“I know about that too, but it doesn’t matter who her father is. It’s the rule at the Ministry of Incense.”
Kansou didn’t relent. Garan was still trying to speak in protest, but Riri stopped him with her arm.
“I understand. I’ll wait outside. Please take your time.”
She smiled, but she felt frustrated inside. She wondered why she wasn’t allowed to enter the mixing room just because she is a woman. She wanted to have a thorough discussion with Kansou deep down, but she had come to the Ministry of Incense, so that Seirai could look around. It would affect his observation of the palace if they were to start fighting over this. She didn’t want to get in the way.
Seirai looked at her and smiled a little.
“Then I’ll also not go in. I don’t need to go into the mixing room, just tell me about the tools that are used in there.”
Riri quickly approached Seirai and shook her head.
“You have to go in, Seirai-sama. You came to Shinzui to see the Ministry of Incense.”
“Yes, but I don’t want to enter into a stuffy, all-male mixing room without Riri. And I know a little about incenses, so it’ll be fine if he just explains what tools are needed.”
Seirai looked at Kansou and slowly smiled.
“But you have a backbone. Everyone has been treating me with great caution ever since I came to Shinzui, but this is the first-time things haven’t gone my way.”
Seirai didn’t seem offended. He was as happy as a soldier who had found a worthy opponent.
“I’m sorry, but it’s the rule.”
“I like your stubbornness. But sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way you want it to. It’s a mistake to act that strict.”
Riri knew that it would be bad if things continued this way. Seirai really wanted to give up on observing the mixing room.
“Please wait. Please continue with your observations. I would also like to see more incenses being used in Koran. Incenses have infinite possibilities. If it flourishes, then people who are suffering from mental and physical ailments may be saved.”
She had been around incenses ever since she was born, and she had been saved by them on many occasions.
She wanted him and the citizens of Koran to know how wonderful incenses are.
That was why she had volunteered herself to show him around.
Seirai put a hand on his chin and pondered.
“Alright. I’ll look around if you tell me to. But I’m worried about you waiting here alone.”
“I’m fine. I can see the mixing room from here, so I’ll be able to watch and learn from the perfumers.”
She smiled and Seirai sighed a little.
“Then, I apologise, but please wait here.”
She saw Seirai and the others off, and Kansou, who was at the very back, suddenly stopped in front of her.
“… Your feeling towards incenses is the same as your father’s. Saido-sama had a difficult personality, but he was very passionate about mixing incenses. The rules may change one day when female perfumers are recognised.”
He spoke in a quiet voice, but it sounded a little warmer than before.
(What he said just now means that I will be able to openly enter the mixing room when the rule changes, right?)
He had said that in support. She watched as he walked into the mixing room and bowed her head.
“Kansou-sama… thank you very much.”
The encouragement from an unexpected person was more encouraging than anything else.
They left when Seirai finished looking around the Ministry of Incense.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting, Riri, but I’m done. Now, I would like you to share your knowledge of incenses with me. How about having a cup of tea in my room? Just the two of us.”
The first to react to Seirai’s sweet whispers was Garan, who was walking behind Seirai and Riri.
“As I’ve said before, it’s not just the two of you.”
Seirai stopped and put his hands on his hips.
“Garan, you’re not very thoughtful like always. At times like this, you should let Riri, and I be alone.”
“I can’t do that. Kousho-sama has ordered me not to leave you two alone. Also, Consort Riri was allowed to go to your room to pick you up, but she was never told that she could enter your room.”
“No way! So how do I get Riri alone and persuade her?”
“You seem to have forgotten, but Consort Riri is Kousho-sama’s talented person. You can’t seduce her.”
Garan replied calmly and Seirai pouted.
“I can’t take her to my room, so how about we go to Riri’s room?”
The word ‘give up’ didn’t exist in Seirai’s mind. She quickly shook her head.
“Absolutely not! Men aren’t allowed in the inner palace without permission… How about we have a cup of tea in the Guest Palace Garden since the weather is nice today? I’d like to talk to you about incenses.”
Seirai looked unhappy, but he nodded reluctantly.
“Alright. I’d be satisfied with being able to talk with you for the time being.”
The smile on his face was dazzlingly beautiful, but she reminded herself not to be captivated by it.
Garan, who was standing at the lead, prompted Seirai.
“This way, then.”
He led them to the garden with the best view.
It was paved with white gravel and there were neatly arranged pine trees in the garden.
Colourful peonies were planted elegantly beside the trees.
Garan led Seirai to a scarlet pavilion and motioned his hand towards the Guest Palace.
Soon after, a maid brought tea and sweets. Seirai looked somewhat troubled when the tea was presented to him on a small table in the pavilion.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t like hot tea, could you make me some cold tea?”
The maid bowed her head and Seirai smiled.
“It’s alright. Garan, you can teach her how to make my favourite tea.”
“But I can’t leave your side…”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure you have men posted secretly around the place. Just have them keep an eye on me. And I swear I won’t move away from her either. I’ll just have a chat with Riri. I’m thirsty, so I’d like to have a nice cup of tea.”
Garan looked diagonally to the right. There was a large tree planted there.
Riri had noticed the scent of people in the area a while ago. It was hard to tell because they were outside, but there seemed to be two people around since there were two different scents. They were probably Garan’s men.
“Then, I’ll go prepare some tea. I’ll be right back.”
Garan bowed and left with the made.
“Come here, Riri.”
She sat in front of Seirai and took out a dozen sheets of paper from the cloth bag she had brought with her.
“I’d like to talk about incenses right away. First of all, I have summarised all the basics about incenses and their preparation methods here. You can use these as references. And…”
There were detailed descriptions of fragrances and tools on several of the papers.
She spent last night making these documents because she wanted to explain the beauty of incenses to Seirai.
“Hmmm, over here, ah…!”
She was about to pass the paper to Seirai, but her hands slipped because she was nervous, so she dropped the paper.
She quickly went to pick the paper up when she heard Seirai’s voice.
“You love incenses, don’t you Riri? Did you do your best to make these documents without sleeping because you wanted me to understand your favourite incenses?”
“How did you know that I didn’t sleep?”
She didn’t look like she lacked sleep. She blinked and Seirai winked.
“We haven’t known each other for very long, but I was observing you because I wanted to know more about you, so I can notice the smallest changes in you. I’m happy you did this for me, but don’t overwork yourself.”
He said gently, then picked up the paper on the floor.
She wanted to ask him to stop, but Seirai’s attention was turned towards the piece of paper that had dropped to the ground.
She was taken aback when she heard that word.
(Dammit! I brought the wrong papers!)
The paper was on her own research of fragrances she expected can be used to prepare the treasured incense. There was no way Seirai could connect it to the treasured incense, but she was panicking in her mind.
“This isn’t part of the documents I prepared for you! May I have it back?”
She held out her hand, but Seirai quickly stood up and held the paper out of reach.
“Ambergris? I’m actually very interested in ambergris. I’ve heard it can be used to make things easier, but it’s very expensive and many times more valuable than gold. I’d like to know what it smells like.”
“Ambergris isn’t easy to obtain. It’s…”
“Found inside whales, right?”
She tried to explain how to obtain ambergris, but Seirai easily finished her sentence.
“You know how or where it’s found?”
Ambergris was well-known, but it was rare for someone to actually see or smell it.
It was a rare and hard-to-find material. Seirai nodded lightly.
“Yeah. Ambergris is a hardened stone-like substance made from the impurities in a whale’s body. It’s difficult to catch a whale and it’s not always possible to find ambergris inside of them. Therefore, it is said to be a phantom material. But I heard it can occasionally be found in Shinzui.”
“Yes. I heard that whales often wash up on the sandy beaches to the east of Shinzui because of the currents. Ambergris can be harvested from those whales, even though it’s really rare to find them.”
“I see. I’m jealous. There are lakes in Koran, but no ocean. To the east of Koran is Shinzui and to the west is Sairin. There are steep, rocky mountains to the north and south of Koran, so we can’t go out to the sea. That’s why I’ve never seen ambergris before. What kind of fragrance does it have?”
Riri stared at Seirai, and something that had bothered her popped into her mind again, so she tilted her head.
“… Don’t you already know a lot about incenses, Seirai-sama?”
As she recalled, every word he said and everything he did revealed his deep knowledge of incenses.
“Not really. I learnt a little about them when I came to visit.”
“Do you learn that much about incenses just from studying about it a little?”
“Yeah. I’m good at remembering things. I think I have the best memory in Koran.”
She thought he was joking, but she could tell from his expression that he wasn’t.
Then, she remembered that Kousho had said that Seirai was the smartest person in Koran.
“The best in Koran…?”
But she still couldn’t believe that and muttered, and Seirai shrugged.
“Yeah, Koran also has civil examinations to become a civil official. I took the exam to see how well I could got do, and I got a perfect score and ranked first.”
Riri looked at the smiling Seirai and widened her eyes in surprise.
“You passed with a perfect score…?! Really?!”
“Well, yeah. I’ve always been good at memorizing things, and I never forget anything I’ve read. I studied for a couple of days for the exam, but I was able to answer all the questions.”
She believed that Seirai must be incredibly smart if that were true.
“Then you know a lot about incenses even without me having to tell you about them?”
“I only memorized everything I studied. I may know as much as perfumers around here, but it’s still not enough. And since I’ve come all the way to Shinzui, I want to get acquainted with the pretty women of this kingdom.”
Seirai was serious.
The materials she had made without sleeping would be useless if he had as much knowledge as a perfumer.
“Then… what can I do for you?”
Her role was to show him around the palace and tell him about incenses.
But she didn’t know what to do since he already knew a lot about incenses.
“Well… Then there’s something I would like you to tell me.”
Seirai’s expression suddenly turned serious, and he looked at her.
“――― I want to know about the treasured incense.”