“That’s right. Now comes the less known fact. The Master Perfumer who held the Qilin title was a woman.”
“She was… a woman?”
She had never heard this before. She knew about the Master Perfumer who created the treasured incense, but she assumed that he was a man.
“She was. She caught the eye of the Emperor and was welcomed as the Empress. She was called the Fragrance Princess, not the Empress, because of her mastery of incense. And the palace that she used at that time was the Fragrance Princess Palace.”
“Amazing…! Is it alright for me to use such a legendary palace?”
She asked anxiously and Kousho smiled.
“It’s fine. In fact, it was said that the first Empress was good at dancing. When she danced for her husband, the Emperor, she would burn an appropriate incense to liven up the dance. When my father saw you burning the incense at the banquet the other day, he thought you might be the second coming of the Fragrance Princess.”
She felt honoured that the Emperor thought so. Kousho continued.
“When my father had smelled the incense that you had made for the dance, he once again realised that you could really recreate the treasured incense if you are the second coming of the Fragrance Princess. He hopes that the treasured incense will be perfected and it is with that hope that he gave you the Fragrance Princess Palace.”
She felt afraid but she wanted to live up to his expectations more than anything.
“I will definitely make the treasured incense for His Majesty and you, Kousho-sama.”
She smiled and Kousho gently placed his hand on her head.
“I want the treasured incense, but don’t overdo it. Let me know if you need anything.”
The gentle look in his eyes was completely different from his usual arrogance.
Her heart skipped a beat when he looked at her.
The hand on her head was large and warm. Her heart thumped louder as they continued to look at each other.
She pondered what the ache in her heart was, but she couldn’t find the answer.
She suddenly thought of the blurry boy who always appeared in her dreams as she stared at Kousho.
Her face suddenly turned red, and Kousho tilted his head in confusion.
“What’s wrong? You’re all red.”
She couldn’t answer his question.
(How can the boy, who doesn’t actually exist, overlap with Kousho-sama…?)
She managed to regain her composure despite her confusion. She finally had the right conditions to start dedicating all her time to making the treasured incense.
She had to perfect the treasured incense in order to clear her father’s name and fulfil her dream of becoming a perfumer.
She decided to work as hard as she could to make the incense for Kousho, who was helping her.
Kousho gently took his hand away from her head, and Riri felt sad that the warmth from his hand was leaving.
She was happy to be able to talk to him like this since it had been a while, so she wanted to be with him for a little longer.
She was about to speak to him when someone suddenly jumped out from a thicket behind her.
“Riri! You can’t be unfaithful!”
Someone hugged her from behind before she even had time to be surprised.
Looking closely, she could see the person that had hugged her was the silver haired, Seirai.
“Seirai-sama!? Weren’t you returning to Koran?”
She was confused as to why he was here when he was supposed to have returned to Koran about half a month ago. It was said that it took half a month to get to Koran by palanquin.
“I’m back. I didn’t take a palanquin back to Koran. I rode full-speed on a horse and changed horses several times on the way. It took me four days to cover the distance that would have taken a palanquin half a month to cover.”
She was dumbfounded by the smiling Seirai.
“Isn’t that because you rode a horse without much sleep?”
“Ah. I thought I was going to faint since it’s been a long time since I’ve had a good night’s rest. But I wanted to present the incense that Riri gave me to the Emperor as soon as possible. As you said, the effect was so amazing that my father was willing to cancel my sister’s marriage in exchange for the incense. He said that a life saving incense is worth more than anything else.”
Seirai looked much brighter than he did before. His tone was light, and she could tell that he was somewhat excited. The incense that she had made was more effective than she had expected.
“Wah! I am glad to hear that. I am honoured to have been of service. But… can you please let me go now?”
Seirai had been hugging her since earlier. Kousho’s emotions changed.
“… Let go.”
Kousho forcefully shook of Seirai’s hands and took a step forward to face him.
“You should have left already. And what’s this about an incense? What are you talking about? Your sister’s marriage? I haven’t heard anything about this.”
His tone was polite, but Riri could tell that he was holding back his anger. Seirai sighed.
“Riri, a man who needs to know everything about his partner is bound to be very restricting. Why don’t you leave the inner palace and come to me?”
“Did you hear what I said?”
Kousho approached them, but Seirai kept looking at Riri and ignored Kousho.
“Riri. My father said he wants more of that incense. He never got rid of his pills since he never knew when he was going to have an attack, but Riri’s incense is much more effective and fast-acting. He told me to get more and kicked me out of the kingdom. He also told me that I can’t return until I got more of that incense.”
I was delighted that there were people who were relieved of their suffering thanks to my incenses.
“People get anxious when they are sick, especially if they get seizures and don’t know when it will happen, so they want to keep their medicine and incense close at hand.”
“My father also does that. That got me thinking.”
Seirai playfully closed one eye and leaned closer to her.
“You’re the only person who can make this incense, so you can always make this incense for him if I take you with me to Koran. When I told my father about this idea of mine, he was overjoyed and told me to definitely bring you back with me. So, please be my wife, Riri.”
Riri blinked her eyes at his sudden proposal. She thought he was joking, but he was serious.
Kousho’s face flushed with anger, and he yelled in a deep voice.
“Riri is a talented person in my inner palace. Please don’t just flirt with her as you wish!”
“But she’s not a real consort yet. I’ll do whatever it takes to take her back with me if she falls in love with me. Oh yeah. I’m going to stay in Shinzui for a while longer to continue learning more about incenses. Let Riri be my guide. This is an official letter of request from Koran’s Emperor to Shinzui’s Emperor. Emperor Reibun won’t refuse this for the peace of both nations.”
What he said was correct. Kousho shook his fist.
“Ah, I’m looking forward to it. The prospect of love is always exciting. I’ll put everything I have into courting you, so be prepared, Riri.”
Kousho exploded in anger when he saw how happy Seirai was.
“Your love prospects definitely won’t come! I want you to leave now. This is my inner palace.”
Kousho dragged Seirai out of the garden as if to chase him away. She realised something as she watched the two of them.
(He asked me to guide him around again, right? I finally got my own palace and can concentrate on making the treasured incense, but I have to show him around again? The method for making the treasured incense can’t be known to anyone. I have to make sure that no one knows I’m making it. What should I do? I don’t know if I can pull this off. How hard can it be to lie to Seirai-sama while working hard on the treasured incense and hiding it from everyone?)
She almost sighed as she thought about her new life.
Garan was hiding behind a large tree in the back garden of Beautiful Flower Palace while watching the exchange between Riri and Kousho.
Guarding Riri was an order from Kousho. That was why he was by her side even before the beauty pageant started.
She was his friend. He liked her sincere attitude towards incenses and how she always tried her best and persevered.
But he noticed that his feelings towards her had changed somewhat after being with her all the time for about a month.
His feelings towards her hadn’t changed to dislike. He felt bad because his feelings hadn’t changed in that direction.
Just calling her name made his heart tighten. It was the first time he had ever felt this way about a woman. He succeeded his father at a young age and has been in charge of the army as a General.
If he had time to be interested in women, then he would have taken that time to train in martial arts.
Kousho put his hand on Riri’s head and patted it. It was a casual gesture, but it made Riri’s face turn red.
He had known Kousho since they were children, but this was the first time he had seen him with such a calm face.
Kousho had special feelings for Riri. He had known that for a long time.
He believed that Riri also had feelings for Kousho. The two of them looked so happy together.
But he felt as if his heart was being torn in two when he saw them like this.
He admitted that he ‘likes’ her.
“But Riri is a talented person in Beautiful Flower Palace. I can’t allow myself to fall in love with my master’s consort.”
The first time he was aware that he had such feelings for her was when he heard her talking to Hisui just before the banquet. He was so angry at that time that he almost forgot himself. He knew how much effort Riri had put into practicing dancing, so he couldn’t forgive them for stealing her outfit and mask.
He had been hiding since Kousho had told him to secretly guard her, but he couldn’t hold back and entered Hisui’s room. He knew he wasn’t allowed to enter a consort’s room even if he was in charge of guarding them. He knew that, but he forgot about it since blood had rushed to his head.
But Riri said that she would forgive Hisui’s maid. A raging storm would blow through Beautiful Flower Palace if people knew that Hisui’s maid had stolen Riri’s outfit and mask. Riri had said that because she knew what would happen.
Garan believed that Riri was a strong person. He was struck by her strength to forgive others.
He wanted to tear out his heart because of this painful love, but this feeling was a betrayal to his lord.
He received the Phoenix title, so he will live the rest of his life as Kousho’s right-hand man, since he will receive the Dragon title once he becomes the emperor.
He vowed this when Kousho had saved him when he was falsely accused and thrown in jail.
This feeling went against that vow.
He couldn’t snatch away the woman that his lifesaver loves.
But he couldn’t easily stop this feeling now that he was aware of it.
He held his aching heart and turned his attention once more to Riri and Kousho, who were in the back garden.
“I must never let Riri find out about this feeling…”
He clenched his fists so hard that they bled.
Garan bit his lip gently as he stared at Riri and Kousho in the small garden where the sun was beginning to set.