Read at Watashi Wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 38: Morals
They left the bath and Lesheine carried Ashiyowa to his bedroom. The thought of having Ashiyowa sleep in his bed made him smile. Once they were there, he set Ashiyowa down and had him squeeze in some lunch before they fell asleep.
In Ashiyowa’s dreams, the old man appeared.
“Ashiyowa,” the old man called as he brought a stick down to strike him. He had yet to plough the soil or memorise words from the books he had been forced to read. The old man made him repeat the words until he could pronounce them correctly. After that, he was sent to collect some fruit, mushrooms, and herbs to prepare for their meals.
Only when his right leg began to ache and he could no longer walk another step did the old man give him some medicine. Those were the days when everything felt like a burden, and the old man’s back seemed ever so wide.
“Listen well, Ashiyowa. In this world, we have morals. As long as we live, we must follow these rules; we must do what is right. Foolishness only leads to hurt and pain, not just for me, but for the world. Morals exist to give us order, but when you turn away from them, you become impure, corrupt. It strips you of your humanity.”
The old man turned his sharp gaze from the sky to Ashiyowa’s eyes, then back to the sky.
―To lose your humanity…
In the lazy afternoon air, Ashiyowa opened his eyes. Before him was a life of luxury, surrounded by riches he couldn’t have imagined back at the mountains and servants at his every beck and call. Food was no longer a worry and he didn’t have to spend his days searching for things to eat anymore. All he had to do was sit in his silk robes… But there was also him.
“I love you. I love you so much.” Lesheine whispered. With brilliant gold hair that resembled sunlight and calming blue eyes, he flashed a smile at Ashiyowa.
In these lands, only he was permitted golden robes. He who had decided that the old man was wrong; he who was the last survivor of the royal family: The Last Emperor.
Ashiyowa felt his mouth dry up. Said Emperor wanted to embrace him. And he had rejected him.
Just as the old man had taught him.
I’ve failed his teachings…
But there was something about Lesheine’s passion that resonated with Ashiyowa. It came from a lonely heart, a feeling Ashiyowa knew well, having lived alone since the death of the old man. He had become weak to those acts of immorality.
I’m wrong; I’m dirty.
He had given his body to Lesheine many times, weak to his ‘I love you’s. Somewhere along the way, the line between right and wrong had blurred in his mind.
Ashiyowa placed the back of his hands on his eyes and closed them. It was pitch dark.
Ashiyowa woke up in the evening completely pale. Immediately, the doctor was summoned.
“I can’t seem to find any immediate problems. If anything, it could be the summer heat.”
The chamberlains who were present nodded, internally thinking, ‘Ah, this must be because he only eats vegetables and fruit,’ and ordered that the royal kitchen prepare something simple but energising for Ashiyowa. It pained the royal chef to hold back, but regardless, he prepared a few dishes.
Ashiyowa let out a bitter smile, saying that he was alright; that he was fine.
Whether he was at the palace or up near the bald mountains building the hut, dinner was always cold meat or fish wrapped in vegetables, or some fried fish accompanied by a vegetable broth. Ashiyowa chewed the vegetables and drank his water, staring at the dishes. The plates and tableware shone brightly, and the food was always presented wonderfully.
Ashiyowa wanted to speak to the old man. He wanted to ask what he should do with his now dirtied self. If he were to return to the mountains, Lesheine would retire from the throne and follow him.
He would hate me for what I’ve done… I might be part of the royal family after all…
If I am, would it matter what I do in the end?
In front of the colourful dishes, the old man’s face appeared in Ashiyowa’s mind: His white hair and beard, his long eyebrows that hung down, and his strict face.
Ah, but… Even if I am part of the royal family, it doesn’t mean I’m completely hopeless. I just need to do what’s right.
Each person had a choice. You could choose to abide by society’s morals or defy them. Yet, each time Ashiyowa repented, a sharp pain cut through his chest. He was conflicted. Ashiyowa couldn’t forgive himself for going against the old man’s teachings but was powerless against the path he had been forced upon.
“Aniue-sama, are you feeling alright?” Inochi asked, standing beside Ashiyowa’s chair. He bit his lips and shook his head. Ashiyowa wanted to ask the gentle chamberlain about what he should do, about how he should face the route set in front of him.
But he was immediately reminded by those elegant grey robes that touched the floor that the Grey Wolves served the royal family. Ashiyowa already knew what his answer would be.
It was hard for Ashiyowa to go against the old man; he admired him and did feel affection for him. Before this, Ashiyowa always had a simple and clear life set out ahead of him. Torn between two paths, he was overcome with a sense of nausea and threw up all he had eaten.
After Ashiyowa threw up at the dining table, his surroundings erupted into chaos. Ashiyowa was on the floor, on all fours. His mouth was wiped with a cloth, and he was lifted up to a chaise-lounge. Again, the doctor was called.
Because his complexion looked pale, Ashiyowa was given some medicine to ease his stomach, then taken to his bed. At some point Ashiyowa heard footsteps approaching his room from the corridor. Lesheine had come to check on him. Without thinking, Ashiyowa reached for his arm.
‘Leshe,’ Ashiyowa mouthed, unable to force out his voice.
“Aniue, you’re so pale.”
Lesheine himself also seemed quite pale. He went to the doctor waiting behind him.
“There’s no inflammation, is there?”
“Yes, that is correct.”
Lesheine finally let out a breath, his shoulders slouched. He reached out and placed his hands on Ashiyowa’s face.
―If I returned to the mountains… Lesheine would follow me. He would retire from the throne and follow me. It doesn’t matter where I go. As long as he’s there with me, I’m betraying the old man.
Beneath the candlelight, Lesheine’s delicate features only appeared distorted to Ashiyowa. He shook off Leshiene’s hands and turned away.
“I’m going to sleep. Please leave me alone.”
“I understand. Please take all the rest you need.”
Lesheine tucked Ashiyowa into bed, then left the room.