The Color of the Phoenix’s Tail – Part Three

Shuurei likes her life but wants it to be something more. Drama, I-3

Shuurei rested her chin in her hands and sighed. Normally, something like the Council record on the table in front of her was her favorite kind of thing to read, telling all about how the officials who ran the country struggled as hard among themselves as any soldiers to reach the best conclusions and policies they could. And, at first, she’d been delighted to come to the palace with her father and play in the Archives. It had been even better when he’d let her help out with sorting the records, and let her read anything she wanted. Now, though…

“Oh, I see!” Ryuuki exclaimed, across the table from her. “So Finance balances all of the other departments, really… “

Now, it was just reminding her that she wouldn’t ever get to use this knowledge. She sighed again.

“Shuurei?” Seiran came to stand beside her, leaving his own scrolls. “Is anything wrong?”

She mustered a smile for him; Seiran always worried so much when she was upset. “No, it’s all right. I was just…” her voice wavered a little, despite everything she could do, “wishing I could be an official and do something good with all this.”

Seiran’s worried look softened into sympathy. “I wish you could, too,” he said, softly. “I think you’d do a better job than most of the officials we have right now.”

“Mm.” She swallowed and managed a slightly better smile. “It would be nice to really belong here.”

Ryuuki, watching them with a small frown, brightened up at that. “Oh, that’s easy. When we grow up, I’ll marry you, Shuurei, and then you can always be here.”

Shuurei picked up one of the books and hit him over the head with it. Gently, of course; she always took good care of her books. “Stupid,” she declared. “If I got married to you I’d be stuck in the inner courts forever and ever and never get to do anything.”

Ryuuki gave her a hangdog look, hands protectively over his head. “It was just an idea.”

She glowered at him, and Seiran laughed. “Well, even if it is a little selfish of me, it’s nice to have you here to help us,” he said. His smile tilted ruefully. “You’re both better at this than I am, still.”

It was Ryuuki’s turn to lean his chin in his hands. “So, we just have to find a way for Shuurei to stay, and then we can both always be here to help you, Aniue.”

Seiran looked happy enough, at the thought, that Shuurei stopped glowering and smiled at Ryuuki again.

She did wonder just a little, though, if staying here was really the right thing to do.

Shuurei stared down at the vegetables she was chopping, not really seeing them.

She felt strange, lately. Restless. Angry over nothing, sometimes. She caught Tou-sama and Seiran looking at her in worried ways. Maybe she just needed something to do—but what? If she cooked any more, all three of the men wouldn’t be enough to eat it all. She could only clean for so long at a time before boredom made her want to scream. And Seiran had insisted on hiring workers to fix the roof, so she couldn’t teach herself to do repairs.

She bit her lip, knife slowing. There was that young woman she’d heard the other day while she was out shopping. The woman had said that her employer, Kochou, really needed to hire more young women. And she’d mentioned the district; it wasn’t too far away.

Shuurei had liked the way that young women had held herself—tall and confident. Maybe if Shuurei had her own work, not just work borrowed from the men, she’d feel like she could walk that way too.

“Right! I’ve decided,” Shuurei told the empty kitchen. “I’m going to get a job of my very own!”

And then maybe they’d at least be able to hire someone to take care of the garden, without letting Seiran use imperial money on it.

She turned her attention properly back to her chopping, humming with the pleasure of having made a decision. She should remember how much that helped, for next time she felt out-of-sorts.