It was a great honour for the Beautiful Flower Palace to prepare the banquet.
But it was possible that this would result in further conflict with the way the Beautiful Flower Palace was now.
Riri was worried that this would make things worse when she suddenly heard a voice.
“Consort Riri, I also have something for you to do.”
It was Kousho’s voice. She looked up in surprise.
“Huh?! Ah, yes…!”
She turned to look at him and saw he was sullen.
“Why are you panicking so much?”
“I-I am so sorry!”
“Well, whatever. I want you to prepare the incenses for the banquet. The Ministry of Incenses will normally prepare the incenses for the gathering, but I’m going to leave it to you this year. I want our guests to know that there is a consort in Beautiful Flower Place who can make incenses.”
It was an unexpected request. She smiled with joy since it felt like her skills at making incenses had been recognised.
“Yes. I will work hard to prepare incenses that will satisfy our guests.”
Women in this nation weren’t allowed to become perfumers, so this was probably the most prestigious job she could do.
She bowed her head, then Kousho nodded and stood up.
“I’m going to be busy preparing for the gathering. I’ll leave the banquet to you all. Obey Consort Hisui and act as one to make the banquet a success.”
All the consorts bowed their heads in unison again.
The consorts who were seated in the hall looked graceful at a glance, but they emitted fragrances containing various emotions that were invisible to the eye. Those fragrances blew away all the happiness she felt over being entrusted with a prestigious task.
Her heart filled with anxiety as she watched Kousho leave the hall.
(How can we work as one to prepare the banquet like this…!? If the banquet fails, then the fault will lie with Kousho-sama since Beautiful Flower Palace belongs to him. It is also the unveiling of the next emperor, so failure isn’t an option.)
The hall got even noisier when Kousho left.
She felt anxious as she saw the consorts from Hisui’s faction and Ranran’s faction glare at each other.
“Consort Hisui, may I have a moment?”
Riri quickly called out to Hisui in the corridor.
Hisui and the several consorts around her turned around.
“What is it, Consort Riri?”
Hisui was unusually nervous. The person in charge of the Elegant Incense Gathering has an important role.
It may be too much for Hisui who is still in her teens.
Even so, Riri believed that Kousho ordered her to do so because he believed she could do it.
“I would like to discuss what incense should be burnt at the banquet. I won’t take up much of your time… I would like to talk with just the two of us if that’s possible.”
She glanced at the consorts around them. They looked a little peeved.
“Consort Riri, Consort Hisui is very busy.”
“That’s right. We’ve just started preparing for the gathering, so show some restraint.”
Hisui stopped the consorts with her right hand.
“I also need to talk to Consort Riri about the banquet. I’m sorry, but could you excuse me for a moment.”
The consorts looked at each other when they heard Hisui’s quiet voice.
“Alright. Then, we’ll go first.”
The consorts walked down the corridor, seemingly reluctant to leave.
Hisui turned to Riri when the consorts were out of sight.
“What did you want to talk about, Riri?”
Hisui was often described as being like a doll because of her pretty, poker face, but she was a passionate person.
She had shown her crying face and smiling face to Riri because Riri was her friend.
“I’m sorry for bothering you when you’re busy, Hisui, but there’s something I really want to ask you… It’s about Consort Raran.”
Her expression didn’t change but Riri immediately smelled the scent Hisui emitted when she was upset.
“Why did Consort Ranran behave like that? What’s stranger is that you’re staying silent no matter what she says. Why don’t you tell her off?”
That was the strangest thing. Hisui scolding her would change the situation.
Hisui quickly looked away. Riri found Hisui’s attitude weird as well.
“… Did something happen between you and Consort Ranran? You can tell me. I want to help you. Besides, Beautiful Flower Palace will fall apart if this situation continues.”
Hisui looked pained. Riri knew that something had happened, but she suddenly heard a voice before she could ask.
She was startled by the voice that was coming from ahead.
This voice was the last voice she wanted to hear right now. She looked up to see Ranran walking towards them with a group of consorts.
She was staring at Hisui harshly. Hisui looked down to avoid Ranran’s gaze.
Hisui’s attitude was unusual and Riri widened her eyes. In addition to her beauty, Hisui is the object of admiration of the consorts because she has the ability to make calm decisions and holds enough knowledge to manage the Beautiful Flower Palace.
She was always dignified and Riri had never seen her looking down like this.
Ranran stood in front of Hisui and looked angry.
“Being in charge of the banquet is the empress’s duty. In other words, it is my duty since I am the best candidate for the empress position, so you should refuse to oversee the banquet. I’ll be in charge of entertaining the foreign royals.”
Ranran’s argument was strange, but the consorts behind her looked as if she was speaking the obvious.
“… I can’t do that. Kousho-sama ordered me to do it.”
“So, it’s fine for you to refuse. Why don’t you say you’re not feeling well or something like that.”
“It is discourteous to lie to the royal family.”
Ranran bit her lips as Hisui stared at her.
“Are you going against me?! I’ll let everyone know about that!”
Ranran was startled by the thing she had blurted out.
“Consort Ranran. What are you talking about?”
Riri asked sharply and Ranran quickly put her hands over her mouth.
“Nothing. Anyway, refuse. Otherwise, the other consorts and I won’t listen to you.”
With that, Ranran turned and walked back from where she came from. Riri watched her walk away then looked at Hisui.
“Hey, Hisui. What was Consort Ranran going on about…”
“Riri. I have lots to do, so I have to go now… I’m sorry.”
Hisui turned her back towards Riri and quickly left.
There was a small garden behind the Beautiful Flower Palace. It was surrounded by shrubs and only had a small poor excuse of a pond and a pavilion. Riri visited the back garden and looked around.
“May I have a bit of your time, Kousho-sama?”
Kousho was reading something in the pavilion. He turned his head towards him as she approached.
“Riri? I’m busy right now. We can talk later.”
This was Kousho’s favourite garden.
She believed she would be able to talk to him here, and she was right.
“I am sorry, but I have something important to tell you. May I have a bit of your time?”
It would have been impossible for Riri, who had the low status of a talented person, to talk to the Crown Prince alone, but Kousho didn’t tell her off and turned towards her.
“Is it about Consort Hisui and Consort Ranran?”
“So, you know about it?”
“Well, yeah. The consorts are split into two factions, Consort Hisui’s faction and Consort Ranran’s faction. Conflicts between consorts are quite common in the inner palace.”
Kousho shrugged. Riri entered the pavilion and stood in front of him.
“But there is something weird. Consort Ranran has never rebelled against Consort Hisui before. It is also strange that Consort Hisui doesn’t tell Consort Ranran off for her attitude. Besides, everyone must work together for the Elegant Incense Gathering, but if the consorts are at odds with each other then…”
Kousho put down the paper that was in his hand and leaned against the wall of the pavilion.
“Consort Hisui certainly has the brains and skills to do something about this before Consort Ranran could lead the other consorts. Her father assigned her to organise the consorts before she entered the Beautiful Flower Palace.”
Riri had never heard this before. Kousho slowly nodded.
“Yes. Consort Hisui has overwhelming popularity and she is good at unifying people. Hisui’s father raised her that way because he wants her to become the future empress. She herself also entered the Beautiful Flower Palace because she wants to become empress.”
Kousho spoke indifferently as if it was about someone else even though they were talking about a woman who might become his future wife.
“It is definitely weird for her to just sit back and watch as Consort Ranran expands her influence.”
“It is. The preparations for the Elegant Incense Gathering might not go well if things continue like this…”
Kousho folded his arms when she spoke of her uneasiness.
“I suppose it would be possible for me to chide Consort Ranran and make her change her attitude, but there will just be more trouble behind the scenes. If I protect Consort Hisui, then Consort Ranran may become even more jealous and use more malicious methods. There’s nothing more terrifying than jealousy among the consorts in the inner palace.”
Kousho’s gaze sharpened.
(I heard that his mother was poisoned by the consorts at the inner palace because they were jealous that she was receiving the Emperor’s love all the time. I’m sure Kousho-sama understands the feelings of the consorts at the inner palace…)
Her heart ached. She didn’t know what to say and Kousho continued.
“But we cannot afford to make any mistakes at the banquet since foreign royal members will be invited. If something does happen at the banquet, then Consort Hisui may have to take responsibility and leave the inner palace.”
Kousho’s words were heavy. He turned his gaze towards her.
“Riri, if I interfere with the affairs of the inner palace then it might have an opposite effect, but I can’t just leave them like this, so will you help Consort Hisui?”
He looked at her and she nodded.
“Of course. That was what I was going to do, but I just do not know how to help her.”
She put her hand on her chest and looked down. Kousho patted her on the shoulder.
“First, you need to find out why Consort Ranran is being demanding towards Consort Hisui, and there must be a reason why Consort Hisui doesn’t say anything about her attitude. You need to find out that reason. Beautiful Flower Place might be unified if you can stop them from quarrelling.”
“I understand. I will try to find out those reasons.”
Kousho stared at her while she was pondering about how to find out those reasons.
“I have something I’ve been meaning to ask you. You said that you could make progress with the treasured incense if you used the blue winter daphne that you got from Koran, right? How is that going?”
“I am preparing it right now. It’s not completed yet, but I am closer to completing one of the treasured incenses, the Memory Erasing Incense.”