“His Majesty Aren seems to be a much better person than you told me.”
Riri was sitting around a desk with Seirai and Kousho in the room she had been guided to.
This room had been given to her to use, but it was quite large for a single person to use.
Silver ornaments adorned the walls, and the other side of the room had a row of wardrobes.
She had checked them earlier and found that they contained expensive outfits and hairpins that would be worn by a princess.
The maid, who had guided her to this room, told her that Aren had prepared these things for her because he wanted to thank her for the heart soothing incense. She was making tea for Kousho and Seirai and the tea utensils were also made out of silver and had a wonderful shine.
When she presented the teacups to them and looked at them, they folded their arms and raised their eyebrows.
Seirai spoke first.
“I was also surprised by His Majesty’s attitude. I even thought he was someone else for a second.”
“Was he really that different?”
She tried to laugh, but Kousho nodded with a serious expression on his face.
“It might be an exaggeration to say that he was like a different person, but I understand what Seirai is saying. His Majesty was acting completely different from the person I had met before.”
Kousho picked up the teacup and took a sip.
“How many years has it been since I’ve seen him smile like that? It’s also strange that he gave up so easily after inviting Riri to Koran. His Majesty doesn’t change his mind. He would have chosen any means to make you stay here if he really wanted you here.”
Seirai said relentlessly even though it was his own father.
“Is he really like that? He seemed like a nice person to me.”
“That’s probably because he considers you to be his lifesaver. The real Emperor is a scary man in many ways.”
Riri couldn’t believe this, but Kousho nodded.
“I’ve met His Majesty a few times before, and he was exactly as Seirai described. That’s why I prepared myself for the difficulties that I’d face in this discussion, because I knew that Koran must want something even though they told us they were giving up all their rights to the mining concession. But he said he would leave the discussions to Seirai, who is in favour of giving up the mining concessions.”
Kousho was suspicious of Aren’s attitude.
“But didn’t His Majesty say that his kingdom was willing to give up all the mining concessions to prevent any more conflicts between the two nations? Isn’t that how he really feels? Besides, didn’t he entrust Seirai-sama with the discussions because he recognises him as the next emperor?”
Emperor Reibun wasn’t in good health, so he left the discussions to the next emperor, Kousho.
It wasn’t strange for Emperor Aren to entrust the Crown Prince, Seirai, with some national policies since he wasn’t young anymore and was suffering from illness.
“I don’t think my father trusts me as much as Kousho’s father trusts him… I can’t help but believe that His Majesty is planning something strange.”
Riri tilted her head when she saw Seirai’s worried expression.
“You’re just thinking too much. Some people’s personalities change when they become ill. From what I’ve heard, His Majesty was quite an arrogant person, but I think he came to understand the pain of others after becoming ill. He said it would be better if he gave up on the mining concessions so that the people can live in peace.”
When Riri was living downtown, she sold incenses to the medical clinic to make a living.
She also helped at the clinic, so she has seen many patients.
One day, a man who had once been very violent wandered on the verge of death because of an accident. At that time, he realised the importance of his family who had been there to hold his hand, so he changed and became kind to them.
Kousho sighed a little.
“His Majesty’s change does make sense when you explain it that way.”
Seirai fell silent. Neither of them said anything anymore, but something was still bothering them. Riri heard a voice from the other side of the door as the three of them drank tea.
“Riri-sama, may I come in?”
She replied when she heard the female’s voice and the door opened slightly to reveal a maid.
“I’ve brought Princess Keika here because she wants to greet you.”
Seirai was the first person to react to those words.
Seirai stood up and opened the door, and Riri saw a small girl standing behind the maid.
“Brother, you were here?”
She was a beautiful girl with similar features to Seirai and she looked a little younger than Riri. She had long silver hair with a camellia ornament pinned in it. Her thin body was covered in a pink hanfu and she wore a blue obi.
Keika looked at Riri and bowed her head graciously.
“You two must be Crown Prince Kousho and Riri-sama. My name is Reika. I’ve been ordered by His Majesty to show you around. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Riri looked at Keika, who was smiling and had said this in a calm voice, then at Seirai.
“Princess Keika, you are Seirai-sama’s sister, are you not? It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Riri quickly got down onto her knees and bowed her head in greeting, then she looked up and timidly said.
“My apologies Princess Keika, but I don’t have the right status to have the suffix -sama attached to my name, especially not from a member of the royal family.”
“No, status has nothing to do with me adding -sama to your name. I’m grateful to you, Riri. I was able to escape from my political marriage thanks to you.”
The political marriage she was referring to was the one where she was almost forced to marry an older noble from the countryside on Aren’s orders. To save Reika from this marriage, Seirai teamed up with Mokuren to kidnap Riri to try and make her tell them how to make the treasured incense, but Riri managed to persuade Seirai to help her by informing Kousho where she was.
Because of this, Seirai was unable to get the information about the treasured incense, the thing that would stop Keika from getting married.
Riri made the heart soothing incense for him as a substitute for the treasured incense. She suggested that he used this as a bargaining chip to stop Keika’s marriage since it was effective against Aren’s seizures.
This worked well and now she was here.
“Keika. Calling her with honorifics will make her nervous.”
Seirai advised and Keika smiled.
“Alright. Then, please let me call you Riri.”
Her smile was so cute that it made Riri feel warm and fuzzy.
Keika entered the room after Seirai invited her in. The maid waited in the corridor and closed the door. Seirai motioned for Keika to sit down in the chair next to him.
“I knew you would be the person who was going to show her around. My suspicion turned out to be correct when Riri was guided to this room… Riri, Keika has her own palace since she’s a member of the royal family, and it’s the building where this room is located. Her room is close to this one, so you can talk to her if you have any problems.”
“Thank you very much.”
Keika was seated in the chair. She looked cute and easy to talk to. Riri was relieved since she wouldn’t be that nervous around Keika. Riri heard Garan’s voice from the other side of the door while all four of them talked.
“I’m sorry to interrupt your conversation but it’s almost time to go, Kousho-sama and Seirai-sama.”
Kousho put his teacup on the table and stood up.
His expression changed and became one of grace and dignity as expected of a Crown Prince.
“Riri, the treaty discussions are about to begin. I’ll be stuck there for a while since the high-ranking officials of Koran will also be present. Keep in mind that you’re not in Shinzui, but in a foreign nation. Tell Garan if you need anything. Alright?”
Riri replied nervously, and Kousho smiled and put his hand on her head.
“You have to keep your guard up, but don’t be too nervous. As His Majesty said, you should let Princess Keika show you around the palace and have fun. That’s what Emperor Aren wants, so just follow his wishes.”
“Ah! I also want to pat Riri’s head!”
Seirai pouted, but Kousho ignored him.
Seirai sullenly folded his arms and looked at Keika.
“Keika, teach Riri some unique games in Koran. I want to make her my wife. She might accept my marriage proposal if she likes this kingdom, then I can pat her head to my heart’s content.”
Seirai said jokingly and Keika nodded seriously.
“I will. I would love it if Riri becomes my sister. I’ll do my best to show her around Koran so that she’ll want to live here.”
Keika was serious about this.
Keika seemed to lack common sense, but Riri couldn’t hate her because she was cute, so she smiled wryly.
The maid led Riri and Keika to the room that Aren usually used.
“I apologise for making you come all the way here. His Majesty wanted to invite you to his room at least once.”
Riri quickly smiled when she saw Keika bow her head.
“It’s alright. It’s a great honour for His Majesty to invite me.”
Riri had said this, but it took a lot of courage for her to meet Aren without Kousho.
She saw Garan walking right behind her when she glanced back.
It was a blessing that he was by her side as a guard.
Kousho and Seirai had left to begin the treaty discussions, so Keika and Riri were discussing about what to do first when Aren’s servant visited Riri’s room. She told Riri that Aren wanted to see her.
She couldn’t refuse, so she asked Garan to accompany her and Keika to visit Aren. She noticed the look on Keika’s face while she was feeling nervous.
“You don’t look so good, are you unwell?”
She asked, and Keika quickly shook her head.
“I’m not feeling sick. I know this might sound strange, but I’m not very good at conversing with His Majesty…”
Her voice was muffled. Riri was confused. Aren was her father, so was she bad at talking with him?
(His Majesty almost forced her into a political marriage with a noble she didn’t like. She couldn’t escape from this marriage because she’s a princess, so it must have been hard on her. Maybe that’s why she feels uncomfortable around His Majesty.)
She thought while thinking and the maid stopped.
“I’m sorry to interrupt you, Your Majesty.”
Keika said, but her voice was trembling.
She was pale, so Riri rushed to speak to her, but the door opened.
“Welcome. His Majesty is waiting for you.”
A young servant was standing behind the door. The maid didn’t go inside and waited outside. Riri entered the room with Keika and the servant stopped Garan from entering.