y_c_reverse (y_c_reverse) wrote in yaoi_challenge,
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Under a New Moon (Saiunkoku, Shuuei x Kouyuu)

Title: Under a New Moon
Fandom: Saiunkoku
Pairing: Shuuei x Kouyuu
Author: Cheesecake and Chiboust
Recipient: Ting ting
Rating: T/ PG 13
Warnings: sap :)
Summary: Kouyuu agrees to accompany Shuuei to the red light district.



Ran Shuuei was bored. The fact alone was cause for consternation. He was never bored: un-amused perhaps, unimpressed ... indifferent even ... but bored, no. Shuuei stared at the purple robes laid out on the bed for him. Tonight, as every other night he would wander to the red-light district for an evening of indulgence. Somehow though, he couldn't seem to work up his usual verve. Where he had previously seen grace, lately he was finding the courtesans' cultivated movements less like art and more like artifice; their white-powdered faces like the masks of ghosts.

He yearned for something more vibrant. Painted expressions didn't compare to the natural flush of temper and all the skill in the world couldn't rival an unschooled kiss stolen amidst the musty scrolls of the palace library. That ultimately was the crux of the problem. Shuuei's heart just wasn't in it anymore. Neither the willowy boys from the southern quarter nor Kouchou's voluptuous beauties interested him. Most of his visits with Kouchou were now spent talking political strategy instead of sex.

Shuuei sighed. When he was honest with himself he knew the problem wasn't that he was bored but that he was restless. What he wanted, he wasn't sure it was right to take. Shuuei had spent many a night dreaming of holding Kouyuu in his arms, but his knowledge of his companion's inexperience and his fear of jeopardizing their friendship had prevented him from confessing his feelings. Shuuei was a worldly man and he'd glimpsed enough of Kouyuu's blustering, enough of his shy glances to realize that his feelings were not completely unrequited. Still, he did not make his move. Perhaps he even wanted to savor that freshness, that rare innocence he so adored in Kouyuu. His best friend might be hot-tempered and sharp-tongued but he was completely without guile. No matter how he tried to hide his feelings they were written as plain as day across his face. That honesty, combined with Kouyuu's fierce intellect left Shuuei tossing in bed at night with a fire in his veins not even finest whore could quench.

Shuuei had taken the noble role but with every day it became more difficult. Yesterday, things finally reached the tipping point. He and Kouyuu had just returned from debriefing Ryuuki on a diplomatic strategy when Shuuei suggested a treat of sake and sweet dumplings in the garden as reward for their hard work. Kouyuu had accepted (not incidentally right after Shuuei mentioned the dumplings). It was a beautiful spring evening and the emperor's garden was alive with the scent of peonies and the music of crickets. They'd talked and drunk and somehow lighted upon the topic of swordsmanship. Kouyuu was bemoaning his lack of skill and Shuuei determined that an impromptu lesson was in order.

Kouyuu gave it his best effort but he became frustrated after yet another failed parrying attempt. Seeing the difficulty his young friend was having, Shuuei decided that a hands-on approach was best. He had positioned himself behind Kouyuu and gently guided the younger man's arms to the correct stance. As he leaned over him, Kouyuu's scent, an intoxicating mix of vanilla and sandalwood rose from the silken folds of his robe. His ponytail brushed Shuuei's cheek and the general was amazed at how soft it was.

"Relax your arm. Your movements are too stilted," he'd whispered, distracted by the flush in Kouyuu's cheeks. "Don't over think it. Your body already knows the movements. That is why you get lost so often. You rely too much on that head of yours and not enough on your own body-sense. I'd wager it's why you haven't bedded a woman yet either," Shuuei was rambling.

With the delicate shell of Kouyuu's ear turned so invitingly towards him, he was more interested in the warmth of his friend's body pressed against his than anything coming out of his own mouth. By then, Shuuei was also experiencing a few "body senses" of his own and the urge to take Kouyuu into his arms and engage in a different kind of sword play was almost overwhelming. He'd hobbled off to his rooms ablaze with desire. Tangled in his sweat-stained sheets, he'd resolved to go to the red-light district tonight no matter what.

Yet, here he stood, unmotivated and irritable. Desire certainly was not lacking. The problem was finding the right arms to spend it in. Shuuei cursed. This would not do at all. He was going to go out, and he was going to have a good time even if it killed him. Shuuei shrugged into his robes and hastily did up his hair. He asked the servants to call for a coach and hurried outside to wait for the driver to bring it around.

The gods were kind--or cruel depending on one's perspective--for Shuuei had barely progressed beyond his front door when he heard the rapid pace of footsteps followed by a stream of frustrated muttering near the garden wall. He knew that voice anywhere, and sure enough, there was Kouyuu wandering confusedly behind a bramble bush. Shuuei's heart sped up even as he couldn't help smiling at his best friend's all-too-common predicament.

"Kouyuu! What a pleasant surprise. Taking an evening stroll?"

Kouyuu's head snapped up. "Shuuei ... ah ... yes." He came forward looking flustered.

"Mmm, I don't blame you. It's the perfect night for enjoying nature," Shuuei teased, enjoying Kouyuu's flush.

"Well ... that is..." Kouyuu stammered.

"Kouyuu?"

"Yes?"

"Would you like a ride home?"

A brief internal struggle ensued between Kouyuu's pride and his common sense. It was a close thing if the play of emotions across his face was any indication. Ultimately, though common sense won out. The younger man nodded. "Yes," he gritted.

"Excellent. My coach should be here any minute now. I'll have him drop you off on my way. Or..." Shuuei cast Kouyuu a sidelong glance. "You could accompany me to the red-light district. It's a perfect evening for other pleasures as well."

Kouyuu's shock, his scandalized indignation was irresistible. "What?" he spluttered.

"It might be a good opportunity for you to become acquainted with the finer points of the fairer sex. Who knows, you could be reformed from your woman-hating ways," Shuuei intoned, grinning. Surely it was wrong for him to enjoy this so much.

"I have no interest in such ... pursuits whatsoever. You can keep your dissolute errands to yourself, thank you." Kouyuu huffed.

"Don't tell me you're frightened?" Shuuei was playing with fire and he knew it. Yet, he couldn't seem to stop himself. "I never took you for the type to run away from a new experience but I suppose in this case it's understandable. Don't worry, I won't think of you as a lesser man for it. Come, it's past your bed time. We should get you tucked in."

Shuuei didn't have to wait long for the barb to hit its mark; not when Kouyuu was so easily nettled. The younger man swiftly closed the distance between them. A lesser man might have flinched at Kouyuu's fearsome expression but all Shuuei felt was affection and the giddy dance of butterflies in his stomach at Kouyuu's nearness.

"Who's afraid of anything?" Kouyuu barked.

Shuuei's lips twitched. "I was merely stating that fear is a natural reaction in the face of inexperience. In fact--"

"Let's go!" Kouyuu marched determinedly to the coach as it came rattling up to the front gate. He immediately got in. "Are you coming or not?"

Eager aren't, we?" Shuuei chuckled. He nodded at the driver. "To the red-light district please."

---------------------------

The closer they got to the red-light district, the more Kouyuu's bravado visibly deflated. He was all but pressed against his corner of the carriage and he was biting his lip furiously. The younger man was sitting so stiffly that if Shuuei didn't know better he would have thought him a statue. Yet, Kouyuu's stubbornness prevented him from asking Shuuei to halt the coach and turn back. He looked so uncomfortable that Shuuei almost relieved him of the burden himself--almost--but then the prospect of having Kouyuu at his side for the evening was enough to tamp down Shuuei's protective instincts. Besides, he didn't really expect his young friend to go through with it. Kouyuu would probably dash out of the brothel the moment he glimpsed the prostitutes. And if he did bolt ... was Shuuei a horrible man for hoping that his arms would be the ones to catch Kouyuu in his time of distress?

Outside, the new moon hid behind a blanket of stars and the rhythmic clip-clopping of the horses' hooves were the only sounds to be heard. Shuuei had tried to make conversation earlier, but Kouyuu, already bad at small talk, was just too tense to engage in any kind of discussion. Shuuei let him be. In the quiet, he studied Kouyuu at his leisure, admiring his graceful profile. He noticed that Kouyuu's boots were scuffed from all his trampling about and there were little burrs stuck in the ruffled hem of his robe. There was something terribly endearing about the sight. It made Kouyuu seem charmingly boyish and reminded Shuuei just how young his friend was.

The coach rolled to a stop and the bustling sounds of the district reached their ears. While the rest of the capital slept, this tiny corner of the world was humming with life. Shuuei exited the coach and helped Kouyuu down after him. They walked to Kougarou's grand entrance where Kouchou and two sylph-like beauties were poised at the top of the stairs, ready to greet them. Shuuei looked to his side and found Kouyuu's face as white as a sheet. He nudged him forward.

"Shall we go up?"

"Ye...yes," Kouyuu stammered, looking ready to bolt at any minute.

"Ran-sama..." Kouchou raised an eyebrow as her gaze fell to Kouyuu. "And Li-Sama. What a pleasant surprise. Welcome to Kougarou."

Shuuei grinned. "Thank you. I hope you don't mind that I brought a guest. Li-san positively insisted upon accompanying me and I just could not refuse him," he purred, delighting in the choked sound that Kouyuu made. His friend was turning quite the interesting shade of red.

Taking pity on poor Kouyuu, Shuuei turned to Kouchou. Since they were already here it would be unseemly to leave without patronizing the establishment but Kouchou's services ranged from the chaste to the sublime. Shuuei decided to abandon more fleshly pursuits. Instead he would have ceremonial tea to the accompaniment of one of Kouchou's finest erhu players. It was something both he and Kouyuu could enjoy and Shuuei would compensate Kouchou generously for the inconvenience.

For all his determination to indulge the night away, the moment Shuuei spotted Kouyuu outside the garden any thoughts of idle sex had vanished from his head. He preferred to burn alone than miss the pleasure of Kouyuu's company. Yes, he was just that smitten.

"Kouchou-san, I've decided on a slight change of pace," Shuuei began saying, except at that moment the two girls who were with Kouchou descended on Kouyuu, cooing with delight. They linked their arms with his and began dragging him away.

"Wait! What do you think you're doing?" Kouyuu's expression was panicked. He dug in his heels but there was deceptive strength in those slender arms. Though Kouyuu balked and twisted the girls marched him steadily towards one of the bedrooms. "Shuuei!" Kouyuu called, his eyes pleading for help.

Damn it! This was not what he had planned. Shuuei stepped forward, ready to rescue his best friend when Kouchou deftly blocked his path. "Ran-sama, don't tell me you're going run out on Kougarou's number one are you?"

"But Kouyuu, he..." Shuuei watched as Kouyuu's ponytail and wildly gesticulating arms disappeared around the corner.

Kouchou smiled sultrily. "Don't worry. Mei and Yi will see to it that Li-sama leaves here a man."

That did not comfort Shuuei any. If anything, his consternation grew. The thought of Kouyuu in anybody's arms other than his own caused a feeling very like panic to seize his chest--that and an all-consuming jealousy. He wanted to snatch Kouyuu from those girls and tuck him away where no one could get to him. Of course that was unreasonable, and Shuuei had no choice but to follow Kouchou down the hall in the opposite direction from which Kouyuu had disappeared.

The room Kouchou led Shuuei to was tastefully and opulently furnished as could be expected from the shrewd businesswoman. Kouchou sashayed over to the table where a tray of sake had been placed. While she poured herself and Shuuei some of the alcohol, Shuuei paced the room. He tried not to think of what could be happening in Kouyuu's room but he couldn't banish images of a disheveled and flustered Kouyuu being overwhelmed by those voracious girls. He had been such a fool to bring him here.

"Here you go." Kouchou approached with the wine, interrupting Shuuei's dark thoughts.

"Thank you. Why don't we sit?" Shuuei suggested, trying to inject some of his usual charm into his smile. Kouchou was too much of a friend and a political ally for him not to give her his undivided attention.

"An excellent idea." Kouchou moved to the low couch and Shuuei sat beside her. Her soft breasts pressed against his arm and her hand lighted upon his knee to rub it in a warm circular motion. Leaning in close, she whispered in Shuuei's ear: "Tell me, what is your pleasure this evening?"

"Pardon?" Shuuei murmured. He could have sworn he'd heard something like a muffled moan. He knew Kouyuu was on the opposite side of the hall, but Shuuei couldn't help feeling a little queasy at the thought of his young friend making similar sounds right at this very moment.

"Why don't you go to him?" Kouchou sat up with a brisk movement. She smoothed the glittering pins in her hair. "If I didn't know better I'd be insulted by your inattention lately, but that's all right. Even Kougarou's number one can't compete with the power of true love."

Shuuei started. Then had the grace to flush. "Ah, that's..."

Kouchou smiled. "I know. You should hurry though. Even though my orders were to keep him safe, Mei and Yi seem to have taken quite a liking to your Li-sama. I don't know how much longer I can guarantee his virtue."

At first, Shuuei could not speak. His heart was pounding too hard for him to hear his own thoughts. All he knew was that he was full to bursting with emotion: relief, excitement and of course, happiness. He sprang to his feet, pausing long enough to grasp Kouchou's hand. He kissed the soft inside of her wrist.

"I owe you, my lady."

"I know and I'll expect you to make good on that debt soon," Kouchou warned, every bit serious.

"Of course."

"Next time I won't be so lenient but it appears even Ran Shuuei needs assistance with matters of the heart. Hurry up and make him yours so we can get back to business. I can forego the sex but I will not tolerate a distracted business partner."

Shuuei grinned. "Your orders are well received, madam."

It was Kouchou's turn to smile. "Good. Oh and Shuuei? You'll want the third door on the right."

---------------------------

Shuuei had never moved so quickly as he did now to Kouyuu's room. When he got there, however, he paused outside of the door. It was awfully quiet within. That could mean either very bad or good things for him. Shuuei was suddenly uncertain. Kouchou's girls might not initiate anything, but Kouyuu was a young man with healthy desires. What if he had seized the opportunity to gain a little experience? No one could blame him. After all, Shuuei had promises of neither love nor affection from his best friend; he only had his own attraction and an instinct that Kouyuu shared his feelings. He thought he was right about these things ... he was usually right about these things ... but what if his feelings were truly one-sided?

Muffled sounds drifted from the room and Shuuei's heart clenched in his chest. Don't tell him they were...? Damn it, he was not going to stand here hemming and hawing like a maiden. Best to seize the day and deal with the consequences later. Shuuei grasped the door knob and barged inside.

"Kouyuu, we have to talk...." Shuuei's words died on his lips.

Whatever the general thought was on the other side of the door he was not expecting to find Mei and Yi huddled over the ornamental desk. Kouyuu loomed over them, his critical eye surveying their rapidly moving brushes. A copy of the Shi Jing, the poetry classic every scholar preparing for the civil service examination memorized was wedged between the two girls. They were so intent on their task that no one even noticed Shuuei's interruption.

"Mei, that fourth line is incorrect," Kouyuu was chiding. "Girls of your age should know this verse already. How can you have access to such canons of literature and devote them only to entertaining patrons? Have you learned nothing from Governor Kou's example?"

"Yes, Li-sensei," the girls murmured, their brows furrowed in concentration.

All of Shuuei's anxiety evaporated like a bad dream. He couldn't help chuckling. Here he had convinced himself he needed to save Kouyuu when the younger man clearly had the situation well in hand. Shuuei should have known better. This was the boy who once traded in salt and plum blossoms to find his next meal. Kouyuu might lose his way but he never lost his footing. Not his Kouyuu: stubborn, resourceful, intelligent--and as beautiful as plum blossoms in winter.

Shuuei moved out of the shadows and cleared his throat. "Mind if I interrupt?"

Kouyuu whirled. "Shuuei, when did you come in?"

"A moment ago but the three of you were so engrossed that I did not want to interrupt the lesson."

Kouyuu flushed. "Oh ...I was just explaining the importance of the Shi Jing....

"Mmm hmm." Shuuei stepped forward and took Kouyuu's hand. He pressed it to his lips. "Kouyuu, would you mind terribly if I dismissed your pupils?"

The pupils in question had long since stopped working and were tittering behind their palms. They rose, and bowing gracefully, exited the room before Shuuei could finish his sentence.

A quivering silence echoed in the wake of their departure. Shuuei tugged Kouyuu forward, folding him against his chest. He felt the tremor that ran through Kouyuu; heard the sharp intake of his breath.

"Shuuei?" Kouyuu's eyes were wide as he stared up at Shuuei. He was biting his lips again.

Shuuei cupped Kouyuu's cheek and his gaze fell to his soft mouth. He began lowering his head. "Forgive me," he murmured, "but I'll go mad if I don't do this...."

The first touch of Kouyuu's lips was like fire. Shuuei groaned and tightened his arms around Kouyuu's lean body. Gods ... gods ... this was what he had been missing. And when Kouyuu tentatively responded—so sweetly, so shyly touching his tongue to Shuuei's—the general all but melted. The tiny gasp Kouyuu gave when Shuuei caressed his hip and the way his body fitted against Shuuei's were perfect. Knowing that he was needed, that he was not alone in his passion was more than Shuuei could have ever hoped for. His heart was pounding. He wanted to carry Kouyuu to the bed and make love to him until any doubts between them were erased.

But not yet. It was too soon. When they made love, it would not be in a brothel but in Shuuei's own chamber where he would have a feast waiting. They would dine on sweet meats and fruits, and afterwards, he would worship Kouyuu's body with perfumed oils and even sweeter kisses. Then the real feast would begin. The thought alone set Shuuei ablaze. How sweet indeed it would be. For now, though, a kiss after a thousand nights of longing was enough. They had so much to talk about and most importantly, there was one thing Shuuei had to be absolutely sure of....

"Kouyuu..." Shuuei swallowed. "This ... is it all right? Do you feel the same?"

Kouyuu nodded. "Yes," he said gruffly.

Shuuei's heart expanded. He felt on the verge of flight. "Good, good. That's all I ever needed." When he opened his arms again, this time Kouyuu came eagerly to him. Shuuei held him fast. "Kouyuu?"

"Hmm?"

"Let's go home."

"Okay," Kouyuu agreed and they left the room to make their way downstairs. As they walked past, Shuuei didn't let go of Kouyuu's hand even amidst the girls' teasing smiles and Kouchou's knowing look. Outside, the world glittered with a thousand lights and the new moon hid behind a veil of stars.

Home with Kouyuu. Shuuei smiled as they entered the carriage. It had a nice ring to it.

End


Tags: cheesecake and chiboust, rare fandom challenge, recipient: ting ting, tale of saiunkoku
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