Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 26: Direct Appeal
The next day, while Ashiyowa was having his breakfast in the pavilion inside the forest, the Ryokuen Palace’s secretary came with a very dark expression on his face.
“Good morning, Aniue-sama. The Chancellor and the ministers are saying they want to have an audience with Aniue-sama by today if possible. What should I do?”
Ashiyowa was eating food made of flour from the toumoreiya fruit with honey poured over it when he heard a word he didn’t understand.
Looking across the pavilion’s floor from where he was seated to avoid making eye contact, Ashiyowa saw the secretary raise his face while kneeling on one knee.
“Does this mean that Leshe told the Chancellor and the Ministers that he would really abdicate?”
His voice trembled.
“Yes. The secret decree has been made, the Chancellor and the Ministers have been notified as of last night.”
“This means they want to talk to me about that matter, right? ”
“Yes. I think that is the case. It is also possible for you to decline the audience.”
Somehow he couldn’t understand the secretary’s words.
Ashiyowa found it strange that the Chancellor and the Ministers would want to have a “meeting” or an “audience” with him.
He wondered why having a conversation with a wild man was being called “audience” or “meeting” by the nobility. It violated the grammar rules he’d learned from the old man.
“Um, I don’t understand. C-Can I ask Lesheine…?”
“Yes. Then, I will guide you to His Majesty. ”
Ashiyowa took his cane and stood.
Last night, the Emperor’s surroundings became busy after it was announced that he would abdicate for an unknown reason.
“Just a minute, I’ll be going outside to hand down a secret decree. Aniue can just take his time and continue having dinner.”
After saying so, he left the balcony, accompanied by his servants and guards.
Then from that time, really… his abdication…
As Ashiyowa hurriedly followed the secretary, the bright face he had seen from the Emperor the previous evening came to mind.
“His Majesty is in the Imperial Court so let us head to the Ryokuryū Palace.”
To return to the palace, they need to go through the corridor, cross the bridge, pass through the gate, and go up the palace steps. The palace was the symbol of the Imperial Capital and called with the nickname “Facade” by the Emperor.
Ashiyowa was surrounded by Imperial Guards wearing gray armor to the extent that it was hard to see who was walking from outside.
Unlike the Ryokuen Palace that was exclusive to the royal family, green and blue servants, guards who served the nobles, and the black-clad officials came and went in the Ryokuryū Palace. Everyone bowed their heads towards the group that came from the back of the palace until they were out of sight.
When they entered the Emperor’s waiting room, the Emperor was already sitting on the ornate chair and sipping his tea.
When the Emperor saw Ashiyowa, he stood up to greet him with a smile brighter than the sunlight streaming in through the windows. Though Ashiyowa tried to sit in another chair, instead he was seated next to the Emperor while still in his arms.
“Good morning Aniue.”
“G-Good morning. Did I disturb you?”
“It’s okay. I heard that the Chancellor and the ministers asked for an audience.”
“Oh… I can’t easily meet with such important people of the empire by myself.”
The Emperor who stroked Ashiyowa’s back with his hand laughed softly.
“That’s simple, then let’s meet with them together.”
As he said so, he nodded to the secretary and recommended tea to his brother.
During the audience, the Emperor entered holding Ashiyowa’s hand.
Before coming in, Ashiyowa put on the headpiece bought by the chamberlains. He thought that doing it this way must be necessary for meeting the Chancellor and the ministers, so he obediently put it on his head and had the strings tied. The design was dazzling with the ornaments clattering; it was as if the silver birds around the vermillion beads would fly off. But it felt a little painful because he was not used to the string tied under his chin.
Above the platform was a golden chair, lined up with a carved partition screen and bronze vases, the tapping sound of the cane rang in the room.
When the Emperor sat on the throne, Ashiyowa was guided to a shining chair placed next to the Emperor’s seat decorated with a frightening number of ornaments and narrower than the throne. Unable to sit properly, he perched on the edge of the chair.
It was there, for the first time, he saw the nobles kneeling below the platform wearing headpieces with beads hanging down from them.
“You are permitted to speak; you may raise your faces.”
According to the words of the Emperor’s attendant, the Six Ministers raised their heads slightly, lowered their foreheads to the floor again, and then raised their faces.
Ashiyowa’s face stiffened because he could see that the eyes of the Six Ministers were directed at him.
“I heard you wanted to have an audience with my brother. If it’s about my attendance, I have received Aniue’s permission. Now, state your business.”
A noble with small stature took a step forward. There were six beads hanging from both the front and the back of his headpiece ― there were twelve pieces in total. The only one who could have that number of beads was the Chancellor.
“―Your Majesty and His Highness, we are extremely delighted that our impudent plea has been granted.”
“The reason we asked for an audience with His Highness is the secret decree last night. We wish to ask His Highness to stop Your Majesty from abdicating.”
Ashiyowa was overwhelmed by the concise report and the pressure from the glare that unexpectedly came from those narrow eyes.
Not knowing how to reply, he grabbed the elbow rest of the chair and glanced towards the Emperor.
The Emperor was sitting on the throne with a familiar look on his face, without a hint of nervousness, looking at Ashiyowa.
The crown above his head, the golden royal robe, even the sash clip and the necklaces he wore all seem to be unnecessary decorations before his imposing attitude.
―This guy is really the Emperor…
Yes, this was the current God ― the Emperor they had an audience with as a group when they came to the Imperial Capital. This face, this man.
He was the man who confined Ashiyowa in the Ryokuen Palace, pushed luxurious gifts onto him, treated him violently, healed his wounds, confessed love to him, and even said that he would abdicate for the sake of going back to the mountains together with him.
Within the continuous deafening silence, Ashiyowa swallowed his saliva and opened his mouth.
“…I-I, particularly…think that His Majesty doesn’t have to abdicate. Originally, I intended to go back to the mountains by myself. I think it’s best if His Majesty remains here.”
The Chancellor and the ministers’ faces burst into a joyful expression.
“You people will eventually have to manage the country without my presence. If so, why is everyone making a fuss? Isn’t it just happening a little faster?”
“Your Majesty, if you will allow me to answer, it’s not just about happening a little faster. The country will be in turmoil. The remote regions will be upset and in front of an empty throne, we would still be in a daze.”
“Twelve years have passed since the coronation but all of you are still like this?”
The Emperor leaned against the backrest, pulled the fan attached in his sash, and opened it with a sharp snap.
“We are very ashamed but… it is evident that the existence of the royal family is too important in our country. Please, Your Majesty, we ask on behalf of your subjects, please reconsider your abdication.”
The ministers also followed suit and said “Please reconsider,” following the Chancellor.
Only the snap of the fan echoed through the audience.
“I intend to go together with Aniue, no matter what he says. If Aniue heads for the mountains, since I can’t follow him as Emperor, I will abdicate and go.”
For a moment after the Emperor’s announcement, the Six Ministers corrected their posture and bowed their heads towards Ashiyowa.
“We would like to ask His Highness. If you consider the people of this country pitiful, please have mercy. Please do not return to the mountains.”
Ashiyowa quickly got goosebumps all over his body and at the same time, he felt his blood draining.
“The people wish for the Emperor to reign for as long as he can; more than a year. I hope that His Highness will understand the wishes of these subjects and the common people, and continue to live in the Imperial Capital.”
“Please keep it within the limits of playing in the mountains. However, if His Highness still prefers mountains, we will arrange to increase the number of mountains in the Ryokuen Palace. ”
After the ministers reported in chorus, Ashiyowa sat still in the chair above the platform and became stiff while he still had goosebumps.
He shifted his line of sight away from the vassals kneeling on the floor to his side. When their eyes met, the Emperor said this.
“Aniue, they may be saying those things but Aniue can do whatever it is you wish. Aniue has always been saying that you wanted to go back to the mountains. Our lineage has been here for a thousand years. It’s time for us to leave. I’ll make them prepare for you to be able to move out by the end of the year. Now, let’s go further.”
The Emperor did not seem to care about the desperate pleas of the Six Ministers who had practically stopped breathing, but calmly reached out and grabbed Ashiyowa’s hand.
Even the secretary from the Ryouken Palace who stood in the corner of the platform just looked at the two royals with a gentle expression, as if the kneeling nobles were invisible.
Ashiyowa did not move even when his hand was grabbed by the Emperor. He looked down to avoid seeing anyone’s face. When he did, the ornaments on his headpiece rattled.
“…Why are you making me choose such difficult things?… I just want to go back to the mountains. That’s all, isn’t it? There’s no problem even if you don’t follow me. There would be no need to trouble your vassals and the people.”
“There is a problem. I don’t want to be away from Aniue. What’s the use of leaving the capital and leaving me alone? Maintaining the country? The Six Ministers can just have a discussion and decide. Judging at trials? Then what’s the purpose of having an Attorney General? For the sake of the verdant lands? They can just promote further advanced irrigation projects. We saved up for ten years for that. There’s no need for Aniue to be bothered by my abdication. As I have said before, if Aniue wants to head to the mountains, I will go with you. I don’t want to be alone anymore.”
The last words he uttered were so heavy that they stirred Ashiyowa inside. He raised his gaze from the hand that was caught and looked up at his Emperor’s blue eyes.
He didn’t expect them to have a gentle colour.
Ashiyowa reached his conclusion after he saw those eyes. He grabbed the Emperor’s hand back and looked down at the kneeling vassals.
“―About going back to the mountains…I won’t be going for a while…after all His Majesty will take back his abdication, won’t he…?”
When he looked up beside him, the Emperor stood up without haste.
“As of now, my abdication will be as Aniue said. However, you shouldn’t be relieved with this change of mind. Be more active in considering how you will manage without the presence of the royal family. Understood? ”
“Ha! We are grateful for this happiness, Your Majesty.”
When the Emperor made this announcement, he picked up Ashiyowa, who was stiff from nervousness, in his arms and walked off the platform just like that.