Summary: He had always loved her. A short with Reishin examining his love for his wife, Yuri-hime.
Disclaimer: I do not own Saiunkoku Monogatari.
He had always loved her. It came as a surprise to some that he had such human feelings; especially after they witnessed him how he treated even those he considered his friends. He couldn't help himself though. She was so wonderful. She was everything he wished he could be but wasn't and couldn't.
When he had first seen her she was wearing boy's clothing and calling herself a boy's name. He had seen straight through her. He had always been able to see a person's true worth by looking into their eyes. She had resisted him for almost five years before he finally took matters completely out of her hands and married her without first asking for her consent. By the knowing smile on her face she had been waiting for him to do something like that.
Now he sat staring out the window of his private chambers waiting for something to happen. He did not know what was supposed to happen; he only knew that something was going to happen. Out of all the people born into the Kō clan he had been blessed with insight that bordered on clairvoyance. Maybe it was because he was descended in direct line from the Red Immortal. It had served him well at court but he grew tired of the games and he knew that soon he would give up his position. He had never been one to play the games needed to advance at court but still had ended up as one of the four chamberlains.
"Rei?" Her voice drifted over him and he felt his pulse quicken like it always did when she was around him. "You look troubled."
He stiffened and tried not let her know that he was thinking of her. If he did she would gloat for the rest of the day. The two of them were cut from the same cloth; they could go a year without seeing each other but when they were together it was explosive.
She often said that their son could zbe scarred for life with their eccentric actions and he knew it to be true. Kōyū would be better off without them but they were selfish in keeping him with them but he could not give Kōyū up. He was proud of his son and how hard he worked, always trying to catch up to him. He could sense that everything that was going to happen would center on Kōyū but he desperately wished that it would surround him instead. Kōyū deserved his place as imperial advisor and vice-chamberlain. He worked hard and somehow managed to stay out of the unsavory aspects of the court as well. Reishin was sure it had to do with the fact he was in love with a woman he thought he could never have.
"I am worried about you," Yuri's soft voice washed over him. He closed his eyes and let her presence fill the void threatening to open inside of him. When Yuri was around nothing bad could happen to him anymore. That was her promise. He had made her keep it for a long time.
"When you come back from this journey everything will be different. I do not want you to leave. Kōyū and I need you more than the clan..." His voice trailed off and he resumed looking out the window. The time of plum and cherry blossoms was past and now all he saw was rows of trees wilting under the early summer heat. Their leaves were so green that they hurt his eyes but he could not look away.
"The clan will always need me," she sighed. "The clan head doesn't do a very good job keeping up with it," she sighed as she came forward and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. "Despite his faults I still love him."
"Do you love me?" His voice was soft and he felt like his heart could bear the problems he was facing if she was with him. Her arms tightened around his shoulders.
"Well, when you are being disagreeable it is a challenge, but I could never give up on you." Her breath tickled his ear. "They say that when two people have shared a child their hearts are forever one," she whispered the words and he knew that she was not able to speak the words in her normal voice because they broke her heart.
He gently pulled her around so she was seated in his lap. He pressed his cheek to hers as the saddest memory he bore washed over him. The sound of Yuri's sobs assaulted him. The pain in his chest like his heart was being squeezed of life resurfaced. The tempest vision that came next was worse.
The blood. The bed. Yuri's small form shaking in grief. This was what he had been avoiding all day. When she had spoken of a shared child she did not mean Kōyū but the one that had never been given a chance to live.
They had only been married for a short time, perhaps five months when it happened.
He should have known that as the head of the Kō clan his person and immediate family were always in danger but he had not expected for her to be poisoned.
She was the new star of their clan. She was the only one who could rival Shokun in beauty. She was everything their clan needed in a head. And she was hiding something from him. Something that would have made him more attentive, something that still scared him. She was pregnant.
It was the one and only time that his foresight had failed him. It had not helped that at that time he had a falling out with both Kijin and Yūshun at the time had left him vulnerable to everything. He had not anticipated that someone would try to poison him and Yuri would be the one that fell victim to the poison. Or that she was keeping such a large secret from him.
In his anger after the event he had berated her and demanded to know why she would keep such knowledge from him. She had never answered the question and it had never been an issue since then, as she had never conceived again.
When he had investigated the poison after had lead him back to the source: Kijin. He had been inconsolable when he discovered that his best friend had tried to kill him and had successfully ended his wife's only pregnancy had made healing the rift almost impossible until Yūshun had told him that Kijin had only wanted to make him ill, nothing more. Upon further investigation of the poison he had discovered that it was one that would have bedridden him for several days, nothing more.
Yūshun told him that Kujin had only wanted to make Reishin ill so he could reflect on how badly he had injured Kujin when he had introduced him to Yuri only for Reishin to take her away again. Reishin had never been able to forgive his friend fully. not because he had a desire to sire a child, but because Yuri had wanted the child. She had only said she believed Kōyū to be enough because she had known the pain that the head of the clan's child went through by watching Shoka's exile and Reishin's reluctant rise to being head.
He tightened his arms around her. Her body had always been so slight, so frail. He had always been worried that he might break her. "Yuri," he whispered, holding her close. "Yuri, why didn't you tell me about the baby?"
"Because I knew that you did not want the child. I saw what the clan had done to you and your brothers. I was scared that you would not be happy with me. I had told you that I did not want children because we have Kōyū but when I discovered that I carried our child," she stopped, her voice trembling. "Reishin, I could not..."
"You could not what? I would have accepted the child, Yuri. Anything that you give me," he bit down on his lip and returned his gaze to the trees outside his window. "You are the only bright part of my life."
"Reishin," her shoulders were trembling and Reishin had to remind himself that he was the cause of Yuri's pain. He always made her relive the most painful things. "When you found me that day I was considering leaving. I knew that the child would complicate our lives in ways that you were not ready to deal with. Kōyū would not be ready to deal with. That day I saw Hōju. He found me wandering the streets and asked me what was wrong. I told him, Reishin. I told him all about what was happening."
Reishin opened his mouth but snapped it closed. Kijin had spoken to her that day? Had he given her the poison?
"He listened to what was happening, about how I thought you did not want me. How you had told me that you did not want children. About how I carried your child. He was silent throughout everything and then he said that he would take me home. I told him that I wanted to go home to Kō province. He told me that I had to tell you about the baby. Then he said that if you still rejected me that he would take responsibility for making sure that I always had whatever I needed. It was then that I realized that even if you were disappointed in the baby that you were the only one that I wanted."
"Yuri," he whispered. "You should not have to be with me. I could release you, let you find a man that will treat you with the love you deserve."
She shook her head so violently that her hairpin fell to the floor. "NO! You are the one that I want, Rei. Even when you did stupid things before our wedding I still wanted only you. I despaired that you would ever figure that out. Even though my womb will never swell with your child, even though we are separated for long periods of time, even though you are still confused with your feelings for me, you are still the one that I want."
"I am not good with words that are not biting, Yuri," he sighed as he clenched his eyes shut. "It is a defense mechanism that has been in place since I was a child. But, even as a child forced to play with my aunt's "son" I still always wanted to be around you. When you finally became a woman I ached with the longing to make you mine. But you were Shoka's. Even when I found you had run away to the Kogaro, even when I found you collapsed on the ground delivering our child too soon I have wanted you. You are like an addiction. I will always need you, Yuri."
She buried her face in the front of his robes. "Reishin, I wanted the baby. I wanted the baby so bad," she sobbed.
He gently cupped her face and wiped away her tears with his thumbs. "We have Kōyū and even though he was not created by us he is our son. We have to take comfort in that because if we do not then we are nothing."
Her beautiful hazel eyes closed. "Kōyū," she sighed. "He should be home soon. I will need to greet him if he expects to find his way to his room."
"Yes, his skills with directions are notoriously bad." Reishin agreed but he did not release his wife. "How will we move forward, Yuri?"
His question hanged in the air between them. She had stopped sobbing and was smoothing down the front of his robes. When she didn't answer he turned back to the window. Their relationship had always been like this; long silences and violent outbursts.
Just when he finally beloved that the silence was unbearable Yuri spoke. "Rei, I am not a young woman anymore. Our son is grown and an important official. Our lives have been good and full but I have always wondered what it would have been liked to have a child of my own. I have always wondered."
"Yuri," he tried not to make his voice sound like a whine but sometimes it was hard. "If you really desire another child I can find another one. I know of this little girl who has a father but she would probably be better off with two parents..."
"You may not adopt Shurei. Shoka is doing a fine job with her," Yuri pushed off of his lap and stood with her arms akimbo.
"A child born out of our bloodline will be forced to become head. You know this Yuri. If we have a child Kōyū will never become the head of Kō clan. Everything that I have worked for with Kōyū will be for naught. He needs to marry Sera and lead this clan for I know that he is the only one that will fix our messed up clan."
Reishin knew what others in the clan had not picked up on. Shurei would never marry like Kuro wanted so Reishin had started the proceedings to affiance Kuro's daughter to his adopted son. Sera would suit Kōyū better than Shurei anyway. She had been raised with the intent that she would be the wife of a clan ruler. Yuri was well aware of his thoughts on the matter.
"They would only force a male child into being clan head," Yuri reminded him. "I believe we would produce a female child. It would be more to our liking."
"Have you convinced yourself of this, Yuri? A girl? They can be even more difficult than boy children." secretly he was pleased. He did long for a child; to be a father was oddly appealing to him since he had met Shurei.
Yuri let out a soft laugh. "I do believe that is why she would be to our liking."
Reishin studied his wife for several long moments before snapping open his fan and pressing it against his lips. A child would be a new adventure especially now that he was growing bored of being the Chamberlain of Civil Administration.
"Perhaps this can be a new adventure that we can share in together," he finally said.
Yuri threw back her head and let out the most beautiful laugh he had ever heard. "I shall hold you to this, Kō Reishin."
Reishin snapped his fan closed. "I shall allow you to hold me to it," he whispered.
Yuri threw her arms around him. "Thank you," her voice broke slightly. "Thank you." They stayed like that for several moments before shouts could be heard coming from the opposite side of the house that only had unused guest rooms. "Kōyū is home."
"You had better go save him," Reishin sighed, unhappy that he was going to give up his wife's warm embrace.
"Don't worry," Yuri said as she went to the door. "I'll be back soon. I am going to hold you to your promise tonight and every night we are together."