“Open your eyes. It’s me.”
“Garan… Ah, you scared me! I’m sorry. I tried to hit you.”
Riri was relieved when she was Garan standing in front of her. When she lowered her head, she saw him cross his arms.
“I don’t mind. But why did you escape from prison? I found the guard sleeping when I went to check on you. How on earth did you defeat the guard?”
“Hmm, I was trying to make him sleep with a sleeping incense…”
She tried to make a sleeping incense but failed and made stimulant incense instead. The guard who smelled it went on a rampage, then fainted, and she luckily got her hands on the key. She was embarrassed to let Garan know of such a shameful story. She mumbled and Garan widened his eyes in surprise.
“Sleeping incense? Wow, you can make an incense like that?!”
She felt conflicted when he complimented her. She laughed vaguely and Garan put his hands on his hips.
“But you shouldn’t have escaped from your cell. I’m pretending that I let you out of your cell so that I can question you, but we can’t keep this up for long. I know you slipped out because you wanted to investigate the incident but get back in there right now.”
“But I really wanted to check the hall… I found something in the hall, Garan.”
She wasn’t sure if she should tell him, but she knew that she could trust him.
The problem was too big for her to hand alone. She needed someone else’s opinion.
She showed Garan the incense container and told him that she had found it in the hall, and that it belonged to Kousho. She told him that she could smell the lingering scent of something that smelled poisonous coming from the container. Garan looked surprised, but he listened to her.
“… So, I decided to have the incense container examined by the Department of Incense. This definitely belongs to Kousho-sama, but I don’t believe he was the culprit. There’s no reason for him to kill the Emperor.”
It was decided that Kousho will become the Emperor in a year’s time. Even now, he’s in charge of most of the political matters. He didn’t need to assassinate the Emperor since he will become the Emperor.
They might have other reasons to hate each other since they are father and son.
However, it was unlikely that Kousho would assassinate his father for personal reasons.
“… No, it’s not like he doesn’t have a reason.”
Garan said while looking stern. Riri looked at him in surprise and sighed.
“You can’t tell anyone what I’m about to tell you. I’m telling you my personal opinion because I trust you.”
She nodded. Garan hushed his voice.
“Kousho-sama will certainly ascend the throne in a year’s time. But all the important decisions must be approved by His Majesty even after Kousho-sama has ascended the throne.”
“He has to ask the former Emperor for permission before making important decisions even after he’s become the Emperor? Why?”
“His Majesty is the only Emperor in the history of this Kingdom who has not fought in a war, and his subjects trust him. It’s also unheard of for an Emperor to give up the throne while he is still alive. Many nobles have suggested that he should still retain the power and decision-making authority of an Emperor even if he hands over the throne.”
Garan carefully chose his words while continuing.
“Kousho-sama is brilliant and smart, but he’s still young. Many are worried about this. Even so, he will be the Emperor because of His Majesty’s physical condition. The whole court seems to think that His Majesty should remain as regent, holding the power and decision-making authority of the Emperor.”
“A regent is someone who takes over for the monarch when the monarch is sick or is a child, right? If His Majesty will still have the power and decision-making authority of the Emperor even if he abdicates the throne, then isn’t it alright for him to remain the Emperor? I don’t think there’s any point in giving the throne to Kousho-sama.”
“There is. It’s to keep the neighbouring kingdom in check. His Majesty’s health isn’t very good. Our neighbouring Kingdom, Koran, also knows this. They’re watching us vigilantly, waiting for the opportunity to attack. That’s why the young and healthy Kousho-sama will become the Emperor to keep them in check.”
The Emperor is the symbol of the kingdom, so it might be inevitable that the people around him would want a young and healthy Emperor.
“But that gives the impression that Kousho-sama is being used.”
“Yeah. Kousho-sama has the ability to be an Emperor. That’s why I’m secretly worried that he might be frustrated with his situation and lose his patience.”
She met Garan’s eyes. She thought she understood what he meant.
“Do you suspect that Kousho-sama wants to assassinate His Majesty, so that he can conduct politics the way he wishes to?”
Garan looked as if he was in pain and clenched his fist.
“… Somewhere at the back of my mind, there’s a part of me that suspects that. That man has the wisdom, power and mentality to assassinate His Majesty. I can’t get rid of the suspicion that this whole thing was orchestrated to look like the work of a Dark Perfumer.”
“But Kousho-sama respects His Majesty a lot. I don’t want to believe that he’s the culprit. I knew him since we were young, and despite his arrogance, he’s someone who I would give my life to serve. But as the general who is in charge of the palace’s security, a part of me is whispering that I should doubt him.”
Riri could feel a mixture of emotions coming from every word he was saying. Garan seemed to be wavering between wanting to look at the situation calmly and wanting to believe in Kousho. She gently placed a hand on his shoulder.
“I think it’s highly likely that he’s not the culprit.”
Her voice was so clear that even she was surprised. Garan looked at Riri in surprise.
“I could tell that Kousho-sama cares a lot for his kingdom and His Majesty when I talked to him before. I don’t know if he meant everything he said since his personality is like that, but it sounded like he was telling the truth.”
She stopped talking and pursed her lips.
“But it’s true that Kousho-sama’s incense container was in His Majesty’s crafted chair, and it’s true that that incense container has the lingering scent of poison. So, I’m going to have Mokuren examine that container. Then, I’ll think about what to do after that.”
“You want Mokuren to? I don’t like him. He’s foolish and elusive. Can you trust him?”
Garan raised his eyebrow. The military and Department of Incenses have always been on bad terms. That was probably the reason for Garan’s disgust.
“I trust Mokuren. Father was forced out of the palace, and died in an accident, so Mother and I moved out of the mansion and lived downtown. But Mother was too weak to work, and I was still a child. We had a hard time finding food to eat every day.”
She didn’t remember much about those days. But she vividly remembered that she was hungry every day.
“It was then that Mokuren came to visit us. He told us that Father took care of him, and he gave us some money to buy food and medicine for Mother. He also taught me how to make incenses.”
She had a good nose, but she didn’t know how to make incenses, so Mokuren took time to teach her.
“When I was able to make my own money by making incenses, I used my first salary to buy fragrances and mixed an incense to give to Mokuren. It’s safe to say that most of the incenses that I make on my own fail, but I really wanted to succeed at that particular incense, so I made it over and over again until I finally made it.”
She still remembered the expression Mokuren made when she had presented him with the incense.
“Riri, you made an incense on your own? It’s going to rain spears tomorrow,” he said while laughing happily.
“Mokuren still asks me to make the incense for him because he likes it so much. So, when he runs out, I mix up some more and give it to him… If it weren’t for Mokuren, then Mother and I would have starved to death. He saved my life and is my incense master.”
Garan finally relaxed as she finished talking about her fond memories.
“I didn’t know he was that kind. I’m sorry. I spoke ill of someone who is dear to you.”
“It’s alright. The thoughts of many people are mixed up in the palace, so it’s difficult to see a person’s true nature. However, there are always people in the palace who can be trusted. Just like you, Garan.”
She smiled and Garan widened his eyes in surprise for a second. Then, his face turned red, and he looked away.
“I’m cooperating with you because I want to find the culprit as the general in charge of the palace… I’ll wait a bit more before returning to your cell. It’s not safe for you to go alone, so I’ll go with you to Mokuren’s room.”
Him blushing with his huge body made Riri think he was kind of cute.
“Thanks! Then, let’s go. Let’s go catch the real culprit!”
They nodded at each other, then she ran after Garan who had turned his back towards her.