Dragons, even celestial ones, were water creatures by nature. Which is why Goujun, Dragon King of the Western Sea, chose to reside in the palace on the farthest edge of Heaven. It wasn’t an elaborate place. In fact, it was downright modest by Heavenly standards, but Goujun was not one for frills. He hadn’t chosen the palaces for its amenities. He’d chosen it for the quiet. Because out on the edge of Heaven, there was nothing. Not gods, not buildings, not war, not politics.
Just vast expanses of empty sky, and the cool, swirling waters of the western ocean.
“It is truly beautiful.” Beside him, his Field Marshal brushed a windswept strand of hair from his eyes and admired the view. “And it suits you, sir. If I may say so.”
“Thank you.” Goujun looked out across the sea. “As palaces go, this one is the only one where I feel at home. I’m sure the scenery has something to do with that, but I have to say that the isolation doesn’t hurt either.”
“Not one for court life, sir?”
“No. I don’t have the tolerance for it that my brothers do. I find all the fussing and the gossip and the endless bickering very tiresome. It’s all so...frivolous.”
“Heaven is enamored with frivolity these days. I feel that’s all I ever see.”
“So you’ve noticed it too?”
“Yes.” Tenpou turned his gaze to his commander. “And I can’t help but think that if more of our leaders shared your view on what’s important, Heaven would be a very different place, sir. A little more Heavenly and a lot less tedious.”
“I admire how you can be so polite and yet so direct at the same time, Tenpou Gensui. You’ve truly elevated stating your opinion to an art form.”
“I’ve had a long time to perfect it, sir.”
“Indeed you have.”
The two men watched a swirl of clouds drift by, heavy with the promise of rain. It was at the whim of Goujun’s southern brother as to where it might fall, and given that Qin was better known for his fickleness than his generosity, Goujun wouldn’t have been at all surprised if the clouds unloaded their burden right there. Watering water was one of Qin’s favorite past times.
But the clouds today swept on, moving away until they were out of sight.
“So forgive my forwardness once more sir, but I was under the impression that I wasn’t called out here to discuss Heavenly politics.” Tenpou’s words interrupted Goujun’s musings. “Why is it you really needed to speak with me?”
“Ah yes, that.” Goujun exhaled a small sigh. “More trouble in the East.”
“Are you at all familiar with a General Kenren?”
“No sir, I’m afraid I am not.”
“Well, you will be.” Goujun motioned Tenpou to follow him as he began to walk. “I received his transfer notice this morning.”
“I see.” Tenpou kept pace by Goujun’s side. “What is the reason?”
“He slept with my brother’s wife.”
“Oh. That was probably a bad idea given Commander Guang’s temperament.”
“It was. Guang demoted him and discharged him. But because of his lineage, the discharge was dismissed and he was instead reassigned. And as of tomorrow, he becomes our responsibility.”
“I see,” Tenpou said again. “And by responsibility you mean both the General and his vices?”
“The only vice I am aware of is his womanizing,” Goujun said. “You think there’s more?”
“Where there is one there is usually more, sir.”
“Well, perhaps the lack of wives to covet on our side the kingdom will make the others more tolerable.”
Tenpou’s lips formed a small smile. “I do believe you just make a joke, sir.”
Their feet continued to move soundlessly over the walkway.
Tenpou tucked his hands in the pockets of his uniform jacket, and pursed his lips “What is it you’d like me to do with him when he arrives, sir? Debrief?”
“Yes, and keep an eye on him. We need a better determination of his motivations to find out if he is the type of soldier we actually want in the Western division or if we should appeal. You are a strong leader, Tempou, but I wouldn’t saddle you with a hopeless case. That wouldn’t be fair to you or your men.”
“No, but if you believe he deserves a chance, sir, I will give it a try.”
“I don’t know what I believe. His personnel file is a mess. That is why I am turning him over to you. You are, to my knowledge, the best judge of character in my unit.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” They reached the end of the walkway. Knowing they’d also reached the end of their conversation, Tenpou raised his hand in salute. “Will you be sending him to my office, sir?”
“Yes, so please try to be visible when he arrives. I know how cluttered your office gets.”
“It’s fairly tidy at the moment, sir.” Tenpou lowered his arm and dropped into a respectful bow. “I believe I can say, with near certainty, that I actually have carpet on the floor.”
Goujun chuckled. “An exciting revelation,” he said. “Thank you for coming out here on such short notice, Tenpou.”
“My pleasure, sir. Next time, though, I’ll be sure to bring a bottle of sake. It would be nice to sit out here and enjoy a drink or two while admiring the view.”
“Well, yes but let’s get through tomorrow before we make any plans, shall we?”
“Fair enough, sir.” With a final bow, Tenpou took his leave. “I will see you tomorrow then, once I’ve spent some time with our new general.”
“Thank you. Have a good evening, Field Marshal.”
“You, too, sir.”
Goujun watched him walk away. The Marshal’s shoulders were set in a way with which he was all too familiar, and he knew he’d made the right decision.
The army’s newest bad boy was about to meet the one man even Heaven knew better than to underestimate.