Riri prepared the incense that would be burnt at the banquet for the Elegant Incense Gathering in such a way that it wouldn’t intrude on the smell of the food and yet still be impactful.
She smiled in satisfaction at the fragrance that she had created over the last 10 days.
“This will work. The incense that will be burnt at the banquet is just something to supplement the atmosphere. I want the guests to be able to enjoy the other scents that will waft through the air during the banquet too.”
She put the incense that she had finished in front of her, then she took a deep breath and looked around.
This was the Fragrance Princess Palace which was said to have been used by the master perfumer who had saved Shinzui hundreds of years ago. Riri had originally lived in the Beautiful Flower Palace, but unpleasant aromas would come out from her room when she made incenses sometimes, and the consorts living in the rooms next to hers would often complain about the smell.
She tried her best in the Beauty Pageant to become one of the Four Consorts, so that she could have her own palace, but she had to withdraw from the competition due to various reasons.
While she was wondering how she could make incenses without being a nuisance, the Emperor arranged for her to live in the palace so that she could concentrate on making incenses after the incident that happened at the Beauty Pageant.
The palaces belonging to the Four Consorts were new, spacious and luxurious, but the Fragrance Princess Palace was small and quite old. But she was still proud to live here.
“Alright! I’ll have Hisui try this incense. I’m sure she’ll meet me this time!”
She wrapped the pastille in white paper and stood up.
She had been going to the Beautiful Flower Palace every day to ask to see Hisui for the past ten days, but she had been turned down because Hisui was busy, so she hadn’t been able to meet her.
She was sure Hisui was busy. It was customary to prepare the banquet three months in advance.
Hisui, who was in charge of preparing for the banquet, only had a month to do so, and must be spending every waking moment preparing for it.
“Still, it’s weird that she won’t see me…”
She was worried that Hisui might be avoiding her.
But she shook her head and dismissed that thought.
“No, she’s probably busy. She’ll meet me if I tell her that I’ve brought the incense for the banquet.”
As Riri left the room, Ryouka, who had been waiting in the corridor, stood up and followed her.
Normally, consorts weren’t allowed to leave the inner palace, but this wasn’t the case for consorts who have their own palaces.
She was allowed to go back and forth between the Beautiful Flower Palace and the Fragrance Princess Palace as long as she was accompanied by a guard or a court lady.
There were always two guards at the gate of the Fragrance Princess Palace.
One would stay behind to guard the Fragrance Princess Palace and one would accompany her when she went out.
After leaving the Fragrance Princess Palace, she walked with Ryouka and the guard for a while until they arrived at the gate of the Beautiful Flower Palace. The guard had to wait at the gate, so she parted ways with him and went through the gate with Ryouka. Then, she suddenly heard a voice.
“The food hasn’t been arranged yet?!”
It sounded like Hisui. She sounded upset, which was unusual for her calm self.
Riri rushed into the palace and went to the courtyard where she had heard the voice. There stood Hisui and several other consorts.
“I came up with the menu for the banquet and told you to pass it onto the kitchen, didn’t I?”
Hisui’s voice nearly made Juka, who was in charge of the banquet’s food, cry.
“That’s because… Ranran said something… to the consort who I asked to pass the message onto the kitchen staff.”
Her voice got quieter and quieter and eventually disappeared.
Hisui bit her lips slightly. Juka looked at Hisui with tears in her eyes.
“What should we do? We have to procure the ingredients but neither the menu nor the types of alcohol being served have been communicated to the kitchen staff. There are 20 days left until the banquet, and we are planning on using a lot of rare and expensive ingredients, so if we don’t start preparing them now, then I don’t know if we will be able to make everything…”
A voice suddenly came from the right as the two of them were talking seriously.
“Oh my, did something happen?”
Ranran was smiling at the entrance of the courtyard with a fan in one hand. She had about 10 consorts with her.
The triumphant Ranran was met with a furious Juka, whose face was flushed with anger.
“Ranran! What are you doing? You interfered with our communications with the kitchen!”
Juka drew closer to Ranran who scorned.
“Oh my, I didn’t do anything. What proof do you have that I did something like that?”
Juka was speechless. But she quickly regained her composure and spoke again.
“You were assigned to the dancing. But you haven’t been practicing at all. I heard you haven’t chosen the consorts who will be participating in the dance with you either. You didn’t even show up for the planning meeting. What on earth are you planning?”
Juka continued to ramble.
“Kousho-sama appointed us duties for the banquet. How dare you ignore that! Half the consorts in the Beautiful Flower Palace didn’t show up to the planning meeting because you ordered them not to go. The banquet will fail if this continues!”
Ranran laughed complacently.
“I’m doing everything properly in my own way. And it’s not my fault that the other consorts don’t obey Consort Hisui. It’s because she’s not popular with them.”
“Stop joking around! I know you’ve been telling everyone not to obey Consort Hisui.”
“Where’s your proof?”
Ranran stared at Juka harshly and Juka was speechless again.
Ranran turned her attention to Hisui.
“Juka is right, the banquet will fail at this rate. If that happens then it will be the fault of the person in charge. Everyone has a hard time when incompetent people are in charge. I could do better if I were in charge.”
Ranran snorted. Juka widened her eyes in surprise.
“The preparations aren’t going according to plan because you…”
Hisui placed a hand on Juka’s shoulders.
“We’re not going to get anywhere arguing here. I will go directly to the kitchen and ask them to expedite as much food and alcohol as they can.”
Ranran looked vexed that Hisui was speaking so indifferently.
“It’s Consort Hisui’s fault that the banquet preparations aren’t going well. Reflect on your actions and step down from being in charge!”
“How dare you, Ranran!”
Juka lashed out but Hisui didn’t say anything.
Riri felt uncomfortable again when she saw that.
(Why isn’t Hisui saying anything even though Consort Ranran is saying weird things? … I wonder if it’s because of the words Consort Ranran uttered the other day?)
She had said it on the day she had approached Hisui to ask her to change the person in charge.
(Consort Ranran said ‘I’ll tell everyone about that’. Maybe Hisui has some kind of weakness and Ranran is threatening to expose it. I can understand why their relationship has changed so much if that is the case. But what could it be…? Huh?)
She suddenly noticed a girl who was standing diagonally behind Ranran.
It was Shoei, the Worthy Consort. Riri had never spoken to her before, but she thought that Shoei was petite and cute.
She was probably younger than Riri. She was quiet and didn’t stand out even though she was one of the Four Consorts.
She was originally a consort in the Hisui faction.
But Riri often saw her with Ranran after she had returned from Koran.
She was always standing behind Ranran and never said a word. She would stare at what was happening around her with a frightened expression on her face, so Riri believed that she may be too timid to say anything.
Shoei was looking at Ranran and Hisui nervously.
She opened her mouth to say something, but she couldn’t say anything in the end and shut her mouth. She repeated this motion many times. Then she looked down and bit her lip in frustration.
(Consort Shoei seems to be looking at Hisui with concern…)
Riri had no proof, but that was the impression she got when she looked at Shoei.
Ranran glared at Hisui.
“I can prepare the banquet much better than you. Consort Hisui, please think this through. If the person in charge is going to be replaced, then the sooner the better.”
Ranran turned away while laughing and Hisui quietly looked down.
Hisui turned towards Juka when Ranran and the other consorts were out of sight.
“Now, let’s go to the kitchen.”
Hisui left with the consorts like nothing had happened.
Riri crossed her arms in the empty courtyard.
“This is bad. The preparation for the banquet is stagnated. Kousho-sama had given everyone an order, so I hoped that Consort Ranran would help but…”
She bit her lip and Ryouka tilted her head in confusion.
“Why doesn’t Consort Hisui say anything? Everyone will change their minds if she just chides them…”
(Ryouka was right. Hisui not saying anything is making things worse. There must be a reason why she isn’t tough on Consort Ranran anymore. My guess is that Consort Ranran knows a weakness of Hisui’s. If only I knew what it was…)
“Hisui is a dear friend. I want to make the banquet a success for Kousho-sama too. To do that…”
Suddenly, a certain person came to her mind.
She believed that that person will be the one who will make a breakthrough.