Riri’s chest felt tight since she was nervous about what the Emperor of Koran had to say, but she widened her eyes when she heard this.
“He wants to sign a treaty to entrust the mining concessions to Shinzui? Does that mean that Koran will completely give up on the mining concessions?”
As Seirai had mentioned earlier, the Emperor of Koran wasn’t happy that Shinzui had the mining concessions, so she was confused as to why he would say such a thing.
Kousho nodded, then spoke again.
“Yeah. He also stated that he didn’t need us to give him anymore gold in exchange for the mining concessions. A treaty is a formal agreement, so it can’t be easily broken once it’s signed. You understand what will happen once the discussions are over and the treaty stating that the mining concessions belong to Shinzui is signed, right Riri?”
He asked as if he was testing her. Her eyes widened and she nodded slowly.
“We have a long history of conflict with Koran over the mining concessions. Even now, both nations are in a tense situation, and I’ve heard that war would occur should the opportunity present itself. But once a treaty which stipulates the rights of the mining concessions is signed, Shinzui and Koran will no longer be in conflict because of the mining concessions.”
Kousho nodded in satisfaction.
“That’s right. If the treaty is signed, it will be the first step towards peace between the two nations. I’m going to Koran to discuss the details of the treaty on behalf of my unwell father. Seirai will also be returning with me to participate in the discussions as the Crown Prince of Koran.”
“That’s… an extremely important task. But if you succeed, then the tension between Shinzui and Koran will fade, and real peace will be achieved. Good luck in Koran!”
She wholeheartedly said words of support. Seirai had told her before that he didn’t want Shinzui and Koran to go to war against each other and Kousho also said that he wanted to create a kingdom without conflict.
She sincerely hoped that both their wishes came true.
“I can only pray that the discussions will go well, but I will cheer you on from Shinzui…”
“You don’t need to cheer us on from here.”
She had clapped her hands together, but Kousho suddenly interrupted her.
When she blinked her eyes and looked up at him, she saw that he looked somewhat troubled.
“Riri, you’ll be accompanying us to Koran.”
She never expected to hear those words from Kousho. She thought about what he had said and finally understood what he meant.
“I, I’m coming too?! But why am I going?”
She had never heard of a talented person from an inner palace who wasn’t even the wife of the Crown Prince accompanying him to an important meeting between nations. Seirai sighed.
“I also received a letter from my father asking me to return to Koran to participate in the discussions, but… he wrote that I had to bring you with me.”
Kousho put his hands on his hips and continued on from where Seirai had stopped.
“He also wrote to the Emperor of Shinzui saying that I must bring you there because he wanted to thank the person who saved his life after the treaty is concluded.”
One thing came to mind when the Emperor of Koran called her his lifesaver.
“Did he call me his lifesaver because I made the Heart Calming Incense?”
The Heart Calming Incense was an incense that calmed seizures caused by heart disease.
The Emperor of Koran had a heart disease and was suffering from seizures. To stop Seirai’s sister’s marriage, she gave this incense to him to bring back to Koran to calm the Emperor’s seizures. The incense was made from a rare fragrance called ambergris and only she knew how to make this incense since it was her father’s own unique recipe. She heard from Seirai that the incense worked really well and relieved the Emperor of his seizures.
“It’s too much for him to thank me directly. And the discussion about the mining concessions is incredibly important for both nations. I’m afraid of doing something wrong if I go.”
She had never left Shinzui before, much less imagined going to the palace of another nation.
She shook her head, and Kousho took a step towards her.
“I understand how you feel, but I need you to come with me. This treaty must be signed by all means. That mine has been the cause for countless wars in the past. A formal treaty can bring lasting peace to both our kingdoms. I need your help to achieve this.”
Seirai, who was standing next to Kousho, nodded.
“I don’t like war either. I actually don’t have any interest in the mines since it caused so many wars. Even if we don’t rely on the mines, Koran is rich in arts and crafts and the farmlands are nurtured with clean water. Arts and crafts and agriculture are enough to sustain the kingdom. But the emperors up until now, including my father, have been obsessed with those mines.”
Seirai frowned in annoyance.
“Koran has been in countless wars because of their obsession. It’s not often that my father changes his mind. Listen, Riri. We must not miss this opportunity. For the sake of peace for both our nations.”
It was rare to see Seirai speaking so passionately about something other than love. Seirai continued.
“He also wrote in his letter to me that he was extremely grateful to you for saving his life. I think my father’s change of heart was probably because of you.”
Seirai smiled gently.
She was so dazzled by the smile on his face since he was as good-looking at Kousho and she almost squinted.
“As the Crown Prince of Koran, I hope that this treaty will be signed. This is why I would like you to come with us, Riri. My father’s mood will definitely improve if you come with us.”
Seirai stretched out his hands and squeezed Riri’s right hand.
Riri could feel his passion flowing from his warm hands.
“My father is very hard to please. He took a liking to you and wrote letters asking for you to come to Koran. He will be furious if you don’t go. My father is very stubborn, and he gets out of control once he gets angry. It will be difficult to get him to sign the treaty if he gets angry. So… Ouch.”
Seirai scowled because Kousho had swatted his hand.
“Don’t touch my talented person without permission, you shameless bastard.”
“You didn’t have to swat my hand because of that. I was trying to persuade her for the sake of both kingdoms.”
“I’ll persuade Riri. You, go away.”
Kousho loudly rebuked and Seirai reluctantly let go of Riri and stepped back.
Kousho turned back to Riri and spoke seriously.
“Riri, like Seirai just said, I believe that the Emperor of Koran changed his mind about the mine because you, his benefactor, is in this kingdom. If you going there puts him in a good mood, then I want you to come with me. The execution of this treaty is a long-cherished wish of my father and I since we both want peace in Shinzui.”
The serious expression on Kousho’s face was enough to shake her heart.
“I understand. I’m very nervous, but if I can be any help to the peace of Shinzui and Koran, then I’ll come with you. It’s just…”
The first thing that bothered her was the matter about making the treasured incense.
She heard that it would take about half a month to get to Koran by palanquin. The round trip would take at least a month. Discussing the terms of the treaty would also take some time. She had to finish the treasured incense in about eight months, so it was quite a heavy blow if she couldn’t work on the treasured incense during that time.
“If you’re worried about making incenses, then I’ll make preparations for you to be able to make incenses during the journey and in Koran.”
Kousho glanced at Seirai and whispered.
The matter about Riri making the treasured incense was a secret. Seirai knew that she was making the treasured incense, but they couldn’t talk about it openly.
She breathed a sigh of relief in her heart when she heard this. Then, something that had been bothering her since earlier flashed though her mind.
“Thank you very much. Actually, I have something to ask you Kousho-sama. There’s an ingredient that I need for the treasured incense…”
It wasn’t often that she had the chance to talk to Kousho. He would be busy again since he would need to prepare for the trip to Koran. She was worried that Seirai was still in the room, so she chose her words carefully.
“I’d like to get my hands on some blue flowered daphne odora, but I don’t know if they exist or not.”
Kousho frowned, then covered his mouth.
“Blue flowered daphne odoras? I’ve never seen them before.”
Seirai’s eyes shone as he stood next to the pondering Kousho.
“I’ve seen blue flowered daphne odoras before.”
Hope came from an unexpected person. Riri quickly turned to face Seirai and he nodded.
“Yeah. We call daphne odoras ‘winter daphne’, and a noble once brought blue-flowered winter daphnes to the capital. He said he had grown it at his fief. My father was happy about it since it was rare, but it withered away as soon as he planted it in the palace.”
“Where is his fief?”
“I don’t know. This happened a long time ago. I might be able to find out where it is once I get back to Koran.”
Riri immediately turned her attention back to Kousho after she heard the good news.
“Kousho-sama. I really need the blue flowered daphne odora. I’m going to Koran as a representative of Shinzui, so I don’t want to stand out, but can I at least find out where they’re grown?”
Kousho looked conflicted, but he nodded after a while.
“If you must, but you must consult me before doing anything… I’ll protect you no matter what, so don’t worry.”
The smiling Kousho looked really reliable. Riri was quite anxious about going to a foreign kingdom where she didn’t know her way around, but she felt much better thanks to what he had said.
“Thank you very much.”
She put her hand on her chest and bowed her head. When she looked up, she looked at both Kousho and Seirai.
“Then, I’ll go to Koran as well. I am more than happy to go if I can be of any help to both kingdoms. I look forward to travelling with you both.”
She bowed her head once more and thought about Koran while feeling anxious.
Riri went to the Beautiful Flower Palace with a guard.
Consorts normally weren’t allowed to leave the palaces where they stay, but there were exceptions, and only consorts who have their own palaces, like Riri, are allowed to go back and forth from the Beautiful Flower Palace and their own palace with a guard.
Exclusive palaces were normally built near the inner palaces that the consorts belonged to, so that they wouldn’t have to travel far.
However, the Fragrance Princess Palace originally belonged to the Master Perfumer, who was said to have saved the nation hundreds of years ago and was located somewhat far from the Beautiful Flower Palace.
The Fragrance Princess Palace was rebuilt several times to honour the great deeds of the Master Perfumer.
Riri felt proud to be living in a palace with such history. After she had learnt that the Master Perfumer was actually a woman and was the Empress, she set her sights on becoming a perfumer who could save this nation with incenses just like the Master Perfumer. Women weren’t allowed to become perfumers nowadays, but she didn’t want to give up.
She walked through the gates of the Beautiful Flower Palace after she said farewell to the guard and saw a garden full of blooming peonies.
Walking gracefully down the corridor in front of her were beautiful consorts who were just as beautiful as the peonies.
“Oh my, it’s Consort Riri.”
Ranran had called out to Riri. Her hair was tied up and she was wearing gold ornaments with delicate designs.
The hanfu she wore was also extravagantly embroidered with gold thread. She was a candidate for Empress and was one of the Four Consorts in charge of the Beautiful Flower Palace. Her appearance was befitting of her rank.
“Good afternoon, Pure Consort Ranran.”
Riri bent her knees and bowed her head. Ranran slowly approached her with the rest of the consorts.
“The incense you gave me the other day smelled really nice.”
“The incense was made from sandalwood. I’m glad you liked it.”
Officially, she was given her own palace so that she can alleviate the ailments of the consorts in Beautiful Flower Palace with her incenses. So, making incenses for the consorts was part of her job. She was happy that she had a job where she could work with incenses.
“But I’m almost out. Can you make some more?”
“Yes. I’ll make you some more.”
“I want you to make me some too.”
“Me too, me too. Consort Riri’s incenses are really popular.”
The consorts were asking for more incenses. Riri couldn’t help but smile at this.
(They bullied me when I first came to Beautiful Flower Palace, but they’ve been talking to me normally lately. I’m happy that everyone can use my incenses.)
Everyone’s attitude towards her started to change after the beauty pageant. The consorts often misunderstood her before, but they began to accept her after she burnt an incense to liven up the dance at the beauty pageant.
“Good afternoon, Consort Riri.”
Hisui, the highest-ranking of the Four Consorts, came up from behind Ranran.
Her hair was tied up in a single ponytail, she wore a gold and silver ornament that depicted a bird with its wings spread and was dressed in the finest silks. She walked gracefully towards Riri and the others and had more consorts following behind her than Ranran did. Ranran made way for Hisui, then kneeled and bowed her head.
“Noble Consort Hisui. I was asking Consort Riri to make me another incense. Didn’t you say you were running out of incenses? Would you like her to make you some too?”
“Yes, please. Is that alright, Consort Riri?”
Hisui’s doll-like face broke into a gentle smile.
Ranran and the Virtuous Consort Juka, who was standing next to Hisui, had followed Hisui ever since the Beautiful Flower Palace had been establie. Hisui was the daughter of the Grand Chancellor, and everyone expected her to become Kousho’s Empress.
Hisui was good at taking care of people and took good care of Ranran and Juka. Ranran still respected her even though she was one of the Four Consorts and had no qualms about showing her respect.
(Hisui is really beautiful. There are more than a hundred consorts in the Beautiful Flower Palace, but I think it’s safe to say that she’s the most beautiful… It’s a pity. We could have talked slowly if it were only the two of us.)
In truth, her and Hisui were friends who called each other by name, but they refrained from letting others know about this.
Hisui was one of the Four Consorts who was in charge of the Beautiful Flower Palace. Some people might get weird ideas if it was known that she was particularly close to someone. Riri slowly bowed her head.
“Yes. I’ll also bring some of Noble Consort Hisui’s incense… I actually came here today to report something to the Four Consorts. May I have some of your time?”
Looking closely, Riri realised that the Worthy Consort Shoei was behind Hisui. She was small and quiet, and although Riri had never spoken to her before, Riri believed that she was a lovely girl.
It wasn’t often that the Four Consorts were together. She decided that it would be better if she told them about her going to Koran now.
“I will be accompanying Kousho-sama to Koran. I came here today because I heard that I would need the permission of the Four Consorts to leave the palace. May I have your permission to go to Koran?”