Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 13: Ryokuen
Ryokuen was reserved exclusively for the Royal family. It resembled a vast garden, located behind Ryokuryū Palace.
The entire garden was filled with scenic mountains and rivers, and being so spacious, it could almost pose as a small village.
Other than the royal family, the only people who lived there were the guards who were stationed there day and night, and the attendants and servants who served them.
When he was enthroned at the age of fourteen, the Emperor, as the last remaining royalty, had been presented with three concubines by the six ministers of the State Ministry. The three were kept to a corner of the palace, where they lived separately from everyone else.
Ryokuen, the home and garden of the royals.
The current Emperor was born and raised there. Now, he remained its only inhabitant and lord.
And at that very moment, Ashiyowa was being carried there by none other than the Emperor himself.
Ashiyowa was hesitant to move around too much, afraid of offending the Emperor. He whimpered, asking to be let down, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
They passed through the gate protected by the Imperial Guards, crossed a bridge and slid down the corridor until they were met with the white-walled palace. It was supported by crimson pillars, tinged with gold, and topped with a vermillion roof. Anyone fortunate enough to have gazed upon its magnificent form would have been left at a loss of words.
It was as though he were dreaming; yes, this must be a dream.
As they went further into the inner palace, they passed by a double door and a bridge supported by columns, which overlooked a pond.
There, Ashiyowa was finally let down, his feet touching the floor. He was placed on top of a rug, but immediately wanted to step away from it, startled upon noticing how it had been embroidered with detail and precision he had never seen before.
Although he’d already let go of Ashiyowa, the Emperor still continued to stare at him in silence.
Upon the sound of the door closing, Ashiyowa turned around and was faced with the man known as the Secretary of Ryokuen. The man sat down and kneeled.
“Your Majesty, what is the matter? Please let this wolf know if I am mistaken――No, since you have brought him all the way here… If I were to assume from the situation at hand…”
“Yes… This man shares the same blood as I. He is my brother. Even… Even if he wasn’t my brother… Even if he isn’t, I want him by my side.”
The Emperor sighed as he took a step back and shot Ashiyowa a sincere look.
Upon hearing that, the wrinkled face of the secretary lifted up into what was unmistakably delight.
“Having served the royal family for many years, I can tell from His Majesty’s words and actions. Indeed, this man must be the prince.”
“Yes. Yes, it’s him――Lafoseine”
Their conversation was incomprehensible to Ashiyowa and unable to keep up, he stared at the floor, only looking up when he noticed a change in the tone of the Emperor’s voice.
“It’s me, Leseine. Your younger brother.”
In a daze, he could only stare back.
It was now around midnight, and as a gust of wind passed through, the Moon reflected on the pond’s surface wavered.
“――His Majesty seems to be in a good mood these days; he cleanly finishes his meals and looks fresher when he awakens each morning. He even smiles more often now. During the breaks after each audience session, he asks about his brother, about what he is doing, and every time he turns away from his desk to gaze in his direction.”
Inside a certain room in Ryokuen palace, guards in grey uniforms were gathered around a round table. The leader of the ‘Grey Wolves’ stood in the centre.
The heads of each unit had been summoned.
Upon receiving the report from the Emperor’s royal chamberlain, their expressions softened.
“Well, that’s certainly a dramatic change. Our days under dark clouds are over, the Sun’s finally shown itself; there is hope.”
“His hair looks fresher and shinier than before.”
“Very well, His Majesty seems to be doing well. Let us hear about the prince.”
The elderly royal chamberlain, in charge of the newfound member of the royal family, was prompted to speak. Of the whole group, only he looked pale.
“――From the very first day, he didn’t seem comfortable. His sleep is light, and he seems reluctant to accept the clothes he’s been presented with. He avoids the bath, saying the milk-coloured water is unsettling, and barely touches his meals. It’s been six days, but his cheeks have already become hollow. At this rate, even if he is half royal, I can only foresee the collapse of the royal family.”
A gloomy expression reflected on the glossy surface of the round table.
“His Majesty is also concerned about his brother’s meals,” continued the royal chamberlain.
“I’ve had to call the chef directly and order him to do something about it.”
Ever since he was brought to Ryokuen, Ashiyowa’s meals were filled only with nourishing ingredients and delicacies, as the Emperor had instructed. Although it hadn’t been officially announced, it was reported to the Chancellor and State Minister that a promising candidate for His Majesty’s older brother had been found.
So far, the only confirmation they had of him being the Emperor’s half-brother was His Majesty’s undeniable interest in Ashiyowa.
Yet, to the men and women in grey, that alone was more reliable than any evidence.
When asked, Ashiyowa answered that he was found in the mountains and had been raised there. He never gave much thought to his identity, and he never felt like he had any ‘special abilities’.
Members of the royal family were gifted with special abilities.
In fact, it was said that it is thanks to these royal abilities that the once devastated lands have become rich and fertile. Everyone in the royal family, no matter their position, had these abilities. Amongst them, those who ascended the throne were guaranteed to possess great powers, in addition to an upstanding character and an exceptional level of intelligence.
All Emperors had no name. Though all members of the royal family were given a name when they were born and could be called by as such, those who ascended the throne would have to abandon that name. From then on, they would only be known as the Emperor, ruler of this world.
Though there have been generations of Emperors from the royal family, there wasn’t any distinction between them; whether they were of the first or second generation, or anything following that, was not officially acknowledged. The one who sat on the throne was always the Emperor. According to official historical records, there had only ever been one Emperor, and to this day, he continues to look over the country’s lands.
It didn’t matter who the lord of Ryokuryū Castle was, he who was Emperor would have the entire world at his mercy.
The Grey Wolves were the special clan that has continued to serve the royal family from long ago.
They only answered to the blue-blooded royal family, their sole purpose, to serve and protect all royalty.
Yet, the esteemed royal family had been met with three disasters and was now down to a single man.
――In other words, that man would truly be the last Emperor.
This was announced at the current Emperor’s coronation ceremony and shocked not only the public and royal subjects all over the country, but also the Grey Wolves who were sworn to protect the royals.
“… His Majesty has become lively again. This is all thanks to the prince. As you all have seen, only members of the royal family can strengthen and heal each other. It is impossible for one to live without another. We must ensure His Majesty’s well-being until the very end. That being said, the prince is of illegitimate birth and has been living in the mountains until recently. For the first time in thirty-three years, he’s finally been found and given protection. Understandably, he is unaccustomed to royal life. As you all know, it is because of our lack of power that we were unable to save him even though he was alive this whole time. It is most shameful, and you should know that because of this, Lafoseine-sama is suffering.”
After hearing reports from each chief, the man who held the title of Ryokuen’s secretary and the head of the Gray Wolves opened his eyelids.
“You can tell by looking at His Majesty’s expression. There is no doubt that Mr. Ashi must be His Majesty’s older brother, the missing Lafoseine-sama. We cannot afford to lose him again. I will also call out to the chef. Those attending to him should report any changes, no matter how small. That is all.”
The wolves bowed their heads before scattering back to their posts.