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A Throne to Claim

Chapter Text

With the deaths of Emperor Hakutoku and two crown princes in such quick succession, the new emperor’s coronation is a quick, small affair with only family, the imperial priests, the generals Ri Seiryuu and Shuu Kokuhyou, and a few other trusted retainers in attendance, which is for the best.

After all, it is not as though their new emperor is in optimal condition for guests. Bandages are on display around his head and neck where they cannot be hidden by his ceremonial robes. He’s paler than he should be, and it draws attention to the heavy bags under his eyes that emphasize his youth.

Honestly, it's too soon for this. He’s been awake for little more than a week and can barely walk. They should wait for the bandages to come off, for some trace of light to return to his eyes, for him to fully process that his family is gone and their responsibilities are now his to burden. But the succession has already been put off as long as possible, and waiting is no longer option. If there is any further delay, then Koutoku will be taking the throne instead, which is absurd for numerous reasons. The first and foremost reason being that the throne is rightfully Hakuryuu’s, no matter his age.

Kouen’s feelings on his father are mixed, but there is one thing he is certain of: Ren Koutoku is not a capable leader. If this country is placed in his clumsy hands, he will have no idea what to do with it. More accurately, he will have no idea how to progress effectively in any direction. This has been made apparent in various councils where he’s not only displayed a bullish desire for conquest, but also a complete lack of strategy to go along with it. He seems to think power is all that’s necessary to succeed, and that power and a crown are one in the same. He is not the sort of man who should be in charge of a still budding country, or any country at all.

Hakuryuu is a small child, but he will learn. Not only that, but he has the blood of a great emperor flowing through him and the shadow of his brothers’ influence at his back. The potential to be a remarkable leader is already within him. All they must do is nurture it.

The only issue is that until he is old enough and able to rule properly—years from now—Gyokuen will be the one primarily driving this country forward. To Kouen’s memory, Gyokuen has never made herself out to be more than a dutiful queen and loving mother. She’s never sat in on councils, and at court she’s never weighed in on serious issues. But even if she ends up utterly clueless, for the interim she is better than Koutoku. Stagnancy is preferable to entropy.

The second emperor of the Kou Empire sits on the enormous throne made even more enormous by his miniscule size, and stares out at them—his subjects—with a single empty eye. The amount of ornamentation on his robes coupled with the miniature crown that’s been fashioned for him makes Hakuryuu resemble a doll. With the way he sits very still, without a single wrinkle in his robes or ripple in the beads hanging from his crown, he could easily be mistaken for one.

Beside him sits Judar, who kicks his feet and refuses to sit still. Apparently oblivious to where he is and what’s happening. No one wants to risk removing him without Hakuryuu’s implicit say so. At least the young magi is not being an active nuisance for once, though he does not appear to completely grasp the gravity of recent events. Since Hakuryuu woke up he’s refused to be anywhere else, but that has more to do with being deprived of Hakuryuu’s company for nearly two entire months than anything else.

Next to throne, another, smaller spot, though of similar grandeur to the throne, has been arranged for Gyokuen, now queen regent. Her robes are styled a mix of funeral and celebratory. She keeps her gaze on Hakuryuu as those in attendance approach one by one to bow before the new emperor. First Koutoku, then Hakuei, then Kouen and so on through the family and retainers in attendance from there.

Of them, only Hakuei is acknowledged with something more than a blink. For her, Hakuryuu’s gaze slips away like he’s been caught doing something shameful. Stealing the throne, disgracing the family. This is anything but. If given the chance, Kouen will make that unmistakable.

Once everyone has approached him, all that remains is for Hakuryuu to address the people as emperor for the first time.

Gyokuen picks Hakuryuu up and settles him at her hip. Aside from their appearances, it is a sight so familiar it nears comforting. Only, Hakuryuu does not cling to her as he once did. Instead he sits still, allowing his arms to dangle uselessly at his sides. Unsmiling, he neither leans in to nor pulls away from the reassurance his mother’s arms should provide.

They walk out on to the balcony to address the crowd that immediately cheers upon seeing them.

Like this, with a tiny emperor who won’t rule for years, the Kou Empire begins to move forward.