Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 12: The Second Audience
Guards surrounded him from all directions. As he struggled to move forward, Ashiyowa heard a commotion coming from nearby, behind him.
The palace guards and soldiers wore brown armour on top of blue and green coloured robes, representing the country’s rich lands.
Currently, they were being restrained by the Imperial guards, who had stepped in to calm the situation.
“Stand back, stand back.”
Above the stairs Ashiyowa had just ran down, leading to the corridor lit by torches, was the palace’s celestial being himself. Dressed in gold, he stood next to the secretary in grey.
The soldiers in the garden knelt down and lowered their heads to the ground at once. Ashiyowa did a double take, staring at the figure in shock.
The red necklace that hung on his neck shook side to side.
The Emperor, slightly taller than the already towering secretary, nimbly ran down the stairs swiftly until he stood in front of Ashiyowa’s ragged form.
With his mouth wide open, he faced the Emperor.
The light from the torches shone against the two men, making each clearly visible to the other.
Their heights were similar.
His golden hair, illuminated by the fire, seemed far more radiant than the Moon creeping up the sky. Or at least to Ashiyowa, it did.
He felt someone gently stroke the bridge of his nose.
But of course, there was only one person standing in front of him.
Ashiyowa’s shoulders rose in surprise and he took a step back.
They stared at each other, both, as if about to swallow the other whole.
It was the first time Ashiyowa had met someone face to face so close, the old man that raised him being the only exception.
They were so close, that if he took a breath, he feared it would blow onto the pale face in front of him. Being conscious of that, Ashiyowa couldn’t bring himself to draw in a breath, only daring to exhale after turning to his side.
But the moment he looked away, the courage he had just moments ago disappeared, and he could no longer bring himself to look at the figure in front of him.
He was taken by surprise as the Emperor placed a finger on his chin and forced him to meet his gaze once again.
The words spilling out of his lips made no sense to Ashiyowa. The only thing he could think of right then was the deep voice whispering into his earlobe, goosebumps forming on his skin.
He took another step back.
Every time he tried to avert his gaze, the finger resting under his chin would force it back up. Ashiyowa could feel his breath on his face.
Instinctively, his arm moved, wanting to push away the Emperor’s grip. But upon remembering who the person in front of him was, he quickly grabbed his hand with the other, restraining himself. With a big shrug, Ashiyowa loosened himself from his grip and pulled back.
His wavy golden hair hung on his ears and reached his shoulders, swaying as he approached Ashiyowa. The guards, still bowing, made way to avoid disrupting their exchange, both moving slowly. At the same time, more of the Imperial guards filled the garden, obligated to protect the Emperor.
Out of nervousness, the muscles in Ashiyowa’s legs pulsed.
Suddenly his right leg lost its strength, and in the face of such an unexpected situation,
Ashiyowa let out a loud voice as he staggered.
He felt arms around him.
In front, he saw green flowers embroidered with golden thread lying atop a gold backdrop. Pearls were sewn onto the flowers and fruit, and the red necklace around his neck carried a distinct scent.
He could feel his breath against his ears, on his neck.
It tickled, and Ashiyowa couldn’t hold his voice back. Without thinking, he raised his hand against the Emperor’s chest as he lifted his head, wanting to push his arms away.
With a ‘crunch’, both his feet were placed back onto the small pebbles.
Made to spin his arms, the Emperor stood in front of Ashiyowa. Gold hair hung down his cheeks, his intense gaze, directed to the person in his arms.
Ashiyowa fumbled around, trying to gather himself. Realising that he was still being embraced, he tried getting away again, putting in more force.
It wasn’t as if he was being held tightly, but he couldn’t seem to remove the Emperor’s grip from his back and arms.
This was already beyond disrespectful.
Yet, he couldn’t even utter an apology from his dry lips.
Returning the Emperor’s stare, Ashiyowa somehow managed to gather up some courage, muttering,
Upon hearing those words, the young Emperor reacted in shock. Almost immediately, the Imperial guards stirred in response to his behaviour.
Ashiyowa gulped, gathering his courage once again.
“Your Majesty, please let me go.”
The moment he said that, the Emperor dropped to his knees and draped his arms around his waist, resting his cheeks on Ashiyowa’s chest, clad in rags.
The secretary in grey, who had been watching from afar, came down the corridor.
“Your Majesty, are you feeling alright?”
The secretary called out as he approached the kneeling Emperor.
Ashiyowa felt the arms wrapped around him squeeze him tighter.
“Take him to Ryokuen. Ah… My knees have no strength after hearing his voice. This is the first time something like this happened.”
Upon saying that, the Emperor lifted Ashiyowa and carried him across his shoulders.
“Uwaa… Ah… Why…!?”
Ashiyowa stiffened as his field of vision became higher all of a sudden. The Emperor placed a hand on his back to support his upper body.
Ashiyowa could only wonder how things turned out this way.