title: criteria
fandom: Tale of Saiunkoku
characters/pairings: Kouyuu, Reishin/Houju
rating: G/Teen
warnings: Reishin
summary: Kouyuu has something good to tell Reishin, but it might not be the best time.
notes: for cairnsy, for this request on fic on demand. it... may not be quite what you were expecting, honey, but, er, i'm a little twisted like reishin? ^_^;;;;;;;;;;;;;

Kouyuu had paced outside the gate ever since he finished breakfast. The maid had kindly brought him some rice balls at lunch, but that was hours ago. He just didn't understand! They lived very close to the palace (he thought)! Why would it take so long for his results to come in?

He heard the clatter of horses, and he felt his blood go cold. Because he had taken the exam as a member of the Kou household, apparently, it had been decided that his letter would arrive via royal transport. That wasn't a kindness, to Kouyuu's way of thinking. The imposing carriage that was coming down the narrow alley to the gate to the Kou estate only served to render the contents all the more terrifying. By the time the courier stepped out to present the letter to Kouyuu, he thought his heart might come leaping out of his mouth at any time. He was frozen solid to the spot, unable to even make his hands work well enough to open the box and read the contents of the letter.

After the sound of horses had once again disappeared, the maid came up behind him and nudged him with her elbow, prodding him to find out his results. With shaking fingers, he slid open the box, and took out the scroll.

He expected to pass. Even though he was very young to be taking the qualifying exam, he was confident in his intelligence, and in his teachers. No, it was never a question of being able to pass.

It was only ever a question of being able to be a credit to his sponsor, his father.

His cheeks blushed with pleasure, and a heavy heat filled his chest, making him feel twice as large as he was. The maid clapped him on the back, and cackled. "Way to go, young master!"

He looked up at her, grinning. "I can't wait to show Reishin-sama!" He took off quickly, ignoring the maid's protests that the Master was busy (or was she trying to tell him he was going the wrong way? He knew where Reishin-sama's study was! Even if they kept moving things around! Damn it!) He wanted to show this to Reishin-sama as soon as possible. He wanted to see Reishin-sama's face... even if it scared him. Would Reishin-sama be proud? Would he be pleased?

Kouyuu had to find out.

He ran all around the estate, looking for the damned study. (Why did they keep moving things around? Since when had they had kitchens? What was a bath doing where he knew the study had been just yesterday!? Damn them all!) Finally, he heard Reishin-sama's voice. It sounded odd, like he might be singing or something like that. It wasn't the study, either. It was Reishin-sama's quarters, which was very odd indeed. Why would he be in his bedchamber while the sun was still shining? He always had so much work to do...

That was why Kouyuu wanted to take the Imperial Exam as quickly as possible. Then, he could be at Reishin-sama's side, doing everything he could to help Reishin-sama. Now.

He spun around, and went down the hall. If he'd been less excited (or frustrated. The damned grounds were too big! Why did they need so many rooms and buildings, anyway?!) he might have remembered his manners. He might have knocked before entering.

Might have.

Instead, he threw open the door, exclaiming, "Reishin-sama! Look, look!"

And then, his jaw went slack.

Stretched across Reishin-sama's bed was someone who was not his wife. Kouyuu would have recognized the person, but the silky, jet-black hair, strewn messily over the pillow and cascading down toward the floor, was catching the light in the most enchanting ways. The pale, perfect skin that was displayed would make the finest porcelain look dirty and ugly. The person turned a bit, and Kouyuu's eyes widened, looking into the most perfectly formed face that was ever born.

"Kouyuu! What are you doing here?" Reishin-sama was there, leaning over this perfect body, this perfect form, his own, comparatively lesser skin, bare as well.

Kouyuu's eyes widened and widened more. He backed up, sputtering, trying hard to spit the words out. Reishin-sama swore under his breath, and he threw a sheet over his bed partner. Kouyuu blinked, and then, in a rush, he realized what he had done. He turned on his heel and took off, not looking where he was going at all, just needing to get away.

He went to the far corner of the grove, and hunkered down at the base of a tree, trying to hide himself. Foolish, foolish, foolish! He looked at the scroll in his hand, feeling small and stupid and useless. There was no way Reishin-sama would be pleased to see this now. What a fool he was.

Reishin-sama must surely be regretting taking in such a clumsy and oafish child.

"Kouyuu! Damn it... Kouyuu, where are you? I'm sure he went this way..." Reishin-sama huffed. Kouyuu's back went rigid. What... what was Reishin-sama... "Kouyuu, come out this instant!"

As much as he would rather sink into the mud and dissolve, he had no choice. If Reishin-sama was going to order him, he had to obey. He swallowed hard, and stood up, hanging his head down. He walked around the tree, and waited for Reishin-sama to see him.

"Kouyuu! There you are, thank god. I was afraid you were going to run off into the street and get run over, or something like that." Kouyuu's cheeks blazed, and he balled his hands into fists, but he said nothing. There had been that one time... but that had been ages ago! Surely that could be forgotten now! Reishin-sama came to stand in front of him, and he put his hand on Kouyuu's shoulder. "Are you all right? It didn't upset you to see me... ah. Well. You know, as much as I love my wife..."

Kouyuu blinked, and looked up at Reishin-sama. His hair was still down, and he had just thrown on a robe. He looked disheveled, and he was even in his bare feet. He was also blushing.

Kouyuu didn't think Reishin-sama could blush. And furthermore, he didn't have his fan with him...

He had... he had really run out after Kouyuu in a hurry...

"It didn't upset me at all!" Kouyuu burst out. "I was embarrassed... I burst in without knocking... it was such a juvenile thing to do..." He bent his head down and sighed in shame.

Reishin-sama chuckled kindly. "Hey, hey, don't beat yourself up. It certainly wasn't a time of day... as long as it didn't bother you to see me with... ah..."

Kouyuu blinked. "How could that bother me? Reishin-sama... truly, you must be even more incredible than I ever imagined, if your lover is someone so beautiful..." He looked up at Reishin-sama with naked adoration.

It was true, though! Reishin-sama was a powerful man in the country, but he was married, so the position of his lover was limited in its scope. Moreover, for his lover to be a man, and a man of court himself, a man as stunningly gorgeous as that...

Reishin-sama must truly be the most astonishing lover in all the kingdom!

Reishin-sama just stared at Kouyuu for a moment, and then, slowly, very slowly, he started to smile, and before long, he was laughing hard, shaking with the force of his mirth. "Well. Well. That's completely and utterly true, and it's to be expected of such an exceptional child that you would recognize my superiority in this field, even, at your age. Yes, yes. Very discerning of you. ...So, so, tell me, Kouyuu, what was so exciting that you wanted me to see it right away?"

Kouyuu opened his mouth, and then he realized... he looked down at his hand. He had crushed the scroll in his grip as he had run away. He held it out anyone, sighing. "H-here."

Reishin-sama took the scroll, frowning slightly at its condition, and he unraveled it. He read over the results quickly, his eyes shining with pride. "First! First in all the nation! How auspicious! This surely bodes well. That's my boy, Kouyuu. You did very well." He reached out, and patted Kouyuu on the head, ruffling his hair.

Feeling like he might burst with happiness, Kouyuu looked up at Reishin-sama, self-consciously fixing his hair. "So, I can take the Imperial Exam, right? And... and... will you be able to help me study?" He was so eager, he nearly fell over waiting to hear Reishin-sama's answer.

"Mm. No, you'll take it in three years," Reishin-sama declared, rereading his qualifying exam results.

"Wh-what?" Kouyuu gasped. "Wh-why?"

"Because," Reishin-sama sighed, his tone bored and cold, as it always was when he had completely made up his mind. "I've decided. Three years time is good enough. These results will last that long, mm? So." He patted Kouyuu on the head, ruffling up his hair again. "I'm very pleased, Kouyuu. You exceeded my expectations. I will have to start expecting more of you, I suppose."

He wandered off with the exam results, smirking to himself.

Kouyuu stayed rooted to the spot. He wanted to be able to tell Reishin-sama that he wanted to be able to work at Reishin-sama's side, and assist him, but.

Reishin-sama had already made up his mind. Kouyuu would have to remain useless for three more years.

Kou Houju was sitting up in the window of Reishin's bedroom when Reishin returned, still reading over Kouyuu's results. He hadn't put a mask on, so he was using his hair as a curtain to his face from anyone who might be passing by outside.

"Will that child be all right?" he asked kindly, his eyes narrowed as he looked at the paper in Reishin's hand.

"Don't worry," Reishin chuckled. "Your demon powers of attraction aren't going to muddle my boy's head. He was, in fact, impressed by my prowess in landing such a prize lover."

Houju snorted. "So, you didn't tell him it was my act of charity, then?"

Reishin scowled and ignored Houju's remark. "Kouyuu had the highest score in the nation on the qualifying exam. A perfect score. My Kouyuu. Incredible, mm?" He waved the scroll in front of Houju, beaming.

Houju looked down at the paper, and smirked. "Yes, very impressive... of him. So. Are you going to let him take the Imperial Exam?"

"Not yet," Reishin said dismissively, and turned away from Houju.

Houju shook his head.

Reishin threw himself down across the bed on his belly, holding Kouyuu's results in front of him. "That child... he can be cute, too, you know."

Standing up, Houju chuckled, and sauntered over to Reishin. "So you haven't completely ruined him. That's good." He leaned over Reishin, letting his hair trail over Reishin's body.

Despite himself, Reishin shivered, and turned, reaching up to touch Houju's face... his chest. "He's going to become someone great. Based solely on his own power. Without a name to drag him around."

Houju paused for a moment, looking Reishin in the eye. He shook his head and grinned, and then pressed Reishin to the bed, kissing him hard. "It appears as if you can still be cute yourself. You brat.

"You really should tell that child how much you treasure him. Even if you won't tell anyone else, he should know."

Reishin sniffed disdainfully, filling his hands with Houju's hair. "He got a perfect score on the qualifying exam. He's smart enough to figure it out himself."

Houju opened his mouth to protest, and Reishin found a better use for it, and their eternal wrestling match went on, even if their caresses had turned more tender for Kouyuu's interruption.