Seirai said nervously in front of his father’s room.
He believed a flaw of his twas that he couldn’t understand people’s feelings well. He often forgot about other people’s feelings when he thought rationally.
He always believed that the reason why people’s feelings seemed insignificant to him when he was achieving some goal was because he lacked something as a human being.
But even he had exceptions.
His younger sister had been left alone in the palace ever since his mother’s death, and he felt that he must protect her no matter the means. And now, there was another exception, which until now had only included his younger sister.
He was once again trying to do something irrational for this reason.
“What’s wrong, Seirai?”
When he entered the room, his father, Aren, was lying comfortably on the couch.
He was alone as he had told his servants to leave the room.
His father and him had not had a private conversation in years.
It was agonising to face someone who speaks arrogantly and emotionally.
As a result, he would not talk to him unless it was necessary. When he spoke to his father, he thought about the most reasonable things to say so as to not provoke his father’s anger.
But, today, he was prepared to talk to his father even though he knew he would provoke him for the sake of the one other person except for his sister who he recognised as an exception… Riri.
“I need to talk to you about something. It is about Riri.”
He pondered about how to talk to him but knew that the quickest and surest way was just to ask him upfront.
“Riri was kidnapped. The culprit is you, is it not Your Majesty?”
He came to that conclusion after thinking about different scenarios. Seirai looked at Aren, who didn’t panic but smiled thinly.
He clenched his fist, I knew it.
“You proposed the treaty to give up the mining concessions to Shinzui so that you could invite Riri to Koran. You cannot take Riri out of the inner palace in Shinzui no matter who you are. That was why you pretended that you wanted to establish friendly relations with Shinzui and had them bring her here to Koran. Shinzui tried to respond to your wishes as much as they could so that they could conclude the treaty. As a result, Riri was brought to Koran as you wished.”
Seirai had always pondered. It was impossible for Aren to give up the concession rights to the mine when he was so attached to it.
But he could imagine one reason why Aren would.
He had found something that he wanted more than the mines.
“Ah, my plan worked well. Everything was done to keep Riri close to me since she could make the heart soothing incense. You’re young and healthy, so you understand me, don’t you? My heart and head is filled with fear about my life being drained away every time I have a seizure. I would do anything to escape from that pain.”
Aren was ecstatic.
“The incense that Riri makes keeps those painful fits at bay. I could escape from the seizures that are killing me if I have that incense, but the heart soothing incense only lasts for half a year. What’s wrong with keeping Riri close to me so that she can always make the heart soothing incense for me?”
A mine that produces gold couldn’t be a substitute for an incense that saves lives.
Seirai could understand this.
But what Aren did was incomprehensible.
“Didn’t Kousho promise that he would send you the heart soothing incense every six months?”
“How could I believe him!?”
He found himself cowering as his father yelled at him.
His life depended on his father when he was a child.
It was fine when his mother was still alive, but after she passed away, he was in danger of being expelled from the palace depending on his father’s mood. He could live with that, but his younger sister couldn’t.
He felt that it was his mission to live in a way that wouldn’t offend his father to protect his sister.
So, he couldn’t say anything back when his father yelled.
He also didn’t know how to deal with people who were driven by their emotions.
“Listen, Seirai. We cannot trust what the royal family of Shinzui says! Kousho is the son of Ju Reibun! That man tricked me so he could take the mining concessions!”
He had heard from his father that the Emperor of Shinzui had deceived him during the discussions for the mining concessions. He also said that he held a grudge against him for that.
“Kousho is a trustworthy man. I am sure he does not want to get into any more disputes over the mines. I am also certain that he will have Riri make the incense and send it to you.
Aren suddenly grabbed a jug on his desk with his right hand and threw it at Seirai.
Seirai dodged just in time, but the jug fell to the floor and shattered into pieces.
He would have been injured if it had hit him directly. Aren glared at him.
“I can’t trust those words!”
Aren’s mood shifted. His eyes were full of anger and hatred. He almost retreated as a habit he had gained since he was a child. He put a lot of strength into his legs which were about to give way.
“Riri is Kousho’s talented person. He will soon realise that it was you who had kidnapped her. Kousho wants peace but he cares deeply for Riri. He will not hesitate to fight to get her back.”
Kousho wasn’t someone who you wanted to make an enemy.
He was someone who could read his opponent’s emotions unlike Seirai, so Seirai felt that he wouldn’t win.
Most importantly, he didn’t want war.
It was difficult for him to imagine the suffering of the people since he was incapable of sympathising with other’s emotions.
But the thought of his sister suffering made his heart ache.
“I don’t care. I did it because I’m prepared. There have been no wars with Shinzui since my reign, but my father was passionate about conquering Shinzui. I will follow my father’s example and take Shinzui for myself, then of course, the mines will be mine.”
He realised that his father had no intention of giving up the mines.
“I don’t want that!”
The cry came from the bottom of his heart.
He had always been at his father’s beck and call.
He felt that it was troublesome to disobey him and believed that obeying him was the rational thing to do.
But now it was different.
He was surprised that he could become so emotional, and the words came out easily.
“Please give Riri back. Your Majesty has no right to detain her. Many people will suffer if we go to war. I, as the Crown Prince of this kingdom, will abdicate you!”
There is a law in Koran that allows the Emperor to be abdicated if the Crown Prince, Chancellor, and all the civil officials deem that the Emperor is no longer able to make normal decisions due to illness or disorder.
He wasn’t sure if all the civil officials would obey him.
But he believed it would be possible to persuade them.
Above all, he didn’t want his father to hold the power of an Emperor.
The civil officials were also terrified of the Emperor’s tyranny. They would surely obey him if he spoke up.
“Hoh, is it alright for you to say that?”
“Yes. I have made up my mind.”
Seirai stared at Aren seriously and Aren held back his chuckle.
Seirai was concerned about his relaxed attitude.
“… What is wrong?”
“You’ve forgotten something important. Your most important thing has always been in my hand.”
Seirai immediately realised what Aren was talking about.
“Yes. Keika is in my inner palace right now. You’re the one who holds her life in your hands Seirai, not me.”
Seirai raised his eyebrow since he didn’t understand the meaning of those words and Aren slowly stood up.
“Seirai, I’ll tell you where Riri is. Go to her now and ask her to marry you.”
Seirai couldn’t believe his ears. Aren was all smiles, but his eyes were unfocused.
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re going to marry Riri. Shinzui won’t be able to act that easily if you make her your wife. After all, she will be the bride of the future Emperor of Koran.”
Aren’s words, thoughts and expression was out of the ordinary, but it seemed that he was serious.
“I will build a new inner palace for Riri. I’ll lock her in there for the rest of her life and have her make incenses for me. Yes, yes, that’s a good idea. Seirai, you’ll have your wedding ceremony tomorrow. You must make her your wife even if she doesn’t want to be. Do you know what will happen to Keika if you refuse?”
This was the first kind smile Aren had directed at Seirai.
His mother was the only person who could make his father look like this.
When he was a child, he had hoped that his father would smile at him like this.
But now that he had done it, he was afraid of that smile.
Seirai wanted to say no but he had no choice but to agree for now. He couldn’t persuade his father any further.
He turned his back to Aren and left the room.
“Can I talk to you for a moment, Kousho?”
Kousho lifted his face towards the door where the voice came from. He immediately recognised Seirai’s voice and signalled Garan, who was standing in front of him, with his eyes. Then, he tried to keep calm as he replied.
He spoke quietly, and Seirai opened the door and entered. Seirai looked at Kousho and smiled thinly.
“Stop pretending you don’t know what happened. It’s a waste of time. You had Garan follow me, right? He must have heard the conversation between His Majesty and I.”
Seirai is brilliant. He saw through everything.
Garan had just reported the conversation that he had heard between Aren and Seirai. Kousho immediately knew the meaning behind Seirai coming here even after knowing that he had Garan follow him.
“I don’t want war, but I will also do whatever it takes to get Riri back.”
He only said what was necessary. Seirai is a rational man, and he doesn’t like talking in a roundabout way.
It was the same for Kousho when he had to make important decisions.
“I know. I don’t want war either, but I can’t go against His Majesty because he’s holding my sister hostage. So, I want to help you.”
Seirai sat down in the chair in front of Kousho. He looked at Kousho wearily.
“I want to help Riri. That’s the truth. My father did something unreasonable, but I also want to save my sister. So…”
“So, you want me to save Riri myself.”
Seirai smiled wryly when Kousho said what he wanted to say.
“I’m glad you’re quick. I’m going to meet Riri under my father’s orders. You can follow me to find out where she is. I can’t help you take her away, so you will have to rescue her yourself.”
Kousho was furious by Aren’s actions. He clenched his trembling fists tightly and took a deep breath.
He loves Riri. She is his first love. He had been thinking about her for years.
He swore that he would never let her go again when he met her again.
But he cannot only think of his beloved as the Crown Prince of Shinzui.