Of course, she has smelled the fragrance that people emit when they think of the person they love, but this scent didn’t seem to fit the rugged, workaholic Garan, so she hadn’t noticed it.
“You have someone you like.”
She finally realised that Garan’s strange behaviour was probably due to him being in love. She had mixed feelings. She didn’t know how to react after hearing that her friend was in love with someone.
She had never been in love before, and she has never fallen in love with anyone.
She must have been reserved for her age. She struggled to survive when she lived downtown, and now she was in a special environment in the inner palace where the number of men she knew was limited.
She panicked since she didn’t know what to say since she had never been in love and Garan stared at her.
His eyes were full of passion. She was startled for some reason. She opened her mouth to speak since she couldn’t bear the silence.
“Hmm… If it’s alright with you… Kya!”
She wanted to support her friend if he had found someone he liked.
She wanted to tell him this but screamed because he had suddenly hugged her.
Despite his appearance, his well-trained arms hugged her gently.
Garan gave off a fragrance that was mixed with aloeswood.
She was the one who had made the fragrance and gave it to him since she thought it would suit him.
She never thought she would be able to smell it from this close to him.
She blinked repeatedly. Her heart was pounding so hard she thought it was going to jump out of her chest.
(Why? Why is he hugging me? Why?)
“G-Garan? What’s wrong with you?”
That was all she managed to say. Garan gasped.
He immediately let her go and jumped away from her.
“Sorry. I’m really sorry! Give me some time. I’ll tell you everything. I’ll be back right away, so don’t move from this spot. I need to cool my head…!”
Garan’s face turned red, and he backed away.
He then turned his back towards her and ran to the other side of the big tree.
“… What the heck is going on with him?”
She could still feel the warmth of the hug.
She thought he was a friend, someone who she could talk to about anything.
But the size of his arms and the heat that enveloped her during the hug made her realise once again that they were of the opposite sex.
She looked in front of her as her heart throbbed. The large tree where Garan was standing was far away, but she was sure he could hear her if she raised her voice. But she didn’t know what to say to him.
“Garan… I… Ah!”
She was about to speak since the silence was awkward, but someone suddenly grabbed her from behind and bound her.
The cloth that was placed over her mouth smelled of sleeping powder. TN: She’s always getting kidnapped huh?
She inhaled the medicine by accident since everything had happened so fast.
Her consciousness was already falling into the darkness by the time she thought that.
Kousho took a small breath as the discussion about the mining treaty came to a close.
Seirai was holding a document detailing the treaty in front of him.
The speed at which he was reading the document was astonishing.
Kousho wondered if he was reading through the document properly, but he gave accurate answers when Kousho asked him about the content.
He was indeed the smartest person in Koran.
“… Hmm. I think it went well. If His Majesty is satisfied with the treaty and presses the nation’s seal on this document, then there will never be another dispute about the mines in the future. You’re amazing, Kousho. You’ve created the treaty in such a way that both nations will benefit.”
“I’m glad to hear that from the smartest man in Koran. I am greatly honoured. It would have been completed much faster if you had helped me.”
Kousho was half serious, half sarcastic.
Seirai seemed to have guessed the exact meaning of his words and chuckled.
“Don’t say that. I’m not good with this kind of negotiation. I try to think about everything rationally and tend to forget to be considerate to the other party’s feelings and position. If I had created this treaty, then I would have come up with something that is perfect but would make both nations feel a loss.”
It was a surprising drawback for Seirai. Seirai stared at Kousho.
“But you’re different. You have a heart that cares for others and the ability to make calm judgements at the same time, that’s why both Shinzui and Koran can create a treaty that is beneficial for both sides. A person like you is worthy of becoming an Emperor.”
“… Gross. If you compliment me that much, then I might think something’s wrong with you.”
Kousho returned his stare and his mouth twitched in exasperation.
“You’re so cruel. It’s rare for me to compliment someone so earnestly! … I don’t want to make an enemy out of you. You and I are the future emperors of Shinzui and Koran. Now that we’ve signed the treaty, I only hope that we can build a friendly relationship from now on.”
These were Seirai’s true feelings.
Kousho had known for a long time that Seirai isn’t a bad person, although his personality isn’t straightforward.
“That’s a coincidence. I also think that. Then, wash your hands of Riri as a sign of our friendship.”
Kousho smiled and Seirai smiled back.
“I don’t want to. I really like Riri, besides…”
Seirai suddenly turned serious.
“His Majesty really likes Riri. Even if I give up, His Majesty will not… It’s a good opportunity. Actually, there’s something I would like to discuss with you.”
Seirai signalled the Koran guards on his right with his eyes, and they left the room.
Kousho realised that it was something that should not be heard, so he signalled the civil officials from Shinzui, who were also nearby, with his eyes. They also got up quickly and left the room.
He leaned forward after confirming that no one else was in the room and looked at Seirai.
“What is it?”
“His Majesty has been quite unreasonable these past few years, and if he wants something, he’ll take it from you. He wants to keep Riri with him. He has been acting like a good person to her even though he would have done anything to get her. I’m afraid of his calm pretence.”
Kousho had heard a lot about Koran’s Emperor from his father and had met him several times before.
“I believe that His Majesty Aren is just as you had described. Father said that His Majesty is a man who has a huge ego, but understands what people say.”
“That was a long time ago.”
Seirai looked pained and lonely.
“His Majesty always rages about getting his hands on the mines until recently. He seemed very disappointed that he had been beaten by Emperor Reibun during the Three Kingdom Peace Conference 20 years ago and even said that he would teach him a lesson. Then, he suddenly declared that he would create a peace treaty that will be favourable for Shinzui.”
Seirai put his hand over his mouth and stared at a spot on the wall.
“All I can think about is that he found something different that he wanted enough to be willing to give up on the mines.”
“What in the world could that be?”
Seirai is a clever man, and he and Aren are also father and son.
Kousho was beginning to think that there might be something like that since Seirai was willing to go to such lengths to talk to him about it.
Aren certainly wanted the mines a lot, but Kousho couldn’t understand why he would create a treaty to give up the mine as if he no longer wanted it.
He wanted to believe that Aren was doing it for the sake of peace between both nations, but he couldn’t deny that he had some doubts in his mind.
“I think it’s…”
Seirai continued with a bitter expression on his face.
But his words were drowned out by Garan, who had opened the door and rushed in.
Garan was usually calm, but his complexion had changed, and his breath was rough.
The fact that he had rushed into the room in a panic when he was supposed to be looking for the blue winter daphne with Riri stirred up some unpleasant feelings within Kousho.
He tried to keep as calm as possible.
But his heart was pounding, and disgusting sweat was running down his forehead.
“Riri has… Consort Riri has been kidnapped by someone!”
Knowing that his bad feeling had come true, his body trembled with pain, worry and anger towards the culprit.
“How the hell did that happen?”
Kousho rushed towards Garan. Garan managed to catch his breath and immediately fell to his knees.
“We went looking for the blue winter daphne and got it. Then… I took my eyes off Riri for a second and she was kidnapped by two masked men. I witnessed the kidnapping and immediately chased after them, but they escaped on horseback…”
“What the heck were you doing even though you were there?! How could you let her out of your sight?!”
Kousho raised his voice. Garan wouldn’t have made such a blunder if he had been his usual self.
Garan choked on his words and bowed deeply.
“I am… terribly sorry!”
Kousho knew that blaming Garan wouldn’t bring Riri back.
He exhaled and tried to calm himself down.
“… Enough. I’ll try my best to find her. I’ll get her back!”
The biggest problem was that Kousho was in Koran and not his own kingdom.
He had brought soldiers with him from Shinzui, but they wouldn’t be enough for the search. He turned around and looked at Seirai.
“I want you to help me look for Riri, Seirai.”
He recognised Seirai as the Crown Prince of Koran, but he honestly disliked him personally.
But he knew well that Seirai was very dependable at times like this.
What was most important now was not what he liked or disliked, but Riri’s safety.
It was nothing to bow down to Seirai, whom he disliked, if it was for that reason.
Seirai seemed to be thinking about something, then he suddenly looked at Kousho as if he had realised something.
“Of course. The fief where Riri had disappeared is quite large. If she was taken by someone then it’s possible that she’s no longer there. If she isn’t there anymore, then the search for her would cover the entire Koran. I’ll tell His Majesty about the situation and ask him to prepare some soldiers for the search. Please wait a moment.”
Seirai left the room in a panic. Kousho watched him go, then folded his arms together.
“… Garan. Follow him.”
He whispered in a quiet voice and Garan widened his eyes in surprise.
“He knows something.”
It was just a hunch. Seirai had made a big fuss when he found out that Riri had been kidnapped, but he didn’t sound surprised.
“It’s as if… he was expecting Riri to be kidnapped.”
Garan’s eyes widened in disbelief when he heard Kousho mutter this, but he quickly bowed his head.
“As you wish.”
Garan quickly got up and left the room.
|↑1||TN: She’s always getting kidnapped huh?|