So, I was thinking about Lin Shu, and what we know about him as a kid, and then as an adult, and what this means for his character and relationship with Jingyan.
As a kid/very young man, we know he was already brilliant. Favored pupil of the land’s greatest scholar, started taking command of military units at something obscene like 13, commands whole armies by 19–so, both militarily and intellectually, Lin Shu is used to being the smartest person in the room, where the room is “this country and probably all the surrounding ones also”. According to Yujin, Lin Shu ge-ge was also impatient with his younger cousins and didn’t take time to explain things, and probably made disparaging remarks (this in contrast to Prince Qi’s patience). We see Lin Shu freely ragging on his older cousin, Jingyan. So he was extremely bright, irreverent, and a little wild.
As an adult, having lost his physical strength, all his capability gets channeled into strategy, into words, into seeing the big picture and knowing what strings to pull to position him (and his people) to win. We see that he doesn’t willingly give anything away until he’s foreclosed his enemy’s ability to do anything with the information (hi, Marquise Xie!), but also that he’s more than willing to dance on the edge (strolling over to take a cup of poison), and is, let’s be honest here, made of Drama (hello, standing in a boat playing the goddamn flute to announce your presence, and that was just for starters). I think we can safely say that he’s /still/ wild, probably has zero actual reverence for anything but his dead, and is now kind of terrifyingly brilliant. Now, though, he’s willing to do anything to achieve his goals. I think that’s probably one of the things that changed most, though he may always have had a certain streak of ruthlessness, born of being smarter than everyone around him. In those circumstances, it’s easy to start seeing other people as tools or game pieces.
Thinking about Jingyan, in comparison, we have someone who has been headstrong, probably from the /cradle/, but is not wild at all. Rather, Jingyan is thorough and careful. He’s also got that absolute, unbending sense of rightness, which he will not sacrifice for /anything/. And I think that immovability is the key to why it’s Jingyan who was Lin Shu’s best friend, the one he chose to hang out with and fight beside and, yes, tease. Jingyan was probably one of the exceptionally few people Lin Shu could never move at his whim. And when the source and root of that immovability is a firm sense of ethics… well, there’s Lin Shu’s assurance that he’ll never go too far. Jingyan wouldn’t let him. I have a personal theory that the reason Jingyan calls his cousin by a diminutive when he’s only two years younger (and does it until they’re on either side of twenty, and /still/ does it when they’re over thirty for god’s sake) is that he sees that wild, careless-of-regular-people part of Lin Shu as his childish side. The fact that he expects and wants his cousin at his side, though, also suggests that Jingyan is drawn to Lin Shu’s brilliance and respects it.
And, even when he doesn’t recognize Lin Shu any more, Jingyan /still/ won’t let him go too far, will be the one who grounds him, who provides the stability that his cousin’s brilliance sometimes misses. I think the difference is that, as an adult, Lin Shu knows exactly what’s happening–and welcomes it with awareness this time.
So, on the shipping hand, I’m thinking that Lin Shu would give way to Jingyan’s stubbornness unless it’s tipped over into pig-headedness, and Jingyan would still consider him in every way an equal, as a matter of fact. Because of course he is, don’t be ridiculous xiao-Shu.
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