Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 23: Public Announcement
It was an auspicious summer day when news that the Emperor’s brother had been found was announced throughout the country.
For three days straight, taverns were kept open and liquor was served freely. Small offences were forgiven. Officials crowded into the worship hall and cheered as Lafoseine’s name was revived on the royal list. The retainers’ initial worries disappeared and their faces shone brightly as they celebrated the Emperor and his half-brother. The depressing, dark clouds that had once covered the Royal Capital and Imperial Palace were gone and the roof tiles of the palace seemed to shine even more from a distance as if they had been meticulously polished.
What a difference it made…
Wang, a former scribe, looked up at Ryokuryū Palace, squinting. He was now an official, set to appear at the Imperial Court today.
Enthroned at the age of fourteen, the Emperor quickly gained the respect of his subjects and people with his earnest efforts to listen and conduct fair trials, and through the implementation of the Ritsuryo legal system.1 Year after year, his beautiful appearance remained unchanged. Yet, perhaps out of loneliness, the brilliance he once possessed faded and the Royal Capital and palace were shrouded in darkness, veiled by grey clouds.
Along with that, Wang was also here to report the discovery of fertile soil across the country’s various districts. It was part of his duty to observe each location and summarise any details and it was how he was recognised as a government official.
Only those with front row seats in the worship hall could see the Emperor but rumours of his appearance spread throughout the Imperial Palace. In the blink of an eye, everyone heard about the Emperor’s newfound radiance. As he sat on the throne, his golden hair seemed to glow even brighter than the crown, soaking in the sunlight. It was like he was a different person. His blue eyes were bright and clear, purposeful and intelligent, and his pale skin seemed healthier, a slight blush extending across his cheeks. He carried himself elegantly, wearing a pleasant smile across his face as he nodded to the celebration. He was no longer the lone member of the royal family and it was obvious to everyone that he had changed.
Raseinu had a founding myth. Before the ancestors of the royal family arrived, the country was desolate. The land then was not even one tenth of what it was now, cursed with bare mountains and sparse water resources, and even the animals had fled. The people on these barren lands were one step from death.
But then the royal ancestors appeared. The clan they belonged to possessed unique abilities and, as the myth went, the once dismal lands immediately transformed into rich soil.
Crops took root and the land turned green, forests revived and rivers were born, animals returned and the country became prosperous. Upon witnessing the clan’s power, the people of the land pleaded with them to rule over the lands, and at their repeated requests, the clan finally agreed. They replied that they would rule the country for as long as their bloodline continued and the one who accepted their pleas became the first Emperor.
Unlike the black hair, black eyes, and yellow skin that were common among the people of the land, those of royal blood had blonde hair and blue eyes and their skin was white as snow.
Consanguineous marriage was a common occurrence between Raseinu royalty. While it was still considered unethical at the time, people turned a blind eye; they liked to think that the royal family was different. But even if they were royalty, there were sages who strongly opposed such marriages, calling them disrespectful and impure. Much of this, however, was ignored by the government and the public.
That wasn’t the only difference between ordinary people and royalty. While the average lifespan of a rich, sheltered citizen was only 70 years, the royal family had an expected lifespan of 150 years.
When the previous Emperor died, the current Emperor was thrust onto the throne at the age of fourteen, taking the place of his predecessor. As he was declared the last Emperor, subjects clung to the small hope that he still had more than a hundred years left, conveniently forgetting the other ‘unique’ characteristic of the royal family: that they couldn’t live without one another. This, of course, served as no guarantee and recently the Emperor’s condition seemed to be deteriorating at an alarming rate.
In a panic, the Imperial Court offered a concubine to the Emperor and bowed, requesting that he produce an heir. The country was in a state of turmoil at the demise of the previous Emperor, its structures collapsing one after another. How long will the new Emperor be able to endure this loneliness? Would there be a child with an outsider? Needless to say, even if the child’s power was halved or lost, it was the policy that he should still continue to serve as the country’s ruler. That was the most effective way to unite the land and for the country to continue living in peace, undisturbed.
Those chosen to succeed the throne were said to be the best of the best within the royal family. At the demise or resignation of the ruling Emperor, he would be replaced by the one with the most power, strength, wisdom, and skill. Regardless of whether they were a direct descendant of the Emperor, anyone who possessed royal blood could inherit the throne. The throne would usually be entrusted to the heir once they turned twenty and since the royal family did not discriminate between gender, there had been a mix of male and female rulers across the years.
Coincidentally, the current Emperor’s father happened to be the previous ruler, and his mother was his sister. Conceived between father and daughter, Lesheine was born a pure royal, blessed by his relatives.
Lesheine experienced sexuality at a young age as he learned and played around within the clan. But ever since the royal family was struck by misfortune, he had become the last royal. No matter how many beautiful women or men were offered to him, Lesheine desired none of them. That much was clear.
Government officials attempted to soothe the public, but, despite their sentiments, the royal family had no political reason to marry. If the Emperor were to marry, he wanted to feel attraction to his partner. Without love, he couldn’t truly acknowledge the other. Though at this rate, it seemed the Emperor’s lifespan would be more of a concern than the matter of an heir.
“Rumours say the royal family can’t live without one another, but with this it’s clear.”
“Did you see all the fuss they made searching for the lost prince? I heard it was a big affair…”
Wang sat beside Oryo, a fellow student and senior. Oryo had become a government official a few years earlier and was helping Wang with the current report.
Currently, they were seated in the room designated for Imperial Court officials to enjoy lunch. In front of them, food was spread out across low tables. The room’s doors were left open and it was lively inside the vast space, filled with appetizing scents.2 Over there, you could buy lunch with small change or leave the Imperial Palace to have a meal elsewhere.
“I’m not supposed to say this aloud, but as soon as His Majesty embraced his brother, the Hyakuhana Ryumeen flowers at Ryokuen Palace were in full bloom. They say it blossoms only once every 100 years.”
Oryo was a dark and tall man with a horse-like face. He worked under someone that served the secretaries of prefectural lords, who reported directly to the Emperor and announced any imperial edicts to the public.
“Ah, is that so? That’s a little early isn’t it.”
“That’s right, even the concubines that were left untouched for many years were finally called upon. The royal family must really be different.”
The two of them were munching on steamed meat buns together.
“Just like that, the lost prince was found and His Majesty was revived. By all means, we must establish a system to govern this country by ourselves while His Majesty is still alive. That’s why you became a government official, isn’t it? We’re counting on you.”
“Yes, I will do my best.”
Wang raised his chin and bowed his head.