Blue and Red

Shou searches out more helpers for his newest imperial acquisition. Drama, I-3

When Shou Yousei stopped in to see how his newest Emperor was doing, he expected to find Seien in a bad temper. The boy seemed to compensate for his smooth public face by snapping in private, at least until his brother or the Kou girl showed up.

He did not quite expect what he found.

“Look at this!” Seien brandished a file as if he’d like to throw it. “This is what you call a working government? They leave out half the details, a good third of them have no sense of how to organize their words, and how am I supposed to tell whether they’re concealing things or just bad at reporting?!” He glared at his handful of paper fit to set it on fire, and added, “Most of their handwriting is dreadful, too.”

Yousei couldn’t help a chuckle. Who’d have guessed the boy would be such a perfectionist? “I suppose you could make them do it again until they get it right,” he suggested. The vision of agony and outrage among the lazier officials was one to warm the heart. To warm his heart, anyway.

“Then I’d never find out what’s going on this month,” Seien noted acidly. He dropped the files back on his desk and fixed Yousei with a narrow eye. “You’re supposed to be in charge of these people; can anything be done?”

“Hmm. Perhaps.” He smiled as Seien eyed him. He was actually quite pleased the boy was finally learning he couldn’t do everything himself, but needling the royal family was one of his few remaining entertainments and he had no intention of stopping.

Before he could prod the Emperor any more, though, a muffled thumping interrupted them. It sounded rather like someone knocking on the door with his toe and Yousei’s brows rose as he reached back and opened it. The door revealed a stack of paper above a long, blue court robe.

“This is all of them,” the stack announced, edging carefully in the door. “Ryuuki-sama is still looking for the last of two years ago.” The stack thudded down on Seien’s desk, revealing an unusually rumpled Ran Shuuei.

Seien sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “All right.” He gave Yousei a distracted wave of dismissal, already reaching for the top scroll. “Soon, if you please, Shou-taishi.”

“Of course,” Yousei murmured and took himself out, closing the door behind him.

Then he leaned against the wall and had a good laugh. He hadn’t seen a Ran that discomfited in decades. This emperor looked like one to keep, which was a good thing; breaking in new ones was so wearing.

Kou Reishin looked at Yousei steadily over the edge of his fan. “And you want Kouyuu reassigned to assist our new Emperor?” The fan flicked like a cat’s tail. “Why are you asking me, instead of him, Shou-taishi? You certainly don’t need anyone’s approval to reassign an official.”

Yousei snorted. “Don’t play that game with me, boy. He’ll do exactly as he thinks you wish, and you won’t wish unless you think it will be a good place for him.” He cradled the tea he’d been offered in his hands; the heat felt good against his knuckles.

“And will it be good?” Reishin looked out the window with a fine show of disinterest.

“If he makes it good.” Yousei lived by that philosophy, though a great many officials here at court seemed to miss it. “He already knows Ryuuki-sama, doesn’t he? Don’t worry, your boy will fit right in.”

“Hm.” Reishin’s eyes were cool. Finally he snapped his fan closed. “Kouyuu will retain his rank as my assistant,” he declared.

“Done.” Yousei figured he’d gotten off easily, really, though Protocol might kick a bit over this.

Reishin waved at him. “Go ask Kouyuu, then.”

Yousei had to smile, as he left. Reishin might think he concealed his care for that foundling of his, but for such a manipulative man to let a son and underling have his head so completely? That was the telling point.

Yousei should know, after all.

“Shou-taishi!” Seien looked downright indignant. “This is completely unacceptable! You can’t just drag him away from Reishin-dono.”

Yousei bit back a grin as Reishin’s boy suddenly looked a lot less stiff and formal, and those young eyes of his softened with pleasure. He’d thought these two would get along well, with their strenuous notions of loyalty.

Seien was still carrying on. “And what am I supposed to do if Reishin takes offense?”

A very good point, Yousei had to admit. No one held a grudge or got revenge like the Kou. “You don’t trust me to have thought of that?” he prodded, and had to stifle a laugh as Seien snorted. Well, better this than that the boy rely on him too much, at this stage.

Kouyuu finally stepped forward. “It’s all right, Majesty.” He actually smiled. “Reishin-sama agreed to this. So did I.”

Yousei rolled his eyes at what an afterthought the boy made that last bit sound. At last his new Emperor stopped glaring at Shou and paid attention to his prospective advisor instead.

“You’re sure?” Seien sat back, anxiety and relief flickering behind his eyes. “Another experienced eye on these reports would be very welcome.”

Kouyuu spread his hands. “I am a civil official, and you’re the Emperor,” he pointed out. “I’m at your service.”

“Hm.” Seien smiled faintly. “Well, if nothing else, Ryuuki won’t have to go as far to visit you.”

“Ah. You, um, know about that.” Kouyuu clasped his hands, looking faintly nervous. As anyone would, who had ever seen Seien with his brother, to be sure. Even Yousei kept his hands off Ryuuki.

“I know everything that has to do with my brother.” Seien smiled, a bit crookedly. “Now it’s my government I need to find out about.”

The prospect of a meaty job to sink his teeth into gave Kouyuu back his composure immediately. “Of course.”

Yousei left them bent over Seien’s stack of papers and took himself out without waiting for thanks. He didn’t expect any, not yet.

“So?” Enjun asked, pouring tea for all of them. “How is our Emperor doing?”

“Settling in nicely.” Yousei sipped appreciatively. “If we’re lucky, Ran and Li will give him some practice at actual leadership.”

Sou snorted. “I still say it would have been easier to put him in charge of a military expedition or two.”

“You just wanted to go along on those yourself,” Yousei observed, and chuckled as Sou shrugged, not denying it.

“And it’s officials he has to learn how to lead,” Enjun added with a thin smile. “As opposed to herd.”

“A difficult lesson,” Yousei murmured into his cup. “But one every Emperor has to learn. So we’ll find a way to teach him.”

Enjun laughed. “Ah, that’s our Shou, all right. Don’t you ever think of anything but the good of the throne?”

“I think of a good drink.” Yousei lifted his cup and bit back a sigh at the flash of warmth and anger in Enjun’s eyes. “We were lucky, though,” he added casually. “This time we had two excellent candidates to rule. It’s almost a shame they can’t both be emperor, really.”

The heat hidden at the back of Enjun’s eyes turned calculating, and Yousei stifled his flinch harshly. If this is truly what you wish, I will take you there, he told his friend in the silence of his heart. But oh, Enjun, couldn’t you have chosen another way?

The head of the Sa clan was not choosing another way, though, and Yousei listened to his companions chuckling over the idea of co-Emperors, and steeled himself. He would follow both his promise and his heart, and if it killed him to do it, well. Perhaps he would not regret that.