h.e.l.lo, honeypeaches. Thank you all for support, it means a lot. I made a bit of a flub when uploading last week, so the chapter was unavailable for a while, but now I’ve hopefully become smarter so it won’t happen again. Fingers crossed, cuz this is my first time doing smth like this >.
Anyways, let us proceed to the continued adventures of Sekka the two flowered ‘princess’. If anybody needs any reminders for the names, please check the 1st part of this chapter.
"We request that you accompany Us to the military encampment, Princess Shungetsu."
Declaring it in a haughty voice used to commanding others, the emperor turned his horse back to where they had come from.
Sekka's party was captured and dragged to Yoh's military encampment erected outside the Imperial Palace.
Separated from his escorts, Sekka and the two maids were led to one of the tents.
It appeared to be Emperor Kishoh's tent. It was bigger than the other tents, heavily guarded and inside there was a grand throne on top of some stairs. But unexpectedly there were no splendid decorations and the inside of the tent was rather simple.
But there was no Kishoh sitting on the throne. After returning here with Sekka's party, he had hurriedly departed, accompanied by his subordinates. It was definitely for the sake of personally leading the forces to capture Ka.
Though there was no violent behaviour, Sekka's hands were tied behind his back, and he was made to fall on his knees on the carpet. For a royalty it was a humiliating position.
Shohen and Baigyoku's hands were bound the same way, and they were made to kneel near the entrance to the tent. Because there were soldiers watching them, he hesitated to speak with them.
Even though they were inside a tent, the sound of war drums and the war cries of the soldiers could be heard. The annoying sound of the cannons that had been going on since yesterday had ceased.
The Yoh forces had probably penetrated the castle walls and entered the Imperial Palace. Sensing the closer and closer approaching fall of the castle, Sekka's mood became sombre.
He could only stand and watch as his country was being destroyed. As he thought of his mother and aunt being exposed to danger at the castle, his chest was filled with uneasiness.
Yougetsu had made him change into his sister's clothes and escape the castle for the sake of his survival. If prince Sekka survived, someday Ka could be restored. Sekka was his mother's last hope.
That is if he had managed to escape far away and not been easily captured and brought to the Yoh military encampment. He didn't know how they were discovered, but he couldn't lament himself enough.
That man…Ryuu Kishoh, what is he going to do with 'Princess Shungetsu'?
Is he going to use him as a hostage to force Ka to capitulate? Even if he does that, his prideful mother would not necessarily capitulate.
His mother did not perceive her life as something meant to last long. She carried the duties and dignity of an empress on her shoulders and was prepared to share the same fate as Ka. And so were Kougetsu and Shohun, who were ready to sacrifice themselves for such an empress.
He didn't want their deaths to be dishonoured because of him. But, one way or another, he was sure he could not be saved. In reality, while being watched by soldiers, even escaping from the tent would be difficult.
His own helplessness vexed him. Grasping his hands tightly, his nails bit thoroughly into the palms of his hands.
Thanks to pretending to be the princess, he could get out of being killed, but if it was confirmed that he was a man, they would probably immediately decapitate him. The emperor of Yoh would not leave alive such a cowardly prince who ran away dressed as his older sister.
If that happened, he would have wasted all the effort his mother put in to let him escape. Naturally, the hope of Ka's revival would fall apart as well.
Whatever the case, it seems he won't be able to fulfil his mother's expectations. While his own worthlessness made him deeply sad, a boisterous noise came from the vicinity of the entrance to the tent.
The tent opened from the outside and Kishoh entered, accompanied by his retainers. The long legs pa.s.sed Sekka and quickly made their way to the throne and sat down. The man with a scar on his cheek he had met not long ago stood waiting with men that looked like civil officers dressed in robes of the imperial court the colour of diluted ink standing left and right of him.
Being called by Kishoh, Sekka slowly bowed and then raised his face. He had no social obligation to accord the Yoh Emperor, the invader, every courtesy, but he resented being considered ill-mannered.
"We sent an envoy to your country's Royal Palace to recommend for you to capitulate, but you refused. Till the outcome of the battle can be decided, a little more time is necessary. Until that time you will have to remain in Our military camp."
His tone of voice was cold to the point of being odious. Even his expression offered not the slightest hint for a fight. It was like this that the man had probably destroyed numerous countries, all without changing his expression.
"There is a man who wants to meet you. General Sai, bring him here."
The man with the scars that stood near the emperor answered shortly and issued a command to the soldiers. Soon, a man with a gag in his mouth was brought into the tent, held between two soldiers. His hands were tied behind his back and his face had a great number of bruises and cuts.
Recognizing Sekka, the man was struck with awe and prostrated himself before him like a frog. While Kishoh was observing this with a cool-headed look, he asked Sekka a question.
"Do you recall this man?"
Sekka emitted unwillingly. It would definitely be unnatural to keep silent. He had to avoid suspicious behaviour.
The male prisoner was obviously Shoh Shiyu. He was the subordinate of the Supreme Commander who controlled the Empress's army, and who had died in battle three days ago in a confrontation with the Yoh army at the border.
The Ka army who had full knowledge of the surrounding area suffered a crushing defeat in a matter of minutes due to a night attack from the Yoh army. According to the reports, aside from the Supreme Commander of the army, many officers and soldiers were also killed in action.
He had not exchanged words with Shoh, who accompanied the Supreme Commander, but he has met him at the Royal Palace once or twice. When they were departing for the front, he had seen them off with Kougetsu, serving as the representatives of the Empress.
Of course, Shoh didn't know that 'Princess Shungetsu' was actually Sekka. He also didn't know that the princess had died.
"This maiden, is she Princess Shungetsu?"
Kishoh asked Shoh. The soldiers removed his gag, but Shoh merely curled his large body and did not answer.
"Answer His Majesty's question!"
The scarred man, General Sai, ordered sharply. The soldiers gripped the grovelling Shoh's hair and raised his head with brute force. Furthermore they drew their swords and thrust them before Shoh's neck. Sekka knitted his eyebrows due to the rough treatment.
"…she is Princess Shungetsu."
Shoh closed his eyes in what seemed like resignation and answered in a hoa.r.s.e voice. Sekka knew not how the man became a prisoner but it was obvious Shoh was dragged here so that they could check Sekka's ident.i.ty.
After forcing a testimony out of Shoh, it looked like Kishoh finally believed Sekka was Princess Shungetsu. The man was not only bold, but he also seemed to have a cunning and wary personality as well.
Shoh was then gagged as before and dragged out of the tent. Shohen and Baigyoku watched the man with reproachful eyes, but Sekka couldn't muster up any resentment. He just prayed the man would find a way to survive.
"It seems there is no mistake, you are Princess Shungetsu."
"…that man, what will happen to him?"
Standing right in front of Kishoh and returning his gaze, Sekka lowered his voice and asked. The restrained voice whose sound had become similar to a composed woman's voice reverberated in the room, it did not sound unnatural.
"You're worried about him?"
Being asked in such a surprising manner, Kishoh's eyebrows rose. He stared at Sekka with a gaze full of interest.
"I do, if you are a person loyal to the Royal Family."
"If that is the case, even more, it is impossible for Us to release him. He will be put in jail as prisoner of war together with the soldiers caught earlier. "
Though he had a way of speaking that hinted that he was simply amusing himself, as Sekka understood, at present he had no plans to kill Shoh and the prisoners so he felt relief. His escorting soldiers would be safe as well.
"Prepare a tent for the Princess and her attendants. We entrust their care during their stay to you Eishun."
Kishoh ordered a youth near to him. A man maybe not so different in age to Kishoh he would say. But unlike Kishoh who was like a sharpened blade, the youth named Eishun's manner and presence held gentleness.
"What about their restraints?"
"Take them off, provided you don't shirk off watching them."
Rapidly ordering the youth, Kishoh rose from the throne. Looking down from an elevated s.p.a.ce, with his tall stature, his intimidating air increased more than ever.
"There are also the prisoners. If you don't want them killed, don't entertain any thoughts about running away and such."
Being lorded over by eyes full of strong willpower, Sekka hanged his head in silence. In the shade of the gauze on top of his head, he bit his lips a little bit. It was vexing being overpowered by Kishoh whose whole body gave off the aura of a monarch.
Kishoh left the tent accompanied by General Sai.
Somehow the fact that he was a man was not discovered. Somehow he weathered through a face-to-face meeting with Kishoh. He let out a little sigh.
As instructed by Eishun, their restraints were removed and Shohen and the rest gathered in the middle of the tent.
"I am Kou Eishun. His majesty has ordered me to take care of you during your stay. Right now your tent is being prepared, so please wait a moment here."
In regards to the princess of the enemy country, Eishun acted in an idle manner while according him every courtesy. He didn't know what was inside of his heart, but there was no hostility peeking through. Sekka calmly limited himself to bowing his head like a true princess.
A short while later finally a soldier came to inform Eishun that the preparations for the tent were completed.
"Forgive me for making you wait. I'll guide you."
Guided by Eishun, they moved to a different nearby tent. Although their restraints were removed, the soldiers were wary and kept an eye on them, there were no opportunities to make an escape. There were already sentry guards keeping watch around the tent they were being guided to.
"Your things are being carried over. If there is anything you need, whatever it may be, please ask."
Indeed Eishun looked like an agreeable youth, but like a capable official, he did not forget to warn them as well.
"As ordered by His Majesty, there will be guards watching the Princess's tent. Please forgive me for that, but if the guards find you missing, I will be sacked."
Eishun bowed with his arms folded and left together with the soldiers.
After making sure their presence had faded, Sekka took off the gauze and looked over the interior of the tent. It was narrower than Kishoh's tent, but there was a carpet laid out on the floor and the furniture looked comfortable.
"Prince Sekka," Baigyoku whispered while scrupling with the surroundings.
"What will happen to us?"
"I don't know either but it seems they don't plan to kill us."
I don't know what will happen from now on, but…, Sekka said to himself in his heart. For now he should probably press on as the Princess, who he could surmise had some utility value to their enemies.
Being captured by the forces commanded personally by the Emperor was bad luck in the extreme, but if they'd been discovered by a lesser commander who couldn't control their troops, his escorts might have been killed and they themselves left in disgrace. Naturally, Sekka's secret would also be exposed in broad daylight.
If things had come to that, he would rather prefer to bite his tongue to death. Realizing such a thing could have happened, Sekka now shivered.
According to his way of thinking, he had evaded what seemed like the worst possible situation. All thanks to his elder sister's clothes his mother made him wear.
Although, the previous prediction had not come true at all. The fact that his life had no guarantee remained.
For now he should continue to pa.s.s off as the princess. Actually, before that, he should try to run away from the Yoh country's military encampment. The more he thought about it, the more the waiting from now on seemed only more difficult.
During this, Sekka began to pity the two maids. He also pitied the escorting soldiers killed trying to stop Kishoh's party. Even though these men probably had wives and children's, parents and siblings, they all served him with devotion.
"On account of following me, you will without a doubt only experience hardship."
"What are you saying?"
Shonen shook her head in denial with moist eyes. Due to the early morning flight, their slender faces oozed weariness, but their eyes held a hidden strength as they looked at Sekka.
"I've been prepared since the moment Her Majesty gave us the order."
"Me too. No matter what happens, I'll serve you till the end."
Baigyoku also declared vigorously. Shohen was the more senior of the two, but both of them had faithfully served Yougetsu since they were merely young girls. They'd received Yougetsu's trust and warmth as such had been ordered to be Sekka's attendants.
"Ah, we're lucky. The garments inside the chests are all undamaged."
Shohen and Baigyoku were happy as they inspected the intact clothing in the chest that was brought inside the tent. All of them were Shungetsu's things that his mother had ordered to take with them.
The two maids were completely concentrated on providing a pleasant atmosphere inside of the tent. Seeing that, Sekka's emotions seemed to become a little bit softer.
Captured by the enemy army. Though he was in such a predicament, Sekka was rea.s.sured by the presence of two girls that served him.
Afterwards, Eishun brought tea and a meal, but he had no idea about the progress of the battle. Even if they asked him, he would only say, "For now, please, wait here," and offer no further explanations.
The pa.s.sage of time was frightfully slow. After they were marched off to the Yoh military camp, at first they could hear the sound of war drums and weapons, but now the sound could only be heard faintly like from far away.
It was probably because the Yoh army had invaded inside the Royal Palace. Confined to the tent, without being able to see outside, he had no way of making a.s.sertions about the current situation.
The fragrant tea did not at all console Sekka's heart, it barely pa.s.sed down his throat. He had no appet.i.te as well, but as Shohen and Baigyoku were worried, he exerted himself to put some food in his mouth.
As the sun fell, night came.
Although he had lain down on the bed prepared by the girls, it was apparent he could not sleep. He m.u.f.fled a sigh as the girls scrupled with sleeping on the other side of the part.i.tioning screen. Even so they had walked a long time and were tired so they seemed to be nodding off a little bit though the arrival of the morning was still far away.
Finally there came the dawn after the long night.
Though Sekka did not care for his appearance, Shohen and Baigyoku dressed him in elaborate clothing. They carefully combed his hair, put it in an up-do style and applied make-up. They were facing hardships of captivity yet they dressed their mistress, the princess, beautifully, but they needed it to regain at least minimal pride as handmaids from the Royal Palace.
"You look beautiful as well today."
Baigyoku sighed in satisfaction after arranging an ornate hairpin received from Yougetsu in Sekka's hair.
To Sekka the words of praise seemed excessive, but indeed the face looking back at him from the mirror was an exact replica of his sister's face. From the start his Adam's apple had never stood out. It was hard to see just from his outward appearance that he was a man.
Even taking the appearance of his sister, it was necessary for him to survive. But a day, it seemed so long. It was all for the sake of repaying his mother's feelings when she had made him run away from the castle. While looking in the mirror, Sekka tried to persuade himself as such.
"Forgive me for intruding, Princess Shungetsu."
Incidentally just as they had finished the morning preparations, from the outside of the tent there came Eishun's voice. Baigyoku, who had been standing at the entrance to act as an intermediate, returned to Sekka's side with a worried expression.
"The Emperor wishes to see you, Shungetsu-sama."
Sekka felt the strong throbbing of his heart. After a while it finally settled. Was it possible they'd discovered his true ident.i.ty? Other than that, Sekka could come up with no other reason for Kishoh to summon him.
"Understood. Let us go then."
Sekka steeled himself, put on the gauze and approached the exit of the tent.
"His Majesty wishes to see you alone, Princess. Your attendants can wait here."
Shohen and Baigyoku who were following behind Sekka were stopped by Eishun. Both of them protested with pale faces, but as it was The Emperor's order, Eishun did not yield though his face was troubled. Sekka told both of the girls to wait and exited the tent together with Eishun.
Today as well the sky was full of clear spring air. Ka country was finally greeted by the arrival of the spring and the cherry trees had begun to bloom. If things hadn't gone wrong, they would have been celebrating the Flower Viewing festival around this time.
Remembering the last year's Flower Viewing festival, Sekka's heart was wrenched by disconsolate thoughts. His older sister, who had been convulsing with laughter at the performance of the acrobats from the West, was no longer among the living.
Though he was not handcuffed, he was surrounded by soldiers led by Eishun as they proceeded towards Kishoh's tent.
"I've brought Princess Shungetsu."
Kishoh was gazing at a map laid out on a table, but he raised his head when Eishun greeted him. Today as well the man was dressed completely in black.
To not lose the dignity of a princess, Sekka bowed once with folded arms. Because he was nervous, only meeting Kishoh's eyes caused Sekka's chest to become unbearably noisy. Or maybe it because of his discerning gaze that seemed to see through everything.
Standing in front of Sekka, Kishoh began to speak frankly.
"Your country's Royal Palace has fallen."
Moved, Sekka gasped and a screeching noise came from his throat. His Mother and Aunt, and also Shohun… He should have been prepared, but the scene in front of his eyes went dark. He only narrowly held his ground and did not collapse as he did not want to expose an unsightly figure in front of his enemies.
"It seems like your mother and almost all of the rest of the Royal family killed themselves."
Sekka touched his necklace with trembling fingers as he listened to Kishoh heartlessly informing him of his family's death. He recalled the sensation of Shohun's large, warm palms putting the choker on his neck just yesterday. He had not called him father even once, and now this necklace was the only memento left of him…
Sekka's dumbfounded face was reflected in Kishoh's deep dark eyes. There was no scorn in his eyes, but neither was there sympathy or pity.
"We are now going on an inspection of the Royal Palace. Princess Shungetsu, the palace…"
"Please take me with you."
Kishoh, who was interrupted in the middle of his speech, calmly raised his eyebrows. Rather than being displeased at Sekka's conduct and speech, he seemed surprised. For a man who didn't beat about the bush, it was rare of him to speak evasively and display hesitant behaviour.
"The battle has just ended, and everything was left remaining as it was as I've heard. As you are the princess, there might be scenes that would make you unable to control yourself…"
"I don't care."
Sekka continued in a quiet, but firm voice.
"I'm prepared to see anything."
No matter how gruesome it would be, he had to see the final moments of his family with his own eyes. As the last remaining member of the Li royal family.
After he had examined Sekka's face for a brief moment to ascertain his mood, Kishoh let out a small sigh.
"Understood. Then, We will take you with Us."
Poor baby Sekka T-T.
That’s it for the first chapter. Next chapter is gonna be out next Sunday (Latvia time), and I’ll probably keep it as my standard uploading day from now on.
If you wish to support my efforts to bring more j.a.panese Bl into english-speaking fangirl hands, please consider buying me a coffee (tea), so I can sustain myself while translating or offset the book costs.
« Previous My Bookmarks Chapters Next»