She gently closed her eyes and could smell the incense at the back of her nose.
Her father had erased her childhood memories. She had watched him prepare the legendary treasured incense from start to finish, and it was her father’s love that kept her out of harm’s way.
(My father completed the treasured incense six years ago, but he failed to present it to the Emperor. He was murdered soon after that by an enemy who wanted the treasured incense…)
At first, she had entered the Beautiful Flower Place because she had wanted to restore her father’s honour.
She had lost her memories, but her super olfaction remembered the ‘scent’ that her father had created. She believed that if she could re-create the treasured incense by relying on her olfaction, then she could prove that her father had made the treasured incense.
In fact, she had succeeded in erasing someone’s memory with the incense before, but the treasured incense was one that manipulated memories. She had to improve its efficiency to the point where it could freely manipulate memories for as long as needed. This had been difficult until recently, but she was finally getting a feel for it.
“I am already in the final stages of creating the Memory Erasing Incense. I should be able to complete it if I can figure out how much of the blue winter daphne fragrance wood is needed, but I still have not started on the Memory Retrieving Incense. I am sorry.”
She bowed her head and Kousho shrugged.
“You don’t need to apologise. It’s only been half a year since you came to the Beautiful Flower Palace. It’s extraordinary that you are able to perfect the Memory Erasing Incense in such a short time. The perfumers at the Ministry of Incenses have not been able to reach your level even after decades of research.”
“It is because of my super olfaction. I promised that I will re-create the treasured incense by the time you are enthroned. There is not much time left, but I will do my best.”
She couldn’t say yes if asked if she was confident, but she had no choice but to move forward.
“Alright. The Elegant Incense Gathering is important, but the treasured incense is even more important than anything else for this kingdom. I know it’s a lot of work, but please do your best with both.”
Kousho supported her desire to complete the treasured incense and clear her father’s name.
She was delighted about that. She made up her mind that she would succeed in making it for Kousho’s sake. Kousho crossed his arms and sighed.
“Riri, what do you think about the current Shinzui?”
Her mind raced quickly at his sudden question.
“… The current Shinzui is peaceful and there are no wars, but I may not be able to say yes if you ask me if the people are happy.”
She knew it was disrespectful to say this to the Crown Prince, but she couldn’t lie to him.
“I was happy just to be able to eat every day when I lived downtown, but I realised that nobles and high officials are living much better… when I came to the palace.”
The nobles and high officials were dressed in luxurious clothes, they drank heavily and had more food than they could possibly eat. The amount of money that they spent in a day would surely be enough for a family in the downtown area to live on for a few years.
“I do not know how to put this into words, but I feel that it is unfair sometimes. We are all people.”
She was surprised that she had spoken her true feelings.
“I apologise, I should not have said this to you.”
Kousho listened with his eyes shut, then he opened his eyes and smiled.
“It’s alright. I’m glad I got to hear your honest opinion. You have lived both in the downtown area and in the palace. Your opinion is valuable.”
Kousho suddenly became serious.
“Riri. I want to change this kingdom from its roots when I become the emperor. The current government is one where nobles and high-ranking officials are able to live in wealth because of the taxes that have been extorted from the citizens.”
The sincerity in his voice almost took her breath away.
“But I believe that royals, nobles and high officials should put people’s livelihoods first. It is my dream to govern like that. I want to build a nation like that when I become the emperor.”
She listened attentively, drawn by his powerful words.
“I am in charge of every aspect of the Elegant Incense Gathering this year. Making this gathering a success is my first step towards being recognised as an emperor since foreign royals will be there.”
The smile on Kousho’s face as he spoke of his dream was more dazzling than any expression she had ever seen.
(Huh…? I have seen this smile somewhere before…)
She suddenly felt nostalgic when she saw that smile.
She tilted her head while thinking about where she had seen this smile and Kousho continued.
“When I become the emperor, I will aim to create a kingdom where talented people, regardless of status and gender, can contribute to the nation. I would also like to change the system that prevents women from becoming perfumers. A capable person, regardless of whether they are a man or woman, has to work hard.”
This was something that Kousho would say. His words were in line with her own dream of becoming a perfumer.
“Will I be able to take the perfumer exam when you become emperor?”
She leaned forward and asked and Kousho smiled mischievously.
“You could probably take the test, but whether you pass or not is up to you.”
“I know, but the thought of maybe being able to take the exam will encourage me to practice more.”
She smiled happily and Kousho shrugged.
“Good luck…. Oh yes, I was going to tell you that I heard the new technology the Ministry of Incenses developed that will be presented at the Elegant Incense Gathering is amazing.”
“Eh? How is it amazing?”
“This is supposed to be a national secret until the Elegant Incense Gathering, but I’ll make an exception and tell you about it. This year, the Ministry of Incenses will announce a new technology that will allow us to identify the raw materials of an incense. There are tools to find out the materials of incenses, but it wasn’t possible to determine their amount, but with this new technology, it is possible to identify the materials that were used in the incense and their amounts with near accuracy.”
Riri widened her eyes in surprise and gasped.
“Really!? Does that mean that we will be able to analyse incenses made by other nations!?”
There are many great incenses that can be used for medical treatment even if they were made in foreign nations or weren’t made by a perfumer.
But the people who make these incenses don’t tell others about what materials they made or the quantity of the materials.
So, if one really wanted the incense, then one would have no choice but to buy it at the price the creator set, which can often be quite expensive and often problematic.
But if they had the technology to find out the materials and quantity used in an incense, then they would be able to make it themselves without having to pay a lot of money to buy it from someone else.
It would be quite revolutionary if a technology like that had been developed.
“I can tell from the aroma of the incenses what materials are used and in what proportions to a certain extent, but how on earth did the Ministry of Incenses identify the materials and measurements?”
She couldn’t resist but get excited when she heard about new technology for incenses.
“I don’t know the details myself. Kansou didn’t talk to me about it since it’s a waste of time to repeat it. He just told me to look forward to the big announcement at the Elegant Incense Gathering. That stubborn man must be very confident since he reported this to me with a grin on his face. He was happy since we may eventually be able to identify the materials and quantities of the treasured incense if this technology improves even further.”
She remembered Kansou’s face. He was the head of the Ministry of Incenses, and although he was famous for being strict, he was a serious and capable person. If he was this sure, then the new technology must be superb.
All the perfumers at the Ministry of Incenses are also working hard to re-create the treasured incense. This new technology must be good news to them too. Thinking about it made her tingle.
She clasped her hands together without thinking and held it in prayer in front of Kousho.
“I want to see it! I know I am not worthy of seeing the new technology since I am only a talented person, but I want to see it no matter what…! What kind of technology is it? Incenses are often made by refining fragrant wood or plants, so I suppose it is something that can identify the different types of fragrant woods and plants.”
She exclaimed excitedly, and Kousho smiled wryly, then he put his right hand on Riri’s head.
“I’ll arrange for you to have a close look at it at the Elegant Incense Gathering.”
Her eyes sparkled with excitement and Kousho nodded.
“I knew you would ask, so I talked to Kansou about giving you permission to see it. Kansou is strict, but he thinks highly of you. He agreed to give you special permission to participate in the Elegant Incense Gathering. Look forward to it.”
She was surprised at how well he had arranged everything. She almost burst into tears because of his kindness.
“Thank you very much!”
“It’s too early for you to thank me. You need to deal with the conflict at Beautiful Flower Palace first. I want to make my dream come true, so I need to make the Elegant Incense Gathering a success.”
Kousho looked serious and she nodded.
“I will help you make your dream come true.”
She spoke her true feelings. Kousho reached out and gently touched her cheek.
His large, warm hands caressed her cheek, then he widened his eyes.
“I can do my best if you support me.”
Those sweet, kind words and expression made her heart beat faster.
Lately, she often found herself in this state whenever she spoke to Kousho.
(My feelings are fluffy, and I feel embarrassed when I look at Kousho-sama’s face. What is this…?)
She didn’t know how she felt, but she was sure that her feelings towards him being arrogant and foul-mouthed had changed recently.
(Do I like Kousho-sama?!?! No, no, no, no way, I don’t! And…)
She suddenly felt down since she remembered something.
(Kousho-sama has someone who he has been in love with for a very long time.)
During the beauty pageant, he had told her to become one of the Four Consorts and refuse to be empress so that he could bide his time until he could meet his first love.
She felt as if her chest was being pricked by something at that time too.
And now, she couldn’t stop the pain that was making it hard for her to breathe whenever she thought about this.
“What’s wrong? You have a strange expression on your face.”
Kousho looked at her curiously.
“Nothing. Let’s make the Elegant Incense Gathering a success.”
She tried to sound as cheerful as possible.
I can’t let Kousho-sama know about these feelings, she thought.