The Color of the Phoenix’s Tail – Part Four

Shuuei transfers, Kouyuu broods, Ryuuki gets a new friend. Drama, I-3


Kouyuu dropped his brush, staring at Shuuei. “You’re what?”

“I’m transferring.” Shuuei leaned back and looked out the window of Kouyuu’s office. “I think I’ll be more suited to the military.”

And Koku-daishougun had caught him practicing with Sou-taifu and pounced on him like a wolf on tasty prey, and he still wasn’t positive that Sou-taifu hadn’t set the whole thing up. But he wasn’t saying that part; it would be bad for his image.

“But you’re about to be promoted!”

“Was I?” Shuuei smiled. Perhaps that explained why he was transferring to such a high starting rank. He’d let Kouyuu find that out on his own, though.

“Well,” Kouyuu sniffed, picking up his brush again, “at least I won’t have to see as much of you.”

“Oh, don’t say that,” Shuuei purred, and laughed as Kouyuu glowered at him.

He didn’t want to lose his favorite friend, after all. Where else would he find someone this pure?

Or this much fun to play with?


“Thank you, Shouka-sama.”

Ryuuki watched with interest; Kouyuu was one of the only people who came to the Archives who was respectful to Shouka or stayed to talk with him. Today, though, he seemed a little distracted.

“I’ll come back for the second set of these,” Kouyuu said quietly, laying a hand on a stack of books.

Ryuuki was bored, and Shuurei wouldn’t be here until much later; today was her afternoon on that job she wouldn’t talk to any of them about. So. “I’ll help with them,” he piped up, coming to take the second stack.

“Oh.” Kouyuu blinked at him. “Ah. Thank you, Ryuuki-koushi.”

“It’s okay. Aniue won’t be out of the Council for hours yet, probably.” Ryuuki hitched up his stack and stretched his legs to match Kouyuu’s strides down the halls. He glanced at the distant look on Kouyuu’s face and decided against asking him what he was brooding over. “Why do you call him ‘Shouka-sama’?” he asked instead.

“He’s Reishin-sama’s older brother,” Kouyuu explained. “Reishin-sama respects him very much.”

“Reishin,” Ryuuki murmured, trying to place the name among the horde of officials he was just starting to keep straight these days.

“Kou Reishin, the Secretary of Civil Affairs.” Kouyuu smiled, the way he did sometimes that made him look a lot younger and nicer than usual. “I came here to serve him.”

Ryuuki cocked his head; he heard something in Kouyuu’s voice. Something that seemed kind of familiar. “Did he save you?”

Kouyuu stopped short, staring. “How… did you… ?”

Ryuuki shrugged. “You sound the way I feel about Seien-aniue. Aniue saved me. I just wondered.”

Now Kouyuu’s eyes were a little strange. “What did he save you from?” he asked slowly.

Ryuuki looked away, shoulders hunching. He didn’t like remembering those years. If he did, then he remembered the dark, and if he remembered the dark he’d have to ask if he could sleep in Aniue’s room tonight… He started at a hand on his shoulder.

“Never mind.” Kouyuu squeezed gently before drawing back to balance his stack of books with both hands. He looked like he understood about bad memories. Ryuuki nodded, relieved, and they walked on quietly.

A few halls later, Kouyuu started to turn left and Ryuuki stopped, startled. “Aren’t we taking these to Finance?”

“Of course.”

Ryuuki pointed right. “Finance is this way.”

Kouyuu flushed and then glowered and then stomped past him and down the right-hand hall. “Why do they keep moving these halls around?!”

Ryuuki couldn’t help laughing, no matter how Kouyuu glared. When he caught his breath he ran after Kouyuu and paid more attention to guiding their turnings.

“So… what should I do if I want to serve Aniue?” he asked, discreetly nudging Kouyuu left.

Kouyuu glanced down at him, expression softening again. “Well, first I suppose you should learn how the courts work, so you can advise him well and do the things he needs done.”

Ryuuki nodded, intent. “And then?”

“Learn the people.”

Ryuuki thought about this as he slipped ahead to open the right door. It made sense. “Can I… ask you about things?” He ducked his head a little, glancing up at Kouyuu; he didn’t want to be a bother and make Kouyuu want to get rid of him like almost everyone else always had. He breathed a sigh of relief as Kouyuu grinned at him, companionably.

“Sure you can.”

Ryuuki grinned back. “Okay.”

“Ask later, though,” Kouyuu added, as he reached for the next door. “The Secretary of Finance is a little short on patience.”

Ryuuki nodded and tiptoed in after Kouyuu, setting himself to watch and learn. For Aniue.