The Road Not Taken

The point of divergence from canon, when Seien chooses blood over peace. Drama, I-3

Character(s): Kou Shuurei, Shi Seien

Seien sat on the steps, silently, watching the family. The lady was sitting up on a tree branch, laughing brightly down at her daughter’s protests that she wanted up in the tree too. It was good, if a little strange, still, to sit in the sun, warm and safe with nothing to worry about.

Even stranger, truth be told, to watch the sweetness of how this little family acted toward each other. The hand that the lady set on her daughter’s head, as she finally descended and leaned down to laugh with the girl, made Seien flinch, his own hand closing tight. He could remember his brother’s fine, soft hair under his palm.

He remembered very clearly that Ryuuki had been the only one he could touch like that.

Did he dare to see Ryuuki again? To go back, even to visit in secret? It had been almost two years. But… Kou Shouka said that the fighting between his older brothers had gotten even worse, though it hadn’t come to swords yet. Seien’s mouth tilted; none of them but him had ever really favored the sword, anyway.

Did he have any right to go back, when he couldn’t even protect himself, much less Ryuuki, against the weapons their brothers and the concubines did use?

He hugged one knee to his chest, sighing. He probably didn’t. He should probably take the gift of his life and forget what he had been, and dedicate himself to what he still could be. To the people who had saved him. His lips moved silently, shaping the name Shuurei-chan had given him. Seiran. He smiled a little.

Perhaps he should just trust Shouka-sama’s strength to protect Ryuuki, and be only Seiran. There was a certain peace in that thought, a peace that went well with this sunny garden, and these people. Only a few people; the only ones to cup his frostbitten self in their warm hands until he thought maybe his blood was flowing again.

Surely even he could manage to protect that few.

Shuurei-chan’s laugh blended, in his ear, into Ryuuki’s, the bright laugh that only he ever heard. A sweet sound, for his sweet brother, totally at odds with what the Imperial Court had become.

Let alone what it might become soon.

Seien thought of Ryuuki in that court, and his back straightened. No. No! It would just be cowardice to abandon his life now. He had been given power, by the hand of Heaven, and his father. Surely that meant he had a duty to use it!

If he didn’t, who would? He thought of the bandits back in Sa and a corner of his mouth tried to curl up in a snarl.

“Seiran?” A small hand tugged at his sleeve and he looked down to find Shuurei-chan looking up at him with innocent, concerned eyes. He took a long breath and smiled at her, laying a hand on her head.

“Thank you, Shuurei-chan.”

He would protect his brother, and he would protect this girl. He would take this kingdom and guard the precious things it held from the rot inside it.

Shuurei patted his hand comfortingly and offered him a clover from the bunch in her fist. When he took it she nodded, satisfied, and ran back to her mother, who was busy shooing away disturbed bumble bees. Seien tucked it into his tunic and rose to go back inside and find Shouka-sama.

There were plans they needed to make.


A/N: Clover is for luck.