“Riri-san. Can I show you around the palace today?”
Riri bowed her head and greeted Keika who had come to her room.
“Thank you, Princess Keika. I would like to see the palace, but there’s actually something I would like to know. Can I ask you about it in private?”
Riri glanced at the maid who was standing next to Keika.
Keika tilted her head while telling the maid to stay behind as she stepped into Riri’s room.
It has been three days since Riri arrived at Koran. Keika has visited her every day since and taught her many things. Yesterday, they chatted over tea and sweets which were hard to find in Koran.
Riri wanted to look around the place, but it was time for her to accomplish her goal here.
When Riri gestured her to sit down, Keika quietly sat down in front of her.
“What is it you want to know?”
“I heard from Seirai-sama that blue… winter daphne’s bloom in Koran.”
Keika put her hand over her mouth as if in thought.
“I’ve certainly seen a blue winter daphne before.”
Alright! Riri clenched her fist in victory inside her mind.
“Where can I find this blue winter daphne? I really need them for making this incense, but only white and pink winter daphne’s bloom in Shinzui.”
She couldn’t say that she needed them to make the treasured incense. It was painful to keep something from Keika, but she couldn’t tell Keika the truth because it was a secret that she was making the treasured incense.
“Koran also doesn’t have many winter daphne’s that are blue. I have only seen it once when I was a child. A noble brought a whole potted plant with him from his estate because it’s so rare, but it soon withered away when it was planted in the palace garden.”
Keika closed her eyes as if she was trying to remember that moment and continued slowly.
“The palace gardener said that the blue winter daphne probably bloomed in his fief because the soil is special in that area, and that’s why it withered away quickly in the palace’s garden.”
“So, you can only find the blue daphne in that area?”
“I think so. But I was a child when I saw the blue winter daphne, so I don’t remember who brought it here. So, I don’t know which fief it came from.”
Keika looked down apologetically. Riri quickly shook her head when she saw this.
“Please don’t worry about it. I will think of another way to get it now that I have this piece of information.”
If she knew where the winter daphne’s are planted, then there might be a way for her to get them.
But as she was pondering on how to find this out, Keika suddenly looked up.
“Ah! Come to think of it, records are kept when nobles bring gifts to the palace. If we can check the record of those days, then we might be able to find out whose fief it is.”
Riri felt as if a light had shone through the darkness.
“Yes. I saw the blue winter daphne around the time of my tenth birthday. At that time, His Majesty happened to be in a good mood, so he told me that he would give me the rare blue winter daphne as a birthday present. I remember I was delighted, so I think it was five years ago when I received it.”
If so, then she could surely find out who brought the gift by checking the records from five years ago.
She was happy, but then something occurred to her.
“But wouldn’t it be hard for me to look at those records since I live in another nation?”
Keika looked down in thought.
“Those records are probably kept in the archives. Anyone from the palace should be able to look at them since they are official gift records. The archives also contain books for the general public, so I’m sure the bookkeepers will let us in if I tell them that we’ll be borrowing a book to read in the garden. But…”
Keika’s voice trailed off and Riri tilted her head in confusion.
“There are a lot of books in the archives. I’m sure there are a lot of books containing gift information as well, so it would take quite a long time to find the record even if we know that it was brought to the palace five years ago.”
Keika was right, but Riri shook her head and held Keika’s hand.
“I’ll look for it, no matter how long it takes. I’m sorry, but can you take me to the archives?”
She would probably have to use the fragrant wood from the blue winter daphne to make the treasured incense. Many perfumers in Shinzui probably failed to make the treasured incense because they couldn’t get the fragrant wood of the blue winter daphne in Shinzui.
(I came to Koran to see if the fragrant wood of the blue winter daphne has the same fragrance as the treasured incense that my nose remembers. I must find it no matter what it takes.)
“Okay, then let’s go to the archives today. I’ll help you.”
Riri smiled at Keika as Keika squeezed her hand back.
Koran’s archives were filled with books just as Keika had said.
Riri’s mouth dropped open when she saw that the archives were filled with shelves that reached to the ceiling, all with books in them.
“I wouldn’t be able to read all the books in here even if it took me a lifetime.”
She said and Keika nodded.
“I agree, but Brother told me that he read all the books in here by the time he was ten years old and has almost completely memorised them all. The Crown Prince at that time suspected that Brother was lying.”
Riri heard that Seirai wasn’t the Crown Prince at first.
She heard that he had many siblings from different mothers.
He said that his older brother, who was the original Crown Prince, died, so he, the second son, became the Crown Prince.
“The Crown Prince at that time chose a random book and questioned my brother on what was in it. My brother was able to answer all the questions that were asked no matter what book the Crown Prince chose.”
Garan, who had heard what Riri was doing and offered to help, crossed his arms.
“I don’t know if he really memorised the books or if he just happened to be asked questions on passages he knew, but it’s strange since it seems that either scenario could be applied to him.”
Riri nodded her head in agreement.
She wanted to look in Seirai’s head, but she was sure that it would be too much for an ordinary person to understand.
“It’s this way, Riri-san.”
Keika guided them through the archives, so Riri stopped thinking about Seirai and headed for the door at the back of the room.
When the small wooden door was opened, Riri found that the next room was the same size as the last and was also filled with rows of large shelves.
Of course, these shelves were also crammed with books.
“These are the palace records. I believe the gift records are stored in the shelves at the back, but I think it’ll take a long time to search through them. Is that alright with you?”
Riri nodded at the worried Keika.
“Yes, I really want the blue winter daphne. It may take a lot of time, but I like working hard, so don’t worry.”
Garan walked towards the back of the room as they were talking.
“Riri, are you certain it was five years ago?”
“Yes, Garan. It was around the time of Princess Keika’s birthday.”
Riri answered casually and Keika opened her eyes wide in surprise.
“Ah!” Riri put a hand over her mouth. She and Garan have been adding honorifics to each other’s names since they came to Koran, but they let their guard down since they were in a closed room.
“… Please keep this between us, but Garan is my friend, so we usually call each other by name. But please don’t tell anyone about this.”
Riri put her index finger on her mouth and Keika looked down slightly.
“I see… I’m jealous.”
Riri couldn’t understand what Keika meant and looked confused. Keika looked up in surprise.
“Ah, nothing. It’s amazing that the General is your friend… Okay. I won’t tell anyone.”
Keika’s bashful smile was dazzling.
“Thank you very much. Now let’s look for that record.”
The shelves were marked with the dates the records were taken.
She suddenly remembered what Garan said earlier as she followed the numbers with her eyes.
(Huh? It’s been a long time since Garan has been this relaxed.)
Garan had been behaving strangely since before they arrived in Koran.
Riri didn’t know what the cause behind this strange behaviour was, but his attitude changed so often that she wondered how she should treat him.
But his voice and the language he used when he spoke to her earlier was just like the one Garan used when he was her close friend.
Garan called out to her as she wished for him to return to his former self.
“Riri, come here.”
Garan beckoned to her from the back of the room. She rushed to the back with Keika and Garan pointed at the shelf in front of them.
“The books in this area are from five years ago, but we’ll be up all night if we go through everything.”
It would be a painstaking task to examine every book on the tall shelves.
“I know it’s a lot of work, but I have to do it even if it takes me until the morning.”
Garan smiled widely.
“I thought you would say that. Then let’s do this until we find that record.”
She was glad to hear him say this.
The three of them picked up books from the shelves and began going through them one by one to search for that record.
How long had it been since they had entered the archives?
It felt like a long time had passed since the light had stopped coming through the windows and the candles were lit, but the records were still nowhere to be found and Riri was getting impatient.
(I wonder if there is really a record of it… I won’t be able to get the blue winter daphne if I can’t find any clues because they omitted the record…!)
“RIRI! What are you doing?”
She heard Garan’s voice from below. She looked down in a panic since she was climbing a ladder and saw that he had just returned from getting drinks.
“I told you that I would check the top shelves. It’s dangerous for you to climb the ladder!”
“I’m sorry. I got absorbed in looking for records.”
Keika glanced at her in shock next to Garan.
“Riri-san, I told you many times that it was dangerous, but you didn’t hear me at all.”
Riri felt extremely apologetic when Keika raised her voice timidly.
“I’m sorry. I’ve always been unable to pay attention to my surroundings when I concentrate, but I suspect the record is in this area…”
She held onto the ladder with her right hand as she flipped through the book with her left hand to make sure that she had the right book before climbing down.
“It seems like this area would contain the records for Princess Keika’s birthday… Ah!”
She flipped through the book and saw a sentence.