Kourin asked Riri quite a few questions, but she thought she answered them reasonably well even though her answers weren’t perfect. She sighed as a way to get rid of some of her tension.
“… Then, this will be the last question.”
Riri kept her face stiff but felt relieved.
“This question is about Shinzui. What kingdoms are around Shinzui?”
Garan had explained this to her many times. He told her to remember this because she would definitely get this question.
She thanked Garan and stared straight at Kourin.
“To the east, south and north of Shinzui, which is located on the east side of the continent, is the sea, and to the west is Koran. On the west side of the continent across from Koran is Sairin.”
“Then, so you know about the mines that lie between us and Koran?”
“Yes. There’s a lot of gold in the mines. Our neighbouring kingdom, Koran, has been arguing with us over the rights of the mine. However, there hasn’t been a single war since His Majesty, Ju Reibun, started ruling. His Majesty maintained friendly relations with Koran through diplomacy.”
“Which side has the rights to the mines right now?”
“Shinzui. Shinzui has agreed to give a quarter of the mined gold to Koran. The agreement that His Majesty secured at the Three Kingdom Peace Conference 20 years ago will be passed down for years to come.”
Kourin nodded in admiration when she summarised what Garan had taught her.
“Oh, you know about the Three Kingdom Peace Conference as well. Then, I would like you to talk about the conference.”
“The emperors of Shinzui, Koran and Sairin gathered together for the Three Kingdom Peace Conference 20 years ago. Emperor Ju Reibun had just been crowned. In order to resolve the long-running disagreement between Shinzui and Koran, he formally obtained the mining concession on the condition that the Koran Emperor would receive a quarter of the mined gold.”
In words, it sounded simple enough.
However, Koran wouldn’t peacefully give up on mines where gold can be extracted.
That was why there had been a long history of war between Shinzui and Koran.
The things that the three emperors discussed during the conference are not known to the public.
However, the rumours said that Emperor Ju Reibun had allied with the Emperor of Sairin and they drove the Emperor of Koran into a corner. Kourin, who had been expressionless, smiled slightly.
“… That’s a pretty good answer. The Four Consorts support the emperor. They must have a good understanding of state affairs in order to talk with the emperor.”
Kourin put the paper he was holding onto the desk and put his hands on his knees.
“That concludes the interview. The results will be announced tomorrow, so please wait until then.”
(He said that my answers were good. He was complimenting me, right? I’m glad…!)
She was happy but she didn’t let it show on her face and bowed her head.
“Then, please excuse me.”
She quietly left the room, not letting her guard down until the end.
She closed the door softly and took a deep breath.
She knew she couldn’t be careless even though Kourin had praised her.
There was no way she could easily beat the noble ladies who have been honing their intelligence and beauty since childhood.
Still, she hoped for the best and headed to the back garden where Ryouka and Garan were waiting.
Riri walked up to Ryouka and Garan who were waiting for her in a small pavilion in the back garden.
Ryouka stood up and ran out of the pavilion.
“How was it, Riri-sama?”
“I answered what I could.”
Garan stood in front of her while looking worried.
“How were the questions? Did I guess them right?”
“Yes. You were spot on. Thanks. I managed to answer the questions thanks to you.”
“You were able to answer the questions because you remembered the content well, Riri. That’s good to hear.”
She was happy to hear that. Many of the questions posed by Kourin were quite difficult, but she was able to answer them calmly thanks to the calming incense that she had burnt just before her interview.
She was relieved that she had done her best.
“The results will be announced tomorrow. I just have to wait for them.”
Garan raised his eyebrow slightly.
“I wanted to come with you to hear the results, but I can’t. I just got a message from one of my men, so I’m going to be busy tomorrow. I can’t go with you to hear the results; will you be alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine, but what happened?”
She was worried since the general who was in charge of the army would be busy.
She tilted her head curiously and he looked troubled.
“Actually, I heard that Koran’s Crown Prince will be visiting our kingdom for a few days. He’s here in secret and will be visiting the palace tomorrow.”
Riri couldn’t help but stare at Garan who had his arms folded.
“Koran? The neighbouring kingdom?”
Garan nodded and Ryouka and Riri looked at each other.
“Koran has been at odds with Shinzui over the mines at the border, right? Kourin-sama asked me a question about this earlier.”
“Yeah. We have been able to avoid going to war with them thanks to the Emperor’s diplomatic skills, but we’re still in a tense situation where anything can happen. It will be extremely problematic if something were to happen to Koran’s Crown Prince in our kingdom.”
Ju Reibun is the only Emperor in the long history of Shinzui who has never been to war. He is a wise emperor who worked hard for peace and was respected by kingdoms on the continent where Shinzui is located as well as kingdoms on the other side of the sea where Shinzui traded with by ship. Garan sighed.
“We could have found a way to stop him before he came into the palace if we had known he was coming earlier, but we have no choice but to let him in now since he will be arriving tomorrow. We can’t stop him from entering the palace. But I honestly don’t want him to be here. I want to yell at him and tell him not to come.”
“No way, joking like that doesn’t suit you Garan.”
Riri tried to laugh but she froze when she saw his expression.
“You look scary right now Garan. Were you serious?”
Garan is a polite and serious person. There was no way he would talk like this about the Crown Prince of a neighbouring kingdom.
However, Garan nodded.
“Yeah, I’m serious. I’ve met Koran’s Crown Prince several times, and although this sounds disrespectful, he’s not someone who I’d want to get close to. Kousho-sama and Koran’s Crown Prince have never gotten along, and it’s my job to mediate between them. Frankly, I’m sick of it.”
Riri thought that Koran’s Crown Prince must be a very difficult person to deal with because Garan never spoke like this about someone.
“What does Koran’s Crown Prince want to do in the palace?”
“He’s inspecting the Ministry of Incense. There are perfumers in Koran, but their status isn’t as high as the ones in Shinzui. I’ve heard that their incenses aren’t as developed as they are in Shinzui. He wants to see what the Ministry of Incense is like since they also use incenses to treat the sick in Koran.”
Riri had never been to Koran, but she heard that they had beautiful mountains and lakes. Garan sighed loudly.
“Anyway, I must ask Kousho-sama to refrain from using his poisonous tongue. Of course, I want Koran’s Crown prince to return unharmed, but I also don’t want him to feel uncomfortable. We don’t know how Koran’s Emperor would twist things. We have to be overly cautious.”
Garan was really depressed.
“That sounds tough. Just let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”
Garan finally smiled kindly.
“Thanks. I’m just happy to hear you say that.”
Riri and Garan smiled at each other, then Garan’s gaze went over her head.
Riri turned around at the sound of Garan’s voice and she saw Kousho walking over with four or five noble ladies.
She tilted her head in confusion when she saw this.
(This is rare. I can’t believe he’s in his inner palace, and he’s smiling at the ladies. He always says that he doesn’t want his own inner palace and avoided the ladies.)
Her head was filled with questions, but she kneeled down first. Kousho is the Crown Prince, and the noble ladies had a higher status than her. She had to pay her respects to them.
Garan also got down on one knee and bowed.
“Koran’s Crown Prince will be here tomorrow.”
“I know. Give him the best welcome we can, then get him to leave.”
“Oh my, Kousho-sama. That’s mean.”
The ladies giggled and Kousho smiled at them.
“Koran’s Crown Prince is quite a womanizer. Don’t be tempted by him. I’ll be lonely.”
(What?! What’s with those words?! It was his voice, but it didn’t sound like something he would say.)
Riri stared at him in surprise, but he kept smiling at the noble ladies.
She hadn’t misheard him. Garan also widened his eyes in surprise.
Kousho put his hands around the ladies’ shoulders.
“Now, let’s go, my ladies.”
One of the ladies raised her voice as Kousho was about to step forward.
“Kousho-sama. How about you invite Consort Riri to tea, I heard she’s your favourite.”
Ranran was smiling, but her eyes weren’t. She didn’t approve of Riri entering the Beautiful Flower Palace because she had low status and thought of Riri as an enemy. Kousho glanced at Riri.
“There’s a rumour like that? I can’t believe people are saying that this unattractive, half-developed girl is my favourite. Please stop spreading those rumours since it’ll look like I have bad taste. I occasionally talk to her because I think her nose is handy.”
Riri didn’t understand what he had said for a second and her eyes widened in surprise. She stared at him, and he snorted.
He took the ladies with him as he left. She was dumbfounded as she stared at them leave.
(What’s wrong with him? The way he said that was pretty harsh…)
He had given her sweets and a peach the other day. His attitude was completely different from when he did that.
She knew that Kousho had a sharp tongue, but his current attitude was completely different from how he acted previously.
(He sounded as if he hated me. But why is he acting like that when he asked me to become one of the Four Consorts? Is there a reason behind his actions…?)
She didn’t know what Kousho was thinking. She believed that he was a generous man even though he often spoke coldly. He must have a reason for suddenly changing his attitude.
She thought that it would be bad to ask him for the reason since he hadn’t mentioned it.
After thinking about it, she decided to ask him what was going on the next time she saw him.