Silence//Kouyuu isn't talking to Reishin, and Reishin doesn't know why. Challenge fic for Saiunkokufic meme on livejournal.
His son wasn't talking to him. That in itself was not entirely unusual, Reishin had to admit as he thoughtfully tapped his fan against his chin and quietly studied Kouyuu eating his dinner. Kouyuu was hardly all that talkative in general, a character trait that Reishin whole heartedly approved of. It wasn't rare for an evening to be spent at home without a word passing between them, and even when conversation became inevitable it tended to come in heated bursts (Kouyuu) or elegant and far too clever barbs (himself, naturally).
The silence itself then wasn't foreign, but the intent was. Kouyuu wasn't simply not speaking to him, Kouyuu wanted Reishin to know that he wasn't speaking to him.
It was perplexing. It was also, Reishin thought darkly as Kouyuu clanked his cutlery down with deliberate disregard for decorum, utterly childish and immature.
That Ran boy surely had something to do with this.
It was a qualified assessment to make, as Shuuei had a habit of influencing Kouyuu's mood in the same way that the change in seasons affected that of women. However, Kouyuu rarely ever sought silence on such occasions, preferring to rant at anyone who dared cross his past about 'that imbecile Shuuei'. Reishin had even once spotted his son berating a stray cat about the serious character flaws his best friend possessed, and the language that had been involved had reflexively caused Reishin's eyebrow to rise. No, if Shuuei was the root of whatever had caused Kouyuu to revert to such childish antics (ones that his son had been above even as a child), then silence would be the last tactic employed.
Kouyuu still waited for Reishin to dismiss him before leaving the table - his son still at least recognised that there was an important difference between childish and suicidal - but his parting nod was more an afterthought of respectfulness as opposed to being respectful.
If they hadn't been in the middle of a time consuming audit that ate away at Reishin's patience and inhibited greatly his ability to do as little work as possible, he may not have thought any more on the matter. He firmly believed that moods were best left to themselves, as engaging them tended to lead only to disruptiveness and complications. However, Kouyuu's uncharacteristic, deliberate silence meant that Reishin had something far more interesting to contemplate and fill his time with, and naturally Kouyuu was easiest to observe when he was in Reishin's office.
"This is an elaborate form of escapism even for you," Kijin said darkly as Kouyuu left Reishin's office in search of yet another set of figures that 'Reishin' needed. "I'm surprised that you didn't become concerned about the welfare of an entire division."
"Don't be ridiculous," he scoffed in response, leaning back in his chair. "My intent is to avoid doing as much work as possible, not get my current lot finished so quickly that even more is assigned to me." As it was, four people had been temporarily reassigned to his department. They were generally efficient enough that they required little supervision and had enough brains to not disturb Reishin with anything ridiculous. As they should be, Reishin had hand picking them himself. "You cannot say, however, that he is not acting strange."
"I have always said that anyone willing to live with you needs to have their head examined," Kijin replied. "If you are so concerned, why not talk to Ran Shuuei? He seems to know your son well." Reishin gaze narrowed at the slight stress his friend put on the last word.
"I have no time for such things. I have an audit to supervise, after all." Kijin snorted at that, but Reishin noted that Kijin didn't seem all that intent on doing his own work, either.
"Senior Secretary Kou, I finished the data set you assigned me." Hao Zhou looked almost too pleased with himself as he placed the stack of paper on Reishin's desk. The eldest son of the Hao clan had never quite lived up to the expectations that came with such a title, but he was well versed enough in flattery and working his way up through the system to interest Reishin on a temporary basis.
"Very good." Reishin was about to say more when Kouyuu entered with his arms brimming with scrolls. He tapped his fingers impatiently on his desk when Kouyuu maintained his strange silence, barely bothering to glance over in Reishin's direction before quickly averting his gaze. "You can help Kouyuu with his work since he's taking so long with it." THAT brought a reaction from Kouyuu, who visually bristled as he spun to face Reishin. The annoyance that he had been expecting to see in Kouyuu's eyes, however, was absent, replaced instead by the strangest shade of hurt.
"Perplexing," Kijin said as they left together.
Kouyuu wasn't known for holding onto his anger very long, and this (whatever 'this' happened to be) was not an exception. Instead of dissipating altogether and life returning to normal, however, whatever it was that bothering his son simply began to manifest itself in more subtle ways. Reishin was wary of subtleness, especially when it came to Kouyuu, who refused to generally ever consider such a form of behaviour. Yet, Kouyuu was no longer silent but quiet, and there was an important difference there that Reishin couldn't quite place. The heat that had slipped into everything from Kouyuu's gaze to the way he studiously did his work was replaced by a quiescent hurt that lingered close to the surface.
He also wasn't sleeping well, which perplexed Reishin even further. There was no reason for Kouyuu not to sleep well, the summer winds had lost their humidity as autumn encroached and the Kou compound was quiet and still. Still, most mornings Kouyuu wore tiredness in his eyes and in his posture even as he continued to work with quiet efficiency.
Noticing that candle light slipped beneath his son's bedroom door even though Kouyuu had retreated to bed (and supposed sleep) hours before, Reishin quietly huffed before allowing himself in. He didn't knock - knocking was for servants and workers - and Kouyuu was too deeply engrossed in his work to notice that he was no longer alone. The candlelight did little to soften the exhaustion that was etched into Kouyuu's eyes as he attempted to focus on the scroll he was working on, his head tiredly propped up by his hand. Left alone, Kouyuu's hair spilled freely across his shoulders and partly in front of his face, making his son seem strangely youthful.
"You should not still be up," It was fascinating the way Kouyuu went from being almost impossibly still to a flurry of motion. Kouyuu did not simply turn to Reishin so much as he spun, one hand reaching for a hair tie and quickly pulling his hair back into a ponytail even as the other attempted to brush the paperwork to the side. "You will be useless to me in the morning if you are too tired to work." Flustered, Kouyuu barely managed a respectful nod.
"I am sorry, Reishin-sama. I will make sure to work doubly hard in the morning."
Reishin's gaze narrowed. That was not what he had meant. If his son insisted on playing the fool, however, it was a role he chose to inflict on himself.
"Make sure you do. Now, put out that candle, it is keeping everyone else awake." Even though Kouyuu was obviously tired, Reishin's comment still drew an incredulous look from Kouyuu.
"... yes. Reishin-sama."
It was still almost half an hour after Reishin had left that Kouyuu finally did as he was told and went to bed. Not that Reishin stood outside his door and waited.
"He is being very troublesome," Reishin muttered as he stalked from one end of Kijin's desk to the other, before spinning on his heels and stalking back. "Does he not realise that people are starting to pick up on his childish behaviour?" It wasn't so much that people thought Kouyuu was being childish, but his new, encompassing quietness was not what people were used to.
"Have you considered talking to him?" Kijin had the nerve to dryly ask, causing Reishin to still for a moment.
"Don't be ridiculous. Kouyuu and I do not talk." Reishin began pacing again, tapping his fan agitatedly against his thigh as he walked. "This behaviour began at roughly the same time as the audit."
"Perhaps he dislikes the fact that you assigned him half of your workload as well as his own."
"If you're going to waste my time with such unhelpful comments, then I will take my musings elsewhere." Reishin ignored Kijin's dry request to do just that, but his steps did slow just slightly. "He has been working harder than usual," he reflected. "But that doesn't seem to be the cause, more a side effect. It's almost as though ..."
It was almost as though Kouyuu was trying to get through the audit as quickly as possible. Kouyuu had always liked things done with precision and in a timely matter, but his son also hated it when things were done in such haste that the quality suffered. There was obviously something about the current set-up of the audit that was making his son unusually angry.
"He is not angry, Reishin." Kijin's comment was unexpected, and Reishin turned to him with his eyebrow raised. "He is upset. Surely you have noticed?"
"Of course he is not-" Reishin broke off, his fan splaying suddenly in front of his lips. Upset, Kouyuu was upset. Reishin frowned angrily behind his fan. The difference between angry and upset was as subtle as the one between silence and quietness. How could he have missed this?
"Well, he can hardly be upset at something I have done," Reishin added archly, although Kijin didn't even bother with pretending to be fooled. Anger was something that Kouyuu showered everyone else with, 'upset' was something he generally reserved solely for Reishin. "This does not make any sense," he darkly said. "Obviously something has - upset - him. Have you heard anything?"
"Only that he is making everyone's life insufferable," Kijin said with a deceptive casualness. Reishin smirked, despite himself. At least Kouyuu had the good sense to drag others down with him. "It appears that Hao would rather work with you than with Kouyuu at the moment, which is rather telling in itself." The last part of Kijin's comment was dutifully ignored. "Other than that, no one appears to know anything."
Which meant that only one more option remained ...
"Kou Reishin-dono?" Reishin almost jumped out of his skin when Shuuei's voice floated from the far door.
"How did you do that?" He accused the boy, his fan pointed squarely at Shuuei's chest. Shuuei had the good graces to look both apologetic and confused, and Reishin had to remind himself that his son's best friend couldn't have known that Reishin's thoughts had just drifted to him. "Never mind. Why are you here?"
"I was looking for Kouyuu," Shuuei said easily, his gaze drifting around the office. Reishin's own gaze narrowed.
"Why would he be here?" Kouyuu hardly had any reason to stray to Kijin's office.
"Because he is rarely where he should be," Shuuei replied dryly. It was a convincing enough statement on its own, but it was said with just enough honesty for Reishin to know that the boy had to be lying. Kouyuu, it appeared, had not said anything to Shuuei, either, which made him utterly useless to Reishin.
"I am not in the mood for games. If you are here about Kouyuu's childish antics then you should redirect your efforts to the main archives. He should be working there with Hao at the moment." It was interesting, Reishin would reflect later, how one simple word could so erode away all of Shuuei's carefully constructed layers of politeness.
"Hao?" Shuuei took a moment longer than he should have to regain his composure, but by then it was too late, and even Kijin was leaning forward at his desk. "Hao Zhou, eldest son of the Hao clan?"
"Yes. That Hao." Reishin's gaze did not flicker from Shuuei's. "I had him assigned to my department to help with the audit, along with five or six others. You know him?" Even Shuuei appeared to realise that the relationship between Shuuei and Hao was the last thing Reishin was inquiring about. Surprise crossed Shuuei's featured briefly.
"You ... don't?"
"Not beyond his reputation as a paper pusher who will do anything to work his way up through the ranks, including greasing up to those in higher positions and working hard occasionally for the right person." Reishin's gaze darkened. "I assume I should know him better?"
"Ro Kanri-dono said that he would have to speak to you about it. But, that was years ago." Shuuei had collected himself completely by the time he answered, but there was a strange anger in his eyes that was difficult to place. Shuuei did anger as rarely as Kouyuu did quietness. Reishin was hardly paying all that much attention to Shuuei's eyes however as he brushed past the boy, and stormed out of the room.
How dare Ro keep something from him. He had a right mind to-
Reishin meant to end up at the department of protocol, but his feet apparently had other ideas. It hardly mattered, Reishin thought grimly as he pushed open the door to the archives with a touch more force than necessary. This way he could do away with all the messy little details and 'deal' to Hao directly.
"Reishin-sama!" Kouyuu's surprised greeting went generally unacknowledged, as Reishin's gaze swept the archives for Hao.
"Were is he?" he demanded when the other man did not appear to be in sight. It took a moment for Kouyuu to catch up.
"Hao? He's gone to lunch. Is ... is there anything I can help you with?"
Reishin had not lied when he said he was not in the mood for games.
"Why didn't you inform me that you knew Hao?" For a moment, it seemed as though Kouyuu was too shocked to respond.
"I ... I thought you knew." Kouyuu shared Shuuei's confusion over Reishin's lack of knowledge of whatever had happened between the two, but not his anger. Instead, there was a sudden, deep relief in Kouyuu's voice that was unmistakable. "I, I thought you knew." Reishin frowned at the slightly hysterical laugh that followed, but his son quickly composed himself. "It isn't important any more, regardless." Kouyuu's attempt at a dismissive tone was laughable, although Reishin almost felt as though he should praise his son for the attempt. "Hao and I simply had some ... issues ... back when we sat our exams together. We are both adults now, however." Reishin did not point out that Hao had surely been an adult back when he had sat the exams, nor that mere 'issues' could not explain away why Ro had been forced to get involved.
Reishin said none of those things. Instead, he closed the gap between them in a handful of swift steps before tipping up Kouyuu's chin with the edge of his fan so that Kouyuu could not look anywhere else but at him.
"Kouyuu, do not lie to me." His words were not meant to elicit fear, so it was strange how it was that exact emotion that flickered through Kouyuu's gaze. "You have been upset about this for weeks." For a moment, it looked as though Kouyuu was going to try and talk his way out of this, before he closed his eyes briefly in defeat.
"I thought you knew," Kouyuu echoed quietly, a faint blush angrily scattering across his cheeks as his gaze slipped away from Reishin's, and Reishin realised with a start that that was what had upset Kouyuu far more than having to work with Hao. Kouyuu had thought Reishin had known, and that he had still chosen to bring Hao into the department and have him work alongside Kouyuu.
"Well, I didn't," Reishin said testily, although his words lacked their usual bite. "And, you're not going to tell me, are you?" Kouyuu shook his head, a tiny, wry smile creeping into place that could not quite dispel the hint of pain that shone momentarily in his eyes. His son was nowhere near as over what had happened as he apparently liked to think.
However, that was a discussion for another time, and with another person. Ro may have had his reasons for keeping quiet all those years ago, but they surely did not still exist now. There were other things to concern himself with at the moment, especially as Hao decided right then to return from lunch.
"Kou Reishin-dono," Hao said respectfully, although Reishin did not miss the way in which Hao's eyes lit up at what he must have perceived as a confrontation between Reishin and Kouyuu.
"Come with me," Reishin ordered in response, turning away from Kouyuu and towards the other man. "I am reassigning you." Hao's smirk grew slightly wider at that.
"Of course! I'll just get my scrolls and accompany you back to your off-"
"You're not returning to my office," Reishin cut off with a wave of his fan. "In fact, you will not need your scrolls at all. You are being reassigned to the stables." Hao's gasp caught in his throat, and even Kouyuu appeared shocked.
"But, but! I'm an official, not a stable boy!" Hao complained desperately, shooting an accusing gaze at Kouyuu who could only look back at him helplessly. "Besides, the palace already has enough stable boys."
"The Ran province is experiencing a shortage." Reishin responded shortly. "You are being sent there."
"The RAN province?!"
"You are leaving in half an hour, go pack." Incredulous, Hao looked as though he was about to defy Reishin, but the other man was apparently not quite as foolish as he looked, choosing to rush from the archives instead. Hao, it appeared, thought that Reishin had known all along, as well. Reishin let out a long sigh before turning back to Kouyuu, whose wide eyes were locked on him in surprise. This was troubling. He did not like to display such use of power in front of Kouyuu, who might correctly attribute the cause to himself. As it was, Kouyuu appeared too daze to realise exactly what had happened.
"Next time, you will tell me if someone does something to upset you when it happens, not five years later," Reishin stated calmly. "Understood?" Kouyuu nod seemed to be almost on reflex. "Now, get back to work. We are now officially understaffed and we still have a deadline to meet." This time, Kouyuu's nod was firmer. Too much work and tight deadlines were what Kouyuu breathed, and if anything was going to distract Kouyuu from Reishin's rather careless display of open affection, they surely would.
"It's the strangest thing," Kijin said hours later when Reishin finally made his way back to the other man's office. "I ran into that boy of yours in the archives earlier, and he smiled at me. In fact, he appears to be smiling at everyone. It's quite off putting."
"Hm," Reishin said as he dropped down into a chair, studiously ignoring the pile of reports he had been left. "Perplexing."
Behind his fan, he smiled.