Yo, people~ Lo and behold, I actually managed to get this done. Wasn’t easy though, I had like two days to do this and I finished translating the last 2 and a half pages of the about 15 only this morning. But I did have a really great time in London, and I was happy to meet up with friends I had not seen since Japan.
But now it’s back to real life and it’s problems, like returning to being woefully poor and wondering what the hell I’m going to do with my life now that I’ve graduated University. Ahh, fun times.
Anyways, enjoy some action~
The rain that had continued for several days stopped, and the azure sky of the early summer expanded. It was the ideal weather for appreciating the tree peonies that were right now in their full bloom.
Contrary to the clear weather, Sekka sat in the palanquin in a gloomy state. Like always, he was accompanied by Shohen and Baigyoku.
The venue for the tree peony viewing party was the quite large Hundred Flower Garden that was in the Inner Palace’s park. After they’d had their fill of the tree peony garden located inside one corner of the park, it would then become like the feast they had at the Royal Villa.
The participants were the emperor and his concubines. Originally, it was supposed to be the empress who organized the viewing party and invited the emperor and the concubines, but Kishoh had no empress. Because the Empress Dowager had also already died and could not organize it instead, Kishoh himself became the organizer.
Not surprisingly, it became a place for the dressed up concubines to compete in beauty rather than admiring the multicolored peonies. Because of his maids, Sekka’s makeup was also applied with more care than usual. It was not to compete in beauty, but for the sake of hiding the fact he was not a woman.
He had wanted to avoid places where he was exposed to public notice to the best of his ability, but as he had been directly ordered to attend by Kishoh he had no choice but to obey. The absence of the chief concubine the Honorable Consort in the flower viewing party organized by the emperor would set a bad example to others.
What that had to do with the emperor’s reputation, he did not know. Rather, it would be quite convenient if that brought dishonor to Kishoh. However.
“For the sake of negating the rumor of you walking around alone, right or wrong, you have to attend this event.”
Sekka sighed a little, recalling the conversation he had with Kishoh concerning the flower viewing party. Since the incident with the eunuchs a few days ago, this flower party will become the first time Sekka has gone out into public.
When Sekka’s party arrived at the Hundred Flower Garden, it caused a wave like commotion among the concubines already strolling through the garden.
“Oh, my, the Honorable Consort Li. How nice of her to have turned up.”
“Even though such a thing happened, how shameless.”
Variously embellished, the incident of Sekka being assaulted by the eunuch Sai had become a rumor within the Inner Palace. The source of the rumors was probably the maids who witnessed Sai’s conspirators being captured. Because immediately after that Sekka was given house arrest, a rumor that an unthinkable scandal had taken place developed.
Afterwards, Sekka had been summoned to Shibi Palace and detained for several days which seemed to raise the rumor’s credibility. In truth because of the excessive consorting he had caught a fever, and since he could not get up he had just been recuperating at Shibi Palace.
In any case, the outline of the rumor seemed to be that Sekka had been sullied by a eunuch and had incurred the emperor’s displeasure. This was the hot topic among the women of the Inner Palace whenever they came together, and inside, there seemed to be people who were spreading the rumor that Sekka had conspired with the eunuch to commit infidelity like they had actually seen it with their own eyes.
“As usual she is dressed in Ka’s style of clothing. Even though her country was destroyed, how long is she going to keep up the pretensions of an Imperial Princess, I wonder?”
“While she has been given the rank of Honorable Consort, her behavior is that of one who does not know her place too well.”
As he alighted from the palanquin and began to walk, the abusive conversations of the concubines unwillingly entered his ears. Sensing the increasingly grim presence of Shohen and Baigyoku who accompanied him, Sekka pacified them with a look that told them to ignore it all.
He had absolutely nothing to feel either guilty or ashamed for. The malice filled whispers and gazes were irritating, but if he thought of it as providing entertainment for killing time to the concubines who could not leave the Inner Palace, it was fine.
He had heard that Sai and the other eunuchs connected with the case were currently under investigation. Because as he heard not only Eishun, but also Kouki who was the High Stewards had set out on the case, the existence or nonexistence of a background influence, and, of course, Sai’s and the rest of the eunuchs relation to the series of incidents would be included and sooner or later the truth will probably become clear.
In the first place, for Sekka, something he had no memory of doing being gossiped about was much less scarier than the fact he was not a woman being discovered.
Luckily his adam’s apple was not yet pronounced, and his voice had not become that low. From the start there was also the fact his physique was delicate, and there had been no conspicuous changes in his body build.
He wondered whether it was because he was born possessing both genders, or it was due to the influence of daily sexual intercourse with Kishoh.
He had mixed feelings about it, but it was certain that this outward appearance had an advantageous effect for living in the Inner Palace as Honorable Consort Li. He had to hide the fact that the prince of the overthrown Ka country had survived by any means necessary.
Sekka walked among the peonies, wearing the ever-present veil. Bright, pale multicolored tree peonies bloomed in full glory.
The gardeners had probably diligently worked to get this ready in schedule with the opening of the flower viewing party. The tree peonies with the uniquely shaped petals were probably new kinds made by cross-breeding existing ones.
The smell of the concubine’s cosmetics and perfume intermingled, and the fragrance of the peonies faintly hung in the air. When he brought his face closer and smelled their fragrance, his feelings were consoled just a little bit. However, that was also a brief thing.
As he saw Blessed Consort Bu’s party approaching his location, Sekka felt tension run along his back. Shohen and Baigyoku also noticed it, and cautious expressions rose on their faces.
She was the person he most wished not to meet. Nevertheless, because it would be too blatant to retrace his steps now, rather they will have a discord.
“Isn’t this Honorable Consort Li?”
Graceful Consort Bu who was clad in the smell of sandalwood began to speak in as always cloyingly sweet voice. Today as well she was dressed impeccably, even more gorgeous than the fully blooming peonies.
“I had thought you would not attend today. Since we had heard you had not left the palace recently.”
Blessed Consort Bu’s red lips were all smiles, but her eyes were as cold as ice. According to her true feelings, what she probably wanted to say was: “How do you dare to come out in public, while you’ve committed infidelity?” The maids who were following Consort Bu exchanged meaningful looks and stifled laughter.
“My physical condition was down for a while, so I was on a bed-rest.”
Having no reason to ignore her, Sekka answered in a quiet voice. He spoke superfluously even if it was troublesome being flamed by someone.
His throat that had been injured by Sai had already healed and had left no scar. The concubines including Blessed Consort Bu probably didn’t know whether it was true that something had happened to Sekka.
“Oh, my, that is no good.”
Consort Bu raised her eyebrows exaggeratingly, and tried to look worried. Sekka knew that gaze was tracing his clothing clad abdomen. She was suspicious of him being pregnant.
“Something happening with Honorable Consort’s precious body is a serious affair. Let me introduce you to a skillful physician. He dispenses medicine to me as well at times when I’m in such a bad condition.”
Sekka was at a loss for a reply. It was not a given that he could trust a physician who was under the patronage of Blessed Consort Bu. However, if he refused right now, he would let this favor slip away and it was clear their relationship would worsen.
He was pretty sure there was no way to resolve this situation without injuring Consort Bu’s reputation, and yet putting aside her expectations. While Sekka was failing to come up with a good idea, Shohen opened her mouth with a resolved expression.
“With all due respect, Blessed Consort Bu.”
Since Consort Bu had given Shohen a stern glance, she was probably unhappy about being called out by a mere maid.
The concubines strolling in the peony garden suddenly became excited. It seemed like the palanquin in which Kishoh was riding had arrived. Eunuchs systematically lined the path leading to the tree peony garden, and greeted the emperor in a kneeling position.
When he looked, he also saw the figures of Ryuu Kouki and Eishun. The Imperial Court events were a different thing, but it was surprising to see Kouki who was the High Steward participating in Inner Palace’s festivities. Naturally, he was probably invited by Kishoh.
“His Majesty has arrived it seems.”
Because of that fortunate thing, it seemed like the matter with the physician became abandoned. When she saw Kishoh exiting the palanquin, Blessed Consort Bu’s eyes brightened. Even though she was covered in makeup, he saw her smooth cheeks were flushed.
This person, actually, she really likes the emperor…
While Sekka fell to his knees on the spot imitating Consort Bu who was paying her respect, he was assaulted by a sensation like that of being hit by lightning. The reason for Blessed Consort Bus’s severe treatment of Sekka was not just pride, competitive spirit and desire for power. It was also due to affection towards Kishoh.
Sekka had heard that until he entered the Inner Palace, Blessed Consort Bu had been boastful of her influence that was like that of the Empress. For such a woman the existence of the ‘Honorable Consort Li’ who had suddenly appeared and received the emperor’s favor, and been made the adoptive mother of the First Prince was an eyesore. In these current circumstances Sekka, however wholly unwillingly, felt sorry for Consort Bu.
“Not yet,” he thought as he kept his kneeling position when he noticed that the surrounding eunuchs and maids had gasped. As he slowly raised his gaze ahead of it he could see the tips of the emperor’s shoes, and his eyes went wide in disbelief.
“Honorable Consort Li.”
Kishoh who he had thought had been going towards the square gazebo had come turned up right next to him followed by Eishun and Kouki. When he raised his face as his name was called, a hand was extended right in front of his eyes.
What sort of behavior was this? Perplexed, Sekka peeked at Kishoh’s face. He’d been acting as a substitute for his sister since last year, he had gotten used to female clothing and shoes, so there was no need to lend him a hand.
Kishoh as always was dressed in black, but since it was a cheerful event, there was gold thread embroidered in the collar and the sleeves of the long robe he wore. Under the bright early summer sunlight his graceful features were all the more captivating.
Because frightfully there was no expression on that well-ordered face, Sekka could not perceive what the man was thinking about. While he was baffled, the man’s gaze urged him to hurry up.
Just as he uncrossed his arms that had been crossed within his sleeves and gingerly reached one out, it was in turn engulfed by a large hand. It urged him to stand up, and they began to walk still hand in hand. The surrounding people who had been attentively watching the course of events were causing a commotion one could not tell was either full of praise or shock. What happened was probably something nobody had expected.
Eishun who was accompanying them kept a politely expressionless face, but Kouki was wryly smiling in an ‘it can’t be helped’ kind of a way. Behind them, Sekka’s maids followed the two men with relieved expressions.
While he walked side by side with Kishoh, Sekka felt Blessed Consort Bu’s gaze piercing into his back. It was clear that her higher than anyone’s pride was wounded by personally witnessing the scene of Kishoh taking another consort’s hand in his.
“Next time we meet, she’ll probably harass me again…” Sekka sighed in the bottom of his heart. In his mind he was quietly living in a corner of the Inner Palace, but because of Kishoh it was like a bed of thorns.
The culprit of the numerous harassments had not been identified, and despite Sai and the other eunuchs being under investigation, he wished Kishoh would stop idly provoking the concubines with his behavior. His behavior was clearly what provoked the women’s antipathy towards Sekka.
“What are you thinking?”
Hiding his gaze, Sekka whispered from underneath the veil in a voice only Kishoh could hear. Since he had been coerced into the rigorous sex marathon, and laid up in bed with a fever, this was the first time he had spoken with Kishoh upfront. Since he had also not been summoned to attend for several days, the rumor was that the ‘Honorable Consort Li’ had finally lost the emperor’s favor.
“Nothing at all. We just took Our beloved consort’s hand.”
When Sekka scolded him in a sharp tone, Kishoh fleetingly glanced at him and lifted the corner of his mouth.
“In the absence of an empress, you, the ‘Honorable Consort’ are the head of the concubines. In other words injuring the Honorable Consort Li is equal to injuring Us, Ryuu Kishoh, the emperor. Even if, for example, it is just spreading foolish rumors.”
These actions of Kishoh’s were for the sake of curtly rejecting the rumors surrounding Sekka by letting his favor towards ‘Honorable Consort Li’ be known in such a public space as the tree peony viewing party. The same as with making Eishoh Sekka’s adopted child, Kishoh’s aim was probably to restrain not only the people who were trying to harm Sekka, but also those who went against his imperial will.
The insect corpses and the head of the chicken that was placed on Sekka’s path was harassment intended by the women of the Inner Palace. However, dependent upon the true identity of the one who had given directions to the women and Sai’s company, mirroring the Inner Palace, the events were quite capable of having an influence on the political hierarchy in the Imperial Court.
The fact that not only Eishun, but also the High Steward Kouki was involved in the investigation of this series of incidents was proof of this.
This was the shrewd Kishoh’s doing. He was most likely scheming to use the series of incidents to eliminate the opposing forces. Because of that, Sekka had incurred the enmity of concubines, how troublesome it was.
Feeling nervous, he walked with his hand in Kishoh’s under the public attention. The man’s hand was warm, and annoyingly enough even reassuring.
It happened when they finally reached the gazebo and were greeted by the eunuchs seated in a row. At the edge of Sekka’s vision something glinted with a momentary flash of light.
Feeling uneasy, he glanced in that direction and saw a concubine about to charge at him from the side while tightly grasping a dagger. It seemed like the light moments ago had come from the edge of the women’s dagger and its movement reflecting under the sunlight.
Kishoh was thanking the eunuchs that had greeted them and did not notice the assailant. Either Shohen or Baigyoku who had sensed something strange earlier, released a piercing scream.
Was he going to die here…?
Despite knowing he would be stabbed if he stayed like this, his body would not move. He recalled a conversation he had exchanged with Kishoh before. At that time Sekka had said that even if according to the plan he was killed, it was fate and could not be helped.
At this last moment, he thought so as well. In just mere moments the faces of his mother and sister, aunt, and his father Shohun, Shohen and Baigyoku, Eishoh and Tensei…and then, for some reason, Kishoh’s flashed in his mind.
Abruptly his arm was pulled and while he staggered, Kishoh forced his way through between Sekka and the woman.
Finding her path obstructed by the emperor, the woman instantly faltered. But even so she didn’t stop her actions, and attacked Kishoh with the tip of her dagger.
As the pushed out arm of the woman was restrained, Sekka could see the edge of the blade grazing Kishoh’s left arm. With such a close range attack, as expected it was too much even for Kishoh to be able to evade.
Judging from the woman’s nimble movements one could infer that she had received some sort of training as well. However, in the end, it appeared she was not Kishoh’s opponent.
As Kishoh twisted the woman’s arm behind her, he grasped her hair and mercilessly forced her to collapse on the floor. Without a moment’s delay Kouki came running towards them, and subdued the woman.
The whole affair happened in the blink of an eye. The surrounding people who finally realized something had happened went on an uproar. Facing the shaking eunuchs, Eishun calmly issued instructions.
“Did you get injured?”
A grim voice inquired, and the still Sekka sluggishly turned his head. He met Kishoh’s eyes glancing back at him.
He wanted to answer that he was alright, but his throat felt frozen and his voice would not come out. When he managed to just barely shake his head, strength visibly left Kishoh’s wide shoulders. When he looked, as expected the black garment had become even darker as if his left arm had been cut.
The person who had been injured was Kishoh. And yet, why was Kishoh worrying about him? No, to begin with, why had Kishoh protected someone like him?
For Kishoh Sekka was a partner he could find as many effective substitutes for as he would like. He had discovered the secret of his rare body, and because he was a rare thing, he was just intrigued, and it did not mean they were linked by such feelings as affection. It was just lust. And that would come to an end sooner or later as well.
And yet, why… Terribly confused, his head would not work.
“Humph. We made a blunder.”
“It was our fault,” Kishoh grimaced unpleasantly. Seeing blood trickling down from Kishoh’s left arm, Sekka trembled more and more.
He himself was also quite strange. Because Kishoh had arbitrarily protected him, he had suffered an injury, wasn’t it what he deserved? It was as they say getting one’s just deserts for all the evil deeds he had committed up to now.
However, far from feeling gratified, what Sekka felt right at this moment was fear that Kishoh would die. Not understanding why it was so, his inquiring voice shook.
“Your injury is…”
“It’s not serious. It’s just a graze.”
Kishoh curtly replied as he turned his eyes away from Sekka. He probably felt self-conscious about committing an error that was much unlike him.
Leaving the captured woman to the eunuch soldiers, Kouki approached them. He quickly grasped the state of Kishoh’s injury and broadly grinned.
“Even avoiding that was too much for you, have you grown dull?”
Kouki pointing out his lack of training made Kishoh’s look grow sour. And yet he obediently held out his hand for Kouki who was trying to apply first-aid.
It was a strange relationship. Despite their former hostile, aiming for the other’s neck sort of relationship, you could see that Kishoh and Kouki mutually respected one another. It was probably because they had understood each other’s capability just by betting their lives and engaging in a war.
Shohen and Baigyoku clung together with tearful expressions. The two looked like they would collapse at any time, so Sekka earnestly reassured them that he was fine.
Turning towards the noisy crowd of people, he could see Blessed Consort Bu standing still in shock. The pale face of the beauty that was always overflowing with confidence and arrogance had turned stiff. He wondered was it because Kishoh had suffered an injury?
“The doctor has been called, so we should soon return to Shibi Palace.”
Eishun informed Kishoh that he had arranged a court physician for him. As expected the usually gentle Eishun’s expression was also severe.
“What are you doing…uh”
At that moment, the eunuch soldiers that had been about to march off the captured woman became alarmed.
Some way or another it seemed the woman had pushed through a gap in the eunuch soldiers and stolen a sword from one of them. While she brandished a sword in one hand, the woman tore off from her neck something that looked like a bag for a charm that had been hanging there.
Kouki who had sensed the woman’s plan broke into a run at once. However, before Kouki could thwart her, the woman pulled out something from the bag and swallowed it.
The woman grabbed her own neck and released mumbling groans. Just when he thought the woman’s knees would lose strength and she would bend, and collapse, her body convulsed violently.
She had gulped down poison. Despite not wanting to see this, he could not avert his eyes from the woman in throes of anguish. In Sekka’s mind it brought back scenes from the fallen Royal Palace of Ka.
In the burned down Court there had been numerous injured soldiers and maids who had committed suicide by drinking poison. Vividly recalling the pale anguished faces of the dead women, his whole body lost color.
Sekka was overbearingly embraced and his face pressed into Kishoh’s shoulder. Had Kishoh realized that he’d been recalling the gruesome scene at the surrendered castle?
He could smell a faint trace of blood mixed with the male scent he’d become accustomed to. Even so the arm holding him tight was reassuring, and he could feel the regular pulsating of the man’s heart.
They were alive…
As he was surrounded by Kishoh’s warmth, he was filled with indescribable relief. This man and he as well, they both were alive.
In no way did it mean he’d forgiven Kishoh’s deeds. Due to this man who walked the path of military rule, a large amount of blood has been shed and numerous lives have been lost. That was not something that can be made up for by the life of one man – Kishoh. Of course, there was also the fact he’d destroyed Ka and led the entire Li Royal family to death.
However, if he just thought of Kishoh dying under the assassin’s dagger protecting him, he was assaulted by a crumbling sense of loss. In such a state, he would not be able to take his revenge on Kishoh.
No, that was something he’d understood from the beginning. Even if he carried out his revenge, he would not be able to return the lost things.
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t fast enough. She would have been a valuable clue.”
“Can’t be helped. You should shortly thereafter investigate this person’s true identity.”
As he listened to Kouki and Kishoh conversing, Sekka sighed softly in relief.
Aww, Hubby to the rescue, how cute~ That’s how you melt your wifey’s heart~
Next part out next Sunday~
Also as I promised last time, since I’ve finished translating all the summaries of the BL novels I have, I’ve created a poll to decide on my next translation project. Below is a link to the blog post I made about it, since I didn’t want to cluster this chapter up too much. The voting has already started, so please vote and decide what you want to read next~
With that done, see you next time~
If you wish to support this translation project, consider supporting me on ko-fi. Every ko-fi counts, and means I don’t need to go searching for a low-paying job in my hometown now that I’ve come back here that would reduce the time I can spend translating drastically.