Just for the record, yes I am Everlaughter on LJ, and this is the 2010 secret santa fanfic posted on the Saiunkoku Monogatari Fanfic Community.

A Helping Hand

He saw a green streak of hair out of the corner of his eye. That split-second of inattention nearly cost Shuuei a leg.

"Pay attention young Shuuei, I do not have time to bandage you later," Sou-taifu reprimanded him, as he swung his sword back at the black-haired youth.

Shuuei cursed his own stupidity and focused on the training at hand. That is until that same flash of green passed by on the opposite side of the courtyard.

"Damn it!" Shuuei cried out, as blood spurted from his sword-arm due to a poorly executed block.

"What is wrong with you? Your movements are slow, your blocks are weak, and your attacks are badly timed! If we continue this any longer I fear I'll end up taking your life!" The swordsmaster exclaimed in exasperation.

"I'm sorry Sou-taifu", Shuuei replied, his head bowed in shame. He could feel a hot flush creeping up his face.

"Training is over for today. Tend to your arm and get some rest."

Shuuei sheathed his sword and bowed to the swordsmaster. These past few weeks his concentration had been very bad. Everywhere he went he thought he saw Kouyuu, his newest, and pretty much only, friend.

Kouyuu, the youngest ever to pass the official examinations three months ago, was a brilliant young man who was presently sought after by every influential father with an unmarried daughter. He had recently complained to Shuuei that he received at least seven marriage proposals a day. There were even rumors that some of those determined fathers were coming to the palace in person, with the intent of pressuring him into an arranged marriage.

Passing the entrance to the palace archives Shuuei heard a crash, followed by a string of curses. He recognized the voice. Raising an eyebrow Shuuei pushed the door partway open and peered into the fairly dim room.

"Need any help?"

A groan was his only answer, followed by the movement of a stack of books on the floor. A green head poked out, followed by limbs and a torso.

"I demand to know who placed that bookshelf where the commons used to be!" Kouyuu jerked his head around, glaring up at Shuuei as if he were responsible.

Shuuei couldn't help the grin that spread over his face. "Kouyuu, the archives have always been here, and the bookshelves have not been moved since the late emperor's time."

"Stop trying to confuse me, I know where the archives are. Somebody must have moved them as a prank of some kind, and you're probably in on it!" Kouyuu exclaimed, pointing an accusing finger at him.

Shuuei shook his head in slight exasperation. "If you weren't searching for the Archives, then why are you here?

Before Kouyuu could utter a single word, they heard rapid footsteps slowing down next to the door. Whoever it was sounded as if he were short of breath. "Kouyuu, are you in there?"

Shuuei looked over at the green-haired man just in time to see his terrified expression. "Help me." Kouyuu whispered, desperation laced through his voice. Shuuei sighed, wondering what trouble his confused friend had gotten himself into this time.

The door opened and a middle-aged man stepped inside, looking around until his eyes landed on Shuuei and Kouyuu. Upon spotting his prey, his face filled with relief along with a hint of irritation.

"Why do you keep running away from me young master Li? I only offer you one of the best marriage proposals you can receive. My daughter comes from a very wealthy family, we have lots of power in the royal court, and a union between the two of you would only be beneficial to all parties involved. As for my daughter, she is beautiful, talented in embroidery and very soft spoken. You cannot find a better proposal than mine!"

"Indeed, it goes without question that your daughter is a pearl among ladies, and outshines them in all manner of abilities." Shuuei stated, drawing the man's attention to himself. "Young Li Kouyuu's hesitation toward committing to the union stems from a very important, and unchangeable fact that hinders any such arrangement from successful fruition."

The middle-aged man blinked up at the young Shogun in puzzlement, not entirely sure what he was getting at. Shuuei however, was just warming up. "You look like a father who wants what's best for his daughter. Such as a responsible husband who would be devoted to looking after your precious child. This young man already has someone he fancies, someone he spends all his free time with. It is a bond so powerful that you would not be able to put a stop to it."

The father straightened, sticking his chest out in a show of importance. His confidence in solving this minor inconvenience quickly and efficiently could be clearly seen in his countenance.

"Who is she? Tell me and I will make sure she sees the rightness of my proposal. If she really cares about Master Li's success and future she will remove herself.

"It is not a matter of who she is, but more a matter of who he is." Shuuei nodded in satisfaction as he watched the father's face show shock and worry. Kouyuu's eyes nearly bugged out of his face. Shuuei went over to the green-haired man and placed his arm on his shoulder, gripping it tightly in warning. The pleasant expression on Shuuei's face seemed to get considerably brighter as he continued.

"It is common knowledge that Kouyuu hates women, avoids them whenever possible and tries not to have anything to do with them. The reason for this is quite simple. He prefers men." Kouyuu sputtered and tried to stutter something out, shaking his head vehemently, while Shuuei calmly talked over him.

"Young Li Kouyuu doesn't want the general public to know about it yet, but he and that young man I mentioned spend all of their free time together." Shuuei added for good measure.

The father, looking crestfallen, in a last spurt of effort to prove to himself and Shuuei that these rumors were unfounded and most definitely untrue, looked squarely into Shuuei's eyes. "If what you say is true then tell me the name of the man you claim has a place in young master Li's heart."

Shuuei's grinned and said, "That would be me."

The father's jaw dropped in shock as he stared at Shuuei and Kouyuu standing together. Shuuei's arm wrapped possessively around Kouyuu's shoulder's added credibility to what he was saying. As for Kouyuu, his face was burning red from what appeared to be embarrassment, his sputtering making it impossible to gainsay anything Shuuei had said.

The father hastily excused himself, and got out of the archives as fast as his feet could carry him.

Kouyuu threw Shuuei's arm off his shoulders, and rounded on the other while jabbing his chest with an accusing finger.

"I'm never going to ask you for help again, you've singlehandedly ruined my entire image!"

"Not at all my dear Kouyuu. I simply enhanced it and made you seem even more interesting." Shuuei stated, and with a grin as he ruffled the other's hair.