Riri quietly opened the door to Mokuren’s room in the Incense Palace. She gambled whether he would be in the incense palace or not.
She heard that he slept in the mixing room almost every day, so she thought it was highly likely that he was here and was relieved to see that he was actually at his desk. Mokuren turned towards her, having noticed that the door had opened.
“Riri! I’ve been worried. I’m glad to see you’re okay.”
She looked at the relieved Mokuren and couldn’t help but smile. She looked at Garan who was standing outside to guard the door. They both nodded, then she stepped into the room and closed the door behind her.
“You’re alright as well Mokuren. I was worried that you might have been caught since you’re my guarantor.”
“I was interrogated, but I’m also the head of the Department of Incenses, so I have quite a high status in the palace and that’s why I wasn’t thrown into jail. I tried to get Kousho-sama to release you from prison, but he said he won’t do so until he has finished investigating the incident. You’re here now, so does that mean that you’ve been set free? Are you free of suspicion?”
Mokuren ran up to her and she couldn’t look straight at him, so she dropped her gaze to the floor.
“No. Actually… I escaped.”
“What did you say!? That’s not good.”
“I know. But I really wanted to check the hall where His Majesty was almost assassinated. I was just at the hall and found this in the crafted chair that His Majesty was sitting on.”
She took out the incense container that she had hidden in her sleeve and held it out.
“There’s a chance that the poisonous incense was inside here. The culprit might have used this. So, I wanted to find out if there was a poisonous incense inside of this container.”
“A poisonous incense was put in here…? Give that to me.”
When she handed him the incense container, Mokuren opened the lid and fanned it with his hand to smell the fragrance inside of the container.
“I can’t smell anything, but did your olfaction pick up a poisonous scent from here?”
“Yes, but it was really faint. I wish I could have found it sooner.”
“I see… The reason why the scent is faint is because time had passed since it was used, and also because only a little amount had been used. Kousho-sama and General Garan were also on the platform. If there was a poisonous incense in the crafted chair, then they must have smelled it too. But only His Majesty fainted. In other words, the amount of poisonous incense must have been adjusted so that it would only work on His Majesty who is physically weak.”
As expected of the head of the Department of Incenses, he was good at guessing. Mokuren brought out a small bottle from his desk.
“It’s impossible to find out what kind of fragrance was used. But if we want to find out if it was poisonous or not, then I might be able to.”
Mokuren placed a brush in the bottle and dripped the liquid on the brush into the incense container.
“This changes colour when it mixes with poison. It’s originally clear, but…”
The liquid quickly turned red inside of the incense container. It looked like blood and it made Riri shiver.
She looked up with her eyes wide open and Mokuren nodded slightly.
“It looks like there are traces of poison in this. It seems like this belongs to the culprit. Whose is it?”
She hesitated to speak. She was afraid to say this belongs to Kousho even if she was speaking to Mokuren.
She had all the evidence she needed, but she wanted to hear the truth directly from Kousho’s mouth.
(I’ll talk to Kousho-sama directly after all. I’ll ask him about this incense container this time. It might be difficult for the two of us to meet, but I might be able to see him if Garan helped me somehow.)
Mokuren took a step closer to her as she pondered about this.
“You look like you’re thinking about something, but you should return to your cell for now. It’s not good if they find out that you’ve escaped from your cell. I’ll do whatever I can to prove your innocence.”
“No, there’s someone I really need to talk to. Please give me back the incense container.”
“No. You shouldn’t get involved in anything more dangerous.”
She knew that he was worried about her, but she couldn’t back down now. She took the incense container from Mokuren in her haste. She lost her balance and was going to fall.
She was able to avoid falling to the floor thanks to Mokuren’s quick reaction.
(Mokuren is holding me in his arms. I’m so embarrassed…! Huh, this smell…?)
She smelled a nice aroma coming from Mokuren. It was quite subtle and mixed with the scent of magnoliameaning of Mokuren’s name itself, so she couldn’t recognise it for a moment, but it smelled like the incense she had given to him before.
Something bothered her when she smelled the scent, but she didn’t know what it was so she wanted to smell it again, but Mokuren let her go.
“Are you alright, Riri?”
“… Yes. I’m sorry. Thank you for checking the incense container.”
She wanted to check the scent, but if she stayed here any longer then Mokuren would tell her to return to her cell.
She had no choice but to turn her back and run out of the room.
He called for her to stop, but she ran to Garan who was waiting outside.
Garan took Riri to Kousho’s room.
Garan looked reluctant when she told him that she wanted to talk to Kousho. But he also wanted to find out the truth, so after some persuasion, he promised to help her meet Kousho.
“Excuse me, Kousho-sama. I would like to talk to you about the attempted assassination of His Majesty.”
Garan said in front of Kousho’s room, and a voice came from within.
His voice was low, and it almost made Riri shiver. He was the Crown Prince of this kingdom, who until a month or so ago was someone unreachable for her. She hadn’t expected to learn so much about him.
As she followed Gran into the room, she noticed the golden lattice that filled the walls.
The large, candle-lit room was neat and clean, without much in the way of furnishings.
Kousho was sitting on an upholstered chair, reading something and he looked surprised when he looked at Garan and Riri.
“… When did you cosy up to Garan?”
Kousho fixed his gaze on Garan who was standing next to Riri. The expression on his face was the same as usual, but in this enclosed room, she could clearly smell from his sweat that he was angry.
(In the past, I could hardly smell the sweat scent that comes out when one is panicking, angry or sad coming from him. So, I thought he was someone who didn’t have many emotional surges, but he’s quite angry right now. It’s unusual for him to show so much emotion.)
She thought he was a strong-willed person who could control his emotions, but it seemed like he wasn’t.
“I’m not getting cosy with him. We’re just helping each other find the real culprit. I had him bring me here because I really wanted to talk to you about something, Kousho-sama.”
She looked next to her and saw Garan bowing deeply.
“I apologise. I was ordered to put Riri in jail and not let anyone near her, but I concluded that she isn’t the culprit, and we are working together to catch the real culprit. It’s true that I disobeyed your orders, no matter the reason. I’m prepared to be punished.”
“No way…! It’s not his fault, Kousho-sama. He took me here because I asked him to. Please don’t punish him.”
Riri looked at Garan’s eyes as he whispered her name. She folded her arms like she was praying and nodded at him.
“… Don’t stare at each other.”
It was a low voice that she had never heard from Kousho before. She quickly turned her head and saw that he was in a bad mood. He stared at Garan.
“If you want to talk to me, then I’ll listen. Garan, you get out.”
“I told you to get out. Did you not hear me?”
It was a voice that was clearly used to giving orders. Garan clenched both of his fists tightly.
“I understand… Riri, I’ll be waiting for you outside.”
Garan looked worried, but she nodded slightly and smiled.
Garan walked out of the room and closed the door. Silence reigned in the room for a while.
“Now then, what is it you want to talk about? No matter what you have to say to me, coming to a man’s room in the middle of the night like this isn’t a good idea. You’re a talented person from my inner palace. You can’t complain no matter what I do to you.”
She could smell the angry scent of sweat getting strong as Kousho walked up to her. However, he had a sweet smile on his face. She tilted her head in confusion since Kousho had said something that he wouldn’t normally say.
“Is there something wrong with you for you to say something like that to me? I’m just a little girl who doesn’t have any sex appeal.”
She repeated the words that she had heard from him before right back at him and Kousho smiled wryly.
“You’re not cute at all. But you don’t know that men will want to conquer that part of you.”
Kousho’s hand touched her cheek. She was surprised and tried to back away, but there was a wall right behind her.
His hands were pressed against the wall, sandwiching her face between them.
In front of her was Kousho’s face, and his hands were on either side of her face. She couldn’t escape.
“… You’re joking, right?”
She did think that she was in a dangerous situation, but she also thought that there was no way that the Crown Prince of this kingdom would be interested in her. Besides, he never told her that he viewed her as a woman. But she could smell that he was ‘serious’.
(Eh?! Why?! There are more beautiful women in his inner palace than me! Why are you so interested in me when you’ve been running away from your inner palace?!)
Her head was full of questions. While she was confused, Kousho drew his face so close that she could almost breathe on him.
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