Paper Dust

Seien sneeks a look in on Ryuuki and gets a lesson from Shouka into the bargain. Drama, I-3

If Seiran had been the one in charge of guarding the palace, he thought, he’d have had a few words to say to the soldiers who patrolled the place.

He’d been tucked up in the eaves of the Archives all day, having come in over the roofs—the red roofs, for heaven’s sake!—and not a single guard had looked up yet. If this had been the forest, they’d all have been dead without any bandits having to bother coming down out of the trees.

A soft, light voice from the open window below him distracted him from such dark thoughts, and Seiran smiled. Ryuuki sounded happy today.

The Archives were the only place he dared try to catch a glimpse of his brother. Unlike the guards, Ryuuki was alert as any wild animal. It was only here he relaxed a little, in the quiet of Shouka-sama’s little domain.

“Shouka, Shouka, look! I copied the whole thing!” Ryuuki held up a scrap of paper proudly, showing off his careful brushstrokes.

“And a very good job, too.” Shouka-sama leaned over Ryuuki, one hand resting, gentle and light, on Ryuuki’s shoulder. Seiran’s thoughts darkened again as he caught sight of the soft bandage, showing under the neck of Ryuuki’s robes, that Shouka-sama was being careful not to touch. If any of their elder brothers ever passed near while Seien was moving through the palace, he swore they would regret it. Briefly. They would have to be dealt with somehow, and shared blood…

Well, sharing blood meant something different to him, these days.

“Shouka, is this true?”

Seiran blinked, brought back again by the sudden thoughtful edge to his brother’s voice. Ryuuki ran a small finger down one column of characters.

“Do the eight enlightened ones really still live among us and keep watch over the country?”

“That’s what legend tells us.” Shouka smiled down at Ryuuki. “And the temples, too.”

Ryuuki sniffed. “They aren’t doing a very good job, then. Everyone complains, all the time, about how hard it is to run things, and how everyone is making trouble for everyone else.”

“Ah, well.” Shouka-sama leaned back against the windowsill. “The enlightened ones can only help us. They can’t just take over the country; that wouldn’t be right.”

“Why not? I mean, if they’re enlightened.” Ryuuki leaned his chin in his hands, eyes wide and curious. Actually, Seien was rather curious what Shouka-sama would answer, too.

“All our tales of them, from the very beginning, tell us that, enlightened as they are, those eight served the emperor,” Shouka-sama said quietly. “That is their part. It is the emperor’s part to rule and lead. And he can only be one person, in this one place. He can’t take care of more than a handful of people, directly.” Shouka-sama smiled. “I suspect some emperors forget they have more than the people right here to care for.”

Seien flushed hotly, even though he was hidden up in the eaves and Shouka-sama wasn’t even talking to him.

Well… maybe wasn’t talking to him.

“But the enlightened ones, not being rulers, why they can go wherever they need to, to care for the country.”

“Oh.” Ryuuki considered this for a long moment, nibbling on his lip. “Okay. I think I see.”

Seien softened helplessly, touched all over again by his brother’s brightness, his sharp mind and pure heart. He would protect Ryuuki.

And if that meant protecting the whole country, to give Ryuuki and Shuurei a safe place to be, well, he’d do that too.