Thanks for sticking with me through this project. Unfortunately, this seems to be the last chapter as there are no more volumes after this ;-;
A few days have passed since the Emperor had bestowed Riri with the Fragrant Princess title.
Riri was sitting in her room at the Fragrant Princess Palace and reading the letter that Mokuren had given to her during the Elegant Incense Gathering.
Here is everything I know about the treasured incense after researching it for many years. I have kept this a secret, but I know to some extent, the materials required for the ‘Memory Restoring Incense’, but I have not been able to test my theories. You have had your memories erased by the treasured incense. Only you can be sure if this concoction is correct.
Her hands trembled the first time she had read this.
“I think I have everything I need for the ‘Memory Erasing Incense’ if I include the blue winter daphne I got from Koran, but I don’t know what materials I need or the quantity, so it will take some time for me to make it.”
And she hadn’t even researched on how to make the ‘Memory Restoring Incense’. She was worried since she wasn’t sure she would be able to complete the treasured incense in time even though she had promised to complete the incense before Kousho was crowned the emperor.
But if she could really make the ‘Memory Restoring Incense’ with this then she would make great progress.
“I gathered the materials mentioned in this letter and made it, but…”
She had a small pastille in her hand. The letter even mentioned the quantity of each material, so if she really regained her memories with this then she would have created the ‘Memory Restoring Incense’.
Then, the possibility of completing the treasured incense before Kousho is crowned the emperor will become much higher.
“But I don’t know what the repercussions will be if I fail.”
That was one of her concerns. The effects could be disastrous if she made a mistake while making the incense.
She might lose her memory forever or she might lose herself.
And her biggest fear was…
“Kousho-sama told me that I was there when my father was killed, and that the treasured incense tampered with my memories from that time. If I remember that time, then…”
She wanted to know the truth surrounding her father’s death.
But she wasn’t sure if she could keep calm if she remembered her father bleeding to death.
“… But if I remember all my lost memories then I will know how to make the treasured incense, then I can fulfil my promise to make the treasured incense before Kousho-sama ascends to the throne. Having the treasured incense would surely help Kousho-sama create his ideal kingdom…!”
This feeling encouraged her. She stared at the pastille and took a deep breath.
“This is for Kousho-sama and for Shinzui. I can’t progress if I don’t do this. ――― I have to make up my mind.”
She put the pastille into the incense burner and lit it with a flint.
The light was dim and white smoke rose from the pastille. She inhaled all of it.
The incense smelled sweet like honey.
She knew this scent, but her consciousness was becoming distant.
She fell into a deep sleep ―――
『Scent? You can tell how someone feels from their scent? That’s ridiculous.』
The voice sounded familiar. Riri turned her head towards the voice.
There was a boy standing there but she couldn’t make out his face or his figure.
But she guessed that he was in his early teens from his high-pitched and boyish voice, and general physical appearance.
She suddenly realised that this was the dream she always dreamt while she was thinking.
She has had this dream many times since she was young, and although the conversation she had with the boy changed from time to time, his face was always blurry.
『I’m not lying. I have super olfaction, which means I have a really good nose. I can tell how you’re feeling from the scent you’re giving off. My father said that my nose can detect changes in a person’s sweat.』
Her younger self was smiling at the boy in the dream. Her adult self watched them from the air. Riri had special feelings for the boy who she had seen in her dreams many times.
She thought it was ridiculous to have such feelings for a boy who couldn’t possibly be real.
She watched them talk and became increasingly alarmed since that terrible incident would always happen if she continued to talk to the boy.
She knew about it, but the two children did not.
She tried to find a way to tell them, then the shrubs moved.
I looked over and saw several men dressed in black coming out from behind the shrubs. They were after the boy.
But the younger Riri quickly threw the incense ashes at the men.
『Somebody! Somebody help!』
The boy stepped forward when the younger Riri shouted.
『You guys are after me, right? Leave her alone!』
She felt as if the boy who was protecting her reminded her of someone.
She suddenly felt the area become brighter. Both the boy and the scene seemed hazy in her usual dream, but it felt very real.
Her adult self which was floating in the air was sucked into her younger self.
She closed her eyes then slowly opened them and saw a familiar sight.
(This is… the back garden in Beautiful Flower Palace.)
It was the back garden that people rarely visited. It only had a small pond, some plants and a pavilion.
But both the scrubs and the pavilion looked huge.
It was as if she was assimilated into her younger self and her eye level was lower than usual.
And the boy was in front of her.
The boy, whose back was turned towards her, shouted at the men in black.
“I will protect her. I will!”
She heard his voice clearly, and his back, which had been blurry until then, was clearly visible. He had red hair and was close enough for her to reach.
“Huh…. What does this mean?”
She only knew one person with red hair who was a little older than her.
The boy turned to face her.
“Run away! They’re only after me!”
His greyish-brown eyes were imposing and shone brightly just like they do in his adult self.
She shouted and her consciousness faded away again―――
It was dark when she woke up.
Riri looked around for a second, not knowing where she was. The familiar sight was her room at the Fragrant Princess Palace. The incense in the incense burner had already run out and no more smoke was rising from the pastille.
“I must have fallen asleep after smelling the incense that would restore my memory, but that dream…”
It wasn’t the blurry dream she usually had. The second half of the dream was clear and realistic, and she could clearly recognise the boy whose face she had always been unable to see.
“Was that boy really Kousho-sama?”
She had some feelings towards the boy whose face she didn’t know.
She believed it must be a kind of longing for a character in a book.
But if the boy in her dreams was real then that would be different.
“If that dream had happened in real life―――, then my first love was Kousho-sama?!”
Her face turned red as soon as she said that.
Just remembering Kousho’s face made her heart face, and she didn’t know what to do.
She didn’t know what expression she should make when she met with Kousho tomorrow.
“Can I have a word with you, Garan?”
Kousho called out to Garan who was on his way to guard the Beautiful Flower Palace.
Garan immediately stopped, kneeled down and bowed.
“I was hoping to have a long conversation with you. Come here.”
Kousho led Garan to the back garden in Beautiful Flower Palace. Garan followed after him.
“Garan, I have something to tell you.”
He made sure no one was around, then turned around to face Garan. Garan’s lips were pursed.
“You saw me confess to Riri here, didn’t you?”
He said and Kousho widened his eyes in shock.
“I did. I have been serving you for a long time. I noticed that you have been acting strange lately, and that was the only thing I could think of that would make you act that way. I will not say… I am sorry. Those were my sincere feelings.”
Kousho smiled wryly at those words.
“That’s just like you. You always have to be serious and inflexible.”
But that was the reason why Kousho could trust him. Garan bowed his head.
“I know it is a sin for me to fall in love with a consort from my master’s inner palace, so I was going to give up my title, but I knew that I could not leave the palace because of what happened at the Elegant Incense Gathering.”
Garan continued with a pained expression.
“I pondered about what I should do. I want to do my best for this nation and for you even if it costs me my life, but I cannot give up on Riri. ――― I love her.”
Garan’s frank declaration was clear enough to convey his feelings.
“I understand your feelings, but I also love Riri. I can’t give up on her either.”
Kousho declared grandly and Garan widened his eyes slightly in shock.
“Are you surprised? This is the first time I’ve said this out loud. Riri… is special. I believe fate has led her to me.”
He had met Riri for the first time in this very back garden when he was little.
She has forgotten about their meeting, but she tried to protect him from rebels even though she didn’t know that he was the Crown Prince.
He has always been thinking about her since that time.
He thanked God for the first time in his life when he met her again after six years.
“But I also care about you. You are my best friend. I know you’re a man who I can trust with my back in a fight.”
“I did not know that you felt that way about me. That makes me happy.”
Kousho smiled at Garan’s puzzled expression.
“I don’t want to lose you or Riri. Both of you are important to me. I’m a greedy person, I want to have everything, both my lover and best friend, so I thought about what I should do. Let’s have a fair competition, Garan.”
Kousho looked at Garan challengingly and Garan gulped.
“Yes, a competition to see who can win Riri’s heart the fastest. The condition is that we must accept whoever Riri loves first. But well, I won’t lose.”
Kousho folded his arms and smiled. Garan was silent for a while, but he eventually smiled.
“Wanting to have it all. You are as arrogant as ever.”
“Isn’t it fine to be arrogant? That’s a good word. What’s wrong with trying to get what you want?”
Kousho slowly held out his right hand.
“You don’t have to be guilty about loving someone. You’re an excellent man, and you will protect me as the General. You must be arrogant if you want Riri. Well, you’re no match for me though.”
Garan took a deep breath, then stared at Kousho.
“… I saw you hug Riri when we found her at Mokuren’s hideout. I cannot get that scene out of my head. I was so shocked that I even forgot to call her name. I pretend to be calm in front of you two but I am filled with jealousy.”
Those were Garan’s real feelings.
This may be the first time that he has revealed so much of his inner thoughts.
“Riri started avoiding me after I confessed to her. I am sure she does not know what to do but her actions hurt me. But she turned towards you with a relieved smile on her face. I immediately knew that she relied on you, and I got even more jealous.”
Garan smiled boldly and held out his right hand to shake Kousho’s hand.
“I do not wish to lose to you, even if you are my master. I will serve you for the rest of my life but I will not step down when it comes to Riri. I will definitely win her heart.”
It was a bold declaration. His best friend had become his love rival.
Kousho smiled. He had no intention of letting go of Riri or Garan, and he will protect Shinzui.
People may call him greedy or arrogant.
But he was confident that he could do it.
The love competition between the two men had just begun.