She finished speaking, kneeled down once more and bowed her head.
This answer was the result of creating an incense which was close to the treasured incense that her father had made, and the change that it had made in Ryouka when it had burnt.
Ryouka’s life wasn’t in danger. However, there was a big change in her.
Perhaps it was fortunate that she had noticed the change early and dispersed the scent, but Ryouka returned back to her normal state the next day. The change that had occurred in Ryouka was extraordinary, and in a way, it was a fitting effect for the treasured incense. The Emperor stayed silent for a while after Riri whispered in his ear. The silence felt long.
(Why isn’t he saying anything…? Am I right? Am I wrong? Which is it?)
She endured the long silence with her head down while feeling uneasy.
“… Riri. You can be proud of your father.”
That sentence filled her heart with joy. She quickly looked up and was greeted by the Emperor’s gentle face.
“The effects of the treasured incense is as you said. If you got this answer by making the incense as you remembered, then Saido made the treasured incense, or he was very close to making it. Riri, were you able to recreate the treasured incense?”
The Emperor looked at her with expectation, and she steeled herself for what was to come.
“I am sorry. I worked very hard and didn’t sleep much to make it, but I didn’t succeed.”
As soon as she spoke honestly, Senshin regained his arrogance.
“As expected of Saido’s daughter. You’re both similar even in the way you fail.”
She tried to keep her voice as calm as possible while enduring his snide remark.
“It’s true that I didn’t succeed in making the treasured incense, but I’m a step closer to succeeding. Your Majesty, can I try to make it again?”
Riri saw that the Emperor was nodding and whispered in his ear again.
Then, she told him the effects of the incense that Ryouka had tried three days ago.
“… Oh, I see. Are you saying you made that incense?”
“Yes, I did. It was only after I made that incense that I realised what the effects of the treasured incense is. My maid tried it, and it worked. However, I don’t think that’s the complete product. I will need to create an incense with the opposite effect. When the effects of these two incenses combine, I think it can be called the treasured incense.”
The effect of the treasured incense is a national secret. Therefore, she chose her words so that other people wouldn’t know what that effect is.
“It’s dangerous to even use the incense that I had made. I need to create an incense with the opposite effect. But that will take some time. I can definitely complete the treasured incense if I had more time and materials. Please. Please give me another chance to make it!”
She pleaded. She had promised Kousho that she would make the treasured incense by the time of the perfumers meeting.
She knew that she would be punished since she hadn’t made the incense in time. But she didn’t want Ryouka and Mokuren to get punished. If she got permission from the Emperor here to make the treasured incense, then everyone’s lives will be spared. The Emperor crossed his arms and looked up at the ceiling as if he was praying and remained silent for a while.
“――― The incense that you said you made is incomplete as the treasured incense. But the Department of Incenses couldn’t even make that. In other words, you are the closest person who might be able to create the treasured incense, after your father.”
“Your Majesty. Then… will you give me the opportunity to make it?”
She stared up at him with hope in her eyes and his face turned stern.
“It’s the opposite. You seem to be very talented, but I gave the perfumers the order to create the treasured incense before the perfumers meeting. But, neither you nor Mokuren were able to complete it by today. Once a deadline has been set, it is the duty of the vassal to produce results according to the deadline. Postponing the deadline is unacceptable.”
She was unable to refute, and Kousho turned his attention to them.
“But Father. It’s true that Riri is close to making the treasured incense that no one has succeeded in making for hundreds of years. Although she didn’t meet the deadline, I’m certain it’s because she was making it by herself at the inner palace. I believe that it would be good to give her another chance.”
Riri hadn’t expected that Kousho, who had told her that she would be punished if she couldn’t produce the treasured incense by the time of the perfumers meeting, to offer her a helping hand. She widened her eyes in surprise and Kousho continued.
“Why don’t you try the incense that Riri said is close to the treasured incense first? If she really did make it, then she could make something with the opposite effect. Father, perhaps you can get the treasured incense that you’ve been dreaming off and gather together three people with the auspicious titles.”
The Emperor seemed a little moved by those words. He sighed slowly.
“… What Kousho said is reasonable. Hmm, what should I do?”
Senshin stared at Riri in a panic.
“Your Majesty, this girl isn’t a perfumer. How can you test someone who hasn’t even passed the imperial exam? It’s questionable whether this girl can really make incenses. She told a complete lie and could have heard about the effects of the treasured incense from Mokuren. She was brought here by Mokuren after all.”
“I didn’t ask Mokuren what the effect of the treasured incense is. It’s true that I haven’t passed the imperial exam, but that’s because women aren’t allowed to take the exam…”
She struggled to speak and Senshin snorted.
“Of course not. There’s no way a woman would take the imperial exam.”
She couldn’t help but be frustrated by his words. The Emperor moved his gaze to observe the situation.
“… I know what you both are saying. It’s true that Riri’s mixing skills are questionable, since she’s not a perfumer who has taken the imperial exam. But I also understand Riri’s complaint about not being able to take the exam because she is a woman. So, how about I ask you to burn an incense that I want right here and now to see if you are really as good as you say you are.”
Riri’s eyes widened at the Emperor’s sudden request. The Emperor continued to speak.
“Riri. The incense in question is dangerous. I can’t try it out myself. However, I want to know firsthand how good you are. So, burn the incense that I want.”
Riri nodded since this was the best she could ask for.
“Yes, Your Majesty. It would be a great honour to be able to mix an incense for you. Please let me do this.”
“That’s a good answer. Then, I’ve been coughing a lot lately, so burn me an incense that would help me breath easier and stop my coughing. If the effects of your incense are great, then I will give you permission to try and mix the incense in question. If you really produce something that is close to the effects of the treasured incense, then I will consider whether or not you can continue to make the treasured incense.”
(Yay! If it’s an incense to help him breathe and stop coughing, then I can use the incense that I always bring to the clinic. I’m used to making it and I have the ingredients. If I can succeed, then I might be able to make the treasured incense. Then, everyone will be saved…!)
“Then, I’ll start mixing right away.”
“Okay. Being quick is a sign of a good perfumer. Now, go prepare.”
The servants moved quickly and brought Riri an incense burner and tools. Riri sat down near the incense burner and the Emperor.
(His Majesty is so close…! I’m nervous, but I’ll be fine as long as I mix it like I always do.)
She was so frightened that her hands trembled. She scolded herself, mixed the materials together as usual and put them into the mortar.
After crushing the materials together with a pestle and kneading them into nectar, the pastille was completed. She put the pastille into the incense burner and lit it with a flint. Soon, a gentle and sweet fragrance drifted in the air.
(Alright, it’s the same aroma as always. It should help His Majesty breathe easier and subside his coughing.)
It was nice to be able to heal people with incenses even under such circumstances. The Emperor took the incense burner and smelled the fragrance with a gesture that looked as if he was drinking tea. The formal way of smelling incenses was majestic and wonderful.
“It smells good. This… Ugh!”
The incense burner rolled onto the floor with a thud. Before she knew what was happening, the Emperor was pressing down on his throat.
As the Emperor groaned and fell over, a scream came from around him.
Kousho quickly held the Emperor in his arms and turned him over, then he saw that blood was flowing out from the Emperor’s mouth.
“This is…! It’s poison, the Emperor’s been poisoned! Woman, you used a poisonous incense!”
Senshin yelled before running up to Riri, then he roughly grabbed her arm.
“What?! I didn’t! I…”
“Shut up! You tried to assassinate the Emperor with a poisonous incense. I’ll kill you right here and now!”
Senshin put his hand on the sword that was at his waist.
Kousho let out in a low voice. He left the Emperor in the hands of the rushing doctors and stood up.
“Kousho-sama. I’m innocent!”
There was no way that there was poison in the incense that the Emperor had smelled. She had made it with the same procedure as always and even the amount she had used was the same. Even her sense of smell, which could detect the slightest difference in aroma, told her that it was the same incense as always.
Kousho stared at her.
“… I can’t ask you if you tried to kill the Emperor here. Take her to jail, Garan.”
She opened her eyes in astonishment at Kousho’s words.
(I said I’m innocent… But he doesn’t believe me.)
She had never done anything to make him believe her, but she was strangely convinced that he would believe her.
She was amazed at herself, wondering how she was so convinced about this.
But her confidence was shattered. Garan approached her as his phoenix designed robes fluttered behind him.
“Garan, take her directly to the prison. Things will be complicated if we lose the opportunity to listen to her side of the story. Don’t let anyone touch her.”
Garan glared at Senshin while nodding at Kousho’s order.
“Senshin-dono, bring her here.”
“Garan. The army is too big to be controlled by a youngster like you…”
“That is irrelevant right now. Uncle. I have formally inherited the family and the title of the Phoenix. You lost the right to rule our family. My status is higher than yours right now. Now, bring Riri here.”
He had acted overbearing on purpose. Senshin looked regretful and applied force on Riri’s body.
She was thrown at Garan. Garan’s expression didn’t change as he caught her.
She probably wouldn’t be killed straight away, but she couldn’t be relieved. She let Garan drag her away as she pondered about what to do. But she couldn’t think of anything since her mind had gone blank.