“I knew that my olfaction alone would not be enough to convince you, so I asked the Ministry of Incense to investigate as well. The results are as you see. I believe that that paper, which was made with a different material, was made by someone to resemble the paper that the Chancellor uses.”
The Emperor looked over the scroll and nodded.
“I see. Koudoku wouldn’t write these transactions onto a piece of paper that is made from a different material. So, it must be a fake prepared by someone else, and someone else copied his handwriting as well. Hmm, that makes a lot of sense.”
Riri celebrated in her mind. The Emperor looked around at everyone.
“Kansou has briefed me many times about the new technology that the Ministry of Incense will present at the Elegant Incense Gathering. I was also present when he tested it on an incense. The results were excellent. If Kansou applied this technology on this piece of paper and found that it was made from bamboo, then it must be true. In other words, this piece of paper is most likely fake.”
Kousho continued after the Emperor had stopped speaking.
“The culprit’s mistake was to prepare something that looked the same on the surface but was made from a different material.”
She looked at Rarai who still wasn’t backing down and put her hand in her pocket.
“Please look at this piece of paper. General Garan… seized this piece of paper from Sei Mokuren’s hideout.”
Honestly, she was the person who had found it.
She had found it when she was trying to get out of the closet where she had hidden while Mokuren had talked to the mysterious man.
But she couldn’t tell the truth. Fortunately, only a few people knew that she had left the palace.
Kousho, Garan and her had decided that she would say that Garan had found this piece of paper.
“I will have the Ministry of Incense examine this piece of paper later, but this piece of paper has the same bamboo scent as the false evidence according to my super olfaction.”
She held it up for everyone to see. It was a piece of paper with the same Chinese bellflower watermark as the false evidence.
This bamboo scented paper, which she had found in Mokuren’s closet, had letters written messily on it.
“These words were probably a failed attempt at imitating the Chancellor’s handwriting. The fact that Mokuren had this suggests that he was most likely the one who had created the false evidence.”
Without saying anything else, she told everyone the facts and the answers derived from those facts.
The Emperor, who had been listening in silence, nodded.
“I see… Mokuren resented me and tried to assassinate me. It would make sense if he had planned this incident to throw the palace into chaos… Did you find that at Mokuren’s hideout, Garan?”
Garan put a hand on his chest and looked down.
“Yes, but Mokuren escaped. My deepest apologies. We have captured a few of his men and are now conducting our inquiries.”
“Alright. Make sure you find out where Mokuren is. And…”
The Emperor’s eyes fell on Koudoku.
“Koudoku. It seems that you’ve been cleared of all suspicions. You can thank Consort Riri for that.”
Koudoku’s eyes lit up when the Emperor smiled at him.
“Thank you very much, Your Majesty…!”
Hisui cried when she saw Koudoku bow his head. Riri met Hisui’s eyes.
(That’s good, Hisui.)
Hisui nodded softly as if Riri’s feelings got across to her.
“Well, there is still one more problem.”
The Emperor stared at Ranran.
“I heard that you were the one who had this false piece of evidence. Where did you get it from?”
The Emperor spoke directly to Ranran which made her turn pale and tremble.
“I… From Consort Hisui’s… I mean, I…”
Ranran had said that she had found that piece of paper in Hisui’s room, but she didn’t have the guts to follow through with her lie under these circumstances. Kousho stood up and took a step close to Ranran who was incoherent.
“Speak clearly. The disputes at the Beautiful Flower Palace and the palace all started because you had this false evidence in your possession. You understand what will happen to you if you lie further.”
The Emperor’s voice was freezing cold.
Ranran was too scared to even cry. She stood there frozen on the spot like a deer caught in the headlights.
“One moment please, Your Majesty. If you press her that much, then she would not be able to talk even if she wanted to.”
Hisui said. She quietly nudged Ranran’s knee.
“Consort Ranran. Please tell the truth. It will be better for you if you do.”
Ranran’s lips trembled, and tears trickled down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry…! I…”
“Crying can wait. We are the Four Consorts who serve Kousho-sama, so we must do what is best for him. All you can do now is tell the truth.”
Ranran managed to speak while sobbing.
“I… picked up that piece of paper.”
“Picked up? From where?”
“F-f-from Beautiful Flower Palace… It was on the ground near the room that Consort Hisui always uses… so I thought that Consort Hisui must have dropped it there… I am really sorry!”
Ranran lowered her head. Hisui gently rubbed her back even though Ranran had treated her badly. The Emperor let out a heavy sigh.
“Did you really pick it up? You are involved with Mokuren, are you not? He is a rebel. You too would face the death penalty if you helped Mokuren.”
Ranran shook her head repeatedly at those harsh words.
“I swear it! I know what Mokuren-sama looks like, but I have never spoken to him before. I just thought that I could become Kousho-sama’s Empress… if I get a hold of Consort Hisui’s weakness… I have loved him ever since I first saw him as a child…”
Ranran didn’t smell as if she was lying. Riri had once smelled Mokuren’s scent from her but she had a strong feeling that she had been wrong and that Ranran really doesn’t know anything.
The Emperor frowned.
“The crime for causing chaos in the Beautiful Flower Palace and the palace is grave. Are you prepared for it?”
“I did not mean to do that! I just believed that Consort Hisui would become Kousho-sama’s Empress if things continue as they are and I would not be able to beat her, so I…”
“That may be true, but that isn’t reason enough for you to threaten Consort Hisui.”
Kousho said coldly and Ranran broke down crying.
Hisui said quietly. Ranran looked up in surprise.
“I am in charge of the Beautiful Flower Palace. It is my fault that Consort Ranran did this. I will re-educate Consort Ranran, so would you please give her a chance?”
Hisui kneeled down and bowed to the Emperor. Kousho frowned.
“You want to protect Consort Ranran even though she has treated you horribly?”
Kousho knew what Ranran had done. He kept silent before this because he believed people would start arguing if he spoke, but he seemed to have taken pity on Hisui. Hisui smiled slightly.
“I have been friends with Consort Ranran since we were children. She may be easily swayed by those around her, but she is not a bad person. I believe that she was used in some evil person’s plan this time.”
Riri took a step forward and kneeled down when she heard this, then she bowed towards the Emperor.
“I believe she was used as well, Your Majesty. I cannot smell the scent that comes out when one is lying when Consort Ranran said that she had never spoken to Mokuren before. I believe she really does not know anything.”
“Even you… are standing up for her, Consort Riri.”
Riri nodded slightly at Ranran who looked at her in surprise, then she turned her attention to the Emperor once again.
“She does not deserve to be punished harshly just because she was used. Consort Hisui said that she will re-educate Consort Ranran, and of course, I will help her with this as much as I can. Besides, Consort Ranran is an expert dancer. She is absolutely necessary for the Elegant Incense Gathering. Please forgive her for the success of the banquet.”
The Emperor would want the Elegant Incense Gathering, the largest event in the palace, to be a success. Riri believed it was better to use this to justify letting Ranran off rather than appeal to his emotions. Hisui realised what Riri was thinking; her lips parted slightly, and she bowed her head.
“Consort Riri is correct, Your Majesty. Consort Ranran is in charge of the dance performances. It would be impossible to have any dance performances without her. The banquet would be less exciting without entertainment for the guests. Everyone is practicing hard, so please let Consort Ranran dance at the banquet.”
The consorts at the Beautiful Flower Palace were still at odds with each other even after Ranran took charge. Hisui had somehow secretly managed to persuade the consorts to proceed with the preparations, but Riri heard that they had hardly been practicing for the dance performance.
She was unsure whether they would be able to give a satisfactory performance if they start practicing now but they had no choice but to use this to persuade the Emperor.
The three of them bowed their heads and a dignified voice spoke from above them.
“I ask you to let her off this time as well, Your Majesty.”
It was Kousho. He bowed as well.
“Her crime of plunging the palace into chaos cannot be overlooked. She would normally be executed for this crime, but I believe stripped her off her title as Pure Consort and placing her under Consort Hisui’s custody is punishment enough. What do you think, Your Majesty? The banquet must go on, after all.”
Ranran looked as if she was going to cry when she heard that she had been stripped of her title as Pure Consort, but she didn’t.
The Emperor placed his hands over his mouth and pondered.
Then, he finally spoke after a few minutes of silence.
“… Very well. There are eight days left until the Elegant Incense Gathering. I don’t want it to be delayed. I will strip Consort Ranran of her Pure Consort title, but I will allow her to stay in the Beautiful Flower Palace.”
Ranran was shocked.
“Listen carefully, Consort Ranran. You’ve committed a crime that would normally cost you your life. Never forget those who have done so much to help you.”
Ranran’s eyes filled with tears, and she bowed her head.
“I will not…! I will never forget. Thank you for your graciousness!”
Ranran looked up and also bowed at Hisui, who was standing next to her.
“I apologise, Consort Hisui… Please, please forgive me!”
Hisui put a hand on Ranran’s shoulders as she sobbed.
“Don’t cry. Work hard to make the dance a success. There isn’t much time left, so practice like crazy. I will expel you without mercy if you don’t do well. Is that clear?”
Hisui’s words were harsh, but her tone was gentle.
Ranran smiled and nodded.
“I will! I will definitely make it a success!”
Riri was relieved to see Ranran and Hisui smile at each other.
(Now everyone at the Beautiful Flower Palace is on the same page. There are only eight days left until the Elegant Incense Gathering. We have to hurry and get everything ready!)
She fired herself up, said her goodbyes to the Emperor and left the room.