Turning Storm

Shuuei is selected as Prince Seien’s bodyguard, and the two get acquainted. Drama, I-3

Shuuei had been flattered but not hugely surprised, when Shou-taishi came to talk to him about a new assignment. He was, after all, one of the rising stars of the palace military. He worked quite hard to be. He’d expected it to pay off. Now, though, he had to wonder just what Shou-taishi had really been thinking.

So, apparently, did the Prince.

He stood, silent and attentive, watching as Seien-koushi eyed Shou-taishi warily. “I don’t need a personal guard.”

“Just because you can trounce almost anyone with that sword of yours doesn’t mean you don’t need a guard,” the old man told him briskly. “You’re a prince. If you don’t get into any more trouble, you’re going to be the Emperor. You don’t have enough time to always be thinking of your own defense.” He waved at Shuuei, standing beside him. “Ran-shougun is one of the best, himself.”

Shuuei smiled with his best balance of professional and friendly as Seien-koushi’s glance raked over him; no sense fanning the fire Shou-taishi was cheerfully building. Shuuei made a mental note that Shou-taishi seemed to like antagonizing the Prince. He should find out why.

“One of the best, to guard my back?” Seien-koushi asked with a lightness that Shuuei didn’t believe for an instant. “What a nice change.” He and Shou-taishi smiled at each other, just a little too toothily for comfort. The Prince pushed up to his feet and came around his desk, sharp eyes focused now on Shuuei, dismissing Shou-taishi entirely. “Show me.”

“Of course, your Highness,” Shuuei murmured.

As Shuuei followed Seien from the room he thought he caught a faint chuckle from Shou-taishi.

Seien led the way out to one of the small, closed courtyards, glancing around at its emptiness and nodding with satisfaction. “This will do.” He turned, drawing his sword with a smoothness that made Shuuei’s nerves sharpen. “Come.”

Shuuei drew his own sword and did as he was told.

The first few exchanges were cautious, leashed, testing. They were also silent, which might not bode well for an easy working relationship but was more or less what Shuuei had expected. Seien-koushi wasn’t known for social chatter. Those passes were not, however, anywhere near the level Shou-taishi had implied the Prince could reach, so Shuuei pushed a little harder, testing back.

Seien-koushi’s mouth tightened, and he threw the attacks back with no apparent trouble. Shuuei gave the Prince his most charming smile and pushed harder still, pressing Seien back off balance for a moment. Shuuei nodded to himself and paused, prepared to draw back and see whether the Prince wanted another round.

He almost missed the change.

In the instant that Seien wavered, guard starting to fall open, his eyes cleared, blanked. Shuuei didn’t even have time to frown with his puzzlement before he was the one on the defensive, pushed back and back again by the Prince’s attack.

The part of his mind that wasn’t alarmed was impressed. Seien had precision so sharp it could only be called finesse, yet his style was driven by such wild force Shuuei felt like he was being attacked by a flailing berserker. Only much worse, because, of course, the Prince wasn’t flailing at all. Even in his rare practice sessions with Sou-taifu, Shuuei had never felt anything like it. It was nothing like what he had expected from the reserved, courteous Prince that the Court knew.

This time, it was his foot that came down a fraction off, his balance that wavered, and Seien didn’t hesitate. At all. He came in to kill, sword slashing up toward Shuuei’s bared throat. Steel rasped as their swords locked. Shuuei strained to hold his block, a breath from being disarmed. It took him a moment before he could speak.

“Seien-sama,” he murmured, voice low, calling the Prince to come back from wherever he’d gone.

Seien stepped back from him abruptly, eyes shuttered again just as quickly as that.

Shuuei sheathed his sword slowly. His blood was singing with the heat of the fight, and his mind was whirling with speculation.

For years, now, he had thought his initial task for his clan was no longer necessary. The most capable prince of them all was going to take the throne, and Shuuei didn’t need to do anything to insure it. Now… now, he thought perhaps his job wasn’t done yet.

It was, however, good that he had transferred to the military; fewer people would suspect what he was doing, that way.

Seien was still watching him, silent and breathing fast.

Shuuei’s lips quirked. “Shou-taishi was certainly right that you don’t much need anyone else’s sword to guard you from attackers,” he admitted. “But I hope, my prince, that you will allow me to guard you from this.” His gesture took in their match just finished, the blood that had come very close to being spilled.

Seien’s surprise made him look younger for a moment. “You…” and then that cool guard was back up. “Why?”

“Because I’m rather taken with the idea of doing right by my country?” Shuuei offered.

Shuuei didn’t know why his answer had made the Prince’s mouth twist.


He’d find out.

“Try again,” Seien told him, voice dry.

Shuuei considered the wild rage that had just come at him behind that sword, and compared it with the ice-slick face Seien showed to the Court. That was not the combination of a man who trusted easily. He was going to have to take another risk, he thought, to reach his task. “Because you are the ruler Ran has always supported,” he answered, quietly. “Because I was sent here for you. Because you need someone who knows your temper to stay your hand.” He spread his hands and waited to see if honesty would move his prince.

After a long, silent moment, Seien inclined his head. “Well. Let us see.”

That was probably as good as he could hope for, for now, and Shuuei smiled ruefully and bowed. “Yes, your Highness.”

He would have to write his brothers and tell them he had found his place after all.