Notes: This is set in an AU! this happened when she became a reserve official. Seiga really won, and got rid of Shuurei for good. and Senka was still alive, but very very ill. Never mind the supernatural stuff that came in the original story, since i have rewritten it with this.

And this isn't a crossover. more like it reminded me of FY. when i first watch SM, i can't help but compare. i thought FY was great, but now i've seen SM, it looked pathetic.

Pairings: Shuurei/Houjo and later on Shuu/Seiga I love ryuuki and shuurei, but i want to give other pairings a chance since they are unlikely to happen.

Summary: Every passing of the crown, SOugen emerges from sleep, and summons the 8 sages in order to protect the country of Saiun. But he needs a body in order to do this and he has chosen Kou Shuurei to lead the search. But Shuurei,. being as stingy, er, thrifty as she is, needs to make ends meet in order to carry out this mission. how will the mission go, and will all of them able to get back to the Kiyou in time, with such limited budget?

No OC since i'm against them. except for the extras. I love the concept of the first season, that features a proverb per day. they may become spoilers though.

Review please! :D if there's any wrong grammar that i miss please say so

UPDATED (07-13-09): Re wrote the story a bit. I hope this is better.

Chapter 1

Bitten by a snake this year, he'll be scared of well ropes in the next ten.

A long long time ago, in a world much like ours, there was a country called Saiun. If you are reading this now, you must have heard of that mysterious country for if not, you will not even bother picking this up and reading what is written hereafter. Let us not begin at the beginning of the country, for everyone knows and is tired hearing of Sougen and how he was assisted by eight sages and vanquished the demons of this world. We are interested in a particular tale of Saiunkoku that happened several millenia after Sougen was born. This particular tale relates the story about the so called "Curious Game" of the country of Saiun.

You must have heard of the first female official of the land, Kou Shuurei, a princess from the powerful Kou family, and her rise and fall. Truly she is an honorable woman. Yet her light as an official was snuffed out a little after it was lit. How unfortunate it is, but life is like that. No matter how great you are, no matter how hard you try, life is often cruel, even to the most industrious people. This tale happened after she became a supernumerary official, and due to her meddling, carelessness, and trusting nature, she fell from her high horse she proclaimed justice and suffered the injuries. Of course, being someone as hard working as her, many had expected that she will rise back from where she had fallen, more dignified and honorable as before. But that is not so. She could have tried at the regional office, better yet, she could have come back to court by taking the offers of the vice secretaries of the Civil Administration ministy or the Finance Ministry, for they knew her potential, and her hard working nature, and believed that a they could mold her into a perfect official. However, no matter how hard the ministries woo her to enter their office, she refused as she had refused the many proposals of other noble families. She returned to her humble life, disgraced and dejected. She had simply accepted that the court was for men and she should live like an ordinary woman like her should. She is our heroine and it is her turn to play the curious game of Saiunkoku.

A year had passed since she was dismissed and now it is autumn. I know I have said that I will not start at how Saiunkoku was formed, however ironically, our tale will start with our heroine telling of the ancient tale.

"...With the wit of the eight sages, he laid the foundation of his empire and brought light to the people. after Sougen's death, the eight sages disappeared, but it is said that they continue to live among the people" Said Kou Shuurei to the children of the temple, accompanied by the sweet melodies of her ehru. It had been three years since she became a temporary "flower" of the imperial harem. Shou Taishi had made a deal with her to groom the crowned prince Shi Ryuuki for a sum of 500 gold coins, and indeed she was successful. the Stupid Lord, as it turned out, was a genius, became a promising young Prince who handled the affairs of the state to substitute his majesty King.

"Teacher," said one of children in the temple, "teacher, is it true that the Sentougen is still in the palace today?"

Shuurei smiled and said, "indeed it is still there," having been imprisoned in that tower, she was certain that the place did exist.

It was a typical autumn, the world readying itself for the coming of winter. So typical in fact, that when a knock came from the temple doors, it surprised everyone, making them wonder who would interrupt Shuurei's lessons, and who had the nerve to do it. As sudden as the knock, a more surprising person came forth from the door.

It was Seiran, the Kou family retainer. How surprising the day was turning out!

The little boys flocked over the retainer, much like sheep flocks to shepherds. "Seiran! Seiran! Play with us!" they pleaded. However, the sweet, mild-mannered retainer declined the little boys, telling them that he had a lot of work to do. Once upon a time, the little boys believed that Seiran was their teacher's husband, since he always came to drop off Shuurei at the temple every day. However, husbands do not call their wives "Mistress", and the children deduced that Seiran was not a husband, and thanks to a curious little boy, they learned from Shuurei what Seiran was in her life. It is typical for a boy to have a crush on his teacher, and so, the boys cannot help but feel relieved when they found out the truth. If Seiran was Shuurei's husband, or lover, they would have no chance.

"Mistress, we have a guest today." said their retainer politely, a good example for the children. "Please hurry home, one of the great advisers is at home." It was a curt and frank. Shuurei hurried home. She inquired the identity of their guest, and Seiran told her whom.

"Shou Taishi? again? and just when i found a job that pays well!" said Shuurei. indeed it was just like that of spring, when Shou Taishi first came to their house. "I suppose we'll starve again this month"

"The master have ordered for you to return. If we have trouble, I can simply take more side jobs" Said the retainer

Shuurei looked at him carefully, embarrassment was clear on her face, "I apologize for this, Seiran. Really, with your skill, you could have make it big time at the army. I often heard General Ran boasting about your skills, as if it was his." she sighed. If only she was still an official, then they would at least be living like normal people. The very thought annoyed her as it often did, "argggh! why did i have to get fired from being an official! Ah!! if only i wasn't trick by that bastard!! and the pay there is good too!! Wahhh!! why are we so poor, Seiran!? WHY?? GODS!! WHY MUST WE SUFFER POVERTY? IS THIS DIVINE PUNISHMENT? I HAVE BEEN DOING MY BEST TO EARN MONEY AND YET NOTHING! WE CAN'T MAKE ENDS MEET!!!!" She dropped to her knees and pounded the ground.

Her retainer smiled and sighed. Money never cease to cause problem in their household. Even when Shuurei was official, it never ceased to cause problems. "Mistress, please, if people sees you like that, they would think twice in employing you" He said, helping her up, and half dragging her. They have already took their time walking, and any delay might make the honorable Shou Taishi think that they are being disrespectful. The temple was just a few minutes away from their home, after all.

Due to Seiran's insistings, they reached the household in a flash, and Shuurei, knowing what had happened a few years back, commanded Seiran to make sure that the adviser was safe from any bucket of water or the infamous Daddy-Tea Shouka is fond of serving, while she go and get tea. When she came to meet their guest, Shuurei displayed the manners perfectly as the descendant of the direct line.

Shou Taishi did not dawdle. Instead, he explained his reasons for visiting. He would never, after all, leave the palace for simple reasons, "I wish to ask you, Kou Shuurei. I want you to search for the eight sages. "

"Search for the eight sages?" Shuurei repeated. Was she hearing wrong?

The old man looked at her intently. He was not surprise to see her face. In fact, a long time ago, he had the very same face when he heard of that tale. It was one of the guarded stories, passed on from generation to generation of every royal family. However, only a few people knew about that story. About the mysterious game of Saiunkoku. Only the emperor and his advisers. But it was that time again, to play the mysterious game.

Sougen...Shou Taishi thought. you must be a closet pervert for choosing this young woman to become your vassal...

"Yes" he said, chuckling, "The eight sages. They live among the people, and will be attracted to you like moth is to fire. You have been chosen by Sougen as his you will support this country of Saiun"

Shuurei could feel her eyebrow raise. Search for the eight sages? But isn't that story just a fairy tale, the legend of Saiunkoku? If that story was true, no doubt it happened how many years before she was even thought of. "I'm sorry Shou Taishi" said Shuurei, "but i am afraid that is impossible. What means do i have to find them? Surely, they themselves do not know that they are chosen people. I myself do not know of this, much less them." Isn't it a fairy tale? She never heard of a chosen "Sougen" in search of the eight immortals before. She simply decided to be tactful and not point out such a thing to an old man.

The old man cleared his throat and chuckled. He can understand how the Kou princess perceived the matter at hand. He himself did not believe it before. However much as he wanted to leave, he cannot come back empty handed. He must make the Kou princess participate in the game no matter what, or else, Saiunkoku, no even the world, would be destroyed. Shou Taishi knew the Kou princess, however, so it was not an impossible task. He knew how he could control her.

"Oh, then I am afraid i must get going if you will not agree to this... ahh~ and i brought one thousand gold coins as initial payment"

"Initial payment?" Shuurei murmured, her back straightening.

"Yes, initial payment" Shou Taishi said, pretending to sound like he was old and tired, and failing at it. He WAS old, but he never was never the tired fragile grandfather. "I plan to pay a thousand gold coins, as initial payment, followed by a hundred gold ryou for every chosen person" Shuurei licked her drying lips and listened intently, anticipating "The travel expenses are covered, too, that you will not need to suffer along the way, if there remains something, you are very much welcomed to keep them. But if you must insist, then i shall go~"

Shuurei threw her courteousness to the high adviser to the wind, and grabbed the old man's wrist. Her mind was calculating, her eyes blazed with fire. "A thousand gold pieces!!! a thousand, for initial payment! seize it woman!" was what her brain was telling her. Even her conscience says, "who cares if there's a catch in it?!" it is the most delicious deal!

"Grand father Shou Taishi" said Shuurei, with the sweetness befit a princess of the noble Kou family, "Would you like a back massage? Let us talk longer."

Shou Taishi smirked. Truly, Kou Shuurei. There is a simple trick with her. A very simple one.

That night, right after they had their dinner, Shuurei looked up at the night sky with its million stars. Although she felt that it had happened before, she could not care less. She grinned and cried to the wind, "A thousand gold coins!" and laughed like a mad woman.

Seiran, who was passing by heard the maniacal laughter. Curiously, he knocked at the door, wondering what his mistress found so amusing. "Mistress?" called Seiran in the dark. He then recalled the deal with Shou Taishi. No doubt, that was the reason behind the laugh. He should really fix that quirk of Shuurei.

Seiran's voice stopped Shuurei from crossing the border between sanity and madness.

"Oh Seiran. It's you! I was thinking about the deal with Shou Taishi.

If the neighbors heard her laughing, no one will ever hire her. "Mistress, do you think it is wise to take Shou Taishi's offer yet again? The last time you did...." he trailed off. The last time she agreed, she almost died.

"I know you must be worried, Seiran, but even though this may look like a deal just like the last time, well... one should not be afraid of ropes if bitten by a snake! With the thousand gold coin, we can help the people in our area. We can even live for a year, with our meager salaries. For now, for the sake of everyone, i believe i should pull at the rope even though it looks so much like a snake."

"But..."

"No, I should not be cautious regarding this matter, and neither does you. We should not decline an opportunity if it's right in front of us. I know it seemed like the deal from that of spring from three years ago, but, I feel this is different."

There was no use to persuading her. When it comes to money, Shuurei would do anything, even go through fire, just to pick up a gold coin. With that, Seiran bowed and bid his mistress a goodnight. With Shuurei agreeing to play the curious game, fate itself smiled mockingly at the destiny that awaited Shuurei and the chosen ones. Truly, the curious game hence begin.