DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of the characters of Saiunkoku Monogatari. All credits go to the original author Sai Yukino, for writing this amazing story! Enjoy! ^_^
It was a time of great peril in Saiunkoku. The turmoil in the imperial court had cruel impacts on the province, outside the palace gates. The feud in the royal family had dire consequences on the people. Most of the high ranking officials and nobles had shut their doors and turned a blind eye to the suffering of the people. Burdened by taxes and lack of resources and, unaided by the court, most of the common people fought for food, starved to death and even collapsed on the pavements outside the doors of noblemen.
The Kou household in Keio helped as much as they could, but even they fell short when it came to assisting an entire country. Their house was pretty much turned into a sanatorium of sorts. This was a time that 8-year old Kou Shuurei would remember forever. She played the ehru day after day, trying in her own little was to ease the suffering a little. Lord Shouka and Seiran plucked every fruit in the mansion gardens and bereaved the pond of its last fish in trying to provide for the people.
"H…Help me!" somebody called out from the mansion gates
Shuurei turned around from where she was tending to one of the wounded to see a man of around Seiran's age. He looked thin and aged due to starvation and seemed to be ill as well.
"Father, come quick!" Shuurei called
"What is it Shuurei?" Lord Shouka asked, rushing out of the mansion, closely followed by Seiran. He took one look at the man and immediately went to his aid. "Seiran, prepare a mattress for this man! Shuurei, go get some water and towels!" Lord Shouka tended to the man's wounds as he collapsed out of exhaustion.
Later that night, Shuurei was on her way to bed after playing the ehru for everyone and running errands for them when she suddenly remembered the man from earlier that evening.
He saw her peeking at him and turned around. He smiled gently at her and said, "Come here little girl…"
She went near him. "You know, you look a lot like my little sister"
"Really? I wish I could meet her!"
The man hesitated and said, "She's dead."
Shuurei gasped. "I'm so sorry…!"
In the silence that then elapsed, they were able to overhear the conversation of two other sick men in the room.
"…what are these court officials doing? Instead of doing their jobs, they only care about themselves!"
"The duty of the imperial court is to look after the people! But what do they do? They slander their posts with their greed and lack of concern for the people and we are the ones that suffer!"
"It's bad enough that officials are corrupted and do not perform their duties, but without a proper emperor, this country is doomed! ...Oh, what am I going to do?"
"Nothing." The other man whispered in a cold, unnerving tone. "Nothing… We don't have the power to change anything and those who do, don't make good use of it. Now all we can do is resign ourselves to our fate"
Shuurei listened quietly to this exchange and a feeling of helplessness snuck about her strong heart. She looked at the bed in front of her and for a second, she thought it was Seiran. She clutched her chest in fear at the thought. He brought her out of her reverie by saying, "It's not your fault Shuurei-hime. There is nothing you can do." he paused. "I cannot help hoping that this country will once again see a better day as during the reign of the old emperor" he said, and his face suddenly crumpled up in pain. "Would you…p-please play…ehru…for me?"
"Hey mister!" Shuurei exclaimed with worry. She decided that she would do the one thing she can do, that she had been doing all this while – ease the pain with her music. As the beautiful melody wafted from her instrument, the man's face relaxed and his expression turned into one of sleep – of peaceful, eternal sleep.
She finished the song to find Lord Shouka's hand on her shoulder and Seiran covering up the man's face with a blanket. "B-But…he was just…there! He was just talking to me!" she cried.
"Calm down Shuurei. You eased this man's pain… he was in peace when he died, thanks to you. May his soul rest in peace" Shouka said
She suddenly remembered Seiran's face. What if it had been Seiran? Or her father? The thoughts were too much for her 8-year-old heart to bear and she burst out in tears. "What if you and Seiran go away just like that and leave me all alone? I don't want you both to die!"
"Milady!" Seiran exclaimed anxiously upon seeing her tears.
"Seiran and I aren't going anywhere. We will always be by your side no matter what." Lord Shouka said as he picked up little Shuurei in his arms. He gave Seiran a reassuring nod and left the room.
After calming her down a bit and giving her some water to drink, Shouka knelt down in front of his daughter and looked at her tear-streaked face.
"Is there really nothing we can do father?" Shuurei asked in a shaky voice. "Why are all the government officials so cruel to us? Isn't it their job to keep the people happy?"
"Shuurei, in this world, you cannot make anyone happy or unhappy. That is completely upto the individual. You cannot expect the government to be perfect either. At times like these, one should keep in mind that darkness and light cannot exist without each other. A sliver of light is brightest in a dark space and the darkness is best seen when it is cut through by light. If one always keeps doing one's best, even in the darkest of times then the light will not elude one"
"Do you think this country will change father? Will the new king save us from all this injustice?"
"He might be the emperor but one person isn't enough to change a country Shuurei. People have to be willing to change and each person must make full use of the power and potential that life has given him. If we all try our best then change will come. Man must be the change that he wishes to see." Shouka smiled, looking at those big eyes, absorbing his every word. "Never give up. If one gives up before he's even tried, then the battle is lost before it has been fought. Remember that there's always, always a way."
Seiran was listening in at the door as little Shuurei nodded and wiped her eyes on her sleeve She looked at her father with determination. "I'm going to help make this country a better place father. I will keep trying. I have decided. I'm going to become a court official."
A/N: Shuurei only found out later that women cannot become court officials and I'm going by that logic since she's only 8 years old in this one! Hope you like it! :) Please READ & REVIEW! You'd make my day! :D