i only shoot up with your perfume
He has fifty wives.
His father had fifty wives and his father's father had fifty wives and all the fathers before him had half a hundred wives of their own.
Lan Fan sits next to him in a tent in a desert. The temperature is cold, and air is dry, and the sand that catches in their clothes, their hair, their teeth, is all grit and dirt.
They are in the middle of a wasteland.
They sit in the darkness and breathe as quietly as they can. He is lying down and she is sitting upright, her back a straight line, a shadow cast against the wall of the tent blotting out the sky.
"You will marry each and every one of the women the clans provide for you. You want peace, but you must be the catalyst, the one who forges the strong bonds between all the families and your own."
"But that isn't wha-"
"Sometimes, we don't always get what we want. We cannot all be greedy like you, young master. Always haunted by what we cannot have. What we desire to be ours."
And he cannot see her blush in the darkness, because this time she probably does not. Her heart rate is steady, her breathing a calming rush of air in the stillness that is the desert.
"You will marry each and every one. And you will bring peace to Xing."
"All I want-"
"Is not relevant to what the country needs."
She doesn't interrupt him again.
He steps into a room lavishly decorated with all the best the Yuan clan has to offer. Thick tapestries depicting flying phoenixes and lush landscapes, woven with thick and luxurious materials.
A rug made of some unidentifiable animal is poured onto the ground, soft and durable.
Xi Yuan is sitting on the bed demurely. A red veil is placed over her head, a portion of the red silk is pinned to her hair with a golden ornament.
The kind that could be a hilt for a thin dagger, sharp enough to pierce a jugular.
He takes that out of her hair gently because that is his right.
He is the emperor of Xing. He is a son of the stars and the sky.
The bed spread is new, stiff and embroidered with flowers and vines and an endless array of birds, the Yuan family crest dancing around the golden flames of the royal house.
"You seem a bit young to be getting married." He says. He flops back onto the bed and lets his legs dangle off the edge of the bed, the thick red wood frame standing high and tall. His robes get wrinkled, and the severe bun his hair is pulled back into loosens, but he doesn't say more. He waits for her.
"I am of age. I am able to bear children, my emperor." Xi says in that voice, breathy and quiet all at once, the voice of a courtier.
"How old are you." He says. He does not ask.
"I have lived through fourteen summers, most honorable son of stars."
"What's your favorite fruit."
"Cherries, my lord."
"You should call me Ling. We are married after all. Tell me about your childhood. Did you have as many assassination attempts as I did? I went through nearly thirty of them by the time I as ten. That's an average of three per year. And those are only the ones I remember."
Lan Fan stands at his door with her face turned away, listening to the sounds he makes as he prepares for bed.
"You are not doing your duty as emperor, young master."
With Lan Fan, he is always 'young master', none of those obnoxiously flowery titles for Lan Fan. She who remembers when he used to cry in Fuu's absence and crossed a desert with him and cut off her arm for him.
He is still 'young master' even though he is older than she is by six moons, taller than her by at least three heads.
"I know what I'm doing, Lan Fan. Trust me."
"The court is getting anxious. Not one of your wives is with child."
"Doesn't that usually take a while? Some time?"
"The odds are in your favor, young master."
"But the stars are not aligned quite the way I like them. They'll have to wait, the court and my wives and the odds."
Lan Fan only pulls on her mask and disappears out his window. The echo of steps and the whisper of carefully swirling qi outside his door tells him that there is a guard patrolling the door to his quarters.
She doesn't trust anyone else to do the nightly patrols though. Or scout out the area around his portion of the royal compound. Or watch over him as he sleeps.
What the courtiers say matters little.
Once, he caught her around the waist, spun her around like he saw in a Amestrian dance competition, and pressed his lips to hers.
It was not a kiss.
But it was something sweet nonetheless.
Pulling away from him, she had smiled so secretly, a muted brilliance, before she decked him with her metal fist. It was a pulled punch, but it hurt. It hurt a lot.
It hurt like her smile as she stepped forward to help him up from his undignified sprawl across the cobblestoned ground in Rush Valley.
"You never used to do that."
"It's for young master's own good. Just because he isn't emperor here doesn't mean that he can do what he likes."
"But I know you liked that."
"You never used to sound like that."
And she's right. He never used to. But Greed...avarice has eaten away at parts of him. He wants it all. But sometimes, he just wants the one thing he cannot have, and that is just as delicious. It will be just as savory and satisfying when he finally gets what he wants, almost as good as owning the whole world.
(Because, somehow, she became it.)
Theirs is not a love story to tell young children. Those have to have happy endings.
He waits for her because he can.
He touches her bare shoulder when the moon is still up and the curve of her arm, lean muscle nothing like the soft swell of another, catches the light. He kisses the cool silver arm of her other arm in the dim light of his room. The sheets are pools of red and slashed light.
She tugs at his hair, just once, looping loose strands around a free finger and touching her lips to her hand, his hair, his hand as he covers hers with his.
Her face is turned away from him and she sits with her back straight, blotting out the sun with her figure, her profile.
He doesn't kiss her.
(But he presses his lips to the juncture where her jaw blends smoothly into her neck, and marvels at how vulnerable she is at this moment, with him.
She dresses quickly and flies out the window in the next moment, but her skin, the smell of her, linger in his sheets, his mind.)
There is nothing good about what happens at the end of their story.
It's a windy day. Blustery even and he sets out on foot, with a whole parade of people behind him murmuring about propriety and the horrible breaking from rules, regulation, and tradition as he steps down the streets, walks up a gently sloping hill (her shoulder in his mouth).
He walks across long grass and pushes his hands through the drooping branches of weeping willow (her hair sliding through his fingers).
The brook that is hidden from sight bends around the valleys and neatly trimmed trees around the burial ground trills.
Her head stone is a bland thing. Gray with just her name carved with little fanfare, not ornate by any means. A long, thin rectangle, straight and proud enough to reach for the sky.
Her family plot is right next to his. If he turns his head, he could see his mother just down the field, across a few gates and maybe under a nice tree, but he only has eyes for her.
The wind blows hard now. The petals of the flowers in his hand scatter (her breath blowing across his face.
her eyes shining in the darkness as she hovers over him, taking him in and never letting him give anything back, just arching, her mouth a lush o, and then she settles over him, staring down at him with intelligent eyes, hands scrapping raw patterns into his skin.
he's a greedy bastard.)
He places his hand onto her name, blotting out the characters like she used to blot out the sky for him. The half healed wound in his side stretches and burns. He bows his head, fingers trying to curl around her name, take her with him onto the unknown road ahead.
And then turning to his former teacher, he brushes his fingertips over Lan Fuu's head stone. Before he leaves them behind. Leaves them all behind. The line of people behind him stutter to a strange silence. They think being solemn now will impress him. They shuffle. The flags they carry bellow in the wind.
He walks back.
He has no children.
A little Chang boy takes the throne. Gold eyes and brown hair. The best of the East and the West.