Hi guys! Here’s the second part of Chapter 4 where we continue to bear witness to Sekka’s situation in the Inner Palace and our poor futa’s inner turmoil.
So, anyways, let’s proceed~
Instantly, Consort Bu’s face became ashamed. Probably she thought her words had no effect on Sekka’s attitude. Just when she was about to open her red lips to say something again, a cheerful voice forced its way through.
“Oh my, what sort of secret talks are you two beauties having standing here?”
When Sekka raised his head, the High Steward  Ryuu Kouki had turned up. Behind, there was Eishun chasing after him with an unexpectedly tight expression.
[7. 御史大夫 – no direct translation, but 大夫 can be translated as High Steward so I went with that, and the first two Kanji refer to the institution mentioned below]
“It has been a long time, Kouki-sama.”
Even standing in front of High Steward who scared every governmental official as the chief of the Censorate  that cracked down on impropriety in the Imperial Court, Blessed Consort Bu was not perturbed. Swaying her folding fan elegantly, she smiled gracefully.
[8. 御史台 – my dictionary says it’s a surveillance agency pertaining to the Han and Song dynasty.]
“In respect of Blessed Consort Bu, good morning. Today as well you are so beautiful you could only be mistaken for a heavenly nymph.”
Kouki also praised Consort Bu amiably. Although she understood it was flattery, being called beautiful by such a good-looking man as Kouki did not seem to feel bad, and her expression loosened.
“You’re as skillful as always. You probably tell the same thing to all the other consorts as well?”
“For such a bore as I, why should I flatter you so? Because my true feelings escaped from my mouth.”
Behind Kouki who was shaking his head in a theatrical fashion, Eishun held a sour expression. Although he had received permission directly from Kishoh, he did not think of Kouki entering the Inner Palace gladly. He was probably guarding against this good-looking man with somewhat frivolous, thoughtless speech and conduct making an error with the concubines, and above that meddling with the management of the Inner Palace.
Anyhow, relieved that the brunt of Blessed Consort Bu’s attack had strayed from himself, Sekka watched the happenings attentively.
“Saying such things, you have probably not come here to meet with me?”
“That is right. I’m afraid I’m here on business.”
When Kouki informed her he had come here in the capacity of the High Steward, anxiety ran over Blessed Consort Bu’s oval face. However, immediately she hid it under a flawless smile.
“In that case, I should not obstruct your work. If you excuse me, I’ll be leaving.”
“Some other time then. I’ll look forward to meeting you again.”
Kouki also returned her words with a cheerful smile, and let the quietly leaving Consort Bu pass.
After the party had completely gone away, the attitude changed completely. “That woman,” Kouki shook his head, and muttered in astonishment.
“As always her make-up is so thick. Her taste in perfume is also lacking.”
Eishun found fault with his sharp words, but Kouki was not at all shy and answered with “It’s true”. The he grinned roguishly at Sekka who was standing still with nothing to do.
“Does the Honourable Consort not think so?”
Though he did think so, he could not agree, so Sekka cast down his eyes in bafflement.
As could be guessed from the name Ryuu Kouki, he was part of the Ryuu Royal Family, seemingly Kishoh’s second cousin. The Royal Family was large, but only this man spoke Kishoh’s name without using an honorific. In spite of the fact that he had also gone against Kishoh, he had escaped death.
Because he received such exceptional treatment as proved by holding the office of High Steward and being allowed entrance in the Inner Palace, Kishoh’s trust in him seemed cordial, but on the contrary, few years ago when there had been quarrels over the throne they had belonged to opposing sides and were often at war.
In the last decisive battle he had lead his own soldiers as a commander, but had lost to Kishoh and bent to his knees. During that time he had injured his right eye, and became one-eyed as Kouki himself had said.
“It was his intention to get me to work hard and kneel at his feet by letting me survive with just losing my eye. Really that man, how twisted is his personality?”
When Sekka spoke with him about the circumstances of him becoming Kishoh’s retainer, he cursed though he gave no appearance of resentment, but Sekka could not tell what his real feelings were.
He was a year older than Kishoh, and his physique was similar in a way only a blood relative could be. Their features, eyes and noses resembled each other’s closely, but the two gave exactly opposite impressions.
In comparison to Kishoh who overwhelmed other people, Kouki gave off a cheerful positive feeling. While Kishoh’s hair and eyes gave the impression of jet black darkness, Kouki’s appeared more bluish purple, a brighter shade.
He had very sociable manners, so he also spoke to Sekka freely. It was painful to look at the eye patch covering his right eye, but on the other hand it gave his graceful features a rough appeal.
“Be that as it may, didn’t Blessed Consort Bu tell you something?”
“…She did not say anything worth mentioning.”
Sekka vaguely answered Kouki’s inquiry. That degree of hostility was usual, and he also felt it awkward to tattle on someone. He was more bothered by Kouki appearing at such a fortunate moment. Previously, when he had encountered Consort Bu, Kouki had also happened to pass by and offered timely help.
However, Baigyoku whose patience seemed to be tested and resentment piled up, spoke instead of Sekka.
“Like always she was being disagreeable. She said things like hundred years would pass before Shungetsu-sama stopped mourning Li Royal Family, or till when she was planning to wear Ka style of clothing.”
As Baigyoku continued to imitate Consort Bu’s style of speech, Shohen also opened her mouth.
“Leaving that aside, while the Honourable Consort was in the Palace Tower, it seems somebody had put the head of a chicken on the pathway.”
“You said head of a chicken?”
Eishun’s complexion suddenly changed. As the young eunuch who was following Sekka and his maid reported the circumstances of the incident, his expression gradually became more severe.
“The head of a chicken, again they’re up to such foolish harassment.”
Kouki sighed in astonishment once he’d heard the tale. From his speech and conduct up till now, one could presume Kouki held no attachment to power and status. Things like power struggles, he thought of as time spent on sheer stupidity. It was a marvel that he’d been born in the Royal Family and fought with Kishoh for the throne.
“Coming across Blessed Consort Bu after the head of a chicken, that was quite a misfortune.”
After he’d again left Sekka at loss for a reply with his words, Kouki turned to face Eishun with a grim gaze.
“This is all because you hadn’t caught the culprit earlier.”
Eishun tightly bit his lip. For Eishun who was devoted to his professional duties, without Kouki even saying it, he probably felt the responsibility keenly.
After he’d been captured by Kishoh, Eishun who had been appointed the duty to care for Sekka and his group had looked after them in various ways. Sekka thought his concern exceeded the bounds of duty. That alone made Sekka who watching Kouki talk down to Eishun feel pity.
“Head of a chicken, it in no big deal.”
“Oh, surprisingly the Honourable Consort has guts.”
He had tried to protect Eishun, but when he saw Kouki raising his brows in surprise, he regretted his uncalled-for behaviour. It was probably because that was something not appropriate for a princess to say.
Clearly, he’d been deceived by Kouki’s light and easy speech and conduct, as the man’s perception was not in any way inferior to Kishoh’s. Sekka had to pay attention to his conduct, so that nobody thought it suspicious.
“Honourable Consort,” Eishun raised his head and suddenly gazed at Sekka.
“I apologize for letting you see such an unpleasant thing. We will definitely locate the culprit, so please forgive us on this occasion.”
Since the culprit was not limited to one person, even if one was caught, it did not mean the harassment would also stop. “Thank you…” Sekka, however, thanked him in a small voice, as he felt Eishun’s sincerity, even though he thought the harassment will remain endless.
“Anyways, we will also excuse ourselves now.”
He informed them hiding his mouth in his sleeve, aiming for a female-like gesture.
Sekka felt Kouki’s gaze as he walked away, followed by Shohen and the rest.
“I heard you met Kouki.”
That night, that was the first thing that came out of Kishoh’s mouth when they met.
It was the bedroom of the Emperor’s residence – Shibi Palace. A partitioning screen was place around the bed, hiding it from sight.
Originally, it seems it was a custom for the eunuchs to be witness to the Emperor’s lovemaking, and offer assistance during the process. However, when Kishoh summoned Sekka, he forbade the eunuchs to enter without exception.
Of course, it was for the sake of nobody learning that he wasn’t a woman. But the eunuchs could interpret him summoning Sekka every day and breaking customs the same as him not wishing to let the eunuchs’ eyes even touch the ‘Honourable Consort Li’ for whom the Emperor held deep affection, as the rumor in the Inner Palace went.
“I met him when I was taking a walk.”
Sekka surreptitiously put himself on guard, as he sensed from Kishoh’s tone of voice that he found fault with him.
No matter what, he felt nervous when face with Kishoh, who had risen from the bed dressed only in nightclothes. Despite there being nothing but repugnance, annoyingly, the core of his body was gradually producing a burning sensation. As far as Sekka was concerned the act was just unpleasant, but his body was full of anticipation for the offered pleasure.
“You are not pleased.”
Abruptly his chin was seized as he thought whether his low murmuring was heard. He was pierced through by the proximity of the turbulent pair of eyes that glowed in the candlelight. As he felt his heartbeat speeding up, Sekka made an effort to not let his expression change.
“What is it? Did you hear that we personally permitted Lord  Kouki to enter and exit the Inner Palace?”
[9. 公子 – young noblemen, but it’s a noun, not a suffix so just went with Lord to make it sound less awkward in English]
“We permitted it since in his professional duties as the High Steward, it is necessary for him to enter the Inner Palace.”
The fingers digging in his cheek hurt. The action probably relayed Kishoh’s irritation. It was rare for a man who was always calm and collected to let part of his emotions peek through.
However, he did not understand what the cause of Kishoh’s irritation was. From the beginning he was a man beyond Sekka’s comprehension.
“Are there not things you wish to tell Us?”
Since he knew that Sekka had met Kouki, naturally, he had also been informed of the case with the head of the chicken. He had no reason to believe Eishun had omitted that.
“I thought you’d already been informed.”
“Hmm,” Kishoh snorted with amusement and took his hand off Sekka.
“We heard that someone had put the head of a chicken on the road while you were at the Palace Tower.”
“It probably fell down.”
Though he did think it was probably intentional, but at any rate it did not mean he was a witness to the scene of the crime. Sekka ventured to avoid making conclusions.
“How naive. You really think it is mere harassment?”
“If it is not harassment, what do you say it is?”
Sekka unintentionally retorted, in opposition to Kishoh’s tone of voice that seemed to imply the man’s astonishment at Sekka’s ignorance of the ways of the world. Sekka wondered whose fault was it that he ended up needlessly gathering attention within the Inner Palace and stirring the other concubine’s jealousy.
“I’m new, so I’m probably a curious thing. Eventually you’ll lose interest.”
It was ironic to Kishoh himself, but Sekka seemed unable to be understood by him. On the contrary, he retorted with a bold smile.
“Because you probably also can’t bear children, you mean?”
Sekka’s cheeks grew hot at the dig. Wouldn’t it be better for him to make other concubines attend him if he wanted to have children? Faster than Sekka could open his indignant mouth, Kishoh continued.
“We already have three princes, it is sufficient. Too many will just cause problems in the future.”
Unlike starvation, the ruling class cannot escape prevalent diseases. Once a nasty disease spread, the first to die will be the little children with no resistance to it. If you thought like that, in Sekka’s opinion three princes were by no means too many, but Kishoh seemed to think that more than this was not necessary.
Looking from the sidelines, Kishoh’s interest in his children seemed sparse. Because it was this man, it seemed dubious whether he had any fatherly affection, a common feeling in most people.
“In any event, if you look at lightly as just mere harassment, it is not unlikely for the situation to escalate to the point one can’t recover from. Behind the concubine’s backs, the speculations of their families whirl. It is not just the jealousy of women we’re talking about. The Imperial Court and The Inner Palace are two sides of the same coin. That’s why We allow Kouki to enter the Inner Palace.”
For Sekka who had grown up in a country without a harem, however fierce the competition between the concubines for the Emperor’s favour was, it was beyond Sekka’s imagination. In Ka the Ministers under Yougetsu also competed with each other, but there had never developed any serious power struggles.
Nevertheless, because of the numerous harassments by the concubines directed towards him and their attitude, he had conjectured that the bullying by the women of the Inner Palace was malicious. Behind the brightness of the Inner Palace there lurked deep black hatred and jealousy.
“Actually, We wonder if this time too somebody has already been killed?”
Taken aback, Sekka raised his head and Kishoh’s eyes looking at him.
“There was that maid who had died before Eishun’s investigation. Officially it was dealt with as a suicide, but in truth it was quite suspicious.”
“Then, are you saying she was killed?”
The maid Ou who had killed herself belonged to Department of Clothing  that was in charge of management of the clothing and accessories, and was among one of the Six Departments  that directed the management of the Inner Palace.
[10. 六尚 – liu shang in Chinese, it’s the term for the six job titles within the management level of the Inner Palace and 尚服 is the service related to clothing.]
“She had accumulated a gambling debt worth three years of her salary by losing in cards to her colleagues, but We’ve heard she had paid it back entirely before this case. Furthermore, she had also sent money to her family inclined in trade. The source of this money is not clear.”
It was Sekka’s first time hearing this. Eishun had probably investigated this while Sekka was unaware. Three years’ worth of salary, raising that amount of money was not simple for a mere maid.
“It likely, that there is someone who had pulled the strings behind the dead maid. It is not strange that those people are trying to kill you.”
Kishoh’s tone had become stern as if he was intimidating Sekka.
Even though he heard somebody most likely wanted to kill him, Sekka’s heart was strangely calm. Probably because since the destruction of Ka, he had thought it natural that he would die as well. On the contrary, a somewhat desperate thought crossed his mind.
If he did not kill himself, but was murdered by somebody, Kishoh would not meddle with Shohen and Baigyoku, as well as the imprisoned soldiers. He would also not expose his remains. If the fact that Kishoh had made somebody like Sekka a consort became public, it would only become embarrassment to Kishoh himself.
Ironically, death by somebody else’s hand was the only way he could be freed from his current environment. Sekka was not aware, but he had been exhausted by the thought of successive harassment and malice directed at him from an unknown source.
“If that is my fate, it can’t be helped.”
“Even if you won’t be able to carry out your revenge against Us?”
Had he seen through him?
Stabbed in the chest by the thought, Sekka clenched his hands that were neatly arranged on top of his lap. Kishoh’s gaze pierced into the covered side of his face.
“Since the time you slashed at Us, there has been an intense hatred and indignation in your eyes. Feelings like that can’t be discarded so easily.”
“In that case despite being likely to assassinate you in your sleep, you put me next to yourself. How eccentric.”
Hiding his surprise at guessing right, he spoke with Kishoh cynically. He had thought it had not been a concern in the man’s heart as this man was not at all negligent.
“We’ve said that the things We want, We will obtain. Be it things or people.”
In the sinking light of the candles, Kishoh’s pair of eyes shone with a dark light.
Wanting something did not always mean liking it. To this man Sekka was a rare thing, no different from gifted white peacock, deer or one of the camels that were native to the West. He was a man and a woman at the same time, it was his body that was just a rare thing.
“The result of it is this birdcage? However, unlike what you’ve said there is no safety within this cage.”
He could not bear to settle down without at least one dig at the man. Even if he received retribution afterwards for hurting the man’s interest.
“Even so it gives Us more peace of mind than letting you out in the wild.”
Kishoh turned aside with a serious look.
“We could entirely forbid you to step outside…, but suffocating a songbird you’ve obtained at great pains will just be a waste.”
Comparing him to a songbird, Kishoh probably wanted to say that Sekka’s current existence was completely powerless. It was vexing, but true. If he did not have Kishoh’s permission, he could not even take one step outside Seika Palace.
“Anyhow, be careful of your surroundings.”
There was a hint of concern mixed within Kishoh’s tone of voice. As if he was really worried about Sekka. Sekka tried to determine his real intention, but in the sinking light there were complex shadows falling on the man’s graceful features, and his expression was hard to understand.
“If you do not wish to be killed like Our mother.”
Reaching a point where he could pause, Kishoh spoke in a subdued voice. While Sekka was bewildered by Kishoh’s words spoken like he was talking to himself, his arm was pulled towards Kishoh and his jaw seized.
Kishoh’s mother was killed…?
Faster than he could ask for an explanation, his question were blocked by a kiss. His lips were separated by the same pushiness as always and their tongues entwined. His tongue was intensely sucked on till the root of it started to hurt, and he was unable to even breathe normally.
He was pushed on the bed, and before he could resist Kishoh had bent over him. In contrast to his thoughts of rejection the core of his being throbbed in anticipation.
At once his body melted as he was caressed with the full knowledge of his weak points. Without a doubt tonight as well he’ll be played with till he lost consciousness. While he was pulled into the depths of pleasure, the words Kishoh had said stabbed at Sekka’s chest like thorns.
As I said Kishoh is done for…he’s basically besotted.
I have an unfortunate announcement. As I said previously I’m in middle of writing my thesis for university and the deadline is approaching fast, and I’d been putting it off for as long as possible, but currently I really don’t have the energy necessary to translate in my free time, so I will be taking a hiatus until that shit gets wrapped up. I can’t give any timeline for the hiatus but I have to hand in the paper on May 22, so I’ll probably get back to translating sometime round there. I really didn’t want to resort to this, as an avid BL novel reader I as well I know how frustrating hiatus can be, but rl is rl, what can ya do?
But be assured, I AM NOT ABANDONING THIS. Right now I’ve translated about half the book, and I am not going to let my efforts go to waste by dropping this. There’s still two so much fun stuff left in the book~
Anyhow, since I can’t give you an exact date for the next update, if you don’t want to miss it follow this WordPress page or put this on your reading list on Novelupdates.
See ya next time.