Riri and Garan went to a room in the Guest Palace to pick up Seirai.
“Seirai-sama, we have come to pick you up.”
Riri kneeled in front of the room, and Garan who was standing next to her, spoke in a polite manner.
Then, the door slowly opened. Riri looked up to see Seirai smiling.
“Hey, Riri. You look cute today too. You have a very nice smile.”
He gave her a smooth compliment with his greeting. She had never met a man like him before. She bowed her head in confusion at Seirai’s soft smile.
“Good day to you, Seirai-sama. I may be inexperienced, but please let me show you around.”
“Don’t exaggerate. I don’t like it when women bow to me. It’s better if you take it easy, since you’re my fated person, Riri.”
His pick-up line was too shameless, but she was worried that someone might take him seriously since he was good-looking.
“Fated… you say?”
“Yes. You and I are bound by the thread of fate. Let’s have fun together.”
“I’m here too.”
Garan, who was close by, said in a low voice. Seirai looked at Garan and acted surprised.
“Oh, Garan. I didn’t notice you. How long have you been there?”
“I came with Consort Riri, so I’ve been here since a while ago. I’ll be guarding both of you.”
Riri was somewhat embarrassed to be called consort by Garan.
But it was just like him to act moderately in front of people, no matter how close they are.
“Tactless. I thought I was going to be able to spend some quality time with the lovely Riri… Well, whatever. Then, let’s head to the Ministry of Incense, Riri.”
“Okay, Seirai-sama. But first, I would like you to know that I’ve never left the Beautiful Flower Palace, so I don’t know much about the Ministry of Incense. I will accompany you, but the perfumers will be the ones who will guide and explain the Ministry of Incense to you.”
Her father had actually taken her to the Ministry of Incense when she was little.
She had even snuck out of the Beautiful Flower Palace to go to the Ministry of Incense after she had entered the palace.
However, she couldn’t tell others about this, so she pretended that she didn’t know anything about the Ministry of Incense.
“It’s alright. All that matters is that you’re here with me, since it makes me feel better to have a cute flower like you blooming in the stuffy, male-filled Ministry of Incense.”
(Wow. How does he easily come up with such shameless lines?)
She felt both stunned and impressed. Seirai stood up first and started walking.
“Come on, let’s go.”
Garan suddenly stopped as they were all about to start walking.
“Aren’t your companions coming with us?”
Garan looked towards his room. When Riri looked to the room as well, she saw that there were several attendants behind the open door.
They were sitting down and bowing their heads.
“They’re staying behind. I don’t like walking around with too many people.”
“Don’t you need a guard with you?”
Seirai lightly put his arm on the puzzled Garan’s shoulder.
“You’re here, General Garan, the best spearman in Shinzui. Make sure to protect me.”
Seirai smiled and the bewildered Garan nodded.
Seirai began walking down the corridor with a satisfied expression on his face.
After a while, the Grand Chancellor, Jin Koudoku, and Kousho walked towards their direction.
The Grand Chancellor stopped, linked his hands in front of his face and bowed his head.
“Good morning, Seirai-sama. Are you on your way to see the Ministry of Incense?”
“Yes, it’s an honour to be able to directly observe the incense making process in Shinzui. Thank you for allowing me to enter the Ministry of Incense, Kousho.”
Seirai looked towards Kousho, and Kousho nodded calmly.
“I should be the one saying that. It’s an honour to be able to help Koran develop their incenses.”
His words were polite, but Riri could tell that he wasn’t letting his guard out at all from his expression.
(Hmm. I don’t think these two are going to get along after all.)
She muttered in her mind as Seirai continued to speak with an expression that said that he wasn’t bothered by Kousho’s attitude.
“Oh yes, I heard that the final round of the beauty pageant to select your Four Consorts will be held soon. I heard that the ten contestants will be performing the ranryou dance. I’d love to see them dance.”
Riri’s stomach churned when she heard him talk about the final selection dance. She wanted to spare time to practice but she couldn’t neglect her role of showing Seirai around. She heard the Grand Chancellor’s voice while she was worrying.
“You heard about this quickly even though it’s about the inner palace. However, the final selection dance for the beauty pageant will be held in about half a month. I believe you would have returned to your kingdom by then.”
“Half a month later?! I don’t agree with this.”
“… Excuse me?”
The Grand Chancellor asked perplexedly, and Seirai put a hand on his chest.
“I love watching women dance. People say I’m the best dancer in Koran and I’ve performed in front of the Emperor many times. The Beautiful Flower Palace is full of beautiful women. I would love to see them dance!”
Seirai pressed Kousho while smiling.
“Kousho, if you intend to welcome me, then show me their dance. Oh yes! How about holding a banquet to welcome me? I’d like to see them dance at the banquet. I’ll be happy to see beautiful women dance, and you can hold the final selection for the beauty pageant. That’s killing two birds with one stone.”
That may be true, but Riri would have to be his guide and prepare for the final selection at the same time.
(No way! Stop! Please! Don’t accept that suggestion!)
She put her hands together and prayed. The Grand Chancellor looked perplexed, then he looked up at Kousho.
“What do you think, Kousho-sama?”
Seirai looked at Kousho and suddenly smiled wickedly.
“I heard your inner palace has just been created, if the ladies perform a splendid dance at a banquet held for a Crown Prince of another nation, then it’ll surely become a hot topic in other kingdoms. Every nation pays attention to the inner palaces of other nations. If they can dance well, then your fame will rise.”
Seirai chuckled and Kousho smiled sarcastically.
“The Crown Prince of Koran is quite famous for his love of dancing. They would have to be well prepared if they were to dance in front of you. I’m afraid dancing in front of you is too much responsibility for the consorts of the Beautiful Flower Palace.”
Riri guessed that he would refuse. She frantically cheered Kousho on in her mind.
“You’re probably right. But isn’t it normal for them to be able to do something like that? Or are you trying to tell me that the consorts of the next emperor of Shinzui can’t even perform a dance to welcome a royal member from another nation? If that’s the case, then the dignity of the consorts in your inner palace will be questioned.”
Seirai was deliberately speaking in an offensive way.
Kousho looked calm but his fists were clenched as if he was holding back his anger.
The Grand Chancellor, who was watching as things unfolded, stepped forward.
“Kousho-sama, since Seirai-sama came all the way to our nation, why don’t we hold him a banquet and get the consorts to dance for him?”
Riri looked at the situation with bated breath, hoping that Kousho would refuse. Kousho shut his eyes briefly.
“――― If that’s what the Crown Prince of Koran wants…”
In this situation, he had to say that as the Crown Prince of Shinzui. But she felt depressed since she wanted to buy time to practice. Seirai nodded in satisfaction.
“It’s blissful to see beautiful women dancing in beautiful outfits. Oh yeah, I’m fussy about how people dance. I don’t want to see a sloppy dance. I will be staying in Shinzui for another ten days, so we can have the banquet on the day before I leave. They can take their time practicing.”
(In ten days?! The dance was supposed to be in half a month, but now it’s in ten days?! That’s terrible!)
Riri turned pale and the Grand Chancellor blinked his eyes in a panic.
“But why are we holding the banquet so late if the purpose of the banquet is to welcome you…”
“You can just make it a banquet to see me off. Have the consorts practice well, so that they can send me off with the best dance.”
Seirai placed a hand on the Grand Chancellor’s shoulder.
“I’m looking forward to the banquet. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
Many things rushed through Riri’s brain as she quietly followed after Seirai.
(This is bad. I have less time to practice. If I have to dance at the banquet held on the day before Seirai-sama leaves, then there’s only nine days left. It’s better than being told that I have to dance tomorrow, but will I be able to manage in nine days…?)
She had her doubts, but she had no choice but to properly show Seirai the Ministry of Incense first.
“This is the mixing room.”
Kansou, the current head of the Ministry of Incense, led them through the Incense Palace.
Seirai followed after Kansou and Garan walked behind them. Riri, who was behind all three of them, looked around as they walked.
(It looks different from before.)
There were fewer perfumers, and the scattered mixing tools were all neatly organised.
Seirai turned his attention to the mixing room in front of him which could be seen through the opened door.
“The mixing room looks very spacious and seems equipped with all the mixing tools one would need. This is indeed a kingdom thriving in the incense industry. I hope we can build a specialised incense facility of this scale in Koran.”
There were about ten perfumers mixing fragrances in a mortar and burning incenses in a censer in the mixing room.
(So, this is the mixing room. I’ve never seen it before. I want to work here as a perfumer one day…!)
As she was about to enter the mixing room, following Seirai whose eyes were gleaming, she was suddenly blocked by Kansou’s arm.
“Women aren’t allowed to enter the mixing room. This has been the rule since the establishment of the Ministry of Incense. Please wait here.”
His voice was stern. He was over sixty years old and was a large and vigorous man.
She heard that he was famous for being a strict perfumer and that he had supported the Ministry of Incense for a long time.
“She’s special. I asked her to show me around, so it should be alright for her to come in with me, right?”
“Once you allow someone in as an exception, there will be others who wish to be treated in the same way. Therefore, we can’t make any exceptions. It has been long established that women aren’t allowed to enter the mixing room.”
Garan took a step forward.
“Kansou-dono, Riri’s father was the former head of the Ministry of Incense. She is as familiar with the mixing process as any perfumer. Seirai-sama also wishes that she could come in with him.”
Kansou has been in the Ministry of Incense for a long time, so he should know about her father.