“I’ve been waiting for you, Princess Keika.”
Riri turned her head to see a well-dressed, middle-aged, chubby man standing to her left.
Keika put a hand over her mouth as soon as she saw the man and took a step back.
“Good day, Reitai-sama.”
Reitai smiled at Keika after she greeted him in a faint voice.
“That’s a cold greeting. I’m your fiancé.”
His voice and words were strong as if he was trying to pin her down. Keika’s body shrunk back even more.
“But… His Majesty said that we don’t have to get married.”
“Hah? I won’t understand what you’re saying if you don’t speak in a loud voice.”
Riri was annoyed by how the man drastically cupped his ears with his hands and tilted his head.
(Is this the person who His Majesty chose for Keika? But His Majesty has already annulled that engagement. Besides, it doesn’t matter if he’s a noble, he can’t talk directly to a princess, at least not in Shinzui anyway. Why didn’t Keika-sama’s maid stop him?)
Riri looked at Keika’s maid, who was waiting by the shore, and saw that she looked troubled but made no attempts to stop the man. She realised something when she saw this.
(There are soldiers and other nobles around us, but no one is helping Princess Keika. Is this because…)
Seirai had told her that their mother wasn’t a noble. Keika might not be treated as a princess in the palace where status is important because of this even though her brother is the Crown Prince.
Riri looked at Reitai again and guessed his age to be around 50. He was quite a bit older than Keika, who was still in her teens. Riri heard that he has many concubines and lives in the countryside, far from the palace.
It was obvious that Keika would be isolated if she were to marry into such a place. Her heart ached at the thought of Keika having to endure and bear many burdens with her thin body.
Reitai approached Keika with an imposing attitude.
“I’m going to ask His Majesty if he will reconsider my marriage to you. My land is fertile and produces a lot of crops, so my pockets are well lined. I can also provide a considerable amount of money to the royal family, so I’m sure His Majesty won’t mind.”
“I, for one, would love to have a connection with the royal family. I would be more than happy to have you as my wife.”
Riri couldn’t help but believe that the word ‘happy’ sounded like the word ‘convenient’.
She jumped off the boat and walked up to Keika.
“Oh, you are?”
“My name is Riri, and I’m from Shinzui. Princess Keika is showing me around today. Princess Keika, let’s go.”
She smiled and tried to be as polite as possible. She was here as a representative of Shinzui, so she couldn’t make a scene. She knew that she couldn’t let her emotions get the better of her.
But she couldn’t let this continue since Keika was trembling in fright. She told Keika to leave, but Reitai firmly grabbed Keika’s arm, and Keika turned so pale that Riri thought she was going to fall down.
“I heard that people from Shinzui have come to Koran, but I have business with Princess Keika. Isn’t it your role to be considerate and not interfere with a future husband and wife?”
He was acting condescending. Riri could tell that he was looking down on her and it made her very uncomfortable.
But she knew that she couldn’t act the same way.
“I’m sorry for not realising that, but His Majesty has asked Princess Keika to show me around. Won’t you incur His Majesty’s wrath if you forcefully take Princess Keika away from here?”
Reitai bent slightly forward at the mention of His Majesty.
(Oh, so he is scared of His Majesty.)
But Reitai soon threw his chest out in pride as if he was acting strong.
“I’ll speak to His Majesty. I’ve brought as many presents as I can carry from my fief. I’m sure His Majesty would like the gifts. I can’t be away from my fief forever. I have to bring Princess Keika back as a bride as soon as possible.”
Reitai forcefully pulled Keika’s arm.
Riri tried to think of a way to help Keika, who was resisting in a faint voice.
(I should burn some incense to calm her down, but now isn’t the time for that. It would be bad if they start arguing because she refused him a little strongly. What should I do…?)
When Riri reached out to stop Reitai, an arm suddenly reached out from her right and pulled Keika back.
“What the hell are you doing?!”
Reitai looked angrily at Garan, who had pulled Keika back.
“I am sorry for interrupting you. My name is Garan, and I’m a general in Shinzui. His Majesty has ordered Princess Keika to show Consort Riri around. She is still in the middle of doing this, so I can’t allow her to be taken away.”
His attitude and tone were imposing.
The overwhelming pressure emitting from the General of Shinzui frightened Reitai.
“You, who do you think I am…?!”
Reitai shouted in a flustered voice and Garan smiled ironically.
“You are Reitai-sama, are you not? If you want to take Princess Keika away, then please go see His Majesty and get permission from him. But His Majesty is fond of Consort Riri. How do you think he would react to you interfering with her tour?”
“I have… gifts…”
“Are you sure he’ll be appeased with that? I believe His Majesty values Consort Riri much more than gifts. I am certain he loves the incenses that Consort Riri prepares much more than anything else. Also, one of his servants has just been punished because he upset His Majesty. What guarantee do you have that the same won’t happen to you?”
Reitai must know about Aren’s temperament. He jerked his chin back and gave a frustrated look.
“Fine. I won’t force her to go with me today… Princess Keika, I’ll make sure you marry me.”
Reitai reluctantly turned away and left.
(Wow. Garan could probably win with just his strength, but he chased him away with just words. He wouldn’t have been intimidated if I had said the same thing, but he retreated since he was frightened of Garan.)
Riri looked at Garan and saw that Keika, who had been clinging to Garan, quickly let go of him.
“Th-thank you very much.”
Keika looked at the ground and Garan sighed slightly.
“He said he can’t leave his fief for long, so he won’t stay in the palace for a long time. You shouldn’t be alone while he’s here. If you run into him while you’re with Consort Riri, then you should mention His Majesty. I’ll also be with Consort Riri as her guard, so I’ll get rid of him if he approaches you again. Please don’t worry.”
He spoke in a monotone and had a poker face on, but his words were reliable.
Keika looked up at Garan and her face turned red.
“… Okay. Thank you very much.”
When Keika bowed her head, Riri smelled the same kind of scent that she had just smelled from Garan.
(What kind of scent is this? It’s sweet, but painful. It smells suffocating, but also happy.)
Riri was curious about this scent, but she believed that it wasn’t a good idea to pry into the scent of others.
She had made Garan uncomfortable earlier.
Her super olfaction made the scent obvious, but she could stop herself from paying attention to it.
She didn’t want Garan and Keika to dislike her, so she decided not to think about the scent that was emitting from them any further.
After the boat ride, the maid led Riri, Keika and Garan back to Riri’s room. Riri looked at Garan’s back as she was walking, when she suddenly became curious about Keika.
(What’s wrong with her? Princess Keika is stealing glances at Garan.)
Keika kept looking up at Garan, and then looked down in embarrassment.
She looked like she wanted to say something, but she quickly shut her mouth.
Riri wondered if Keika wanted to thank Garan again for earlier, but she had a feeling that wasn’t the case.
She continued walking while feeling confused, then Garan stopped.
Riri looked forward and saw Kousho and Seirai walking towards them with several well-dressed men.
When she saw that Garan had immediately kneeled, she and Keika followed suit.
“Garan, did anything happen?”
Kousho noticed them and spoke to Garan. He looked stern, but his voice was calm.
“No. Consort Riri went on a boat ride with Princess Keika.”
Garan didn’t mention that they had just met Keika’s ex-fiancé.
He might have done that out of consideration since several of Koran’s high-ranking officials were also present.
“I see. Did you have fun, Riri?”
“I did, Kousho-sama. I’m sorry that I’m just playing around all the time. I was hoping that I could be of help to you.”
“I told you not to worry about that. It seems like His Majesty wants to entertain you, so you should be grateful for his hospitality and enjoy yourself.”
Riri felt as if Kousho was telling her not to refuse Aren’s offer.
She put a hand over her chest and Kousho turned back to Garan.
“We’re taking a break right now, but we’ll be continuing the discussions after the break, so I won’t be back until later tonight. Take care of Riri, Garan.”
“As you wish.”
Seirai, who had listened to the conversation, sighed heavily.
“Sorry, Riri. I wanted to show you around, but the discussions are taking a while since Kousho is a tough opponent. You must have missed me.”
If they had been in Shinzui, then she would have said, “Nope, not at all,” but she couldn’t say this in Koran. She smiled ambigiously and Kousho put a hand on his hip.
“We need to work out the details of the treaty otherwise there would have been no point in me coming here. My purpose of coming to Koran this time is to conclude the treaty and ensure that there won’t ever be conflict again. We’ll discuss it to the bitter end, so please bear with me.”
Seirai didn’t hide his fed-up expression.
“No, I don’t mind the discussions. What I don’t like is that you’re the only person who I can’t win over, and I must have this serious discussion with you over the interests of our nations. I can’t let my guard down at all, so I have to stay sharp. Honestly, it’s pretty tough.”
The nearby high officials started talking among themselves.
“I can’t believe Seirai-sama is saying this.”
“Seirai-sama has won against hundreds of officials with his wits and yet…!”
Riri didn’t know if Seirai could hear the voices around him, but he ignored them and continued talking.
“I’m afraid for what the future would hold if you and I become the emperors of Shinzui and Koran. I’ll be able to win over as many people as I want if you weren’t the future emperor of Shinzui.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Kousho smiled wryly. The discussions must be proceeding according to what Kousho wanted since Seirai, who is said to be the smartest person in Koran, was suffering so much.
(Kousho-sama is amazing. I can see why Emperor Reibun trusts him with everything. He’s reliable.)
As she gazed at Kousho respectfully, he clasped his hands together in a praying pose.
“Say, Kousho. Can I go have a little fun with Riri to relax?”
“You can’t. We should leave now.”
Seirai dropped his shoulders in depression at the curt reply.
“Riri, let’s go have fun together after the discussions are over…”
Seirai followed after Kousho in a depressing manner.
Both of them didn’t want any more wars, but they both had different opinions on the treaty terms since they were both crown princes of their respective nations.
They were having a hard time putting the treaty together with their different conditions.
(Kousho-sama also brought some officials with him, but we’re in Koran, so they have more people on their side in the discussions. I’m sure Shinzui’s side is having a difficult time, but I feel like everything will work out because of Kousho-sama.)
Riri gently put her hands together and watched as Kousho walked away.
“Please do your best.”
She hoped her prayer would reach him.