“Please wait here.”
“Kousho-sama has entrusted me with guarding Consort Riri. I can’t let her out of my sight.”
“But this is Emperor Aren’s room. I can’t let anyone in without permission.”
Riri quickly approached them when she saw the servant and Garan glaring at each other.
“We’re just here to talk. I’ll yell for you if something happens, so please wait here.”
She whispered reluctantly to Garan. He raised his eyebrow but withdrew.
“Then, I’ll wait here.”
Garan informed the servant, and the argument came to an end.
(I mustn’t cause any trouble until they’re finished with the treaty discussions.)
Riri walked up next to Keika and kneeled again. Aren was sitting comfortably in a chair at the back of the room.
“Thank you for coming here, Riri… Keika, where are you taking her today? She saved my life. I want her to enjoy Koran as a way of repaying her for saving my life. I asked you to show Riri around because you two are close in age. I will not tolerate it… if you do anything rude to her.”
Aren’s voice was calm, but Riri felt uncomfortable.
(I can understand a father asking his daughter to show someone he knows around, but isn’t it too much to tell her that he won’t tolerate it if she does something wrong? It doesn’t seem like he’s joking. He’s being serious and Princess Keika is trembling because of his words.)
Aren was smiling but his eyes were sharp and scary. Keika’s lips trembled as she bowed her head to the floor while looking pale. She looked weak, but the way she was panicking right now wasn’t normal. It was a strange atmosphere, but Riri hesitated to interfere as a stranger.
Especially since Kousho told her not to make Aren unhappy.
Keika trembled slightly, but she managed to speak.
“I would like to invite her on a boat ride today. The weather is nice, and I would like to show Riri the lake made from the Snowflake Spring since Koran is called the Land of Water because of this spring.”
Keika’s sweat smelled as if she was facing a fierce beast. If she let her guard down even just a little, then she would be swallowed up in one gulp. That was how nervous she smelled from her sweat. Aren thought for a bit then nodded.
“A boat ride? That sounds like a good idea.”
Keika looked relieved and Aren looked at Riri.
“Riri, there’s a sacred spring that has been handed down from generation to generation. This spring, which rises from the ground, never runs dry, not even during times of drought. The water from the spring is poured into the people’s fields to help them cultivate and maintain their farmland during times when rain doesn’t fall for a long time.”
“I’ve heard about the Snowflake Spring from Seira-sama. It’s a wonderful spring. I would love to see how it comes up from the ground.”
She expressed her honest opinion but noticed that Keika was startled. She wondered if she had said the wrong thing.
“… Well, it is a sacred spring, so I guess I can’t see it that easily.”
She quickly corrected herself, but Aren didn’t seem offended.
“The source of the Snowflake Spring has been revered by many generations of emperors. It’s so sacred that members of the royal family drink water from it as a wedding vow when they get married. Normally, I wouldn’t show it to guests, but I can show it to you.”
Aren smiled broadly and leaned slightly forward.
“Then… Why don’t you drink from this spring with Seirai and become his wife? It would be a joyous occasion if you can become his wife and live in this kingdom.”
It was an outrageous offer. She wanted to laugh it off as a joke, but Aren’s eyes told her that he wasn’t joking.
A lot of thoughts ran through her mind as she pondered about how to answer.
(How can I say no properly without offending him?)
“… Thank you for your kind words, but I am a talented person who serves in the inner palace of the Crown Prince of Shinzui. I am not permitted to marry into Koran. Besides, my status is different from Seirai-sama’s. I don’t have the knowledge nor manners to act as Seirai-sama’s wife. I would surely bring shame to him if I were to be his wife.”
After thinking for a bit, Riri clearly stated as politely as possible without lying. Aren wanted to keep her by his side because she could make the heart soothing incense. He might interpret it the wrong way had she been vague with her answer, but Riri couldn’t afford to offend him, so she was careful with her words.
Aren continued to smile, but the emotion in his eyes changed.
(Did I offend him…?!)
Cold sweat ran down her back. Aren slowly spoke.
“… I was just joking. I would love to have you as Seirai’s wife, but I know that’s not possible. I might incur Kousho-dono’s wrath if I were to force this even though we’re about to sign a peace treaty.”
Riri was relieved to hear Aren laugh.
(He is an Emperor who rules a nation. He understands matters related to the nation and is understanding if you talk to him.)
“Your Majesty, it’s time for your medicinal bath.”
A servant approached and kneeled next to Aren.
“It’s already time for that? I wanted to talk to Riri some more.”
Aren whispered regretfully, and Riri bowed her head.
“I think it’s best if you take your medicinal bath on time. I will come back when you have more time.”
“Alright. Talking to Riri makes me feel better.”
“Thank you for your kind words, now if you will excuse us.”
Riri bowed her head again and left the room with Keika. They walked down the corridor for a while with the maid and Garan, and Keika let out a sigh when they were far enough.
Riri noticed that the sweat that came out when she was nervous had faded.
“… Are you alright? You said you weren’t good at conversing with His Majesty. You were so nervous that you couldn’t breathe properly.”
Riri asked in a whisper and Keika slightly lowered her eyes. Then, she let out a little sigh and turned towards the maid.
The maid bowed knowingly and moved away.
“I hope you’ll keep this between us… I’m afraid of facing His Majesty. His Majesty’s mood varies greatly from good to bad, so I get nervous when I talk to him.”
“His Majesty always seems kind when he talks to me, but I guess there are times when he’s in a bad mood.”
Riri whispered while walking, and Keika stopped.
“Ah, I don’t have my fan.”
Keika put her hand on her hips and her face turned pale.
“I put it on the floor earlier since it was getting in the way of sitting when I was greeting His Majesty earlier. I probably forgot it there. What should I do? He’ll get angry if I go there without being summoned.”
Riri looked at the flustered Keika.
“Is it a precious fan?”
“Yes, Brother brought it for me. Riri, I’m sorry, but could you go back to His Majesty’s room with me? His Majesty might not get that angry if you’re with me.”
Keika looked like a kitten when she looked up at Riri.
Riri nodded, feeling like she had to protect Keika.
“Riri, don’t do something unnecessary.”
Garan whispered softly in her ears, but she shrugged.
“We’re just going to get something Keika forgot. It’s precious to her.”
Riri whispered back as she clasped her hands together, beggingly, and Garan looked down.
“… Alright, but we’re going to be leaving as soon as you get the fan.”
With Garan’s permission, she told the maid to wait before going back down the corridor with Keika. They walked for a while and suddenly heard a loud voice when they came to the corner where Aren’s room was located.
It was the sound of something breaking. Riri was startled by this. Garan quickly stood in front of her and motioned for her not to move. Keika, who was standing next to Riri, teared up.
“He’s at it again.”
“What do you mean?”
Riri asked, but Keika remained silent and began to tremble.
Riri and Garan poked their heads out from the corner of the corridor and looked towards Aren’s room where they had heard the voice.
“I, I apologise!”
Someone came tumbling out of the room at the same time they heard a man’s voice. The person continued to roll into the garden. Riri almost screamed but she managed to close her mouth and hold her scream in.
The person lying in the garden was the servant who had just brought Aren his medicinal bath.
“… I told you not to make the medicinal bath too hot or too warm. Why can’t you make it just right?”
A low voice resounded. It was quiet, but the intensity of the voice sent shivers down Riri’s spine.
The voice definitely belonged to Aren even though she couldn’t see him since he didn’t come out of the room.
“Take him away. I don’t want to see him anymore.”
Two soldiers appeared out of nowhere in response to Aren’s voice. The man quickly kneeled and down his head.
“I was wrong. Please forgive me! AAAAAH!”
He was desperately apologising, but the soldiers immediately dragged him away by his arms.
“What’s going to happen to that man?”
Riri looked at Keika nervously and saw that she was cowering while covering her ears.
When she called out to her and touched her shoulder, Keika jumped up in surprise and quickly stood up.
“Let’s go, Riri. His Majesty is in a bad mood right now. We shouldn’t approach him.”
“Huh? But what about your fan…?”
“It’s alright. Our lives will be in danger if we offend him by staying here!”
Keika whispered in a tearful voice and pulled her arm. She was so frightened of Aren that she didn’t care about her fan anymore. They turned back and Garan followed after them.
The three of them left as if they were running away.