The total sum of people captured amounted to seven. The numbers included three of Consort Riishu’s maids.
The three maids had served Consort Riishu prior to entering the inner palace. And the rest of the maids, even if they weren’t present here, will also be kept under surveillance just in case.
The head maid was the only person who remained by Consort Riishu’s side.
Basen clenched his fists.
Despite being a high ranking consort, Consort Riishu was only able to trust one subordinate.
And it was the unmistakable truth that it was those maids who had guided the hoodlums in.
The consort, trembling in spite of it all, kept her eyes on the apprehended maids.
“Here ya go, in the end, wasn’t it Master who needed more?” Rihaku, who had ended the incident without any injury, returned the medicine Basen had given him just then. “That lass made this, right? It looks like she added painkillers too.”
The self-inflicted injury on his hand was wrapped in bandages.
Basen scooped up the remaining medicine with his finger, and when he tried to apply it on the cut on his cheek, stopped.
He recalled the sensation of the towel on his cheek, and felt that he would erase that.
“What’s wrong?” Rihaku asked.
“No, nothing at all.” Basen rubbed the medicine on his finger onto his paper handkerchief and returned the medicine to his breast pocket.
Then he looked at the apprehended men.
“What is their motive?” Basen looked at Rihaku with a sharp gaze.
“Can I not say it?” the other man asked.
“Not like you can hide it now.”
“You have a point.”
After saying that, Rihaku pointed to the cargo carriage the hoodlums had been going for. “Just take a glimpse. Don’t make a sound and do anything else. Can you come back after that?”
“Can you come back?”
With those emphasised words, Basen could only nod.
Before the cargo carriage, he could see the figure of the maidservant who had collapsed not long ago. She looked like she was cut, the bandages around her limbs looked painful, but her life didn’t seem to be in danger. She dipped her head at Basen.
What was there exactly?
He peered in from the carriage canopy.
The inside of the canopy was also covered by a curtain. He flipped it and looked inside.
There was something like looked like some cage.
It was large enough to fit a beast. There was a fur rug spread out beneath it.
It was a cage, and yet there was a rug; a somewhat mismatched impression. What kind of beast could be inside that?
“My? Are you here to save me?”
He heard a woman’s voice.
Drab and delicate, a voice that invited a protective instinct.
He saw pure white threads. That spilt from the cage.
A pair of red specks, like ground tomato, shone amid the darkness.
“It’s fairly cramped here. Can you take me out to somewhere more spacious?”
When he saw the light that seemed to suck him in, Basen closed the curtain.
“Is that how it is?” Basen had an inexplicable feeling.
There was a young woman. She was shut up inside a beast’s cage.
It would probably be a maddening scene if it were the usual Basen.
The was a reason for that inhumane act.
The reason Consort Riishu was purposely heading to the villa, the curious escorts deployed, the motives of the robbers–that was all right there.
The woman who stirred up trouble in the capital was there.
“Thank you for saving us.”
Thanking him once again, was not Consort Riishu but a messenger maid.
The consort’s face was veiled. She was entering the villa quietly.
The flowers of the inner palace rarely expose their bare face to outside men.
There was a modest palace in the villa. The servants who came for her were also dressed humbly.
In contrast to that, the fortified defence of the palace was strong. Basen found a number of familiar faces among the military officials.
The consort’s escorts in this kind of place and all–it might be taken as a demotion by onlookers. And yet, no one looked dissatisfied at all.
That’s right. The consort’s escorts were all a cover. They were all assigned to a greater duty.
When he saw the consort’s back, he wanted to run to stop her.
The moment he had inadvertently reached out, he felt something heavy prop onto his shoulder.
“You can’t sympathise. It’s an order that’s been handed down,” Rihaku said.
“What are you talking about?” Basen dropped his hand, feigning ignorance.
“Jinshi-sama told me. That there’s nothing to criticise about your skill, but you do get a little emotional.”
“…am I that undependable?”
Does Jinshi find this man more reliable than Basen who had been serving him ever since childhood?–the seeds of resentment sprouted in his heart.
“It’s not that you’re undependable, I think. My point being that right person at the right place thing, this is more-or-less a relation of seniority. Please take that as me playing that part.”
Though he was speaking casually, the man called Rihaku didn’t have any discomfort.
His mind was a lot more flexible than Basen who was known to be a straight-laced person.
“That consort will be entering this palace for the ritual now, but there’s no telling when she will be returning, it seems.”
“…the ritual was just in name, wasn’t it?” Basen said.
“Yeah, I think it might be more appropriate to call this place a nunnery instead.”
It was for this reason Lady Pai was brought to this place alongside the consort.
He felt resentful. It must have been the emperor’s decree to lock the two maidens who were a bother in the capital in the same place.
“How is this a good thing…?”
“….” Rihaku wordlessly stared at Basen.
He looked like he wanted to say something.
“What is it?” Basen asked.
“No, umm, I was thinking if I should say it.”
“Just let it out.”
Rihaku groaned, letting out a sigh of resignation as he looked up to the sky. “That consort, about this matter, it seems she had suggested it herself.”
“…what are you talking about!?”
Wasn’t she in the villa to cool the remaining heat from the suspicion of infidelity?
Rihaku leaned against the wall of the outer palace and crossed his arms. “Well, I’m not entirely sure, but I heard that she never matched with the atmosphere of the inner palace in the first place. It seems she also knew that she was surrounded by maids that weren’t very good, and so decided to move out this time in the form of a ritual – so to speak, it seems she’ll be retiring to religion.”
“Retiring to religion…”
Consort Riishu had become a nun once because she had been the consort of the previous emperor in the past.
“If she retires to religion for the second time, she wouldn’t be able to go out anymore, so his majesty seemed to have read too much into it.”
Certainly, he heard that his majesty doted on Consort Riishu like a daughter. That was probably the exact reason the talks of marriage to the Prince of the Moon had been raised.
“It seems there were also talks of bestowal, but from the way things look, it might have been called off. I think the U clan wouldn’t be silent if it were true, but they seemed quiet lately.”
The U Clan was unable to flap their mouths loudly due to the incident Consort Riishu’s half-sister raised.
There was also no need to leave Consort Riishu as a high ranking consort as is. It was more so if the consort herself didn’t desire for it.
“…so you’re saying the consort chose the path of retiring to religion herself,” Basen remarked.
“While I’m at it, I’ll say that it was also under her consent to become the cover to transport Lady Pai,” Rihaku said.
“…why that too?” Basen vaguely realised the answer as he asked.
Was it for her father? For her family?
There was also the possibility of her being exposed to danger. And in truth, she was.
Was the maids’ betrayal because they were struggling against accompanying the consort to become nuns?
No, the consort was also assaulted by hoodlums before.
If the ones who had a hand in that were also the maids…
In Consort Riishu’s way of thinking, the best measure might have been to leave the inner palace.
Whether that was the right answer or not remains unknown.
Consort Riishu might not be able to leave this solemn villa hereafter.
Basen was severely downtrodden. Suddenly, when he realised, his fingers had stopped at the cut on his cheek.
“Why do you know so much about what’s behind the scenes? Did you hear that from Jinshi-sama as well?” he asked.
“No. My original station was close to Tactician-dono’s room,” Rihaku said with a strangely shocked expression.
The gossip-loving weirdo tactician would also appear anywhere with fruit juice in hand every time to gossip and get involved in them.
Which reminded Basen, all the escorts deployed here should be chosen by the weirdo tactician too.
“For the time being, your job is over with this. Shall we proceed?”
“Is it over?” Basen wondered what the consort on the other side of the wall was doing right now.
When Rihaku saw him like that, the man smiled wryly. “If the target of your affections is a courtesan, save money. Pay for her value, giving your all, without haggling the price. You can accomplish that, though.”
“What does this conversation have to do with courtesans?”
“A courtesan is probably a courtesan to Master, but to me, she is my beloved person,” Rihaku continued. “My way of obtaining the woman I love is through money, but what is it that for Master?”
“It’s not like a bestowal is settled with a single person, no?”
At the phrasing that somehow lit the coals under his feet, Basan felt uncomfortable. “Such emotions, for a c-consort. Moreover, there’s what the consort feels about me and all….”
“It’s nothing if there’s nothing. However, you’ll just be sending the consort to a life of a nun in this villa forever from now on.” Rihaku scratched the tip of his nose, “A man who achieves victories for my sake and comes for me, isn’t that already cool enough?”
Basen found himself wanting to swing his fist at Rihaku who was giving him a somewhat teasing smile.
The same time he wanted to swing, he wanted to treat him to a cup of wine.
His heart thundered.
Before he realised, Basen was standing at the front gate.
Consort Riishu’s back was no longer in sight.
He sucked in a deep breath.
“THANK YOU VERY MUCH! FOR THE TOWEL!”
The escorts were shocked
Even the military officials he recognised.
It was truly embarrassing. An act unbefitting of Basen.
But, he thought that he had to say something, anything.
Basen was unable to say pretentious lines with poise.
He couldn’t find words that would make nice women happy.
He could only honestly, straightforwardly, get it across.
His personality was that awkward.
Basen turned his heels, his face bright red.
With this, his job was done.
At this place where there were escorts he could trust, it would probably be fine if anything happens here on after.
What Basen could do was to question the traitors and hoodlums they arrested.
To investigate their motives thoroughly, so the consort who lives in this villa can get a peace of mind.
For that, Basen had to return to the capital post haste.
Town 2 END
T/N: Hopefully, this won’t be the last we’ll hear of Riishu. Keep it up, Basen. Perhaps we’ll be seeing something similar to Princess Fuyou and her soldier sweetheart in the future hmmm
Well then. Arc 5 over. Onwards to Arc 6. Is it time for a break? Totally. But first, let me release one more chapter, the start of the next arc. A teaser of what to expect. Poke next chapter :>