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Saiunkoku Monogatari » The Age of Silver » The Color of the Phoenix’s Tail – Part One

The Color of the Phoenix’s Tail – Part One

Seien works, sometimes reluctantly, at fitting himself back into the courts. So do some other people. Drama, I-3

Being heir seemed to Seien to be one trouble after another, but there were occasional good points.

He looked down at the familiar black sheathe in his hands and smiled crookedly. “Not making a presentation of it this time?” he prodded Shou-taishi.

“Why should we?” the man shot back, “it’s already yours, after all.”

Seien slid Kanshou through his sash without answering; they both knew he’d been stripped of it pretty formally when he was exiled. If Shou didn’t want to remind the Court of that, though, Seien had no real argument. He had turned to go when another thought pulled him up short. “What about Bakuya?”

“What about it?” Shou blinked innocently at Seien’s narrow look. “Your father bestowed it on you and you bestowed it on your brother. Unless he’s dropped it in one of the fish ponds, he still has it.”

Seien barely dignified that with a nod and left to find his brother.

He was accosted on the way, of course; he was seriously considering taking to the roofs to make his way across the palace grounds, lately, except that it would be a lot of trouble in court robes. “Secretary,” he greeted the man, shortly.

Sai trotted along beside him, matching his strides with surprising determination for someone who clearly didn’t see much exercise. “Seien-koushi. I’m so glad I found you, I wanted to tell you: I was dining with some of the undersecretaries just the other night and much talk turned on everyone’s fears that you have no wife or consort.”

What fears? Seien wondered with a bit of exasperation. He’d barely been confirmed as heir, and if he’d had a wife any earlier, they’d all have been afraid about that, too, wouldn’t they? And what made any of them think he could stomach any such thing?

“Now, it would be the easiest thing in the world for me to call my daughter to court, lovely girl…”

“I’m afraid I’m not interested,” he cut the man off briskly. “Good afternoon, Sai-dono.” He took the next turning of the walk, even though it meant a detour. At the next corner he snuck a peek back, hoping Sai wouldn’t be following still. Some of the marriage-minded officials could be very persistent.

Instead he surprised a tight, dark look on Sai’s face that was horribly familiar. It wiped away almost instantly into a smile, but Seien had to swallow in a dry throat.

Sai had looked exactly the way Seien’s brothers had, when he was presented with his swords. He thought about that all the way to the Archives.

Reluctant as he was to give Shou-taishi any more chances for sly amusement at his expense, perhaps he needed advice on this.

When he arrived in the library, though, he had to stop brooding and laugh. Ryuuki and Shuurei had taken over sorting and shelving scrolls, leaving Shouka-sama with, apparently, nothing to do but sit at his ease in the sun and watch them.

Of course, Ryuuki immediately abandoned his task to come catch Seien’s hand and beam up at him. “Aniue, we’re helping out!”

“I see you are.” Seien cast a quick eye over the scrolls, brows lifting just a bit. Those looked like monthly department reports; he’d found quite a few of them on his own desk, recently. Had Shouka taught the children enough to understand how to file these? “Well, I hate to take you away from your job,” he told his brother, “but I wondered if you wanted to come and train with me?” he set one hand on Kanshou’s hilt, and Ryuuki nearly glowed.


Shuurei looked up at that. “Ryuuki,” she scolded, “you didn’t finish your last scroll, or re-wrap it.” She frowned at Seien. “You shouldn’t encourage him to be careless, Seiran—” She broke off, small teeth catching her lip. “I mean…”

Seien came to lay a hand on her head. “It’s all right. You can still call me Seiran, if you want.”

“And Ryuuki can finish his scroll while I get his sword,” Shouka-sama put in, standing.

“Shouka-sama, we can send one of the pages for it,” Seien protested as his foster-father moved toward the door. It was a rather long way back to the imperial pavilions from here.

Shouka-sama laughed. “Oh, it’s just in the next room.” He smiled at Seien’s expression. “This is the place to keep treasures, after all, and Ryuuki wanted it to stay safe.”

Seien wondered if it was natural to feel so warm, so happy.

He was not in as good a mood, two days later, when Shou-taishi strolled into his office, waving a letter. “So, you want to speak with someone who can tell you about Sai, do you?”

Seien looked up from the pile of past reports from provincial governors that he’d been making his way through on Shouka-sama’s recommendation, and sighed a bit wearily. He felt like he was drowning in politics. “If they can do so clearly and directly, yes.”

Shou had the gall to laugh. “I think Ro can do that.” He waved another older man in. Seien eyed him warily, but this one looked reassuringly solid and no-nonsense. Unlike Shou. Good. “Ro-dono is an undersecretary of Protocol.”

Seien sat back, arrested. Sai’s own assistant was supposed to give him a straightforward story on the man? “Please have a seat, Ro-kanri,” he murmured.

“What was it your Highness wished to know about Protocol?” Ro asked, settling himself as Shou-taishi left again and closed the door behind him.

Seien was too tired to waste the proper time on indirection. “I believe I may have made an enemy, in Sai,” he said, frankly. “I hoped you could tell me just how bad the results are likely to be.”

Ro’s eyes sharpened; in direct contrast his tone was casual. “Would you happen to know the occasion of the Secretary’s animosity?”

Seien snorted. “Well, I assume it was when I told him I had no interest in meeting his daughter.”

Ro looked at him levelly for a long moment. “Refusing out of hand was not, perhaps, the best decision,” he rumbled at last.

Seien blinked. “But no one can honestly think I’m enough of an idiot to duplicate the Emperor’s mistakes with his concubines.” If anything could put a man off women for good, it was watching all of that going on while growing up.

Ro, taking a sip of tea, sputtered into his cup. “You are… very straightforward, Highness.”

Seien leaned back with a sigh. “And I suppose that won’t do. No one in this place can be straightforward, can they?” He looked away, trying not to slump; he would give so much to be able to talk to someone about work and politics without all this interminable dancing around.

“Not often,” Ro answered. Seien looked back, surprising what might have been a hint of sympathy before the man’s expression turned severe again. “So think well, when it comes time to choose your own advisors. They will be the only ones.”

After a moment, Seien nodded; however much he hadn’t wanted to deal with it again, he did know the rules here. “I understand.”

“Very well then. As for the Secretary, what you may expect is efforts behind your back to discredit any work you accomplish; he’s a coward…”

Seien listened and made notes to himself and smiled faintly as Ro-kanri thoroughly violated his own dictum that only personal advisors would speak straightly to the prince.

Seien made a note of that, too.


Last Modified: Sep 26, 08
Posted: Feb 23, 07
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  1. lady-readwolf

    Oh, thank gods! something to read! Fantastic; I’m saving this for when I get to work, and looking forward to it.
    Do you have any other good recs for this series? Or is it really just too new for most of the English-speaking fans to have generated a strong fanfiction outpouring?

    1. branchandroot Post author


      For thel most part there isn’t much fic in English yet. If you check out [livejournal.com profile] saiunkoku_fic you’ll find most of it. There’s two other Emperor!Seien arcs in progress. Aside from that, mostly we just seem to have a handful of standalones here and there. As complex and unsettled as the storyline still is, I’m not all that surprised, I suppose.

      1. lady-readwolf

        [sighs] Not surprised, but still bummed out. Ah, well. I did start to check out saiunkoku_fic and that one Emperor!Seien–I guess I didn’t go far enough back to hunt out the other arc. I’ll give it another looksei.

        As for the story (since it’s second period now and I’ve already read it and the other Emperor!Seien fics I’d found to read today during first period), the image of Shuurei and Ryuuki helping out while Shouka-papa observes is so cute! Sai is the toupe-guy who’s always causing trouble, IIRC, ne? And his undersecretary is the one who assigned Shuurei to toilet duty, no? If so, he seems like he would make a v. good advisor to Seien.

        This is one of five parts…and it looks like we’ll be seeing Seien build his support crew. I wonder how Shuuei and Kyouyuu will enter this picture…

          1. lady-readwolf

            [laughs] oh! the wording of that just gets me… excited. ^__^ Looking forward to it, for sure. But it does make me think. Shou-conselor-weird-guy…. he started taking action again once he remet Ryuuki, ne? Working for an emperor he could stand for… so, I wonder just how much he’s been there pulling the strings. Shouei and Kyoyuu, two very powerful houses represented there: Kou and Ran. Was he somehow behind that?

    1. branchandroot Post author

      *rueful* He really does; thinks with his sword, in a lot of ways, still. But Shou will bring him good people. *snerks* Though it’ll take Seien a /long/ time to actually recognize that fact.

  2. katharos-8

    I have to admit I collapsed into giggles at this line: he would give so much to be able to talk to someone about work and politics without all this interminable dancing around. Oh Seien, be careful what you wish for! You might just get them, beard and all. *grin*

    I love Officer Ro here. Solid is such a nice why to describe him, as is ‘uncorruptible.’ He makes a good rock. And I love Seien noting everything especially what isn’t obvious. He might not be good at thinking around corners but he is good at thinking deep.

    And Kou/Shi family cuteness and Seien wishing he could roof-hop – all the little ways he doesn’t quite fit back into his old mold are just lovely.

    1. branchandroot Post author

      *claps hands, delighted* Oh, good, I was hoping that line would make people think of Ensei! *snerks* Seien is so going to wish he hadn’t wished that.

      Thank you, it’s great to hear you liked this! This story is the one that shows Seien finding ways to fit back in, and it’s slow going for him, poor thing.

  3. majochan


    OMG, marriage proposals…….Something that I’ve thought about a time or two. And with Sai too…….*cackle* Poor Seien.

    The Kou Family of Cute continues to strike, I am a melted puddle of happy waffy goo. Brilliant genius children too, I fear them when they get older (Seien probably can take it easy once Shuurei and Ryuuki get old enough…I can’t imagine much that can stand in the way of their combined determination/intelligence/craftiness)...

    Loves and squees,


    1. branchandroot Post author

      *hearts* Thank you!

      Ryuuki is so unspeakably adorable in his determination to help Aniue, I just squish all over the boy. Shuurei has a bit of detour to take, first, which I find extremely amusing, since I’m convinced that her determination to find her own job and not tell the men about it is a product of puberty.

      It’s fun to be evil.

      Seien agrees with this, which is why he, too, is looking forward to the time he can turn Ryuuki and Shuurei loose on his court. And probably laugh.

      1. grey-damaskena

        Evil is, indeed, good. I’m hoping for a good deal more from the younger set; no one will be able to stand in their ways! I will be anxiously waiting to see what you decide to do with them.

  4. sparrow-wings

    “You shouldn’t encourage him to be careless, Seiran–“ AAAAAH, THE CUTE, IT BURNS.

    I like the setup — Shou delighting in being an old bastard, Ro possibly on his way to another unwanted promotion, Seien hopefully about to discover that the Court isn’t entirely made up of backbiting vipers.

    1. branchandroot Post author

      *grins* She’s such a responsible little thing.

      Thank you! Ro probably is going to get a promotion when he least expects it, though it’ll probably be left to Reishin again; Seien appreciates him enough to let him alone. *snerks*

  5. grey-damaskena

    Books and swords certainly aren’t the only treasures kept in the archives these days. Adorable Ryuuki and Shuurei for the win! For Ryuuki, this is doubtless the first time he’s ever had a friend close to his own age. Does Shuurei order him around the way she tends to in-series? 😉 It seems so, from the way she scolds Seien . . .

    Shameless fan or the adorable that I am, that section was naturally what caught my attention. I can’t resist it at all . . .

    Sai is always good for causing trouble and generally providing laughs. He’s not a particularly intelligent villain, but he certainly is a handy one. It looks like Ro’s promotion is going to come rather sooner than it does in-series.

    Seien’s going to have to re-teach himself court manners, it seems, along with everything else. Since straight-talkers like Ro are few and far between.

    Incidentally, Shou amuses me very much. His comment about the fish ponds is great. 🙂

    1. branchandroot Post author

      I’m really growing very fond of Shou. Sly old thing. ^_^

      Thank you! The cuteness is really what keeps me writing this, I swear. And Shuurei /totally/ orders everyone around; part three has an even better example.

      Seien is having a hard time, that’s for sure. His old ways of fitting in don’t quite fit any more and he’s having to work out new ones. *grins* The ones he finally settles on entertained me greatly. Though, curiouly enough, he seems to be leaving Ro in peace for now; I suspect Shou’s hand in this, since it’s Shou who eventually fetches advisors for Seien–much to Seien’s suspicion!

      At some point I am going to take great enjoyment in squashing Sai. Oh yes.

  6. hidden-gems

    *melts into a puddle of Happy Goo*

    There’s so much wonderful stuff packed in there that I wouldn’t know where to start!

    You evil, evil person; you’re making me want to draw Seien now!! >.

      1. hidden-gems

        Well, the only portrait I’ve attempted so far looks strangely wrong. I mean, there’s no really obvious mistake, but it’s *not* Seien… I should keep working on that Ryuuki, though, because even if it’s not perfect, at least the pencil sketch looked like him.

        1. branchandroot Post author

          Hey, sketches are even better. *wry* I’m one of those odd people who loves sketches and line drawings better than most finished pieces. I imagine Seien /is/ hard, though; he has more subtle expressions than Ryuuki and his proportions seem a bit unusual.

  7. visenya

    Just wondering how old Ryuuki and Shuurei are supposed to be in this piece?

    It’s nice to see Seien has to readjust to the court. Makes it more realistic. Have I mentioned how much I love you for writing Emperor Seien AU? And I can’t wait until he meets Shuuei and Kouyuu. *calls to mind your other fic about Shuuei being thankful Seien wasn’t emperor*

    1. branchandroot Post author

      Ummmm, I think they’re about 11 and 14, here. Possibly late 10 and 13.

      Thank you! He’s been away for so long, and was tossed out so traumatically, it’s definitely a whole nother world for him now. *pets the poor guy* *grins* Shuuei and Kouyuu are up next!

  8. masqueer11

    Oh goodie, a new chapter! Shuurei and Ryuuki are little bundle of delights. For now, they behave. Seiran’s nemesis better watch out, two little smarties teaming up isn’t good for anybody or the country.

  9. mitsuhachi@insanejournal

    Can I just take a minute to ahahahaha at Shuurei ALREADY putting Ryuuki to work? And Seiran’s smooshy over the two of them and Ryuuki keeping the swords safe? I kind of love this series a lot, you know.

    1. Icon for BranchBranch Post author

      *hearts* I’m so glad! This was a lot of fun to write, and I gave the Squish a heavy workout. Because, really, Seiran is a total squish for those two.