Title: Infinite riches
Day/Theme: Feb. 18 - "Infinite riches in a little room"
Series: Woxin changdan/The Great Revival
Character/Pairing: Gou Jian, Fan Li
Spoilers: err- ep 30-something?
Fan Li's been gone for three years: three years during which things have changed, quietly and deliberately, in Yue. Three years during which Gou Jian plans and plots with his clever ministers, always missing the cleverest of them all. There's none among them who reads his mind, who sees where his thoughts are going and gets there ahead of him, who tells him how the goal is to be achieved when he himself has only just realized what the goal must be. There *is* someone who knows his heart, but her heart is closed to him. He walks gently in her presence. She's a fine porcelain bowl with a deep crack through it, and he knows some day the porcelain will shiver into pieces. If he breathes too hard that day may be today. He supports her with his silence and dares not put the slightest weight on her translucent existence.
But there's no one he can talk to. Each night he lies down alone.
Fan Li's been gone for three years: three years during which nothing has changed for him in Wu. He sits, he reads, sometimes he advises Fu Chai on small things that may, in their small way, prove unhelpful to Wu. He's a hostage- someone whose value resides in his existence, not his actions. He cannot do, he can only be. Life as a prisoner was better than this, for then he could plan and plot towards a definite goal: to save his king, to get him home safe, to rebuild the kingdom. Now there's nothing. His will and his heart have gone to live in another body. *She* must do the planning and plotting, *she* must dazzle and mislead, she must work towards the definite goal: to soften the king, to keep him idle at home, to bring down his kingdom. Fan Li has no part in this except to remember, over and over again, the manner in which she does the work that should be his.
There's no one he can talk to. Each night he lies down alone.
Fu Chai lets him go. Xi Shi has succeeded and here is the proof of it. Xi Shi has succeeded and here is the price of it: that he must go home and leave his heart behind him.
Gou Jian runs to meet him. Gou Jian clasps his hand and pulls him into the alcove of the stable where he's lived for so many years. They sit together on the pallet of wooden sticks where Gou Jian sleeps by himself each night. Gou Jian needs to tell him so many things: of the land being brought under cultivation, the ditches and dikes to be built against the floods, the balancing of the kingdom's expenses against the smaller revenues from forgiven taxes, the works that must wait for the generation to grow up who will do them, the slow healing of a country long sick and exhausted.
A flame begins to lick Fan Li's soul. He has so many things to tell Gou Jian: the state of Wu, the state of Fu Chai, the increasing expenses of his wars and his armies and the works he's undertaken in order to send his armies to war; the factions at court, the arrogance of this advisor and the cowardice of that one, the quarrels that may prove fatal to this man or that and so be advantageous to Yue. They talk far into the night, Fan Li questioning Gou Jian on every detail of the conditions in Yue, Gou Jian questioning Fan Li on every detail of the conditions in Wu. And when they can no longer keep their eyes open or finish their sentences, Gou Jian takes hold of the coverlet, the coverlet hardly wide enough for a single man, and they lie down together, no space between, so the single coverlet can wrap them both in its warmth.
The problem is not having a word for the thing that lies on top of a Chinese bed. Sheets & blanket feel funny; the all-purpose 'cover' is fine unless you need it as a verb- 'covered him with the cover'; and if Japanese furnishing is anything to go by, it's not sheets *or* blankets *or* covers, even.