From ages 10-17, Kouren prepares to face Yuhon because he is next in line to Kouka’s throne. Reasonable, and while she doesn’t know everything about Yuhon, it wouldn’t be odd for him to set out to completely conquer Xing once he was the king. So day after day, she pushes herself to be stronger and smarter than the day before, preparing for the day she can claim Yuhon’s head.
Then after all that prep, Il is named the king instead. She has to be on her guard because while she had heard about the younger prince being weaker than his brother, he could still prove to be just as heartless or ruthless. But nah, instead he gives back the land that was taken in the previous war and makes efforts with her father to establish a peaceful relationship. (Or at least a stalemate relationship.)
Then what? What is left for this girl who since the age of 10 has dedicated her life to learning how to fight, how to plan battles, and gave up any personal happiness for these things? Upon her 18th birthday, what does she plan to do from then on? Her 19th, 20th, and 21st birthdays come and go, and again what?
She puts down the sword and takes up the scroll. She is going to be Xing’s ruler one day, and she needs to learn these things, as well. She makes sure Xing has a decently-sized fighting force just in case something happens, but the legacy of King Il will probably last a while. She can breath and let go.
Her father falls ill enough that he can no longer carry out his duties. Kouren, having prepared to become his successor, steps up to fulfill her duty. The priest appears out of the blue after who knows how long and rants and raves that the gods have chosen Tao as the next ruler of Xing. How dare he, after all these years, come and barge in thinking he has some sort of say. After he ran away and didn’t come back.
Age 26, or perhaps age 27 – King Il is dead. His daughter is rumored to have been kidnapped and may have died. Yuhon’s son is taking over. She hasn’t touched a sword in years. Her army is abysmally small. She holds her gut in horror, anticipating what kind of move he’ll make. He suppresses a local rebellion, which possessed a combined force of 20,000 men, with ease. He conquers Kai land, again, with ease. He takes Sei, again…with ease. Yuhon comes to her in her dreams, saying that Xing is next.
As she finds her court divided and her sister forced from the castle, she sets forth on the path she originally chose to follow, ignoring the ever ticking feeling that she and her people don’t stand a chance until it’s thrown into her face by Mizari. But it’s too late. She’s received sighting reports that Kouka is on its way. It’s too late.