He said before rushing away.
Riri abruptly woke up in the room where she had talked with Mokuren.
She had fallen asleep, and the morning sun was already peeking in through the door.
“It’s because I didn’t sleep a wink since I was watching the temple all night yesterday…”
She was surprised that she had been able to sleep under these circumstances even if she was tired.
But her mind was clear now that she had slept.
She looked around and didn’t see any tea, then she remembered something.
“When Mokuren left the room, he said that there was a kitchen at the end of the corridor and that I could eat whatever I wanted from there if I got hungry. I wonder if he has any drinks.”
She quietly stood up and approached the door.
She thought there might be a guard at the door, but there wasn’t anyone there when she opened the door.
She walked down the corridor and looked around to see if she could find the kitchen, but suddenly stopped.
“Hmm? This is…”
The sliding door on the right was open. Inside was a large tatami room which looked as if it was used to make incenses.
Tools used to make incenses were neatly lined up on the shelves on the wall. Her eyes fixated on a shelf.
“Could this mortar be…?”
She stepped into the room and approached the shelf without thinking.
She looked at the mortar and found that it was familiar.
“This is the same mortar that I had bought when I first started making incenses.”
The mortar seemed well-used, but it had been polished and cared for.
Her own mortar was kept in her incense making room at the Fragrant Princess Palace. This mortar was a memento and Mokuren had told her that he had thrown it away. So, she nearly burst into tears of happiness when she saw that he had kept it.
“He is still the same Mokuren. He wouldn’t become obsessed with revenge. So, why won’t he stop?”
She had her doubts for a long time. Mokuren was a kind person who took good care of things. He extended a helping hand to those who are suffering and understood other’s pain. He would rather look forward than seek revenge.
But he keeps stubbornly insisting on revenge.
“Maybe there’s something going on here that I don’t understand…”
She muttered when she suddenly noticed a certain scent.
“Huh? There are two scents. One belongs to Mokuren and the other…”
She believed she had smelled this scent before. She thought of something else while she was trying to remember where she had smelled it.
“It’s a different scent from the woman who was at the medical clinic yesterday, so maybe this is a Dark Perfumer. Mokuren might get into a sticky situation if this person sees me…”
She wondered what to do, but there was only one way in and out. Mokuren and the other person would come in through there, so they would run into each other if she ran away. She looked around and saw a large closet at the back.
It was a long box-like container, larger than her own body. She quickly put her hand on the closet, opened the door, and stepped inside. There were papers and scrolls inside and it was stuffy.
Still, she managed to close the door and hide.
She remained still and then she felt someone enter the room. She couldn’t see outside since the door was completely closed, but she could still faintly smell the scents from the gaps between the door.
There were two scents. One of them belonged to Mokuren and the other belonged to…
(This scent… is Rarai-sama’s scent…!)
He was Garan’s cousin, a soldier with a skinny body. He looked kind but he was the spearhead of a faction who trapped Garan in the past and persecuted the Chancellor. She listened carefully since she couldn’t believe this.
“… I will be able to lead Shinzui to ruin soon.”
The man’s voice was muffled. It may or may not have been Rarai’s voice, but it was definitely Rarai’s scent.
“My plan worked perfectly. I managed to steal the piece of evidence from Riri. She seems to believe that she had dropped the piece of paper and is feeling quite down about it. It’s a nice feeling.”
She was astonished to hear him laugh.
(He stole it? Does that mean that I didn’t drop it.)
She tried to recall what had happened back then. She had indeed kept the piece of paper deep in her pocket and handled it carefully.
So, she believed that she couldn’t have dropped it.
(Oh yeah, I helped Rarai-sama when he was stumbling. Maybe he took it then?)
She thought and everything made sense.
She heard another voice from outside while she was frozen on the spot.
“I was able to manipulate Ranran to go against Hisui. She’s a simple and ambitious woman, so she did what I wanted her to. The inner palace is actually a really interesting place.”
The man seemed like he couldn’t stop laughing. Riri felt anger well up within her as she listened to him.
(All the trouble in the Beautiful Flower Palace and the court is because of him!? Unforgivable…!)
She remembered Hisui’s tears. She was suffering because she was arguing with Ranran.
Kousho was in a difficult situation because of all the conflict. She finally understood who was behind all of this.
“What’s wrong, Mokuren? You don’t look happy.”
“… Nothing. I am.”
Mokuren said uninterestedly.
“Listen, Mokuren. We are the Dark Perfumers. I have hidden this from the world. I’ve been secretly sowing the seeds, and we finally have the opportunity to take revenge on the Emperor.”
Rarai said that he could make incenses. If he was a Dark Perufmer then acting behind the scenes would have come easily to him.
“The long-awaited Elegant Incense Gathering will be held soon. They can’t cancel it now, so Kousho and the others will have no choice but to hold it. My final goal is to deliver a coup de grace at the banquet on the last day.”
Riri widened her eyes in shock when she heard this.
(What is he planning on doing at the Elegant Incense Gathering?)
Rarai was in charge of the security for the dance.
Kousho and Garan were wary of him because he was condemning the Chancellor, but he hasn’t committed any crime and they couldn’t leave him out of guard duty since he was a member of a powerful family who have produced Generals for generations.
He could set a trap during the gathering. Riri shivered when she thought about this.
“Mokuren, you’re the current head of the Dark Perfumers. You bear the fate of dethroning the Emperor as the Nine-Tailed Fox. Do not forget your destiny. ――― You can’t run away now.”
Rarai said harshly.
“I know. I haven’t changed my mind.”
Riri heard Mokuren’s firm voice and felt someone move.
“Then, that’s good. I’ll return to the palace now.”
She heard the door open and footsteps in the distance. She wanted to see a glimpse of him, but she knew that she couldn’t let him find her. Mokuren also seemed to have left the room and the scents of the two faded away.
She opened the door after she had confirmed that no one was in the room.
“They’re going to do something at the Elegant Incense Gathering. I have to do something… hmm?”
Her foot caught on a piece of paper, and she flew out of the closet. She quickly picked up the piece of paper.
“Oh no. I have to put this back.”
She looked at the paper and widened her eyes in shock.
Her heart pounded loudly because she had found something unbelievable.
Kousho came to Densou Temple, and Garan was next to him.
The soldiers he had brought with him were those who Garan believed were tight-lipped.
“It’s very isolated.”
Garan looked around. He seemed calm but Kousho could tell that he was anxious.
“Search the temple. Go talk to the people around here. Someone might have seen something.”
Kousho ordered the soldiers and everyone, including Garan, scattered around the area.
He watched them for a second before looking around the temple grounds for clues.
“Mokuren comes here to retrieve Ryouka’s letters. She hides those letters under the foot of the Jizo. Riri came looking for Mokuren, but Mokuren might have run away if he noticed her. She must have been waiting for him somewhere he wouldn’t be able to see her.”
The temple was eerie even in the daytime.
The thought of Riri waiting here scared in the dark for Mokuren made his heart ache.
“A good place to keep an eye on that Jizo is…”
He looked around while thinking, then he saw some nearby shrubs.
“She could keep an eye on the Jizo from there and it would be difficult for anyone to see her.”
He rushed towards the shrubs. He looked around and suddenly noticed something shiny.
It was a red coral hairpin that had fallen to the ground. It looked familiar.
Riri treasured this hairpin since her mother had given it to her. He knew that she had been hiding here because of this.
He turned around to see Garan running up to him.
“Yesterday evening, a child who came here to play saw a young woman and a man wearing a black hood. He also saw the man take off that hood and apparently the man was wearing glasses.”
Mokuren’s face flashed through his mind when he heard the word ‘glasses’.
“Where did they go?”
“I do not know, but the child’s cousin who was with him said the man with the glasses looked like the medical clinic’s doctor. That cousin lives in the next town over and happened to be visiting yesterday.”
Mokuren was skilled at mixing incenses for medicinal use. Kousho’s expression tightened when he remembered this.
“Find out where that clinic is.”
“As you wish.”
He smiled. Garan was more dependable than anyone at times like this.
Garan nodded and instructed the scattered soldiers to gather together.
“I’ll be right there, Riri. Be safe.”
He muttered before leaving with his soldiers in tow.