(Warning: this post spoils the ending of 大唐雙龍傳/Datang Shuanglong Zhuan)
Ace Admiral’s recent discussion about the ‘nakama’ spirit, and how it’s different from the kind of close relationship he’s looking for right now, made me think about the relationship between Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling in Datang Shuanglong Zhuan.
For those who don’t know the story, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were two orphans who grew up on the street, and as children could only count on each other. Thus they developed a relationship closer than brothers. As adults, their personal relationship with each other is still the most intense, most psychologically intimate, and most important in both of their lives. There is a rather lonely prince who says that he wishes that he had not been born into such privilege and wealth and instead had spent his childhood as a lowly orphan on the street, because then he would have been able to have a relationship like the one between Kou Zhong and Xu Zilu.
They do engage in romantic or sexual relationships – indeed, many of the subplots in the story revolve around this. But they repeatedly say that their relationship to each other always comes first.
And in some ways, their relationship is extremely volatile. At times, Kou Zhong wonders if Xu Zilu would kill him. Though Xu Zilu never has any intention of directly killing Kou Zhong, he is at one point willing to stand by and let a third party kill Kou Zhong. Their greatest fear is that they will lose each other, and that their relationship will be severed, since they’ve never survived without each other.
This is a relationship complex and passionate enough to sustain a seven-thousand page novel.
And then at the end … they just go their separate ways to ‘make a family’ with their respective romantic/sexual partners.
I would have understood if, after deliberate consideration, they decided it was best to separate. There were certainly grounds for them to do so. Yet this happens a) with almost no discussion and b) after Kou Zhong sacrifices his dream to take over the world in order to save his relationship with Xu Ziling (okay, he had a few other reasons too). I suppose you could say that they know each other so well that they can practically read each other’s minds and don’t need much discussion … but I think that’s stretching it.
I admit, as an asexual aromantic, I like it when fiction features close, intense, yet non-sexual/romantic personal relationships. I may have been projecting my preferences a bit onto the story. Yet the ending still throws me off. It only make sense to me if there is an unspoken assumption that everybody will go off and ‘make a family’ once they are in established romantic-sexual relationships.
In other words, even though the story repeatedly makes the case that non-romantic/sexual/biological relationships can top someone’s relationship hierarchy, at the end, it falls back on romantic-sexual supremacy without even feeling a need to explain.