All the consorts who lived at the Beautiful Flower Palace were gathered in the great hall.
Riri was sitting at the very back of the hall staring at the backs of the consorts who were sitting in front of her.
A maid had announced that Kousho had an urgent matter to discuss a few moments ago, and everyone rushed to gather in the great hall.
The gracefully seated consorts were all dressed elegantly and adorned with flittering accessories and hairpins. They were all in their teens, so their skin was smooth, and their radiant auras filled the room.
But the ‘scent’ that was emanating from these girls was completely different from the aura they gave off.
(The disgusting smell of mutual hate is overflowing from everyone. I feel like I’m going to choke.)
The only skill she possessed was her super olfaction which allowed her to even smell the emotions of people from the scent they gave off. The smell of disgust and hatred was the worst thing in the world.
She almost felt sick but managed to hold it in and look at their backs once more.
The Four Consorts, the representatives of Beautiful Flower Palace, were sitting in the front row; Hisui, the Noble Consort, to her left, Juka, the Virtuous Consort, and to her right were Ranran and Shoei, the Pure and Worthy Consorts.
Behind them, the consorts who supported Hisui and those who supported Ranran were seated on their respective sides which created an unnatural gap in the middle of the hall like a trench.
The division at the Beautiful Flower Place had become so serious that it showed.
The door at the front side of the hall opened wide while she was worried that something bad would happen in the future.
Kousho, the Crown Prince of Shinzui, entered with several aides.
Everyone in Shinzui had dark hair and eye colours, but the royal family, who is said to be descended from dragons, are different.
Kousho had long, fiery red hair which was tied into a simple knot and greyish-brown eyes. His handsome face was enough to captivate all the women in the palace. His tall and muscular body was dressed in an amber Shenyi that had a rising dragon, which only the royal family can wear, embroidered on it.
He was still young at around twenty years old, but he was scheduled to become the emperor of Shinzui in half a year, replacing his father, who was ill and bedridden. When she first came to the palace, she honestly disliked Kousho because of his arrogant attitude, but her feelings towards him gradually changed as she interacted with him.
(Kousho-sama may have a sharp tongue, but he is really kind. He always helps me in times of need. I want to do what I can for him.)
If something were to happen in the Beautiful Flower Palace, then Kousho will be responsible since he is the master of the Beautiful Flower Palace. She believed that the thing she could do for him now was to find out the cause of the conflict in Beautiful Flower Palace.
She turned her attention once again to the consorts who were sitting in two sections.
(Consort Ranran used to follow Hisui around, and had been really loyal to her, and yet she suddenly rebelled against Hisui. What on earth could be the cause of this?)
Although this was a secret from everyone, she and Hisui were close enough to call each other by name.
She also wanted to do something about this situation for Hisui since she was her friend.
“Thank you for gathering here.”
She heard Kousho’s low voice while she was thinking.
She quickly looked up to see that Kousho was seated at the front and was looking around.
“I have gathered you all here today because I have received an imperial order from the Emperor.”
Riri could feel the other consorts tense up at those words.
(An imperial order from the Emperor? It’s been half a year since I’ve arrived at the Beautiful Flower Palace, but it seems no one here has experienced this before.)
She tilted her head, wondering what the order was about when Kousho slowly spoke again.
“The palace will hold a big event in a month called the ‘Elegant Incense Gathering’. As you all know, the ‘Elegant Incense Gathering’ is an important event that occurs once a year where the Ministry of Incenses present the incenses they have researched to guests both inside and outside of the nation.”
In Shinzui, incenses were used not only to calm the mind, but also to cure pain and illnesses. Perfumers who can manipulate incenses have the same status as a doctor.
She dreamed of becoming a perfumer who could heal people ever since she was a child.
However, being a perfumer is a government-recognised qualification, and one must pass a strict exam to become one.
On top of that, women weren’t allowed to take the exams, so the chances of her dream coming true was low.
Still, she didn’t want to give up, so she continued studying incenses.
She knew about the Elegant Incense Meeting. When she lived downtown, the whole town would get excited like when a festival was being held whenever the Elegant Incense Gathering was held. She looked forward to the gathering every year since new incense techniques which were invented by the Ministry of Incenses were presented to the public.
Kousho slowly looked around at the consorts.
“The Elegant Incense Gathering is an event hosted by the Emperor. Nobles from our nation and the royal families of other nations are invited to the gathering and the Ministry of Incenses will present their research over a period of three days. The Emperor entertains the guests and the banquet that is held on the last day is an important occasion to foster friendship with the royal families from other nations, but as you all know, His Majesty’s health hasn’t been good recently.”
Kousho looked down slightly. He must have been worried about his father even though it didn’t show on his face.
“His Majesty intended to make preparations for the Elegant Incense Gathering while keeping a close eye on his health, but he is distressed that there hasn’t been any progress. He discussed this with his aides, and thus has decided to entrust me with hosting the gathering.”
“Oh my! What an honour…!”
“How wonderful. Being ordered to host this gathering is proof that His Majesty trusts you, Your Highness.”
The hall was noisy. The consorts were all excited and all of them were blushing.
“I’m not done. Quiet.”
Silence soon returned with a single word from Kousho.
“But the Elegant Incense Gathering is in one month. As I said before, the preparations for the gathering haven’t progressed very much due to various reasons. It will be very difficult to prepare for it now. Nevertheless, I have taken on this task.”
His strong gaze seemed to reflect his unshakeable confidence.
“There’s only about half a year left until I become the emperor. Another reason why His Majesty is entrusting me with hosting the gathering is to officially present me as his successor to the royal members of the other nations. Therefore, His Majesty has stated that he would like to entrust the preparations for the banquet, which happens on the last day of the gathering, to the Beautiful Flower Palace.”
The consorts gasped. Kousho continued talking.
“As you all know, Shinzui has three auspicious beast titles. The first title, the ‘Dragon’ title belongs to the emperor who rules Shinzui, the ‘Phoenix’ title is bestowed to the general in charge of the army and is considered as the emperor’s guardian deity, and the title of ‘Qilin’ who is said to protect the nation with a benevolent heart is bestowed to the master perfumer.”
Everyone in Shinzui knew about this.
There are two people who hold the title of ‘Dragon’ and ‘Phoenix’ in Shinzui, but the title of ‘Qilin’ is currently held by no one.
Only those who can make the treasured incense can be bestowed the ‘Qilin’ title, but the method of preparing the treasured incense was lost several hundred years ago since the death of the master perfumer who had created the incense. Many perfumers have tried to re-create the treasured incense, but no one has ever succeeded.
“I will become the emperor and inherit the title of ‘Dragon’ from my father. I intend to rule in a manner that will live up to that title. I believe hosting this Elegant Incense Gathering will be the first step towards this.”
Kousho paused, then smiled gallantly.
“It will be a great honour for the consorts of Beautiful Flower Palace to prepare the Elegant Incense Gathering banquet. If this banquet is a success, then the Beautiful Flower Palace name will spread to other nations, but if we fail, then the rest of the world might laugh at us. We also only have one month to prepare.”
Kousho was smiling but his eyes weren’t.
“I apologise for the last-minute notice, but I want to make the Elegant Incense Gathering a success and make it known everywhere that I am a worthy heir to the ‘Dragon’ title. Please help me with this. I believe you can all do it, so please don’t betray my trust and work hard on the preparations.”
When he finished his speech, the consorts all bowed at once.
Kousho nodded in satisfaction and looked at the Four Consorts who were seated at the front row.
“I will give you your duties, so I want you to lead the consorts of Beautiful Flower Palace and start preparing immediately. First, the Virtuous Consort, Juka.”
Juka’s eyes turned white when her name was called, and she bowed.
“I want you to arrange the food and wine for the banquet, then choose the consorts who will entertain the guests at the banquet. I don’t believe the consorts here will cause any trouble, but please make sure they will behave in a manner that will not come off as rude to the guests.”
“Please leave it to me.”
She bowed once again.
“Next, the Worthy Consort, Shoei.”
Shoei replied in a thin voice. Her body was trembling slightly as if she was nervous.
“I heard that you’re good with needlework, so I want you to prepare small accessories for the banquet and arrange the costumes for the dance performance.”
Kousho’s eyes fell on Hisui and Ranran.
“The Pure Consort, Ranran. It seems that you’re good at dancing. I remember that you had danced wonderfully at the Beauty Pageant. I will leave the dance to you. Please make the banquet as lively as you can.”
“Yes, of course.”
Ranran replied confidently.
“The Noble Consort, Hisui, will be in charge of the banquet. Make sure the banquet goes smoothly and the guests leave satisfied.”
Hisui slowly bowed her head.
“I will do my best for you, Kousho-sama.”
The consorts who heard the exchange between Kousho and Hisui were talking among themselves. The consorts sitting behind Hisui were emitting a happy ‘scent’, but the ones sitting behind Ranran were emitting hatred and anger ‘scents’. The scent that Ranran was emitting as she glared at Hisui was close to a killing intent scent.
(I’m sure the person who is in charge of the banquet will become the empress. Hisui was probably nominated for this position because she is the representative of Beautiful Flower Palace, but it almost means that she has leaped to the number one spot on the list of candidates for empress. That’s why Consort Ranran is jealous of Hisui…)