Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 24: His Wish
Summer quietly arrived and soon the whole land was enveloped in warmth.
The castle was built with the wind’s direction in mind, so the heat was bearable. If you left the doors open, the passing currents of wind were enough to cool the room.
Ashiyowa was asleep in a cool forest. The pain had disappeared since the day he collapsed in the forest and found himself drenched with sweat, wrapped in the Emperor’s arms. He could move around and eat normally.
He still met with the Emperor, but kept his distance, unable to forget the pain he’d felt. If the Emperor played around and hugged Ashiyowa, his body would immediately stiffen, afraid that any movement would overexcite the Emperor. If it was just a light peck on his lips, he endured it.
Right now, Ashiyowa was concerned about the balding mountains.
The Emperor presented him with a one-seater carriage since he often travelled to distant places. The carriage came with curtains attached, its body embellished with gold trim and an engraving of a mythical creature chasing after a gem. In front, there was a coachman watching over the handsome black-maned horse as it pulled the carriage. Ashiyowa was fascinated by the jet-black horse.
“―He’s a fine horse.”
“He’s named Alsephone. He comes from East Fosetteau. That region’s famous for its horses.”
“… A horse like that just to take me around.”
“It is because it is you, Aniue-sama, that he chose Alsephone. Alsephone is gentle and very smart. If you’d like, you can ride on him instead of using the carriage. But just because you can ride him, you still shouldn’t overdo it.”
Ashiyowa was stroking Alsephone’s coat when he looked back and saw the Emperor. He was dressed in summer attire and wore a faint smile underneath a parasol being held by a chamberlain.
“I-I’d like to be able to ride him someday…”
The Emperor nodded instantly.
“From now on, you shall teach my brother”
“It will be an honour, Your Majesty,” the grey coachman replied as he knelt down and bowed his head.
Ashiyowa was interested in the mountains because they reminded him of the place he’d been brought up. But here, their sand-like soil was dry so crops couldn’t take root and when it rained, the earth would crumble away, weakening the mountain’s foundation. They were different from the mountains that Ashiyowa knew.
He rode the carriage towards the mountains. As he wandered aimlessly, he felt a buzzing in his chest. What was it trying to tell him?
Truthfully, all Ashiyowa wanted was to return to those familiar mountains, to his home. But his memories from that night were still painfully clear. He remembered how his face had been slammed down as he shook off the Emperor’s hands, how he was attacked as he desperately tried to escape. He could only imagine how the Emperor would react if he said he wanted to return home again―.
Ashiyowa bit his finger as he stared at the ground, reflecting on his dark shadow. Instead of a crown, he wore a straw hat. He’s been advised to wear the crown several times, but he was no aristocrat, and his hair wasn’t long enough to be tied up. He was told that he was part of the royal family, but he didn’t feel that way in the slightest.
He was just being cornered by a young man who people happened to call the Emperor. That was all. A terrifyingly beautiful, violent, but sometimes childish man who was surrounded with riches beyond his imagination. A lord who commanded numerous soldiers and servants. As someone who had never admired or longed for the royal family, that was how Ashiyowa thought of Lesheinu.
I wish they’d just let me leave…
All he’d wanted was to buy a book he could bring back to the mountains. It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.
A magnificent palace standing proudly in vermillion, gold, and white and the vast, elegant garden, surrounded by mountains; it was easily larger than his hometown. Everyone there existed for the sole purpose of serving the Emperor and his half-brother. He wondered if he had mistakenly wandered into a strange, foreign land.
Luckily, there was still some good in all this. As requested, he was allowed to get closer to the horse.
Once he was done strolling the mountains and gathering his thoughts for the day, the coachman taught him how to ride the horse. He started by teaching Ashiyowa some basic knowledge of horses before they moved on to practice riding. Ashiyowa also asked the coachman to teach him how to care for the horse once they returned to the stables and learned how to wipe its sweat, prepare its food, and clean its straw bedding.
The plain blue silken robes Ashiyowa usually wore were a hindrance, so he often took them off while caring for the horse. It was hot anyway, so it worked out fine.
But he was also reluctant to get his under-robe and shoes dirty as they were also quite luxurious, so he ended up barefoot in his undergarments. The servants around him panicked, eventually offering him some clothes that appeared more extravagant than the coachman’s but were easier to move in than the blue robes.
“But this is too much. I’ll be sweating in it anyway,” Ashiyowa refused.
The coachman’s expression changed. Away from the scorching sunlight and summer bugs, the horses stood in the shade, basking in the cool air.
“Forgive me, Aniue-sama, but would you be willing to put on these robes? If you must undress, we servants dare not wear anything more.”
Ashiyowa was sitting on a chair they’d prepared for him and almost choked while sipping on cold water.
“Surely there’s no way…”
He wanted him to say it was a lie, but it wasn’t just the coachman. All the servants around him were kneeling down, black whorls of hair faced towards him. His eyes met with a chamberlain’s, who nodded in response.
“Please bring me the clothes from before.”
Ashiyowa stared at the cup he was holding. The servants around him thanked him and left. More than anything, he wanted to leave. To return to the mountains where no one lowered their heads for him―. Such thoughts occupied Ashiyowa’s head as he stared at his reflection inside the cup.