Riri stepped into a small room at the back of the Beautiful Flower Palace.
“Wow, there are so many beautiful fabrics.”
This was the Beautiful Flower Palace’s sewing room. There were many fabrics and threads in this room and the consorts living in the inner palace were allowed to use the room freely. Many bright coloured fabrics were lined up on a large table and a girl was sewing a hanfu with a needle in her hand. The girl turned towards Riri and widened her eyes in surprise.
“Consort Riri… Why are you here?”
“Hello, Consort Shoei. I wanted to talk to you. I heard that you are always in this room.”
The Worthy Consort, Shoei, looked confused. Riri looked closer and saw that she had a small beauty spot around her eye.
Her black hair was tied up in a bun and there was a silver hairpin shining in her hair.
She was wearing a luxurious cross collared hanfu. It was yellow with small red flowers embroidered on it.
“Your hanfu is very nice. The patterns on your hanfu are oleander flowers, are they not?”
Shoei put a hand on her chest like she was panicking.
“Yes. I love this cute little flower so much that I embroidered it on my clothes…”
“What?! You embroidered that yourself!? Amazing! As expected of someone who was entrusted with the clothes and accessories for the banquet.”
Riri clapped her hands and Shoei turned bright red.
“Ah no… I heard that you’re good at making incenses, Consort Riri. Everyone uses the incenses you make, and I’ve always thought that was nice…”
Shoei stuttered from nervousness and looked down in embarrassment.
“Then shall I make some for you too, Consort Shoei? What fragrance do you like?”
“No, it’s such a waste for you to make one for me.”
“It’s not. His Majesty the Emperor has asked me to alleviate the worries of the consorts in Beautiful Flower Palace.”
Riri sat down next to Shoei and Shoei jumped up.
“Hmm… I can’t…”
“Did Ranran tell you not to talk to me?”
Shoei widened her eyes in surprise. Her silence was enough.
“So, she did. She asked me to join her faction before, but Consort Hisui stood up for me and she hasn’t talked to me since. I can’t talk to the other consorts around her either.”
Shoei tried to get up, but Riri grabbed her hand.
“Do you think it’s okay to keep things as they are?”
Riri could feel Shoei tremble.
“You were looking worriedly at Consort Hisui when she and Consort Ranran were talking, weren’t you? You were standing behind Consort Ranran, but you were looking at Consort Hisui. You seemed really worried about her.”
Shoei bit her lips and looked down.
“You were with Consort Hisui before I left for Koran. But then you changed to Consort Ranran’s side after I returned from Koran. What happened?”
“That’s because… Consort Ranran told me that it would be better for me to side with her. I couldn’t refuse when she was so assertive about it…”
Shoei probably had a certain amount of knowledge and knew etiquette since she was chosen as one of the Four Consorts.
She had determination since she had gained those skills, but she seemed timid.
“You couldn’t refuse Consort Ranran, so you sided with her, but you’re worried about Consort Hisui, aren’t you?”
Riri asked gently and Shoei’s eyes moved restlessly around the room, then a single tear fell from her eyes.
“… I didn’t think Consort Ranran would treat Consort Hisui so badly. I was with them when Consort Ranran first started treating Consort Hisui badly. And then, Consort Hisui’s followers called me an enemy. I don’t know what to do. And then…”
Shoei spoke in broken words as if her thoughts were overflowing.
Riri held her shoulder as she broke down in tears and slowly rubbed her back.
“You didn’t mean to hurt her, right? It’s alright. Please calm down. I want to help Consort Hisui so that the preparations for the banquet can proceed properly. I came to see you to see if you can help me with this.”
Shoei looked up in surprise.
“How can I be of any help? I’ve been too afraid of Consort Ranran to do anything. I don’t want to see the consorts fight among themselves, but I can’t do anything about it even if I want to. I can’t say anything in front of Consort Ranran… I’m such a weak person… I’m so pathetic…!”
Riri felt that Shoei was pitiful as she watched her sob. She was probably worried about this situation in her own way.
“Consort Ranran told me not to prepare for the banquet, but I’m secretly preparing the dance costumes here. This is the best I can do.”
Shoei covered her face with both her hands. Riri gently patted the shoulder of the sobbing Shoei.
“Consort Shoei, you are wishing for the success of the banquet, aren’t you? It’s not too late. Will you help me eliminate the conflict in Beautiful Flower Palace? If things continue the way they are, then the banquet will fail. If that happens then Consort Hisui will be held responsible for it. I want to help her. Please.”
Riri bowed her head and Shoei pondered for a while before turning her attention to Riri.
“Can I still be of help to the Beautiful Flower Palace and Consort Hisui even though I’m like this?”
“Of course. Will you do your best with me?”
Riri held out her right hand and Shoei timidly reached out to grab it, then she finally smiled.
Shoei always looked flustered and in distress, but Riri thought she was quite charming when she saw her smile up close for the first time.
“If I can be of help, then I’ll do anything.”
Riri nodded slowly at Shoei who declared this while trembling.
Riri visited the Noble Consort’s palace where Hisui resided. It was located near the Beautiful Flower Palace.
The brand-new building which smelled like Japanese cypress looked spacious and elegant.
The court lady guided Riri to a room at the back of the building.
The spacious room was neat and gave a calm impression.
The furniture in the room weren’t gaudy but each piece had a luxurious shine to them.
Hisui, who was sitting at the writing desk in the middle of the room, smiled.
“It’s been a while, Riri. I’m sorry that it’s been so long since we’ve met. I heard that the incense for the banquet is ready.”
Hisui looked at the court lady and motioned for her to leave.
Riri sat in front of Hisui and smiled when they were finally alone.
“Yes. I made a nice fragrance, so I wanted you to try it as soon as possible.”
“Oh, I’m looking forward to it. I wonder what kind of fragrance it will be.”
Her expression and tone were those of a person who was welcoming a friend.
But the ‘scent’ that was coming from her was a nervous one.
Riri noticed this scent and realised that the reason she had refused to meet Riri for the past 10 days was not because she was busy, but because she was avoiding her. That was sad.
Hisui had something she wanted to hide from Riri. She didn’t want Riri to find out, so she was pretending that nothing was wrong. So, it was painful for Riri to question her about it.
Still, Hisui will continue to suffer alone if she withdraws at this point.
She made up her mind to help Hisui.
“It’s this. I think I’ve made something really nice. Would you like to try it?”
Riri took out the pastille from the white paper and put it in the incense burner that she had brought with her.
She lit it up and soon white smoke began to rise from the incense burner.
“It smells nice. It’s perfect for the banquet.”
The nervous ‘scent’ coming from Hisui seemed to have eased perhaps because of the incense.
“… Hey, Hisui. I’ve been wanting to talk to you for a long time. It’s about the recent events at the Beautiful Flower Palace.”
Riri boldly quarried, and Hisu’s expression immediately stiffened.
“Let’s talk about it some other time. I’m tired from preparing the banquet.”
Her voice was strained as well and most importantly, she was letting out a scent that told Riri that she was on her guard.
“No, Hisui. We won’t be able to talk about it next time. You’re going to suffer even more if things continue the way they are.”
Riri leaned towards Hisui.
“I consider you my friend, so I don’t want you to suffer. I want to help you somehow… Is Consort Ranran threatening you?”
Hisui’s mouth pursed when Riri cut straight to the point.
“I know, Hisui. I know that Consort Ranran has gotten a hold of your weakness.”
That was what Shoei had told Riri. Apparently, she had heard Ranran tell her followers about it.
According to Shoei, Ranran had said, “I have Consort Hisui’s weakness, so she can’t disobey me. She’s in my way if I want to be Kousho-sama’s Empress. I’ll make sure she’s kicked out of the Beautiful Flower Palace.”
Hisui looked at Riri in surprise.
“That’s a lie.”
“It’s not. I knew that Consort Ranran had something on you, but I didn’t know what it was. Hisui, you can’t rebuke Consort Ranran because she’s threatening you, right?”
Hisui stayed quiet. Riri knew she would act like this.
She took a deep breath and firmly placed her hands on Hisui’s shoulders.
“Listen to me. The banquet is in 10 days, but the preparations haven’t progressed. We have to start arranging the food and alcohol and we don’t have enough people to practice the dance for the banquet. If any mishaps happen at the banquet where royalty from other nations will be present, then the responsibility will fall to Kousho-sama since he is the owner of Beautiful Flower Palace.”
Hisui looked down and bit her lip.
“You should know this best. There’s a high possibility that the banquet will fail if things continue the way they are. Hisui, you are the Noble Consort, the representative of Beautiful Flower Place. You should do your best for your husband TN: I guess I should call him her husband… since he is the husband of the consorts I guess…., Kousho-sama.”
She chose harsh words. Hisui was stubborn for better or for worse.
Once she decided not to say something, she wouldn’t say it at all.
So, she had no choice but to shake Hisui’s strong sense of responsibility.
“And yet, you won’t say anything to Consort Ranran even though she’s getting in the way of preparations. If things continue the way they are now, then you, the consorts of the Beautiful Flower Palace and even Kousho-sama will be put in a very bad situation.”
Riri looked Hisui firmly in the eyes, then she spoke slowly and tried to use a gentle tone.
“I want to help you. Tell me what’s going on for Kousho-sama’s sake as well. I can’t tell you that I will solve the problem… but I’ll do what I can.”
Riri did her best to get her thoughts across.
Hisui continued to stare and seemed to be thinking about something.
“… I’m no match for you, Riri.”
Her voice seemed to have lost its power. Hisui corrected her posture and turned to face Riri.
|↑1||TN: I guess I should call him her husband… since he is the husband of the consorts I guess….|