TWELVE KINGDOMS is a novel series by Fuyumi Ono
Characters: Youko/Keiki, in a GEN way.
Note: I could write about the downfalls of emperors until the end of time.
"Ran-ou: his reign ended in a civil war of his own making. By favoring one province over the others, he created division within the Kingdom. His war utterly destroyed the fields of eight provinces, and his armies and those of his enemies co-opted the harvests of another fifteen. Thousands were killed in the fighting. Tens of thousands starved to death. The war was fought for eight years, three before and five following his death. His kirin fell to the shitsudo disease: this is an Emperor who went astray.
"Sanshi-ou: his reign ended in corruption and depravity. A great scholar, Sanshi-ou became convinced of the truth as taught by a heretical philosophical sect. Believing in the incurably flawed nature of human beings, he reorganized the kingdom so that the people’s fate would be decided not by men of ability and character, but by scraps of paper. He refused all petitions, his law being "no exceptions." The kingdom fell into the clutches of immoral men, and many suffered. His kirin fell to the shitsudo disease: this is an Emperor who lost his way.
"Jun-ou: his reign ended in a series of storms worse than any our kingdom has seen before or since. A vain and sensitive man, he appointed men and women on the basis of their looks and artistic skills. His court became a renowned center of youth, beauty and poetry. His lands suffered from mismanagement and the high taxes necessary to support his extravagant lifestyle. His kirin suffered shitsudo: this was an Emperor who forgot the purpose of rule.
"Sansu-ou: her reign ended in terror. Following the abortive assassination attempt of an insane former minister, she became convinced of a non-existent plot. Unwilling to trust even her closest friends, she surrounded herself with the most unsavory of characters. Her fear of assassination drove her to murder her enemies first, and her court was soon swallowed by fear. With less a dozen of the kingdom’s sages remaining, her kirin finally succumbed to the shitsudo disease. This was an Empress who lost sight of the righteous path.
"Terun-ou: her reign ended in bureaucracy. Disturbed by the simplicity and roughness of peasant life, she endeavored to improve the lives of her people. Although her aim was noble, she misread the needs of the people and wasted the imperial funds on unnecessary endeavors – concert halls, five-carriage wide roads, collections of obscure scrolls. Eventually the apparatus of government became more than that which could be supported by the lands of the kingdom. Her kirin died of the shitsudo disease: this was an Empress who did not understand the needs of her own people, and who ignored the traditions of rule.
"Retsu-ou: his reign ended in a bloody popular uprising. Believing that the citizens should not waste their time on unnecessary things, he banned all forms of entertainment. His laws were strictly enforced. He did not distinguish been small and large infractions, but sentenced every offender to death. Countless citizens were killed. His kirin was killed while in the terminal stages of shitsudo; he was killed soon after. This was an Emperor who misinterpreted his oaths.
"Lei-oh: her reign ended in suicide. A generous and trusting person, Lei-oh dissolved much of the imperial army to pay for food for her people. Sensing the weakness of the army, bandits haunted the roads and provincial lords encroached on their neighbors’ territories. In desperation, the Empress dissolved all of the imperial army but those retainers who vowed to continue service without pay, and used the money to purchase mercenary enforcement. But the mercenaries were no better than bandits themselves. The remains of the army were unable to preserve order. Noticing the beginnings of the shitsudo disease in her kirin, Lei-oh threw herself off a cliff: this was an Empress who could not follow the path of a ruler.
"Taking these and other failed reigns into consideration, the path of good leadership becomes clear. A good ruler must be firm, yet yielding; she must be sensitive to the needs of the people, yet also able to take a broader view; she must judge each case individually, yet impartially; she must limit the drain of government on the people, yet also spend when necessary; she must remain wary of her ministers, yet allow them to do their jobs without interference; she must-"
"I have a better idea," Youko interrupted. She gazed imperiously across the ministers and minor functionaries kneeling before her, until she caught the eye of a man hidden in the shadows of the far wall. Keiki raised his head, but he did not straighten from his depressed slump until she smiled at him.
"Why don’t I trust in the people to whom I owe my Emperorship," she said, her voice soft enough that the ministers strained to hear, yet loud enough to carry to the back of the room.
"And, trusting them, why don’t I trust my own judgment, and rule without fear."
Almost imperceptibly, Keiki nodded.
AN: Retsu-ou is a character in the original series. Ran-ou is a character in Discussion, with Tea. Other characters are original to this story. Except for Retsu-ou, reign names are completely made up and don't mean anything.