The Doubting Man

By: Elysia Erianthe

Disclaimer: I do not own Saiunkoku Monogatari, but boy, do I wish I did! I also wish I knew Japanese so I wouldn't have to wait so long for the English subbers!

Seien rarely doubted himself. His life had been simple, defined. His job had been to protect grain. Now, there was not a grain silo within his sight. When he was not protecting someone else's property, he had protected his patrons, Shuurei and Shouka.

Though a simple librarian by trade, Shouka hid his strength and cunning beneath a sheepish smile and loose robes, but this did not fool Seien. He was accustomed to sizing up his enemies and knew that Shouka was more than capable of protecting himself if need be. After all, it was Shouka's fault that he was currently standing in the twilight of the royal gardens, slowly being cloaked with snow.

Shuurei possessed not even a pinch of her father's bashfulness. And while she never lacked the will to defend herself and her convictions, she did not have the physical strength to ward off bodily harm. Therein, Seien---or Seiran, as he preferred to think of himself---had found the purpose for the better part of his lifetime.

So his life had been simple, full of light and laughter, even if he usually only laughed on the inside. He smiled despite himself as he looked across the garden to Shuurei's abandoned basket of sweet bean buns. How many times had she made those treats for him and Shouka? Other than Shuurei's occasional ill-fated job or Shouka's god awful tea, time had flowed in smooth waves of contentment for Seiran.

These past few seasons, however, had been the most trying times since his exile. As Shuurei let more and more people into her life, into her light, Seiran found himself further and further away from her affection and concern. Stubbing his foot through the snow and into the dirt, he admitted to himself that Ensei had been right. Seiran did need real adults around in order to tame himself.

More importantly, he needed her. She still had not realized that her little rants about papa tea or the poor shape of the house warmed him in any weather or how protecting her gave him purpose and put him at ease about everything other than her safety. He watched as the gray mass of snow at his feet continued to melt under the ministrations of his boot tip, and his long eyes narrowed as his lips curled out their smile. Somehow, she had found others in greater need of her attentions than Seiran, and the one across the garden might soon drink Shuurei's Gan Lu tea.

His Gan Lu tea. She told him that he was her favorite man, second only to her father. Seiran's grip on his emotions was becoming more tenuous with the pass of every hour she spent in this garden with that man. As if to help his psyche grasp the intangible, he pressed the hilt of Kanshou into his palm, tightening his grip as he watched the pair across the garden embrace. The steamed buns had long since been forgotten. How many times over the years had Shuurei made those treats just for him?

Seiran's grip relented as the hilt relief cut into his hand. He opened his palm and traced the pattern with his eyes, reminding himself that this person with Shuurei was more than a man. In fact, Seiran realized, he had never looked at this one as a man at all. If he closed his eyes, he would only see a fair-haired child with wet eyes and a beaten face. He had always wished his brother every happiness, but he had never competed with him---not as a man. In the end, this one happiness that Ryuuki wanted from Shuurei would cost Seiran his only happiness.

Author's Notes: I just got inspired to write this pretty randomly but the lack of Seiran/Shuurei fandom certainly helped. This is supposed to take place at the end of the first season. I'm undecided whether to continue or not. Read and review!