title: Behind an Unfolded Fan
fandom: Tale of Saiunkoku
characters/pairings: Reishin, Houju, Kouyuu, Shouka, Ryuuki
rating: G
warnings: none
summary: Reishin and forgiveness.
notes: for dhaunea, for the Saiunkoku fic exchange.

He closed the door behind him softly, trying not to disturb the man stretched out on the chaise before him. He wasn't sure exactly what he was supposed to feel. He had never approved of Houju being with that woman. She was of decent birth, certainly good enough for Houju in that respect, but he'd almost felt embarrassed for his friend because he'd loved her so much. It was Reishin's opinion that love was a bit foolish, and someone as levelheaded as Houju should avoid it.


It made him feeling vaguely ill in a way he couldn't quite comprehend to see Houju looking so vulnerable and upset. Although Houju's silky, luminous hair was covering his face, Reishin could see his shoulder shaking a bit. He unfolded his fan, and covered the bottom of his face.

"The wedding feast isn't over yet," Houju complained into the pillow. "Go away."

"I'm attending to my guest's needs," Reishin responded, bored. He glided over to the low table before the chaise, and sat down, huffing indignantly because he was being made to sit on a table. "Stop being so fussy. Honestly."

Houju turned just a bit, one vibrant eye visible between the strands of his hair. "I don't want to hear it from you."

He tapped his nose with the fan. He'd thought it a rather bizarre wedding gift from his wife, but he was coming to like it, now that he was using it. For the first time, it occurred to him that Houju might be upset with him for marrying that girl. Of course, he had to, since she had rejected Houju. It wasn't like he could let just anyone touch the woman that Houju loved.

Wasn't like he could let the woman who broke Houju's heart have a happy life with someone else.

"And I came to bring you a present. Wipe your beautiful face off and sit up," he commanded testily.

"This is not a beautiful face!" Houju roared, surging up. Reishin leaned back, snapping the fan shut, and tapping the wooden frame against his pursed lips. "People are not unwilling to stand next to beauty! People are not turned into gibbering idiots over beauty! People do not lose reason over beauty! I'm so sick of being called beautiful! There's nothing beautiful about me! This is the face of a demon!"

"Well," Reishin exhaled. "I agree with that. Here. This is your gift." He pulled the mask from his sleeve, looking disapprovingly at Houju and his emotional outburst.

Houju just stared at the mask in horror. "Is this a joke?"

"Don't be insulting!" Reishin pouting, opening his fan again. "I made that myself. Stop being so selfish and at least be grateful for my artistry."

"You really are the most pompous jackass in the country," Houju deadpanned.

"I'll take that as a compliment," Reishin declared arbitrarily. "Because, obviously, I have the most reason to be."

Houju sighed, and laid back down, the mask still in his hands, but his sigh wasn't the same exasperated sigh he normally gave when he had finally run out of patience to deal with Reishin. Unaccountably disturbed, Reishin raised his fan just a bit more. "Go back to your party, Reishin. Go back to your wife. Don't. Don't let her look like a fool out there, alone." He turned his face away, and lifted the mask to his chest.

Reishin frowned deeply. He stood up, but he was sure he was supposed to say something. Make a joke, or a snide comment. Tell Houju that he was better off, or that he could find a better wife in the red light district. He wanted to say something, because he didn't like giving Houju the last word. Especially not if he was moping over some woman.

He walked away, though, and when he had his hand on the door handle, he had the disquieting feeling that what he should say was something akin to an apology. It was a dirty, ugly thought, and it put him in a foul mood, so he slammed the door behind him.

He had assigned Kouyuu a birthday, ignoring the advice given by the fortuneteller and Kouyuu's own insistence that he knew his birth date. How could he, though? Reishin had only foggy notion of what life had been like for Kouyuu before he had swooped down from his perch and saved him, but he assumed it did not include calendars, blankets, warm meals, decent shoes, or basic hygiene, so those things, as well as an education, all needed to be provided to Kouyuu with instructions, even if the boy was a bit reluctant.

Reishin had been actually concerned about rats coming out of the child's hair when he first brought him in!

He conceded to Kouyuu's accounting of his age, although he thought that Kouyuu was being a bit needlessly boastful, but that was all.

In fact, the arrangements for Kouyuu's birthday celebration were always entirely under Reishin's control as well. It didn't matter if Kouyuu had been with him for years, or if he was technically an adult, since he'd passed the Imperial Exam. He still had a lot to learn; if he wasn't going to lose his habit of getting lost on his way to the bathroom, then he could hardly be trusted with something important like party planning.

Obviously, the worst part of a celebration for the adopted son of the shadowy head of the Kou family was that it would have almost nothing to do with Kouyuu. Still, he arranged the celebration, because Kouyuu was his son, and if he didn't acknowledge his birthday in a public way, it would have been like he wasn't acknowledging his son.

Kouyuu scored very well in the Exam, so he should have been able to work that out for himself.

Therefore, there was no excuse for Kouyuu's sulky demeanor. The reception Reishin planned was going to be entirely splendid. Even if Kouyuu would have to endure all sorts of marriage proposals - as if Reishin would allow him to marry! - and he would have to navigate every manner of political trap, he was sure, at the very least, to also receive piles of splendid gifts.

That child had no sense of gratitude, even after all Reishin had done!

He barked out instructions as he marched through the manor, tapping his fan against his leg, irritated. Probably the sight of that nervous tic alone was enough to send the servants scurrying with terror. He marched out of the main hall, and went straight for Kouyuu's room. He threw open the doors, narrowing his eyes as he searched for the recalcitrant birthday boy.

Exasperated, Reishin lifted the sleeve of Kouyuu's specially made birthday outfit with his fan. "You won't be able to get dressed in five minutes, you lazy oaf! What are you doing just lounging around like that!?"

Kouyuu ground his teeth, and Reishin could almost imagine that he could hear Kouyuu's teeth crackling. "Yes, sir."

Reishin snapped his fan open, feeling vexed. "Watch your tone. I'll send my servant over to do something with your hair. Really, it's not much changed since I picked you out of the gutter. Are you sure you wash it with the oils I gave you? Those are expensive, you know!"

Kouyuu's eye started to twitch, and he stood up quickly, his hands in fists at his side. "I can figure out how to bathe myself!" he snapped.

Reishin fanned himself testily, eyes sharply narrowed. Kouyuu tried to brush past him to get to his clothes, but Reishin caught him by the chin, forcing Kouyuu to look him in the eye. "It would reflect badly upon me as a host if the guest of honor was in a foul mood, Kouyuu," he said, warningly.

Kouyuu tore his chin away from Reishin's grip. "I would not do anything to reflect badly upon you, Reishin-sama."

Reishin bit back a curse. "Speak plainly, then! What's wrong with you, Kouyuu?"

Kouyuu's face twisted into a bad expression, and he looked away. He appeared to be struggling with his words, until he finally spat it out. "I gave you the name of a boy from the Ran clan. We are shinshi, together. I thought..."

"Don't be stupid," Reishin scoffed, hiding his face behind his fan. "Can you imagine the ramifications of the Ran clan and Kou clan publicly flaunting such close ties? Think before you speak, Kouyuu!" He turned on his heel, and headed for the door. "I expect you to be out in the hall in less than half an hour. I'll have to examine your appearance, after all."

He flung the door open, just as he had when he had entered. Ran Shuuei had joined the military. Surely Kouyuu knew that.

If he returned from his required tour of duty alive, then Reishin would consider the benefits of Kouyuu's friendship with the boy. But if his skills were not enough to protect his life, then he didn't want his son becoming attached.

That was common sense! Couldn't Kouyuu see that?

There was no reason for him to apologize to his son over something so trivial, after all.

He chewed on the end of his fan, shifting nervously from foot to foot. From between the books on the shelves in the archives room, he could see most of the scene. Shuurei... such an adorable girl!! She was serving tea to that traitor Houju. Even Kouyuu was there with her, eating the manjuu buns she'd made with her delicate and adorable hands!

"Reishin," Shouka sighed, chastising him. Reishin's back froze, and he bit his lip in his excitement over his brother's sudden appearance at his side. "What are you doing here, lurking in the shadows?"

"But I can't just go over there!" he whined, hissing under his breath. He looked back over to the small impromptu gathering. Shuurei was handing the Emperor a cup of tea, and he was leaning in far too close to her personal space! Reishin moaned in agony. If he could just reveal himself...! That young letch wouldn't be able to try something like that if he was there to protect and cuddle his adorable little niece!

"Reishin," Shouka shook his head disapprovingly. "Just go and introduce yourself! Haven't I told you many times before? She will want to meet you!"

"I can't!" Reishin pouted, looking piteously at his brother. "I can't... I don't know how to ask for her forgiveness!" His bottom lip trembled uncharacteristically, but he couldn't hide behind his fan with Shouka.

Shouka just shook his head, and kindly patted Reishin on the shoulder. Reishin leaned into the touch, beaming despite himself at his brother's affection. "I keep telling you. There's nothing to forgive!"

"But..." Reishin whimpered, looking back at Shuurei, who was smiling... smiling! Smiling at that idiot Emperor!

If he couldn't ask for and receive Shuurei's forgiveness, how in the world could he ever receive Shouka's?