Title: The Deserts of the Heart
Day/Theme: Feb. 22 - "My heart is hardn'd, I cannot repent"
Series: Woxin changdan/The Great Revival
Character/Pairing: Gou Jian, Ya Yu
Spoilers: Eps 18 to end
Cross-posted to woxinchangdan
Death is everywhere. Today, tomorrow, the next day: Gou Jian knows it can come at any time. Wu Zi Xu wants him dead. History has demonstrated that Wu Zi Xu has a way of getting what he wants. Vengefulness goes deep with him, and Gou Jian's general killed Wu Zi Xu's king. A sensible man- and Gou Jian is learning sense at a great rate- will know it's only a matter of time.
Between him and Wu Zi Xu's hatred there stands only the word of Fu Chai: an oath taken before the high king of Zhou and all the nations that he'll keep Gou Jian alive. Or rather, that he won't kill Gou Jian outright. Things like ill-treatment, torture, the enmity of an assassin who will then commit honourable suicide, are not covered in the provisions. And the king of Wu is a bloody-handed barbarian, son of a bloody-handed barbarian: right-thinking in that family wipes off them as easily as a woman's rouge at day's end. Some day Fu Chai may decide to listen to his chancellor, snap his fingers under Zhou's nose, and put Gou Jian's head on a pole.
Gou Jian's faithful generals will keep him company as crows' food. Yue will be annexed, to disappear in Wu. Fu Chai won't suffer the son to rule if he cannot suffer the father: Gou Jian's son will die as well. As for his queen-- history has demonstrated what happens to the queens of defeated and dead monarchs.
Therefore Gou Jian cannot die. Too much depends on his life for him to let go of it. Gou Jian must give Fu Chai what he wants to keep him satisfied with his prisoner. Luckily Fu Chai is kind enough to tell him what that is. Fu Chai wants to know he's submitted, completely and utterly, to the power that is Fu Chai.
Gou Jian sees with sudden clarity what he must do. Wu Zi Xu wants the King of Yue dead? Fine: the King of Yue will die. Fu Chai wants a slave? Fine: he'll become a slave. Coldly, deliberately, rationally- he thinks- Gou Jian abandons his kinghood and his manhood and becomes what he must be.
Done right, Fu Chai will believe it. However right it's done, Wu Zi Xu will not. No matter. Gou Jian will be the King of Wu's slave so perfectly that Wu Zi Xu will have no weapon to use against him.
Gou Jian cannot die. However much he may come to wish it, Gou Jian cannot die. The King of Yue who sleeps in the back of Gou Jian's soul has spoken and his word is law. Once having set out on this course he'll do whatever he must- will watch his queen taken away to the fate he most wanted to save her from- to stay alive, so that he and she and his men and Yue can survive.
Survive for what, is not a question he can afford to ask himself.
Shame is everywhere. Today, tomorrow, the next day: Ya Yu knows it can come at any time. If her husband is dead- maybe, even, if her husband is alive- she's a captive queen and a captive woman, and history is quite clear about what happens to those. Ya Yu accepts that fact and then ignores it. Other things come first.
Gou Jian must be kept alive. Separated from his generals and his advisors, tortured and ill-treated, he must have one person beside him- strong, silent and there- to prevent the suffering of his body and the knowledge of what his defeat has done from betraying his soul to weakness. She's the only one allowed to do that, by virtue of being a woman and his wife, the very things that make her so vulnerable.
Because she's his wife she knows that Gou Jian isn't a rock. He's a man of fine intelligence and strong feeling, and men like that can break. Ya Yu will not have her husband broken. The hardships of captivity will be as nothing to her lest they add to his burden.
Because she's a queen she knows that the King mustn't die. The lives of his men, the life of her son, the life of her country depend on his existence. Whatever the King must do to stay alive, the Queen will aid him in doing it.
Even that. The thing that destroys Ya Yu.
Ya Yu knows she cannot live afterwards. The cold dark emptiness of the world she finds herself in would shock her if she were capable of emotion. She isn't. But sadly for her, she's still capable of reason.
Ya Yu cannot live but the Queen cannot die. However much she wishes it, the Queen cannot die. Too much depends on her life for her to let go of it.
Coldly and rationally- she thinks- she sees what must be done. Ya Yu is sent away to the silent darkness in which she now lives. The Queen remains, to console the King's anguish, to heal his wounds, to witness him gain his goals and his revenge. Gradually, over the long years, his plans and foresight come to fulfillment. The Queen sews him the garments of a warrior and a conqueror and watches him depart at the head of his troops.
If he loses he'll be buried on a hillside overlooking Wu, and she'll sleep by his side. If he wins he'll be hegemonist of the land, but she won't be by his side then.
However much she may regret it, the Queen of Yue cannot live. The woman who sits dumbly in the back of the Queen's soul has decided that, and that woman must finally be allowed to have her way.