his lordship returns home, he smells of a peculiar odor I can only describe as dead grass drenched with patchouli.”  (Groan)  “It is all my fault.” 

Lady R: “Do say, Pauline, you are making mirth about this unfortunate situation, are you not?” 

Lady M:  “No, I am quite serious.  When it time to retire for the evening, I am just not in the mood to have relations.  After his lordship turns down the gaslight, I huddle to the far side of the bed with a feeble excuse and pull the coverlet over my head.” 

Lady R:  Then what? 

Lady M:  I say silly things, like my night corset is too tight or my garter broke or the maid pulled on my hair when she brushed it.” 

Lady R: “Pray, dear, why? 

Lady M:  “I hesitate to embarrass myself in front of you–” 

Lady R: “Am I not your oldest and dearest friend?” 

Lady M: ” ‘Tis shameful to say this even to one’s oldest friend, but I feel so…dry down there.  No wetness at all.  As if the essence of my femininity has been stolen from me, like that maid I sacked who doused herself with my most expensive Paris perfume.” 

Lady R:  (Smiling)  I know what you need, my dear.  Something that will spark your libido and make it dance a lovely waltz.”  (Giggle.)  “Or a wild mazurka.” 

Lady M:  “You mean I should consult my physician about those genital massage sessions I heard about from Lady Hartford?”   

Lady R: “No, dear, nothing so drastic…or so extravagantly priced.  There is a better way to get ‘in the mood.’ ” 

Lady M: “Tell me, please.” 

Lady R: “Read a romance.” 

Lady M:  (Shocked)  “You mean those racy novels where virginal misses swoon while being tied up and whipped by a roguish lord in tight breeches?  Lady Tarringbone says they are the ruination of a young woman’s mind and her character.” 

Lady R:  (Nose up in the air)  “What does she know?  Her ladyship is a dried-up old codfish.” 

Lady M:  Really, Pauline!” 

Lady R: “I assure you, Sylvia, reading a well-written romance is an emotional aphrodisiac that will make your heart race and fill you with pleasant sensations that warm and excite you.”

Lady M:  “You are not speaking from experience, of course.” (Pause.)  “Are you?” 

Lady R: “Of course not.  But I have heard from ladies who do reach such literature that they are much more daring in bed afterward and often make bold advances toward their husband–” 

Lady M:  No.” 

Lady R: “Yes.  They might ask him to unbutton their dress instead of having their maid do it, or snuggle between the sheets with him wearing only their night corset and no chemise–” 

Lady M:  “My dear, I have heard enough…what you are saying is quite scandalous!”  Pause.  “But you say it works?”  

Lady R: “Oh, yes.  His lordship and I–I mean, I have heard that it is quite pleasurable.” 

Lady M:  (Shaking her head.)  “I cannot imagine retiring for the night without a chemise.  Doesn’t it get drafty…down there? 

Lady R: “Who cares about the draft when you’re in the throes of passion with his lordship?  Your buttocks quivering, the heat growing in your groin as he parts your thighs and inserts his finger, one then two, stirring your honey pot with such vigorous action I thought I would–I mean, I’ve heard that women have fainted right on the spot.” 

Lady M:  “All this from reading a romance?” 

Lady R: (A sigh.)  “Oh, yes, it is quite heavenly.” 

Lady M:  “I am shocked, Sylvia, at your affirmation…and quite jealous.  (Pause.)  “May I borrow the romance of which you speak?” 

Lady R: “My dear Pauline, I shall make you a present of it.   It is called–” 

At that inopportune moment the sales clerk happened to bring me my wrapped purchases–three pair of smooth leather kid gloves in gray, taupe and ivory–and I didn’t catch the title of the book.  

But it matters not.  Pursue at your leisure the display of novels at your local book shop and bring home a romance that interests you to stir the marital fires.  You will enjoy emotional satisfaction and a good romp between the sheets. 

Remember, while his lordship finds stimulation at gazing upon your lovely breasts with their rose-tip nubs or the wiggle of your delectable backside, plump and round, we females find the engagement of our emotions to be the orchestrator of the dance that stimulates our bodies and prepares us for sex. 

As I mentioned earlier, the emerging flower bud finds joy with the rain as does your own hard bud, the seat of your womanhood, as it begins to throb and burn with a yearning when all your emotions are engaged. 

As in reading a romance.  

The story you read may be a fantasy, but the results are fact: Women who enjoy reading romances enjoy more sex with their partners.  

As a naughty Victorian lady, you have my word on it.

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February 2010: meet The Blonde Samurai
“She embraced the way of the warrior. Two swords. Two loves.”   

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Ladies of the 1870s

by Lady Carlton née Katie O’Roarke, heroine of “The Blonde Samurai”

My wedding was perfect. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

As in bluebood.

I am speaking about his lordship, Lord James Carlton, born to Braystone House, a fifteenth-century limestone goliath situated somewhere in the Midlands and unknown to me.

‘Tis true that I, Katie O’Roarke, married an English lord in the summer of 1872. Like many titled “land-rich but cash-poor” Englishman, James needed funds and I needed a husband.

But not just any husband.

To please my sainted mother, I did as many American heiresses did. I sailed across the pond to England and joined the ranks of British royalty since its American counterpart of New York society matrons with the dubious moniker of Knickerbockers would have none of the likes of me.

I was among the first young American ladies to attach my person and the family fortune to a member of the British peerage. And what a time I had of it, me with my inquisitive nature and sassy mouth. Be it known my looks were plain and my opinions brash, but a grand journey it was…until I headed to Japan and discovered that all the palaces and finery in the world cannot compare to being with the man you love.

But I digress, dear lady reader.

Today’s post is not about romance but marriage. A mariage de convenance as the French are wont to say. And so I shall attempt to enlighten you with the extravagant and wildly dazzling world of the American heiress in 1870s London.

Where shall I begin?

The O’Roarkes were nouveau riche, what I like to call gritty rich since my da was a man who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty to make an honest dollar. And that he did in railroads. He was among the self-made millionaires who could easily afford to spend what they made.

Even though my mother furnished our New York brownstone with elegant chairs in blue velvet inlaid with ebony and ivory and adorned herself in pleated skirts in watered silks, the snobbish society ladies would have nothing to do with us. No invitations to dinner parties or fancy balls. Her silver tray designed to hold such invitations remained empty.

But you don’t know my Irish mother. Undaunted after being snubbed by the elitist New York Society, Mama insisted we head for Paris.

And from there to London where the H.R.H, the Prince of Wales, a royal with a reputation for the ladies, harbored no prejudice against Americans, but rather welcomed the company of Yankee heiresses with fortunes to spend and who looked charming in the latest Parisian gowns while doing so.

They called us buccaneers since we set out to plunder the titles of England like pirates in silk petticoats, the doors to a glittering new world opening up to us with invitations to all the London Society soirees.

I made my mother proud when I was among the first to marry a member of the peerage (I have since heard that Jennie Jerome married Lord Randolph Churchill.***

I soon discovered that while being Lady Carlton afforded me great prestige, it left me with a lonely heart…

Until I arrived in Japan, the land of cherry blossoms and samurai, where I learned the way of the way of the warrior: loyalty, honor and self-respect from a samurai called Shintaro, one of the most mysterious, elusive and enigmatic men in all Japan.

 

[***Jina’s note: Jennie Churchill was the mother of Sir Winston Churchill]

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February 2010: meet The Blonde Samurai
“She embraced the way of the warrior. Two swords. Two loves.”   

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by Lady Carlton née Katie O’Roarke, heroine of “The Blonde Samurai”

As the cold days linger and the frost bites at my nose like an unhappy hummingbird, I am oft reminded that the smells of this season–soot and the burning of firewood–make the coming of spring an ever so joyful occurrence with its fragrant scents.

Rose, jasmine, lavender.

Delightful scents that the geisha and courtesans use in their unique, charming manner since these artistic ladies do not use perfume in the manner you do.  They apply scent to the air (incense sticks in redolent smells such as sandalwood and cinnamon) or to the many layers of their silken robes or kimono.  They consider it most important that their scent lingers in the mind of the gentleman once he has taken leave of their futon.   

I am reminded of the young geisha I met in the pleasure quarters of Yoshiwara named Simouyé *** and how she used scent to entertain the customer with her art before the courtesan made her appearance.  A geisha owns many kimono, each one sumptuous and silky and painted with original patterns in the most vibrant colors, but it is the scent of the geisha that makes a gentleman catch his breath and yearn to take her in his arms.

How is this possible? 

Scent affects a gentleman’s mood, evoking a reaction to a smell even before he identifies it, sparking sensual memories with a memorable woman.

 Such as you, dear lady reader. 

If I may do so, I shall pen my thoughts about scent so you may use them the next time you wish to seduce your husband or your lover (though rarely are they one and the same in the boudoirs of Mayfair) and send him adrift in a magical dream where you are the lead player.

1.  The wise goddess of nature infuses flowers with potent, seductive scents (the world of geisha is called the “flowers and willows world).  A drop of an essential oil is all you need. No more.  Even if you can’t smell it late in the evening after you return from a soiree, he can. 

2.  Warm weather enhances your scent, begging that you be judicious during the Season in applying scent to your skin.  Honeysuckle and jasmine are soft fragrances best worn for tea at Brown’s, but for evenings (especially when you wish to be mysterious and are attending a masked ball), a heavy, musky scent can be most seductive. 

3.  A favorite scent of mine–lavender–reduces stress and can help you relax when your household is in disorder (has your husband been chasing after your new ladies maid again?) as well as relieve anxiety and promote a sense of well-being.  Though you may be more inclined to look for a new maid to regain your good nature. 

4.  Oriental fragrances are all the rage with their powdery, sensual, bewitching scent.  Be daring and shed your inhibitions in the boudoir.  Do as the courtesan does and undress slowly in front of your husband or lover and not behind a pearl-inlayed screen, the scent of an oriental paradise wafting in the air and seducing him as he watches you.  

5.  I am aware that many of you dab scent behind your earlobes.  No geisha would do so nor should you.  She is aware that the skin in that area produces an oil that affects the scent.  Instead, rub scent behind your knees since scent rises.  

I shall leave you with a final thought about fragrance: though it may be considered unladylike to apply scent between your breasts, what with the current rage of low décolletage in gowns so popular among ladies of the upper class, is there not a more desirable place for his lordship to bury his nose?
 

***Jina’s note: Simouyé, the mama-san and teahouse owner in “The Blonde Geisha” makes a cameo appearance in The Blonde Samurai.”

    

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February 2010: meet The Blonde Samurai
“She embraced the way of the warrior. Two swords. Two loves.”   

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by Lady Carlton née Katie O’Roarke, heroine of “The Blonde Samurai”

I shall ignore for today’s posting that you are a lady of quality and are inclined to shy away from a discussion about what the ancient Celts called “self-love.”  Still, I wish to enlighten you on a delicate subject: dildos.  (You can blame my brashness on my Irish heritage if that allows you to keep reading.)

Hidden away from curious upturned eyes in the deep entrails of the world’s museums, I have no doubt you will find everything from Ice Age stone dildos to leather dildos from ancient Greece and, in the bedrooms of the upper class, dildos made of rubber known as “The Widow’s Comforter.”

Enter the steam-powered massager or vibrator, patented by a forward-thinking American physician in 1869.  I’ve heard rumors that physicians in a hospital in Paris are experimenting with genital massage of female patients to produce, if you will excuse the term, physical excitement that can only be described as glorious. 

Vibrators are, from what I understand, in great demand by physicians whose practice involves genital massage, which has been recorded as standard treatment for headaches and irritability since the first century.  Accordingly they are able to treat their female patients for a common malady known as “hysterical paroxysm” (better known as “sexual deprivation”) more efficiently with these machines.  

Such an electromechanical vibrator reduces a physician’s time from an hour to ten minutes, meaning he can see more female patients in need of the orgasm they aren’t getting anywhere else.  I have no doubt women will soon demand to buy them for home use.

Speaking of home use, as I wrote in my memoir, The Blonde Samurai: 

 

“I didn’t let that stop me from continuing my search for self-gratification and from imagining what delights such an implement could bring to me. A pleasure so exquisite that a secret longing deep in my belly made me shiver with anticipation.

“That indefinable hunger drove me to explore other means to find satisfaction, though I hesitate to share it with you if you’ve turned pale and are experiencing indigestion because of the indelicate subject matter. Skip over these next few pages if you must, but I’ll not deny these enticing thoughts ran through my mind on many a lonely day. 

“Such as today. Desiring not to be disturbed, I closed the curtains and locked the door to my rooms before I opened the polished wooden box lined with red velvet. Sitting next to my china ring stand shaped like a tiny tree with willowy branches, the dark walnut box held the jewels James had given me on our wedding day, as propriety dictated.

“Family heirlooms including a garnet necklace surrounded by stars, a diamond brooch with a large ruby in the center and a turquoise bracelet set off with diamonds. Cold stones given with a cold heart.

“The box contained another jewel. One I enjoyed wearing above all others. Sleek, round and bulbous. The energy oozing from it when I slipped it inside me awakened my soul with a gentle vibration I could only describe as magic.

“My dildo.”

I warned you it was a delicate subject.  But you couldn’t resist, could you?

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February 2010: meet The Blonde Samurai
“She embraced the way of the warrior. Two swords. Two loves.”   

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Imagine if Queen Victoria twittered (“We are not amused today…”) or Dickens posted a Facebook Profile (Relationship Status: married with ten children, Employer: law clerk turned freelance writer) or Jack the Ripper updated his status on his MySpace page (Mood: agitated. Headed over to Whitechapel).

What if you wanted to blog about Victorian England as your character? What challenges would you face? It was a different lifestyle back then with a different manner of speech, decorum and way of life. A world without Blackberrys and YouTube, yet a very civilized and fascinating world.

And more of a challenge than I realized when I set out to write a blog in the voice of my heroine in my February 2010 Spice novel, “The Blonde Samurai,” the story of an Irish-American heiress who weds a British lord then falls in love with a handsome samurai in 1873 Japan.

I was determined to offer readers an amusing and witty look at the world of Victorian England and Japan in the late nineteenth century. A Naughty Victorian Lady tells all…” launched at the eHarlequin.com website with A Naughty Victorian Lady’s Christmas Stocking.

Everything was going well until–

I wanted to blog about the video I made in the voice of my heroine, Lady Carlton, showcasing “The Blonde Samurai.” Not plausible, since the first celluloid film (a few seconds long) wasn’t shot until the late 1880s, years after my novel takes place.

Fortunately, the idea of “moving pictures” wasn’t as outlandish to Victorians as one might believe. Several patents were applied for during this time, including a British patent for “…moving images optically combined with a reflected ‘background’ ” and another for “Improvement in the Method and Apparatus for Photographing Objects in Motion.”

Interesting, but not the amusing and romantic tone I wanted for my blog.

What was a writer to do? Go with what I know best: romance. I combined Victorian England and Japan in a romantic setting to describe my video about “The Blonde Samurai.”

Here is an excerpt:

Believe that I have fastened together silk paintings and that I shall make them “move” by flipping through them; or that I have painted scenes on the ribs of a folding fan, then I shall open it slowly to make the scenes change from one to the next. Imagine, if you will.

So I request that you transcend the world of London with its insufferable saffron-colored fog and the bone-chilling weather this time of year that makes you don flannel petticoats to keep the cold from darting up your backside–

And come with me back to the warm Spring of 1873 as I tell you the story of The Blonde Samurai in a most unique and charming manner…

February 2010: meet The Blonde Samurai
“She embraced the way of the warrior. Two swords. Two loves.”   

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