Title: Long-term Relationship
Day/Theme: February 21st/ "Love me little, love me long"
Series: Woxin changdan/The Great Revival
Character/Pairing: Fu Chai, Gou Jian
Spoilers: Whole series, eps 18-> specifically
They begin as wary near-allies with no great trust and no great dislike. They pose as declared antagonists but their contest is more than half pretext-- a show for their own kings rather than each other. When those kings are dead they become enemies in earnest. They're no longer two men but two kings, and one must of necessity destroy the other.
The war runs its disastrous course. They meet as victor and vanquished.
Fu Chai addresses Gou Jian in the voice of the conqueror. With a magnanimity harsher than cruelty he spares the life of his enemy, the better to rejoice in the downfall and debasement of the king of Yue while displaying the power and righteousness of the king of Wu. So Fu Chai tells himself, and his chancellor and his courtiers and all the nations of the earth. Not even in the depths of his heart does he remember the real reason: the dark eyes looking up at him from the bottom of the stairs; the pale face weary to death and indifferent to the world; above all, even at the moment of his defeat, the unconscious assertion in Gou Jian's tone that he's speaking to an equal.
He won't send that face away beneath the earth, for where will he find another like it? He won't tolerate that deadly lack of interest in all things, and in himself especially. And he won't allow Gou Jian to believe for an instant that he's on the same level as the king of Wu. Instinct, automatic and unthought, tells Fu Chai that he can't live with that.
The king of Wu accomplishes his goal. He makes for himself a fond and busy slave, anxious about his master's business. The king of Wu is pleased, but Fu Chai remembers those dark eyes, that casual voice, and grieves wordlessly for the friend and brother he might have had. When Fu Chai can no longer live with what the King of Wu has done, he sends the king of Yue home, broken and wounded, and is obscurely relieved that there's nothing to remind him any more of his great victory and greater loss.
The years turn. Wu is a powerful kingdom, its king a powerful monarch. He decides all matters of national policy, he wars against the richer nations of the north, he possesses the most beautiful women of the world. And Yue is a small country, wounded still, tilling its soil and paying its tithes to the master. Wu calls on Yue to aid its wars, and Yue comes: and blockades the King of Wu so tightly in his city, and so long, that he cannot move hand or foot. His son is dead; his citizens starve. Then it is that the King of Wu realizes the long slow patience of the King of Yue: realizes that the bright strong flame of his own power is no match for that dark cold unmoving thing. His flame flickers and goes out.
It's someone else who walks from Wu's Great Hall to surrender; someone else who puts his sword into his conqueror's hands. Fu Chai looks up, finally, at the triumphant King of Yue: and sees only the dark eyes of Gou Jian. It's Gou Jian who spares him his life, Gou Jian who leaves him his freedom, Gou Jian who guarantees the safety of Fu Chai's people and temple and land. Is this the gesture of the friend and brother that Gou Jian might have been to him, or is it--?
Fu Chai sees what it is. Weariness, indifference, the charity of a man to one far below him.
And Fu Chai cannot live with that.
(Using my moon icon since we're currently without one. Can't see what's so exciting about eclipses. 'Oh, look where the moon isn't'?)