Finding Home

Seien is re-introduced to the court. Familes are reintroduced to each other. Drama with Fluff, I-4

It was harder than Seien remembered, trying to pace in court robes. He kicked his over-robe aside one more time and swung his sleeves in frustration. “Can’t we go in yet?”

Sou-shougun watched him in completely unmoved amusement, arms crossed. He looked like he could be one of the pillars that held up the roof. “We’ll enter when the time is right, Seien-koushi.” He raised a dark eyebrow. “You used to know your strategy better than this.”

“If the idea is to have me accepted as easily as possible by the Court, again, why make a production of my return in the first place?” Seien grumbled. He wanted this to be happening faster.

Ryuuki was waiting in there.

Sou-shougun snorted. “Oh, stop being an idiot, boy! You know it has to be seen that your return is accepted and welcomed.” His mouth twisted. “By the Emperor, at any rate.”

That sounded enough like his old teacher that Seien relaxed a little and smiled up at his temporary guard. “And by his advisors?” he asked, lightly.

Sou-shougun’s moment of silence told Seien that his real question had been heard. Sou nodded, slow and firm. “And by us as well.”

That quiet tone drew Seien up straight and he inclined his head with the imperial dignity he’d had no use for in nearly seven years. “Thank you, Sou-taifu.”

And then a bell sounded inside the hall, and it was time.

Seien paced down the hall, between whispering rows of officials and courtiers, eyes fixed only on the Emperor. He knew his foster-father was here somewhere. He knew his brother would be, as well. But if he looked for either of them he didn’t think he’d be able to hold himself together. In this moment, he needed to be only the Prince, for the Court.

He knelt at the foot of the steps, waiting. He paid little attention to the words of pardon and welcome that Shou-taishi declaimed in the “ailing” Emperor’s name, only waiting, enduring, until the last flourish of that old voice told him it was time to rise, to climb the steps, to kneel again at the Emperor’s feet and take his father’s hands, completing this bit of theater.

The gold glint of his father’s eyes was wry, as their gazes met. Seien snorted a little and whispered, “Are you satisfied?”

“Probably only in death,” his father murmured back through still lips. “But this will do for now. Rise. Greet the inheritance you’ve agreed to take, my son.”

Seien’s jaw tightened, but he did stand and turn to face the Court. The roar that greeted Shou-taishi’s gesture of acclaim was distant in his ears; it reminded him of the sound of the riots, a year and a half ago. He knew his face was still as he looked out over them.

And then his gaze crossed the far corner of the dais and caught on a small figure in purple and the wide, wide eyes fixed on him. The world snapped back into focus and Seien smiled. Ryuuki lit up like the sun rising and abandoned ceremony and dashed to fling himself into Seien’s arms.

Arms that were held out for him, and all the watching eyes could just be damned.

Seien caught his brother close, burying a brilliant smile in soft, bright hair. “Ryuuki,” he whispered. “I’m back.”

“Aniue…!” It took a few long, shuddering breaths, but Ryuuki finally lifted his face, eyes wet and shining, to smile breathlessly up at Seien. “Welcome back,” he managed, voice wobbling.

Seien smoothed back Ryuuki’s hair tenderly and kept an arm around him as he turned to face the Court again; he could feel Ryuuki was still shaking.

This time, looking out over the people he had agreed to rule, his eyes were clear.

Seien finally managed to chase out all his new attendants and settle down on the side ledge in his new rooms, laughing, pulling Ryuuki down to sit in the curve of his arm. His brother hadn’t let go of his sleeve once since they’d left the hall. “I’m not going anywhere, Ryuuki. Not this time,” he promised.

“… okay.” Ryuuki’s answer was muffled in his shoulder, and Seien’s smile softened.

“Ryuuki…” He lifted his brother’s chin, looking him over closely, now that he had time. Ryuuki looked better, this year, than Seien had ever seen him, healthier and neater, starting to fill out, eyes bright and interested.

Not often as bright as they were right this moment, admittedly.

“I’m sorry it took me so long to make it back,” Seien said, soberly.

“It’s all right. I knew you’d come back someday.” Absolute trust filled Ryuuki’s voice and wrapped warmth around Seien.


Ryuuki nodded, happy with this. And then he looked around with a faint frown. “Oh. It’s getting late…” He nibbled his lip and leaned closer to Seien.

Touched by a hint of mischief Seien asked, “So, is it time to go see Shouka-sama, then?”

Ryuuki blinked, but seemed to take it for granted that, of course, his big brother knew everything. “Yeah!” He bounced to his feet and went to the door to peek out before nodding and silently gesturing Seien to come.

Seien was fairly sure they made an amusing sight, two princes, gaudy in purple, tiptoeing through the palace, avoiding their own guards, to go visit the Archivist like a couple of children hoping to steal sweets from the kitchen.

The strangest part was that it was… fun. He hadn’t expected that, when he’d thought about his return.

As soon as the Archive doors closed behind them, Ryuuki went running down the halls, pulling Seien behind him, to burst into the library room. “Shouka, look! Aniue is back!”

Shouka chuckled as he furled a scroll. “Yes, I saw.”

“Aniue? But… Seiran?”

Seien’s head whipped around to stare at the girl sitting at the window table. “Shuurei-chan?” She looked as bewildered as he suddenly felt. What was she doing here?

“Oh yes.” Shouka-sama smiled with perfectly ruthless calm. “Since Shuurei would be alone in the house, now, I thought it would be better for her to visit me more often.” He laid a hand on his daughter’s head and told her, “Our Seiran is also Seien-koushi.”

Shuurei’s eyes got big and she stared at Seien. He winced. Sure enough, it only took a few seconds for Shuurei-chan to start frowning. “You didn’t tell me.” Now she was downright glaring. “Seiran, you didn’t tell me!”

He raised a placating hand. “I’m very sorry, Shuurei-chan, it just…” Hadn’t seemed like a good idea to burden her with, but, knowing Shuurei-chan, he probably shouldn’t say that.

“Aniue.” Ryuuki tugged on the arm he still had possession of. “What do they mean? Seiran?”

Seien pulled in a long breath, trying not to feel harassed, and glowered briefly at his foster-father. “Ryuuki.” He knelt so that they were eye to eye. “Shouka-sama took care of me, while I was sent away from the courts. And,” he turned his head to include Shuurei, “because it was dangerous, the family called me Seiran, so no one would know who I was.”

Ryuuki and Shuurei eyed each other.

Seien sighed and held out his free hand to Shuurei, who hopped down from her chair to come take it. Ryuuki pressed closer against his side, and Seien tightened the arm around him, comfortingly. “Now, you two. Shuurei-chan, this is my younger brother, Ryuuki. Ryuuki, this is Shouka-sama’s daughter, Shuurei.” He smiled hopefully. “So, while Shouka-sama was taking care of Ryuuki, I was taking care of Shuurei.”

Shuurei looked at Ryuuki curiously. “Tou-sama was? I suppose the Emperor, your father, had work he had to do, didn’t he. But… couldn’t your mother?”

Seien felt Ryuuki flinch against him, but before he could decide what to do, Ryuuki looked down at his toes and muttered, “Don’t have a mother.”

“Oh.” Shuurei-chan’s eyes turned dark. She bit her lip and reached out her free hand to take Ryuuki’s. “I’m sorry. I don’t either.”

“Oh.” Ryuuki looked at her, and then at Shouka-sama, and then at Seien, bright eyes clouding with dilemma. “I guess… it’s time to give everyone back to the right family, then.”

Shuurei frowned ferociously for a moment, in thought, and then nodded, triumphant. “We can share!”

Ryuuki stared at her. “Really?”

“Really,” Shuurei stated firmly, and added in her best lecturing tone. “That’s what people do in hard times, just like the relief measures the government has when there’s a famine somewhere.”

Seien chuckled, as the two children smiled at each other, pleased with their pact, and looked up at Shouka-sama to see what he thought of being traded like a bushel of rice.

Shouka-sama wore his most serene smile. “Yes, I think that will work out. Don’t you?”

Seien blushed a little and gathered both the younger ones close. He knew Shouka-sama was tweaking him, gently, over how much he relied on the children’s love, their purity—on the fact that all of this was, in the end, for them because he certainly couldn’t see much else in this filthy world that deserved his sword to guard it.

But perhaps that was all right.