Welcome (to hell!) I kid, I kid...I hope you enjoy what I have to offer. Since this is a collection of oneshots and drabbles that are unrelated (for the most part), I will include a short summary precluding every chapter for your convenience.
Short summary: Kouen talks to Hakuei about her scars. Slight AU of a scene in Kingdom of Magic episode 12, without Hakuryuu present in Kouen's study.
Guardian Lions (1)
After months of riding and living in dust, sweat, and musk from the horses, Hakuei felt welcomed by the refreshing smell of scrolls that occupied Kouen's study. Granted, the scrolls weren't crisp and new at all; most were yellow and faded with age. Still, it was clear that Kouen took good care of the information housed inside, and protected them in a way any learned scholar would. He always placed knowledge in high value, even over the allure of wealth and power. Few people were privy to that side of Kouen, and Hakuei was one of those few.
The first princess of the Kou Empire politely broke the silence between them as she clasped her hands and bowed. "You've summoned me, Lord Kouen?"
"Yes. There's something I'd like to ask of you."
Hakuei lowered her hands. "What is it, my lord?" She had been away for months; she reckoned that he'd want a detailed account of her travels and occasional battles. What he asked proved her wrong.
"What happened to your face?"
To an outsider, his inquiry might have been taken as rude and blunt. An ordinary woman conscious and fearing over the slightest blemish over her face might have been offended. To Hakuei, she didn't bat an eye. She knew that despite the emotionless mask he was so accustomed to wearing, he was simply curious. It was in her cousin's nature to have his questions answered and his curiosity satiated, after all.
Hakuei cracked a sheepish smile. "Oh, this?" She traced a finger down the scar that marred her left cheek. "It started from a misunderstanding. This serves as a reminder of the war that could have happened, and of my intention to foster peace with the Kouga clan. Call me naive or stubborn, but I was determined to remain unmoved, both in my intent and stance, even when a Kouga warrior raised his blade against me."
Knowing Hakuei and how tenacious she could be, Kouen was not at all surprised to hear that. "I see with your Household Corps that negotiations went well."
"Indeed, they have. Losing a bit of blood and hair is well worth the invaluable alliance we forged afterwards. Who would've thought that a hundred of them were willing to become my Household members?" Then she chuckled. "My 'porcelain princess' image might've taken a toll, though."
"Nonsense. You still look every inch the first princess of the Kou Empire."
Her eyes widened upon hearing the genuine complement. "...Thank you, Lord Kouen."
He never told her outright, but he had always considered Hakuei to be very lovely. The moment he saw her for the first time, clad in ornate armor atop of her dress and adorned with the horsetail crests framing her face, it took his breath away. In his mind she was the crowning image of unadulterated beauty, taking after her mother in looks only and fortunately lacking any of Gyokuen's dark or vixen-like air.
Kouen turned his palms up in an inviting gesture to his cousin. "Please give me your hands."
Taken aback by his unexpected request, Hakuei felt her pale cheeks warm as she obeyed him, extending her arms so that his hands enveloped hers. She swore she felt a tingle as soon as their hands touched. Her long sleeves gently slipped back as she stretched her arms before her, revealing more scars she had acquired over the months since he last saw her. Kouen remained silent as he studied her exposed skin with an experienced, appraising eye. He caught sight of crescent cuts and puckered stars. Sword cuts and arrow wounds. Scars that had healed but had yet to fade. From this alone, Kouen knew that Hakuei had weathered through her fair share of battles during her campaign in the west. He assumed that these scars were marks she was willing to bear in order to avoid unecessary bloodshed.
Kouen had heard rumors from soldiers unfamiliar with serving Hakuei that she was a weakling and a coward. Popular opinion held that her strong sense of pacifism had no place in the army, especially given her lofty rank of authority and military power.
Kouen believed that such rumors couldn't be farther from the truth. Hakuei was no weakling, and certainly no coward. Time and time again, and even as she stood before him now, the first princess of the Kou Empire proved to be more than capable of holding her own in a battle. She was an indomitable pillar of purehearted strength, one to be greatly respected and admired throughout the empire. Kouen saw the proof in the eyes of those who served under her, and in the scars laid bare and exposed before him.
They were medals of honor that didn't need to glow gold to prove worth of the one who wore them.
Scars told more than signs of strength. They told stories. As an avid scholar of history, and through the scars she bore, Kouen could see that Hakuei had quite a compelling story to tell. Even as both a warrior and a scholar, for all his battlefield experience and intellect, Kouen would have no idea of the exact circumstances unless she told him, just as she did with discussing the Kouga clan.
Shifting his left hand, Kouen traced a thumb over the cross of scars embedded in her right arm. "What happened here?"
"Convincing other villages in the west to submit proved to be more difficult," she replied. "These scars were from the blows of a dual-wielding swordsman. For his clan, it took a display of superior power to win them over. A one-on-one fight not aimed to kill, but to see who proved to be the stronger warrior."
Kouen could picture Hakuei engaged in a fair duel against a man most likely bigger and taller than her, defying overwhelming odds with a show of grace and finesse over brute strength, and in the end winning the clan's hard-earned respect.
In fact, the swordsman Hakuei had defeated in single combat was the first to bow to her. The rest of his village had quickly followed suit. Apparently he was their best warrior, and his high opinion of the Kou princess after their duel was not one to be brushed off so easily. Remembering that day made Hakuei swell with pride.
Kouen turned his attention to the scar running down the length of her left forearm. "What happened here?"
Hakuei suppressed a shiver as his fingers brushed along it. "Another village skirmish. They had slavery there and I was on intent on liberating the people from that depraved system. This scar came from the whip of a slave driver who was less than pleased by my proposition."
"I see." Kouen's hand flitted back to grip her hands again. "From what you've told me, subjugating the west is going quite well."
Suddenly she realized that he got the answers he needed, and not in the way she expected. He certainly wouldn't be this intimate and personal with any other commander who had to give a report. He could have made a direct request about straight up details and results from her campaign: the number of villages and countries visited, the amount of any casualties, and so on. Instead, by asking for every story behind her wounds, beyond the practicality of gaining information, he showed that he cared.
Kouen released her hands, and as she stepped back to pull down her sleeves, the slight rustle of her clothes revealed more of the scar running down her chest.
He didn't fail to notice it, though he didn't know how far it ran down. He quickly averted his eyes to avoid giving the impression of being the slightest bit lecherous. "Forgive me for staring, but tell me how you got that one."
Hakuei glanced down at the old wound in question, most of which ran unseen down her right breast. Kouen saw that instead of smiling in reminiscence, she frowned at an unpleasant memory.
"This wasn't a scar from battle. I narrowly survived an assassination attempt."
Kouen's eyes narrowed and his grip tightened at the edge of his desk. "What happened?"
"Ryosai was the one responsible for instigating bad blood between my men and the Kouga clan. His effort to start a war had failed, and he didn't take his demotion lightly." She looked away and sighed. "Maybe I'm too soft, like some men say. I spared him, rather than go through with my initial decision to execute him, especially when he broke several bones from-" Hakuei stopped herself. She was about to mention the timely intervention from Aladdin and his Djinn, but thought better.
Kouen gave her a questioning look.
She shook her head and continued, "Shortly after my truce with the Kouga clan, Ryosai ambushed me in my sleep with a poisoned knife. My attendant Seisyun came just in time to protect me. Ryosai plunged the knife into his body and killed himself before we could do anything. He had so much spite that he wanted to take me with him, I suppose." Hakuei clenched a fist at her side and her chest tightened. Her voice lowered to a whisper. "He really meant to make me suffer, if not kill me right then and there. The pain was excruciating. I still can't believe how I managed to survive that night, bathed in my own tears, sweat, and blood. Even with the healers drawing out the poison before it could kill me, I laid in bed for days, wracked with fever and the struggle to breathe."
Though his face remained still as stone, Kouen's own chest tightened at the thought of Hakuei being in so much pain. She had always been kind to her family and countrymen, provided that they didn't have the nerve and stupidity to provoke her first. It truly angered him that her kindness came at a cost with a man who didn't deserve his rank. Not to mention his life. Kouen met her downcast eyes and tried to lift the sadness he sensed in her. "You've overcome that obstacle, just as you have with many others before. You're very strong, Hakuei. Don't ever doubt that, no matter what anyone else might say or do against you."
Hakuei was speechless, moved by the amount of faith he had in her strength and courage.
His sentiment was sincere; he felt very fortunate to have her as his ally. She proved to be a valuable asset in his goal to unite the world under his rule. It was certainly a great honor to have her support. And perhaps something more...
From behind her hiding spot, Kougyoku smothered her blushing face into her huge sleeves. She had heard and seen everything that transpired between her stepsister and elder brother. This only confirmed her sneaking suspicion that something was going on between them. She didn't deny that Hakuei had a kind heart, but much of her dislike toward her stepsister stemmed from the fact that she got along so well with Kouen. Kougyoku was filled to the brim with envy and a sense of inadequacy. She longed for that kind of connection with her brother, but Hakuei might just be the right woman for him, after all.
Kougyoku bit her bottom lip and took care to tiptoe away before her brother would stew over catching her eavesdropping.
Hakuei became my first favorite Magi character, then I shipped her with Kouen not too long afterwards. As a somewhat new fan to Magi who finished the anime on Crunchyroll but never read the manga (it's hard to find it online nowadays!), I'm focusing on characterization over plot. The story so far makes it pretty obvious that I really, really like Hakuei. She's such a strong and beautiful character. I love her Djinn Equip and personality. To be honest, for a long time I had trouble remembering her whole name. I think it's because of the "-uei:" the three vowels stringed together.
I might do a separate short story elaborating on how Hakuei got poisoned, and how she bonded with the Kouga clan, but the focus of this fic is her and Kouen as a couple. On with more Enei oneshots!